The Women's Dressing Pavilion at Poplar Oval in Royal Park was completed in 1937. The pavilion was part of a general program of sporting infrastructure improvements in Melbourne parks. The Women's Dressing Pavilion at Poplar Oval is significant as one of the first sporting facilities designed in Victoria for the use of women.
Land for Royal Park was set aside as early as the 1840s, but the park itself was not reserved until 1876 within its current boundaries. Although Royal Park was used for grazing throughout the 19th century, by the early twentieth century sport was the most popular activity undertaken in the Park. In 1903 a golf course was created and tennis courts followed in 1904 in the north of the Park. When the Melbourne City Council took over the management of Royal Park in 1934 they launched a program of improving sporting facilities. The McAlister, Ransford and Ryder Ovals in the north of the Park were created at this time. Poplar Oval and the adjacent pavilion were created in 1936/37.
In November 1936 the Melbourne City Council Parks and Gardens committee accepted a tender for £1199 from WA Townsend for the erection and completion of a Women's Dressing Pavilion at Royal Park. At the same time a cinder running track was added to the Oval. The distance across the diameter of the oval was a suitable distance for hurdles and a high jump pit was also created. The facilities were ready for the Australian Women's Championships in December 1937. The championships were also selection trials for the Empire Games to be held in Sydney in February 1938. Three thousand people attended the Championships in Melbourne and many commented on the quality of the facilities made available for women athletes. As a contemporary account noted, before the construction of the pavilion and the athletics oval "women athletes of Melbourne" were using a "dog-coursing track" to train and compete. The Women's athletics association were first formed in Victoria in 1929 followed in 1932 by the Australian Women's Amateur Athletic Union. Australian women had taken part in athletics at the 1928 Olympic Games. Previously women had represented Australia only in swimming. It was not until the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney that a number of women successfully competed in athletics and many of these had represented their States in Melbourne at Royal Park two months earlier.
The Women's Dressing Pavilion and the adjacent toilet block are modest in size. The designer is unknown, but was probably employed in the City Council's architect's office. The pavilion was constructed of red brick in an English Domestic or Cottage style with a pitched tiled roof. Inside the finishes are simple with wooden ceilings and coat hooks lining the solid brick walls. Off the large main room are toilets and showers and in a separate room, kitchen facilities. The windows are simple louvres. Steps lead down from the pavilion to the Oval and trees have been planted close to the pavilion to provide shade.
How is it significant?
The Women's Dressing Pavilion at Royal Park is of historic significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is significant?
The Women's Dressing Pavilion at Poplar Oval in Royal Park is of historic significance as one of the first purpose built sporting facilities for women in Victoria. The provision of these facilities was instrumental in the development of women's athletics in Australia.
The Women's Dressing Pavilion at Poplar Oval in Royal Park is of historic significance for its association with the recognition in the first half of the twentieth century of women's ability and right to participate in competitive sport.
Playing, participating and watching sport has always been (and still is) an important part of defining masculinity. (Cashman : The Paradise of Sport p. 72). It is hardly surprising then, that women have struggled to have their sporting endeavours taken seriously or indeed be offered the facilities to participate in sport.
Organised sport for women began in the private girls schools of the 19th century, where hockey and some athletic endeavours were encouraged (or tolerated). This followed onto the involvement of women in organised sport at University. Women's participation in others sports flourished even without this support, such as swimming, while tennis and golf were important leisure activities for both sexes.
The boom in women's team sports really began in the 1920s and included rowing and cricket as well as hockey. Teams were formed at schools and university, but also through churches and businesses (eg. Myers or Bryant and May).
In 1931 the Victorian Amateur Sports Council was formed and it was active in lobbying for the interests of sportswomen including the allocation and building of grounds and playing fields (Stell : Half the Race p. 59). In 1934 the Council organised a sporting pageant at the MCG to celebrate Victoria's centenary.
More importantly, they also lobbied for facilities, male administrators and sportsmen jealously guarded facilities and grounds. In 1933 the Exhibition buildings were used for netball. Women were also agitating with the appropriate authorities for ovals and facilities and although this campaign was unsuccessful at Albert Park (Barnard & Keating : People's Backyard p. 129) it was successful with the Melbourne City Council at Royal Park. Even if the Argus could report in 1937 after the completion of the Poplar Oval pavilion that "Satisfying the sporting needs of women is a small matter". (The Argus, 17 Sept 1937 p. 10).
The facilities provided at Royal Park were to be used as the selection trials for the British Empire Games held in Sydney in February 1938. It was at these championships that Decima Norman (1909-1938) first came to national prominence and went on to win 5 gold medals at the Games, a record held until 1998 when Susie O'Neill won 6 gold medals in swimming.
General Conditions: 1. All exempted alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object.General Conditions: 2. Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of works that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the place or object are revealed which relate to the significance of the place or object, then the exemption covering such works shall cease and Heritage Victoria shall be notified as soon as possible.General Conditions: 3. If there is a conservation policy and plan endorsed by the Executive Director, all works shall be in accordance with it. Note: The existence of a Conservation Management Plan or a Heritage Action Plan endorsed by the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria provides guidance for the management of the heritage values associated with the site. It may not be necessary to obtain a heritage permit for certain works specified in the management plan.General Conditions: 4. Nothing in this determination prevents the Executive Director from amending or rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions.General Conditions: 5. Nothing in this determination exempts owners or their agents from the responsibility to seek relevant planning or building permits from the responsible authorities where applicable.Public Safety and Security : the erection of temporary security fencing, scaffolding, hoardings or surveillance systems to prevent unauthorised access or secure public safety which will not adversely affect significant fabric of the place
Interior Painting of previously painted surfaces provided that preparation or painting does not remove evidence of the original paint or other decorative scheme.
Installation, removal or replacement of carpets and or flexible floor coverings.
Installation, removal or replacement of curtain track, rods, blinds and other window dressings.
Refurbishment of bathrooms and toilets including removal, installation or replacement of sanitary fixtures and associated piping, mirrors, wall and floor coverings.
Installation, removal or replacement of kitchen benches and fixtures including sinks, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers etc and associated plumbing and wiring.
Installation, removal or replacement of ducted, hydronic or concealed radiant type heating provided that the installation does not damage existing skirtings and architraves and provided that the location of the heating unit is concealed from view.
Installation, removal or replacement of electrical and telecommunications wiring provided that all new wiring is fully concealed
Installation, removal or replacement of bulk insulation in roof spaces.
Installation, removal or replacement of smoke detectors.
Installation, removal or replacement of electric clocks, public address systems, detectors, alarms, emergency lights, exit signs, luminaires and the like on plaster surfaces.
Installation of new fire hydrant services including sprinklers,and elements affixed to plaster surfaces.
The purpose of the permit exemptions is to allow works that do not impact on the heritage significance of the place to occur without the need for a permit. Alterations which impact on the significance of this structure are subject to permit applications. Refurbishment of its facilities are to be encouraged, but in order to maintain its and integrity no further openings should be made to the building.