The Domain Parklands includes a number of reserves in the area bounded by St Kilda Road to the west, the Yarra River to the north, Anderson Street to the east and Domain Road to the south. These reserves include Alexandra Gardens, Alexandra Park, Queen Victoria Gardens, King's Domain North and King's Domain South.
The high ground south of the Yarra River overlooking Melbourne was reserved in 1841 as parkland for a future vice-regal residence. This area also included the Royal Botanic Gardens (VHR H1459), which were set aside in 1846. Soon after Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller was appointed the first Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1857, he commenced improvements to transform the Domain reserve between the Gardens and Princes Bridge into a public park. He gradually extended the area under his charge to include all the land bounded by the Yarra River, St Kilda Road, Domain Road and Anderson Street.
Portions of the Domain were set aside for both temporary and permanent uses, including an Immigrants' Home in the northern area (demolished 1913) and an Observatory (VHR H1087) and associated houses, a Botanical Museum (demolished) and stables in the southern section. The latter were constructed in 1859 to accommodate camels for the Burke and Wills expedition the following year. The stables were never used for this purpose as the camels were housed at the Parliament House stables, and later Royal Park, the expedition's departure point. The building was used to stable horses used by the Botanic Gardens and for storage, and later as an office.
After von Mueller's departure in 1873, a plan was drawn up for the Domain by Joseph Sayce with curving paths and drives, spacious lawns, vistas and an ornamental lake. The plan was aimed at transforming von Mueller's pine and eucalypt forest into a more picturesque setting for Government House (VHR H1620). The works were adapted and implemented by renowned landscape gardener William Guilfoyle, curator of the various reserves, and included the formation of South Yarra Drive (later Birdwood Avenue), Government House Drive and the planting of avenues of trees.
Engineer Carlo Catani was involved in the development of significant new features in the Domain. In 1896, major works were carried out in the northern areas of the Domain to control flooding of the Yarra River. Excavated material was used to fill the lagoons and raise the level of low lying land on the south bank and in 1901 a new boulevard, Alexandra Avenue, was constructed along the river bank. Its innovative design by Catani featured four separate lanes across its 200 foot width. Catani also appears to have designed the Alexandra Gardens which were laid out in c1904 between Princes Bridge and an engineers' depot. These gardens included a star-shaped flower bed, part of which remains, and extensive rockwork. The Henley Lawn developed to the east as rowing gained in popularity from 1904 and the Victorian Rowing Association War Memorial (1924) and Oarsmen's Memorial Judge's Box (1930) were erected.
Rockwork for both ornamentation and the definition of garden beds and roadways were a feature of Catani's designs, and the newly constructed road around the north-west boundary of the Government House Reserve (later Linlithgow Avenue) included rockery fountains at either end. A triangular site to the south of the new Alexandra Gardens was chosen as the location for Queen Victoria's memorial statue (VHR H0369) which was unveiled in 1907. A committee, including Carlo Catani, designed the surrounding Queen Victoria Gardens which were not completed until 1913 when the former Immigrants' Home was demolished and the area it occupied incorporated into the Gardens. Lakes were formed and memorials to Janet Lady Clarke (1913) and King Edward VII (1911-1920) erected. A new recreation reserve incorporating these new roads and gardens was created in 1904 and named Alexandra Park.
After the First World War, land in the south west corner of the Domain was chosen as the site for the Shrine of Remembrance (VHR H0848). In 1933, 17 hectares of the Government House Reserve adjoining the Shrine were added to the Domain and became known as the King's Domain.
Hugh Linaker's design of the King's Domain with its avenue plantings, winding pathways and lawn areas with scattered specimen trees struck a balance between the strong geometry and regimented planting of the Shrine and Guilfoyle's picturesque landscaping around Government House. Linaker's work included the design of such distinctive elements as a rockery and fern gully, a stone bridge, arbor seats and pond and a Pioneer Women's Garden to commemorate the State's pioneer women as part of Melbourne's Centenary celebrations in 1935. Also in 1935, part of the Domain Parkland was dedicated to honour the work of Rotary International, an organisation which has played a significant role in supporting charitable causes in Victoria and elsewhere. About 45 trees have been planted or dedicated to commemorate distinguished Rotarians or mark a significant Rotary event in recognition of the significant community role Rotary has made in Victoria. The design of the Rotary Park garden reflects the shape of the organisation's emblem - the Rotary Wheel. The former riding tan established in 1901 as part of Alexandra Avenue was extended to the Shrine in 1935 and developed further into a jogging and walking circuit in the 1970s. La Trobe's cottage (VHR H1076), relocated to the King's Domain in 1963, was relocated again within the parklands in 1999.
The Domain Parklands contain a number of well established and intact avenues and groups of trees to create a landscape of outstanding quality and diversity. There are avenues, rows and/or specimen trees of Ulmus, Platanus, Populus, Quercus, Ficus, Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Callitris, Agathis, Schinus, Juniperus, Pittosporum, Erythrina, Rapanea, Brachychiton, Elaeodendron, Calodendrum, Cedrus, Pinus, Cupressus, Araucaria, Olea, Cinnamomum, Magnolia, Grevillea, Fraxinus, Alectryon, Agonis, Syncarpia, Syzygium, Lophostemon, Lagunaria, and Butia, Phoenix and Washingtonia palms. The wide variety of tree forms, evergreen, deciduous trees providing autumn colour, leaf shapes and palm fronds, dense conifer foliage (green, golden and blue), bark texture and colour, all combine to give a contrasting and diverse landscape of high landscape and aesthetic value.
