the history of BHSC

The name Bristol Henleaze Swimming Club (BHSC) was formally adopted on 1st January 1993 but the club has its origins long ago as part of Henleaze Swimming Club at Henleaze Lake. Dr Derek Klemperer, a trustee of Henleaze Lake, has very kindly provided the following section.


A History of Henleaze Swimming Club.

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, work ceased there 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, however, in recent years the park has been transformed by the Henleaze Society into a pleasant play area. 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 quarry 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. Over a period of time three diving towers were constructed, the last one being in 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. Mr Taylor gave this 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 from 1 January 1993.


Bristol Henleaze Swimming Club

BHSC was not a strong competitive club when it was formed, it was last in the Cotswold League ‘B’ final and the expectation was to be last or thereabouts in any galas entered. In 1993 the chief coach was Greg Lawrence, a student, who was joined by Roy Collins in July 1993 and rebuilding of the club began. Roy took over the position of chief coach from April 1994 until he left the club at the end of 1997. Roy was the key person in the improvement of the club as he put in place modern teaching and coaching methods. He was also directly or indirectly responsible for the teaching of many of our current poolside personnel. Jane Vallis and Simon Wilkins took over in January 1998 and put an awful lot of hard work and enthusiasm in taking the club forward following Roy’s spell. Simon left the club in November 2001 followed by Jane in December 2001. The club’s good progress then continued under Judith Bush as chief coach from January 2002. Lee Portingale was appointed in March 2003 and brought youth and considerable enthusiasm to the position; and the club has continued to grow under Matt Puddy, Bob Lisle and our current Chief Coach Jez Birds.

Roy Collins still has strong links with BHSC and for many years ran teachers and assistant teachers’ courses for the club and still wears the BHSC shirt with pride!

BHSC has made excellent progress in competition over the last 10 years. In 1995 four swimmers entered the Gloucester Blocks and few medals were won. The number of gold medals won has increased steadily: - 5 in 2000, 9 in 2001 and 16 in 2002. In 2003 44 swimmers entered the Gloucester Blocks and the medal tally was 22 gold, 20 silver and 9 bronze with BHSC placed 8th best club. There has also been excellent progress in galas and a good example is the Cotswold League, going from 3rd in the ‘B’ final in 1996 to 2nd in the ‘A’ final in each of the last three years.

In the National Arena League the club gained promotion from the second to First division in 2007 and finished in 12th out of 18 teams in their inaugural first division season. The club now competes in the Premier Division where they won the B final, finishing 9th overall in the Western region in 2018.

The number of swimmers has increased over the years and is close to 400 today. The structure of the club has also changed. In the early days there was a swim school operating three times a week at two different pools, which put a great strain on teaching resources. There are now two back to back sessions at Clifton High School which also allows more continuity and a better standard of teaching. The step from swim school to squad was then large and many swimmers dropped out. In the late 1990's a key decision was taken to introduce a development squad to follow the swim school, this reduced the rate of drop out and helped secure the clubs future. The standard of swimmers entering the development squad and the squad continues to improve and more swimmers are swimming for longer so that there is now an emerging master’s section.


A close relationship with Henleaze Swimming Club is still actively fostered. In 1997 BHSC went back to the Lake for its first annual swim and barbecue. In 1999 the Gloucester County 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. Many of the swimmers in these championships are from BHSC and in 2003 two swimmers were selected to swim for Gloucestershire in the National Open Water Championships.