The Bancroft Baths are a beautiful, Queensland heritage listed feature located within Deception Bay. The baths have an historical connection to the Bancroft family, from whom they take their name, and the family’s valuable contribution to science. Many important research projects have since continued the work that the Bancroft family begun. The baths also demonstrate the broader 19th Century belief in the health benefits of sea bathing.
As towns became industrialized and more polluted, disease was thought to be caused by miasma (vaporous atmosphere). The clean, fresh air and water of the seaside became sought after as a ‘cure’ for ‘miasmic diseases’. The baths are possibly the only examples of baths of this type cut out of sandstone rock along the Queensland coast.
It has been said that Dr Bancroft’s wife had a medical condition which improved if she bathed in salt water. The doctor commissioned a “bath” to be carved out of the rocks so that at high-tide the sea water poured in and provided her with a safe bath. Much of the original bath has filled with sand, but it is still clearly visible unless there is an unusually high tide. Due to its size, it is believed that Joseph Bancroft also built this first bath for recreational use.
The Department of Primary Industries Southern Fisheries Center, located on the shores of Deception Bay, was opened in 1972. The center continued the tradition of research begun by the Bancrofts and was operated as a venture between the CSIRO and the Department of Primary Industries to research the different prawn species found along the east coast. After that project finished in 1974, the Department of Fisheries continued with many other important research projects.