News | 31 March 2023
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History of Thorndon Pool

The oldest existing pool in Wellington is tucked away in Thorndon – but did you know it used to be located where the port on Aotea Quay is now?

Thorndon Baths, Pipitea Point, Thorndon.
Thorndon Baths, Pipitea Point, Thorndon, Wellington. Gibbs, James Joseph, fl 1963 :Photographs of New Zealand towns and cities. Ref: PAColl-4374-04. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23027558.

Originally known as the Thorndon Baths, the pool first opened in 1877 at Pipitea Point.  

While we’re used to chlorinated pool water these days, Wellingtonians back then had no choice but to brave the pool for what it was  salt-water and unheated, and exposed to the conditions of the harbour.   

It was so open to the elements that a tidal wave caused so much damage to the original building that it needed to be rebuilt.

Archive image of Thorndon Baths
Thorndon Baths in 1900. Wellington City Recollect, 50010-191.

The baths were upgraded and were soon a feature of the esplanade, a wide walking path that stretched the length of the quay and was popular for promenades, where people would go for formal walks.  

After a few years of operation, members of the public rallied to move the pool – mainly from fear of getting attacked by sharks in the harbour.  

Plans for Thorndon Pool.
Plans referred to in contract dated 4/9/1923 between WCC and Higgins & Arcus. Wellington City Council Archives, 00237-5114.

The swimming pool was demolished and the esplanade disappeared following further land reclamation in 1920.

The plan was to expand the rail yards and extend port facilities by creating Aotea Quay.  

People swimming in Thorndon Pool.
Circa 1920s. Thorndon Summer Pool, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP-0603-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23173805.

It was moved to Murphy Street and officially opened on 19 November 1924 by His Worship Mayor Robert Alexander Wright as Thorndon Pool, where it can still be found to this day.  

At first, the pool still used salt water but became chlorinated and heated. It became a place of luxury for locals who would swim and then enjoy the sunshine on the terraced seating. 

Plaque outside Thorndon Pool.
Original plaque near the entrance of Thorndon Pool, present day.

The pool still has many ties to its past with original tiles and brass railings around the outside of the interior. The original plaque from the opening can still be seen at the pool.

While it is only open in summer, the pool is still cherished by the community, who will brave any Wellington weather to go for a swim.

Check out Thorndon Pool and our other community pools on our website.