A short outline of Caulfield Park and Paddy's Swamp
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
Caulfield Council encouraged local gardening by distributing free trees, shrubs and flowering plants to local residents at the annual Garden Day held in September in Caulfield Park. (This turned in 1980 into the Caulfield Festival and was discontinued in 1989).
In 1908 the permanent waterhole was closed and the Lands Department agreed agreed to the establishment of to the establishment of bowling and croquet lawns, cricket pitches and tennis courts.
In 1910, the Caulfield Park Trust was formed to organise the use of the reserve and help coordinate planning and expenditure.
By the turn of the century local trade held their annual picnics in the park. E.g. In 1911 it was used in this way by the Elsternwick Retailers, the Hay and Corn Dealers, and Caulfield Wood and Coal Merchants.
In the first two decades of the 20thC the ‘Deep Pool’ at Caulfield Park (now the ornamental lake) was a popular paddling and swimming place for local kids (although the gardeners complained).
In 1914, the Council operated an extensive nursery employing six gardeners.And the first qualified gardener was appointed. Also at this time (reflecting the outbreak of war), a miniature rifle range was established.
In 1916, as a condition of putting the reservation bill to Parliament, the Minister for Lands insisted that all fences should be removed. There was a deadlock with Council and and the Minister withdrew Council's authority to be a Committee of Management. They were reinstated in 1918, but no fences were to be erected!
In the 1920s an extensive program of planting was extended and what is now known as the Heritage Area of the park was extended and established with a very extensive range of trees being planted including the Elm Avenue. These trees are now approaching 90 years of age and will need careful protection in the future as temperatures increase.In the 1980s, the rose garden, which had been located near the south western end of the park was relocated further north, and a small lake or wetland with an islet was established. This has become an important part of the park and is extensively used by birds and wildlife. For the last decade, a colony of geese has lived there as well as native and other ducks. The presence of the water serves to attract many other birds and is the last link with historic swamp.
Also at this time the group of sculptures which add to the entrance to the park from Caulfield Junction were commissioned and the area re-laid out.
Sources and Bibliography
Murray, Peter R. and Wells, John C., "From sand, swamp and heath . A History of Caulfield", City of Caulfield,1980.
Solomon, Dr Geulah, Caulfield’s Recreation Heritage, 1990.
Other notes on the general history of Caulfield in general can be found at http://localhero.biz/article/permatitle/history_of_caulfield,_victoria/