Queen Victoria Park Beechworth is situated between the Beechworth-Wangaratta Road (formerly Sydney Road) and High Street and is bounded to the north-east by the Beechworth Primary School and the Beechworth Gaol to the south-west.
In 1858 eighteen acres to the north-east of the town was secured as a 'public garden and promenade' reserve. The central feature of the site was an outcrop of granite surrounded by remnant indigenous vegetation. A Public Botanical Garden Committee was formed to oversee the Reserve and in 1859 the Committee held a design competition and selected an elaborate design by J A Rochlitz, a daguerreotype artist from Hungary. The Reserve was fenced and prison labour used to clear the site. By 1861 the first exotic trees were planted and poplars donated by James Shackell were planted along Sydney Road and High Street. In 1863 Dr Mueller of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens sent seeds and shrubs and recommended that the Council establish a nursery to raise its own plants. The first structure built in the gardens in 1866 was a lodge, (later removed), designed by the Borough surveyor located between the carriage entrance and the corner of Kars Street and Sydney Road and was rented out in return for one day's work a week.
By 1868 False Acacias (Robinia pseudoacacia) were planted in Sydney Road and work including cutting drains, clearing scrub and improving footpaths was carried out. In 1870 another grant was received for fencing public parks and 180 plants were received from the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. By 1873 the Gardens had become overgrown and weedy. In 1874 four acres of the Botanical reserve was excised for a state school. In 1875 the Market Reserve at the corner of Ford, William and Loch streets was converted into the Town Hall Gardens thereby competing with the Botanical Reserve for popularity and Council funding. A further three acres was excised from the Gardens and added to the school grounds in 1876. By 1879 the Tree Planting Committee reported that the Botanical Gardens were in splendid condition and 140 trees were ordered from Melbourne to replace losses and by 1884 walks had been made and seats provided.
In 1900 plans for Federation celebrations for 1 January 1901 were underway with the Beechworth Town Band applying to use the reserve for recitals and two naval guns from the HMVS Nelson were mounted on the large central rocky outcrop. In 1901 new plans to improve the Park were prepared by Harper and Stewart showing walks, a carriage drive around the rock, sites for a bandstand, fernery, wooden gates, a rockery and approximately 200 trees. Fourteen pines were planted in the main avenue to represent the twelve councillors in office and the Shire Engineer and Shire Secretary. The avenue now contains twenty-six trees consisting of Maritime Pines (Pinus pinaster) along the north side and Canary Island Pines (Pinus canariensis) opposite and two Sierra Redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) at the entrance although which trees are the commemorative trees is not known. The remnant trees and exotic plantings from the late nineteenth century to 1902 remains one of the main features of the Park with many of botanical importance including some of the rarest and largest conifers in Victoria. There is also an extant avenue of English Oaks (Quercus robur) along the High Street boundary.
On 7 May 1902 the reserve was named Queen Victoria Park after the monarch's death and a commemorative marble tablet fixed to the rock. Additional trees were planted out in the park and the school and gaol sites were fenced off to help protect the site from the continual problem of wandering stock and vandalism. In 1903 the bowling club was established but relocated in 1921, with the facilities taken over by the Ladies Croquet Club until the 1930s. In c1903 a band rotunda was constructed and the current rotunda (1988) now located in the same position. The two cast iron light fixtures have been relocated to the driveway entrance to make a pair. In c1910 the concert pavilion and open air picture screen (brick base extant) were constructed north-west of the rock. and by 1913 open air concerts, band recitals and picture shows became regular events in the Park.
By 1952 a stone shelter shed and toilet block had been erected near High Street and the Council sought permission to charge fees for the use of a portion of the reserve for camping but by 1959 this activity had been moved to Lake Sambell. In 1964 an ex-army hut was erected for the Girl Guides in the south-western corner which is extant. In 1984-5 Queen Victoria Park participated in the 150th Anniversary of Victoria receiving money for tree works and cleaning up with additional trees received from the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1996. Considerable restoration works occurred in 2001 to reconstruct original pathways, gardens and historic features of the Park and a new playground.
The site is on the land of the traditional owners.
How is it significant?
Queen Victoria Park Beechworth is of historical, aesthetic, and scientific (botanical) significance to the state of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Queen Victoria Park Beechworth is of historical significance as an important example of a regional botanical garden, established in the nineteenth century in response to the increased wealth of Victoria with the discovery of gold and the desire to provide a place for recreation and education in keeping with European trends.
Queen Victoria Park Beechworth is of historical significance for its early reservation in 1858 as a botanical garden reserve organised by the Beechworth Town Council and the Central Board of Health. In the 1860s and early 1870s the Park had an early association of the Park with Dr Mueller, Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens and one of Australia's most prominent botanists, who provided many of the original plants. The two guns mounted on the central rock feature as part of the Federation celebrations in 1901 and the marble tablet commemorating the naming of the Park in memory of Queen Victoria in 1902 are also of historical significance.
The Queen Victoria Park , Beechworth is of historical significance for the c1913 outdoor picture theatre, which is possibly the earliest such installation in Victoria. The Park contains the only known surviving remnant (the base of the screen) of this feature.
Queen Victoria Park Beechworth is of aesthetic significance as an open park featuring many closely planted pines which create a forest-like impression of a tall coniferous forest. A major visual feature of the Park is the large central granite outcrop which is the highest point in the Park which provides some view through the trees over Lake Sambell to the south-east and the township of Beechworth to the north-west. Formal intact landscape elements include the commemorative avenue of pines along the drive of main drive off the Beechworth-Wangaratta Road and an avenue of English oaks parallel to High Street.
Queen Victoria Park Beechworth is of scientific (botanical) significance for its outstanding collection of unusual and rare mature conifers. This includes three [1 tree removed 2010]specimens of Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), the only known examples in Victoria and the largest known specimen of the Big Cone Pine (Pinus coulteri). Other uncommon and significant trees are a Himalayan White Pine (Pinus wallichiana), a Bentham Cypress (Cupressus lusitancia var benthami), Cupressus torulosa var corneyana, two Incense cedars (Calocedrus decurrens) as well as two Sierra Redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum).