The multi-award-winning Sydney Park in St Peters contains a spacious 44 hectares of greenspace and boasts an activity for everyone.
From extensive off-leash dog areas to rolling hills, a playground, children's cycle track, skate park, wetlands, sports oval, outdoor fitness and picnic areas. It even has a community garden where people can learn about sustainable food production.
Home of first nations people
The area occupied by Sydney Park today was first known as Bulanaming and home to the Gadigal and Wangal first nations people. They hunted kangaroos on the grasslands, and fished and camped at the swamps, creeks and rivers in the area. What was known as ‘Kangaroo Ground’ later became the suburbs of Newtown and St Peters. An Aboriginal track through Newtown, originally known as the Bulanaming Road, was later renamed Newtown Road and officially King Street in 1877.
A land grant to Elizabeth Needham
Sydney Park was part of a 40-acre land grant given to First Fleet convict, Elizabeth Needham, in 1796. Needham had been convicted for stealing two pairs of silk stockings worth 30 shillings and transported to Australia in 1788 on the Lady Penrhyn. She settled in the district of Bulanaming (near today’s Sydney Park) at the end of her seven-year sentence, and later became a successful businesswoman in Sydney.
History of the brickworks
Brick manufacture, on what is now Sydney Park, was a major industry by the 1870s.
Josiah Gentle purchased two acres of land on the corner of the Cooks River Road (today’s Princes Highway) in 1887. He established the Bedford Brick Works in 1893 naming it after his hometown in England. Following his death in 1912, his three sons carried on the business. Austral Brick Company bought the brickworks in 1936 and operated on the site until it closed in 1970. Bricks made at the site were widely used around Sydney's suburbs for more than 100 years.
A parkland emerges from rubble
After its life as a brickworks, the site became a major municipal waste depot for Sydney until 1976. Once the tip closed, the area was reclaimed using building rubble and soil to create the beginnings of a parkland. Sydney Park was finally established in February 1991 when its ownership was transferred to South Sydney Council and to the City of Sydney once the two councils merged in 2004.
Over the years it has become a true oasis within the inner city. Its wetlands attract a wide variety of bird and animal life including dusky moorhens, Australian magpies and pelicans. It is also a breeding place for black swans.
Playgrounds and skateparks
Sydney Park’s children’s playground is billed as one of the top parks in Sydney. Its state-of-the-art playground is loved by small children, teens and adults with its long slides, sky-high climbing structures and a wobbly rope bridge.
There’s a cycling centre where children can learn the road rules with traffic lights and stop signs. A new bike track and skatepark are drawcards for any teenager. And for parents, the cafe provides a welcome respite.
Celebrating artistic spaces
Sydney Park is also host to community arts festivals and concerts such as Earthdance which marks the International Day of Peace each September.
Home of the South Sydney District Cricket Club and Newtown Swans Junior Australian rules football team, the Alan Davidson Oval is at the northern section of the park. Sydney Park also holds the St Peters Parkrun, a weekly free 5 km run held every Saturday morning around the bike trails and paths of the park.
Sydney Park today
The park today is a thriving hub of activity on all fronts.
A new $11.2 million wetlands upgrade will see around 850 million litres of stormwater captured, cleaned and released to irrigate the 44-hectare parkland. The chimneys and brick kilns from the old brickworks site are now heritage items and undergoing restoration.
There’s no doubt that Sydney Park is an important green space in Sydney’s inner city. It’s historically significant, a beacon of environmental virtue, and a recreational haven for visitors and residents, particularly in periods of lockdown.
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Photo credit: https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/parks/sydney-park