rp The Burke & Wills monument and the nearby natural landscape
Statement of Significance
What is significant?
Royal Park is a large public park of 188 hectares established in 1854 in the northern part of the City of Melbourne. It contains a wide range of designed and informal landscapes incorporating remnant indigenous vegetation, together with historic buildings, structures and community facilities.
Royal Park was an integral element in Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe's vision, from the mid-1840s, of Melbourne as a city surrounded by extensive public parklands, which were considered to be vital to the health and wellbeing of the inhabitants. The site was part of the large area of land north of the city reserved for public purposes in 1845, and La Trobe personally identified the boundaries of the future park on the day of his departure from the colony in 1854. By the time the park was gazetted in 1876 it had been reduced in size by residential development. The park has provided the site for various scientific endeavours, including the establishment of an Experimental Farm (1858) and as a reserve set aside for the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria (1861), part of which later became the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens. The park received national recognition as the starting point of Burke and Wills' expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860, an event marked by a memorial cairn in 1890. Royal Park has been used for a range of military purposes from the late-nineteenth century: as the site for a government powder magazine, for displays and parades and as an important military camp during World Wars I and II. The Park has also been the site of various institutions for public health and welfare, including the Royal Children's Hospital. It has provided an open space for large public gatherings and civic functions as well as being an extensive public recreation ground. It has been a venue for various sporting competitions from the late 1850s, including cricket, football and golf, and is particularly associated with women's sport. Royal Park has been appreciated as a place of beauty since the arrival of European settlers, and this is evident in writings and artworks. Throughout its history there has been ongoing concern for its preservation, and despite various excisions the reserve has remained relatively unchanged in size since 1876. The retention and replanting of much indigenous vegetation is a feature of Royal Park and in 2010 the City of Melbourne won national recognition for its implementation of the 1984 Master Plan which helped preserve and develop the natural landscape so close to the city centre.
Royal Park is a 188ha park which is located close to the northern edge of Melbourne's city centre and forms part of the network of open parklands that characterise the city and inner suburbs. Royal Park is bordered by Park Street along the northern boundary, The Avenue along the eastern boundary, Gatehouse Street along the south-east boundary, Flemington Road along the south-western boundary (excluding the Royal Children's Hospital) and Southgate Street and Manningham Street along the western boundary (excluding the institutional complex in the north-west corner). The centre of the park accommodates the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens (VHR H1074).
Royal Park comprises large open spaces for passive and informal recreation, areas of native and indigenous vegetation including grassland, open woodland and wetland habitats, historic buildings and monuments, and areas for sporting activities, including ovals, buildings and other facilities.
Royal Park is part of the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.
How is it significant?
Royal Park is of historic and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criteria for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics
Why is it significant?
Royal Park is significant at the State level for the following reasons:Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Royal Park is historically significant as an outstanding and largely intact example of the public parks set aside by Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe from the mid-1840s as part of his vision for the city of Melbourne. It retains its early use and demonstrates La Trobe's contribution to the provision of public open space in the colony and also the vision of the colonial administration for the future development of Melbourne. Largely as a result of La Trobe's vision Melbourne now has a group of spectacular parks.
Royal Park is historically significant as the site of scientific institutions important to the development of the colony, including an Experimental Farm (1858) and the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria (1861), part of which later became the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens (VHR H1074) on the site. Many trees on the site were planted by the Acclimatisation Society between c1862 and 1900.Royal Park is historically significant as the starting point of Burke and Wills' ill-fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria (1860), an event which gained national recognition and was depicted by prominent Australian artists, including William Strutt and Nicholas Chevalier.Royal Park is historically significant for its use for military purposes since the 1860s. It was the site of a major Australian military camp and training ground during the First World War, was used for the mobilisation of Anzacs to the Western Front, and was a camp for both Australian and US troops during the Second World War prior to their deployment to Pacific War campaigns (1941-45). Royal Park is historically significant for its long association with sport in Victoria. It is the site of one of the earliest public golf courses in Victoria (1903), of Australia's first dedicated baseball field (Ross Straw Field c1970) and from the early 1900s has played an important role in the advancement of women's competitive sport in Australia.
Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history
Royal Park is rare as the most outstanding and intact example of the metropolitan parks aside from the 1840s for the people of Victoria, which retains its basic form, its early use, remnant indigenous vegetation and important views to the city. It is the only example of an inner Melbourne park which retains stands, as opposed to specimens, of remnant indigenous vegetation and clearly demonstrates an ongoing dedication to planting native and indigenous trees over a period of more than 150 years.
Criterion EImportance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics
Royal Park is aesthetically significant as an outstanding example of a large metropolitan park, particularly notable for its remnant indigenous vegetation and important views to the city. It is the only example of an inner Melbourne park which retains stands of remnant indigenous vegetation and clearly demonstrates an ongoing dedication to planting native and indigenous plants over a period of 150 years. The Park landscape provides significant internal and external vistas, including the native grassland 'hilltop' circle where a 360-degree panorama provides a dramatic and sensory appreciation of the city skyline and surrounding landscape. An appreciation of the aesthetic value of the park is evident in the numerous contemporary descriptions of the place from the nineteenth century onwards, and in the numerous paintings, sketches and photographs of the Royal Park landscape. The most recent layer of development associated with the 1984 Master Plan is significant for its design philosophy and natural landscape aesthetic. In 2010, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects awarded the City of Melbourne the "ALIA national award for sustainable settlement, green infrastructure and landscape principles" for "its stewardship of Royal Park as a nationally significant landscape".
Royal Park is also significant for the following reasons, but not a State level:
Royal Park is of historical significance at a local level for its long history of recreational use, including the early establishment of the Brunswick Cricket Club in 1858 and its early use for Australian Rules football (by 1865). It is historically significant at a local level for its use as Emergency Public Housing by the Housing Commission of Victoria (1947-56) on the site of Camp Pell following the withdrawal of army troops.
Royal Park is significant at a local level for its association with Victorians who have played leading roles in its development: early trustees such as Ferdinand Mueller and William Davidson; the Town Clerk of Melbourne E G Fitzgibbon, who opposed nineteenth century attempts to alienate the parkland; the landscape architect Grace Fraser, designer of the Australian Native Garden; and with the City of Melbourne Councillors Elliott, H.G. Smith, William J. Brens, and Colin C. McDonald (who was also an Australian Test cricketer). It is also associated with prominent sports people including Julius Lockington 'Judy' Patching (athletics) and prominent Australian baseball figure Ross Straw.
Royal Park is of social significance at a local level for its continuing use by community sporting groups across Melbourne and Victoria.