Swimming Competition c1930

In 1930 The Northern Echo organised a swimming competition in the River Tees at Stockton, the competitors were marshalled on a barge moored alongside Victoria Bridge, I have no idea as to what sort of competition it was, a straight race or a marathon or what would now be called a Swim-A-Thon, but judging by the number of people on the barge and the bridge it was of some interest.

The building in the background interested me, I have seen it in a number of Stockton photos, it has an unusual arrangement of Oriel windows, I imagine it disappeared when the Clevo Mill was built.

Image and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

21 thoughts on “Swimming Competition c1930

  1. This is how they started the race when they used to swim across Seaton Carew Bay from the Hartlepool side, my cousin Bill Harburn swam in the River Tees swim which was later held at Yarm & the Seaton Carew one.


  2. Absolutely correct Chris it’s the Bridge hotel I remember the son of the bakery Snowden’s on Lanehouse Road who had a look of John Lennon was landlord at the Bridge hotel


    • You’re absolutely correct as well Stuart except that I wasn’t the landlord. I ran a blues club there from about 1969 to 1970. It was in the room beside the river – the one with the two lower oriel windows in the photograph. It was held every Friday night. You might have been there on the night I threw a drunk out which would have given the impression that I was ‘the management’ !
      Thanks for the reminder (and to Tony for telling me).


      • Lots of good memories of the club Chris. First place I played in public. Beer was appalling but the music was great. Especially remember Jo-Anne Kelly. Give my regards to Geoff and Gus if you are still in contact.


  3. Are these any records of these events? I remember my mam & aunt telling me that their brother George Sunley swam in such a contest he was born in 1918, in Darlington moving to Victoria Terrace in 1922. He also was a keen cyclist & was apprentice painter & decorator before the war, serving in The Royal Marines before settling in Wales.


  4. The Tees I believe was then the most polluted watercourse in the UK? Some of the tributaries further down ran BLUE and bubbled-up what? (Fading memory of mam and dad actually swimming in it at Yarm, near where the chrome & chemical company’s outlet discharged its brown filth!) Again, from working at Thornaby station and often “lunching” at that end of Stockton until late 1971, (we got 90 minutes then, so a filling moussaka for five bob or ‘Businessman’s Chinese’ nearby for 4s-6d!?), I recall the elegant building, passed very many times. To me, it looked like some sort of town hall. When ‘Clevo’ was demolished – not without difficulty, as proved many such early ‘mass/reinforced concrete’ structures – I filmed its demise from a disused wharf near St. Johns Crossing. Just before the planned event (time & date anyone?) a polite young cop found me in position and in view of the imminent explosion, asked if I would move. I enquired whether he could make me move, stating politely that I was aware of the hazards (projectile/s of debris crossing the river, only just possible and very unlikely to kill me in exactly that spot?) but wished to remain in situ “to get the shot”. Incredibly, he left me to my own devices! I still have the Kodak film, but no working Super 8 projector. I think the huge mass sort of “knelt down” aslant towards the river yet failed to collapse fully.


    • Surely there’s a body/group out there who would be interested in transferring your film to digital so that the images can be saved for not only us but future generation to see. Perhaps the British Film Archive (BFI) would be interested, or a similar local group.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a photo of the start of the inaugural “Northern Echo Big Swim” which was held on 7th July 1930. The course was from Victoria Bridge Stockton to the Transporter Bridge Middlesbrough – a distance of 5 miles 387 yards. The Echo reported a crowd of some 50,000 lining the river banks to watch the 16 competitors. From the number diving off the barge it must be assumed that many failed to complete the course! It was won by Middlesbrough Olympian and iconic sports shop proprietor Jack Hatfield in a time of 1 hour 24 minutes and 57 seconds. After race he returned to his Newton Street shop to carry on looking after his customers. He also won this race in 1931 and 1934. The building in the background is the former Bridge Hotel most of which was demolished in 1970.
    Chris Kenyon (Tees Rowing Club).


  6. This is good to see, but contrasts with blissfully being unaware of what me dad made me and our dog Rover swam in, in the mid 60s down the tracks behind Thornaby Baths.
    Although Chris Reas song ‘Road to Hell’ was written in a traffic jam, but his upbringing in Middlesbrough he would be more than aware of the Tees “….boils with every poison you can think of…” thanks to our local industries dumping all their waste into the river, (thanks Dad… )
    But concluding, I used to take our daughter to the Tees rowing club every Saturday in the 00s, and became quite chatty with the fishermen. One Saturday they were furious. As Rea states in Steel River ” …..I know one salmon ain’t any good to them….” Apparently they had been catching salmon in the Tees for years but never told anyone lmao, but the council found out and they all had to pay for the appropriate fishing license.


    • Sarah, Stockton Castle was sited between Castlegate Road down to the Quayside and Tower Street off Bridge Road. The Stockton Brewery and the old CWS jam factory roughly occupied the land the Castle once stood on.
      The Hotel over the border (Victoria Bridge) on the Thornaby side was called the Bridge Hotel, us wandering Darts and Domino players from Stockton would have a few drinks in there until closing time was called at 21:45 or in English quarter to ten then run over the Bridge to the Pub on the Stockton side of the Bridge and drink until 10.30 pm they had different closing hours.
      I remember it being there in the late sixties and it is possible the Clevo Mill and the Bridge were demolished together to make the new road layout for the old Teesdale site, I say possibly as I cannot verify that.


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