Swimming baths in Gladstone

Lady Nelson Park (the site of the old “Baths”)

 by Paulette Flint, copyright 2009

 Picturesque Lady Nelson Park and Gladstone Harbour Board fountain is located on the corner of Lord and Goondoon Streets, which was previously the site of the Gladstone Municipal Baths.

Lady Nelson Park sign

Built in 1936, and originally using salt water drawn from Auckland Creek, these baths were later converted to fresh water. J. W. Arthurs erected the first recorded ‘Bathing House’ in Toolooa Street in 1864. (Possibly originally an extension of Toolooa Street which is now Flinders Parade). Floating baths were installed near Friend’s Victoria Store on Auckland Creek in the 1870s. In 1878 these baths received a ‘new bottom’ as reported in the Brisbane Courier: The old one was rotting away and in many places full of splinters and not until several people had cut their feet while bathing was any notice taken of it. It is again in full swing and receives plenty of custom during the warm weather that we are now experiencing. Later the townspeople swam in a shark-proof enclosure on Marine (Flinders) Parade, also at Barney Point beach and at South End on Curtis Island.

The town pool built in 1936 saw a number of managers throughout the years, including Allan Scheskie who managed it from about 1942 to 1945. Leigh Gunston (nee Scheskie) recalled that, in the old days when water was pumped from Auckland Creek to fill the pool, she had to blow seaweed away in front of her when breast-stroking. Bill Potter (around 1953), Bob Austin (around 1961), Vince Breslin and Cecil Ringuet were later managers.

In early 1959, the Gladstone Town Council voted to allocate 10000 Pounds ($20000) to install a chlorination and filtration plant. There was some opposition to this plan, with some aldermen and citizens expressing the view that the pool was outdated and should be replaced with an Olympic sized pool rather than undergo a renovation. The new pool was not to become a reality for nearly 20 years.

In June 1976, when the Gladstone Memorial Pool (Gladstone Aquatic Centre) was built to Olympic size on the corner of Glenlyon and Tank Streets, the town baths closed and the Gladstone Observer reported: A once familiar Gladstone landmark at the corner of Lord and Goondoon Streets is fast disappearing as a local firm demolishes buildings at the old swimming pool. The pool has been filled with spoil since it was closed after the opening of the Memorial Swimming Pool in Tank Street.

Lady Nelson Park is named for the HM Lady Nelson, a brig which accompanied Matthew Flinders’ ship Investigator on the surveying exploration of North Australia, and was the first European boat to enter the harbour. They reached the area on 5 August 1802, and Flinders began to explore the long sheltered inlet that he found and called at first No. 1 Port, later renaming it Port Curtis.

Lady Nelson

Lady Nelson

Flinders wrote in his journal: The naturalist and his party returned on board at the same time as I did. They had met with natives, who had thrown stones at them, but retreated upon some musquets being fired over their heads. Parts of turtle were hanging upon a tree near the natives; and they use the same kind of scoop net as in Herveys Bay. These people have canoes of bark, not less than seven being seen.

Built in Deptford, England in 1799, the Lady Nelson was launched in November of that year and purchased by the Royal Navy. With a draught of only 6 feet (approx 1.7m) and three sliding keels, the brig was considered ideal for coastal exploration. However, while exploring Port Curtis, the brig ran aground and lost its main sliding keel. Although she continued north as far as the Cumberland Islands, Flinders decided that Lady Nelson had become unseaworthy, and sent her back to Sydney.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation, then known as the Gladstone Harbour Board, erected the fountain in Lady Nelson Park to commemorate the Board’s 60th anniversary of its establishment in March 1914.

Fountain Lady Nelson Parkfountainsmall