Did you know that sixty-five years ago, Westerham folk could walk to the local swimming baths? The Darenth Valley open-air Swimming Bath, commonly known as Brasted Swimming Pool, was sited on what is today, Brasted recreation ground, just past the allotments on the A25 heading into the village.
There was a grand Opening Ceremony on June 24 1914, the construction having been paid for by local subscription and fundraising events such as concerts and a dance festival. The President of the managing committee was Earl Stanhope, the contractors were local men being Mr Botting, a landscape gardener, and Messrs. Horton and Son who owned the woodyard by the railway in Westerham. With the threat of war facing the nation, local resident Edwin Dowsing penned a timely song titled ‘Brasted Bathing Pool’ to be sung to the tune of ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’
The start was made some months ago by the men and boys of Brasted
Go down there now and you’ll agree their labour wasn’t wasted
Mr Botting’s help was then called on to finish off the pool Sir!
The work now done I think gives proof Mr Botting is no fool Sir!
Lord Stanhope let us have the land and we hope he won’t regret it
To him we owe our hearty thanks and don’t think we’ll forget it
The Bath is near completion now and anyone who wishes
Can go down there and do his best to imitate the fishes
We hope Lloyd George won’t come down now and tax us on the site
Because we won’t grow mangolds there on which poor pheasants bite
But Winston he has no excuse for want of safer docks, oh!
He can go on building Dreadnoughts now and give the Germans socks, oh!
Winston soon may need our help to keep her on the panel,
and if they close the ports my boys we’ll swim the Irish Channel
The Suffragettes they say may soon come down to play the fool here
Well if they do, my word, I guess we’ll duck them in our pool here!
There is a poignancy to the prose bearing in mind that the pool was built and opened in the year that Britain went to war, and there must have been a ‘back-story’ to that final verse, as a young Suffragist did in fact dash past the policeman standing on the gate at the opening ceremony. She ran along the side of the pool shouting ‘Votes for Women’ in a loud voice. An attempt was made to arrest the lady but she retreated to the diving tower, pursued by a member of Tunbridge Wells Swimming Club in his swimming trunks. The entertainment continued on the top diving board with the crowd beside themselves in excitement. The man and the lady protester struggled until they both fell into the pool with a loud splash. The protest became a rescue as the lady was pulled out of the water, given some dry clothes and then arrested by the policeman.