A public baths hewn out of rock on a wave cut platform below the cliffs at Shepherd Hill. Dimensions length (maximum) 10 metres x width (maximum) 6.5 metres. X depth (average) 1.5 metres.
1884. Various weatherboard sheds and a brick toilet block were added over time, but all have since been demolished. The seaward side is fenced with stanchion and chain, date unknown.
Physical condition is good. Archaeological potential is nil.
Assessed as being 'Fair' condition in 1994 (EJE, App E).
The Bogey Hole was constructed by order of Commandant Morisset in about 1820 for personal use. Whether this work represented the enlargement of a naturally occurring rock pool used by Aboriginal people is unknown. There is no exact date for the commencement of construction nor is there a record of how long it took. Morisset was Commandant of Newcastle from December 1818 until November 1823. He was the longest serving Commandant of Newcastle. It was known, originally as the "Commandant's Baths". The name "Bogey Hole" was applied afterwards and is said to come from the Dharawal word meaning "to bathe".
The Bogey Hole is situated at the foot of Shepherds Hill, or as it was known in the 1820s "sheep pasturage hill". Geologically, the rock in the area is sandstone/conglomerate typical of the coastal areas of the Hawkesbury Sandstone deposit on which Newcastle was built. The rock is considered reasonably hard. In 1863, control of the bath passed to Newcastle Borough Council for public use. The bath were enlarged by Council and catered mainly for male swimmers, with women being permitted only at set times. Since that time a collection of changing sheds and other facilities have come and gone. The Bogey hole was originally much smaller than it is now and was substantially enlarged in 1884 to its present size.
The Bogey Hole is located beneath a pseudo headland or prominence and gets battered in heavy seas. Local dare-devils often tempt fate by climbing the cliff and jumping into the Bogey Hole. It is only about 1.5 m. deep. Another local thrill is to grab the barrier chains on the seaward side of the baths in a moderate swell and hang on tight when a wave breaks over you. Audrey Reay remembers that "The Bogey Hole was the best place for a dip, but dangerous in bad weather. When the tide was very high and weather rough it was a most delightful place if you could get safely in and out - to a moderate or indifferent swimmer it was hard to get out without a few scratches." (Memories of the Hunter and Newcastle in the 1880's by Audley Reay, p. 8).
The Bogey Hole was opened for public use in 1863 (LEP).
The most significant changes to the original Bogey Hole rock pool were in 1884. The pool was enlarged to seven times its original size and deepened, an iron safety rail was constructed along the access track and two bridges, stairs and ledges cut into the rock face (EJE, 2016, 6). These works were undertaken by Newcastle City Council (Steinbeck, pers.comm., 17/12/2016).
Men and women swam on different days and new dressing sheds and showers to use water piped 150 yardfs from a natural spring were built in 1893. Despite improvements, the rock pool was not considered safe or respectcable enough bathing site for the good citizens of Newcastle. The 'Newcastle Morning Herald' commented that the 'Bogey Hole has become the aquatic hunting ground of the Newcastle larrikin' (NMH, 9/12/1884, in EJE, 2016, 7).
There have been minor modifications to the Bogey Hole Baths since. These affected mainly the area above the baths, including post-war construction of the caretaker's cottage, removal of the original timber shange sheds, removal of a timber picket fence, and alterations to access steps and ordinance fencing (EJE, 2016, 7). A brick changing shed was built in 1953 (EJE, 2016, 8).
The Bogey Hole remains a popular spot, particularly for inner city dwellers who don't like getting sand in their shoes, and still becomes very crowded on warm summer days. (www.ncc.gov.au/library/locals/ histweb/bogey.htm).
The Bogey Hole was temporarily closed in September 2003 after Council noticed a number of boulders had crashed 20m from the cliff into the swimming hole, which had damaged fencing and created instability in the cliff face above the Bogey Hole. In 2004 the Newcastle Morning Heraldn reported that the Bogey Hole 'had reopened following completion of stabilisation work above the popular swimming spot' (EJE, 2016, 7).
In 2010 NSW Land & Property Management Authority, custodian of the site, invited expressions of interest for proposed remediation works to The Bogey Hole. EJE Architecture and Terras Landscape Architects won the tender to design new access stairs and structures for the public to access the baths as the existing stairs and access had eroded due to the incidence of the ocean and weather and were becoming dangerous. The new stairs and structures were completed and opened to the public in late September 2012. The Bogey Hole remained a popular spot, particularly for inner city dwellers. It became very crowded on warm summer days until November 2015. Newcastle City COuncil commissioned a grand project to rehabilitate the Newcastle Seawall and Bathers Way. Council engaged Cardno to do extensive geotechnical testing to inform the project. The Bogey HOle was part of the scope of these investigations. Cardno identified a number of hazards requiring immediate attention to prevent possible catastrophe such as irreparable damage to The Bogey Hole and/or possible loss of life. The results were reported to the Department of Industry - Lands and the perceived risk was enough that access to the Bogey Hole was blocked off on 20th November 2015. Cardno were commissioned by the Department of Industry - Lands to undertake further detailed investigations at the Bogey Hole locality and recommend how to mitigate risks previously identified. These led to the current recommended scope of stabilisation and access works (EJE, 2016, 10).