Sydney Architecture Images- Glebe Harold Park

Harold Park history

  See also
Harold Park history
Harold Park Redevelopment
Harold Park history from the air
Glebe early maps
Harold Park historical images
Rozelle Tram Depot
Rozelle Tram Depot historical images
Rozelle Tram Depot historical from the air
Sydney Tramsheds Gallery
Former Tram Depots of Sydney




Minogue Crescent, Forest Lodge




Former horse raceway
notes Racecourse 1902-1911, currently being developed by Mirvac as 1200 residential apartments.
From Mutton to Tin Hares - Harold Park

Between Rozelle Bay and Blackwattle Bay was once a boggy area of mangroves and rocky creek
beds. Mud flats lay between White's Creek, Johnston 's Creek and Blackwattle Creek.

This was to prove the most popular area in the 1828 auction. The area divided by Bay Street was
subdivided into blocks 1.3-2 hectares in size and these averaged £84 per 0.4 hectares compared to
£12 per 0.4 hectare on Glebe Point. An R. Cooper paid £ 125 per 0.4 hectares for block 12, right on
Blackwattle Swamp.

For Sydneysiders of the 1830s this was the perfect location for an abattoirs. It was thought the
tides would drain away the blood and offal wastes. Instead, the tides washed the organic pollution so
far up the creeks, it blocked tile tide. The foreshores were stained with blood and the smell drove residents
away. Water from Blackwattle Creek was absorbed by Tooth's Brewery, for beer, and
Brisbane Distillery, for gin so there was nothing to wash the muck back into the sea.

The construction of workers cottages built in the Blackwattle Bay area in the 1830s and 1840s added
to the mess with silt and sewerage. By 1859 an outfall sewer discharged untreated sewerage straight
into Blackwattle Bay. The abattoirs were moved to Glebe Island in the 1850s.
Much to the relief of the residents, in the 1870s Blackwattle Swamp was reclaimed up to the bridge
in Pyrmont Bridge Road. At that time Wattle Street, Wentworth Park and Wentworth Park Road and the
lower part of St Johns Road were all filled in with rubbish from the city. Wentworth Park was proclaimed
a park on 10 November 1885.

Rozelle Bay was still rock and bush in the days when Harold Park was known as 'Allen's Bush' and
belonged to George Wigram Allen. By the 1880s the area between Johnston 's Creek and White's
Creek was cleared and the swampy areas reclaimed. The creeks, where sewerage and refuse soaked into
the soft ground and manifested disease, were widened and graded to give them smooth surfaces.

Eventually they became storm water channels at Blackwattle Bay, Johnston's Creek and White's
Creek. Jubilee Park was reclaimed for Glebe's fiftieth anniversary and opened on 23 September 1908.
Federal Park was opened on 4 January 1929. Harold Park Trotting and Greyhound Racing
Track, when first reclaimed from the sea, was an athletic ground but after 1902, when the New South
Wales Trotting Club was formed, the Forest Lodge track was Llsed for two meetings., The course was
renamed Harold Park, in 1929, after the famous North American stallion 'Childe Harold' . In 1949
night trotting was introduced, as every Glebe citizen is all too well aware each Friday evening. "'The
bookmakers' cries stuttered loudly like firecrackers, then fell silent... There came a whispering along the
track, and a soft beating like silken drums- the horses swept by in the dark, shining mass ... a third time
they came, and this time a great roaring crowdvoice travelled round the course with them. The
chanting rose to a frenzy, lights flashed, the mass of horses broke into scattered, flying units. The race
was over." (Patricia Wrightson I Own the Racecourse).

In 1927 the Greyhound Coursing Association built a track inside the trotting circuit at Harold
Park. Here the first races were held using a 'tin hare' and debate on the validity of betting on a
mechanical device arose. A Royal Commission into the matter put a seal on it and agreement was
reached in 1937, the year the Greyhound Racing Control Council was formed. In 1939 Wentworth
Park Greyhound Track opened on the reclaimed Blackwattle Bay where the abattoirs had once held
pride of place. Over the years there have been many proposals of re-development at the Harold Park
Raceway, the most recent being for a new gymnasium and conference centre in 1999.
Some recent images-
The history of Harold Park Paceway

THE New South Wales Harness Racing Club was proud to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2002, having been incorporated on October 10, 1902.

