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Corporation and Domain baths

Corporation and Domain baths

Making a splash

While recreational swimming didn’t become very popular in Sydney until the 20th century, Sydney Harbour was a popular spot for bathing in the city's early years.

In 1858 the City built the Corporation Baths at Woolloomooloo Bay. Also known as the Fig Tree or Farmer's Baths, they were in keeping with the British tradition of building bath-houses for public health. While other colonies developed facilities on land, such as Melbourne's impressive Municipal Baths, Sydney utilised its vast harbour.

Domain baths along the W side of Woolloomooloo Bay in the 1880s. NSCA 51/4581 Corporation Baths along the western side of Woolloomooloo Bay in the 1880s. (City of Sydney Archives CRS 51/4581)

The Corporation Baths had a free section and one where patrons were charged for facilities such as change rooms and jetties for diving into the water. Although swimming did occur at the Corporation Baths, they were primarily for bathing.

As the 19th century wore on, Sydney’s waters became increasingly polluted as the city's sewers fouled the inner harbour. However once the sewerage was diverted to Bondi in the 1890s, the Municipal Council took renewed interest in harbour bathing, and the 1890s and 1900s saw a rapid increase in the number of baths and swimming facilities.

The Corporation Baths The Corporation Baths, c. 1880s. Paying section with change room facilities. (City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51/4584)

The City received funds from the state government to redevelop the Corporation Baths at Woolloomooloo. Opened in 1908, the new Municipal Baths, or Domain Baths as they became known, reflected the era's shift from bathing to recreational swimming, with a basin big enough for competitions and carnivals. There was a six-tier diving tower and a grandstand that could accommodate up to 1,700 spectators.

Grandstand and swimming basin at the Domain Municipal Baths Grandstand and swimming basin at the Domain Baths, 1908. (City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51/235)
Dive Tower and swimming basin at the Domain Municipal Baths Dive Tower and swimming basin at the Domain Baths, 1908. (City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51/232)

Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Pool was opened in 1966 on the site of the former Corporation Baths.

Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Pool, c.1970 Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Pool, c.1970. (City of Sydney Archives, SRC 14610)

Last updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2012