The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Champion swimmer

Miss Agnes Beckwith

The champion swimmer Agnes Alice Beckwith, who pioneered the adoption of a more rational approach to female swimwear.

She appears on the 1871 census, aged 10, living with her parents and three brothers in Southwark. Her father, Frederick Beckwith from Ramsgate in Kent, gave 'Professor of Swimming' as his profession.

At the time of the 1881 census she was living with her father and younger brother Charles at 74 Kennington Road, Lambeth. All three gave 'Swimmer' as their profession.

On 2 September 1875 The Pall Mall Gazette reported that 'Miss AGNES BECKWITH, aged fourteen years, daughter of Mr Beckwith, of the Lambeth Baths, swam yesterday from London Bridge to Greenwich, a distance of five miles, in an hour and nine minutes.' According to the London Standard (2 September 1875): 'The event created a great deal of excitement, and all along the route the progress of the swimmer was watched by excited crowds on the wharves and barges'.

On 4 March 1882 she married William Taylor, the son of a veterinary surgeon, at St Andrew's in Stockwell. The couple appear on the 1891 census living at 130 Kennington Road, Lambeth. Her husband gave 'General Agent' as his profession. Agnes did not put anything for her profession but apparently her career as a swimmer and aquatic entertainer continued into the early twentieth century.

Photographer unidentified.

Code: 122218
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