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Manuka Heritage-listed Pool Fully Retiled Ahead of the Summer Season

As Canberra shivers through winter, one of the city's most iconic heritage structures is quietly undergoing an important facelift ahead of the summer rush.

The Manuka Swimming Pool, which in late October will usher in its 89th swim season, is being fully retiled, and its water lines and inlets upgraded, as part of a progressive three-year facelift.

Over the winter, the heritage-listed Manuka Pool is being completely re-tiled in readiness for the upcoming swim season.

The art deco pool, which was opened on Australia Day 1931, was the first public pool in Canberra and has a rich history of competition and heritage.

Before it was built Canberrans could only swim in the Molonglo River, or the Cotter and Murrumbidgee Rivers. Thousands of Canberra residents have learnt to swim in the pool and the structure, enclosed on all sides, is lauded as one of Australia's most important art deco buildings.

One of the many anecdotes about the pool is that the first unofficial swimmer was a one-legged ex-serviceman from Barton, who jumped the fence on Christmas Day, 1930.

Over 30,000 visitors still use the pool every swim season, which runs from late October to late March.

Dedicated funding of $2.42 million was allocated by the ACT government over three financial years.

The latest $800,000 tranche of funding has been focused on replacing pipework, the pool's unusually large base and wall tiles and unique, wide spoon-like side gutter tiles which direct the water toward the filter.

The lines which carry the filtered water back into the pool are also being replaced.

A significant amount of fill has had to be extracted from the base of the pool site while new pipes are installed underneath but this will be reinstated later to restore the original depth.

Rebecca Scouller, the vice-president of the Friends of Manuka Pool, said the group had been kept informed about the upcoming developments and the choice of materials.

She said the group welcomed "the government investing funds in one of Canberra's most iconic and well-loved heritage structures" and said this also offered the opportunity to replace some heritage elements which have been lost through the years.

"We are pleased that every effort has been made to match the original tiles to ensure the character, heritage and style of the pool is properly preserved," she said.

"We look forward to seeing the return of the depth makers (in feet) and the 'deep' and 'shallow' tiles at either end of the pool, especially noting the shallow sign has been missing for some years now.

"The original tiles have been part of the pool for 88 years - a sign of the excellent craftsmanship of the day." A pool engineer provided the unusual tile specifications and an international search was held to find a replacement tile which was of the correct size and colour to match the original.

The new tiles are imported from the Czech Republic. The Friends of Manuka Pool was launched by Dr Clive Hamilton in 2016 when an extensive redevelopment proposal for the local precinct, based around the AFL team GWS Giants, was first floated.

In its recent budget submission to the ACT government, the organisation lobbied the government for a number of upgrades including new perimeter fencing which better reflects the pool's heritage, and a complete external repaint.

Regular lap swimmer Mervyn Knowles, who was at the pool on opening day and became club champion in 1941, is the pool's first life member.

Until 2012, the pool had been tended by the same family, The Taverners managed the pool for 55 long summers, with Owen succeeded as pool manager by his son, John.

Article Courtesy of the Canberra Times

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