The City of the Saints - so named for its many churches, is home to Rhodes University, a number of famous private schools, state schools and an military base with a dead pool. The town was founded by the British in 1812, and became a centre for the 1820 Settlers who settled on farms thoughout the Albany District, which resulted in the many excellent Victorian-era schools in the area like Kingswood college and the Diocesan School for Girls (DSG). The town does not seem to have a municipal swimming pool.

The private schools all have swimming pools - some have multiple pools for water polo. Graeme College is a state school dating from 1873, with an active swimming and water polo programme, while Hoërskool PJ Olivier is the only Afrikaans high school in the town, but it does not have a pool, focusing instead on rugby and netball. The university has a pool, and has been a participant in inter-varsity swimming events for many years.

South of Grahamstown lies the Settlers Dam, where the Eastern Province Open Water Championships 10 km events is held.

The defunct swimming pool at the 6 South African Infantry Base outside Grahamstown was previously a part of the extensive sports programme of the South African Defence Force, which featured an annual national championships. The equally dead swimming pool at the Settlers Hospital was a common facility provided for staff at provincial hospitals in the South Africa, and often used by swimmers if no other pool was available.

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