In the sixties, the late Maurice Mullen (Jan 1973) and Joyce Mullen from Camberley took their daughter Jackie regularly to the Metropolitan Club in London to learn synchro. Maurice worked with George and eventually became a top coach and judge.
In time the Mullens became frustrated with the journey to London and decided a club was needed locally. George Rackham introduced them to Anne Dudding, who at the time was a swimming coach at Central Pool, Reading. Between them they developed the idea of a club in Reading and advertisied for members. Jackie Mullen was the first member, followed by Kim Beat, whose father Captain Beat became the club’s first chairman.
The first session of the new Reading club was held at Arthur Hill Pool on Sunday, 14th September 1969 and was opened by Jenny Robb a GB swimmer from the Metropolitan Diving Club and is now better know to all of us as Jenny Gray.
At first the club was just called Reading Synchronised Swimming Club, but this was altered in October 1970 by popular vote to include ‘Royals’ (before the football team adopted it).
In time courses were run for younger swimmers and a junior section was started, which in fact meant beginners. Girls had to be 11 to join the club, a far cry from the 4 year olds we now share our sport with. The first ‘junior’ member was Heather Reeve who later became club captain and her father Arthur served a long period as club treasurer, secretary and coaching co-ordinator.
Early members of the club included the Holland family and the Coxes all of whom came to play a big role int he British success in the sport in those early years. They all had some previous connections with other synchro clubs and the rapid development of the club owed much to the synchro knowledge brought by Maurice Mullen, the experience of Anne Dudding as a swimming coach and Brenda Holland’s choreography ideas brought from he world of dance.
The initial club program of activities included many displays, some of which were fairly theatrical in nature and as we know the sport now requires much more from the athletes and so today’s program is geared to improving fitness, flexibility as well as the technical and artistic skills of the sport. The first Christmas Show was held in 1970 and the aim then was the same as now to include all club athletes and to raise funds for the club.
1971 - A Winter Cruise
In 1973 the club achieved its first success in an inter club completion. Jackie Mullen and Andrea Holland winning solo medals, Lorraine Carcas and Jackie Sim winning duet medal and team, called ‘Green Leaves’ the first A-Team(below), won the gold.
1974 was our first entry into the National Competition and three silvers were won including the team choreographed by Brenda Holland. Until the Nationals had been dominated by the Seymour Club. In the first National Championship in 1975 the success continued the Royals won gold in solo, duet and team (below) and repeated this for the next three years.
The A Team which won the Redwood Trophy in 1975
On the international front many Royals athletes were in the national squad and some reached great heights. Jane Holland became European solo and duet champion in 1974 and was 4th in the World Championships in 1975. In 1977 Jackie Cox became the European solo and duet champion and 4th in solo and duet and the 1978 World Championships, her duet partner for these events was Royals' Andrea Holland. Other key members of the national squads in the seventies were Kay Spencer and Philipa Sutton.
In the eighties the club hit dizzy heights again winning the Redwood Trophy in 1987 and 1989, many athletes represented the club at all levels England Age Group, Junior and Senior and this continues today. Philippa Sutton was part of the GB Team which became European Team Champions in 1981 and 1983. Jo Jones (nee Seeburg) competed at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and Sarah Beasley (nee Northey) competed at the Commonwealth Games winning a silver medal in the duet with Kerry Shacklock from Rushmoor.
The next decade was dominated by the Hoopers but again many athletes competed internationally until funding for the sport was reduced towards the end of the nineties.
Katie Hooper and Kelly-Anne Russell (nee Wise) dominated through their age group competions winning the top spots all the way. Katie competed at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 wining bronze in duet and again in 2002 moving up a place to win silver in the duet with Gayle Adamson from Gateshead.
Until the revival of GB with the arrival of Canadian Coach Biz Price in 2007 Katie Hooper was one of the last to compete at Senior World level in 1998 when at that time GB broke from senior competition. In 1999 the Royals won all the events at the National Championship, Junior events by Jo Hooper with the help of Claire Diffin (nee Butler) in the duet, Senior events by Katie Hooper with partner Kelly-Anne and team choreographed by Kim-Lin Hooper.
The new millenium started well retaining the Redwood Trophy and senior titles at the hands of the Hoopers. We continued to have athletes in national squads when there was funding and when the High Performance Centre was set up in 2007 three athletes made it into the first full-time training centre, Katie Skelton, Jazmine Stansbury and Helen Morris. The new funding also saw the return of the junior squad and development squads and Royals had representatives in these squads.
The rise of our next star Katie Clark started and in 2009 she competed for GB at all three levels, Age Group, Junior and Senior in the same year and continued then to train full time towards London 2012 where she competed in Tecnical and Free Team with fellow RR team mate Katie Skelton.
At Age Group level the club continued to win medals in all events for all age groups. This was certainly the case in 2014 when at 12 & under level the club won all medals at National Age Groups and thus introduced Mimi Gray into the synchro spotlight. She won Figures, Solo, Duet and Team golds. Mimi remarkably went on to be unbeaten in Figures, Solo and Duet in the following 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. This saw her selected into the England Development, Age Group and Junior Squads and being voted British Swimming's Emerging Athlete of the Year in 2017
On the 31st January 2018 Reading Borough Council closed Central Pool, Reading which had been the home of Reading Royals almost from the start of the club's existence. There was no suitable replacement facility provided in its place. At the time of writing (nearly eighteen months on) the council are yet to provide even a plan to replace Central.
2019 saw Reading Royals crowned as National Champions winning the Redwood Trophy in Nottingham for the tenth time. This ties in with the club's 50th year. Previous wins were in 1975,1976,1977, 1978, 1987, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2000.