Oldest In-Ground Swimming Pool in the Southern Hemisphere.
Spring Hill, a northern suburb of Brisbane boasts the oldest in-ground swimming pool in Brisbane and was constructed in 1886. The spacious in ground swimming pool is also reputed to be the oldest swimming pool in the southern hemisphere.
The in-ground swimming pool is located at 14 Torrington Street Spring Hill, Brisbane. The location was chosen by swimming pool architect and designer Thomas Kirk to take advantage of the natural waterways in Spring Hill. The large in-ground swimming pool not only served as a public bath, but also as a sanitization/purification system. The swimming pool would be drained every night and would flush out the Spring Hollow/Water Street drain. Using reservoirs at the top of the swimming pool complex the swimming pool would be refilled every night with water from the Brisbane River. This drain and flush system was employed for nearly 75 years. In 1914 a salt water purification process was added to combat the growing pollution of Brisbane River and by 1961 the entire system was replaced by a modern filtration system that completely did away with the flush and refill system successfully employed until then. There have been numerous upgrades and changes to the Spring Hill Baths, including a diving board constructed in 1902 that allowed Brisbane divers to train their sport in a swimming pool that was the equal of any such training facility in the world at that time.
Construction and Grand Opening
The in-ground pool at Spring Hill was built by William McCallum Park, a construction expert based in Brisbane suburb of Enoggera. The in-ground swimming pool was completed in August of 1886 and was opened in a grand celebration on the 9th of December 1886 by Brisbane City Mayor, James Hipwood, who was the first to dive into the newly constructed in-ground swimming pool. The Spring Hill swimming pool cost a grand total of £2,526 to construct and consisted of the large concrete in-ground swimming pool measuring 23.5 metres in length and 9.1 metres wide. The in-ground swimming pool is housed in a 2 story tall brick rendered swimming hall. The swimming pool itself is circled by a timber gallery with seating for the many competitive swimming events held there. There are timber columns that support the gallery and balustrade.
Competitive Swimming Pool
The Spring Hill Baths remained the only competition swimming pool in Brisbane for many years, and served as Queensland competition swimming pool until 1926 when the Wickham Street Municipal Swimming Baths were completed.
The Spring Hill Baths were entered on the Queensland heritage register on the 21st of October 1992. There are many reasons for the heritage listing beyond being the oldest in-
ground swimming pool in the southern hemisphere. The design for public sanitation was extraordinary for its time and the infrastructure remains to this day. Although the tanks that were used to flush the Water Street drains have been long closed. The building itself is a perfect example of late 19th century architecture, and contribute substantially to the cultural heritage of Torrington street and the surrounding suburbs of Brisbane.
The swimming pool was also featured in the 2003 film ‘Swimming Upstream’ about Tony Fingleton, a Brisbane swimming champion who trained at the swimming pool and went on to compete at the 1962 Commonwealth games, taking the silver medal for his event. The film was a portrayal of Tony’s struggle to win silver at the games and his coach was portrayed by leading Australian Actor Geoffrey Rush.
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