Centennial Park is situated within the area of three municipal councils, Waverley, Randwick and City of Sydney. It is about four kilometres from Sydney's central business district. It is bounded by Alison, Darley and York Roads, Oxford Street, Lang Road and Martin Road, and encompasses large areas of lawns, several lakes, picnic areas, children's playground, cycling tracks, running tracks, horseriding track and cafes. It covers an area of approximately 200 hectares. There is a road around the perimeter of the park with several smaller roads crossing through it.
Centennial Park was opened on 26 January 1888 to celebrate the centenary of European settlement. Sir Henry Parkes, the premier and the Governor, Lord Carrington were instrumental in establishing the creation of a large open area for public recreational use. They had grandiose ideas for the park, including construction of an art gallery and a mausoleum. Many of their plans were discarded as they became too costly. Parkes described the park at the opening as "emphatically the people's park".
Originally, it was an area of swamps and sandhills. In 1811 Lachlan Macquarie set this area aside as a public common for grazing and watering stock. In 1851 a duel took place between the first Premier of NSW, Stuart Donaldson, and the Surveyor General, Thomas Mitchell. Fortunately, both survived. From 1830 to 1880 the collection of swamps in the southern part, known as Lachlan Swamps, were used as Sydney's main water supply. In 1874, after a period of much flooding, dams were constructed. However, these dams became very polluted. When the park was created, these dams were transformed into the ponds as we know them today. Originally 31 statues and sculptures were placed in the park for interest and landmarks. However, due to vandalism only two remain. In addition, a new statue of Henry Parkes was created in 1996 to replace the previous damaged one.
On 1 January 1901, thousands of people gathered in Federation Valley to celebrate Australia becoming a federation. On that day the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, and Federal ministers were inducted on the same spot. Today the rebuilt Federation Pavilion marks this site.
Patrick White, the author, lived in the area and was actively involved in protecting the park against development. In the 1970s there was discussion about turning over an area of the park into a car park. White lead several public protests against this plan and succeeded in halting the development.
More recently Centennial Park has become part of Centennial Parklands, which also incorporates Moore Park and Queens Park. It is open from sunrise to sunset except for special functions. Admission is free. The park is home to diverse flora and fauna and many significant tree plantings, including spectacular Port Jackson figs, Holm oaks and Norfolk Island pines dating back to the late 19th century.
The park is a popular playground for walkers, joggers, roller-bladers and cyclists. It has a marquee site, an outdoor cinema site, and offers facilities for organised sporting activities. The park also plays host to many outdoor concerts and recreational events.
List of References
- Ashton, P. and Blackmore, K. Centennial Park : a history, NSW University Press, Sydney 1988
- Randwick Municipal Council, Randwick : A social history, NSW University Press, 1985
- Centennial Parklands
- Sydney Morning Herald, 1/06/1983, 29/10/1983
- Weekly Courier, 15/6/77, 21/9/77