Gladstone Park | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Gladstone Park

Item details

Name of item: Gladstone Park
Other name/s: Pigeon ground, Darling Park
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Parks, Gardens and Trees
Category: Urban Park
Primary address: Darling Street, Balmain, NSW 2041
Parish: Petersham
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Inner West
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Darling StreetBalmainInner WestPetershamCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Gladstone Park is of local historic, aesthetic, technological and social significance as public park formally established in c.1882. The Park area has evolved with major changes undertaken in the early 20th century following the construction of the underground Reservoir, however, the overall form and character of the space, particularly mature trees and plantings, open grassed areas, stone features and garden beds, makes a positive contribution to the Darling Street streetscape and surrounding streets. The Park occupies an elevated and prominent site and has landmark and townscape qualities. The Park also retains an early reservoir which is significant as part of the early water network in Sydney and supply to the local area.

Note: This inventory sheet is not intended to be a definitive study of the heritage item, therefore information may not be accurate and complete. The information should be regarded as a general guide. Further research is always recommended as part of the preparation of development proposals for heritage items.

Council's Library Service has identified photos and/or subdivision plans relating to this item which may be viewed online through the council website at Select Library & Local History to get to the Library online catalogue and keyword search "Balmain Map" and "Gladstone Park" for results.
Date significance updated: 30 Nov 11
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.


Construction years: 1882-
Physical description: Open park area bounded by Darling, Booth, Darvall and Easton Streets. The park is roughly circular in shape less the south eastern segment which is occupied by the Balmain Public School (No. 1 Eaton Street). Three entrances to the park are located along the Darling Street frontage which features stepped garden bed with stone retaining walls and edging which rises above street level. The main “entrance” is located at the south western corner with pathway bounded by stone edged garden beds, planting and sign. Bus Shelters of various ages, including a flat roofed painted brick Inter-war period structure bearing “Gladstone Park” are also located along the Park boundary along Darling Street. A low stone base extends along the Booth and Darvall Street frontages. A palisade fence on a stone base extends along the Eaton Street to another entry located next to the Public School.
Asphalted paths, some with stone edging cross the park and access the various park elements which are generally surrounded by open grassed area. The central section of the park is shaded by a group of large, mature trees including several Figs and some palms. Large palm trees also extend around the perimeter of the park along the Booth Street frontage. The central section of the park also features a sealed basketball court and modern playground is located on the eastern side of the park, close to the Eaton Street boundary with swings also located south of the Bowling Club. A Bowling Club, comprising low lying single storey skillion roofed Club House and open green is located in the southern part of the park, to the immediate west of the Public School. A Sydney Water Pump Station and brick structure (former Bandstand) associated with the Reservoir which is located below the park occupy the south western section of the park.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In good condition. Some of the large Palm trees around the western perimeter of the Park along Booth Street have damaged or missing canopies.
Modifications and dates: 1957: Balmain Bowling Club Clubhouse (2807)
1961: Extensions to Bowling Club (4789)
1963: Extensions to soil shed and bottle store (6024).
2004: Demolition of existing bus shelter and toilet block and construction of new bus shelter and toilet block, reconstruction of sandston retaining walls and terraces to Darling Street frontage and associated landscaping works (D/2004/613. CC/2005/10)
2010 - Removal of five (5) Phoenix canariensis palms which have been affected by Fusarium Wit, palms to be replaced (D/2010/523)
2012 - Removal of five (5) Phoenix canariensis palms which have been affected by Fusarium Wit (D/2012/394)
Further information: The reservoir and pumping station are now disused . A low face brick hexagonal enclosure and piers is located to the north of the building are the remains of a bandstand constructed as part of a condition of the construction of the reservoir.
Current use: Public Park and associated facilities
Former use: Public Park and associated facilities


