Pool Reviews

Enfield Aquatic Centre – Enfield, NSW 2136

Enfield Olympic pool

Sydney’s first freshwater Olympic Pool.

My experience in the pool

My first lap of Enfield Aquatic Centre’s Olympic pool was an absolute delight. It began simply enough, in fairly shallow water for maybe the first 30 metres or so, but then dips away dramatically to form the 5m deep diving area – or rather what was the diving area till they removed the diving board!

I love swimming in such deep pools and Enfield must have been a fantastic place when they hosted the national diving championships 50 years or so ago. But the biggest surprise on that first lap came right at the end, when my eyes suddenly focused on the wonderful tiled lane numbers from the original 1930s pool. I hadn’t seen them from the shallow end as they are submerged these days, but they added a bit of arty history to this swim, which made me smile at the end of each lap.

I had the outdoor pool to myself for much of my swim. What a change that must be for a pool that must have been THE place to go in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Enfield is such a sleepy suburb now, and the pool is quite complicated to get to on public transport, but in those early days it must have been quite a sight to see the high diving board from across the park next door. I even liked the way the street I walked down from my bus stop led straight to the front door of the pool and into the water. Feng shui experts would have something to say about that, I’m sure, though it may be that that architectural choice led to the escaping of Enfield pool’s spirit ultimately.

There are nice views of palm trees when you turn over to do back stroke, though the lanes are quite narrow so you probably wouldn’t even try if you were sharing a lane here.

I loved the way swallows live round the edges of the pool at Enfield and swoop down over swimmers as if inviting us to play – or maybe to warn us off their quiet patch these days?

When I came by Enfield Pool in August, hoping for a swim, I discovered this place only opens for the season in October, and the lifeguard that day (there for the indoor pool, by the way) told me to wait a few weeks after the beginning of October to swim because the water takes time to warm up. I wasn’t sure whether that meant they don’t heat the water here or whether the heat pumps just take time to warm things up. But by the day of my visit towards the end of November, the notice board declared that the water in the Olympic Pool was 26.5C, so I’m guessing they do heat it.

Almost the biggest treat at Enfield Aquatic Centre came in the form of the photos posted all round the reception area. These showed fantastic shots of the days Enfield was the Centre of Australia’s diving world, and I loved the fact that Harry Tickle’s memory lives on in the poster half way along the pool, informing swimmers that Australia’s former diving champion ‘taught scientifically’ with the ‘latest mechanical aids to diving’.

What a shame Mr Tickle isn’t around now to improve my stroke and maybe even start me diving. I even wondered if he was around when little 7 year old me was trying to learn to swim in Sydney (but failed ignominiously at the time)..

Getting there, getting in, getting changed

Hard to get here on public transport. Best option probably to get a train to Burwood and then either walk for a mile or so or hop on a bus that drops you off in Enfield five minutes’ walk from the pool.

Shallow steps at the shallow end, but this pool is shallow enough to slide in from the side without too much drama.

Cold showers only but in the warmth of early summer, that felt fine anyway.

Other practical points

1m in the shallow and so shallow that my hands dragged along the bottom for at least one stroke on each lap. But a fabulous 5m in the deep

$6.50 entrance fee

Not open all year. Swimming season in Enfield is October to April inclusive, though the indoor pool is an all year round facility.

Don’t miss the original tiling all through the paddling pool.

And look up as you head out of Enfield Aquatic Centre for a peek at the stained glass windows which must have seen a few swimming celebrities pass below them over the years.

History and stories of the pool

When Enfield Olympic Pool opened in November 1933, it was Sydney’s first freshwater swimming pool. Press reports in the following days tell that there were 16,000 visitors to the pool in its first week, with 4,000 on the Sunday alone. Numbers have dropped off a bit since then, which is a shame!

Not long after the pool opened, there was a big flu epidemic in Sydney and some reports blamed the crowded waters and close proximity of lots of bodies in Enfield Pool, though the pool managers at the time were quick to refute any such claims in the local press.

There was an annual swimming carnival at Enfield Pool, which was kicked off each year by a swim between all the Mayors of the surrounding suburbs. Again, hard to imagine these days, though I loved the story of one Mayor blaming his defeat in the race one year to his heavy woollen swimming costume. And another story had a woman mayor refusing to take part, not she said because she was a woman, but because she was a poor swimmer and would not have any chance of doing justice to the competition. There also used to be swimming race between all the local Members of Parliament in those heady days of the 1930s; hard to imagine that happening in this day and age.

