Glebe Foreshore Park

Glebe Foreshore Park

Glebe Foreshore Park

Glebe Point was originally home to the Wangal people, many of whom died in the smallpox outbreak of 1789.

In that year 400 acres of land here was granted to the Reverend Richard Johnson, chaplain of the First Fleet. The land was a ‘glebe’ which was intended to produce crops and income sufficient to maintain him and the church activities. It remained undeveloped until 1828, when many noxious industries such as tanneries and abattoirs were forced out of the city. A dominant industrial use in Glebe until the 1970s was timber yards.

Much of the foreshore land is reclaimed and was not considered suitable for residential development. As well as industry it provided space for community sporting facilities including cricket, football, tennis, rowing and boating.

Glebe Foreshore Park is the result of nearly four decades of campaigns for public access to the foreshore by local residents and the Glebe Society (founded in 1969). These included the fight to save ‘Bellevue’ in the 1970s and 1980s, opposition to a proposed marina in the 1980s, and access to the foreshore and beach in front of the ‘Bridgewater’ apartment development in 1995.

Johnstons Creek was named after George Johnston of the NSW Corps, who claimed to have been the first person ashore at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. Later he suppressed the 1804 convict rebellion and he led his troops to arrest Governor William Bligh in 1808 on the 20th anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival. Johnston named his land grant Annandale after his home town in Scotland. Reclamation of the swampy land around the creek’s mouth began in 1886, creating the stormwater canal and the parklands on either side. Johnstons Creek formed the boundary between Glebe and Annandale municipalities.

The newly reclaimed land was dedicated as park in 1899, and in 1902 was named Federal Park to commemorate the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901. A new road was formed across the park linking Glebe Point and Chapman Roads, which was named Federal Road. The road was closed in the 1980s and its route is now marked by paving and the replica Allan Truss pedestrian bridge across the stormwater canal. In 1908 the park was split between the municipalities of Annandale to the west of the creek (3 acres) and Glebe to the east (12 acres). Glebe’s section was renamed Jubilee Park in 1909 to mark 50 years of the municipality.

Federal Road bridge


Federal Rd Bridge, 1966. (City of Sydney Archives, SRC5631)

Jubilee Park was originally planted with Canary Island date palms and Moreton Bay fig trees, and also included a cricket oval and pavilion for the Glebe Cricket Club. The addition of an acre of the Eglinton subdivision in 1911 provided access to Jubilee Park from Victoria Road. The oval was used for first grade matches from 1920 until 1965, when the club merged with Paddington to form the Sydney Cricket Club. The oval had many other uses including informal recreation for local residents, and winter sports such as various football codes and hockey. Hilda Booler Kindergarten was named after the mother of Alderman Des Booler and opened in 1963. 

The Railway Viaduct was built from Darling Harbour goods yard across Wentworth, Jubilee and Federal Parks in 1922 to provide freight access to the timber industry in Glebe and Rozelle. Both suburbs had been home to many timber companies since the nineteenth century. The trains were also used to transport sugar, wheat and coal from Darling Harbour to the ships and storage on the Glebe Island line. Army engineers who built the railway may have been influenced by Roman viaducts viewed during service in Europe in World War I. According to the National Trust these are the longest viaducts in NSW. The line is now used by the passenger light rail service from Lilyfield to Central Railway.

Blackwattle Park was completed in 1983 to convert former industrial land to public access and recreation. The site includes the extensive Vanderfield and Reid Ltd timber yards which occupied the shoreline south and east of Leichhardt Street. Industrial redevelopment of this land was proposed in the 1970s but residents successfully campaigned to have it rezoned residential with part of the foreshore set aside for a park. Sylvester Stride’s former ship-breaking yards were later added to the park, and a crane is preserved in this area to commemorate this maritime industrial history.

‘Bellevue’ was built by William Jarrett in 1896, adjoining his home ‘Venetia’. Jarrett immigrated to Sydney in 1853 and was a publican until he became manager of the Industrial and Provident Permanent Benefit Building and Investment Society. He was a Glebe alderman from 1872 to 1875, and built a number of houses on the end of Glebe Point. ‘Venetia’ was demolished at the time of World War I. ‘Bellevue’ was a residence until the 1920s when it was taken over for industrial use. The house was partly demolished in the 1970s and became derelict, but was saved from total destruction by the protest action of local residents. It was purchased by Leichhardt Council in 1981 and restored by the City of Sydney in 2006.

Bicentennial Park was created with the assistance of Government funding to mark the 200th anniversary of European settlement in 1988. The area of reclaimed land extended the foreshore in front of Federal and Jubilee Parks, and was owned by the Maritime Services Board and leased to timber companies including Vanderfield and Reid, Steetley Industries, National Plywood, Sydney Sawmilling and Standen Brothers/Smith Brothers. As these industries declined during the 1970s the community campaigned for waterfront parks and foreshore walkways. Stage 1 of Bicentennial Park (east of the canal) was opened in 1988 and stage 2 (west of the canal) opened in 1995.

Pope Paul VI Reserve was named to commemorate the first Papal visit to Australia in December 1970. There was previously a wharf at the end of Glebe Point Road, but reclamations created a marine reserve and the wharf was replaced by others nearby. Pope Paul alighted from a launch at this site during his historic visit, which was described as an enormous success both as a demonstration of Catholicity and in the warmth of the general public’s response.

Main image: Glebe Point, 1970s. (City of Sydney Archives, SRC14491)

Further reading

Max Solling, “Grandeur and Grit: a history of Glebe”, Halstead Press, Sydney, 2007

City Plan Heritage, “Glebe Foreshore Project Heritage Impact Statement”, March 2004

City Plan Heritage, “Glebe Foreshore and ‘Bellevue’ Interpretation Strategy”, December 2005.

Last updated: Wednesday, 27 March 2013