Swimming at Edwardes Lake, Reservoir

As the name suggests, swimming has long been a popular past time in Reservoir, although never in the area’s reservoirs. Edwardes Lake was the first spot to become a popular swimming destination for locals. Swimming in the lake was officially permitted in 1919 but had been happening for a long time prior. A bathing shelter and a pier were constructed in the designated swimming area. The Preston Lifesaving Club was based at Edwardes Lake and they had regular demonstrations of swimming and lifesaving techniques from the 1920s. 

Another swimming hole which became popular was on a block adjacent to Edwardes Park. After the land for the Park was donated in 1914 the council sought to acquire the block but discovered the site had been purchased by a Mr. Strongman with the intention of developing a bluestone quarry. The quarry became a popular site for local children to play and when the bottom filled with water, to swim, but it was treacherous and there were numerous incidents of young children drowning. The council eventually acquired the quarry in 1930 and resolved to use it as a tip, thus ending the danger of drowning as well as solving the city’s garbage problem. 

The life of Edwardes Lake as an official swimming spot did not last long with heavy pollution seeing the banning of swimming in 1939. In actual fact locals continued to swim in the lake well beyond this time and although there were incidents of drowning they were blamed by some on the foolishness of the swimmer, rather than the polluted water. The absence of a proper pool in Reservoir was no doubt the most significant factor in people continuing to swim in the lake, despite the health risks. As such the lake remained a popular spot for locals on a hot night. One petition with over 100 signatures was tabled at council calling for the construction of a swimming pool at the Edwardes Lake Park but this never came to fruition, although a wading pool was constructed in the mid 1950s when the lake was drained in an attempt to clean it. In fact today anyone who falls into the lake is advised to seek medical attention due the pollutants in the water. 

Despite constant problems with pollution which has seen the lake drained at least eight times in the last 70 years, Edwardes Lake and the Park around it has remained a part of Reservoir’s cultural and sporting life.   

Forster, Harley W. (1968). Preston Lands and People. Melbourne: Cheshire.

Jones, Roger J. (Roger John), 1949- & Keddie, Lisa, 1971- & Preston (Vic.). Council (1994). Back in them days : an oral history of Preston. Preston City Council, Preston, Vic.

Wuelfert, Toni-Marie & Rose, John & Preston (Vic.). Council (2002). Edwardes Lake : a gift well received. WorkPlacement, Epping, Vic.