Sir Joseph Banks Park | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Sir Joseph Banks Park

Item details

Name of item: Sir Joseph Banks Park
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Parks, Gardens and Trees
Category: Reserve
Primary address: Fremlin, Botany, NSW 2019
Local govt. area: Bayside
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
FremlinBotanyBayside  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Sir Joseph Banks Park is a significant and complex cultural landscape to which each of its two main layers, the Pleasure Grounds of the 1844 Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, and the 1988 Park, contribute. The former gardens of the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, now part of the Sir Joseph Banks Pleasure Gardens, was a location of considerable interaction between Aboriginal people and European settlers during the second part of the 19th Century and the site of a possible historical campsite (listed by the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council and recorded in recent studies).
The Sir Joseph Banks Park is of historic, aesthetic, social, associational and scientific significance to the local area, and potentially the state, as the site of the original Pleasure Grounds associated with the 1844 Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, which was one of the earliest tourist destinations in the Colony, and one of New South Wales’ most important recreational cultural landscapes of the 19th century.
The Pleasure Gardens formed the focus of the advertising and promotion of the Hotel, starting with an Emu Park, cricket oval and giant swing, and expanding to include a wide range of entertainments including football and cricket ovals; a running track; horse riding stables; and its major attraction, a zoological garden featuring exotic animals such as Bengal tiger, elephants, giraffe, gorillas, bears and camels. The facilities were abandoned and destroyed following the relocation of the Hotel to a more suburban venue on Botany road in 1924 and the sale of the original Hotel and its grounds.
It is also historically, aesthetically, socially and associationally significant as a contemporary cultural landscape that both interprets the significance of the 1844 Hotel and demonstrates intrinsic values as an important local park designed by one of NSW’s foremost landscape architects of the late 20th century, Bruce Mackenzie.
The Sir Joseph Banks Park is an excellent example of the type of large public projects undertaken by Local Government organisations to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1988. The park is also a very good example of the transformation of reclaimed land into an aesthetically pleasing park for the local community, including ponds and wetlands as well as picnic facilities etc.
The Park’s wetland landscape, formed by the reclamation of the sands of Botany Bay as part of the expansion of Port Botany has scientific and research significance for the information that it can provide of the environmental and ecological impacts of large-scale reclamation projects on extant and created ecosystems.
Date significance updated: 16 Apr 18
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Bruce Mackenzie
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1844-1988
Physical description: A large park and wetland located adjacent to the former Sir Joseph Banks Hotel at 23 Anniversary Street Botany; and originally part of its curtilage. The park was created in 1988 as Botany Bay Council’s major Bicentennial project as an interpretative reconstruction of the Hotel’s famous ‘pleasure gardens’ and a new parkland area of wetlands and lakes formed by the spoil of the reclamation works associated with the expansion of Port Botany.

The restoration was designed by landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie using original documentation of the grounds, including maps, illustrations and descriptions, and includes a reconstructed oval, running track, wetlands (including ponds), picnic facilities and a contemporary interpretation of the original zoo, as a playground space with life-sized animal sculptures including bears, tigers, elephants , camels and gorillas; which was sponsored by local manufacturer Kellogs and sculpted by William Rees, a Perth animal portraitist.
The park also features other sculptural animals including topiary frames of groups of elephants in the regenerated bushland on the western side of the oval; and thematic gardens, a maze, pergolas, terraces and arbours. The main sculptural feature, apart from the animals, is of Sir Joseph Banks in a pose of heroic discovery.

The reclaimed area includes lakes, wetlands and two large picnic/BBQ facilities.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Condition comments are based on elements visible from the public domain, including from within the Park. No detailed investigation of fabric was made.
Modifications and dates: 1988 – Major conservation and reconstruction work to the abandoned Pleasure Garden to create the Park.
Further information: The Sir Joseph Banks Park has many layers of interpretation, many of which compete with each other and are difficult to read. The park needs an overarching interpretive strategy with a simplification of signage to way finding and minimum explanatory notes to help decipher the existing interpretive elements.
Current use: Public park
Former use: Please grounds associated with the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel


