Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spring Hill Baths

Take a moment to think about the first European arrivals to Brisbane, from when the penal settlement commenced in 1824 through to the twentieth century. How would they have coped with the sub-tropical heat and humidity, particularly given the then much more formal standards of dress? Seeing the indigenous inhabitants parading around in next-to-nothing cannot have helped their disposition on a sultry summer day, when their own northern hemisphere garments would have been stifling. It is no wonder that bathing became very popular - firstly in the Brisbane River, and then in the public swimming pools as they were gradually constructed. It took over seventy years for the first one to appear in 1896 at Spring Hill, and here it is, pictured around the year 1959.
(Ph0to: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; Image #BCC-B54-11585)

The Municipal Public Baths were opened by the Mayor of Brisbane, James Hipwood, who then was reportedly the first to take a dip in the pool. A complex system of hydraulics enabled the pool to be filled daily from holding tanks that were fed from the river, and then the water was drained out at the end of each day. This system was maintained until the introduction of a filtration system in 1961. The pool still functions, and here it is today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

This pool was the only one in town until the construction of the Valley Baths in 1925, and initially, bathing was segregated. Pictured below is a group of female swimmers inside the pool building, around 1910.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #98708)

The interior is relatively unchanged, and my recent photo is below. Although a group of women were doing an aquarobics class when I visited the pool, I was warned at the front desk that, whilst they would let me inside to capture a couple of images, I was not to take any photos that included people. And that's fair enough, really - I wouldn't take a photo of someone in a swimming costume without asking them first. Some places aren't enlightened at all, and just place a blanket restriction on photography.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The pool itself is surrounded by wonderful little changing cubicles, each one individually painted - some of them are evident in my photo, but for a better look, click here to see Cara's colourful picture at Brisbane Daily Photo. This pool was used competitively for many years, and Australian swimmer (and Empire Games medallist) Tony Fingleton trained here, as discussed in the book "Swimming Upstream" that he co-wrote with his sister, Queensland Magistrate Di Fingleton. It is available at your local library, and was also made into a great film that starred Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Next: Trainspotting

3 comments:

  1. my wife loved that movie, she wants to do some laps in this pool when we visit brisbane next year

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sure she'll enjoy it - it has a lovely ambiance.

    tff

    ReplyDelete
  3. I finally went for a swim here this morning. It really is a step back in time. In fact I'm guessing that experience is the closest I'm ever going to get to time travel.

    ReplyDelete

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