Queens Park, one of the three parks that make up Centennial Parklands, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. From start to end it has been a history of battle, but always a place for recreation and the community.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Before it was formally ‘Queens Park’…
The area now occupied by Queens Park was regularly visited and used by local Aboriginal communities pre-European times, with evidence still in existence of this use. The rock shelter on the north-eastern side of Queens Park has evidence of ‘27 white hand stencils, 1 white fish stencil and 6 white unknown stencils’, although these are not in great condition due to the rock shelter suffering from vandalism since 1899.
In early colonial times Queens Park was part of what was the Lachlan Swamps water reserve. An area of low-lying marsh and swamps that – via Busbys Bore – fed the fresh water supply to the growing town of Sydney throughout the mid-1800s.
A dam occupied the low lying areas of the park for much of the 19th Century, which became, oddly enough the source of local tension and led to a ‘battle’ between the residents of Waverley/Randwick, and the authorities in the City of Sydney!
While you can find a fuller account of ‘Battle Hill‘ on the Waverley Council website, this is a summary of the ‘bloody’ battle that took place in nowadays Queens Park.
While the Queens Park part of the water reserve was established as a protected zone to preserve the fresh water supplies of the City, there was a walking track popular with Waverley and Randwick residents which ran from the end of Bourke Street, across Queens Park and up the hill to Market Street, Randwick. It was, in effect, a short cut from Bondi Junction to Randwick.
The Mayor of Sydney at the time, Charles Moore (Moore Park was named after him) identified pedestrian traffic across the water reserve as a pollutant of the fresh water supplies and ordered the residents to stop using the track. To no avail.
On 30 September 1868, City of Sydney workers entered the Queens Park area in the middle of the night and began erecting a stout three-rail fence across the track, barring access through the scrub. By morning, word of the Queens Park version of the Berlin Wall (OK, a slight exaggeration, but…) began circulating and Waverley locals came out to challenge and tear down the fence.
A fight broke out with fence palings and fists flying. Eventually the fight ended and the City of Sydney workers backed down…and the fence was burnt down.
Not long after, a park is created…
Queens Park, as we know it today, was created under the Centennial Celebrations Act 1887, and opened in conjunction with Centennial Park.
While conceived as a space for recreation, Queens Park in 1895 featured an 11 hole golf course that was the temporary home of the historic Australian Golf Club, until 1898-1899.
The earliest phase of tree planting in Queens Park occurred in the late 1880s and early 1890s with open woodland of Moreton Bay Fig, Port Jackson Figs, Monterey Pine, Araucarias and Holm Oak established on the higher ground. The coral trees and Melaleuca lining the southern and western edges of the park were planted in 1923, replacing original plantings of alternating Brush Box and Maples.
A bigger battle connection…
At the outbreak of World War One in 1914, a number of military Units formed and trained in Queens Park before embarking to the theatres of war. One such Unit, the First (1st) Field Ambulance (raised on the 24 August 1914), is still serving today as the 1 Health Support Company, a subunit of 8 Brigade Combat Services Support Battalion located at Timor Barracks, Dundas.
The parks are split…
The two parks (Queens Park and Centennial Park) were physically connected in the early days, but were forever left divided after York Road was extended through to Darley Road in 1929.
In 1930 the much debated Eastern Suburbs Hospital Bill passed the NSW Parliament, granting land from Queens Park to build a hospital. The parliamentary bill sought to transform ‘Tucker’s Sandhill’— described by members of Parliament as ‘a tip and an eyesore’ and separated from both parks by York and other roads—into the ‘most healthy hospital site in Australia’. The hospital was eventually built in 1935.
Queens Park was ‘beautified’ during the 1930s, firstly by relief labourers during the years of the Great Depression, and later as part of a State and Federal Government initiative to improve national fitness by encouraging sporting activities. Extensive amounts of fill were used to infill the swampland and create the present playing fields. The new playing areas catered for up to 500 cricketers every Saturday in summer and 200 footballers in the winter.
In 1938 relief workers removed an old dam embankment from Queens Park to level ground and create further playing fields.
While it was a busy place for team sports (primarily cricket in summer and football in winter), by 1960 the Park was becoming a place for picnics and families, and a playground was built to cater for the growing demand in 1960.
To manage its future…
Throughout its history, the management and planning of Queens Park (like Centennial Park) had been variously overseen by different Government Departments, and in 1983 the Centennial Park Trust was established to manage both Queens Park and Centennial Park (the Trust was eventually renamed the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust in 1990 after Moore Park came under its control…poor Queens Park missed out on featuring in the name again though!).
In 1993 the draft Queens Park Master Plan was developed, which was eventually adopted in 1995.
One of the key challenges that has been considered a great success in recent years has been the management of the endangered plant species, Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, for which Centennial Parklands has been recognised as an industry leader in its conservation. A large area of remnant scrub can be found adjacent the Moriah College site, and is a great partnership between the Parklands and community volunteers who help to maintain the plant community.
And on to today…
Today Queens Park attracts thousands of sports players and spectators every weekend, and is a popular dog walking and recreational space throughout the week. In line with the Queens Park Master Plan recommendations, the playground was significantly upgraded and upgraded shared pathways developed in 2009.
The Queens Park Master Plan also identified through community feedback that there was a need for improved food and beverage opportunities in the Park. The redundant storage shed – known historically as the Queens Park Pavilion – was earmarked as a potential location.
In 2013 the work was completed and the Queens Park Shed was opened!
Happy 125th birthday to Queens Park – a much-loved part of Centennial Parklands!
Do you have a great story, memory or have any great photos taken in Queens Park over the years? Share them with us.