The informal row plantation of Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) is one of the longest contiguous examples of this planting style in the City of Sydney’s managed parkland (excluding Centennial Parklands – Moore Park and Anzac Parade). These Moreton Bay Figs extend along City Road to Broadway and continue along Parramatta Road (within the University of Sydney grounds) to the Footbridge precinct. This single species row is broken up and merged with a range of other mature species, particularly, the Port Jackson Fig (Ficus rubiginosa f. glabrescens and f. rubiginosa). The figs along Broadway – Parramatta Road are the largest and most imposing specimens in the collection. They make a dramatic contribution to the character of the streetscape. The figs on City Road however, are generally in fair condition, ageing and relatively small in stature (averaging 10-12 metres in height/ 20-24 metres canopy spread).
Moreover, there are further individual specimens of varying sizes within the park. The scattered mixed groupings of Moreton Bay Figs and Port Jackson Figs near Northam Lake include a number of specimens of particular note. These trees have achieved a substantial size and scale and define the visual and aesthetic quality of this space. Other ageing, gnarled and dwarfed specimens of this species can be found in the upper City Road lawns. One particularly interesting example of the Moreton Bay Fig occurs as a ‘bonsai- type’ specimen, standing only 6 metres in height. Nevertheless, this tree has an exceptional sculptured character and form.
The Victoria Park collection is further strengthened by the extraordinary range of botanical specimens planted during this early phase of the park’s development. Species of particular significance include the native Deciduous Fig (Ficus superba var. henneana), Queensland Kauri Pine (Agathis robusta), Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), and exotic Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii), Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) and Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima var. acutissima). Many of these specimens have close links to Charles Moore and the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. A River Bushwillow (Combretum erythrophyllum), located on City Road, near the intersection with Cleveland Street is a rare species in Sydney. Victoria Park contains one of the most diverse collections of exotic evergreen and deciduous Oaks (Quercus spp.) and other northern hemisphere species in the City of Sydney LGA. In particular, the Chir Pine and Sawtooth Oak are relatively rare specimens in the City of Sydney LGA with the only other known examples occurring in the Botanic Gardens and grounds of the University of Sydney (refer to listing).
Victoria Park is of historical significance as a significant Victorian era park in Sydney (dedicated 1870) and its part in the early history of Camperdown. It is also significant for its close association with the University of Sydney. It retains substantial components, including fabric, spaces, layout and Victorian character of its formative 19th century planning and design. Despite land excision and the imposition of the intrusive swimming pool, the remnant Victoria Park is one of Sydney’s more intact Victorian landscape designs and still conveys a sense of the skill with which it exploited the natural drainage system and topography.
The park contains an outstanding collection of significant trees including many rarely planted botanical specimens. This collection has important associations with Charles Moore and Joseph Maiden and is considered to have group significance at the City/ LGA level in terms of aesthetic, visual, historic, social and botanic values. The Victoria Park Group (including the Victorian Gothic style gatehouse, gardens and landscaping) is scheduled in the City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 and classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW).
Victoria Park, bounded by Broadway (north), City Road (east) and the University of Sydney campus (west), contains a broad range of park elements including the Victorian Gothic Gardener’s Lodge designed by Edmund Thomas Blacket and built in 1885 (see University of Sydney – Main Building), Lake Northam and associated landscaping and Victoria Park Aquatic Centre. The parkland lies within a busy pedestrian precinct linking to University Avenue and the main University campus, the Darlington campus and colleges (refer to listings in this Register).
Grose Farm was selected as the site of the University of Sydney in 1855, with provision for the formation of ‘park and garden’ on land that was to be known as Victoria Park. In 1865 extra land was added and dedicated as an Approach Reserve, to provide a formal axis to the University quadrangle, by the 1880’s this was developed as a double avenue of fig trees. On the 16th of July 1870, Victoria Park was formerly dedicated and named with a body of trustees appointed. The vista to the University Tower was reinforced by the construction of two Gothic Revival gatehouses (c 1885) with accompanying formal stone gate piers and gates. A road was constructed along the main vista and a wooden footbridge was built to provide access over the lake in this area, reinforcing this axis.
The bowling club was founded in the 1890’s with one green and a clubhouse. In 1911, the management of Victoria Park was given to Sydney City Council, works carried out to the park included; park planning, further plantings, establishment of a children’s playground, extension of the bowling club and the introduction of park lighting. The University handed over its Approach Reserve land to the Council in exchange for Council land closer to the Medical School in the 1920’s. In 1925 Parramatta Road was widened, causing the loss of some fig trees which caused alarm to the local community. In 1936 the Gardener’s Lodge was altered to accommodate Public Conveniences. In 1939 the Entrance Gates and gateposts were removed and relocated to City Road/Eastern Avenue entry to Sydney University.
In the 1930’s, the lake was cleaned, grass laid, flowers planted and pathways were formed in a remodelling scheme. Iron railings around the park were removed and a was fence constructed between the University and the Park, with many of the vistas to the University being lost from the avenue. In 1940 Messenger’s Lodge, which was in a deteriorated state, was demolished. In the 1950’s Council constructed a swimming pool, further obscuring the vista.