Taking the Plunge

The History of Ashfield Pool 1963 to 2018

The History of Ashfield Pool 1963 to 2018

When Ashfield Pool was closed in 2018 for extensive redevelopment, Councillors Mark Drury and Lucille McKenna, with approval of Inner West Council, requested Ashfield & District Historical Society to put together its history and produce a textual and illustrated publication. A Council grant was approved to fund the printing and out of pocket expenses associated with producing the book and it was agreed that the research and writing would be carried out by ADHS volunteers.

The book is divided into many chapters dealing with various aspects of the Pool, its development and its many users.

The story begins with the original landscape of the Pool locality and its habitation by the Indigenous Owners and early white settlers. Then follows many years of Council discussion and debate from the early 1890s about the need for public baths so youngsters could learn to swim, with sites and proposals examined and many disagreements before a final decision to build the Pool in its present location was reached.

Once the tough financial decision was made to go ahead with the Pool, land acquisition was a slow process as some owners resisted relinquishing their title. Finally the architect’s drawings were finished and the builders underway, which brings the reader to Australia Day, 26 January 1963, when the grand opening of the Pool was held. The NSW Premier, R.J. Heffron officiated and the occasion was attended by hundreds of guests and local residents who were entertained by Olympic swimmers who swam exhibition laps in various strokes, and champion divers who demonstrated their expertise from the diving tower.

Other chapters deal with capital works, major improvements, carpark development and attendances, followed by ‘Progress and Problems’ which chronicles the myriad of advances and also some hurdles jumped along the way.

Taking the Plunge is not just a story of ‘bricks and mortar’ and the fanfare of a grand opening ceremony; it encompasses the Pool’s rich social history, taking in the many stakeholders which, over the decades, includes many people from the local community. The second half of the book tells of the positive aspects that the Pool brought to local residents’ lives. The wonderful and enduring Ashfield Amateur Swimming Club, Warwick Webster’s Swim School and Wests Water Polo Club are all represented with an overview of their histories, their aims and objectives and their great achievements – but most of all their community-driven successes!

Other chapters tell stories of some of the carnivals, competitions, programs and special events held at the Pool – although there were far too many to all get a mention. And then there is the Ashfield Supa Slide – who could forget those waterslides, not least the ‘Black Hole’!

The last chapter brings us to the decision to create the amazing new Ashfield Aquatic Centre, which opened on the 17th of October, 2020. Just like the decades before the building of the first Pool, the proposal for a totally redeveloped Centre has involved some opposition and struggle. The result shows that our civic leaders have again decided well, and the multi-purpose Centre will be enjoyed for many decades to come.

The authors of the book are the Society’s Mark Sabolch, Lois Gray and Ann O’Connell. The 240 pages are very well illustrated with maps, plans, documents, photographs and images gathered from many sources. The Ashfield & District Historical Society thanks all contributors for their generosity and hopes that all readers will gain a sense of the value and worth the Pool has brought to our residents and our local history.

The publication of Taking the Plunge The History of Ashfield Pool 1963 to 2018 has been assisted by a grant from the Inner West Council.

Copies of this publication can be obtained for $25 from the Ashfield & District Historical Society’s rooms at Thirning Villa in Pratten Park, 40 Arthur Street Ashfield. Our Rooms are open on the second and last Saturday of each month between 11:00 am and 4:00pm.

Additional Links

Ashfield Aquatic Centre opened to the public on Saturday 17 October 2020.

An interview with Mark Sabolch, President of A&DHS, conducted by Colin Hesse, Radio Skid Row.

See the Video produced by Inner West Council to celebrate the opening.

See the Video produced by Ashfield Council recording the opening of Ashfield Pool in 1963.

Photographs from the video of the opening, Australia Day, 26th January, 1963.

Some Ashfield Pool History Photographs