Lawson Simming Pool History

The history of the Lawson Swimming Pool began with the building of the Railway to the area in 1867, as it was necessary to supply water to the locomotives travelling in both directions. An earth-wall dam was constructed in the gully north-west of the Railway Station. The water supplying this dam was from springs on the surrouncling hillsides.

On February 16th, 1880, the area where the dam was situated was notified as a Reserve for Water Supply and Railway purposes, but this was changed and proclaimed for Railway Purposes only on June 10th, 1891. During the 1877-1884 drought, the dam ran dry, and during this time, actually in 1881, the dam was enlarged and the wall raised 7 feet and a timber spillway provided.

lawson swimmng pool

(early photo of dam)

With the increase of rail traffic, coupled with a succession of dryseasons, the dam frequently ran dry, which prompted the Railway Department to construct a large dam at Wentworth Falls. This was brought into service in 1908, leaving the Lawson Dam as a Reserve supply.On October 2nd, 1912, the area under the control of the Railway Department was reduced to 9 acres 2 roods, the balance being declared a Reserve for Recreation, and placed under the control of the Blue Mountain Shire.

In early 1915 the Shire Council approached the Railway Department on the possibility of leasing the dam for recreation purposes. This lease was granted on May 5th, 1915, for a period of five years at a rental of £1 per year. During this period improvements were carried out, fences being repaired and dressing sheds erected.

On May 4th, 1920, the lease was renewed for a further five years with a provison of one month's notice if the Department required the dam; the rent was unchanged.The Lawson Progress Association wrote to the Shire Council in November 1921, requesting the removal of reedsfrom the dam, as they were a danger to the bathers.

On June 16th, 1925, the Railway Department notified the Shire Council that it was unable to renew the lease, as, owing to the very dry conditions, the water in the dam was required for railway purposes. However, with the improvement of conditions, the lease was renewed on October 29th, 1925 but now only on an annual basis, with the rental still unchanged.

In 1928, the Shire resumed an area of 14 acres 3 roods below the dam, and this was later declared a Recreation Reserve. Then on February 18th, 1930, the area of 9 acres 2 roods then still held by the Railway Department was surrendered to the Crown.

Within a few months, on April 7th, 1930, the Blue Mountain Shire Council wrote to the Department of Lands requesting that the above area be set aside for Public Recreation and be vested in the Shire Council. This request was granted later that same year and this land, together with land already under Council control, became Wilson Park, so named after the Shire President, Percy Wilson, who had worked so hard to have the area developed and so be an asset to the district.

lawson swimming pool

On October 13th, 1930, the following report was presented to the Shire Council by Cr. Percy Wilson:

The unsatisfactory and dangerous condition of the Lawson Swimming Baths, having been brought under my notice, I inspected same in company with our Engineer and it was apparent that the reeds which were growing abundantly in the water and the debris which had accumulated at the bottom of the dam, could not be removed whilst the water was there. I gave instructions that the dam be emptied and to do this an opening was made in the concrete wall. This will in no way weaken or affect the construction in any way. Before the dam is filled again, a length of about 30 feet of piping will be placed in position. and a floodgate installed, which will enable the water to be released periodically.

The report continues by mentioning the dressing sheds, the roofs of which are being replaced with iron from the old shed which had recently been purchased from the Railway Department - this was the shed that had previously housed the pumping equipment

The report then continues:

"The blackberry bushes which undoubtedly harbour snakes, are growing in profusion all around the area and these are being cleared away. A safe and somewhat even foot track is being made from the roadway to the Baths. It is unfortunate that there is no road at present for vehicular traffic to the Baths, but the Engineer informs me that there are two ways of reaching the area, each within a short distance of the Shire Office, but as each traverses Crown lands, it will be necessary to get permission from the Lands Department for the construction of a roadway.

Signed: Percy Wilson

On October 23rd, 1930, two Lots of land in Railway Parade were dedicated by the Lands Department for road purposes and the construction of a road commenced immediately. This road was later named Bernards Drive. The clearing of scrub, the cleaning out of the Baths and the formation of the roadway were carried out by relief workers.

On November 4th, 1930, a meeting was held in the Council Chambers with a view of forming a swimming Club. The meeting was well attended and saw the formation of the Club, known as the Lawson and District Amateur Swimming Club. Early Club officials are not known, but correspondence shows F.B. Brown as the Hon. Secretary.

On November 17th, 1930, the Swimming Club appointed the following members as Inspectors at the Pool - Ray Cottee, Jack Ryan Sm., Jack Haylen and Geoff Wood. At a later date J. Bennett and B. Joiner were added to the list. In October 1931, at the request of women members, the following ladies were appointed inspectors - Mrs. Winifred Dugdale, Misses Kath Holy and Blanche Hawkins.

lawson pool />
      <p>In January 1931 the first Kiosk operated in the area; it was
housed in the old pumphouse and was run by Mrs. P. Hayward. On October
8th, 1931, Mr. LS. Burrows was granted sole trading rights in the Baths
area for the sum of £3.4.0 to be paid into Swimming Club Funds,
with the Kiosk still operating from the old pumphouse. At a later date
a new building was erected, east of the pool which served as a Kiosk
and caretaker's residence.</p>
<p>In September 1984 this building was
destroyed by fire.</p>
<p>With the commencement of the 1931 swimming season,
extensive improvements had been carried out, including a pontoon with a
diving tower and a 50 yard set of lanes; while the amenities were also
<p>To mark the occasion of those improvements, a Monster Swimming
Carnival was held on November 21st, 1931. The following article
appeared in The Sun newspaper on October 3rd,1931.</p>

      <p><em>Lawson on the Blue Mountains will be the venue of what
promises to be the finest Amateur Swimming Carnival everpromoted
outside Sydney, when on November 21st, a Gala will be held to mark the
opening of a town Baths.The Lawson Olympic Swimming Pool is 100 yards
long and 50 yards wide. Only recently completed, the Pool was formerly
a dam used by the Railway authorities. It was not used for a long time
until the Blue Mountain Shire decided to convert it to a useful and
healthful purpose.</em>
      <p>Many prominent swimming personalities took part in the
Carnival, some being world record holders. Among those who took part
were Noel Ryan, Vic Besomo, Asher Hart, Arthur O'Connor, Jean Cocks,
Bonnie Mealing, Claire Dennis, Mollie Mitchell, the State Diving Troupe
and the N.S.W. Water Polo Team.Early December 1931 saw work commence on
a bridge and road to the west side of the Pool; this work also being
carried out by relief workers. The wooden bridge was replaced by concrete pipes  (in 1981).</p>
<p> The area between the bridge and the
waterfall was also improved; one point of interest in this area being
the map of Australia which was designed and built by Mr. Arthur
Higgenson who was later to die on the Burma Railway during WorId War 2.</p>

      <p> Improvements to the amenities were carried out in the late
1930's and again in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The present
complex was built by the Blue Mountains City Council and opened in
1968. After 113 years some evidence still remains of the original dam;
part of the earth wall with the spillway are still visible. Water from
the springs now runs through part of the western side of the old damb
being no longer required for the Pool</p>
<p>The stone pillars of the pergola on the eastern side were part of the
old pumphouse.</p>
      <img src=

No doubt swimmers of the 1920's and 30's would be envious of the present modern complex, when they recall the conditions they endured in their bathing - reeds, black mud, and not forgetting the leeches. In those days the area was known to local residents as Frog Hollow or Snake Gully.

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