Harry Tickle’s rise to fame coincided with Enfield’s emergence as a key venue, especially for diving competitions. I had to track back a long way through the Trove archives to find when he was NOT referred to as the ‘former’ diving champion. The key date appeared to be 1935, when there was reference in one article to Harry deserting ‘to professional ranks’, and a picture emerged of this elite competitor trying to work out how he could earn a living out of his talent in the water, when amateur status was regarded as essential to compete.

I noticed a tribunal case where Mr Tickle was refused exclusive rights to teach at one pool, and then in November 1935 he was appointed to train diving at Enfield Pool. That appointment basically seemed to embody his ‘desertion’ of amateur status, so the posters all around the pool advertising his training techniques only tell part of his story.

That said, Harry Tickle was credited with innovative teaching methods, which included what they called then ‘dry’ diving, which sounded akin to what we would today call bungee jumping, only he would get people to adapt their techniques in the safety of a harness so that when they took to the diving pool, they were all the better divers.

He seems to have been training divers for many years, and there are press reports of diving still happening in the Enfield Pool as late as 1967, though whether Harry Tickle was still involved then, I don’t know. Amazingly there is no Wikipedia page on this gent, and nothing I could find that told me when he passed away even.

I did notice the press reports from 1955, though, which told of local gangs coming over to Enfield Pool on busy days in the water and stealing lots of bikes. The very image of gangs and of pedal bikes conjures up a whole different side to Enfield, which is hard to picture in the 21st century.

People I met in the pool

As I was the only swimmer in the outdoor pool at Enfield, there was no opportunity to talk to anyone on this visit. Someone else joined me for my last few laps but they were doing a leisurely breaststroke in a lane some way from mine and didn’t engage. Well, sometimes the history of a pool tells all the stories I need…

What’s your story? Any memories of swimming here? Any stories to tell? Or did you just have swimming lessons in days gone by?

Whatever you have to say, however brief, I’d love to hear from you and will add any stories to this section of the site as and when I receive them.  Add your comment or story under ‘Leave a Reply’ below.

Links to other articles on this pool

Swimming blogger Therese has written about Enfield Aquatic Centre. She too focused on the diving here plus elsewhere in Sydney, and the tiling!

This You Tube clip is mostly about the seating around the pool, which involved a local college, but go forward towards the end of the video for some good shots of the pool itself.

Coffee, tea or milkshake after the swim?

There is nowhere decent for a coffee in Enfield, so I walked the 15 minutes or so to Croydon Park, where I found…

Caffettiera Kitchen & Espresso, 164 Georges River Road, Croydon Park, NSW 2133

Open Tuesday – Sunday. Closed Mondays

6.30am – 4pm Tues – Friday; 7am – 9pm Saturday; 7am – 2pm Sunday

Caffettiera for coffee after Enfield Pool

Just because a coffee shop has an Italian name and claims some Italian heritage does not always mean it will provide the best coffee around. I like the fact that Italian is actually spoken at Caffetteria in Croydon Park, though, not only between the baristas who work here and own the place, but also with half the customers who claim Italian connections.

The coffee here is good and the nibbles excellent. For a post swim coffee after Enfield Pool, it is a bit of a hike to get here, but it’s the best option I have found and I’ve had two good experiences here now.


15 thoughts on “Enfield Aquatic Centre – Enfield, NSW 2136”

  1. I and lots of other kids swam at Enfield pool in the 1960s . Jack Stutsill was the swim coach. The swim club had some very good swimmers. I lived in Daisy st Croydon Park. Walked home from the pool every morning and both ways in the afternoon. Starting training at 5am every summer morning my mum like many others delivered us down to Jack. Stutsills care. One mother delivered her daughter Deidrie every morning after coming from Rockdale. Then again in the afternoon. I trained there till about 1968. Saw the pool lenght reduced from 55yards to 50metres. The diving days were not evident during this time but the 10m tower was always there. Had some great times with great people.

  2. Most kids did not have bikes. Not like today. Bikes were really owned by adults. My parents felt bikes were too dangerous with cars increasing in numbers.I walked everywhere. No bus pass to get to Croydon park primary. Only got one when I went to Ashfield High. Most of the swimmers at Enfield pool went to Enfield primary school before going to ashfield High.

