Centennial Park Part 2

Centennial Park Colour Front

The image above is another stunning view over one of Sydney’s most iconic and well loved parks – Centennial Park. Today, and indeed in the image above, the park is today a beautiful public space, but as we learned last week, this was not always the case. In fact, Centennial Park grew out of swamp land.

By 1859, the Lachlan Swamps, which had served as Sydney’s main water supply, were increasingly polluted and in 1874, after a series of floods, the pollution worsened. Yet there was another role on the horizon for the swamp lands. In the 1870s many members of the public began to lobby councils in Woollahra and Paddington to allow the Lachlan Swamps Water Reserve to be used as a public space – a park. Governor Carrington, who wished to establish a large park suited to riding and recreation recognised the potential of the enormous site and in 1887 the Centennial Celebrations Act created Centennial Park and Queens Park. The original designs for the park had allocated the highest ground in the park area for a memorial (or even house, as then Premier, Sir Henry Parkes dreamed) commemorating European colonisation. These plans, of course, did not come to fruition.

The park was carefully designed though, with much of the design work attributed to Frederick Augustus Franklin, who was an English civil engineer. The construction of the park was overseen by Charles Moore, who was then director of the Royal Botanical Gardens (Sydney) and James Jones, who was then the head gardener at the Botanic Gardens. 50,000 pounds was put aside by Parliament towards construction of the park, with its grand drives, processional entry with ornamental gates, lakes, cascades, fountains, grassy areas and dams. Yet construction was not easy. There were disagreements as to whether the wild vegetation should be preserved (with Moore preferring large, grassy expanses), floods, droughts, damage from stock and vandalism and problems with the natural sandy soils. Despite these many hindrances, the land was cleared and carefully sculpted, and the Old Grand Drive (now known as Federation Way) was constructed in 1887, with the public soon making enthusiastic use of the new public space. Centennial Park was officially opened on January 26, 1888, just a year after construction began, and well before the entire park was complete.

Centennial Park And Busby

Centennial Park 2 Front

As the weather slowly, but surely, begins to turn towards cooler days, many Sydneysiders will be looking to take advantage of the Autumn weather and spend some time outdoors. Many will enjoy a picnic or two in the beautiful parks around Sydney. One of the most famous Sydney parks, and indeed one of the most celebrated is Centennial Park.

Centennial Park, also known today as Centennial Parklands, is one of Sydney’s older parks, and plays an important role in the history of Australia’s first European colony. When the First Fleet arrived in 1788, one of their first priorities was to find fresh water. They used the Tank Stream, but by the 1820s it was polluted and could no longer supply sufficient water for the needs of the colony. Governor Darling appointed John Busby as the Government Mineral Surveyor in 1824, and one of his first job was to locate another source of fresh water. He reported that the area then known as the Lachlan Swamps would be ideal, with their natural aquifers and marshlands to filter water. Busby determined that an underground tunnel or ‘bore’ could be constructed to take the water to the city, for distribution from what is now Hyde Park. Construction of the bore, known as Busby’s Bore, began in 1827 and was completed in 1837. The bore supplied water to Sydney up until 1859, when the swamps became too polluted to use any longer.

Come back next week to find out about how the swamp lands and Busby’s Bore was transformed into one of Sydney’s most famous parklands!

Sydney Panorama

complete panorama

This week, The Past Present is doing something just a little bit different. Usually, the focus is on a specific place, but the series of postcards above (six in total), show not one place, but many. This is a series of panoramic postcards, which fit together to create a complete and uninterrupted panoramic view of Sydney. Such panoramic photos, whether sold as a series of cards, or as a single, intact panorama, have a fascinating history.

Today, panoramic photographs are quick and easy to produce. Cameras and various devices with cameras featured in them are able to take a panoramic photo with the simple click of a button. In the past though, panoramic photographs were extremely difficult to take. They involved several unique photographs being taken, and then ‘stitched’ together to create a single, seamless view. The earliest photographic panorama of an Australian scene is believed to date from 1854 and is an eight panel view of Melbourne taken by Walter Woodbury. Sydney photographers were not far behind though and the first panorama of Sydney was taken just four years later by the Freeman Brothers.

The most famous of the Sydney panoramas were taken by Bernard Otto Holtermann and his assistant Charles Bayliss (Bayliss being the photographer, and Holtermann providing funding and photographic assistance). The famous Holtermann Panorama as it is known was taken in 1875 and made up of 23 discrete photographs, taken from the top of a specially built tower. This tower, which became known as the Holtermann tower, was part of Holtermanns home in Lavender Bay, and was used for many years as a photographic tower. Some even suggest it continued to be used after Holtermann’s death. The panorama above was taken not from Holtermann’s tower but from Miller’s Point and dates from the early 1900s.



This week, as Autumn gets underway, many Sydneysiders will be looking to enjoy the last weeks of warm, beach-going weather. Sydney is blessed with an abundance of beautiful beaches, some of which are even internationally famous. The image above shows one which although perhaps not quite as famous as beaches like Bondi and Manly, is extremely popular with Sydneysiders – Cronulla.

The word Cronulla is believed to come from an Aboriginal word Kurranulla, which means place of pink seashells, and the beach has long been an attraction to the area. In 1827/1828, Surveyor Robert Dixon visited the area and named several of the beaches, though the main beach was called by the Aboriginal name Kurranulla. When the Illawarra Railway Line to Sutherland was built in 1885, this allowed people to easily access the area and Cronulla became popular for picnicking, fishing and swimming. Many visitors even rented beach houses for school holidays, and The Oriental Hotel was built in 1888 by Captain Spingall to cater for the abundant visitors.

In 1907 the Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club was established, making it one of the first in the entirety of Australia. Today, we see the club operating from a beautiful art deco building which was built in 1940, but the club originally made its home in an old tram carriage! The club continues to be a strong force today, with 1200 members of the club, including over 600 nippers. In fact, Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club has actually won three World Championships, and is consistently placed in the top 10 Australian clubs, and has been for the past 20 years