Bathing Boxes, Torquay Beach, Torquay historyFrom the mid 19th century bathing boxes appear to have been erected on inner metropolitan beaches which could be reached by rail, water or road transport. At the same time, privately held boat sheds of varying sizes were erected on public beach reserves by fishermen, boating clubs and individuals, sometimes for commercial purposes. At Torquay some of these also became lodgings which was not permitted. The number of bathing boxes dotted along the beach increased as road access to Torquay improved resulting in Torquay becoming a popular tourist destination and as the residential population increased.

Bathing Boxes, Torquay History, Torquay Beach

The Torquay Improvement Association founded in 1889, three years after the first land sales, quickly became very active and had a large influence of Torquay’s development. Of significance is the work they did ensuring there was plenty of public land along the foreshore for residents, holiday makers and day trips. They ensured proper urban planning and protection of the natural environment and developed a foreshore committee of management. Together these bodies urged the removal of unsightly structures from beaches and the cessation of removal of vegetation.

James Follett may have been the first to erect a bathing box on the beach for his guests staying at the Spring Creek Ocean View House, however it appears that Harry Rudd may have been the first to actually be granted a lease in 1888, eighteen months after he built his holiday home in the year of the first Crown Land sales. (Victorian Government Gazette, 3 Feb, 1888)

The permit and construction of the sheds in this era was initially under the Lands Department before the Torquay Improvement Association took the role of appointing trustees as a foreshore reserves committee.

With a desire for more control and order in the inter-war period, the bathing boxes were strictly aligned along the beaches with the earlier, often informally sited, bathing boxes also being brought into line.

Torquay Bathing Boxes, Torquay Beach, Torquay History
c. State Library

To compensate for the rationalisation of bathing boxes and cater for greater visitor numbers, the trustees urged the construction of foreshore dressing pavilions and toilet blocks, thus removing the need for bathing boxes but leaving boat sheds as a desired option.

Restricted access to the Torquay beach during WW2 caused the bathing boxes to be neglected, consequently many deteriorated, some perished. After the war there was some increase in permanent residents and more holiday homes reduced the need for bathing boxes so over the next 15 years, bathing boxes were slowly removed from the foreshore.

Torquay bathing boxes, Torquay Beach, Torquay history

The Last Bathing Box

Chronological history of Torquay Bathing Boxes

The following events provide an historical context for development in the area

1886First Land Sales
1887On Zeally Bay, Follett erected for the summer season a bathing house specially designed for the comfort of the ladies. Geelong Advertiser 29 December, 1887
1888Harry Rudd is registered for a bathing box 6/2/1888 – likely to be the first authorization granted and Gazetted by the Lands Department.
1891John Brown 26/1/1891
1892John Brown sold his house and Bathing Box
1893TIA application to local land officer for the reservation of a site for bathing purposes at the foot of the main public road. If accepted to remove the present bathing box to a more suitable position and to have a new one set apart exclusively for the use of ladies.
1893James Munday and Louisa Cooper application for bathing box accepted.
1894Geelong Advertiser 28/3/1894 – One large public bathing box facing the ocean, and eight private bathing boxes
1895Geelong Advertiser 9/9/1895 Anna Follett given license for bathing box
Bathing Box applications accepted – J.L. Price; Robert Willey; W Pride
1896Bathing Box license J.L. Price, W.B. Wilton, H.W. BucklandLouisa Cooper application
1897Bathing Box License issued to Frank Drew
1898Bathing Box license issued to W.N.Richardson, E.J. West
1899Bathing Box licenses granted to Jane A. Swan, A.M. Palmer and E. Molyneux
1900Bubonic plague in Sydney and Melbourne killed many, inspiring fear of public bathing.Doesn’t seem to affect Torquay…..Boxes donated to orphanages and annual children’s picnic
1901- 07Views from c1901 show Fisherman’s Beach with about eight gabled bathing boxes sited at the  base of lightly vegetated cliffs and by 1907, views showed many more
1902New toilet block established on the Bathing Box Beach was objected to by E.J. West who asked for it to be in a more secluded spot.
1903TIA began battle with Lands Department to get all revenue from the bathing box licenses rather than half.
1904Mt Moriac police called in to enquire with owners of unlicensed bathing boxes – 45 boxes there but only 10 licensed – and made to comply with regulations.Rush of applications for the issue of licenses….. those not licensed will be sold
1904Public bathing box renovated
1905Seeley sells house known as “Summerland” with bathing box
1906A while ago the Minister of Lands determined that all private bathing boxes on bay foreshores should have life-saving equipment. The TIA sent a letter in response to this Ministerial order pointing out that there is a large public bathing box and 40 private boxes within about 400 yards (366m) and that one set of life-saving equipment at public expense be purchased for the public box. The Minister responded that there will be no exceptions and there is no money for equipment at the public bathing box,
19061 public bathing box & 40 private boxes

