Hyde Park

Location: Sydney Central Business District
Hyde Park is an open space in the Sydney City Centre, bounded by Elizabeth, Liverpool, College Streets and St James Road. It is the southernmost of a chain of parkland that extends north to the shore of Sydney Harbour via The Domain and Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. The oldest public parkland in Australia, it is a popular place among people who work in the city for a lunchtime stroll. The underground city loop railway stations of St James and Museum are under Hyde Park but at opposite ends.

Around the park's boundaries lie the Supreme Court of New South Wales, St. James Church, Hyde Park Barracks and Sydney Hospital to the north, St Mary's Cathedral, the Australian Museum and Sydney Grammar School to the east, the Downing Centre to the south, the David Jones Limited flagship store and the CBD to the west. It is divided in two by the east-west running Park Street. Hyde Park contains well-kept gardens and approximately 580 trees; a mixture of Hills Figs, palms, and other varieties. It is famed for its magnificent fig tree lined avenues. Sandringham Gardens sit on the eastern side of the park, close to the intersection of Park Street and College Street.

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History of Hyde Park

The oasis of green in Sydney's heart that is known today as Hyde Park was originally part of the large tract of land earmarked by Governor Arthur Phillip for public recreation when he laid out the colony in 1788. During Sydney's first 22 years it remained virgin bush on the outskirts of town. Its use as parklands began when Lachlan Macquarie was Governor of NSW. Macquarie envisaged Hyde Park as a town common similar to those in English towns and cities, a parkleands near the centre of town reserved for public recreation. He had the area cleared of most of the large trees and oversaw the development of a 10 furlong racetrack (the park s circular shape at its northern end is a reminder of this former activity).

It was here that, by accident, the tradition in NSW and Queensland of racing in a clockwise direction commenced. Macquarie opened Sydney's first ever Spring horse racing carnival, held at the newly completed Hyde Park Race Track in October 1810. A young William Charles Wentworth, the son of Dr. D Arcy Wentworth who would later help establish the Rum Hospital nearby, thrilled spectators with his winning ride in the saddle of the bay gelding, Gig. On that occasion, a friendship was forged between them. Three years on, the young Wentworth joined the first party to cross the Blue Mountains. After Macquarie's return to London it was Wentworth who followed him to clear his name after it had been muddied by Commissioner Bigge. The Race of 1810 was the first of many sporting events that would be held in Hyde Park over the years. Horse racing continued until the late 1820s, by which time the park had become a regular venue for fairs, knuckle fighting, boxing and wrestling.

Watercolour of Sydney's Hyde Park "The Old Days of Merry Cricket Club Matches (circa 1843)" by Thomas Lewis.

Although some research indicates that cricket was played before 1803 at the southern end of the Common near where the War Memorial is today, the first confirmed match took place on the Common in 1803. The players were the civilians and officers from the supply ship Calcutta. The cricket ground was laid out in the north-western section of the park (just behind the current entrance to St James railway station) and all major games were played there until 1856. The first fully recorded match took place in Hyde Park between the 17th and 39th Regiments on 7th May 1832. However, by the 1850s running problems with other users of the Park, the public, the military and players of other sports, ultimately caused cricket matches to be moved to the Domain where unfortunately, similar problems were also encountered. The cricket ground remained in use until its transfer to the Domain in 1862, the year in which the first cricket match between England and New South Wales took place there. Hyde Park became the location for Sydney's first zoo in 1849 with elephants, bears and a tiger.

Organised bareknuckle fights were probably common in the early colony and officers of the NSW Corps were known to have arranged fights between convicts. The first recorded fight took place on the road to Botany about half a mile from the Racecourse in 1814. This would put it near the current location of the War Memorial. As if the boxing bout was not enough, the combatants, John Berringer (also known as John Parton) and Charles Sefton, were first required to run a mile. Both Berrenger and Sefton has been sentenced to death in Britain but had their sentences commuted to transportation to NSW. The fight lasted 56 rounds and was won by Berringer.

On 17 June 1865 the first known rugby match to be played in Australia took place in Hyde Park between members of Australia's first rugby club, the Sydney Football Club, which had been established that month. In the July that year, the Sydney Club played the Australian Club in Hyde Park, in the first inter-club game.

