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

4 comments:

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

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

    tff

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  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.

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  4. My Great Grandfather George Ballard was the first and long time manager of the Spring Hill Baths from 1879 to the early 1920s. My maternal grandmother lived there, in the "living quarters" that where then in the internal facade of the baths. Daily the plugs of the baths were inserted and the pool was filled with water pumped out of the Brisbane River and emptied at night. I have recently finished writing "Long Live the High School!" - the first 50 years history of the Brisbane State High School. When the Junior Brisbane High School worked out of the Normal School where Central Station is now located, the students, girls on one day and boys on another, swum and trained in the Spring Hill Baths. This information hopefully will be included in the Brisbane State High School history which will be celebrated this year and next. Just thought someone involved at the Spring Hill Baths might be interested in this work. Best wishes, Beryl Roberts 0448 040 442

    ReplyDelete

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