Fact of the Day
Feb 10, 1999
SHORT AND STOUT BUT FIRST TO SWIM THE CHANNEL
Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel, was born on January 19th, 1848, at Irongate, near Dawley, in Shropshire, and was, therefore, not quite twenty eight years of age when he accomplished the feat which made his name world-renowned.
He learnt to swim when seven years of age, and when on board the 'Conway' training ship, in the Mersey, saved the life of a comrade in danger of drowning. After leading a seafaring life for some years he returned to England able to swim a good breaststroke, but he was not a fast swimmer. When he started for the Channel swim he was 5 feet 8 inches high, measured 43 inches around the chest, and weighed about 203 lbs. During his training he once swam out to the north-east Varne Buoy, which is more than half-way across the Channel, and also from Dover to Ramsgate, about eighteen miles, in 8 hrs. 45 mins., as well as in the Thames from Blackwall to Gravesend in 4 hrs. 52 mins.