Bancroft Bath No. 1 an Archaeological Survey

1     Bancroft Bath No. 1

 Bancroft Bath No. 1 is located on the Deception Bay foreshore near the DPI Southern Fisheries Centre Station. The bath was constructed in the 1880s by Joseph Bancroft.

HISTORY

Evidence of the function of the bath is limited to oral tradition and one photograph. The oral evidence suggests that Joseph Bancroft had the bath constructed for his wife Anne who was chronically ill. In accordance with medical theories of the era, sea bathing was recommended as a therapy for Anne’s illness. It is most probable the bath was constructed in the 1880s after Joseph Bancroft built a house at Deception Bay.

While Joseph Bancroft’s life has been well documented, little is known of his wife, Anne. Born Anne Oldfield in 1833, she married Joseph Bancroft in 1853. Joseph studied medicine at the Manchester Royal School of Medicine and Surgery. He qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1859. Anne and Joseph had three children, Sophia, Louise and Thomas. Sophia died in infancy. Due to Joseph Bancroft’s ill-health, the Bancroft family migrated to Australia in 1864.

No direct evidence survives that the bath was constructed for therapeutic purposes. Nor is there any specific evidence about Anne suffering a life- threatening illness that required sea bathing. The bath may well have been built merely for recreational purposes.

LOCATION

The bath is located on the foreshore of Deception Bay approximately 20 m east of the north-east corner of the boundary of the DPI Southern Fisheries Centre (27 10 633 E. 153 01 840 S).

SITE DESCRIPTION

The bath is situated on an extensive sandstone formation approximately 100 m by 100m. The sandstone formation has a series of unusual patterns in the surface.

The bath is fringed by mangroves immediately to the west on a small ledge. Mangroves are also located on the north. A gravel ramp from the Fisheries Centre runs to the north of the bath.

The sandstone formation has a gentle slope from the highwater mark to the east. The bath is located on a slighter higher section of the sandstone formation.

METHOD

The first task was to remove the silt and debris which had accumulated in the bath. A layer of 200 mm was removed by hand and the remainder was removed by an excavator. The excavator operated on rubberised tracks to minimise damage to the sandstone. Following the removal of the silt and debris, the bath was refilled with water. This water was subsequently pumped out and the bath and surrounds cleaned of silt.

Detailed measurements and photographs were taken of the bath and objects located within the silt that were associated with the use of the bath.

DESCRIPTION OF BATH

The bath is a rectangular shape 4300 mm long and 2700 mm wide, with a triangular extrusion on the eastern side. This extrusion provides access to a semicircular ledge within the bath. The sides of the bath are generally perpendicular to a average depth of 1000 mm with the exception of the ledge on the eastern side and a sloping triangular base on the north-western corner.

The base of the bath slopes to the deepest point of 1300 mm off centre on the southern end.

Brick edging surrounds the bath on the south (3920 mm), east (7711 mm) and northern (3400 mm) sides. This edging is offset from the bath, 1660 mm from the southern edge, 800 mm from the eastern edge, and 1500 mm from the northern edge.

These bricks vary in length between 290 to 305 mm and a width of 110 mm. The bricks sit in a shallow trench cut into the sandstone and fixed with a lime mortar. The original profile of these bricks are of 300 mm. Most bricks are weathered to no more than 40 mm in height. The original profile was probably a concave shape on the exterior face. (Note: approximately 12 bricks of this profile were found in the silt within the bath. These bricks could not have been used originally on the surrounds as the base of all bricks survive. The source of these bricks is uncertain but they match the dimensions of the in situ bricks).

The south-eastern and north-eastern extent of the bath is demarcated by two postholes cut into the sandstone. These holes are approximately 250mm in diameter. From the photographic evidence, these holes were for fenceposts. Another posthole demarcates the extent of the bath complex on the north- west. This hole was for a structural post for the timber shelter adjacent to the bath. The western side of the bath complex is demarcated by a sandstone platform 100 mm higher that the surrounds of bath.

Figure 2. Profile of edge bricks, Bath No. 1.

Profile of edge bricks bath 1 deception bay archaeological survey

On the southern side of the bath is a shallow trough. This trough is 70 mm in depth, 2940 mm long and 250 mm wide. The purpose of this trough is unclear – it possibly was used as a footbath.

Notches cut to secure stingers for timber steps are located on the northern edge. Remnants of the hardwood steps were uncovered in the deposited silt.

