by Barbara Hickson, Architect, Heritage Advisor
by Barbara Hickson, Architect, Heritage Advisor
Consultant: John Broadley
Consultant: John Broadley
Figure 1 Robertson Park Bandstand, view from the north.
This abridged history is extracted from a history of Robertson Park by John Broadley, with some additional footnotes as indicated.
After the Blue Mountains were crossed by Europeans in 1813, William Cox completed the construction of the first road to Kelso/Bathurst in 1815. Settlement was initially limited to the eastern banks of the Macquarie River and the first settlers naturally looked towards the north. James Blackman and William Lawson led successive expeditions from Bathurst to the Cudgegong River and the future site of Mudgee in late 1821. Settlement by William Lawson and brothers George and Henry Cox occurred in February 1822.
Settlement was initially confined to the banks of the district’s water courses and largely comprised convict shepherds and overseers. Many of the district’s early landowners were absentees. Agitation for the establishment of a town led to the proclamation of the town of Mudgee in January 1838 and the first blocks of land were released in August the same year. Development was slow until the discovery of gold in the district in 1851. The town developed rapidly as a service centre for the surrounding goldfields and by 1860 the town and an area encircling it were both proclaimed municipalities in 1860.
While the area was initially used for a variety of purposes, the space was not dedicated for use as a public recreation area until 16th August 1890. Originally called Market Square, the space was effectively the equivalent of an English village common or green. In 1891 Market Square was renamed Robertson Park in memory of Sir John Robertson (1816–1891), several times a parliamentary member for Mudgee and Premier of New South Wales. Robertson had successfully lobbied to have the rail connected to Mudgee by 1884 and was thus greatly esteemed in the district.
Robertson Park, covering 3 acres 3 roods and 38 perches, or a little less than four acres, is bounded by Market Street to the north, Douro Street to the west, Lovejoy Street to the south, and Perry Street to the east and comprises the whole of Section 69 of the town of Mudgee.
In 1891 trees were first planted in the park. In August 1893 Council decided to fence the park, and the job was ultimately done by Albert Murphy for £81. Turnstiles, believed to have been the work of the West End Foundry, were installed on each of the four corners, with gates in the northern and southern fences. John Joseph Sharpe, who was appointed the first caretaker of the park, was responsible for trees in the streets and on Flirtation Hill.
To the west of Robertson Park is Section 8 which contained the first twenty allotments in the town released for sale in 1838. To the south is Section 9 which contained ten allotments released for sale in the late 1830s and early 1840s. To the north is Section 54 which was destined for government use: police, post and telegraph services, and waterworks. To the east is Section 10 which contains twenty allotments released in the late 1840s and the mid-1850s; Section 10 is the historic precinct of the town’s CBD.
Figure 3 View across Robertson Park towards the north-west, c. 1903.
Activities in the park
On 22nd April 1846 the first Mudgee Agricultural Society show was held in Market Square, with pens erected especially for the occasion. The current Mudgee Show Society Inc is thus the successor to one of the earliest agricultural shows in the country.
Market Square was regularly the place of assembly for public processions, attended by various religious and secular organizations. On 18th November 1874 a procession left Market Square to walk down Market Street and up Lewis Street to the site of the new hospital, designed by noted Sydney architect Edmund Blacket, for the laying of its foundation stone by Mrs George Henry Cox of Burrundulla. On 29th December 1876 another procession left Market Square to walk to the site of Public School to lay its foundation stone.
In 1884 Market Square was the venue for a mammoth celebration, the arrival of the first train to Mudgee on 10th September 1884. The official opening occurred on 11th September with Edmond Barton, local members Sir John Robertson and A. G. Taylor, and the Premier – Sir Alex Stuart – in attendance. A public procession started in Market Square and proceeded up Market and Lewis Streets to the railway station where the official ceremony took place. The public then returned to Market Square for the celebrations. Bullocks were roasted and several hundred loaves of bread and numerous kegs of beer were consumed. The revelries continued all through the night.
