Feb 13, 2009

Christchurch's First Public Swimming Pool

An easterly view of the Avon River from just below the Montreal Street bridge.

Only the evidence of the straightened river banks between Cambridge Terrace (Left) and Rhododendron Island (Right) reveals that this had once been the site of the Christchurch City Council's first swimming baths, which opened on New Year's Day in 1877.

When completed the high-fenced 45 metre pool was 2.7 metres deep at one end and 1.2 metres at the other. The entry fee was threepence and the baths were open from 6 am to 9 pm during the season, which lasted from the 1st of October until the 31st of March.

As a consequence of the health hazard posed by effluent draining from the nearby hospital, and the rising popularity of beach bathing at New Brighton and Sumner (brought about by the introduction of the tram service), the swimming pool closed in March 1886.

William Aitken was custodian of the baths and also proprietor of the nearby Montreal Street boat sheds (1875-1929) and it was from the vicinity of those boat sheds that this hand coloured, circa 1905, photograph was taken.

Much fought over in the 1850s for possession by school boys, Rhododendron Island owes its name to the Reverend Henry Jacobs (1824 -1901), first Dean of Christchurch and incumbent of the nearby St. Michael's Church, who planted the island with the earliest Rhododendron specimens brought to Canterbury.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

I've often had a chuckle at the pool near the effluent pipe from the hospital.
Gives new meaning to "duck diving" !