A large number of other significant memorials, statues and structures are located at key positions to enhance, frame and terminate views throughout the reserve. These include memorials to the Boer War (VHR H0382) (1904, relocated 1966), Marquis of Linlithgow (VHR H0366) (1911), George V (1937-52), Sir John Monash (1936-50), Field Marshall and Sir Thomas Albert Blamey (1960) and an Aboriginal Reburial Stone with remains of 38 people interred (1985). Buildings and structures include stables (1859); a former astronomer's residence (1863 and relocated to site adjacent to stables in 1914); a gardener's cottage at the former Engineers' Depot (relocated c1894 from Jolimont); an Electricity Substation (c1934); Government House Guardhouse (1935); the Stapely Pavilion (1937-39); the Melbourne Grammar School Boat House (Mockridge, Stahle and Mitchell, 1953) and the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (VHR H1772, 1959).
An array of other structures, statues and memorials are found within the Parklands and these contribute interest and diversity to the landscape. These include the Water Nymph statue (1925), Apollo and Hercules statue (1928), a relocated 19th century drinking fountain, stone cairns and a horse trough (1936), Birdwood Avenue signs (1939), Peace Garden stone arbours (1946), Rotary Seat (1953), Edith Cavell Memorial (1926 and relocated 1961), E G Honey Memorial (1965), the Floral Clock (1966), Genie, Pathfinder and Phoenix statues (1970s), Walker Fountain (1981), Maltese George Cross Memorial (1994), Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop Memorial (1995), Tilly Aston Bell (1995), Australian Hellenic War Memorial (2001) and Victoria Police Memorial (2002).
This site is part of the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.
How is it significant?
The Domain Parklands is of historical, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, scientific (horticultural), and social significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Domain Parklands is of historical importance for its associations with the early settlement of Melbourne and the foundation of British colonial administration in Victoria. The Domain is a tangible link with the British Colonial tradition of establishing a large Government Domain surrounding the vice-regal residence. The Domain has close associations with Government House, the Observatory, the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens, and includes memorials and statuary which reflect the links with the administration of the colony. Buildings such as the stables, former astronomer's residence, gardener's cottage and Government House Guardhouse are illustrative of the variety of activities that took place within the parklands.
The Domain Parklands is of historical significance for its associations with important figures in Victoria, including Ferdinand von Mueller, Government Botanist (1853-96) and first Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens (1857-73), who established the initial layout and planting of the Domain; William Guilfoyle, von Mueller's successor as Director who was responsible for the late 19th century layout and planting of the Domain and Government House to Joseph Sayce's plan; Carlo Catani, Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, who was the main influence in the design of Alexandra Avenue, Alexandra Gardens and the Queen Victoria Gardens and Hugh Linaker, prolific public landscape designer in Victoria and responsible for the layout of the King's Domain. .
The Domain Parklands is of archaeological significance for its potential to contain historical archaeological deposits, features and/or objects associated with previous activities and uses. This may include archaeological material associated with such sites as the former Immigration Home and the Engineers' Depot.
The Domain Parklands is of aesthetic significance for its extensive scale and collection of planting, landscape styles and features. The Domain has contrasting informal and formal areas, layers of 19th and 20th century character and features such as statuary, monuments, numerous vistas and views and picturesque boulevards and avenues, including Alexandra Avenue with its innovative design, the 1934 Hugh Linaker designed Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden of a formal layout and planting, a grotto, a fern gully in a former quarry, ponds and rockeries, and two unusual rockery fountains. Landmark views include the Yarra River from Alexandra Avenue, glimpses of the tower of Government House and the Shrine from Swanston Street and St Kilda Road. The oak, plane and elm and other tree avenues and rows along Birdwood, Linlithgow and Alexandra Avenues, the Tan, King George V path, St Kilda and Domain Roads, Jeffries Parade, are all of aesthetic significance.
The Domain Parklands is of scientific (horticultural) significance for the outstanding collection of plants, including avenues and rows, and/or specimens of Ulmus, Platanus × acerifolia, Populus,Quercus, Ficus macrophylla, Eucalyptus, Araucaria, Pinaceae, Pinus, Cupressus, Olea and Arecaceae.
The Domain Parklands contain buildings and structures which are of architectural significance including the Janet Lady Clarke Memorial designed by Herbert Black (1913); the Electricity Substation (c1934) and the Stapely Pavilion designed by Frank Stapely (1937-39).
The Domain Parklands is of social significance for the highly valued recreational role it holds for Victorian's, residents and visitors. The Domain continues to be a key venue for walking, cycling, rowing, jogging along the Tan, and the setting for major outdoor events such as concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Anzac Day ceremonies, the Moomba Festival and rowing regattas.
The Aboriginal reburial site within the Domain Parklands is of social significance and potentially of spiritual significance to the Aboriginal community as a commemorative site of remembrance. It contains unprovenanced skeletal remains which represent 38 Victorian Aboriginal tribes.