Few of the small but sedate crowd which attended Harold Park's first meeting on 19th November, 1902, visualised that in 1960, 58 years later, on the same course a world record crowd of 50,346 would tear down partitions in the grandstand to get a better view of a big event.

Few at that first meeting visualised that in 1975, some 78 years later, trotting drivers from North America and Europe would compete against Australian and New Zealand drivers on a racing strip, described by the visitors as the "best lit trotting track" in the world.

Then in March 2002, the biggest Inter Dominion crowd in a decade gave the Bathurst pacer Smooth Satin a standing ovation as he fought on to take a last stride victory over the Victorian, Shakamaker.

However the crowd at that first meeting would marvel at the magnificent sporting area, which Harold Park is acclaimed in its centenary year.

The Harold Park course in 1902 was known as Forest Lodge, and for the first meeting there were five events with total prizemoney of 99 sovereigns.

Just prior to the turn of the century, and before meetings commenced at Forest Lodge, the present Harold Park course, trotting and pacing was confirmed primarily to match races between enthusiasts without and serious attempt at organisation.

Following some preliminary discussions, 33 of the sport's keenest supporters met together on 4th June, 1902 at the saddlery shop of J.McGrath, a well-known harness maker of the day.

Between them, those present at the meeting raised the sum of 19pounds 17shillings and 6 pents to launch the proposed Club. The general contribution was 2/6 per person, while the maximum donation was 10 pounds 10 shillings by Mr.J.A.Buckland, owner of the famous horse "Fritz".

A week later the Club was incorporated on 10th October, 1902, with 22 members paying a subscription of 2 pounds 2 shillings, and the inaugural meeting was held on 19th November, 1902, the Forest Lodge course it was then known, being leased from the Metropolitan Rugby Union.

Following two meetings at Forest Lodge, racing was continued at the old Kensington Pony course where it was conducted until June 1904. Racing was then resumed at Forest Lodge, which had in the interim period became Epping.

1911 was an eventful year in the history of harness racing in New South Wales. It marked the recognition by the Colonial Secretary of the Day, of the New South Wales Trotting Club as the Controlling authority of the sport in the state. From that year onwards, successive Governments have continued to give that recognition, until 1976 the control was transferred to the Trotting Authority of NSW.

1911 also included the Club purchasing the course from the Metropolitan Rugby Union for 10,400 pounds.

The track was known as Epping until 21st March, 1929, when, due to the confusion of the name with that to well-known Sydney suburb, it was renamed Harold Park, after the imported trotter Childe Harold – one of the great progenitors of the stock of the early night trotting days.

Childe Harold c. 1926

Childe Harold was bred in Kentucky, and was imported from Glasgow, Scotland, by Mr. Andrew Town of Richmond, New South Wales.

October 1st, 1949, saw the sport and the Harold Park track receive its greatest impetus in New South Wales, with the advent of night racing, as the result of legislation enacted with the support of all parties in the State Parliament.

The progress since then has reached heights undreamt of by those who attended Harold Park's inaugural meeting in 1902, and from its early obscurity, Harold Park has become known world-wide as the venue of one of Australia's most spectacular night entertainments.

Since night trotting commenced, harness horses at Harold Park have achieved worldwide recognition, and there have been some thrilling and exciting races conducted at the track.

Without doubt the most memorable is that which took place on 13th February, 1960, when the "mighty atom" Caduceus from New Zealand defeated Australia's Apmat in the final of the Inter Dominion before a world record crowd of 50,346.

The scene was set that night for the very best in thrills, excitement, competition and drama. The previous week, the best pacers in Australia and New Zealand had opposed each other in three series of gruelling and testing heats.

Caduceus and Apmat had been singled out as the best two chances in a star-studded final field, and throughout the heat series, it could be seen that the rivalry which existed between these two great horses had been carried on to their drivers Jack Litten of New Zealand on Caduceus, and the local champion, Bert Alley on Apmat.

People crammed every vantage point to watch the race. They were jammed on every square inch of the inside greyhound circuit and packed into what is now the centre-course carpark.

Those who were unable to see in the grandstand tore down timber and three ply partitions in the main grandstand.

In a spectacular finish, Caduceus passed the post half a length clear of Apmat, with the Victorian Maestro's Melody a neck away third and Fettle a close fourth.

Caduceus received one of the most deafening ovations ever heard on a racetrack, but whilst the cheers were still sounding, the news was announced that a protest was lodged by Bert Alley against Caduceus being declared the winner.

This produced a most unfavourable reaction from the crowd, strange in the circumstances for they had turned against their own local horse. The Stewards, however, dismissed the protest and Caduceus was the winner of one of the most exciting sporting events ever held in Sydney.

The list of champions who have raced at the famous Glebe circuit reads like a "Who's Who" of harness racing.

Champion standardbreds from all parts of Australia and New Zealand have achieved great feats in the track and re-written the record book before appreciative crowds.

Those few enthusiasts that attended the first meeting back in 1902 could have hardly visulised the changes, which would come to the historic Harold Park course.
The Paceway is located within the 119 acres of the glebe subdivision acquired by the solicitor
George Allen (1800-1877) and developed by him over the 1830s into an estate named
Toxteth Park. The subdivision of Toxteth Park for residential development commenced in
1884 and was completed in 1907. The Paceway is located within an area of the Toxteth Park
Estate known as Allen’s Bush, which is believed to have been left in its natural state although
the cliffs were quarried (exact location/s not known) in the 1860s and 1870s. The landform of
Allen’s Bush was dramatically changed over the late 1890s by the construction of the
Johnstons Creek Stormwater Channel by the NSW Public Works Department. The cement
lined channels, the uniform levelled area, and the parkland reserves all date from this public
In 1889 brothers John and Thomas Spencer, both dentists by profession, acquired an area of
around four and a half acres of Allen’s Bush located at the corner of Wigram Road and Ross
Street. The Spencers developed this land into the Lillie Bridge (or Lilliebridge) Recreation
Ground, which opened in January 1890. Lillie Bridge was a place where pony racing, cycling
professional foot running (pedestrianism) and trotting meets were held until it was closed
down in 1898 on account of the frequent lawless behaviour. The Spencer brothers reopened
the recreation ground in 1900 under the name Forest Lodge Race Club within an enlarged
area of around sixteen and a half acres. The newly formed New South Wales Trotting Club
held its first trotting meetings in 1902 at the Forest Lodge ground. In 1904 the ground was
renamed Epping Racecourse under the management of James Joynton Smith. For a brief
period (1907-1911) prior to the First World War the Epping Racecourse was owned by the
Metropolitan Rugby Union.
The New South Wales Trotting Club acquired the freehold of the Epping Racecourse in 1911
and over the following years developed the racecourse to provide facilities for its members
and the general public (now all demolished). In 1929 the name of the course was changed to
Harold Park and at the same time a new and up-to-date two-storey grandstand providing
accommodation for 2000 patrons was opened (now demolished). The new name
acknowledged the American stallion Childe Harold who was a great foundation sire in the
early days of trotting in Australia. Between 1927 and 1987 greyhound racing under lights was
staged at Harold Park. Night trotting races at Harold Park commenced in 1949. Night races
of both the dogs and horses were very popular with Sydneysiders with the 1950s being the
golden years of harness racing in Sydney with the average attendance at race fixtures being
in excess of 18,000. A new grandstand was erected in 1961, which still stands today, albeit
fully enclosed and extended. Over 1995-1996 the 1961 grandstand was enclosed and
extended and the track entirely reconstructed. 


Reference- Harold Park Heritage Study, Paul Davies & Associates.