Vice-regal visits to Mudgee were grand occasions in earlier days and on several occasions a public welcome was accorded to the governors in Market Square/Robertson Park. One of the earliest vice-regal visitors to Mudgee was Earl Belmore in 1869:
“The Governor and suite arrived at noon, today, and were met at Green Swamp, six miles from town, by the municipality of Cudgegong, who presented an address……On reaching the Market-square, an address was presented by the Corporation, and the National Anthem was sung by six hundred children of various schools.”
A later visitor in 1932 was Governor Sir Philip Game who, earlier that year, had dismissed the Premier, Jack Lang, the brother-in-law of Mudgee poet Henry Lawson:
“The Governor (Sir Philip Game) arrived at Mudgee this morning at the invitation of the Anzac and Armistice Association to be present at a ball tonight. He was met at the station by the president (Mr. E. Blades) and the Mayor (Alderman E. Bartlett). He was tendered a civic reception at Robertson Park by the Mayor and the President of Cudgegong Shire (Councillor J. Pirie)…”
The space was also well used by the local citizen’s military units, popular male pastimes in nineteenth and early twentieth century Mudgee.
In 1886 a public well, one of several around town, had been sunk in Market Square opposite what is now the Mudgee Guardian office. For a small fee, water was conveyed to householders by horse-drawn water carts. The well remains, although covered over and no longer in use.
Robertson Park has been used for a variety of leisure and recreational purposes since the establishment of the town. On 26th January 1855 – what was then called Anniversary Day – the first cricket match in Mudgee, with nine men per side, was played on Market Square. Cricket matches were played here intermittently, as cricket grounds were later opened up elsewhere around town. From circa 1908 until 1964 lawn bowls was the chief sporting activity in Robertson Park.
Town bands existed in many country towns throughout Australia and recitals in band rotundas in public parks were a popular leisure activity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since 2001, with the aim of reviving public entertainment of the 1800s and early 1900s, the Gulgong-Mudgee-Rylstone branch of the National Trust has organized free band recitals in the rotunda of Robertson Park on Sunday afternoons. Members of the public were invited to bring along a picnic afternoon tea and a rug and enjoy the talent of young local musicians in the spectacular surroundings of Robertson Park in autumn.
In 1906 a group of Mudgee professionals and businessmen decided to form a bowling club, using land on the eastern end of Robertson Park. Several greens were laid out on a north-south axis, while later additional greens on an east-west axis were placed on the northern end closer to the Post Office opposite. There is some conjecture as to precisely when play started in Robertson Park. Feature articles in the Mudgee Guardian in 1984 mention 75 years of play (ie commencement in 1909).
After World War One Robertson Park became the focus for Armistice Day and ANZAC Day ceremonies, thus maintaining the historic tradition of its use as a venue for public observance and celebration.
After World War One the Commonwealth Government offered to pay half the cost of war memorials constructed in communities across Australia. In some places this was a means of acquiring a hospital or a school eg Hay War Memorial High School in the Riverina. In the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 15th November 1922 Harold Hardwick, as honorary architect, placed an advertisement asking for tenders for delivery of a memorial obelisk from Alexandria railway station in Sydney to Mudgee and its erection in Robertson Park. Local sources, however, suggest that Mudgee monumental mason D. B. Acton of Church Street was responsible for the work. Harold Hardwick appears to have been the designer, but the precise date of the memorial’s installation is not known.
Figure 4 Commemorative service in Robertson Park for the late King Edward VII in 1910 with the rotunda in the centre ground.
In February 1903 the tender of £114.10.0 of Messrs Stoddart and Casimir was accepted for the erection of the rotunda in Robertson Park, designed by Mudgee–resident architect Harold Hardwick (see Appendix 3). The rotunda was built as a memorial to Sir John Robertson; it also features a memorial tablet to Mudgee’s two enlisted men – Hugh Trevor Jones and William Croome – who died in service during the Boer War; a third man, Reginald Belmore Cox, died from a fever in Adelaide on route to the Boer War, and his name is also included on the plaque. For many years the rotunda was surrounded by a neat picket fence.
