Gautier, Jules

Jules Paul Victor Gautier

Jules Gautier promoted himself as ‘National Champion of France’ and ‘Professor Gautier of Paris’ but he was born in Islington, London, in 1856 and had no connection with France other than his parents being born there

He followed his father’s trade and became a pianoforte maker in London but was also a professional swimmer. He married Mary West at Islington in 1883

His breakthrough came on 16 September 1888 when, at the age of 31, he swam three-and-a-half miles from Westminster Bridge to Greenwich, with his wrists and feet tied. He went on to perform trick swimming, such as “smoking, singing, and writing; peeling, sucking, and eating an orange in the water”, as well as sensational high dives.

From 1892 he took summer season jobs on the south coast, including Deal, Folkestone and Hastings Piers, so he could use the opportunity to train for and attempt a Channel swim. He is reported as making attempts in 1892, 1893, 1904 and 1907. There are no reports on these attempts actually taking place, although later press stories say he ‘made several attempts’ including one of 14 hours and one of 18 miles in 3h 35min which he was forced to abandon through getting into contrary currents.

In 1909 he was still swimming the Thames manacled, only this time he swam the university boat race course from Putney to Mortlake, “towing a boat licensed to carry eight persons”.

He lived in Islington all his life but went insane and died in 1919 aged 62 at Northumberland House, Finsbury Park, a mental hospital

Our old enemies the French are at us again. This time Waterloo went the other way. For the “fight was fit” within a stone’s throw of Waterloo on the South Western. It was a bloodless victory.
Professor Jules Gautier represented France on the occasion. He is the Champion Long Distance Swimmer of that gallant and impulsive nation and instructor to the North London Swimming Club.
He essayed the apparently impossible task of swimming from Westminster Bridge to Greenwich with his hands and feet tied on Sunday…
Jules Paul Victor Gautier is a native of Normandy. He was born in 1856. He is 5ft 4½ inches in height. And he weighs ten stone. A wiry man who strips well. And though he has not a very powerful physique, looks capable of any amount of endurance…
The Licensed Victuallers Mirror, 18 September 1888

Mr Jules Gautier, the champion swimmer of France, and the champion of the world for speed. Professor Gautier is a native of France, having been born at Caen, in Normandy; but he came to England at the age of about four years….His trick swimming includes smoking, singing, and writing; peeling, sucking, and eating an orange in the water, turning somersaults, the spinning wheel &c. He is instructor to the London Swimming Club, and also to the Cholmeley School, Highgate. He proposes to spend a week at Clacton in about a fortnight’s time, when he will give daily rehearsals.
Ipswich Journal, 9th August 1889

Jules Gautier writes that he will swim any man in the world from Dover to Victoria Pier, Folkstone, with hands and feet tied, and allow them thirty yards start.

Professor Jules Gautier is now in training at Folkstone preparatory to an attempted swim across the Channel. Gautier believes that if a time could be chosen to suit the Channel currents the passage could be made in about 14 hours and without any abnormal fatigue to the trained natationist. In order to test his powers of endurance he will shortly attempt a swim from Folkstone with with his hands and feet tied, and then either join Fisher in his proposed swim or enter upon the feat alone.
Pall Mall Gazette, 3rd August 1892

Mr Fisher, who last year attempted to swim the Channel, proposes to make another attempt to accomplish the feat, and with that object is about to begin training at Dover. At present however, the temperature of the water has not risen sufficiently to enable him to remain in the water for many hours. Professor Gautier, who also proposes to attempt the Channel swim, has definitely decided to swim from Folkstone to Dover on Wednesday with his hands and feet chained.
The Times 6 Aug 1892 Page 6

FOLKSTONE, WEDNESDAY. – Professor Gautier, who proposes to attempt the feat of swimming the Channel, started from the Victoria Pier, Folkstone, today, at half past twelve, to swim to Dover with hands and feet manacled. He started on the flood tide, but it ceased running before the professor could reach Dover. He was taken out of the water about a mile and a half or two miles west of Dover , although the water was moderately smooth. There was a cool easterly wind, and the temperature of the sea will render any attempt this year to swim the channel impossible.
The Belfast News-Letter, 11th August 1892:-

Professor Gautier proposes to attempt to swim between Folkstone and Dungeness today. The water temperature a mile from shore yesterday was 64 degrees, and 6 degrees less six miles out in the Channel. Experts agree that no person could swim the Channel with a temperature so low, shore swimming and cross-Channel swimming being very different things.
The Pall Mall Gazette, 24nd August 1892

One of the most remarkable aquatic feats that has taken place for a long time was performed by Jules Gautier on July 16. He swam from Putney bridge to the Tower bridge with his hands and feet tied, his time being; 2h 13min. Gautier was born in England, although both his parents belong to Normandy. At a very early age he acquired the art of swimming, but it was not until 1878 that he won his first important event. This was the long-distance professional championship of France, which took place in the Seine. So easily did he win that race that objection was taken to his advanced overarm stroke. For a number of years he confined himself to trick swimming, but in 1888 he swam round all the London bridges with hands and feet tied, tho total distance being estimated at eight miles. He subsequently tried to swim the Channel, but after covering about 18 miles in 3h 35min he was forced to abandon the attempt through getting into contrary currents…
Hawera & Normanby Star, New Zealand paper, 14 Sept 1904

Professor Jules Gautier, the well known long distane swimmer and diver, is also traing at Hastings for a Channel swim which he says he will undertake early in September. A few days ago Gautier, as a test of endurance, swam from the Hastings Pier to St Leonards Pier, against a strong tide and a South West wind, with his hands and feet secured by manacles. On Sunday morning he dived from the stern of a Pleasure Steamer in mid channel and swam as far as St Leonards Pier, again with hands and feet tightly secured throughout the whole distance of nearly six miles. He was in the water two hours and a half, and completed the task with great ease, being quite fresh and warm at the finish. Gautier has already made several attempts to cross the Channel, at one time swimming 14 hours before giving up.
Lincolnshire Echo, 23 August 1904:-

M. Jules Gautier, ornamental swimmer and diver, who on Friday swam from Richmond to Putney, a distance of nine miles, with his hands and feet manacled, in 2 hours 52 minutes, will go on Sunday to Dover to attempt to swim the Channel
Observer 25 August 1907

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