Tag Archives: Queen Victoria

Exploring A Victorian Garden – Bathurst’s Machattie Park, Australia.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” is how I’ve felt about Bathurst’s Machattie Park since returning home. Two weeks ago, I had no idea this park even existed and my awareness of landscape design was also minimal. Indeed, I’m even one of those dreadful plant murderers who should be banned from buying plants altogether.

“Not all who wander are lost.”

Alice in Wonderland

Yet, now I find myself travelling down all sorts of rabbit holes (like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland on steroids) exploring every nook and cranny of Machattie Park. Not only that. I’ve even found myself nipping over to France in a virtual sense to explore a myriad of magnificent historical gardens to gain a deeper understanding of its layout.  Apparently, the park was designed in the “French style” whatever that meant. I am certainly none the wiser, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.

Located between William, George, Russell, and Keppel streets; Machattie Park forms the graphical and cultural heart of Bathurst. Machattie Park was opened on Saturday 20th December, 1890 – a whopping 132 years ago when my Great Grandmother was two years old and I wasn’t even a distant dream. Fortunately, the park has been very well preserved and has only experienced minor change since then. Indeed, a visit to Machattie Park feels like stepping out of a time machine, and I could even picture myself wearing period dress promenading with my parasol back in the day.

When you look at the park today, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever the site of the former gaol. After the gaol was relocated, this space was known by the inauspicious title of: “Gaol Reserve”. Although it was used as a sports’ ground by the local schools, the crumbling foundations of the former gaol remained and it was a far cry from what we see today. However, the people of Bathurst under the leadership of the Progress Association, has vision and campaigned for the site to be transformed into a spectacular park with all the bells and whistles. When he opened the park, Mayor Crago expressed their grand ambitions for Bathurst and how the park was to play a central part in making Bathurst shine: “The park will henceforth he one of the landmarks of the city and the most beautiful spot in Bathurst, enabling us to hope that eventually our city will become the Ballarat of New South Wales1.”

While touching on the opening of the park, I found another gem this time in Dr Spencer’s speech, who was the President of the Progress Association. While these sentiments were no doubt said in earnest at the time, they certainly made me laugh today and it reminds me of my rather posh private school where we weren’t allowed to walk on the grass:

Now please remember this, and I speak especially to the intelligent and independent youth of Bathurst, those young men who will in the future guide public opinion. Let me tell them that they will not succeed in life unless they keep off the grass, and that no dogs are admitted. These regulations are for the benefit of all, and will be cheerfully obeyed by everyone with a spark of intelligence and good nature.2”

So, what is it like to walk through Machattie Park today? I guess I should also put a particularly emphasis on TODAY. As far as I could tell, most if not all of the trees in Machattie Park are deciduous. So, he park varies considerably from season to season. We were there in late Winter when the trees were stripped of their leaves forming bare skeletons against the muted sky. However, the daffodils and jonquils were in flower and looking particularly stunning.

Yet, despite the seasons, Machattie Park has a peculiar charm, serenity and spirit which extends well beyond just “going to the park” or “being in the great  outdoors.” Even on our rushed walk through, I felt an uncharacteristic sense of peace and calm, despite almost rushing around trying to absorb it all through my camera lens. There I was bending down to photograph the daffodils and jonquils. Next minute, I glace up and spot the fountain and I’m off again  zooming in to capture what I now understand to be dolphins, but which looked more like feral carp to me.  Then there was the band rotunda, which was known as the Music Temple. It was hard not to notice the Federation-style Gardeners’ Cottage on my right either with its roof tiles which came all the way from Marseilles, France. However, before I knew it, we were inside the Fernery and gob smacked by a trio of marble statues by Giovanni Fontana. As if all of this wasn’t sufficient fodder for my camera, there was also the very quaint Munro Drinking fountain which was erected in 1901. All of that was a lot to take in. Yet, as I said, the park was strangely relaxing at the same time.

Above: The Fernery. The sculptures were by Giovanni Fontana.

Naturally, I’m not the only one who has found peace and tranquility in Machattie Park. Browsing through the historic newspapers online, I came across this reference from the Bathurst Times on the 16th October, 1909:

“And now that the fountain on the main basin is spraying, it is almost like listening to a small waterfall or cascade. When one feels run down and tired, it is well worth while to put ones troubles on one side; sit down in Machattie Park and listen to the drip, drip, drip, and the splash and hissing of the water as it soothes, and lulls and —  just then one’s book drops down, and then comes peace — perfect peace.3.”

I absolutely loved that account! It was so poetic!

Relaxing in Machattie Park in front of the rotunda.

Of course, I was just a traveler passing through Machattie Park. There are locals who would have so much more to say about it, and know it much more intimately, of course, having spent all of their lives in Bathurst. I can well imagine them sitting the park feeding the ducks, listening to the band or attending Carols By Candlelight with their parents or grandparents and now doing the same with their children or grandchildren. No doubt, there’s also been a lot of romance in Machattie Park over the years too…that magic twinkle in the eye and perhaps a return to the park for solace with a broken heart. There’s certainly a real sense of timelessness visiting Machattie Park.

A Lucky Duck on Spencer’s Pond

Well, that’s the end of our tour through Machattie Park. Now, it’s over to you. Have you ever been to Machattie Park and do you have any stories you’d like to share? Or, perhaps you have a and park near you, you’d like to share? Or, perhaps even your own magnificent garden? I’d love to hear from you.

the Munro Water Fountain.

