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Fire up the barbie, Cook Park is about to turn 150

October 26, 2023

Cook Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

A community picnic to mark the 150th anniversary of Cook Park is on Saturday November 25.

From 10am to noon, the event will include the Canobolas Lions Club barbecue, a cake cutting, commemorative tree planting and music performances in the bandstand by the Orange Male Voice Choir and City of Orange Brass Band.

“The block bordered by Summer, Clinton, Kite and Sampson streets was proclaimed a park on 30 November 1873 and officially named Cook Park, after Captain James Cook, in 1882,” said Orange City Council.

“It was laid out in a traditional Victorian design with straight paths and rows of trees. Much of the original design is still in place today.”

Orange mayor Jason Hamling said it was “fitting that we mark this special milestone with a picnic, the same way generations of Orange families and visitors have enjoyed Cook Park in the past, and will continue to do so in the future”.

Blowes Conservatory. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

An exhibition in the Endeavour Room of the Bastick Cottage details the “People

Who Shaped Cook Park”, along with a TV screen featuring a slideshow of more than 60

photographs depicting the park over the years.

Banners with a timeline of the park’s development will be installed in the Blowes Conservatory.

Council staff will conduct guided tours of Cook Park at 11am each Tuesday and Thursday in

November ahead of the community picnic. Book your free ticket here.

Orange City Library will relocate its regular early literacy programs for children to Cook

Park in the week of November 20-24. Storytime, Ten Minutes a Day, 1,2 Books and Music for Little Ears will be held in the park, weather permitting. You can book here.

Councillor Mel McDonell said the celebrations provided a “great opportunity for us all to find out more about the cultural heritage of Cook Park and teach our children about its significance”.

An education resource has also been developed for primary school children, which can

be downloaded from the Recollect Central West website here.


Cook Park, like Robertson Park, owes its existence to government action long before its proclamation. In 1854 the whole block which became Cook Park in 1882 was withdrawn from public auction and retained as open space at the southwest corner of the township.

Although the 1860 plan still showed the details of the abortive sub-division in 20 lots, the 1864 plan marked the block as "proposed reserve" and so it remained until proclamation in 1873.

The reserve was naturally swampy.

Cook Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

A Mr Sheridan recalled how his friend Harry Albon talked of paddling there and catching frogs and tadpoles-as a small boy in the 1870s.

To make a virtue of the water supply, a small lake was created in the park in 1890, with an island in the middle.

Two more lakes were excavated by 1908, full of gold and silver fishes and turtles.

The assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers, with a conservatory and two rustic pavilions, mostly date from the 1890s. James Dalton of Duntryleague presented a fine fountain in 1891 and a further fountain in memory of John Gale was erected in 1908 and remodelled in the 1920s.

The octagonal bandstand with its carved wooden fittings, from which "the Orange Band discourses sweet music" was also installed in 1908, bringing the park very much to its present condition. A delightful set of photographs of Cook Park was published in the Orange District Guide for 1908.

During the Depression of the 1930s numerous unemployment relief projects were carried out in Orange. These included the building of a new conservatory and fernery in Cook Park.

Begonias at Blowes Conservatory. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

And the Blowes Conservatory was finished in 1934. The conservatory quickly developed a high reputation for its Ballarat begonias, which has been ongoing.

The fernery was completed in 1938, incorporating two Dalton-related items – the fountain of 1891 and the weathervane, which had rotted above the Duntryleague stables in the 19th century.

The park was laid out in the 1880-1890s, with a remarkable collection of trees. Both exotic and native species are mentioned in the Orange District Guide of 1908, and it is dominated by the mature exotics, which include elms, oaks, linden, cypresses, redwoods, cedars, bunya pines and Tasmanian Blue gums.

Features within the park

* Entrance Gates: Summer & Clinton Streets; c. 1890s

* Parkman's Lodge: c. 1890

* Victorian Fountain: 1908, 1920 - was presented by James Dacton in 1889.

* Bandstand: 1908 -

* Conservatory: 1934

* Fernery: 1938

* Aviaries: c. 1930s

* Artillery: 1870 (Cannon from a Sydney fort)

* Artillery: c. 1917 (German Whiz-Bang)

In 1873 the whole area of Cook Park was dedicated as a public reserve. Ten acres at the Summer and Clinton street corner was set aside as a town hall site, but this plan was abandoned when the other nine acres of the block was decided upon as a recreational reserve.

From council minutes of 1876 we find that Michael Hickey was paid five pounds on March 1 for grubbing three trees and filling in holes on the recreation ground. Rufus Faulkner cleared the recreation ground and was entitled to 17 pounds.

Henry Mitchell fenced the Cook Park reserve in February and March of that year.

In 1878 Alderman Windred and Alderman Dalton were given a sum of 20 pounds to select trees for the area, and subsequently a letter was received from the director of the Sydney Botanical Gardens advising that two boxes of plants had been sent.

- From Central West Libraries


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