Hyde’s 125 years of delight

Walter Patterson Meston (1870-1936). Hyde Park 1904, oil on canvas.

IT’S been 125 years since Hyde Park was gazetted, and this week Vincent Local History Centre brings us this tale of the park’s long history from significant site, to ‘eyesore’ of a swamp, to ornamental public garden. The LHC is currently hosting a display on the history of the park, including a LEGO model built by the WA Brick Society, photographs and artwork, including a Walter Meston painting of Hyde Park on loan from Perth council until the end of August.

HYDE PARK has delighted locals and visitors for 125 years.

Known to Noongar people as Boodjamooling (meaning “place of the nose”), and later to European colonisers as ‘Third Swamp Reserve’, the wetland was made a public park in 1897.

Boodjamooling was a significant place for camping, food gathering and ceremonies noted in Noongar oral histories and by early colonists. 

It remains an important place for Noongar people and is one of nine registered Aboriginal sites of significance in the City of Vincent. 

There are reports of Noongar people camping and catching turtles in Hyde Park as late as the 1970s. 

Deering family camped at Third Swamp Reserve, 1897. City of Vincent PH06504

From the 1850s – 1890s, the area known as Third Swamp Reserve was often used as a camp by drovers, cameleers and travellers. 

When the gold rush brought an influx of newcomers in the late 1890s, as many as 200 people were camping on the reserve in tents and humpies. Locals complained the reserve had become “an eyesore and a menace” and lobbied to turn it into a public garden. 

The WA government gazetted Third Swamp Reserve as a public garden in 1897. 

In 1899 it was renamed Hyde Park, likely after London’s Hyde Park. 

The City of Perth tasked gardener John Braithwaite with turning the swamp into a park. Early actions included clearing the water body of reeds, erecting timber fencing and gates around the lake and planting many hundreds of exotic trees. 

In 1904, WA artist Walter Patterson Meston painted an early landscape of Hyde Park showing the view across the lake to the north west with one of the original paperbark trees in the foreground.

Plans relating to proposed baths to be erected at Hyde Park. State Records Office: Cons 1644.

The same tree is depicted in a 1905 photograph of Frank Horgan and son Grattan in Hyde Park. The photograph is in the City of Vincent’s Local History Collection. 

Some may have heard about the three-tiered fountain that stood near the Glendower and Lake Street entrance to the park from 1900, and was removed after repeated vandalism in 1918. 

Few would know of the proposed plan to build public swimming baths in Hyde Park in 1912. 

The ambitious plan, which included “gentlemen’s and ladies” swimming pools, a bar and tea rooms, was knocked back by the Perth City Council in part due to its exorbitant cost.

Another structure that never came to pass was a proposed road through the park connecting Norfolk and Lake streets. 

A causeway was built across the lake in 1914, effectively splitting it in two. 

After intense public opposition, the road was converted into a pedestrian causeway which remains to this day. 

Another missing piece of Hyde Park history is the ornate rotunda which stood on the north side of the park from 1914 – 1956.

The rotunda housed various brass bands that played to promenading locals and visitors on weekends.

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