Some of these Moreton Bay Figs have achieved outstanding proportions and scale (up to 20-22 metres in height and 25-30 metres in canopy spread). The oldest figs, being those fronting Cleveland Street now appear to suffering decline with thinning canopies and epicormic growth.
The park contains further native rainforest elements, one of which is a rarely planted specimen dating from the early phases of development.
The Coogera (Arytera divaricata), a native of northern NSW and Qld coastal rainforests (particularly littoral rainforests) is located within the Chalmers Street boundary planting. The only other known examples of this species of similar age group in the City of Sydney LGA, are growing in the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
Other native rainforest species in this location include a Port Jackson Fig (Ficus rubiginosa f. glabrescens) and two magnificent specimens of the Queensland Kauri Pine (Agathis robusta). These pines were often planted in distinctive groupings with other tall emergent species, including the native Araucarias. They are important components of these public planting schemes and have a dramatic impact on quality and scale of these spaces. The two specimens are visually connected to another Kauri Pine in the Sydney Community College.
Prince Alfred Park is historically significant as the first park in Australia laid out for the purpose of holding an Agricultural Society Intercolonial Exhibition in 1870. The layout and mature vegetation are extremely important historical items. The park has immense historical and aesthetic significance, and is also of social significance. The park has historical associations with the NSW Agricultural Society and with Benjamin Backhouse, Architect. The collection of trees is considered to have group significance at the City/ LGA level in terms of aesthetic, historic, social and botanic values. There are also individual specimens which are significant at the local level.
Prince Alfred Park, bounded by Cleveland Street (south), Chalmers Street (east) and railway network (north-west), is scheduled in the City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012, Sydney City Heritage Study and classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). The park shares a common boundary with the Sydney Community College, formerly the site of Cleveland Street Boys High School (built in 1867).
Early in the 19th century the park remained as undeveloped government paddocks surrounded by various land grants. The first house associated with the paddocks was Cleveland House (c. 1824, also a listed heritage item). Towards the mid-19th century suburban development began to surround the paddocks and the potential of Cleveland Paddocks (as they had become known) as a significant urban park was increasing. The first major historical event associated with Cleveland Paddocks was the initiation of the first railway in Australia in 1850. The rail line to Parramatta with associated station and workshops was opened on the western portion of Cleveland Paddocks in 1855. The land grant to the Railways isolated an almost triangular portion of the paddocks to the east. This land was to become Prince Alfred Park. By 1856 St. Paul’s Anglican Church was completed and the Cleveland Street Public School was initiated on portions of land resumed from the paddocks. On 22nd December, 1865, the remaining portion of the paddocks was dedicated as a reserve for public purposes. At this time the reserve was an open field. The reserve was called Prince Alfred Park to commemorate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred, to the Australian colonies in the late 1860’s.
The park was the site of the Sydney Exhibition Hall, built in the 1870’s and later demolished in the 1940’s (State Heritage Inventory). Prince Alfred Park retains a significant collection of trees, including row plantations and individual specimen trees, which are likely to date from this 1870s period.
The structure of park planting follows a typical late nineteenth century model using Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) as the dominant park element, arranged as an informal row along the boundaries. This approach was promoted by Charles Moore (Director, Royal Botanic Gardens between 1848-1896). Prince Alfred Park has been overlayed with a number of other phases of planting throughout the twentieth century. The central avenue of London Planes (Platanus x acerifolia) and Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) are likely to date from Inter-War period planting schemes (c. 1915-1940). Similarly, the mixed exotic palms located along the northern boundary of the park, including Washington Palms (Washingtonia robusta) and Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) would date from this period. This latter planting phase is generally supportive of the park’s contextual character and other scheduled significant trees.