History of Green Park
Green Park is between St Vincent’s Hospital and the former Darlinghurst Gaol, bounded by Burton and Victoria Streets and Darlinghurst Road.
Darlinghurst was named after Governor Ralph Darling (‘hurst’ being an old English word for a heavily-timbered hill). His successor Richard Bourke transformed the area when he decided to build a new gaol and courthouse on the ridge with its scattering of villas and windmills. The prisoners were marched here in 1841 from the old gaol near Circular Quay.
Alexander Green arrived as a convict in 1824 and became the assistant hangman in 1828. By the time he moved to Darlinghurst Gaol in July 1841 he was described as very ugly, with pockmarked skin and stumps for teeth, of simple mind, with a large scar, from an axe attack by a prisoner, down the side of his face. Green was given a whitewashed hut to live in outside the eastern wall of the gaol in modern Green Park but was forced to move inside the gaol walls when larrikins attacked his house and burnt it down in 1842.
Alexander Green was eventually declared insane and dismissed in 1855. After hanging 490 people in the colony in his lifetime, he was admitted to Tarban Creek Asylum (later Gladesville Hospital for the Insane) in 1856 and remained there until his death in 1879.
In the 1860s this site was earmarked for ‘accommodation for aged and infirm females’ but this plan did not proceed and the site was instead granted to the council for a public recreation ground in 1875. Despite the coincidence of Alexander Green’s association with the area, the park was actually named after Alderman James Green who represented the district from 1869 to 1883.
The bandstand was erected in 1925 to host public band concerts which were a popular feature of Sydney life in the interwar years. It was converted to a café in the early 1990s. Set in its western wall is the foundation stone which originally stood at the corner of Burton and Victoria Streets. It is inscribed ‘Green Park Benjamin Palmer Mayor 1875-76’.
Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial
This memorial, in the form of a pink triangle with black poles, was designed by Russell Rodrigo and Jennifer Gamble and opened in 2001.
Victor Chang Memorial
The Victor Chang Memorial on the corner of Burton and Victoria Streets commemorates the surgeon who performed Australia’s first successful heart transplant in 1984 at St Vincent’s Hospital. He was murdered in a bungled extortion attempt in 1991. Its centrepiece is a canopy fountain which is one of a group of eight highly ornamental drinking fountains brought from Glasgow in 1870.
Main image: Green Park, 1970. (City of Sydney Archives, CRS 871/60 (g) 2).
Ray and Richard Beckett, “Hangman: the life and times of Alexander Green, Public Executioner to the Colony of NSW”, Melbourne, 1980.
Last updated: Friday, 28 October 2016