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Fremantle Sea Baths

The Fremantle Sea Baths were at the bottom of Arundel Street, 1896-1910.

Tim Wright:
Increasingly the beach was used for recreational purposes and, in 1896, with the encouragement of the Council, who were keen to ensure that sea bathing was done in a proper and decent manner, the Fremantle Sea Bathing Company constructed the public Sea Baths at the bottom of the street. These baths remained the main venue for public bathing and for swimming competitions for around a decade, before a new set of baths were constructed in 1906 to the north, in what is now Fishing Boat Harbour. The old baths were seriously damaged by storms in 1908, and irreparably destroyed in 1910.

The West Australian:
The contract for the erection of the Fremantle sea baths will be practically completed today. The new structure is situated on the South Beach, at the bottom of Arundel-street. As showing the want of good sea baths at Fremantle, it is only necessary to mention that before the completion of the contract, and even in the recent wet weather, hundreds of bathers have enjoyed the luxuries of a dive and a secure swim. The baths are conducted by the Fremantle Sea Baths Company, who let the contract for the work to Mr Matt Price for the sum of £2 026 and, from all appearances, the piling, decking, dressing rooms, bath rooms, caretaker's quarters and refreshment-rooms have been carried out in a faithful manner. The dimensions of the swimming area are 200ft by 100ft, and the maximum depth of water under the spring-boards is 9ft. There are altogether 38 dressing rooms and 16 bath rooms, eight of the latter being for ordinary showers only and a similar number providing hot, salt, or fresh showers, according to the taste of the bather. Entering the baths from Fitzgerald terrace, which will shortly be supplanted by a handsome esplanade, a gangway 64ft in length leads into the front passage. On the right is a refreshment room, 12ft by 12ft, and a pantry 8ft by 12ft. On the opposite side are the caretaker's rooms of similar measurements. Passing through the entry buildings the front deck is reached. This is 100ft long, and is covered by a verandah, bath rooms being provided at either end. Along the sides are the dressing-rooms. Eight pairs of steps lead from the bottom of the baths at intervals round the enclosure to the decks. At the seaward end the picketing and decking is semi-circular, and at the beginning of the curves on either side are the spring-boards The sea fence is composed of closely fixed pickets 6in. by 2¼in., which are driven well into the bottom and securely battened to the piling, which has a 12ft hold. This should render the most timid bather free from the fear of sharks. The roofings of the buildings are of shingles, the interior being beautifully cool throughout. The finishing touches are now being put to the work in the form of fresh water and gas supply, and the opening ceremony will take place shortly.

The Fremantle City Library's caption for this image (no. 1787) records that this is "A view from Marine Terrace of the old sea baths after a severe storm in February 1910 had damaged them beyond repair. Taken February 1910."

References and Links

Wright, Tim 2020, 'Just another little street in Freo: Arundel Street from 1844 to 2020', Fremantle History Society (forthcoming). Many thanks to Tim Wright for the links to the Library photos shown above, and also for the research into the Baths - and Arundel Street.

The West Australian, 1 April 1896 (just before the Baths opened) - as above.

The map excerpt above is from a 1904-updated map (obtained through Trove) showing O'Connor's harbour works. The Baths are also shown on similar maps from the period, for example in John Dowson's Old Fremantle, p. 22, and also his Fremantle Ports, p. 48.

The two photos of the Baths are courtesy of the Fremantle City Library: nos 1786, and 1787.

Garry Gillard | New: 16 August, 2020 | Now: 18 August, 2020