press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

Emotions were running high for this author regarding the need for baths in the Avon. Press, 21 October 1876

The baths shown in a detail from the map of Christchurch, Canterbury, 1877 published by Frederick Strouts

Public Baths in the Avon

once accessed from Cambridge Terrace

Christchurch's first swimming pool was in Otākaro / Avon River. The baths were built at the north end of Rhododendron Island, just upriver of the Cashel Street bridge.


When were the baths built?

Work started in October 1876. The baths were opened on 17 January 1877.

There were changing rooms on the river bank. A council by-law required a tall corrugated iron fence as a modesty screen.


Who was responsible?

The baths were built by the city council.

Mr W Aitken was custodian. He owned the Montreal Street boatsheds, which were at 60 Cambridge Terrace. Those boatsheds burnt down in 1929.


How big were the baths?

Length: 45 metres

Width: 14.4 metres

Depth: 1.2 - 2.7 metres


How were they made of?

Essentially, the baths were a deep channel dredged in the river. Before their second summer, the council reinforced the riverbank on the Cambridge Terrace side.


What happened to them in the end?

The Corporation Baths closed at the end of Summer 1886. They had been a financial success initially, but patronage had dropped. 


Factors leading to the closure included:

  • New Brighton and Sumner beaches became accessible by tram

  • A swimming pool was built in Hagley Park

  • More sewage and other waste discharge from the hospital 


Find out more

ARP: The Terraces, Final Report for Archaeological Investigations on The Terraces, 2019, by Kathy Davidson, Clara Watson and Lydia Mearns (Authority No 2017/130eq), is available for download through the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Digital Library


Got more questions about this postcard?

Ask us, via the Contact page, or social media #postcardsfromthepast