Meet the Olympic swimmer whose blue plaque has just been unveiled in Worthing

Worthing’s only Olympic swimming finalist in the history of the Games has been remembered forever with the unveiling of a blue plaque in her honour.

Angela Barnwell was the swimming sensation of 1952, a vivacious girl whose parents ran a greengrocers in Worthing. Just nine months after she took up swimming seriously, she became the fastest woman in Britain.

The Worthing Society has long campaigned for a lasting tribute and has now finally been able to add Angela's blue plaque to its heritage trail.

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A Davison High School student, Angela learned to swim at 11 and joined Worthing Swimming Club. She was third in the Sussex Schools 100 yards freestyle in 1948 at the age of 13 and became champion two years later, going on to win the Southern Counties title.

Angela Barnwell's widower Duncan Kemp and his partner Angela Hartley, left, with Worthing mayor Henna Chowdhury and her consort Millad Chowdhury, Angela Barnwell's daughter Bernie and her husband David Sykes.

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Her win in the ASA junior girls’ 100 yards freestyle in 1952 was 0.6 seconds faster than the senior winner and the record stood for six years.

Angela Barnwell was the swimming sensation of 1952

Angela's success saw her selected for the Olympics at the age of 16 and she represented Great Britain at the 1952 Helsinki Games.

Just four days before her first race, she was hit by a tram, injuring her thigh and elbow, so she was lucky to compete at all but she put in a remarkable performance.

She was part of the women's freestyle relay team that claimed fifth place overall and made the 100 yards freestyle final.

Angela had exceeded all expectations, having finished third in her semi-final. In the final, there was a false start, which upset all the competitors, as they had dived in and then had to wait for five minutes on the side in drizzling rain. After the restart, Angela was leading at one point in the race and finished eighth.

Worthing mayor Henna Chowdhury unveiling the blue plaque at Splashpoint Leisure Centre with Susan Belton, chairman of The Worthing Society

Back home in Worthing, there was huge support for Angela and when she returned from Helsinki, thousands of people lined the streets to welcome her back.

Angela went on to represent Great Britain on several occasions, including the 1954 European Championships in Turin and in Moscow in 1955. She was expected to make the British squad for her second Olympics in 1956 but, following a move to London and change of coach, her form dipped dramatically.

Having completed a secretarial course, Angela married former Great Britain water polo captain Duncan Kemp in 1958 and they had a daughter, Bernie. Sadly, Angela died from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1965 at the age of 29.Bernie, who was only four at the time and cannot remember her mother, and Duncan were at the unveiling ceremony at Splashpoint Leisure Centre this morning, along with Duncan's partner Angela Hartley and Bernie's husband David Sykes.

Bernie, who travelled from Huddersfield, said: "We are very proud. It is nice to come to somewhere where people are proud of their heritage and you can really feel the community spirit."

The new blue plaque at Splashpoint Leisure Centre in Worthing

Angela, who had travelled with Duncan from their home in Portugal, added that it had been a long time coming but they were very proud and grateful.

Susan Belton, chairman of The Worthing Society, said it was unusual to have a blue plaque for such a young person and rare to have members of the family present at the unveiling.

She added: "We feel that the blue plaques are a very visual way and important way to illustrate the town's heritage. We hope it will encourage people to go forward and make the most of competitive sport."

The plaque was unveiled by Worthing mayor Henna Chowdhury, who said she felt particularly proud as she was also a Davison girl.