Woolston Park Swimming Pool

Woolston Park Swimming Pool was first built in 1903. An upgraded pool complex was opened in 1966. 

Swimming lessons at Woolston Pool
Swimming lessons at Woolston Pool. Creator (cre): Christchurch Star. © Christchurch Star

At a meeting of Woolston residents, held on 17 June 1902, it was recommended that the Woolston Borough Council erect a public bath in commemoration of the coronation of Edward VII. To accommodate the proposed public bath, the Mayor of Woolston wrote to the Charitable Aid Board requesting to purchase a section of land in Woolston which belonged to the Lucas estate and was to be vested in the board. During a meeting of the board, held at Tuarangi Home in Ashburton on 20 August 1902, his letter was read and the board moved to consider the offer.

On 15 October 1902, at a meeting of the North Canterbury Education Board (NCEB), the board approved an application by the Woolston School Committee to the Public Trustee, to purchase land adjoining the school. The NCEB approved a sum to enable the purchase of an eighth of an acre to allow the swimming bath to be situated further away from the school master’s house. At a meeting of the NCEB held on 13 August 1902, H. W. Perryman reported on his meeting with the Woolston Borough Council and the Woolston School Committee regarding the purchase of an additional section. The board adopted his report, which recommended that the Woolston Borough Council purchase two lots of one acre 13 perches and 13 perches, and then convey the property to the NCEB after retaining a quarter of an acre and a right of way for the swimming bath.

By 22 August, the Charitable Aid Board had consented to sell the section of land to the Woolston Borough Council for £200.

In November 1902, the council received approval in a letter from their solicitors stating that a judge had consented to the proposed bath site being sold.

By December 1902, the Woolston Borough Council advertised tenders for the construction of swimming baths. On 9 January 1903, a meeting was held by Woolston residents to discuss raising money to cover the cost of the construction, as the lowest tender received had been more than estimated. The government subsidy had to be claimed by 31 March and a remaining £115 was required. The meeting suggested that fundraising be held.

In March 1903, Woolston Borough council advertised tenders for the fencing of the pool. However, work on the fencing did not start until September 1903. Despite this, construction of the bath was completed by the end of April 1903. By November the bath site had been filled in and dressing sheds had been constructed.  The bath itself was 75 feet long and 35 feet wide. It had a depth of 2 feet 6 inches to 7 feet. At the time of its construction it was considered one of the largest in Canterbury.

The formal opening of the swimming bath by Mayor J. Richardson took place on Saturday 5 December 1903.

In February 1918, Arthur Walden Allan, a 14 year old resident of Ashbourne Street, died from a heart seizure after diving into the cold water of the swimming bath. In February 1924, Wilfred King, aged 13 years, drowned after diving into the deep end of the bath. As a result of King’s death, lifesaving equipment was acquired and an iron ladder was installed in the deep end of the bath.

In September 1928, alterations were made which included the construction of new dressing sheds and a new well was sunk. In January 1930 tenders were advertised to construct toilets at the baths.

By the 1960s, the condition of the swimming bath had deteriorated. The Christchurch City Council wanted to close the baths and focus instead on a central swimming complex. However, A. H. McHugh, and J. B. Andersen of Woolston were against this decision. In 1964, they founded the Woolston Baths Restoration Committee.

In March 1964, McHugh, as chair of the baths committee for the Woolston District Improvement Association announced that there were plans for new swimming baths. He proposed to build a swimming pool that was 110 feet in length with a depth of 3 to 4 feet 6 inches. The president of the association, H. W. Dear, wanted the city council to transfer the ownership of the baths to the association.

In July 1965, a cheque for £1119 was presented to the Woolston Baths Restoration Committee by the Woolston School Centennial Committee. In March 1966, a fair was held to raise money. Further funding also came from businesses and factories in the Woolston area.

By May 1966, a contract was secured by H. N. van de Kolk who had previously built a swimming pool in Darfield.

The new swimming complex was entered via a gate in the eastern wall. Upon entering, visitors paid for their use of the pool at a small kiosk, staffed by members of the committee, which also sold lollies and ice creams. Only the east and south walls of the original bath were retained. The new pool remained unheated. To the south of the main pool was a smaller paddling pool which was warmer, and as a result, people would use it to warm up their feet and children would often lie on the ledges within. At the southern end of the complex were the changing sheds and toilets. Rows of seating overlooking the main pool were set against the eastern wall.

The new complex was opened on 17 December 1966 by Norman Kirk, the Labour MP for Lyttelton electorate. The Woolston Park Swimming Club held learn to swim programmes at the pool and a club house was built at the northern end of the complex in the early 1970s. Many people learned to swim at the pool over the decades, including Hayden Woolley (triathlete), Brian Moore of the Canterbury Swim Team, and Brent Todd, who represented New Zealand in both rugby league and water polo.

In 1976, the pool was used for a swimmathon held to raise funds for the Taylors Mistake Surf Life Saving Club. 1063 miles were swum in 24 hours by 6 people, each doing half an hour stints.

In 2005, the Christchurch City Council decided to restrict the use of the pool to school and swimming groups through the months of February to March. However, a report by the Council in October 2005 showed that there was a crack down the centre of the pool and that the filters were beyond repair. In 2009, the council was forced to close the pool as the tank could not hold water despite repairs.

The pool complex was demolished in January 2010.

Woolston Pool