Friday, 13 July 2012

Olympic Records

As the London Olympics draw closer, and in honour of our ‘It’s a Record Event’ on the 20th July, we thought we would delve into our collections to see if we could find any Cheshire connections to the previous two London games. In doing so, we came across the story of Wilfred Edwards; world class swimmer at the 1908 London Olympics. Born on the 23rd October 1889, to Robert and Elizabeth Edwards, Wilfred was baptised ‘Charles Wilfred Edwards’ on the 20th November 1889 at St John the Baptist, Chester. Wilfred lived on 5 Newgate Street in the city and was admitted to the Chester College School on the 21st September 1903.

The Cheshire Collection available with Find my Past allows you to search indexes of marriages, baptisms and burials. You can view Wilfred's baptism entry if you have a subscription (or for free at the Record Office and some Cheshire libraries).
A keen swimmer from an early age, he honed his skills as a part of the Chester Swimming Club and took part in the opening gala of the Corporation Swimming Baths in. The Chester Chronicle reported on the Mayor’s speech at the opening ceremony in September 1901:

‘… [it is] fervently hoped that in those baths, in the immediate future and for many generations to come, that noble art of swimming might be learnt, more especially by the young’

Ground floor plan of Chester Corporation Public Baths
(Cheshire Archives and Local Studies Reference: ZDB/30)
These words were certainly fulfilled by Wilfred. At the age of just 18 he successfully competed in the Olympic trials and earned his place on the Great Britain team. The Chester Chronicle reported in the run up to the games:

‘One is glad that Chester’s champion swimmer, Edwards, has qualified in his trials to meet the picked men of the world ’

In the heats for the 100m freestyle, Edwards matched the world record time of 1:05:8. Unfortunately, Wilfred failed to repeat the performance in the semi-final and did not make it through to the final event. A new world record of 1:05:6 was set in the final by the gold medal winner - Charles Daniels of the USA. The times for silver and bronze, however, failed to match Edwards’ earlier time in the heats.

Wilfred served in the Veterinary Corps during World War One and continued to live in Chester for the rest of his life.  He died aged 60 on the 15th July 1950.