Dictionary of Sydney

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Little Manly Baths

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Little Manly Baths

In January 1878 a deputation of local residents, including the Mayor of Manly, approached the Minister for Lands for approval to construct baths – one for men and one for women, on either side of Manly Cove. Opposition by a number of residents forced the council to build the Gentlemen's Baths at Little Manly Cove, east of Manly Cove.

The contract to construct the baths at Little Manly Cove was won by Daniel Sheehy. A ceremony to drive in the first pile was held on 21 May 1879. Construction then proceeded, although concern was expressed about the specifications for the piles because of weather conditions experienced in the cove. This concern was to prove well-founded.

On completion in May 1880 the baths were leased to Lieutenant F von Hammer. There was a small charge for admission. In January 1881 Manly Council approved the hours when women could bathe exclusively, between 10 am and 3 pm. But severe storms damaged the pool in 1880 and again in 1884. In 1885, the piles and shark barriers were strengthened and ten bathers' dressing sheds with steps were completed.

By 1896, the baths having been repeatedly damaged by storms, new baths for both men and women had been built in Manly Cove, which made the Little Manly Baths redundant. The manager of the gasworks on Little Manly Point took over the lease of the baths.

By 1906, the baths were again in a poor state of repair. The dressing sheds were removed and land near the pool was resumed into private ownership. An aerial photograph taken in 1932 clearly shows the baths still there, but their condition was deteriorating. Much of the problem, as confirmed by engineers' reports, was that the Little Manly site was always subject to southerly winds and harbour currents, which deposited large quantities of floating matter on Little Manly Beach. This included 'large pieces of timber, floating logs and miscellaneous debris'. As well as being unsightly and dangerous, the pounding of this debris further damaged the Little Manly baths during storms. There were also periodic complaints from the public about seaweed growth and the presence of rocks within Little Manly baths.

Deterioration of the wooden piles, and storm and boat damage to the sharkproof netting, meant Manly Council had to repeatedly renew the fabric of the enclosure. A springboard was installed at the baths in the early 1960s, but became damaged and was removed in 1966. Severe storms once again damaged the baths in the 1970s. Manly Council rebuilt them, provided a kiosk and public facilities, and since then the baths have been well-maintained, and are a popular bathing spot with locals.


C Piper, L Hazelwood, and N Richards, 'Baths at Little Manly in Sydney Harbour', Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology vol 29, 2005, pp 44–52, available at http://maritime.heritage.nsw.gov.au/public/documents/LittleManly.pdf, viewed 16 January 2009