After spending days revisiting and researching Machattie Park, I’m needing to quote White Rabbit:

“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Best wishes,

Rowena


References

1.National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), Monday 22 December 1890, page 2

2. Ibid pg 2

3. [1] Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), Saturday 16 October 1909

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd March, 2019.

Rowena in art galleryWelcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I thought we’d backpedal a little and have coffee at the Pavilion Kiosk in Sydney’s Domain, across the road from the Art Gallery of NSW. I’ve chosen a table a bit out the back, which is under the shade of a Morton Bay Fig tree and for that rustic touch, we’re perching on leaf litter. Hard to believe this place is only a stone’s throw from the busy CBD.

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Brett Whiteley: Self-Portrait in the Studio at 36

I’ve brought you here, because I was here on Friday as I headed into the Art Gallery to see the Masters of Modern Art from  St Petersberg’s Hermitage Museum. I also wanted to squeeze in Brett Whiteley’s Exhibition:  Drawing Is Everything. Fortunately for you, I have my camera with me. So, as a whirled through these exhibitions like a cyclone, I committed what I could to “memory” and also bought the catalogue.

 

However, if you love and appreciate architecture, you might just want to rewind a little further and do a bit of a tour with me from St James’s Station on the edge of Hyde Park across the road to St James Banco Court and St James Church and then across the road to the Hyde Park Barracks, The Mint and Sydney Hospital.

I must admit that I was interested to note the statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on opposite sides of Macquarie Street. They reminded me of John Keat’s: Ode to A Grecian Urn where the lovers are destined to spend eternity apart. I felt like giving Queen Victoria a bit of a shove across the road to be with Albert but then I saw what looked like a magic wand in her hand, which looked rather sinister and I decided to leave her alone. If she wants to be with Albert, she’ll have to find her own way there.

These buildings along Macquarie Street are among the very oldest public buildings in Australia and are well revered and loved. However, although I’ve admired them walking past, I had not been inside The Mint or Sydney Hospital and was gobsmacked by their stunning interiors with all their ornate design features. Naturally, they don’t make buildings like they used to and I love the high, lofty ceilings, incredible staircases and detailed touches like pressed tin and plaster ceilings etc. I could quite easily call one of these places “home”, even though you’d need an army to keep them clean.

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The other thing I’d like to share with you about my trip to the Art Gallery, is that I ran into an old uni friend I haven’t seen for over 20-25 years. I was absolutely stoked, because I’ve lost track of quite a few really close friends from uni and most of them haven’t gone onto Facebook and I haven’t been able to track them down. While many people have come and gone throughout my life, there’s something special about my school and uni friends which is different to the rest. I also feel they know the person I’d describe as the “real me” a lot better, as I feel that this person is often swamped by responsibilities and chronic health issues and can be in absentia. My friend and I had a coffee together at the art gallery cafe and went through the exhibition together. It felt so good to see her. Moreover, after all my walking around, I was getting quite tired and just like she used to do, she took me under her wing. I do have a bit of a Paddington “Please take care of this bear” aura about me.

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Above: Brett Whiteley: Head Studies 1971

It was good to get away, even just for the day, as I’ve been trying to get the house sorted. I have started out in the kitchen with what I’ve called: “The kitchen Revolution”. However,  my plans backfired. I might be wrong here, but it seems like order requires space. So, when you decompress everything in your cupboard and create space for what you put back, its a very clear case of: “Houston, we have a problem”. Just like many a backyard mechanic has found left over bit reassembling an engine, I have stacks and stacks of left over “crap” after I’ve removed the “really crappy crap”. While many might advise me to consult Marie Kondo on how to resolve my dilemma, I’m staying well away. Rather, I’m  secretly hoping that someone will accidentally knock the piles of leftover plates, bowls and what not, off the bench so I don’t have to make any more decisions. Yet, even then, I’d still need to find space in the bin. So, my troubles still wouldn’t be over. Indeed, it almost makes me wonder whether it would’ve been better to have left “well enough alone”.

As if I hadn’t done enough damage, I also made the mistake of buying two hibiscus plants at our local Bunnings Hardware store to add a splash of colour and Hawaiian delight to our decrepit front yard. However, given how many plants I’ve murdered, Geoff insisted that I plant them straight away. This meant that the kids and I were out under floodlights ripping out the long grass the mower had missed by the handful, while our resident orb spider was rebuilding its expansive network of web on the left of our letterbox and our daughter was trying to keep out. Not one to even do spontaneous gardening by halves, I trudged out to the worm farm and carried through buckets of squishy compost and a gazillion worms to give the hibiscus a fighting chance. This, of course, reminds me that it’s now Monday and I haven’t watered them since. Somehow, I’ve become a very bad and neglectful plant parent!

This coming week is going to be quite busy. Our son turns 15 on Friday and will be getting baptised on Sunday at Church. I’m quite stoked that our teenage son is choosing to get baptised rather than all the other things he could be getting up to. I take nothing for granted and parenting is a bit like going to the beach where “you never turn your back on the sea”. Yet, just as easily as one can be shocked, you can  also be pleasantly surprised. Not that his decision is a big surprise. He’s had his own faith for a long time and goes to youth every Friday night. This is something that I’ve felt has been between him and God and not just something thrust on him from Mum and Dad. I’ve decided to keep the celebrations fairly simple, because otherwise, I’ll get overwhelmed and fall in a screaming heap.

Well, after spending a lot of time turning around and editing photos, I’d better head back to the kitchen and see if I can knock off another pile. Oh yes…and water the plants on the way!

Hope you’ve had a great week.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena