Go to the Labyrinth of East London Lore

Insolvent's Hole

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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Up until about 1906, the time that East London gained a reasonable water supply, bathing in the sea was the only practical means by which residents were able to wash.

The men of the town tended to bathe in the Buffalo River and at what became known as the Orient Beach, while the convicts and prisoners were marched to the river every Saturday at midday for a wash.

Since they all swam in the nude, the women were expected to go elsewhere. The rock pools along the Esplanade was set aside for their sole use.

One of these places was called "Insolvent's Hole".

Insolvent's Hole was a shallow pool immediately below "Quanza Estate" which the Council decided to develop for women bathers. (You may still see the pool if you look down from the Esplanade from a point immediately to the left of the Wimpy.)

A galvanized iron shed was erected to act as a change room, the loose rock on the pool floor was cleaned out and a small cement wall was built to maintain some depth, although it was always very shallow.

Indeed, it was very small and certainly served as no compensation to the women for being banished from the more attractive Orient Beach, which explained why the issue was physically disputed for years to come until the Council was eventually forced to concede defeat and allow women onto the beach.

If you examine the floor of the rock pool below the Wimpy Bar, you will notice that the cracks still show signs of where the Town Council cemented them to prevent leaks. On the Wimpy Bar side of the pool is the remnant of a rock wall, which was probably part of the changing room.

It is not known why the place was called Insolvent's Hole, unless insolvent gentlemen whiled away their time there sunning themselves at the pool. Indeed, insolvency was quite common at early East London.

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