IT WASN’T quite swimming in beer but taking a dip in Ilkley’s Victorian pool must have felt pretty close.

The Victoria Bath was fed with water from the local brewery - and swimming in the pool, with its “clean days” and “dirty days” may well have been a murky experience.

The tantalising glimpse of the sport’s sometimes bizarre history was contained in a piece in the Ilkley Gazette 50 years ago.

The article, which appeared in 1969, traced the history of Ilkley Swimming Club - describing the the tragedy which forced its temporary closure and the lives saved by the skills it taught.

The feature was accompanied by a photograph dating back to before 1903. It was published courtesy of John Barnes, one of the club’s early members, who was also one of those pictured.

A flourishing swimming club already existed in the town well before the end of the 19th century, and in his article chairman W G Cox wrote about some of its history.

He said: “In the early days the Club swam in the river near where the limit of the boating now is. There were three diving boards, and there was a changing hut on the bank. During the First World War a soldier broke his neck when diving and soon after the club was disbanded.”

One early club member Mr Hatch remembered going to the old Victoria Bath which had opened in1888.

Mr Cox said: “The old Victoria Bath in Little Lane will still be remembered by some in Ilkley. Mrs Hatch recalls that he went there in 1916, and it was old then.

“The bath was about 18 yards by 10 yards, and was fed with water from the adjacent brewery. It was warm, of course. There is no record of inebriety, however. There was no filtration plant, so they had ‘clean days’ and dirty days’.”

The bath - already leaking badly - was eventually closed when the brewery shut down.

The club was re-formed in 1924, with sessions again held at the river until members were able to start using the grammar school bath in 1927.

Open air swimming really took off in the town with the opening of the lido in May 1935. The opening event included ‘ladies and gents graceful high dive’ and there were prizes for the `ladies neatest and smartest modern bathing costume’.

Mr Cox was one of the many at the opening gala.

He said: “I myself recall there were many cases of fainting dealt with among the crowds on that scorching hot day.”

The club moved to the lido for a time and numerous Ilkley children were taught to swim by instructors Mr and Mrs Walker.

Mr Cox recalled: “Mrs Walker has told me that after the Second World War was over many Ilkley men came to them and said ‘but for you we might well not be here today.’ For they had come through Dunkirk and the Invasion and other crises where their ability to swim had saved their lives.”

Today Ilkley still has a swimming club. In 2015 the Lido celebrated its 80th anniversary after being voted one of the top ten open air pools in the country.