Posted By michellef on May 8, 2013
In the early days of Ipswich, households purchased water for their use. There was generally little left over for bathing at the end of each day. One could take a dip in the Bremer River to wash or cool down, however in the 1850s this was illegal to do within the Town border. If caught you could receive a hefty fine. Bath Houses had been established in Brisbane on the river and proved to be popular amongst the community.
In 1852 the first Bathing House in Ipswich was erected by Owen Connor. The ‘Flower Bank Bathing House’ was built on the Bremer River, Flowerbank (Satan’s Depression), and could be rented out quarterly or for the season.
In 1865 Public Baths were built by the Ipswich City Council on the banks of the Bremer River near St. Marys Church. Named the Corporation Baths these baths were quite small. Men and women were not allowed to bath together so there were set times when women could bath alone and times allotted for male bathing. In 1887 these baths were washed away by flood.
The new baths were erected in 1891 with the cost being threepence for a bath. The baths were dug out of solid rock and reinforced with concrete. The bath was 60ft long by 20ft wide and the depth was from 3ft to 7ft. It was divided into 2 compartments – one for males and the other for females, and included 10 dressing rooms and four warm baths. A valve was added for easy emptying into the river.
The Baths were well attended and on hot days became quite crowded, so in 1919 the Ipswich City Council agreed to erect new larger Baths on the old Girls Central State School site, in Bremer Street, Ipswich (the Transit Centre at the river end of Bell Street now occupies this spot). This Bath was known as the Bremer Park Pool and was 100ft by 33ft wide. There were dressing rooms to accommodate 170 bathers and enough tiered seating above these to comfortably seat 700 people.
The new Swimming Baths or Bremer Park Pool was officially opened in January 1921. The pool was emptied twice a week because there was no filtration or modern equipment as used today, however they did throw handfuls of chlorine in when needed. The only time you could see the bottom of the pool was when it was emptied. The pool was emptied on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and refilled the next day.
In 1924 mixed bathing was still prohibited by council regulations. The pool was not being well patronised and was suffering financially because of this. It was suggested that certain days be set aside as family days hoping to bring back a community following. This option proved favourable.
The baths became very popular especially with families and swimming clubs. Swimming carnivals were regularly held with diving and relay competitions. The Bremer Park Pool hosted the Annual State Country Swimming Championships and the All Schools Swimming Carnival. Swimming proved to be a very popular pastime in Ipswich and many clubs were formed sparking strong competition. Nightly swimming competitions became big events with huge crowds turning out to watch and cheer on their teams. Some of the early Ipswich swimming clubs were the Ipswich and District Amateur Swimming association, Vikings Swimming Club, The Railway Swimming Club, The Christian Brothers Swimming Club and The Starlight Swimming Club.
The Bremer Park Pool played host to several talented foreign swimmers on occasion. Arne Borgs (the famous Swedish swimmer); Japanese swimmers Katsuo Takaishi and Takahiro Saitoh; German swimmer Gustav Froelich and Hawaiian swimmer Kyoshi Nakama were some who visited Ipswich.
In 1939 two new wings of tiered seating were constructed to cater to the large crowds that came to the swimming competitions and championships which were being held there. In 1950 members of the Sydney Olympic Swimming Club visited the city Baths and entertained crowds with Water ballet and synchronised swimming displays.
In 1958 the Baths at Bremer Park were demolished to make way for the East St entrance onto the David Trumpy Bridge.
Information taken from: Brisbane Courier 17 January 1921 ’New Baths at Ipswich’, 20 January 1939 ‘BORG’S TIME BEATEN – Nakama Breaks Old Record’, 18 November 1937 ‘Ipswich Opening’, 22 December 1865 ‘IPSWICH’, The Western Star & Roma Advertiser 9 January 1924 ‘Swimming Baths and Mixed Bathing’ , The Ipswich Advertiser 23 November 1988 ‘History of Ipswich Sport’ , The Moreton Bay Courier 19 November 1853 ‘FLOWER BANK BATHING HOUSE’, The Bremer River by Robyn Buchanan, Ipswich in the 20th Century by Robyn Buchanan