Strathfield Park

by Cathy Jones (2008, updated 2021)

Strathfield Park was the first public park in the Strathfield Local Government Area. By the late nineteenth century, Strathfield was known for its vast country-style mansions and gardens, however the Council area was without a public park.  The Strathfield Council Town Clerk, John Hope Balmain, reported in 1899 that he surveyed other Sydney Councils and only Strathfield and Kogarah Councils were without a public park and recreation ground[v]. Due to rising land prices, Council approached the NSW Government for financial assistance to acquire a large site for a public park. In selecting the site, the Council held a poll of residents. With the financial assistance of the NSW Government, the site was purchased and dedicated as a public park on 11 February 1914.

The land on which the park is situated is located on the 1867 Redmire Estate.  There is evidence that the land was once used as a private golf course when owned by the Waller family in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Mrs Elizabeth Ward, who spent her childhood in Strathfield c. 1892 to 1904 recalled:

‘Strathfield Park on Homebush Road was a Golf Course in my time.  As kids we used to go through the golf course and climb over the fences.  The golfers had stiles to get through the fences and that is what used to attract us.  It may have been part of some private property, I don’t know…I can’t remember seeing a clubhouse’ (Ward 1980).

Further, a subdivision poster advertising auction of part of the Waller land on 20 October 1906? (the year is unclear could be 1906 or 1908) refers to the land as the ‘Strathfield Portion of the Strathfield Golf Links of The Waller Estate’.

Though the land was some distance from the Strathfield Town Centre and railway station, the land measured nearly nine hectares in size and had not been developed. Following the dedication of land for public recreation in 1914, the land was remained undeveloped for a few years.  Activities such as shooting and cattle grazing were permitted in the park but by 1918, cricket pitches were laid out in the park. Newspaper records that the athletics events and cricket games were regularly played in the park. A caretaker cottage was located in the park near Homebush Road, but was demolished in the late 1950s.

During World War II, Strathfield Park was requisitioned by the Australian Armed Forces as a military training area and the park’s dressing sheds were used from storage areas for clothes and equipment. At the end of World War II in August 1945, a large thanksgiving service was held in Strathfield Park to celebrate Victory in the Pacific.  Strathfield Park has been frequently used for many events and civic functions including Australia Day celebrations, annual Christmas Carols, Spring Festivals as well as large public meetings.

An audit of recreational facilities in 1961 recorded the following recreational facilities at Strathfield Park: three cricket concrete wickets, three hockey fields, eight basketball grass fields and two softball courts.  The park contained a playground, dressing sheds and toilets. By the 1970s, Strathfield Park’s facilities included three cricket wickets, children’s playground, soccer field, toilets, change rooms and kiosk. Former Mayor Bruce Ward described Strathfield Park as ‘a large ungraded area with very little to recommend it’[vii] in the 1960s.

In 1973, Council decided to sell the rear portion of Matthews Park in Greenacre, which measured about 5 acres and allocate funds to parks improvements and land acquisition.  The rezoning and sale of this land was not finalised until 1981.  A report to Council in 1981 approved the dedication of $250,000 to the redevelopment of Strathfield Park.

In 1985, renowned landscape architects Harry Howard & Associates were commissioned by Council to prepare a new landscape plan for Strathfield Park.  The plan focused on creating a network of native plantings that created zones in which key features such as sportsfields, civic space and playgrounds could be located. The plan also included changing ground levels throughout the park to create different zones.

Former Mayor of Strathfield (1989, 1990 and 1995) John Elvy recalled:

‘Another contribution was that made whilst I was an Alderman in the late 1970s and 1980s.  That was upgrading Strathfield Park.  I think I had been in Council for probably 6 or 7 years and after constant discussion and with the support of the majority of Aldermen we decided to sell 5 acres of a 10 acre park in Roberts Road which was greatly underutilised and also located in the middle of an industrial area.  With the money we received from this sale we upgraded Strathfield Park to what I believe a significant open space contribution to our area which is very well utilised by our community and provides an environmentally attractive environment for Strathfield’ (Gibbons 1993)

In 1985, Council’s centenary celebrations were held in Strathfield Park and a plaque commemorating Council’s first 100 years and redevelopment of its first park was dedicated in the park.  During the Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988, the Open Air Theatre (the rotunda) and flagpoles were erected in the Park.  A plaque is dedicated near the rotunda.

in 2008, the Strathfield Park Environmental Trail was installed in the park involving a series of pathways in a figure 8 configuration.  The total pathway measures approximately 1.3km in length and are used to encourage informal recreation as well as provide environmental educational experiences. There are 11 environmental themes in total located along the pathways, each of which is complemented by educational signage and themed plantings. The themes include a rainforest walk, bushtucker trail, paperbark grove, Jurassic walk, flowering gums walk, casuarina grove, fig walk, open grassland, remnant turpentines, native sensory garden and an indigenous species walk.

In 2017, a large children’s playground was installed at the Homebush Road end of the park and the all abilities playground at Chalmers Road was replaced and upgraded to include a children’s biketrack.  In 2017 and 2019, two of the turf sportsfields were converted into synthetic sportsfields at Field 1 and 2 to increase the sustainable use of the sportsfields and all weather use.  In 2021, a pavilion located between the two sportsfields was completed, which contains change rooms, toilets and a kiosk.

References

Derriman, P., Concord Golf Club: First Hundred Years, 1999

Gibbons, Y (ed), John Elvy Oral History, Strathfield Council, 1993

Gibbons, Y (a) (ed), Rodney Rimes Oral History, Strathfield Council, 1993

Gibbons, Y (b) (ed), Bruce Ward Oral History, Strathfield Council, 1993

Jones, C., About Strathfield Municipality, 2008

Jones, M., Oasis in the West, Allen & Unwin, pps 104-105, 1985.

National Archives of Australia at www.naa.gov.au

NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, Death certificate of Sarah Waller Registration No: 3144/1888, downloaded from www.bdm.nsw.gov.au on 17 December 2007.

Ward, E., Recollections of Old Strathfield, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter Vol.2 No.7, April 1980

© Cathy Jones 2008 (updated 2021).

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