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In May 1911, some citizens of Levin suggested that a swimming bath should be constructed in Levin to commemorate the coronation of King George V.
A government subsidy of £1 ($2) for £1 ($2) of funds raised locally was offered to build the swimming baths. A limit of £250 ($500) applied.
Water was available from the new borough high pressure supply, completed on 16.4.1910.
Mayor Basil Gardener estimated a bath of 100 feet (30m) by 50 feet (15m) could be built for £500 ($1000).
However at a borough council meeting, a proposal to build the baths was lost.
The Mayor was asked to call a public meeting in June by 25 ratepayers, headed by Marco Fosella, to discuss the baths issue.
On June 30th the meeting was held. The Mayor said a condition was that the balance, above the subsidy was not to be raised by a loan.
It was suggested that it be taken out of revenue, over two years.
A motion that the council decision, not to build the bath stand, was defeated by 29 to 19. A motion that the bath was needed was passed by 31 to 17.
At the next council meeting it was decided, that if the bath was built, the extra funds, above the subsidy would come out of council revenue.
After a long heated discussion on 18.7.1911, at a council meeting, a motion to apply for the subsidy was passed. Cr Hannan was called a Buddo for his stand against the motion. (Mr Buddo was head of the racing commission which took away the tote permit from the Levin Racing Club in 1911).
The coronation grant had been given by the Government. It was decided that the bath be built and that it would be sited on the north/west corner of Bath and Salisbury Streets, by the council on 5.9.1911 and that it would be named the Levin Coronation Swimming Baths.
The dimensions were to be 25 yards (20m) by fifteen yards wide, 8 feet (1.6m) at the deep end and 3 ½ feet (1.1m) at the shallow end.
James Bennie of Wellington had been selected as the architect and tenders were called for on his plans and specification. He had previously planned the Levin Carnegie Free Library in 1911, where Warnocks shop is now, on the north-west corner of Bath and Oxford Streets.
Four tenders were received and Mr Flocking’s (called Hocking in another article) of Palmerston North of £517.17.0d ($1035.70) was selected.
The only mention of the building in either the Chronicle or minute book is that on 13.10.1911 the Chronicle reported that the excavation was being done. (This would have been done with pick and shovel, with a crow bar being needed in the very stony ground. Perhaps a horse drawn scoop may have been used).
The pool was formed largely above ground level, with the spoil being used to heighten the banks. Top soil from a gravel pit being excavated was used for the same purposes.
The construction was completed in early January.
The Levin Swimming Club was formed on 6.1.1912, prior to the opening of the bath.
The opening date was decided by council to be 17.1.1912 and that the swimming club arrange the programme.
Photo at left shows Mayoress Gardener christening the Levin Coronation Swimming Baths in 1911.
At a meeting of the club on 12.1.1912 promises of donations for prizes were made by Mrs D.S.McKenzie and H.B.France and council donated £3 ($6) also.
Mr. T.A.B. Hudson donated the prize for the 50 yards (40m) open race. One event was to be, first in the water from dressed in coat, vest, shirt, trousers and lace-up boots, with bathing costume underneath.
Contestants had to undress and dive into the water. Other events were a 25 yard (20m) for 18 years and over, 25 yard (20m) under 18, 50 yard (40m), diving search under water for saucers, and diving in and coming up through a lifebuoy.
A low level diving board had been installed.
The opening hours of the bath was set by the council on 16.1.1912. The sexes were segregated.
Males: Sundays 8 to 10am, adults only 10 to 11am, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 6 to 7am, 2 to 4pm, 6.30 to 8pm. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 7 to 8.30am, 12 to 1.30pm, 5 to 8pm.
Females: Sundays 6.30 to 8am, Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays 7 to 8.30am, 4.30 to 6.30pm. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 6 to 7am, 2.30 to 4pm.
LEVIN POOL FIRST OF TYPE IN NZ
At the opening of the baths, Cr Richard Prouse, chairman of the Reserves Committee introduced Mr Hocking of Palmerston North, who had been the contractor and said he had carried out his duties in an exemplary way.
Mr Hocking replied in a few select words.
The Mayor resumed his speech saying that the baths were the first ferro-concrete 25 yard baths in New Zealand . He said every provision had been made for lady swimmers. The baths held 80,000 gallons (300,000L) 300 tons (350 tonnes).
The official proceedings were then concluded and the swimming events got underway.
A large crowd of people attended in fine weather.
Results of the events, which had been arranged by the Levin Swimming Club, with Major Burlinson, manager of the Weraroa Boys Training Farm being the president were:
First in the bath from being dressed in trousers, vest, coat and lace up boots with bathing costume (neck to knee) underneath, J. Scott, H. Noble, second. 11 entrants. Trophy was Mrs Gardener’s medal.
50 yards (45m) open race”: Bob Roy 1st, B.Surgesson 2nd.
Boys race: D.Smith 1st,, E. McCleavey 2nd, 10 entries.
Search for six saucers: J.Scott 5 saucers, B.Stickles 4. 12 entries.
Diving in and coming up through lifebuoy: S.Brewster was the only entrant out of 13 to succeed.
The long distance dive was won by Ernest Woollwright. He also swam underwater for 1½ lengths. He had been coached in Liverpool by world champions. He also displayed some ornamental work including porpoise diving.
Later in the month the Mayor asked the Union Steamship Co to donate a lifebuoy, which they did. Mr. W.S.Park also donated a lifebuoy and Stiles and Matheson donated two.
A carnival, organised by the Borough Council was held on 27/3/1912. Mayoress Gardener supplied hot soup for the contestants.
A team, from Palmerston North got on the wrong train and could not get off until Otaki and missed the carnival as there was no transport back to Levin in time.
J.Scott won the long dive and a hobby horse event.
In February 1913 in competition for the Gallagher Cup, B.Freyberg (later Lt.General Bernard Freyberg) (scratch) won from Archibald (90 seconds) in 75 yards (67.5m).
Another competition was held later in the month. The result in the 220 yards (189m) open: B.Freyberg (scratch) 3 minutes 57 seconds, lst; Hibson (20 seconds) 2nd. In the 100 yards open B.Freyberg (scratch) was 1st in 1 minute 6 seconds and Bob Rory (9 seconds), 2nd.
J. Neill, in the 50 yards (45m) open, beat B. Freyberg (scratch).
In February 1913 Custodian Daniels erected a high diving board. Also in 1913 a deputation from the Swimming Club asked the council to do some improvements to baths area. It was decided to concrete the public entrance to the edge of the pool and along by the dressing sheds. Also to tidy other areas.
We, the residents present and future are very much indebted to Mr. Swanwick, Historian, for his remarkable amount of time and dedication given freely to the research of “Early Levin” (correct pronunciation “LEVEEN,) called after a Mr. Levin a director of the original Manawatu railway line.
His research is truly amazing and he brings the district’s early beginnings to life.
So much of his research would be forgotten forever and no other member of the society could fulfil such a mission.
We older Levinians can help with scraps of knowledge remembered, but the full complete and authentic record of all Corrie’s contributions must be applauded.
Thank you Corrie from the citizens of the Horowhenua