Sunday, March 22, 2020

Taking the waters

As we hunker down hoping to avoid a deadly 21st Century disease, our ancestors were no strangers to doing the same in order to avoid a range of plagues and illnesses that swept through their communities on a regular basis. To try and combat them, all manner of cures and preventative measures came in and out of fashion, many based in superstition and fear, others were exploitative “quackery”, but some had merit and still have their supporters today. 

Since ancient times, there have always been those who believed in the remedy to “take the waters” at mineral springs or spas. (The English town of Bath being one of the most famous examples.) The Victorians and Edwardians were particularly keen to try and avoid the threats from diseases and pollution in their congested towns and cities. One such establishment that flourished from the mid-1800s to early 1900s is just a few minutes’ drive from where I live.

(My photo)

It once stood on the shores of Corio Bay near Geelong and was the Clifton Springs mineral springs and spa complex. At its height it was serviced by regular ferry services around Port Phillip Bay from the city of Melbourne and holiday-makers, the ill or infirm would flock to take advantage of the supposedly health-giving properties of the mineral spring water.

Three of the popular Port Phillip Bay steamers

Although almost no sign of them remain today, there were originally at least seven springs emerging from the cliffs along the shore of the bay. These were concentrated in just a fifty metre stretch of beach known as “The Dell”.

The Dell today. Remains of the 1890 jetty can still be seen.
(My photo.)

Promenading along in front of the bath house

The springs first appeared on the Lands Department survey maps in 1854 and by the 1870s the site consisted of a commercial bottling facility, kiosk, bath house and pumping station. Overlooking all this activity was a magnificent hotel offering every luxury and, by 1880, the bottling company was selling 5,000 bottles of the spring water annually.

Unfortunately by the mid-1920s, the once health-giving springs had become polluted and were more likely to make you ill than well and the whole complex was forced to close. The original hotel burnt down in 1921 and all the other Victorian era buildings had disappeared by 1925.

If you wander along the foreshore, there are still some archaeological remains to be found of the bottling and pumping activities, bits of bottles or ceramics and old metal pipes. 

Archaelogical remains
Weekend Notes

Where the elegant hotel once stood is the rather blah mid-20th Century Clifton Springs Golf Club building, although it is worth visiting the bistro just for the view. Plus a sprint up and down the steep incline or steps to The Dell is today’s way of keeping fit!

One of the steamers, Ozone, was wrecked further down the Bay at Indented Head and one of its paddle wheels is still visible today.

Wreck of Ozone today

More detailed information in the following links.

All photos from TROVE unless otherwise stated.

Bellarine Historical Society

Victorian Heritage Council

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