History: Richmond Park is the place to celebrate good times

Richmond Park grandstand. Picture: Geoff Jones
Richmond Park grandstand. Picture: Geoff Jones

Richmond Park is of state heritage significance but that has never stopped good times being had there.

Laid out by Surveyor James Meehan in 1811, under the direction of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, it has remained the Richmond square that the governor intended, and is acknowledged by the Heritage Council of New South Wales as 'a legible example of one of the key elements of Macquarie's town plan for Richmond'.

The park has remained important to the community, loved now for its border of trees, flower gardens and grassy oval on which countless games of cricket have been cheered.

The design has been modified over time, with the park's latest addition being the rotunda, built in 2002.

Another modern change has been to the war memorial around the 1990s, with the addition of two 1855 canons, dug up from their burial place in the park where they had rested after their war. They were restored and now form part of the Anzac Day focus each year.

The park has always attracted people no matter what its appearance and uses over the years.

In the 1820s and 1830s it was a market place where stock and crops were vended, but in the 1840s it was mostly recreational for foot races and cricket.

Some of the plantings are those supplied by the Sydney Botanic Gardens in 1870-1873, like the hoop pine.

By 1879 the park was surrounded with double railed fencing and five years later the pavilion became a reality.

It stood unchanged until it was severely damaged by fire in 1980 but it took until 1994 for a faithful restoration of the original structure to arise, and as the Heritage Listing states, continuing 'to display the historical character of the site, as well as being a focal point in Richmond Park'.

The original pavilion was indeed a much used attraction, and we can glimpse it full of excited and milling crowds on a cloudy day in September 1900, as a typically festive group enjoyed the races being held in the park interspersed with the strains of the railway military band, and the calls of the MC of the dance party, Mr E. Lindley. In all about 2,000 people joined the merrymaking that day, all members of the carriage, wagon and paint shop employees of the NSW Railway Department.

It was their 11th annual picnic, and the happy throng of workers had arrived on five special trains with their families all determined to ignore the showers that threatened.

No one was left out of the day's events.

There were handicap races for the workers, for the apprentices, for veterans, married men and married women and single ladies.

Even the children competed with Foreman Hawkins of the wagon shop presenting prizes to the winners under 13 years of age. The boxed doll set, amongst the prizes, was a highly valued. trophy.

The day also included optional visits to the Hawkesbury Agricultural College.