Picnic Grounds on the Parramatta River

Picnic Grounds Paramatta River Front

With the weather heating up and the holidays almost upon us, it is the perfect season for a waterfront picnic with family and friends, and indeed over the coming weeks many such picnics will be planned. The image above, from a postcard dated about 1910, is an idyllic if a little mysterious view of what was clearly once a popular picnic venue on the Parramatta River. With its muted colouring, and blue water and sandy beach, it seems the perfect venue for a family picnic, yet the exact location of the photo is unknown.

Picnicking has long been a popular way to while away a few hours, enjoying beautiful scenery and a tasty al fresco meal. In fact, the first known picnic’s took place all the way back in the Medieval times! Yet early picnics were vastly different to the picnics many of us enjoy today. Many early picnics were an evolution of elaborate and remarkably formal outdoor feasts and celebrations, and they were closely associated with hunting gatherings. Far from spreading a rug on the ground and enjoying a simple meal, they often took place at formally set tables and included sumptuous foods, many of which were served hot!

Then, in the 17th and 18th century the picnic began to evolve. Instead of being a formal meal, they began to be something a little like the American idea of a ‘pot luck’, with all of the participants bringing a dish to share. In fact, that was what the word picnic actually meant! By the 1860s though the meaning had changed again, with the word picnic meaning to eat outdoors. It was this late 19th century era when picnics also began to become popular, not just for wealthy people, but for all classes. Even the seminal cookbook, Mrs Beeton’s, provided ideas on how to host a picnic, and what sorts of food would be needed.

Of course, if picnicking was becoming a popular pastime, places to enjoy such picnics were also becoming necessary. Although many Australian’s were happy to enjoy an informal picnic at the beach or in the bush, others preferred established picnic grounds, like the one pictured above. These picnic areas often included other basic amenities, like toilets, tables and running water, which made them popular destinations.

The question is – where is the picnic ground featured in the postcard above actually located, and does it still exist?

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4 comments on “Picnic Grounds on the Parramatta River

  1. Amy R says:

    After consulting with the team at Lost Sydney, we are agreed that this view is of Wangal Reserve, at the end of Hilly Street, in Mortlake. The structure in the left side of the photograph is the boathouse of the Thomas Walker buildings, in the grounds of Concord Hospital.

  2. Ray Fairall says:

    The site has been a WW2 Navy boatyard and the Mortlake punt still runs across from Putney to a landing ramp just to the right bottom side of the old picture.

  3. Terry Hulme says:

    Yes Amy R has it right. This postcard shows the Ferndale Pleasure Grounds at Mortlake. Not as well known as Corey’s picnic grounds at Cabrita point or even the Putney Pleasure grounds. Operated by Albert Smith who had the Ferndale dancing?? school in the Eastern suburbs. The 9 acres were bought by the Allen Taylor timber firm in the 1920’s and taken over by the armed services in WW2, became known as the State Dockyard but operated I think by Clyde engineering building small boats such as harbour launches and landing craft. Continued as a commercial operation after the war but died in the 1950’s. and eventually became the Wangal Reserve with town houses in later years. Immediately off picture on the right is the site of the present day Concord-Putney punt.

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