The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.
Ocean baths are abundant in Sydney and along the New South Wales coast, reflecting our love of the ocean and, perhaps, an ambivalence towards the surf. These man-made pools filled with ocean water grew in popularity in the late 19th century and to this day offer swimmers the pleasurable relief on a humid summer's day of a saltwater swim, protected from the threat of rips, surf, sharks or bluebottles.... well, most of the time, anyway. Wylie's Baths that were built at the southern end of Coogee Beach in 1907. They were established by Henry Alexander Wylie, a champion long-distance and underwater swimmer. His daughter Wilhelmina (Mina) Wylie was one of Australia's first female Olympic swimming representatives, along with Fanny Durack. Many of the ocean pools in the beach side suburbs that developed further up and down Sydney's coast were built in the Depression of the 1930s as unemployment relief and public work schemes. The Shelley Beach and Oak Park Baths at Cronulla both have lovely art deco change rooms from this period. My favourite ocean bath in Sydney is Bronte Baths. This is a photograph of Bronte Baths taken by photographer Sam Hood in the 1930s. Everyone's clustered around watching the action in the pool. There are still races held at Bronte Baths each week. Sydney's ocean baths are part of the ongoing history of this place, and when we take part in these traditions, we're enacting history in our everyday lives. So if you needed an extra incentive to take the plunge, remember you'll be celebrating history while you swim! Read more about the development of Sydney's ocean baths on the Dictionary of Sydney's entry by Marie-Louise McDermott here, and check out her list of ocean baths around Australia on the All Into Ocean Pools website here. The Dictionary of Sydney mentions a whole cluster of pools - ocean and otherwise - so check out our subject listing on pools and swimming as well! Dr Lisa Murray is the Historian of the City of Sydney and the former chair of the Dictionary of Sydney Trust. She is a Visiting Scholar at the State Library of New South Wales and the author of several books, including Sydney Cemeteries: a field guide. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity. Thanks Lisa! You can follow her on Twitter here: @sydneyclio Listen to the podcast with Lisa & Tess here, and tune in to 2SER Breakfast on 107.3 every Wednesday morning at 8:15-8:20 am to hear more from the Dictionary of Sydney.
CategoriesBlog 2SER Breakfast coast Dr Lisa Murrray ocean pools sea swimming sydney history Tess Connery