Formed in 1877
Barrow ASC is the oldest swimming club in Cumbria
Barrow has had the most swimming facilities of all the towns in Cumbria and confusingly three were built at different times within a few hundred yards of each other on Abbey Road
The first public bath house in Barrow was on Abbey Road at the corner of Bath Street and was a gift from Sir James Ramsden, the first mayor of the Corporation of Barrow, in May 1872; it cost £3000 and contained a recreational ‘plunge’ that was about 60 feet long by 30 feet wide. It seems to have been less than successful; there is no record of swimming taking place and by 1878 there was a request to Barrow Corporation for it to be used as a School of Art and by 1886 it had been converted into a public hall; later it became an annexe to the College of Further Education. Ramsden Hall still stands and is a Grade II listed building.
The second ‘baths’ were built and owned by an entrepreneur, Daniel Routledge who also owned baths in Jarrow-on-Tyne. These were located at the junction of Holker Street and Abbey Road and opposite the Duke of Edinburgh hotel (now called the Duke). It opened in stages – first were the public baths and wash-house (December 1876), then the Turkish baths (April 1877) and finally the swimming bath opened in July 1877; it was 70 feet long by 28 feet wide and varied in depth from 4 feet to 7 feet. ‘Swimming’ was taught by Routledge and his daughter. In addition to the bathing and washing facilities the ‘baths’ also contained a rifle range and a 4-lane American bowling alley – I did say he was an entrepreneur! In the winter months the pool was boarded over and used for other entertainments
Barrow Swimming Club was formed just before the opening Routledge’s swimming bath on June 28th 1877 under the auspices of the Buccleuch Amateur Rowing Club. The first gala was held in mid-August of 1877 in front of several hundred spectators.
One of the principal attractions was ‘Professor’ E T Jones of Leeds, ‘the renowned champion swimmer of the world’. This makes Barrow the oldest club in the county.
A third swimming bath was opened in summer 1908 and was a submerged bath 60 feet long by 20 feet wide located in Ramsden Dock. This was only open in the summer months.
The fourth bath to open, and the third on Abbey Road, was located at the junction of Hartington Street and Abbey Road. This was built by Barrow Corporation in 1914 at a cost of £15,900 and was 75 feet long by 30 feet wide with a depth of 3 feet to 6 feet; it was a salt water pool supplied from Devonshire Dock and the contract with the Furness Railway Company (the owner of the dock) was for 9,000,000 gallons per year. It was extended in 1931.
In mid-April 1941 it was damaged during an air raid and repairs were not completed until 1951. It was then closed in 1991, to be replaced by ‘The Park’ Leisure Centre, and is now the site of the Magistrates Courts.
For more history of swimming in Cumbria visit the Cumbria Swimming History page on Facebook