Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bowen Park

When the first white settlers came to Australia, they were unfamiliar with the land and the climate, as well as the plants and trees that were found here. So they imported their own familiar species from Britain, and then others from elsewhere. In 1863, a large parcel of land on the outskirts of Brisbane Town was granted to the Queensland Acclimatisation Society. Their role was to introduce and "road test" new species, and if they successfully acclimatised to the new environment, they would be propagated and distributed. The gardens were open to the public, and were actually quite a showpiece. The following photo, from around 1875, shows the neat gardens, including some terracotta statues, and possibly the head gardener's residence in the background. Although it mainly featured plants, animals such as llamas, rabbits, goats, pheasants and partridge were displayed in the park at times.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-038-0001-0002)

The gardens are situated opposite the Royal Brisbane Hospital at Herston, now an inner-city suburb. They were named the Bowen Park Acclimitisation Society Gardens after Governor Sir George Bowen, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Society. The original land holding was quite large, but it was subsequently reduced to allow the Royal National Association to hold its annual exhibition at the St Pauls Terrace end of the park. Further resumptions for the RNA, the railway and the construction of Bowen Bridge Rd greatly reduced the park, and the Acclimatisation Society decided to move elsewhere. In 1917, the park was purchased by the Brisbane Municipal Council for use as a recreational area. This is the way it looks today.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

During the 1950s, the park was under the supervision of Harry Oakman of the Brisbane City Council, who wanted it to provide a colourful spectacle for park visitors, tram passengers and those in the hospital over the road. The picture in the previous post, taken from the park and looking towards the hospital, gives an idea of the flowerbeds and the neat layout of the park at that time. Unfortunately, the flower beds have been removed, and it is mainly the larger species of trees that remain. Although a restful area, it is no longer the showpiece it once was.

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  1. i used to drive past this park about three times a week in the 90s, and never gave it much thought - thanks for "schooling" me

  2. It's rather a shame that it has somewhat been neglected. The bandstand needs some TLC, and the gardens are not as much a feature as before.

    I guess, on the positive side, it is still a green spot surrounded by civilisation!


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