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January 2012: Winter swimming in the Thames

winter bathers

This hardy looking bunch were members of the Reading Winter Bathers which was a group associated with Reading Swimming Club. The photograph is from a collection of Bowyer family photographs (catalogue reference D/EX 646) as two members of the family, Harry and Reginald, were part of the bathing group.

The bathers regularly swam in the river Thames which must have been a bracing experience in the winter. Although such an activity is not uncommon today with many people swimming outdoors, how many would take the plunge on Chrismas Day? These bathers did so in 1912 and followed their swim with breakfast. Being the Edwardian period, it probably consisted of meat and eggs. Perhaps the breakfast helped to combat the effects of what must have been very cold water indeed!

winter bathers


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