William Henry
Personal information
Full nameWilliam Henry
National teamGreat Britain
Born(1859-06-28)28 June 1859
St Pancras, London, England
Died20 March 1928(1928-03-20) (aged 68)
St Pancras, London, England
StrokesFreestyle, water polo
ClubLondon Leander SC
Medal record
Representing Great Britain
Men's swimming
Intercalated Games
Bronze medal – third place 1906 Athens 4×250 m freestyle
Men's water polo
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1900 Paris Team competition

William Henry (28 June 1859 – 20 March 1928), born Joseph Nawrocki, was an English competitive swimmer and lifesaver who represented Great Britain in international competition.[1][2]

Grave of William Henry in Highgate Cemetery (east side)
Grave of William Henry in Highgate Cemetery (east side)


He was of Polish ancestry, and changed his original Polish surname Nawrocki to the English "Henry". He was a co-founder of the Royal Life Saving Society. As a swimmer he won a number of national and European championships. In 1906, at 46, he became the oldest ever Olympic medal winner in swimming as a member of the British men's 4×250-metre relay team which won the bronze medal. He won a gold medal in the 1900 Summer Olympics for Water Polo.[1]

Henry is an International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee. He was the swimming instructor for the British Royal Family, using the swimming pool at the Bath Club, Dover Street.[1] He helped to formalise the rules of water polo.[3] With Archibald Sinclair (1866–1922), he wrote a book on swimming for the Badminton Library.[4][5]


He died in the St Pancras district of London, aged 68.[6] He was buried with his wife Elizabeth at Highgate Cemetery, with a memorial above the grave paid for by members and friends of the Royal Life Saving Society.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Our founder, William Henry". Commonwealth Drowning Prevention.
  2. ^ "William Henry". Olympedia. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  3. ^ Henry, William (2013). Water Polo: A Brief History, Rules of the Game and Instructions on How to Play. Read Books Ltd.
  4. ^ Sinclair, Archibald; Henry, William (1916). Swimming. London: Longmans, Green & Co; 1st edition 1893; 4th edition 1903CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  5. ^ Watkins, M. G. (5 August 1893). "Review of Swimming by A. Sinclair and W. Henry". The Academy. 44 (1109): 105–106.
  6. ^ England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index: William Henry; Jan-Feb-Mar quarter 1928; Age: 67; District: Pancras; Volume: 1b; Page: 79.