The chequered history of Bayview Baths, which may soon return to life

Manly Daily

Source: Manly Daily

Bayview Baths. Courtesy Avalon Beach Historical Society

Bayview Baths. Courtesy Avalon Beach Historical Society

If a second round of water testing at Bayview Baths yields results as pleasing as the first, a historic part of the waterside suburb could be refurbished and returned to its purpose – swimming in salt water without fear of sharks.

If the results are good, it will then be up to Northern Beaches Council to rebuild and refurbish the Bayview Baths, the north-east corner of which is missing.

This follows a push by Cr Alex McTaggart, who said in March: “The previous Pittwater Council was concerned regarding water quality resulting from a nearby Sydney Water sewer overflow valve, which discharged after particular storm events, and as a result staff were not supportive of a refurbishment of the baths and continued swimming use.

Bayview Baths today

“Recently further information has come to light suggesting that staff concerns regarding public health safety may not be supported in the form of a total ban on swimming in this location.”

The first baths at Bayview were built on the western side of Bayview Wharf, which was in 1900.

The wharf was originally 43m long, with the innermost part made of stone and the outermost built of timber.

Bayview wharf c1905

It was not until late 1915 – probably November – that the pool was built on the western side of the wharf and it was not contiguous with the beach, so bathers had to walk along the wharf to reach the pool.

A newspaper report of the time said of the new pool, “although not of commodious proportions compared with some of the larger enclosures, still is sufficient to satisfy the wants of the district for some little time”.

The pool was constructed of timbers piles and wire netting but it isn’t clear which level of government – local or state – paid for its construction, with no mention of its existence in the minutes of Warringah Council meetings until 1920, when the council voted to spend £14 on repairs and a diving board.

Bayview Wharf, with the pool and dressing sheds on the western side. Courtesy State Library of NSW

There were also men’s and ladies’ dressing sheds on the stone part of the wharf for the convenience of bathers.

Throughout its short life, the state of the pool on the western side of the wharf was a regular item on the council’s agenda, with frequent requests from residents for it to be cleaned, upgraded or made safe.

In 1930, the council decided to build a new pool on the eastern side of the wharf.

Some locals objected to the plan but the council pressed ahead and applied for permissive occupancy of an area on the eastern side of the wharf, informing the authorities in August 1931 that the new pool would be larger than the old one and would be free to the public at all times except when swimming carnivals were being held there.

Subdivision poster for sale in 1920 of part of Bayview. Courtesy State Library of NSW

The council was told that if the pool was to be as substantial as planned, it should instead apply for a Special Lease of the area.

But the early 1930s – the height of the Depression – was a bad time to be looking for money and materials for a new pool, so it is unclear when the old pool was demolished and the new one built.

Bayview Wharf, with the pool and dressing sheds on the western side. Courtesy State Library of NSW

The wharf appears to have been shortened in 1943, which may be when the new pool was built on the eastern side of the wharf.

Like the old pool, the new one was built of timber piles and wire mesh and, like the old pool, it needed regular maintenance.

But the war was at its height during 1943 and obtaining some materials became so difficult that the council was unable to acquire enough wire mesh and was reduced to asking local residents if anyone knew where mesh could be obtained.

Unlike the old pool, the new pool on the eastern side of the wharf was contiguous with the land, so bathers only had to walk across the narrow beach – or mudflat – to reach it.

Bayview Baths today

And the lease was inexpensive – by 1953 the council was paying the State Government the princely sum of £1 a year, which had risen to the equally princely sum of $15 a year by 1967.

At some point concrete steps were installed along the side of the stone part of the wharf for the use of bathers, possibly when the new pool was built, while the mesh to keep out sharks was eventually replaced by vertical steel bars.

About 1960, the land behind the pool adjoining Pittwater Rd was “reclaimed” to create parkland and parking spaces.

Bayview Baths

In 1962 a timber extension at 90 degrees to the end of the wharf was added that included a rack for the use of sailors of Star-class boats.

But with increasing development at Bayview came increasing stormwater run-off and leakage from the sewage system, resulting in poorer water quality in the baths, especially immediately after heavy rain.

And being at the foot of Pittwater, the water around the pool was flushed less than water at the mouth of Pittwater, exacerbating the problem.

Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the baths fell into disrepair but now, with the water quality generally better than in previous decades, the Bayview Baths may be restored to their former glory.

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