Swimming through the Ages

5 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
Cig cards.jpg
1930s cigarette cards

Curated by Channel swimmer Frank Chalmers, this exhibition features prints and memorabilia illustrating historic swims, including those by Lord Byron and the first channel swimmer, Matthew Webb, along with instructions on 'how to swim', ranging from a sixteenth-century manual to 1930s cigarette cards, cartoons and contemporary artworks inspired by swimming and men's and women's swimming fashions from the 1890s to the 1960s. The entry price includes a swim in Parliament Hill Lido's Grade II-listed pool.


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Fantastic! Frank, you have done an excellent job putting this exhibition together - 2yrs of work, did you say? Your passion and enthusiasm are in every piece and I really enjoyed the exhibition and your 'tour'. Well done. ct

This was a brilliant exhibition! I would recommend it to any of my friends (swimmers and non-swimmers alike). It was a particular treat to get to see the actual woolen knitwear swimming garments that you ordinarily only see in films or illustrations! I can't believe they swam in these things! Don't miss this show! The water is nice to swim in at the moment too. It feels cold for the first minute or two, but it's very comfortable after that.

Inspiring exhibition, great fun, and real treat to have the curator there: awesome.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable summer evening at this exhibition beside the sparkling blue lido. There are great pieces to see and read about – an impressive London Illustrated News cover, cigarette cards (including Jonny Weissmuller!), a sculpture, woodblock prints, some Health Robinson, and authentic costumes from prudish Victorian times to glitzy eighties. Recommended!

A fascinating exhibition that brings the early world of channel swimming to life. And you get to swim in the beautiful lido.

I popped down to the Lido last night with a friend for a mid-summer's eve swim and decided to have a quick look into the exhibition - it was fantastic! We had a really fun time. I had expected it to be interesting but it really is very amusing as well. We had so much fun in fact that we nearly ran out of time to go swimming before the lido shut. But, we managed a quick 15 minutes before it closed and practiced some of what we had learnt from Swimming Through the Ages like the Victorian game of "Ducking for Eggs and Pears", and "impressing your friends with four body parts sticking out of the water at the same time," and we finished of with a back-breast-stroke race, I lost! Definitely worth a visit and don't forget your cossie so you can put it all into practice straight afterwards...

This is a fascinating exhibition, giving an overview of swimming over the centuries, featuring an early book on how to swim complete with instructions on how to impress your friends with swimming tricks - the illustrations are hilarious. The exhibition moves on to cover Byron's epic swim of the Hellespont, a social history of swimming through Victorian times, swimming costumes, Captain Webb and channel swimming, as well as a couple of contemporary artworks (stained glass and sculpture), and a fascinating collection of swimming cards. It's a beautiful exhibition and very well put together against the stunning backdrop of Parliament Hill Lido, where you can also enjoy a swim and try out some of the swimming strokes described in the exhibition. Well worth a visit!

Our affinity with water is demonstrated from the earliest of times in this unique exhibition. As a swimmer it's inspiring to be in the company of Byron and Captain Webb. The exhibition made me aware of how far we've progressed in the art of swimming. Also, on exhibit are Victorian swimming costumes and bikini's, suggesting we'll all be swimming as near naked before too long. Excellent!