Figure 5 The band rotunda from the north-east (circa 1903)
Additional historical details of the bandstand, sourced from Trove newspapers and MWR Council files.
Trove newspapers provide many instances of bands playing in the bandstand. These include the Mudgee Town Band, under the baton of Bandmaster A. W. Sheppard, the Army Band (1937), the Mudgee Citizens' Band, many visiting bands such as Gulgong Town band and the Redfern Boys Band.
Many Anzac day services using the bandstand as the rostrum are also noted, and in later years services associated with Australia Day.
Initially the rotunda was surrounded by a picket fence with seating enclosed. Later the seats and fence were removed. In 1983 new plantings were added around the rotunda. However these bushes and shrubs were replaced by rose bushes early in the 21th C.
Various repairs are noted in the newspaper files showing a regular upkeep of the facility at intervals of 8 to 10 years. These include repainting in 1912 and 1920 and painting the seats & repairs in 1928-29 The quotation of Mr W. Evans at £24-10’ was accepted on the motion of Aldermen Robinson and Dykes.’ In 1941 re-painting and repairs for 24 pounds, and in 1949 the tender of Mr. Flack was accepted for repainting.
The surrounds were also receiving attention. In July 1905 the special amount of £25 was allocated for the space round the rotund to be clipped, the footpaths repaired and tarred. It was also recommended that the trees, both in the parks and streets around, be trimmed.
In February 1932 further improvements were recommended by the Parks Committee in the area around the band rotunda, which included the pavement being treated with tar and rolled, and that the ‘rotunda to be straightened up and some paint applied.’ The estimated cost of this work was in the vicinity of £15.
In 1982 Council called for quotations for ‘refurbishment and painting’ of the bandstand, and an add was placed in the Mudgee Guardian to that effect.
In 1987 further repairs were called for and these are outlined on council’s files on 28/8/1987 to include the following:
Other structures in the Park
In the early 2000s a new toilet block at the western end of the park was built in a heritage-sympathetic style to complement the adjacent band rotunda without impinging upon its curtilage. This block replaced an earlier toilet block on site which had become outmoded.
The Mudgee Pre-School has operated in the premises in the south-eastern corner of Robertson Park (intersection of Perry and Lovejoy Streets) since the mid-1960s. Previously, the Mudgee Bowling Club had used the building as a clubhouse which was officially opened in November 1936. The original building, now much extended and adapted to suit its use as a pre-school, is believed to have been designed by Mudgee architect Harold Hardwick who had died the previous year; Harold Hardwick is also believed to have designed the original clubhouse on site.
Located to the immediate north of the Pre-school fence is a community art project – a “Creative Villages Ground Maze”, made in 1994 by people of Mudgee Shire, designed by Chris Barker of Environmental Art Australia, and funded by the Arts Council of NSW and the Mudgee Arts Council. It consists of meandering paths of inscribed bricks laid in the ground.
The playground located towards the south-western corner of the park was constructed towards the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century and replaced an outmoded and elementary playground located there in c. 1989.
Harold Hardwick, Architect of Mudgee
Harold Hardwick had a strong association with Robertson Park in Mudgee, as he was responsible for the design of the rotunda, the Cenotaph and probably the two clubhouses for the Mudgee Bowling Club. Three of his better-known works are located in adjacent streets and face Robertson Park: the Mudgee Club at No. 5 Lovejoy Street, and No. 13 Lovejoy Street, and No. 18 Douro Street.
After qualifying as an architect, Harold Hardwick practiced in Sydney before moving to Mudgee by 1895 and establishing his architectural practice in Davidson's chambers in Market Street. One of his first known briefs in the town is the building containing Elton’s Pharmacy which was constructed in 1897.
