This week, as the Barker Foundation Aquatic Centre turns 21, we take a look at Barker’s swimming pools.
A swimming pool within the School’s grounds was seen by Headmaster Mr. W. S. Leslie as a means by which to increase enrolments, attract country boarders and improve Barker’s standing in the CAS Swimming Championships. Excavated in 1933 with the help of senior students, the pool was situated in the centre of the School where the Hornsby Hundred Building now stands. It was officially opened on March 24 1934 by His Excellency the Governor, Sir Philip Game. This was a day filled with much pomp and ceremony, glorious weather, swimming and diving exhibitions and a display of life saving and resuscitation from Brighton Beach Life Saving Club. At the time, the swimming pool was considered to be state of the art. It was believed to be the only pool attached to any school in New South Wales with a perfect filtration system.
Over the years, the swimming pool and its surrounds underwent modifications and improvements. In 1940, the pool was deepened to accommodate a diving tower. The concrete spectator stands and extension to the dressing sheds were built in 1954 with the proceeds from the Spring Fair. A new filtration system was installed in 1961 and in the early 1980s, the diving tower was removed.
The construction of the swimming pool within the School grounds allowed for the inaugural Barker College Annual School and House Swimming Championships to be held in December 1934. The carnival saw the School’s 86 students compete against each other in 29 events. The pool continued to host this annual event until 1986 for the Secondary School and 1994 for the Junior School. Since this time, Barker has held its carnivals at West Pymble, Hornsby, Warringah and Sydney Olympic Park.
The new pool however, did not improve the standing of Barker at the Third Annual Swimming Carnival of the Associated Schools in 1934. The team’s best effort was “once more inadequate to save them from filling the humblest position on the point score” (The College Barker, Dec. 1934, p. 331). It took until 1940 for Barker to claim the CAS Thyne Challenge Shield for Swimming. 1946 is the only other year that Barker has been victorious in CAS Swimming.
For decades, the pool was not only a venue for swimming carnivals. It was also used for PE lessons, life saving drills and CAS squad training. It was a place for boarders to relax on hot weekends and it was often the focus of last day of school revelries. The pool was also the water reservoir for the School’s Fire Brigade and much practice was had pumping water in and out with fire hoses.
In the early 1990s, the aging pool was no longer able to meet the School’s needs. And so, on March 26 1994, the Barker Foundation Aquatic Centre was opened by Barker Old Boy and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Matthew Renshaw. The Aquatic Centre was only possible as a result of the generosity of the Barker Community, with the opening being the culmination of several years of fund raising by the Barker Foundation. The dual pool facility was designed as a place where “the school community could enjoy the widest variety of water-based tuition and recreational activities all the year round” (The Barker, April 1994, p. 12).
Caption for photo: Swimming and diving display at the opening of Barker's original pool, 1934.