(Image created on 25 June 2004.)
A ghost pool. Remnants of baths cut into the wide rock platform at Gerringong’s Boatharbour, south of the modern boat ramp.
Jupiter Street, Gerringong, NSW, 2534, Australia
(Latitude South 34 degrees 45 minutes 56 seconds, Longitude East 150 degrees 49 minutes 56 seconds)
Up to 1819
Aboriginal occupation of this area was undisturbed until NSW Surveyor-General John Oxley’s 1819 report to Governor Macquarie regarding the fertile soil and dense forests in the Kiama region prompted white settlement there.
Gerringong was known as a small boat harbour from which much cedar was shipped. Once the cedar was cut out, dairying became the district’s main industry.
Jetty works from 1884 established Gerringong as a regular destination for small ships until about 1900.
The extension of the railway to Bomaderry in 1893 lured the lucrative milk trade away from the port of Gerringong.
Gentlemen’s Baths were proposed for Gerringong. The idea was to construct inexpensive (estimated cost of 30 pounds) ‘small but very nice baths’ that could later be enlarged. The public was expected to ‘nobly assist’ with funds raised as far afield as Berry and young men of the district bringing ‘their bullock teams to help clear away loose stones’.
Gerringong’s aldermen thought the two baths would be ‘an inestimable boon’ and believed that everyone would share in the good benefits that ‘would accrue from having a bath for each sex’. With several local men and women already collecting money for the proposed Men’s Baths, most aldermen felt they should do all in their power to make the Gentlemen’s Baths ‘an accomplished fact’ and believed ratepayers would not grumble at a pound-for-pound subsidy from Council for the project. Others objected to ratepayers’ money being ‘spent out in the sea’ and held that Council should not be involved in work below the high water mark and could not legally spend ratepayers’ money on such work without sanction from the NSW government.
Rather directly fund the baths, Council proposed to buy the material excavated from the baths for use on the roads, while public subscriptions raised the balance of the funds. Council approached the local Member of Parliament about a grant for the baths, reasoning that if the NSW Government provided funding, Council could also help fund the baths.
Gentlemen’s Baths were built. 1927 Seaweed clogged the Men’s Baths, but not the Ladies Baths.
Seaweed continued to clog the Men’s Baths, but not the Ladies Baths, prompting local men to start swimming at the Ladies Baths (or so they said). 1928 was the first time that the Men’s Baths attracted so many complaints about cleanliness and seaweed. The Men’s Baths seemed too small.
Perhaps inspired by the Coogee shark net, Gerringong Council debated erecting a shark-proof fence outside the Men’s Baths to increase the swimming area and keep the seaweed out.
While the reserve at Werri Beach was a camping area with fees set by Gerringong Council at five shillings per week or one shilling a night, the reserve established at Boatharbour remained the ‘ratepayers’ reserve’, the only seaside reserve in the municipality where camping was not permitted.
Council noted that ‘costumes often worn at the Men’s Baths are not such as would be worn to continental bathing’.
The Men’s Baths were very costly to maintain and again filled with seaweed. Sharkproof nets were thought no match for Gerringong’s waves and the seaweed.
Both the Men’s Baths and the Ladies baths at Boatharbour were in use and by October the Men’s Baths were ‘free from seaweed which had caused so much trouble in the past’. Council was even considering a federal loan to create a continental bathing place.
The Mayor was certain that ‘everyone would like to see really good baths at Gerringong, but seaweed was the trouble’.
Stones were being washed into the Men’s Baths.
By February, both the Men’s Baths and the Ladies Baths were leaking and empty.
Both the Boatharbour baths were in a bad state, hardly fit to swim in. Cleaning of both the Men’s Baths and the Ladies Baths had to wait until a suitable tide.
Remnants of the Boatharbour Men’s Baths were still visible.