The park is pock marked with drain lids, many of which lead down to Busby's Bore, the first large-scale attempt at a water source system after backing-up the Tank Stream, the Sydney colony's primary water source. Busby's Bore was built between 1827 and 1837 using convict labour and fresh water from Lachlan Swamp (later known as Centennial Park) to the city.

Anzac War Memorial

At the park's southern end is the ANZAC War Memorial behind the 'Lake of Reflections' or 'Pool of Remembrance' and the entrances to the Museum railway station. A monument consisting of a 104-millimetre gun from the German light cruiser SMS Emden stands at the south-eastern, Oxford Street entry of the park. It was built as a memorial to the Australian Imperial Force of World War I. Fund raising for a memorial began on 25th April 1916, the first anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Anzac Cove for the Battle of Gallipoli. It was opened on 24th November 1934 by His Royal Highness Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.

The work of local Art Deco architect C. Bruce Dellit, the Memorial featuring the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a reflecting pool. Built to commemorate all Australians killed in wars, it features a downstairs photographic and military memorabilia exhibition. The 30 metre high memorial is made of reinforced concrete and faced by red granite from Bathurst. The sculptures are the work of Raynor Hoff (1894-1937), an art instructor at Sydney Technical College who himself served in France during World War I. The Hall of Memory is faced with white marble and features a dome ceiling decorated with 120,000 stars, representing each volunteer who enlisted during World War I. The Hall focuses on a bronze statue (below) by Hoff featuring a dead soldier carried on a shield by his mother, sister, wife and child. The outdoor Lake of Reflection is lined by poplars from Northern France. Pines and shrubs from Gallipoli, Turkey, line other approaches.

Close to the ANZAC Memorial in the southern end of the park is "Yininmadyemi - Thou didst let fall", a public artwork that acknowledges the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women in the Australian Defence Force. The artwork by Indigenous Australian artist Tony Albert was unveiled on March 31, 2015 and was commissioned by the City of Sydney as part of its Eora Journey public art initiative.

Public Art of Hyde Park

The Archibald Fountain: A bronze and granite fountain (above) commemorating the alliance between Australia and France during the Great War of 1914-18. Featuring figures from Greek mythology, it was created by Parisian sculptor Francois Sicard in 1932, having been bequeathed to the City of Sydney by JF Archibald, one of the founders of The Bulletin magazine.
A proponent of Australian art and literature, Archibald and the Bulletin popularised the works of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson among others, and it was his bequest that established the Archibald Prize for portraiture.

Busby's Bore Fountain: Commemorates Busby's Bore, the city's first piped water supply which emptied into water storage facilities at this site. Completed in 1837, Busby's Bore was a 4.4 km tunnel which channelled water from bores on Lachlan Swamp (Centennial Park) to the corner of Elizabeth and Park Streets, where horse drawn water carriers dispersed it to the community. Civic engineer John Busby conceived the idea and supervised its construction.

Emden Gun

Emden Gun: Cnr College & Liverpool Sts. A 4-inch naval gun from the German raider Emden, sunk off the Cook Islands by HMAS Sydney on 9th November 1914. The gun commemorates this naval action.

1806 Cannon: An iron cannon, dated 1806, is mounted in the gardens near College Street and St Marys Cathedral, was originally part of the armament of Fort Macquarie, erected by Gov. Lachlan Macquarie on Bennelong Point. Cast at the Carron Works, Scotland, the cannon bears the royal cypher of King George III (G.R.) on the second reinforce. This type of cannon was common to shore batteries and H.M. ships of the 19th century until breach loading guns replaced them.

James Cook statue

James Cook Statue: Hyde Park is home to a plethora of statues, fountains and memorials, yet none has a history as interesting as the statue of Lieutenant James Cook, the famous British Navigator who explored the east coast of Australia in 1770. The statue was erected in 1879 to mark the hundredth anniversary of Cook's death in Hawaii. Its creator was Thomas Woolner, an Englishman who had come to Australia in the hope of striking it rich in the Gold Rush in 1852 but had returned to England two years later after failing to find gold.

Whilst the statue's arrival from England was a major event in Sydney, the story surrounding its huge granite base is far more dramatic and noteworthy. The 15 tonne block of stone was hewn from Louitt's quarry at Moruya, a small town some 200 km south of Sydney, which would later supply the stone used to face the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As there was no lifting tackle available, the granite block had to be rolled from the quarry to the schooner Settler's Friend, which was to carry the stone on its upper deck. The chunk of rock made the vessel so top heavy it became so hard to control that during the voyage it collided with a barque heading in the opposite direction.

