Our history and heritage

The story of Victoria Park

Victoria Park has a long history of being a place for the people. View its evolution in pictures

  • Then and now

    Historical image shows the University of Sydney’s Great Hall as seen through Victoria Park from City Road c. 1870, courtesy of University of Sydney Archives, G3_224_0943.

    Credit: Katherine Griffiths
  • Serenity in the city

    Charles Moore, director of the Royal Botanic Garden, designed Victoria Park. The entrance avenue was planted with fig trees. The Gardener’s Lodge and a mirror-image lodge (demolished in 1940) flanked the entrance gates.

    Colour postcard of view looking westerly towards the University of Sydney, across what is now called Lake Northam c.1900.

    Credit: City of Sydney Archives.
  • Neo-Gothic style

    A 1915 view of the matching Gardener’s Lodge, left, and Messenger’s Lodge with Lake Northam in the foreground. Colonial architect James Barnet designed the lodges and gate piers to match the Neo-Gothic style of the University of Sydney. As the name suggests, the Gardener’s Lodge was home to a number of the university’s gardeners and their families over time.

    Credit: University of Sydney Archives, G3_224_1892
  • A changing space

    An elevated 1920 view shows the dense trees and foliage that once surrounded Lake Northam. The University of Sydney can be seen in the background. In the foreground sits Messenger’s Lodge which was later demolished.

    Credit: University of Sydney Archives, G3_224_1705
  • From horse pond to Lake Northam

    Lake Northam is a remnant of Blackwattle Creek, a tidal watercourse that once extended south towards Redfern and Waterloo. It was one of a number of watercourses in the vicinity and is a reminder of the natural environment inhabited by Aboriginal peoples before European arrival. In the 19th century, it was called the university waterhole, the horse pond, and the old dam. In the 1960s, the lake was named after Sir William Herbert Northam, a City of Sydney alderman.

    A workman on a raft cleans the lake (now Lake Northam) of weeds. The view is from the Broadway corner of Victoria Park, at the intersection of Parramatta and City roads c.1930.

    Credit: City of Sydney Archives
  • A bridge over water

    A bridge was built over the water to form part of the University entrance avenue. This partially closed the channel to Blackwattle Bay, causing the pond to increase and become a lake. Extensive remodelling of the park in the 1930s included draining and cleaning the lake and building a rock wall around the shores and islands to halt erosion. In 1955, the lake was reduced in size and the bridge demolished. In the 1990s, South Sydney City Council restored the avenue, rebuilding the bridge.

    The original bridge as seen across the lake from the Broadway aspect c.1940s.

    Credit: City of Sydney Archives
  • People in the park

    People in Victoria Park at the corner of Broadway and City Road c.1930s.

    Credit: City of Sydney Archives
  • City Road

    Looking south along City Road, with Victoria Park to the right.

  • Swimming and bowling

    Leading a boom in the construction of in-ground public swimming pools in Sydney, Victoria Park Pool was built in 1953. In the 1890s, lawn bowls became popular, and Victoria Park Bowling Club was established in 1892. In the 1960s, a new structure replaced the clubhouse and featured a restaurant. Over time, interest in bowling waned and the club house and greens were removed in 1998. Image c.1956.

  • An easy stroll

    Pathway to the northeast corner of Victoria Park with the Grace Brothers building behind c. 1964.

    Credit: City of Sydney Archives
  • A place for the community

    Victoria Park has been a place for sport, relaxation, theatrical performances and concerts.

    For many years, the park has hosted the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day. In 2000, the southern part of the park was the site of an Aboriginal Tent embassy to highlight Indigenous issues during the Sydney Olympics. More recently, the park has hosted the Yabun Festival, the nation’s largest showcase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Image c.1970s.

    Credit: City of Sydney Archives

Before the arrival of European settlers in 1788, Victoria Park in Camperdown was a heavily-treed, sheltered area with temperate rainforest vegetation.

The park sits in Camperdown at the junction of City and Parramatta roads, and next to the University of Sydney. Both roads began as walking tracks leading from Sydney to Botany Bay and Parramatta. This was the site of some of the earliest land grants in the colony when, in 1789, 1000 acres were reserved for farmlands and pasture for church, government and school officials. Early names included Kangaroo Grounds and Parakeet Hill.

It became Grose Farm in 1792 after land was granted to Lieutenant Governor Francis Grose. For some years it was used as a military camp and later a model farm to employ convicts “in the processes of English husbandry”. In 1855 the site was granted to the University of Sydney and Victoria Park was proclaimed in 1870.

View more of our history and heritage.

Published 25 July 2018

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