Notes on the Quarries, Henleaze Swimming Club, and Bristol Henleaze Swimming
Compiled by Derek Klemperer
Early in the 19th century the Southmead Quarries were split in two when Eastfield Road was built. To the south the quarry became known as Eastfield Quarry. Quarrying there ceased in 1916 and the quarry was allowed to flood. In 1930 Bristol Council started filling in the quarry. In 1974 the area was turned into a rather dismal park. In the last few years the park has been transformed into a nice play area by the Henleaze Society. In their hey day the Eastfield Quarries boasted five lime kilns and two of these kilns still exist at "Clark's Corner", being the corner of Henleaze Road and Eastfield Road.
To the north of Eastfield Road the quarry was worked until 1912 and then allowed to flood. It became a popular place for swimming until a drowning occurred and Major Badock, the then lessee, closed the lake for swimming. Mainly due to Mr Albert Wain, who called enthusiasts together, the resumption of swimming with strict ASA rules and regulations occurred in 1919 under the auspices of Henleaze Swimming Club which was founded at a meeting on 5th May 1919.
The Club prospered. From 1920 the Club was affiliated to the Western Counties Amateur Swimming Association, the Gloucester County Amateur Swimming Association, the Royal Life Saving Society, and the Amateur Diving Association and improvements were steadily made to the site.
On 12th May 1933 the Club was able to purchase the Lake and surrounding land. In 1938 the lime kiln on the site was demolished and the stone was used to build up the banks. A series of three diving towers were successively constructed up to 1950.
Right up to the war and for a number of years after the war the Club was extremely active in championship events for swimming and diving at county, national and even international level. There were also life saving competitions and a full schedule of polo matches.
Training took place in the Lake during the summer months (when the Lake opened at 6 am) and at Bristol North Baths all the year round. We know that Bristol North Baths were used from the Club's inception because the first of the 16 magnificent championship trophies that were given to the Club over the years dates from 1920 and was given by Mr Taylor in memory of his son whose tragic death occurred at Bristol North Baths during a Club training session.
After the 1950s competitive swimming events and polo matches at the Lake became less and less frequent. Juniors did not come up in their former numbers to replace leaving seniors and the many hours of training that increasing standards demanded were inconsistent with the cold Lake water temperatures. But training to a high level continued with the newly dubbed Indoor Section. After 1960 the Club experienced hard times and by 1966 Club membership had fallen to an all-time low. Dances were discontinued in 1959, no diving championships were held at the lake after 1963, and water polo at the lake ceased in 1968.
In 1969 a separate Competitive Section of the Club was formally founded by the formation of a subcommittee charged with overseeing all indoor teaching, training and competitive events. Nevertheless an annual Club Gala was still held at the Lake until the summer of 1983, albeit with few visitors. The Indoor Club grew in strength with an increasing number of swimmers, coaches and supporters operating under its own committee, and the separate Indoor Club formally adopted its new name Bristol Henleaze Swimming Club (BHSC) from 1 January 1993.
Although BHSC is now a separate Club, a close relationship with the Lake is actively fostered. In 1997 BHSC came back to the Lake for its first annual swim and barbecue and many of the competitors in the annual Open Water Championships held at the Lake since 1999 are BHSC members. These Gloucester County ASA Open Water Championship events were introduced to Henleaze Lake by the efforts of Mr Alan Giles, Gloucester County Open Water Secretary and also Chairman of the Henleaze Swimming Club Executive Committee since 1992. The Open Water Championships mark the return of competitive swimming to Henleaze Lake.
If you have any historic photographs of the Lake (1900 – 2000), we would love to see them and, if possible, make copies of them. See the contacts page for details of how to contact us.
’The Henleaze Lake Story’ a history of Henleaze Swimming Club by Derek and Joyce Klemperer is now available. See the Book page for details of how you can get your copy.
A group of Lake members about 1922
Polo team 1924
View up the Lake 1930s
A group of Lake members about 1930
Skating at the Lake 1947
Swimming Gala 1940s
Polo match 1950s