Historical notes: The site is part of 550 acres originally granted to William Balmain in 1800 and transferred to fellow surgeon John Gilchrist in 1801. Gilchrist never actually lived in NSW and started to subdivide and sell in 1823. The first sale did not proceed well and it was not until the 1840s that subsequent subdivisions and sales in the area progressed. When sales of Gilchrist’s grant were resumed in 1852, Surveyor Charles Langley subdivided the remaining acres into 46, (later 47) sections, using established access routes such as Darling Street. the sections were purchased over the next thirty years by wealthy investors, local speculators and builders.
The land came into the ownership of the a'Beckett family, but was generally left vacant and used by the residents of Balmain as a location for pigeon shooting matches and was informally known as the "Pigeon Ground". In 1872 the family subdivided the land into 83 allotments. Only 14 sold including land on which the Balmain Public School was erected.
Gladstone Park comprised of Lot 1 of the subdivision and as it had long been used as public space support for its establishment as a public park was strong. The site was finally purchased by the Government in 1882. Trustees were appointed to create the park which was proclaimed in 1895. Due to a lack of funding, improvements were not completed until 1890, when it was officially opened as Gladstone Park, in honour of the then British Prime Minister.
The Gladstone Park Bowling Club was established in 1898 and their lease of the site contributed to the upkeep of the Park. A pavilion for the greens was erected in 1899.
In 1903 additional land in the southern section was taken by the Department of Education for the School. The Park was provided with a picket fence and maintenance keeper, however, lack of funding prevented any major improvements. In 1907 an architectural competition was held to design a modern toilet block. One was constructed in 1908 and two gas lamps were also installed in the same year. In 1911 the Park was vested with the Council and picket fence was removed.
Balmain Reservoir (covered) was constructed in the park area in 1915 and the associated pumping station in 1919. Both are now disused.
The concrete paths, terraced gardens and associated features along the Darling Street frontage were probably completed during the 1950s. Lack of funding and war shortages has resulted in the loss of the bandstand by this time. The Balmain Bowling Club has also undergone some 20th century alterations and additions with Club House completed in 1959 and extensions following during the 1960s. Since that time the Park area has continued to develop with the addition of basketball court and modern playground equipment.
In 2004 upgrade of the Darling Street frontage was proposed and approved by Council, however, it would appear that these works have not been carried out to date.

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 Growth of Balmain-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Growth of Balmain-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site and various elements are of local historic significance as part of an early subdivision and Victorian development which public park established in c. 1882. The subsequent development of and changes to the represents the growth and development of the area and changing requirements of Balmain residents. The Park also retains an early reservoir which is significant as part of the early water network in Sydney and supply to the local area.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The site is associated with a number of local land speculators. It also associated Gladstone Park Reserve who have continued to manage the Park and Metropolitan Board of Water Supply & Sewerage.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Park is of high local aesthetic significance as a good example of Victorian open public space that was initially established in c. 1882. The Park area has evolved and undergone some changes, however, the overall form and character of the space, particularly mature trees and plantings, open grassed areas, stone features and garden beds. The Park occupies an elevated and prominent site and has landmark and townscape qualities and makes a positive contribution to the Darling Street streetscape.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Park is of high local social significance as a public space and park area that has long been used and part of the local area and retains social institutions including the Bowling Club.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Park area retains a former Pump/Valve house and reservoir which, whilst most of the working equipment has been removed are of some technological significance as part of the water supply network and development in the local area.
SHR Criteria f)
It is one of few "reservoir" parks in Sydney.
SHR Criteria g)
The park is a representative example of a public space formally established in the 1880s.
Integrity/Intactness: High
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:

It is recommended that: - the open Park area and elements including stone walls and terraced garden beds along the Darling Street frontage, open grassed areas, mature trees and plantings and public access should be retained and maintained; - remains of the bandstand and former Valve/ Pump house should be retained and conserved; - the Bowling Club and Bowling Green should also be retained. Upgrade and works to the Club house and associated facilties are permissable provided there is no impact to the Park area and significant features; - playground and sealed courts may also be retained and maintained to ensure ongoing and safe use of the Park area; - interpretation of the Reservoir and assocaited remaining elements may be considered as part of any major works to the site; - any upgrade and changes should be in accordance with an approved Plan of Management that takes into consideration the cultural significance of the site and its features and seeks to enhance its values whilst facilitating on-going public use of the Park.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLeichhardt Local Environmental Plan 2013I20723 Dec 13   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study1990 McDonald McPhee Pty Ltd (Craig Burton, Wendy Thorp)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenMax Solling and Peter Reynolds1997Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City

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: 1940222

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