The two vessels became locked together and would have both sunk had it not been for a handful of men who used axes to separate them. Miraculously, both ships stayed afloat despite having suffered considerable damage. The Settler's Friend limped into Sydney harbour three days later with the granite block leaning precariously on the steeply angled deck. The statue was unveiled by the Governor Sir Hercules Robinson on 25th March 1879. During its early years, it could be seen clearly by seafarers travelling up the harbour towards Sydney Cove and became a welcome landmark they looked out for after months at sea.

WB Dalley statue: A life size statue of William Beade Dalley, who was Solicitor General, Attorney General, Acting Premier of NSW (1885) and a member of the Privy Council during his lifetime. The statue commemorating the son of a convict was erected by public subscription.

WB John Frazer Fountain: Erected opposite Sydney Grammar School in 1882, the bubbler fountain honours merchant and member of the Legislative Council (1874), John Frazer, who arrived in Sydney in 1840, aged 14.

'Fish' Fountain: A carved stone fountain, erected in 1888 and used these days by toddlers cooling their feet, it was donated to the people of Sydney by John Baptist Church of Redfern. The fountain is opposite Park Street.

Water, Fire and Earth Sculptures: Facing Elizabeth Street, these Polynesian-imaged sandstone carvings and a nearby water saucer are the work of sculptor Gerard Havekes as a memorial to Frederick J. Walker and other pioneers of primary industry in Australia.

King George Fountain: Contemporary memorial fountain to Kings George II and III. The fountain is located in the Sandringham Garden. The garden, a memorial to the English kings George V and George VI, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.

Thornton's "Bottle"

Thornton's Obelisk: Erected in 1857, the obelisk is in fact a ventilator for a sewer disguised as a mock Egyptian edifice. On its completion, the local press dubbed it Thornton's Scent Bottle, Thornton being the name the Mayor of Sydney who erected it and by doing so, had come under heavy criticism for wasting money by building it.

"Yininmadyemi, thou didst let fall" sculpture: meant as both a sign of respect to Indigenous servicemen and a reminder of the stark reality of war. The sculpture, by Tony Albert, consists of four individual seven-metre tall steel and marble bullets, sitting next to three fallen shells, all on a large boomerang-shaped concrete base. It was inspired by the armed service of the sculptor's large Yidinji Girramy family. More specifically it is based on the harrowing stories of his grandfather Eddie Albert, serving in World War II.

Chess Board: The paved chessboard, which is available for players to use between 11.30 am and 2.15 pm daily, used to be located in Alfred Street opposite Circular Quay. It was moved to its present location because the large number of spectators watching games being played blocked passage of pedestrians on the surrounding footpaths.

Busby's Bore Fountain: Located opposite St James Road, the fountain, comprised of stone saucers, was designed by architect John Byron. It recalls Sydney's second water supply, a series of tunnels and above ground water channels built by engineer John Busby in the 1830s, which brought water from what are today the lakes of Centennial Park, to a distribution point in Hyde Park.

Masonic War Memorial: Located near the corner of Park and Elizabeth streets, it is probably the best-kept war monument in Sydney. It commemorates the 3010 members of Masonic Lodges who volunteered to fight in the Great War of 1914 to 1919. 501 of them 'made the supreme sacrifice'. Work it out, one in every six men who volunteered to fight in the war, was killed. This showed the enormity of the tragedy.

Sydney's Seven Year Itch

One of the most iconic images ever created by Hollywood was shot in September 1954. It is of Marilyn Monroe standing with Tom Ewell, her co-star in the movie Seven Year Itch, on Lexington Avenue at 52nd Street in New York City. As subway trains run back and forth and her skirt billows up, she says her lines from which we get some famous quotes such as, "Don't you feel the breeze from the subway? Isn't it delicious?" and "Ooohhh! This feels just elegant!" A large crowd watched as director Billy Wilder ordered the scene to be re-filmed many times.

Hyde Park subway grate

If the film had been set in Sydney, then Marilyn's famous skirt billowing scene would have to have been shot in Hyde Park. Behind the cafe on the corner of Elizabeth and George Streets is a similar grate, where air blows up from the underground railway below, pushed up through the vent by trains entering and leaving Museum Station nearby.

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