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New lease of life for bathing place
From left, Sue Fifield, George Kendall, Chantal Clavaud, Catherine Kendall, Jack Kendall and councillor Richard Langridge at the old bathing area on the river Windrush at Witney
A FORMER bathing place in Witney is being restored to its former glory.
Now current members of the Witney and District Swimming Club have been invited to see the site and learn about its history.
West Oxfordshire District Council recently took control of the site which is located along the River Windrush but had been left in a state of disrepair.
It is now being restored as a public open space as part of the redevelopment of the former Early’s Mill site.
Work is also being carried out to extend the Windrush Path and a natural fish pass.
During the restoration, pictures dating back to the early 1900s were discovered which featured the first members of the Witney and District Swimming Club. Club coach Linda King said: “It was a great honour to be invited to the original site of the swimming club and we were very impressed with the work that has been undertaken recently to preserve this historic site for future generations.
“The team was really interested to hear about the origins of swimming in Witney and understand what it must have been like to be a swimmer, training in the river, rather than our modern facilities of the Windrush Leisure Centre.
“It was also amazing that as we stood there looking out over the river from the site of the original changing cubicles, the views were almost indistinguishable from photographs taken in the early years of the 20th century.”
During the restoration a number of original features were discovered, including steps leading into the river, a handrail for swimmers along the river wall, fixings for the spring board and a taller diving platform.
The concrete bases of the former changing cubicles were also discovered and a new paved area has been created to highlight their location.
Local historian Stanley Jenkins said: “It started in the 1920s and was very popular in its day. You used to have to pay thrupence to get in.
“It remained in use until the 1970s when the council built the indoor swimming pool.”
District council cabinet member for communities Richard Langridge said: “Not only is this area a great place to relax and enjoy some tranquil space in the middle of the busy town, but it also gives people the opportunity to learn about Witney’s rich history and how the town has evolved since the early 1900s.”