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Princes Park (continued)

Two years later, permission was given to construct an ambitiously conceived carriage drive to skirt the perimeter of the park, work not undertaken until the following decade. In 1878 a petition of some 5,650 signatures was received by the Council requesting the establishment of a football oval:

We the undersigned ratepayers and other residents in the various Wards and Suburbs of the City of Melbourne, being admirers of the popular and manly sport of Football and concurring in the action of the Carlton Football Club in applying for the Southern portion of the Princes Park as a playground, desire respectfully to give such application our heartiest support…We unhestitatingly affirm that at no time of the year is our Saturday half holiday more keenly enjoyed than when that recreation is being pursued.[l8]

Aerial view of Princes Park and Carlton Football Ground

There were objections from the Park’s overseer who expressed the fear that the grass would be trampled by crowds, the path to the cemetery cut and Council revenue lost through the curtailment of cattle grazing on the site. These objections were overruled and the Club was allowed to fence off a portion of land at the southern end of the park.

In 1880, the outbreak of typhoid fever in Melbourne prompted the Chairman of the Board of Public Health to authorise Princes Park as the most suitable site to provide temporary accommodation for typhoid fever patients. As the Park covered a fairly large area, it was believed the camp would not interfere with the plantation; the ground could be fenced off and tents erected.

In 1884, the park was effectively cut in two, with the construction of a North Carlton branch railway line. The carriageway had to be curved to the south and the old part, cut off by the railway, was broken up for replanting. Requests by the Carlton Bowling Club and the Carlton Cricket club for a site on which to establish their clubs, were granted in 1886. The Bowling Club was given use of a one acre site in the northern section of the park. The Cricket Club amalgamated with the Football Club and took joint occupancy of a new ground located to the west of the original so as not to disturb funeral services. This was in response to complaints received by the Parks and Gardens Committee, who subsequently resolved that the space [for the Bowling Club], be assigned to the north of the central pathway ‘so as to abate nuisance which has been complained of.'[19]

Meanwhile, the carriageway was nearing completion, and in 1892 it was opened to the public. It became used for many purposes other than those for which it was originally intended. Instead of being used for a quiet promenade, it became a short cut for the dray drivers, a sulky racing course and training area for race horses. Consequently, gates on the east and south sides of the park were closed and traffic regulations were drawn up prohibiting horse breaking, exercising, jumping of fences or driving cattle. No one was to ‘drive or ride furiously or negligently along any of the roads in the park. Sadly these efforts were in vain, and in 1894 all gates were locked indefinitely.

Two years after this, permissive occupancy of the Carlton Recreation Ground was granted to Carlton Football and Cricket Clubs. They worked on the park, levelling the ground and filling up the gullies and hollows. The Curator’s report of 1898 states that there were watering and drainage problems, complaining that ‘so many trees cannot be watered by means of a tank on a dray.'[20] The following year the Curator’s report reveals the intention to plant 200 new trees in the area. It seems steady progress was made. The management of Princes Park was not beset with the plague of problems and general annoyances with which that of the Carlton Gardens had to deal.

The twenties was a decade in which people attempted to throw off the veil of Victorianism and devoted themselves more than ever to the pursuit of recreation. Tennis became fashionable. The M.C.C. allowed the construction of two public tennis courts, a dressing pavilion and a drinking fountain. A children’s playground was built next to the courts so that the caretaker could look after both simultaneously. Electric lights were erected along the major pathways through the park, and regulations regarding use of the carriageway were amended to accommodate the new motor cars and motor bikes. In line with its policy of opening up Melbourne’s parks and gardens, the Council removed the boundary fences along the Sydney Road, Garton Street and Bowen Crescent frontages of the park. In 1922, with the aid of unemployment relief, various works were commenced, including the construction of pathways and grassed walks. In 1925 the area was ploughed, sown and planted, and a small lake and bridge installed. During the following year palms were planted, the ground was regraded, 100 poplars were planted, and the sports area at the south end of the park enlarged.

In the mid 1930s, the Princes Park road was upgraded to modern standards. Footpaths were laid, the road surfaced and various types of trees were planted to create an avenue. In the following years, the lake was converted into a children’s wading pool, two new sports pavilions were built, the whole Sydney road frontage received major attention, and the council made sections of the park available for car parking, in reaction to the increasing congestion in the neighbouring streets from the popularity of weekend football and cricket games. With the advent of the World War II, the Army established a depot in the north of the park.

Little work was carried out during the war years. In the 1950s work recommenced in earnest, with much emphasis placed upon the development of sporting facilities. Around 1952, there was some discussion regarding the hosting of the Olympics at Princes Park. Council approval was given for the commencement of ‘works and buildings’ in preparation for 1956. It seems that this idea was lost. The next decade saw the development of the tennis complex, with the asphalt being converted to porous surfaces, and approval for the construction of the ‘E.C.Crawford oval’, largely instigated by Melbourne University, and named after the first full time secretary of the Melbourne University Sports’ Union. In 1964, after it became a health risk the wading pool was redeveloped to incorporate spray fixtures. These were removed in 1969.

Princes Hill High School was permitted to erect temporary classrooms in Princes Park after a section of the school burned down in 1970, but not before considerable wrangling with a local newly formed group calling themselves the ‘Princes Park Preservation Association’. The P.P.P.A. objected to the proposal that the school set up temporary buildings in the park on the grounds that it would ‘alienate’ the parkland. This opposition was met with a sturdy reproach from the Crown Solicitor’s office, whose representative stated that if land was to be used for other purposes it was ‘legally no one’s business but the Crown’s ‘, and that no action was to be taken by such groups as the P.P.P.A. [21].

In 1972 construction commenced on the Princes Park No.1 oval. This was to be a ‘semi enclosed, first class sports oval’, for the purposes of promoting junior sport in the area and to be made available to Princes Hill High for use as a playing field. Carlton Football Club and Carlton Cricket Club were permitted to use it occasionally. The oval was also intended to meet the increasing demand made by secondary school competitions needing playing fields during the week. During the year, additions were made to existing playground equipment south of the Carlton Recreation Ground. The railway cutting, which ran east west through the park, was to be restored also.

In 1973, the Princes Park Masterplan was drawn up. The plan included dividing the park into five roughly equal sections, each to be earmarked for a specific development: sport, passive recreation, a children’s play area. It was finalised in 1974 by Carol Frank Mas of Margules Deveson Ltd. A sprinkler system was installed and a substance called ‘perma rock’ laid down to prevent erosion and encourage grass growth in the heavy parking areas around the Carlton Football Ground. In 1975, the children’s playground was completed, and some upgrading of the Crawford Oval under taken. The following year co operation took place between the rebuilt Princes Hill High School, Princes Hill Primary School and Melbourne City Council to form the new School Park Centre involving Princes Park and school facilities. This development aimed at increased community based use of these resources. In 1978, a Fun and Fitness track was installed around the perimeter of the park. The design was based on the successful ‘tan track’ encircling the King’s Domain in 1974. In this year there raged a bitter fight which arose when a developer planned to erect a factory on the site centred near the North Carlton Railway station. The local residents won their case in the dispute and continue to maintain the area for recreational purposes, with the co operation and help of ‘The Met’, M.C.C., and the Carlton Association. In 1979, the Bocce rink was installed next to the old railway station in Gallagher Reserve.

No large scale works were undertaken in the park over the next five years. Concern was expressed that wide areas of parkland had been trampled by the enthusiastic joggers, but plans to install a two metre wide gravel path did not eventuate. In October 1979, approval was given to upgrade the original playground area. The redesigning was done in consultation with the parents, students and staff of the Princes Hill Primary School. The playground incorporated, among other ideas, separate play areas for different age groups.

Plans are now underway for further development to support the ongoing needs of the residents of Carlton, and of Melbournites generally.

Cricket & BowIs, Quoits, Croquet & Tennis

The Carlton Bowling Club was formed on the 16th of October 1867. On the 27th of April 1868, Council resolved that ‘permission revocable at will…be given to the members of a bowling Club formed in Smith Ward to use the portion of the enclosure of Argyle Square, north of the central pathway.’