In 1898 he married Adele Florence Wells, born in Mudgee in 1877, a daughter of Henry Edward Alexander Wells and Laura, nee Richards. Harold and Adele Florence had five children, all born in Mudgee: Effie (1899), George (1901), William (1903), Adele (1906) and Charles (born and died in 1908). According to their grandson, the Reverend Alfred Robert Hardwick, Harold was a strict Methodist who went to church every Sunday. He was one of the first to have a car in Mudgee.
Many of Harold Hardwick's architectural briefs in the district are well-known, but there are many houses, commercial buildings and churches in the town and district which, due to their style, may be attributed to him. He had a virtual monopoly in his profession, as he was the only architect living in the greater Mudgee district. According to Hume’s History of Mudgee, Harold Hardwick was appointed honorary architect to Mudgee Hospital in 1904, a position which he held until his death in 1935; consequently, all early buildings on the site are presumed to be to his design. Harold Hardwick also regularly acted as an honorary architect for other organizations in town such as the Mudgee Agricultural Society, being responsible for many buildings, both extant and vanished, at the Mudgee Showground. Harold Hardwick died in Mudgee in 1935 and his wife Adele Florence died in Mudgee in 1943.
Figure 6 ANZAC day gathering, 25 April 2014
The Roberson Park and the bandstand or rotunda
· The town of Mudgee was proclaimed in 1838 and Robertson Park, then called Market Square, was the focal point of town activities.
· The first Mudgee Agricultural Society show was held in Market Square, in 1846.
· In 1886 a public well, one of several around town, was sunk in Market Square opposite what is now the Mudgee Guardian office.
· The landscaping of the park began in 1890, when the space was declared a public recreation area.
· In 1891 Market Square was renamed Robertson Park in memory of Sir John Robertson (1816–1891), parliamentary member for Mudgee and Premier of New South Wales.
· In 1884 Market Square was the venue for a celebration of the arrival of the first train to Mudgee on 10th September 1884.
· After World War I, and with the building of a cenotaph, Robertson Park became the focus for Armistice Day and ANZAC Day ceremonies.
· The tender for the bandstand was accepted in February 1903 for £114.10.0 by Messrs Stoddart and Casimir.
· The bandstand was built as a memorial to Sir John Robertson; it also features a memorial tablet to Mudgee’s two enlisted men – Hugh Trevor Jones and William Croome – who died in service during the Boer War; and a third man, Reginald Belmore Cox, who died on route to the Boer War.
· The bandstand was a popular public music venue with many bands including Mudgee Town Band, the Army Band and many visiting bands, and Christmas carol evenings. Town bands played free recitals in the band rotunda and often this became a public picnic day.
· ANZAC services were often centred on the bandstand.
· Newspapers note many repairs to the building including repainting in 1912, 1920, 1928-29 (‘by W. Evans at £24/10 ), 1941 Painting and repairs in 1949 ( Mr. Flack) and again in 1952, 1982 and 1987. (Painting would have continued at similar intervals between 1952 and 1982)
· Repairs were also carried out, and in the early years this included a pathway around the rotunda, and in 1921, asphalt taken up and plants installed around the park.
· Other structures in the park have included bowling clubs, sheds, a child care centre, a fountain, toilet blocks and children’s playground.
· Local architect Harold Hardwick, was the designer of the rotunda, and had a strong association with Robertson Park.
· Extensive repair work is being carried out in May-June 2016 by builder Steve Pickens. This includes replacement of a post, beam and much of the fine ripple iron roof covering except at the highest angle.
 Lovejoy Street was previously called Robertson Street, and originally called Market Lane. Thomas Lovejoy was a long-serving Mudgee Town Clerk and a resident of Robertson Street.
 Mr Henry Bisby later became the gardener, followed by Harry Malvern in 1926.(MSC letter 14
 Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 16th June 1869.
 Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd August 1932.
 Mudgee Guardian, Tuesday, 5th July 1988.