Caulfield Park

Caulfield Park

Caulfield Park is a very large open park space in south-east Melbourne.

It provides recreational opportunities for a wide range of users. These include casual users as well as tennis,bowls, soccer, cricket, lacrosse, recreational walking on a surrounding walking track and a leash-free area for dogs.

The park contains pavilions, a conservatory, childrens' play areas. and a heritage-listed arboretum for those who simply like to meander through its unstructured, non-enclosed vistas.

Caulfield Park and Paddy's Swamp

Early days

The swamp was undoubtedly originally used by aborigines. But as Melbourne spread out and the City of Caulfield was proclaimed it became known as Paddy's Swamp a watering place for traveling stock.

Mid 19th Century

By the late 1850's the focal point of 'Caulfield' lay along the southern bank of Paddy's Swamp. It seems that for early residents that Paddy's Swamp was seen as a recreational area for picnics fishing duck shooting or just strolling. At that time the swamp was quite shallow with a reed covered island. It was popular for walking picnicking and shooting.

By 1857 when the first Caulfield Roads Board was elected Part of it was already know as Caulfield Race Course.

Caulfield Park East Caulfield Reserve (Black Swamp) and The Caulfield Racecourse originated as ‘The Heath” a large area of crown land which was which was reserved for future recreation in 1853. The heath section consisted of ferns and heath covered sandy ridges and marshes.

The conversion of both Paddy’s Swamp and Black Swamp from wetlands to parks was foreseen in 1857 although they were needed for water until 1874 when Caulfield was connected to the Yan Yean reservoir

A lease over Paddy's Swamp was taken out in 1861 when the Caulfield Roads Board let a contract to lower the level of the swamp by 30 inches (75 centimeters) in order that Balaclava Road could be extended to join Dandenong Road.

Initially the southern boundary of ‘The Heath’ extended south along Glenhuntly Road almost to Leman Swamp (Koornang and Lord Reserves). By 1863 the southern boundary was Neerim Road while ‘Cambrook’ Road formed the western boundary and Grange Road the eastern.

In 1864 Crown allotments between Redan Bambra Kambrook and Glenhuntly were sold and the railway passed through Caulfield in 1878. The Heath reserve fronting Dandenong Road was split off by the line and the station.

In 1866 public legislation enabled Paddy’s Swamp to be reserved as a permanent park and watering place and a fence was erected around it. In 1867 licenses were issued to remove peat and soil.

Over the next few decades peat and sand were removed. For example 50 loads of peat from the swamp were trucked to the Botanical Gardens to establish garden beds. Removal of peat continued until the early 1890s. Sand from the drain at the east end of the swamp was also extracted for building.

Caulfield Park was gazetted as a permanent public reserve 130 years ago in 1879. In today's time of seemingly perpetual drought it seems hard to imagine that this was once part of a string of swamps stretching out to the east on the south side of the ridge which carries Dandenong Road.

In the early years of settlement the deeper water pools were fished commercially by fishermen who sold their catch in nearby shopping centres or from barrows wheeled door to door. Long after this was disallowed children continued to collect fish and yabbies (and even leeches for the local chemists) both as a sport and to earn some money.

The park was and early centre for horticulture.

By 1890 it was possible to say that about half the residents who use the municipal areas such as Caulfield Park do so to admire the horticulture.

Also at this time with the help of the unemployed following the great crash of the 1890s the main cricket oval was laid out.

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