Life in Sydney 100 years ago

Queen Victoria Building in George Street, Sydney in 1900

Queen Victoria Building in George Street, Sydney in 1900

Hyde Park, Sydney, 1900

Hyde Park, Sydney, 1900

Centennial Park, Sydney

Centennial Park, Sydney

Look at old pictures of Sydney beaches and you won't see anyone in the water. At least no adults. This is because there was a law against it. An act prohibited bathing in the sea within view of any public place between the hours of 6 am and 8 pm. Then, in 1902, the editor of a local newspaper, in a well-publicised act of civil disobedience, went for a daytime swim at Manly and got away with it. The act was changed the following year and Sydneysiders were finally allowed to go sea bathing in broad daylight, provided everyone over the age of 8 wore a neck-to-knee costume.

The photo below (from the Randwick City Library Photo Gallery) was taken soon after, at the south end of Coogee Beach. The kids are having a great time. They would not look out of place here a hundred years later. But the lady in white is very much of her time. No sign that she is succumbing yet to the call of the sea.

Coogee Beach, Sydney

Coogee Beach, Sydney

Sources

  • J.H. Maiden, The Parks of Sydney, J. Roy. Soc. NSW, 36 (1902), 1.
  • E. Russell, Victorian and Edwardian Sydney, John Ferguson (1975).
  • L.A. Gilbert, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Oxford University Press (1986).
  • R. Whitaker, Sydneyside, Gregory's Publishing Co. (1986).
  • A. Sharpe, Streets of Old Sydney, Atrand (1987).
  • P. Ashton and K. Blackmore, Centennial Park: A History, NSW University Press (1988).