Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens are an iconic green space, a place to relax and retreat from busy city life. This week, The Past Present is again celebrating the history of this beautiful Sydney space, examining the story of the gardens after their accepted Foundation Date of June 13, 1816.
Having been formally established as a parkland, the area were in need of men who could shape and design the gardens themselves. The earliest botanist associated with the gardens was Allan Cunningham who arrived in the colony in 1816, just as the roads of the gardens were completed. He was soon after appointed the ‘Kings Botanist’. Yet it was Charles Fraser, who was formally appointed to the role of Government Colonial Botanist and superintendent of the Botanic Gardens in 1821, who had the most influence. His work on the gardens began in 1817, and by 1820 had established a what was officially described as a ‘botanic garden’ separate from the Governors Kitchen Garden.
The fledgling gardens were, in these early times, very much the domain of the Governor and the ‘respectable classes’. In fact, there were originally punishments in place for those deemed unsuitable who entered the area! It was not until September of 1831 that the Domain area was opened to the general public, though much of the gardens themselves were still reserved for the upper echelons of Sydney society. In December, Fraser died at just 43 years of age. For the next almost two decades many different men acted as superintendent for the gardens, though they usually served for relatively short periods. Some of these men resigned their posts, but several also died while in office. Then, in 1848 Charles Moore, one of the men most famously associated with the gardens, took over the position.
Come back next week to find out about the next era in the Botanic Gardens history
This week, with the Royal Botanic Gardens celebrating their bicentenary over the recent June long weekend, it seemed the perfect time to share an image of the iconic Sydney green space. Over the course of its history, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney have been a popular subject for artists ranging from colonial watercolorists to postcard makers. The image above, which shows the Botanic Gardens in circa 1907, is from a postcard and is just one of the many postcards in the collection which showcase our beautiful Botanic Gardens.
Before European colonists arrived in Australia, the area which includes what is now known as the Royal Botanic Gardens was known as Woccanmagully, and used as an initiation ground by the Cadigal people. When Europeans arrived though, a small farm growing much needed grain for the new colony was established on the site. By 1802, the old Government House (which is now the site of the Museum of Sydney) had a fine garden, which would have included land around what is now the Botanic Garden. Records show the garden contained a mix of exotic and native plants, just as the Botanic Garden does today!
In 1807 Governor Bligh attempted to reclaim the Demesne (or Domain), but it was Governor Macquarie who actually succeeded in doing this in 1810, building walls around the area and removing the remaining buildings. Bligh had also begun to build roads in the Domain area, but these were finished between 1813 and 1816 by Governor Macquarie, and today one of these loops, completed in 1816, is known as Mrs Macquaries Road. Macquarie was informed that the road was complete on June 13, 1816, and this is traditionally seen as the foundation day for our beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. At 200 years old, they are one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in the Southern Hemisphere, and in fact are older than the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, which opened to the public over 20 years later, in 1841.
Come back next week to find out more about the creation of the Royal Botanic Gardens, one of Sydney’s best beloved green spaces.
This week, with the terrible storms and Narrabeen being featured in the news, it seemed a perfect time to turn attention to the area. The Past Present has just one image of Narrabeen in the collection, an image of Narrabeen Bridge taken in circa 1910 and featured on a postcard. The bridge featured on the card is quite different to the one people recognise today though!
Aboriginal people had used the area around Narrabeen Lagoon for thousands of years, and everything they needed to survive was available in the area, from food to materials needed to make tools. In the late 1700s though, European colonists discovered the area. At the time, the lagoon had abundant seagrass, healthy wetlands, clear waters and abundant fish and bird life. The area was renowned for its beauty even a century later, when many land grants and rural development had significantly altered the landscape. Many people visited to picnic, swim or go boating in the deeper sections. Yet despite this popularity, visitors had to ford the lagoon if they wanted to reach the other side. Then, in the early 1880s (the date seems to differ, depending on the source) a bridge was opened. This bridge was wooden and really quite picturesque, but the 1920s it was insufficient for the number of people who wanted to cross the lagoon, on foot or by vehicle.
In 1925 a second, newer bridge was built at the mouth of the lagoon, but the wooden bridge remained. In 1946 a design for a sturdier, concrete bridge was made, though the wooden bridge was not actually replaced until 1954.
This week, The Past Present shares a beautiful, vintage image of one of the delights of Sydney, the Harbour City. Many Sydneysiders will agree that one of the wonderful aspects of a city complete with Harbour and river tributaries is the ferries which ply the waters, offering a special kind of public transport. The image above shows one of the old Lane Cove River ferries, part of a service which continues today.
In the history of early European colonisation, the land along the Lane Cove River was widely used for farming and many orchards were established. Soon after, a thriving river trade was established, with boats used to transport goods to and produce from the properties established along the river. Some of the families, including the Jenkins who established the orchard Millwood in 1852 and whose kitchen still stands in Lane Cove National Park, even had their own steamers and wharves! As time went on, public services on the river were established, with 17 ferries operating on the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers between 1885 and 1920.
After 1900, orcharding on the Lane Cove River went into sharp decline for a number of reasons, and river traffic no longer needed to carry produce to the Sydney markets. Yet the river remained an important mode of transport for the local residents, and visitors alike. In 1908 the local residents formed their own ferry company, the Upper Lane Cove Ferry Co, which carried passengers, along with mail, merchandise and even animals! The ferries operated between Killara (in an area known as Fidden’s Wharf) and Figtree. The company operated two boats until 1918, when the service ceased and the ferries were sold to the Swan Family. From this time on, the focus of the service was very much pleasure, with the boats carrying picnickers to the Swan family pleasure grounds, Fairyland.