by Robert Nemeth
I can only imagine the excitement that Roger Dunford must have felt when he climbed onto the Palace Pier in 1946, before it had reopened after years of dereliction during the Second World War. When he sat down between a large ‘C’ and ‘E’, things were really put into perspective.
The moment was caught on camera and now takes pride of place in Brighton Fishing Museum (in a display that was, incidentally, built by my skilled friend Alex Briault). This footage, just one of many 16mm films that had been stored in Roger Dunford’s shed, forms part of a large project called Floating Memories that brings to life the archives of Brighton Swimming Club.
A number of individuals were involved in getting Floating Memories off the ground including, in particular, graphic designer and club member Paul Farrington. Paul built on the work of David Sawyers who deposited the varied club archives with the Brighton Museum in 1995. Although the club records were safe at the museum, they were hardly accessible, which is what led to Paul applying for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to bring the archive to life. The bid was successful.
The project includes a map/guide which focuses on the various swimming baths that have existed in both Brighton and Hove over the years. I was pleased at the mention of Hove Baths, which I know well, as I have campaigned hard for the last remaining piece of it, Medina House, to be retained. Sections on Awsiter’s Baths on Pool Valley, Mahomed’s Baths on King’s Road and Brill’s Baths on East Street, which I don’t know so well, are certainly worth a read.
The ongoing project includes the cataloguing of boxes of archives of club history and the digitising of more reels of film. The physical records will end up in The Keep (the research centre that is currently being built near the University of Sussex). Other footage at Brighton Fishing Museum shows young male members larking around on the beach and in the sea in the queerest of bathing suits with their young ladies watching. One guy gets buried in stones and then soaked with water. Others are playing records.
It is rather pertinent that Medina House was featured as it currently empty. It would make a cracking museum – a swimming museum perhaps?
See www.floatingmemories.co.uk and Brighton Visitor Centre by the Royal Pavilion for the map/guide.