The Serpentine Swimming Club, located on Hyde Park‘s Serpentine, dates its founding from 1864, the year it held the first of its famous Christmas Day Races.
The club, actually the oldest in Britain, was created in response to Londoners’ growing need for recreation – Hyde Park then being at the centre of a heavily built-up area – and came as the mass transit system – London’s Underground – was making it more accessible.
Initial facilities included a shady elm tree and a wooden seat. They’ve since improved somewhat to include changing rooms (although they’re still described as spartan).
These days members are permitted by The Royal Parks to swim in the lake between 6am and 9.30am daily.
While the Christmas Day Race – in which swimmers compete for the Peter Pan Cup (since the first cup was awarded by JM Barrie in 1904) – is the most famous race, the club also hosts numerous other races throughout the year which range in length and include a “bridge to bridge” race from one end of the Serpentine to the other (just held on 14th July).
While members use the Lido – which opened in 1930 – for swimming, it remains a separate entity to the SSC.
For more about the club, see www.serpentineswimmingclub.com.
The Lido on the Serpentine. PICTURE: Phil Russell/The Royal Parks.