Kippax Lake may give off the appearance of a pleasant, ornamental body of water, but it has a fascinating past, holds high heritage importance and is an important part of our city’s natural ecosystem.
Located in Moore Park, part of Centennial Parklands, the Lake is one of the only remnant reminders of the Sydney Common (in fact there are only two original features remaining – Kippax Lake and the nearby sand-hill, Mt Steel).
While it seems isolated from the Parklands other ponds, it isn’t! An extensive system of below-ground stormwater pipes direct captured run-off to the Centennial Park ponds via headwalls at Busby’s and Kensington Pond.
It wasn’t always Kippax Lake…
Kippax Lake may be the only original water body to remain in Moore Park, but ‘Kippax Lake’ wasn’t the original name given to it by the city’s planners.
What was that name?
Nanny Goat Swamp!
The name change occurred in 1888 and was named in honour of William Kippax, Alderman on the Sydney City Council from 1863-1889. Kippax was a small business owner (he owned a poultry store), was the Director of the Randwick Asylum and he was a member of the first Sydney Fire Brigades Board.
A place to float your boat!
Kippax Lake, as a legacy of its ‘swamp’ days, was noted as dirty and smelly up until the early 1900s, primarily as a result of frequently drying up in dry weather. In 1909 debate at City of Sydney Council noted that the Board of Health demanded action, but there was great resistance to ‘losing’ the lake.
After a “flagging” in 1907 it began to clean up its act enough to become an ongoing place of recreation – most notably a place for playing with model craft.
There were model yacht regattas being held from around 1919, it was the site for a model seaplane competition in 1931, and from 1965 to the early 1980s Kippax Lake was the home of the Model Boat Club of NSW .
Also a place of legend and sadness…
A long-running legend relating to Kippax Lake was that cricketer Doug Walters hit a six that went so far that it cleared the stands of the adjacent Sydney Cricket Ground and landed in Kippax Lake. That would have been a mighty strike – but was it true?
The answer is contained right here.
But things weren’t always so fun or sporting though. Most historic sites often have darker sides or sad stories from their past. Kippax Lake is no different, for instance:
- a very sad drowning in 1895
- the curious case of ‘crooks and confidence men’ who were arrested in a 1921 raid by Police while they sailed their model boats in the lake
- and the tragic death of a man in 1934 from lightning strike while he was attempting to shelter under the trees.
An important place for women’s sport
This part of Centennial Parklands has its own ‘lady of the lake‘. Not a legend from the King Arthur tales, our lady is instead a significant sculpture that stands right in the middle of Kippax Lake.
The sculpture (and fountain) was designed by Diana Hunt in 1967. It portrays a female athlete and is constructed in metal on a concrete base.
The sculpture came about as a result of a competition held by the Sydney City Council to design a fountain or sculpture ‘to give recognition to the achievements of Australian Sportswomen over the years’. The entries were judged by a group of five male sculptors and architects and they gave the cash prize to Stephen Walker, however the Council overruled the decision and chose a piece designed by Diana Hunt.
Heritage value of Kippax Lake
As one of the only two remaining original features of the Sydney Common, Kippax Lake has high heritage value, and is referenced on the Register of the National Estate listing for Centennial Parklands.
The flora around Kippax Lake is also noted as high heritage significance, with a number of the fig trees to the north of the lake dating back to the 1880s. Moreton Bay Figs were planted to the south of the lake, but they hadn’t survived by 1901. The trees to the south of the lake you see today were planted around the 1930s.
Many of these trees also appear on the City of Sydney’s Significant Tree Register.
There is also a significant heritage monument adjacent the lake – the Kippax Lake drinking fountain. A sandstone structure, there is a a metal ring located on each face, probably designed to secure a horse while taking a drink!
Environmental roles that need your help
Kippax Lake plays so many more roles than looking pretty and holding part of our history. The lake plays a number of important environmental roles, being part of the stormwater system, home to eels and other invertebrates, and a resting/nesting place for native birds.
This role is often undervalued, but just a brief walk along the shoreline of the lake reveals quite a rich and abundant ‘above the water’ and aquatic ecosystem.
There are two key ways that you can help ensure the health of the lake and its inhabitants:
- Please do not litter in or around Moore Park. What you throw on the ground often ends up washed into Kippax Lake.
- Keep your dogs on-leash within 10 metres of Kippax Lake and do not allow your dog to swim in the lake. Unleashed dogs have been known to threaten or harm the birdlife, and this can become quite a major concern at nesting time (particularly for the black swans).
Kippax Lake has a story that runs deep, provides many reminders of our past and holds many important roles now and for the future of our city.
If you’re feeling nostalgic, here is a link to 103 images of Kippax Lake over the years to scroll through.
Next time you visit the Parklands, why not stop by and take a few moments to enjoy the beautiful Kippax Lake. You won’t be disappointed!