Lands department to survey the bathing boxes for an appropriate charging of boxes by Lands department

1906Vandals broke windows. Suggestion to put wire netting as an effective means of keeping the windows intact.

TIA concerned about the three life buoys hung on posts with life lines attached

1907Theft from bathing boxes
1908TIA members to erect seats at the bathing box beach
1909Young Women Christian Association held their annual picnic using Mrs A. G. Richardson bathing box
1910Bathing box applications popular. Up to present the Lands department has let 63 blocks at a yearly rental of 10/- each.
1911TIA complained about the dangerous state of several roads – drainage getting bad along the beach, especially the foreshore, by the bathing boxes.
1912TIA asking for funds to install latrines on foreshore.
1913NOW photo 26/12/1913
1917South Barwon By Law made by the council for regulating and restraining the erection of construction of dwellings at Barwon Heads, Torquay and Belmont will prevent further erection of boathouses, to be used as week-end residences. The council has frequently complained of the erection of these buildings, and the by-law which has been gazetted may be said to have been framed to cover them. Purely bathing boxes will not come within its scope.
1917Public bathing box has been enlarged.

Steps erected at Calders Reef for public safety

1917Bathing Box beach surveyed and bathing boxes examined
1919Crown lands officer for Geelong inspected over 100 bathing boxes – he noted some had been divided into two sections, contrary to the conditions under which the licenses had been issued. He called for owners to pay the extra tax of 10/- per annum due on them. Also many were not up to standard and they will be instructed to bring them into line with the Land Office conditions otherwise license will not be renewed.

Flat roofs will have to be replaced with gables, all must be painted with a selected red so as to have them uniform. Each box must be at least six feet from its neighbours.

Crown Lands bailiff to prosecute those who have not paid appropriate licenses.

1919TIA begins further push to have 100% bathing box fee allocated for the community to spend on beach improvement – like other local beaches
1920Zeally Bay beach stone being removed

Continue push for bathing box revenue

1920Trustees now manage the foreshore, in particular the bathing boxes. We have a digitized copy of this register and are developing an index. 1920 has been completed so far. Contact us for details of cost for us to research the box or for a digitized copy of the pages you are interested in.

Application to be made to Trust to erect bathing box (10/- single, 20/- double) or boat shed (20/- per annum) to standard laid down by the Trust, and on site determined by them.

1921Spate of thefts from bathing boxes
1922Funds had been raised from last years Gala to erect the ladies bathing box
1922Life Saving Club recently formed – instructor Mr Cook
1923New kiosk built. T. McFarlane sold water, Mrs. McFarlane granted 21-year lease for kiosk then the building is to revert to the Trustees. It was officially opened by Hon A.A. Austin MLC., at a cost of £600 and a small rental over the 21 years.
1925Mc Farlane’s sold the kiosk to Mr Harrison of Sunshine for £2000, at the same time as Mr. F. Pau bought a house in Anderson Street with the intention of adding a shop to it.
1935Nine boxes at southern end destroyed by fire
1937Sewered sanitation was connected to the public latrines.