Swimming Pool

Extracts from swimming pool memories of Major Jimmy Jenkins. Written in 1993

As a schoolboy in the 1930’s, season tickets were five shillings (25 pence) for adults and half a crown for those under 16 (12.5 pence), I was away from Chagford between 1936 and 1952 and when I returned, little seemed to have changed. As far as I recall, admission prices were the same.

I attended the 1960 AGM out of curiosity. There were only three others present; Brigadier Cripps, Julia Rice and Bill Box. Tom Lyons was there as a reporter for the local newspaper. The situation was dire, with only about £12 in the kitty. Prices had been static since before the war and the pool had been allowing both the Primary and Secondary Modern schools to use the pool without charge and the pool was paying for larger amounts of chlorine.

Tom Lyons and myself were asked to join the committee and it was agreed  to try and arouse more local interest. Among those persuaded on to the committee, I recall Dr Lewtas, Messrs Price, Dancer, Jewells (headmaster), Knowles (PE master) and Mrs Pauline Fletcher. A Mr Manning took over as secretary. The new committee decided to raise funds to have the whole bottom of the pool concreted. It helped start a bingo club and with a house to house collection raised over £400 to get the work done. Partridges of Drewsteignton were the builders. Entrance prices were raised and a contribution of, I think, £300 pa obtained from the Education Authorities. Early Days. 1934

Even with the pool fully concreted the water quality was poor and the only solution appeared to be a modern filtration plant. We were fortunate in having Tom Every CBE on the committee. He placed his firm of international quantity surveyors to our services in dealing with the manufacturers whilst we applied for a grant under the then Physical Training and Recreation Act. Size was the problem. I think we worked out that we needed to filter 164,000 gallons of water every four hours, which needed a big plant costing about £3,500.

We finally obtained the grant in 1966 and we accepted the tender of Bell Brothers for the filter. However, more costs arose as we had to have foundations built to Bell’s drawings, construct a filter house and get 440volt three phase electricity laid on. This was organised by Tom and his firm at no cost to us. On top of this, he organised a magnificent fete day at Furlong House to raise the last bit of cash we needed. The filter was finally installed for the 1967 season. Later we added a chlorine gas chlorinator.

Mr Manning left Chagford in 1962 and I became secretary, the post I held until 1974. We had continual problems with leakage, often the water dropped six inches overnight. We decided to reinforce and straighten the wall by the riverbank. This was done during the winter of 1975/6 with volunteer labour and professional bricklaying in his spare time by Peter Bennett.

In my early days on the committee, we had been fortunate to secure the services of Mrs Meredith as caretaker who helped make the pool very popular. She stayed for four or five seasons and was followed by Mr White, Mr Frank Webber and finally in my time, Mrs Martin. Without them, the pool would never have been the success it was.

Sir George Hayter-Hames died in 1968. In his will he left the land on which the pool stands to the people of Chagford. The only proviso being that if it ceased to be used as a swimming pool, the land would revert to Rushford Mill Farm.

First successful season 1933.

At a general meeting of Chagford Swimming Club on Tues 8th Oct 1933 the Chairman Mr Hayter-Hames congratulated the committee on the results of their first years work. Capital debt and all expenses had been cleared. Special thanks were recorded for Mr J Browning the pool attendant for his organisation, tact and courtesy. Thanks were also given to Mr W A Bennett (Headmaster) whose instruction had enabled many children to learn to swim.

1935 – Constable’s prompt action saves two girls.

A gallant double rescue by Pc Turner of Chagford saved two girl cousins, Miss Barnes aged 13 from Cardiff and Miss Holman from Sandypark, Drewsteignton. Pc Turner was standing at the entrance to the pool when he noticed that a girl was in difficulties and struggling in the centre of the pool. She disappeared, and Turner, stopping only to remove his helmet, dived in. He then found there was a second girl under the water. He was able to grasp both of them and bring them to the bank, where they soon recovered.

Circa 1934 looking towards Chagford, with Meldon in the distance, showing the high banked seating along the leat. Note that although those in the Pool are wearing swimming costumes (probably those fabulous woollen ones that sagged round your knees as they got wet!), everyone standing round the pool is correctly dressed in suit and hat.

Nesta Weeks and friends 1935