Historical notes: Sir Joseph Banks Park as it is known today was named by the Geographical Names Board in November 1985. The park is made up of parcels of land that once lay on the shores of Botany Bay. This group included the original Sir Joseph Banks Park, Hayden Place Reserve, Esplanade Reserve, an unnamed reserve adjacent to the Esplanade and land owned by Sydney Water. These areas were linked together by a large parcel of land, formally known as Foreshore Reserve, which was reclaimed from Botany Bay during the development of Port Botany in the 1970's. The formal area of the park is located on the site of the original Sir Joseph Banks Pleasure Gardens.
The Sir Joseph Banks Pleasure Gardens once surrounded the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, a major tourist destination from 1844 until the 1890s. In 1846 the hotel was leased to William Beaumont who carried out some extensions and actively promoted the facilities for picnics and sporting and recreational activities. Beaumont landscaped the area now known as Sir Joseph Banks Park and featured what is reputed to have been the first private zoo in Australia. Large public gala days were held, the main ones being on Boxing Day each year. On Boxing Day 1851 it was reported that 5000 persons, or 8% of the population of Sydney, attended the attractions in the spacious grounds of the hotel. In 1875 the hotel was bought by Francis Smith who constructed the large two storey building fronting the present Anniversary Road. The hotel and its grounds continued to be the scene for large picnics, public functions and social events. The annual St Patricks Day Sports Carnivals were held in the grounds and it was reported that in 1888 some 15,000 persons attended.

Smith built a running track for the 150 yard straight dash on the seaward side of the hotel and during the 1880's he promoted professional athletics. The Sir Joseph Banks Handicaps were among the main athletics events in the colony. A total of 132 athletes entered for the centenary Sir Joseph Bank's Gold Cup Handicap in 1888. In 1889, when the grounds of the hotel were acknowledged one of the main
recreational ground in Sydney, a newspaper described the scene on Boxing Day of that year in the following terms…"The grounds and the approaches thereto presented a picture of animation and movement full of kaleidoscopic changes of contour and colour. In the spacious pavilion younger couples congregated and danced to the strains of French's band. Family groups and picnic parties dotted the grounds in all directions, and invaded the quieter precincts of the gardens. In cool arbours others sat, and many more strolled by the tranquil waters of the Bay. No unpleasantness marred the festival."

