History of Glebe foreshore parks

The 4 parks are the result of nearly 4 decades of campaigning by residents and the Glebe Society.


Glebe Point is on the land of the Wangal and Gadigal peoples.

A glebe, from the Latin 'glaeba', meaning a clod of earth, is a piece of land which has been given to the church. In 1789, 400 acres west of Sydney Cove was granted to the Anglican Church for the colony’s new chaplain, the Rev Richard Johnson. The area remained undeveloped until 1828 when the Glebe church lands began to be subdivided. Many noxious industries were forced out of the city at this time, and so tanneries, abattoirs and timber yards began to take over the area’s waterfront. A dominant industrial use in Glebe until the 1970s was timber yards. 

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

An historic photo of an aerial view of houses and a river.
Rozelle Bay and Jubille ParkCity of Sydney Archives (unique ID: A-00018448)

The 4 Glebe foreshore parks – Jubilee, Federal, Blackwattle Bay and Bicentennial – are the result of nearly 4 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. 

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 it 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 19th century. The goods 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 inner west light rail service to connect Dulwich Hill to Central.

Blackwattle Bay Park was completed in 1983 to convert former industrial land to public access and recreation. The park includes the former Vanderfield and Reid 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. 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. He was a publican and later became the manager of the Industrial and Provident Permanent Benefit Building and Investment Society. He was also a Glebe alderman from 1860 to 62 and 1872 to 75. Jarrett built a number of houses at Glebe Point including Bellevue and Venetia, which was demolished during World War I. Bellevue was a residence until the 1920s when it was taken over for industrial use. It 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. It 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. 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.

Blackwattle Secondary College is on the site of former timber yards. In 1883 the Auckland Timber Company opened a timber yard on the foreshore of Blackwattle Bay. The company contributed to the process of filling in the mud flats to reclaim the foreshore land, which began in the 1870s. The timber yard was later taken over by Hudson Brothers. Glebe High School, now Sydney Secondary College Blackwattle campus, opened here in 1979.

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.