(Image taken in September 2001. Author’s own collection.)
Freshwater Beach at the northern end of Harbord’s Freshwater Beach has an 8-lane, 50-metre seawater pool with a uniform shallow depth just over a metre, thick concrete walls to all four sides and no subsidiary children’s or wading pools. Constructed on an excavated rock platform and with tiered seating along the full length of the pool.
Lumsdane Drive, Harbord, NSW, 2096, Australia
(Latitude South 33 degrees 46 minutes 54 seconds, Longitude East 151 degrees 17 minutes 40 seconds)
Middens, rock engravings and stone tools found on the headland testify to a long Aboriginal presence in the Harbord area around Freshwater Beach.
The Manly Land Company subdivided the Freshwater Estate named after a small fresh water creek, which entered the sea at the northern end of the beach.
Freshwater Beach was a workers’ holiday resort with calico tents, then whitewashed hessian and primitive houses available for use on weekends and holidays.
Warringah Shire was formed in 1906.
Isabel Letham rode a surfboard with world-famous surfer and swimmer Duke Kahanamoku at Freshwater in 1915.
The Harbord Beach Improvement Committee (HBIC) asked Council to support the construction of a rock pool to the north of Freshwater Beach, just below McKillop Park and permission to hold surf carnivals to raise funds for it. Council agreed and arranged for the Shire engineer to design two pool options. The HBIC selected the longer pool option (70 feet by 50 feet). The Freshwater surf club had also lobbied Council for the pool’s construction and raised most of the funds via concerts and carnivals. Many of the functions were held under the auspices of the Beach Improvement Committee. At a fundraising carnival attractions included performing dogs, a horse sideshow, merry-go-round, baby show and a Queen competition.]
Shire President Parr opened the pool on 28 November 1925. The pool measured 33 yards (30.18 m) and was the first rock pool to be opened on the Northern Beaches. Mr W. H. Morgan had constructed the pool for a total cost of 472 pounds. In September, Mr R. Antill won a tender to build the lower path from the beach to the pool at a cost of 105 pounds. The HBIC again contributed half the funds.
There were requests to improve the pool by concreting its bottom providing lighting.
Concreting of the pool bottom was completed. The pool was used for swimming races by lifesavers, who competed for a trophy donated by H. C. Butterworth, the secretary of the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club.
The Women’s Amateur Swimming Club formed and later affiliated with the NSW Amateur Swimming Association and joined the Northern Suburbs Women’s Amateur Swimming Association which also involving ladies clubs at the Collaroy, Dee Why, Manly and Narrabeen ocean pools.
Photos show Isabel Letham‘s swimming school in Freshwater rock pool. Around 1949, an ‘aquacade’ day at Freshwater pool involving a water ballet performance by the Freshwater Ladies Swimming Club saw crowds using the rock face next to the pool as a spectator seating.
The Men’s Amateur Swimming Club (Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club) formed and its current clubhouse opened in 1954. The lower half of the clubhouse was erected by volunteers who later added an upper storey funded by Warringah Shire. It was the first building on this site, as until then the members of the Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club had used the surf club building.
On 25 July 1956, a Trust for the swimming club was set up for the care, control and management of the pool, the clubhouse and McKillop Park. It comprised officials of the Men’s and Ladies Amateur Swimming Club and three ex-officio Council members. It was also authorised to hire out the clubhouse. The clubs were responsible for the internal maintenance of the clubhouse and the Council for any external repairs and painting.
To comply with the standard for competition swimming pools, the Freshwater pool was extended from 33 to 55 yards at the western end.
The men’s and ladies Amateur Swimming Clubs amalgamated and held races on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings.
The pool was restored with a new pump, water outlets and walls.
On 14 November 1980, the Harbord Beach, but not the surrounding suburb, was officially renamed Freshwater by the Geographical Names Board. The decision was supported by Warringah Council, backed by a petition signed by over 100 local residents.
A statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (donated by the Harbord Diggers Club) was set in a landscaped area in McKillop Park on the ridge. This statue is a significant cultural feature related to the pool and beach and a tourist attraction.
The Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club and Harbord Diggers Sunday Morning Swimming Club agreed to share use of the clubhouse. The Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club was the prime tenant, although the Diggers used the club year-round and the Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club used the pool only during the summer swimming season.
Isabel Letham died. Local board-riders scattered her ashes in the surf off Freshwater Beach.
Councillor Darren Jones proposed that Warringah Council establish a suitable park seat and an appropriate plaque in the vicinity of the Freshwater rock pool as a memorial to the contributions of the late Roy Longley to the coaching of junior swimming.
Warringah Council began monitoring water quality in this pool and its other five rock pools.
A baptism took place at the pool in front of thousands of onlookers.
The President of the Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club sought Council assistance to make the lane markings in the rock pool more distinct. Council responded that its service-level agreement for construction and maintenance of the rock pools only covered cleaning and minor pump maintenance and that no funds were available for line marking.
The running route from the end of Freshwater Beach up around the rock pool and onto the Harbord Diggers Club was popular.
Freshwater Amateur Swimming Club still races at the Freshwater Rock Pool .
The Harbord Diggers – Swimming Club now swims on Sundays at the Harbord Diggers indoor pool.