About Henley Swimming Club


Henley Swimming Club was formed in 1894 when river racing was at the height of its popularity. According to Emily Clemenson’s 1896 “Guide to Henley-on-Thames” it was formed “to encourage the most necessary accomplishment for all who love boating and fishing”. The first president of the club was Mr R. Ovey, who lent his name to the Ovey Challenge Cup, a fiercely contested monthly race, which was reported in the Henley Standard.

Henley Swimming Club’s original headquarters were at the Angel Hotel, and members swam and competed in an outdoor pool in the River Thames adjacent to the Wargrave Road in Henley – on an area of land known as Solomon’s Hatch. The pool was opened to the public from 6am to 8pm, and to ladies from 11am to 1pm.

In common with many swimming clubs, Henley Swimming Club flourished until the early 20th Century, when the depression, the first world war and rising river pollution from increased industrial activity brought river swimming largely to an end.

50 years later, in the 1970s a group led by Des Hopkins formed with the aim of providing Henley with a swimming pool. Des Hopkins worked with Henley Town Council and Oxfordshire County Council and was instrumental in finding a suitable site and helped raise part of the finances to enable the current day pool to be built in Gillott’s Lane.

Henley Swimming Club was reformed in 1977 when the new pool was opened. Des Hopkins became Henley Swimming Club’s first coach and subsequently the club president until 2003.

Ray Gallagher took over in 1991 until 2013. Sarah Williams took over in July 2013 until 2019 to take a break to look after her two daughters. Miles, Ray’s son, currently runs the club with his wife Veronica.

Our ties with Leichlingen

Henley is twinned with Leichlingen in Germany, and we have enjoyed annual exchanges with Leichlingen SC for many years. We visit Germany every other year, generally at the end of November, and take part in a large gala as well as doing lots of sightseeing! Participation in the exchanges is by invitation only, based upon commitment to training and galas throughout the year.

In alternate years, the swimmers from Leichlingen come to visit Henley. As happens on our visits to Germany, the visitors spend an evening being hosted by the home swimmers and their families. They compete in a gala and enjoy an evening celebration of food, music and award presentation. 

Miles Gallagher, current Chair of Henley Swimming Club, with his parents Ray and Margaret
and some of the senior squad swimmers.