  3. Jumped off the high tower when I was ten or eleven years old in 1966 or 1967, I remember the highest tower was closed most of the time, just climbing up to the top was pretty scary. How high was it (10m?) and what year was it disassembled? The deepest part of the pool was/is 16ft 6” all the kids tried to dive to touch the bottom, probably still do, still remember the pressure (pain) I felt on my eardrums. One of the historic photos shows the old seating on the left, we would go underneath these seats to retrieve any coins that had dropped through. Also that wall served as a great windbreak, I believe it is quite open now. Cheers.

  4. I’ve always loved the tiled lane numbers too!

    Jack Stutsel (that’s how I remember it being spelt) was still coaching in 1984 when I joined his squad at Enfield, but I think he died within the next 5 or 10 years. The diving tower was still around then, but I can’t remember if the 10m platform was open or not. I do remember never being brave enough to jump off even the 3m board. For a while there was a 1m springboard on the southern side of the deep end of the pool – you can just imagine all the near-accidents!

    I used to ride my bike there for training in the 1980s and it wasn’t ever stolen!

    There is now a cafe at the pool which my daughters love getting hot chips from. I can’t comment on anything else as I’m not a coffee drinker myself.

  5. The swimming coach was Jack STUTSELL [Robert Myles John STUTSELL]. I am his youngest son.
    Jack was awarded an MBE for his services to swimming and henceforth referred to himself as Sir Jack.
    The girl referred to was Deidre PEARSON. I remember working in the kiosk for Frank? GODDARD who was a friend of “Sir Jack” – one Good Friday we sold a gross (144) meat pies. We lived at Belmore and often I caught the 415 which dropped us on Coronation Parade up the hill from the pool. The ten metre platform was still in use when I use to go there but I cannot remember being game or mad enough to jump off. I do remember touching the bottom in the deep end. I remember Jack Chapman who virtually ran the Enfield Amateur Swimming Club. He use to arrive with a handful of papers with each heat for the various strokes on them and stuck them on a board near the swimming club room which was on the right, looking towards the deep end. The pump house was in the middle from memory (also possibly on the left as well). This is about 55 years ago.

    1. Fantastic, thanks Robert (and thanks for getting the name right!!). Great memories too so thanks for sharing them. We’re getting a real flavour of swimming life round Enfield from all these comments.

  6. My name is Peter Hunt, with my cousins Richard, Angela and Christine Cole we all trained under Jack Stutsel at Enfield in the mid sixties through to early seventies. It was a great time,I remember Brian Osborne and Deidre Pearson plus a whole bunch of other kids, a good crew.
    My mother drove us from Picnic Point to Enfield every morning leaving home at 4:30 am then after training straight to school after a quick stop at the Tip Top factory at Belfield for some hot bread.
    After school we were back to the pool for the afternoon session.
    Great memories,Jack was a real character and a great coach in the pool and for life.

      1. I used to go to Enfield pool most every afternoon and always on the weekends.
        My parents lived in Campsie anf obviously I attended Enfield primary school with my older brother and younger sister in the early 1950’s.
        I used to be a lifesaver ( well thats what I thought I was) and was always given a black and white cap to wear when I was at the pool it made me feel special even though I was born in 1950 I was at the pool from about 1955 onwards.
        I used to walk to and from school as we were not allowed to ride dangerous push bikes akthough my brother had a scooter with large pneumatic tyres,great fun it was too.
        I actually taught myself to swim and broke a couple of records for freestyle swimming for Enfield pool against other schools in the Western suburbs.
        I was a member of the mens amateur swimming club within the baths and won many school events over the years.
        We moved to Western Australia when I was 11(1961) and I have only been back to the pool once since and it was closed,very disapointing not to be able to get in.
        Im 68 years old now but still have some of my fondest memories in mind from within the pool.
        I do hope to get back to Enfield one of these days and again have a swim in the lovely pool.

        1. Fantastic to hear your memories, Richard. You must come back and swim again at Enfield (but make sure it’s in season, because they were closed also when I first went down hoping for a dip). Loved the memories of your black and white cap!

  7. The great Frank Guthrie coached there before Jack Stutsel. I trained with both coaches but went back to Frank Guthrie at Canterbury after a couple of years with Mr. Stutsel. I have some old home movies of the pool and Mr. Guthrie coaching there which I offered to the Film Archives in Canberra for their collection as old film can deteriorate over time. However they were not interested …. it’s a shame to let our history be forgotten. I think most local kids back in the 50’s and 60’s spent more time at Enfield than they did with their own families. It was a home away from home.

    1. Thanks Kerri – I totally get that ‘home away from home’ idea. But what a shame they weren’t interested in your old videos. Don’t get rid of them, though; they will surely be precious one of these days

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *