THE HISTORY OF EDINBURGH GARDENS

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by Sandra Di Francesco

 

The Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy are one of Melbourne’s most popular gardens, and harbour a strong community spirit with hundreds of locals coming to enjoy various activities like picnics, sports, barbecues, etc on its grounds.

 

Established in the 19th century, when Melbourne was part of the British Empire, the gardens form an important part of the history of the area and contain various significant English style heritage listed buildings. Prior to this they had been part of the land of the Wurundjeri people for thousands of years.

 

In 1862, the Fitzroy Council requested some land for public recreation from the British Monarch Queen Victoria and it was granted. The gardens were laid out by Clement Hodgkinson, who designed many of Melbourne’s parks and gardens.

 

They really grew out of a need for sport as during the 1800’s, with Melbourne already establishing itself as a great sporting town and so demand for public spaces in which to play organised sports was high.

 

At this time they weren’t called the Edinburgh Gardens, rather they were simply the ‘Public Park and Garden’. The name Edinburgh was given in the late 1860’s, when the council decided to commemorate Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s younger son, on his visit to Australia in 1867-68.

 

Numerous sports clubs arose in the gardens including Australian football, cricket, lawn bowls, tennis, and even baseball. The tradition continues with many of these still in existence.

 

In the late 1860’s, cricket and football become played on a massive scale in the garden’s oval attracting thousands of people. In fact the gardens were home to the Fitzroy football club from 1884-1967.

 

The Post-War Years (1945-1969) saw the establishment of a woman’s bowling club along with various migrant clubs like the Italian bocce club and Italian men’s card game club.”

 

Aside from sports, leisure activities like picnics and going for a leisurely walks became popular and still are today.

 

Historical documents show that the gardens have undergone various changes since their establishment. We see that the majority of the garden’s paths and tree avenues were laid out during 1883- 1900. During this time a railway was also put in. It closed in 1981, and the track was remade as an asphalted bicycle and pedestrian pathway. Remnants of the railway can still be seen.

 

From Federation to the First World War,(1901-1916), other paths and avenues were laid down. The ornate grandstand was also built. The original was destroyed by fire and the one standing today is a replica.

 

Between the Wars (1917-1944), two War Memorials were erected, in honour of the young men lost in battle. The rotunda was also built (1925) along with some fountains.

 

The Post-War Years (1945-1969) saw the establishment of a woman’s bowling club along with various migrant clubs like the Italian bocce club and Italian men’s card game club. Garden beds along St Georges Road were also added.

 

With their strong community feel, the gardens are an essential part of the local landscape and the ideal setting for this year’s Village Festival.

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