(Image taken May 2003. Author’s own collection.)
Formalised ladies baths at South Flagstaff Point developed from a ladies bathing place, that was in use for generations before a surf club existed at Wollongong’s South Beach. This ocean pool catered for lap swimmers and could stage swimming carnivals.
This is the younger of the two ocean pools created to serve the women of Wollongong and the town’s female visitors. Once a significant visitor attraction, this pool featured on early twentieth-century postcards of Wollongong and is now part of the Wollongong Harbour Heritage Trail.
Marine Drive, South Flagstaff Point, Wollongong, NSW, 2500, Australia
(Latitude South 34 degrees 25 minutes 22 seconds, Longitude East 150 degrees 54 minutes 34 seconds)
A military garrison and stockade was relocated from Red Point in Port Kembla to the boat harbour at Wollongong.
300 convicts began excavation works and construction of a breakwater to improve Wollongong’s harbour.
Wollongong’s population was 831, comprising 330 free males, 286 free females, 47 soldiers and dependents (39 males and 8 females) and 168 male convicts in the stockade of Flagstaff Hill. Most of the population was less than 45 years old and most had arrived as free settlers.
Wollongong was one of the earliest municipalities in NSW.
Women and children used a bathing pool ‘the Children’s Pool’ on the south side of Flagstaff Hill as an alternative to the earlier Chain Baths.
A visit to Wollongong by Mr Williams of the Harbours and Rivers Branch of the NSW Department of Public Works triggered action to formalise the Ladies Baths.
A NSW Department of Lands plan of proposed sites for ladies baths shows dressing-sheds at both the Chain Baths and the Ladies Pool.
A photograph shows dressing-sheds above the pool and steps leading from them down to the pool.
Wollongong Council refused to allow the Wollongong Surf and Recreation Club to use the Ladies Baths on Tuesdays and Thursdays, believing it unwise to ‘allow the use of ladies baths to members of the opposite sex under any circumstances’.
Wollongong Council spent six pounds on repairs to steps at the women’s baths as well as making minor repairs.
When it was reported that one of the males seen bathing in the Wollongong Ladies Baths was a ‘life saver of the South Beach’, Alderman Henderson suggested ‘his services should be dispensed with’.
Responding to the many complaints about men swimming at the ladies baths and fishing on the rocks adjacent to the baths, Council placed a notice there and asserted that ‘men would be well advised to keep away from these baths, which have been specially reserved for ladies who do not favour the surf beaches’.
The Mother Superior of the St Mary’s Convent complained to council that ‘since the dressing shed at the Ladies Baths and the Chain Baths have been demolished no facilities for dressing are now available’.
Central Illawarra Shire, North Illawarra and Bulli Shire were amalgamated with the municipality of Wollongong in 1947 to form the City of Greater Wollongong.
The Wollongong’s Ladies Baths at South Flagstaff Point were listed as a heritage item on the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and featured on the Wollongong Harbour Heritage Trail.