Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Farm Park

A ten-minute walk from my place gets me to New Farm Park, on the Brisbane River at the end of Brunswick St, and one of the city's more scenic places of relaxation. It wasn't always so - before European settlement, the local Turrbal people used it extensively as a food source. The swampy terrain was home to the tortoise that they hunted with some relish. It then became a place for the European settlers to grow their food, as Captain Logan ordered it to be cleared as the "new farm" (in addition to the existing farms at the Botanical Gardens and South Brisbane) for the settlement of Brisbane. Convict labour was used to grow maize and vegetables needed for the penal outpost. Some years later, the land would be sub-divided for smaller tenant farms.

Then land-holder and solicitor Thomas Adams leased his holdings to the Moreton Bay Jockey Club, and the annual races moved from the outlying area of Coopers Plains into the suburb now known as New Farm. Race-goers could attend by travelling down the river from Brisbane by boat. Racing subsequently moved to Eagle Farm in 1865, and the area surrounding the old race track was ear-marked for housing. Proximity to the city and then the electric tramway system's extension down Brunswick St saw some of Brisbane's most prominent citizens build houses in the area. After some activism from locals seeking the establishment of a recreation reserve, Brisbane City Council acquired the land that had been the old race track, and New Farm Park was established in 1914. From the outset, the Council saw to beautification of the park with extensive landscaping and planting, and the park's position on the bank of the Brisbane River enhanced its drawing power. Picnickers could frequently watch boats of all sizes pass by (below, top), and that also holds true today - although the boats are more likely to be powered by motor rather than sail (below, bottom).

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7708-0001-0026)

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The fifteen hectares of parkland on the river soon became a hit with locals, and the Council extended its use by creating a cricket pitch and other sporting facilities. In addition to extensive rose beds, poinsettias and jacarandas were also planted; and a kiosk and bandstand were erected in 1915. The following colour image from around 1950 shows people wandering amongst the jacarandas and enjoying the park for picnics. That's the kiosk in the background.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #lbp00043)

In 2000 a fire destroyed the kiosk, and since then there has been argument and controversy about a replacement. A temporary commercial venture (below) operates there at the moment. Regrettably, some of the old jacarandas have been lost, probably due to the drought conditions here in Brisbane recently. The City Council took a right old bollocking about removing them, even though they claimed that the trees were unsafe.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The park is still enormously popular, especially at weekends and on public holidays. Extensive apartment and other high density residential construction has occurred in the surrounding areas, and the park has become the "back-yard" for many of their inhabitants. Construction of barbecues and benches under the shade of the huge fig trees has added to the community aspect of the park. The lovely bandstand remains, and is a popular venue for weddings, parties...anything.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

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Next: City wharves


  1. As usual: interesting, thought provoking and a great read.

  2. Wow, I have just found your blog and I love it. Really enjoyed this post, one of my best friends ashes are buried in New Farm park below one of the big trees near the river, the one with Mum carved in it. It, the park, was and is a very special place for so many people..cheers Katherine.

  3. Thanks for dropping by Katherine. New Farm Park is a special place alright!

  4. Ages ago I was writing about late Victorian and Edwardian bandstands, but the New Farm Park bandstand is really something special! What a delight. So I created a link to

    many thanks

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