Continuing our sporting theme, following on from our early history of Cricket, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Tennis, Golf and Athletics, this week's Episode 22 of Stepping Back in TIMES looks at Swimming and Horse-Racing.
Complaints arose in 1881 about nude swimming in the Peel River, leading to public pressure to establish a Swimming Baths. However, various plans came and went for over a decade, with no result. One of the later failed proposals was to construct a 2.4 m high weir between the Viaduct and Darling Street.
Tamworth P&C Association pressure led in 1921 to the Education Department organising Learn-to-Swim classes in the Peel River (about 90 m downstream from the main Peel River bridge, in the vicinity of Bourke Street.) This resulted in 68 boys and 58 girls "learning to swim" with another 11 "almost learned" and 5 "failed".
Finally Tamworth Municipal Council put into effect the plans for a sandbag weir just upstream from Paradise Bridge, which was officially opened on January 26, 1921. Roofless wooden and hessian dressing sheds were added soon after. At least 3 000 people attended the opening. Frequent sandbag deterioration soon led to a move to construct a replacement concrete weir. Eventually Tamworth Swimming Club celebrated the opening of the new concrete Paradise Weir with a big carnival on February 21, 1925, attended by a crowd of over 5 000 people. Special guests were Andrew "Boy" Charlton, the Olympic Swimming Champion, and Dick Eve, the 1924 Olympic High Diving Champion. Remnants of the concrete weir can still be seen, just upstream of Paradise Bridge.
Within a couple of years Frederick Chinnery at his own expense had constructed another swimming pool at the corner of Peel and Darling Streets. The cement baths had 2 diving towers. At the official opening Arn Borg defeated "Boy" Charlton, both Olympic champions, in an exhibition swim. Tamworth Swimming Club transferred its big events from Paradise Weir to Chinnery's Pool, which remained in use until around 1951.
- Early Tamworth elections
- Tamworth's early newspapers
- Not so likely now, but Tamworth has had its fair share of big floods
- Tamworth's early, mainly wooden, buildings were prone to going up in smoke
- Take a trip down memory lane - Our beloved peel Street
- When posties were on bikes of the pedal-power kind
- Our ambulance service hasn't always been there
- Stepping back in Times: Growth of our hospitals
- Stepping Back in Times || Tackling our sporting history
- Stepping back in Times || Early Tamworth schools
- Stepping Back In Times || Sport tees off in Tamworth
Our current Olympic Pool opened in 1937, also with diving boards, so for a number of years we had 2 pools, despite having a population of only a fraction of the present day. Admission charges were 4 pence for adults and 2 pence for children.
Eventually calls arose for a pool in the West/South Tamworth area, leading eventually to the opening of the South and West Tamworth Memorial Pool on September 21, 1968, the Scully Park Swimming Club forming 3 months prior.
Nothing stays the same, with plans for an Aquatic Centre near the Sportsdome now in the wings.
According to William Telfer Jnr's description from the Wallabadah Manuscript, there was an Australian Agricultural Company racecourse on Calala Flat as early as 1840, only 6 years after the Company brought the first sheep to Peel's River (later named Tamworth). He states that the 1840 flood virtually destroyed the newly constructed racecourse.
The first detailed account of an early race meeting in Tamworth came in a Maitland Mercury article on November 15, 1856, giving information on a proposed 2-day meeting to be held on January 15 & 16, 1857. There were 3 races listed on the first day, including the inaugural Tamworth Cup over 1 1/2 miles with a prizemoney of 60 pounds; and 4 races on Day 2, which included a 1 mile hurdle race. The judge was B.C.Flide, the locally based Government Surveyor. It was stipulated that "all regulations are to be subservient to Homebush rules".
In 1860 a Race Ball following a similar meeting was held in the Caledonian Hotel, with music from Foley's Circus Band. The racecourse was described as situated "on a beautiful plain, being almost dead level, with not a particle to impede the view of running ...... one of the best in the colony."
For some 1880's race meetings a Tamworth holiday was approved, but this became a controversial matter. The Tamworth Jockey Club formed in about 1887, probably the first permanent racing club in the town.
Late in 1904 the Licensed Victuallers of Tamworth formed a race-club and were granted permission by the Tamworth Jockey Club to use its course. Harsh conditions were imposed by TJC Secretary C.J.Britten and only 2 meetings were held, before the Victuallers Club was forced reluctantly to transfer its 1906 meeting to Quirindi, amongst some controversy.
Under the presidency and assistance of C.J.Britten in 1911 the Tamworth Jockey Club replaced its grandstand at a substantial cost of 8 000 pounds. The present Club is now a thriving enterprise and the early influence of C.J.Britten is recognised by the Memorial Gates at today's racecourse entrance, in addition to Britten Road leading to the facility.
RAAF flight training was conducted on the Racecourse in World War II, with meetings being transferred to Meldorn and Camden Park properties, and also to Somerton Racecourse. Racing had previously been held during and after the First World War on an initially unfenced track at Camden Park.
The West Tamworth Hibernian (All Heights) Race Club held its meetings there from 1928 until about 1932.