A NEW plaque pays tribute to two of the driving forces behind the Thamesdown hydrotherapy pool.

Peter Jones co-founded the long-running facility next to Crowdy’s Hill School and served as its chairman for 20 years while Paul Charlwood was its first pool manager and stayed in the role for over 30 years.

Peter’s daughter Catherine Akerman looked on as Mayor of Swindon Garry Perkins and Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Troughton visited the site to unveil the plaque.

Catherine said: “He would be chuffed to bits and absolutely thrilled with this plaque, it’s lovely. When the staff told me about this, I thought it was wonderful.

“My younger brother Brynley had Down’s Syndrome and our parents realised there was nowhere like this for him to go, so that’s where the idea came from. He used it regularly, it transformed his life and the lives of many other people because it improves your physical and mental wellbeing.

“Dad and my Mum Margaret were so passionate about this. The first meeting was held in our front room.”

Paul Charlwood, often known as Mr Hydrotherapy, joined in 1979, the year the pool was set up, and stayed for 32 years.

Pool manager Neil Montgomery arranged for the plaque to be installed after contacting Buckingham Palace and showed round the esteemed visitors who stopped to chat to people using the pool.

Sarah Troughton said: “It was an absolute pleasure to meet people who work and swim here, it was lovely. The pool is a real asset for Swindon and I hope this visit helps put it on the map.”

Mayor Perkins said: “You are all doing a great job, this is helping people to keep mobile and keep going. The fact that it is still going during Covid shows its value and how important it is to people.”

As many as 700 people visited the pool every week before the pandemic hit and capacity had to halve but staff and volunteers managed to keep it going and introduced safety measures along with a new booking system where guests can arrange an hour-long swim, with no more than 10 people in the pool at the same time.

Mr Montgomery said: “The feedback we have been getting is fantastic but we could be helping more people, we have space, so we need to get the word out and let people know.

“It’s been a difficult struggle which has forced us to adjust on an ongoing basis and cancel fundraisers but the staff have been fantastic, the committee of volunteers has been faultless and the customers understand why we’ve made changes and appreciate that we’re still open.

“On top of that, having Paul and Peter’s names on the wall commemorates all that they did for us.”

Chairman Dave Berry said: “To have the Lord Lieutenant and mayor here in recognition of what the pool does and what we as a committee have been doing for years was an honour.

“We provide a service to Swindon and the surrounding areas, people come from all over Wiltshire for this hydrotherapy.”

To book a session, call 01793 496002.