Historical Timeline

The Brighton Baths Health Club is a truly iconic venue in Australian history. Established in 1881 and now a unique, state of the art health club, the Brighton Baths have survived the passage of time and witnessed many colourful moments in history.

1881: Brighton Baths Are Built

Baths Open 1881.comp

The Middle Brighton Baths are built and in the early 1900s the baths are at the centre of local recreation.  The morals of the time require gentlemen and ladies to swim at separate designated times. A red flag flies over the Baths while gentlemen enjoy a morning or evening swim, while a white flag during the middle of the day indicates that the ladies have the run of the facility.

1882: Australia Defeats England

Death of English Cricket Notice The Ashes 1882

The Australian cricket team defeats England on their home turf in the inaugural Ashes series. Disgusted by England’s ignominious defeat at the hands of the young colony, a British newspaper publishes a satirical obituary declaring the death of English cricket, and stating that the Ashes of the remains will be taken to Australia. The name stuck, and the iconic Ashes tradition was born.

1897: VFL Is Formed

VFL Premiers 1897

The Victorian Football League is formed when eight clubs break away from the Victorian Football Association to develop a new competition. The foundation clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne – had previously dominated the VFA, and within years the VFL has firmly established itself as the premier football competition. Essendon become the VFL’s inaugural premiers in the 1897 season.

1901: Commonwealth Proclaimed

Australian Federation Celebration 1901

The Commonwealth of Australia is proclaimed on 1 January 1901 in Centennial Park, Sydney. Sir Edmund Barton is sworn in as the new nation’s first Prime Minister. Arch-rivals Melbourne and Sydney engage in such a fierce battle to be nominated as the federal capital, that neither city is successful in their bid: instead the Australian Capital Territory is created to house an independent capital city. Parliament sits in Melbourne until the new city of Canberra is constructed.

1909: Bathing Partition Built

Segregated Swimming 1909.comp

A partition is built down the middle of the Baths, enabling ladies and gentlemen to swim separately. During this period swimming carnivals, life saving exhibitions and school sporting days are held frequently at the Baths and are an important feature of the local social landscape.

1929: The Great Depression

Great Depression 1929

The Great Depression hits Australia after the devastating Wall Street Crash of October 1929. This unprecedented freefall in the US stock markets signalled the beginning of the Great Depression that sent shock waves throughout the world. Because of its heavy reliance on exports, Australia was one of the most severely affected countries in the world economy. Unemployment levels spiralled drastically, peaking in 1932 with 30% of the nation’s job seekers out of work.

1934: Baths Temporarily Close

Storm Damage 1934

Storm damage causes the closure of the Brighton Baths. The Baths are closed for two years while reconstruction takes place. Although the construction bill of 8,500 pounds is particularly steep during the Great Depression that continues to afflict the nation, the Baths are considered to play so integral a role in the local community that their repair and reinstatement was essential.

1936: Baths Reconstructed

Baths Re Open 1936.comp

The Baths are reconstructed by prominent Victorian architects Oakley and Parkes at a cost of 8,500 pounds in an excellent example of the then Modern style of architecture. The remodelled Baths introduce mixed swimming for men and women for the first time, and rapidly become an important landmark for the local community.

1956: Melbourne Olympic Games


Melbourne hosts the XVI Olympic Games. This was a huge coup for Melbourne, as these were the first Games to be staged in the Southern Hemisphere, and the first to be held outside Europe or North America. Australia’s reputation for sporting excellence was well served, with the Australian team winning 13 gold medals and placing third on the overall medal tally behind the Soviet Union and the United States.

1988: Baths Undergo Restorations


After a passionate battle to secure funding and avoid being shut down, the Brighton Baths undergo major restorations. The funding debate becomes heated within the Brighton council and the community at large, and at times the future of the Baths appears tenuous. However, after a union ban on participating in any demolition work on the Baths, and a successful vote to secure funding for the facility, restorations commence.  With its future secured, the Brighton Baths are the last of the original seven sea baths in Australia to remain open.

2001 - 2008: Baths Modernized

Renovations 2001 2008.comp

The Brighton Baths are renovated and modernized, and a gymnasium and steam room are added to the facilities. Today the contemporary Baths venue balances state of the art equipment and facilities with a respect for the heritage and iconic status of the historic Brighton Baths.