This is still the largest tidal seawater lido in Europe. Though the Club was first formed in 1865, the Pool wasn't constructed until 1895. Its popularity with locals and visitors grew until the mid nineteen-thirties when nearly 100,000 paying customers used it during the summer season. Although swimming, diving, water polo and life-saving training could only take place during the few months when the sea was relatively warm 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 C) to 68 F (20 C) , the Club produced many fine competitors who represented the island and Great Britain in Empire and Olympic Games. Membership was fully representative of the island's community and many civic leaders and politicians joined in what rapidly became an exciting sporting and social centre. This aerial photograph, taken in 1933, shows the bridge linking the pool to the promenade and the town of St Helier.The water polo pitch is moored against the wall in its training position and would be towed to the main arena for matches.These more recent photographs show the modernisation which took place in 2001 and the effects of the low tide and the dangerous rocks littering the southern coastline.More historical information can be obtained from the Jersey Archive where all the Club’s records are held. For comparison, a typical indoor swimming pool found in most towns holds about 500 cubic metres of water. An Olympic Pool, including the diving area and warm up facilities, contains about 3,000 cm. The pool at Havre des pas is filled with roughly 30,000 cubic metres or the equivalent of 10 Olympic pools. The ‘old enemy’s’ outdoor pool at La Vallette in Guernsey is only about 3,000 cm and at least 2 degrees C colder as it is in the north of the island. That lower temperature makes a difference when you’re stuck in the water for up to an hour!Even in the balmy conditions at Havre des Pas, the Guernsey Donkeys were hardly ever a match for their Jersey rivals. Only when the games were held in the Guernsey harbour (below) did the locals hold their own (and anyone else’s who came in range).La Vallette did provide a more dramatic backdrop though as these pictures taken in the 1960s demonstrate.
Though this photo was taken in the 1960s (I’m behind the goal scorer out of shot), it gives an indication of the theatrical atmosphere created in the arena.The club is still in existence though competitions no longer take place at the Pool. There are two excellent booklets produced by John Fage, a fine diver and swimmer, who has devoted most of his adult life to the Club. 'One Hundred and Twenty Years' and 'Jersey Swimming Club – 135 years in Pictures'.Though no longer used for swimming or diving, occasionally players from the Jersey Water Polo Association, brave the relative cold (after 30 C) indoor pools to stage matches.In the 1930s the only freshwater pool was at the Palace Hotel. Now the island has half a dozen indoor pools the largest of which sits empty on its site at Fort Regent overlooking the town mocking the folly of the politicians who built it in the wrong place and abandoned it in favour of a privately funded pool on the new waterfront.
The outcome was usually the same with the Jersey team grabbing the trophy. I’m bottom left having, if I recall correctly, spent the entire game man-marking the Guernsey captain to stop him getting a hand on the ball.