2 stringers width depth Length 250 mm

30 mm

1025 mm

3 treads width depth length 225 mm

30 mm

varied between 600 to 800 mm

The remnants of the steps and notches on the northern edge indicate that a set of timber steps were used to enter the bath from the timber shelter.

Evidence of tool marks are found on all four sides of the interior of the bath. While the sides are generally perpendicular, the northern wall has a slightly uneven profile, suggesting that perhaps explosives were used to remove some of the sandstone.

ARTIFACTS

 Various artifacts were recovered from Bath No. 1. They included bottles, fragments of bottles, bricks and the timber stairs. The timber stairs were left in the Bath as the most appropriate short term preservation method. Exposure to air would accelerate the decaying process. Most of the bricks recovered are later and suggest the bath was partly used as a dump.

Several bricks with a similar profile to the edge bricks of the bath were recovered. The origins of these bricks are uncertain. Parts of all or most of the original edge bricks appear to be in situ. The use of other similar profiled bricks is unclear. While they cannot be provenanced to the bath, there are of significance as evidence of the original profile.

DISCUSSION

Figure 3. Brick similar to edge bricks recovered from Bath No. 1.

figure-3-brick-similar-to-edge-bricks-recovered-from-bath-no-1

The removal of the silt and debris from the bath has revealed important evidence about its use and construction. Clearly this bath is as identified in the Bancroft photo of c. 1890, comprising a large pool surrounded by a brick edge and timber shelter to one side.

Moreover, there is little doubt that this was a bath constructed by Joseph Bancroft for use by members of his family. Whether it was built for therapeutic or recreational purposes (or both) is less certain. It well may have been used by Mrs Bancroft during an illness but the excavation provides no more evidence on this question. What the excavation did indicate is that the construction of the bath was a substantial undertaking. Removing almost 12 square metres of sandstone was not an easy task, even if explosives were used to loosen the sandstone. The interior was carefully worked to provide perpendicular sides and a gradual sloping floor.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Public

The removal of the silt has created a permanent pool of water 1.3 m deep. Although situated in the intertidal zone, it could be considered a hazard as it was previously a silted area.

That the Caboolture Shire Council as a matter of urgency erect a sign indicating the depth of the bath and the need for caution.

  • Interpretation

The bath is an important part of the heritage of Deception Bay and also Queensland heritage.

That an interpretative panel about the bath be erected nearby, possibly adjacent to the entrance to the DPI Fisheries Centre.

  • Access

Currently, public access to bath difficult. A more managed and control form of access is necessary in the long term.

The Caboolture Shire Council undertake a study as to how public access to the bath and the rock formations could be managed in the long term.

  • Mangroves

The mangroves have been slowly undermining the sandstone surrounding the bath.

That monitoring of the impact of mangroves on the bath be undertaken and expert advice is sought as to the most appropriate means of controlling mangrove growth in the vicinity of the bath.

5          Artifacts

The concave profiled bricks from Bath No. 1 should be preserved. They could form part of a display on the baths in the Deception Bay library.

figure-3
Figure 3 Site plan
Figure 5. Bath No. 1, prior to excavation
Figure 5. Bath No. 1, prior to excavation
Bath No. 1, after excavation
Figure 6. Bath No. 1, after excavation
Bath No 1Figure 7. Bath No. 1, detail location of timber steps
Figure 7. Bath No. 1, detail location of timber steps
Bath No 1Figure 8. Eastern wall, Bath No. 1 This wall contains evidence of tool markings and oysters. The bath was used later to cultivate oysters.
Figure 8. Eastern wall, Bath No. 1 This wall contains evidence of tool markings and oysters. The bath was used later to cultivate oysters.
Bath No 1Figure 9. Steps and Platform Bath No. 1
Figure 9. Steps and Platform Bath No. 1
Bath No 1Figure 10. Remnants of timber steps These remnants were found within the debris
Figure 10. Remnants of timber steps These remnants were found within the debris
Bath No 1Figure 11. Narrow bath, adjacent to main bath. The purpose of this feature is unclear. It possibly was used as a foot-bath.
Figure 11. Narrow bath, adjacent to main bath. The purpose of this feature is unclear. It possibly was used as a foot-bath.
Bath No 1Figure 12. Bath at Deception Bay, c.1890 (Evelyn Bancroft)
Figure 12. Bath at Deception Bay, c.1890 (Evelyn Bancroft)
Bath No 1 Figure 13. Bath viewed from similar position The surrounding mangroves contrast with the open setting of the 19th century.
Figure 13. Bath viewed from similar position The surrounding mangroves contrast with the open setting of the 19th century.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

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