Samuel Ramsden was appointed first President, and Joseph McLean first Secretary. In November 1868, The Age reported that at the opening of the green, Redmond Barry (then Chief Justice of Victoria) held the position of President. As reported in The Age on Monday the 16th of November 1868: The Carlton Bowling Club celebrated the opening of their new green on Saturday afternoon, under the most favourable auspices. They have at considerable expense converted the northern portion of Argyle Square into a bowling green, which in a year or two, with the care and attention already bestowed on the ground, will be one of the prettiest to be met with either in the city or suburbs. It is pleasantly situated in the centre of a very populous locality, and among its members there is a sufficient number of good names to be an augury of success…The president of the Club, Sir Redmond Barry, about two o’clock, threw the first ball, and declared the green open, and a few bottles of champagne were partaken of in commemoration of the event…The financial position of the club, consisting at present of about 80 members, is very satisfactory.

The first club match was played against West Melbourne on the 16th of January 1869. The club has always been prominent in classic events, earning itself a reputation of a high class green, upon which many famous finals and interstate matches have been played. The Carlton Bowling Club was also one of the founding members of the Victorian Bowling Association.

Most of the early records of the Carlton Bowling Club were destroyed by a fire about twenty years ago. There is, however, an old map which indicates the layout of the club and the present path system of Argyle Square. The path system was created some time after occupancy occurred. The finance accounts reported in The Age in 1868, indicate the position of the original pavillion, now recited.

The club was granted permissive occupancy of the northern portion of Argyle Square, by the Board of Land and Works and the Melbourne City Council, in 1931. Some of the conditions stated were that: the occupancy could be revoked ‘at any time’ by the Trustees of Argyle Square; that a rent of one pound be paid in advance every year of occupancy, but that such payment ‘shall not prevent cancellation of permission during any year’; and that ‘no charge shall be made at any time to any person for admission to the portion used as a bowling green and all persons shall have the right to such admission at all hours during which the Square is open.'[35]

The Princes Park Bowling Club was founded in September 1889. The foundation president was Dr Louis Henry, and the foundation secretary, Mr George Best. According to the History of Princes Park Bowling Club, the original objectives of the Club were:

the making and maintaining of a bowling green, lawn tennis court, quoit and croquet grounds and the management and encouragement of the said games at the ground of the Club Princes Park.[36]

The Princes Park Bowling Club included a variety of other sports. There is no record however of any quoits activities taking place. Croquet games did take place, the space maintained entirely at the women’s expense, in an area sandwiched between the bowling green and the tennis courts. The tennis courts remained in existence until the 1960’s when the asphalt was replaced by sown grass, thus providing the Club with fourteen rinks altogether.

The Carlton Gazette of November the 27th 1890, reports that the Princes Park Bowling Club had won its first pennant game. During the following years it has experienced a number of victories. The Club has had among its’ members, members of Melbourne City Council and neighbouring cities. These include the some time Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir William Brunton and Councillor William Ievers who was one of the prominent business men of the 1890’s. Others still remembered are M.Balfe, A. Macintosh and C. McDougall, as well as W. Adams M.B.E., E.J.T. Aisbelt, G.L. Jacobs and H.L. Lyall J.P.

The original pavillion was built of wood and replaced by a brick club house in 1959/60. The Club has been financed by the donations of various members, including a ‘quiet gentlemanly’ member of Princes Park who died in 1977 and left his entire estate of $29,000 to the Club. This inspired other members to gather together another $25,000 to help fund extensions.

Traditionally, the Princes Park Bowling Club held a greater number of male memberships but recently the number of women in the club has outnumbered the men. In 1897, a minute stated that the Committee ‘had no objection to the Ladies playing on our green’.[37]

Only in 1952, however, was a Princes Park Ladies Bowling Club formed. The peak of male membership was reached in the sixties with 140 men playing. The club attributes its subsequent decline in membership to population changes in the inner City areas. Rates have not changed though: when the club was first granted permissive occupancy of their site, the amount payable per annum was £1. Today the amount due each year is $2.

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