In 1910 the grounds were owned by a private company known as the Olympic Recreation and Picnic Grounds. The company actively promoted the area for private and public picnics, however by this time the Hotel’s popularity was dwindling and it eventually fell into disrepair. The Estate was carved up, with the northern part subdivided into allotments and offered for sale. In 1926 the State Government, driven by concerns and community petitions about sea erosion, purchased 11 acres of the southern part of Sir Joseph Banks Estate between the Hotel and the foreshore. The land cost £1,700, of which Botany Council paid £910 and the Government contributed the remaining £790.
Like nearby Banksmeadow Park, the land was at first unusable as a public park. It was uneven, low-lying and boggy. Advantage was taken of the State Government initiative to pay unemployed men to carry out works such as building and landscaping during the Great Depression. The Spooner scheme (as it was also known) utilised a work force of 120 men to landscape the Sir Joseph Banks Park at a total cost of £1,657. Council in return received a refund of £1,182 in overdue rates from the men.
In 1941 construction of the Southern and Western Ocean Outfall Sewer between the Hotel and the Bay obliterated most traces of the former Pleasure Gardens relating to the Hotel. In the 1970s the construction of Port Botany led to millions of tonnes of sand being dredged from the floor of Botany Bay which was then pumped along the foreshore to form a 300m wide band of coastline (with dedicated truck road) from Booralee to the new port. This reclamation was intended to achieve long-term stability of the foreshore through the inclusion of sand dunes and planting. This area became known as Foreshore Park and abutted the Sir Joseph Banks Reserve.
The Sir Joseph Banks Reserve had consisted of a largely vacant mown grassland for over 40 years before Botany Council decided to undertake an interpretive recreation initiative which would interpret the former Victorian gardens as part of a major Bicentennial project in 1988 marking the 200th year of European settlement in Australia. The approximate $1.2 million cost of the upgraded part was jointly met by a $200,000 Australian Bicentennial Authority grant, Council’s own funds and substantial corporate sponsorship from local industry.
The park today is the only one in the area that actively demonstrates and interprets its history. Life-size cement statues of zoo animals sculpted by animal portraitist William Rees dot the landscape and playground; a reference to the zoological gardens that once existed at the site. Two pillars named “Cook” and “Nelson” were also removed from the historic pleasure grounds and erected at the park entrance adjacent to Waratah Street. The park also features a sports oval, thematic gardens, a maze, pergolas that aid in the reinterpreting of the activities of the pleasure gardens. In the early 90's the City of Botany Bay and the Department of Sport and Recreation jointly funded the construction of the two large barbecue shelters located in the park. One is located near the Fremlin Street car park and the other is adjacent to the Tupia Street car park. A life-size bronze statue of Sir Joseph Banks examining a specimen of the Banksia flower with a magnifying glass is also situated in the Park.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Sport-Activities associated with organised recreational and health promotional activities (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Sir Joseph Banks Park is historically significant as the main area of the Pleasure Grounds associated with the 1844 Sir Joseph Banks Hotel. These Pleasure Grounds were the main attraction of the Hotel as a destination for holiday makers and day-trippers in the 19th century, and form part of the significant cultural landscape of the historic Hotel.
The Sir Joseph Banks Park is also significant for the manner in which it has been designed as an interpretative space in response to this historic cultural landscape; and the manner in which it has protected and interpreted the historically significant views to the Hotel complex from the original foreshore of Botany Bay.
The life-sized sculpture of Sir Joseph Banks in a pose of heroic botanical discovery provides an interpretative reminder of Sir Joseph Banks, after whom the 1940 Hotel, and the Park, is named.
The Park is also of more recent historic significance for the evidence that it provides of the community’s interest in the interpretation of its historically significant places in the late 20th century.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Park is historically significant for its association with Bruce Mackenzie, one of New South Wales’ foremost landscape architects, the designer of the park and its interpretative elements.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The contemporary cultural landscape of the Sir Joseph Banks Park is aesthetically significant for its spatial, landscape and interpretative values, including the preservation of the historically significant views to the Hotel from the original line of the foreshore; the interpretation of the original Zoological Garden exhibits through sculpture and the inclusion of a running track and oval in reference to the original Pleasure Gardens. It is also aesthetically significant for the sculptures of the zoo animals in a contemporary interpretation of the original zoo as a playground space with life-sized animal sculptures including bears, tigers, elephants, camels and gorillas; which was sponsored by (at the time) major local manufacturer Kelloggs and sculpted by William Rees, a Perth animal portraitist.
The life-sized sculpture of Sir Joseph Banks in a pose of heroic botanical discovery contributes to the aesthetic (and historic) heritage values of the Park named after him.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Park is also significant as a place valued and esteemed by past and present communities, as one of the most popular tourist destinations of the mid-19th century and now as a significant local park with attractions not found elsewhere in the area.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Park’s wetland landscape, formed by the reclamation of the sands of Botany Bay as part of the expansion of Port Botany has scientific and research significance for the information that it can provide of the environmental and ecological impacts of large-scale reclamation projects on extant and created ecosystems.
SHR Criteria f)
The Sir Joseph Banks Park is unique.
SHR Criteria g)
Elements within the park are representative of the design and detailing of late 20th century public parks; including the picnic area and the of metal wire mesh for sculptural and architectural elements, detailing which is representative of the work of landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie, for example at Sydney’s Bicentennial Park, which is contemporary with the Sir Joseph Banks Park.
Integrity/Intactness: Very good. The heritage values of the park, both original and as interpreted, are substantially intact.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Retain and manage the Park as public open space to protect its spatial qualities, fabric and relationship with the original Sir Joseph Banks Hotel. Repair the damaged animal sculptures. Include interpretation plaque outlining Bruce Mackenzie’s role in the project.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanBotany Bay Local Environmental Plan 2013I2521 Jun 13 2013/133 
Local Environmental Plan - LapsedBotany Local Environmental Plan 19952525 Feb 00 291463

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Botany Heritage Study1996L2.1Tropman & Tropman  No
City of Botany Bay Heritage Review2018 E. & R. ConroyRC Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCouncil1999Sir Joseph Banks Park Plan of Management
WrittenElizabeth Conroy2017City of Botany Bay: A Thematic History
WrittenStuart Read2010Speaker's notes for tour of the Sir Joseph Banks Park at Botany by the Australian Garden History Society (May 2010)

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1210025

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