Monday 4 December 2023

Romance and Charm - Discover the rich history of Bellevue Hills' Cooper Parklands

Cooper Park

As Woollahra Council’s largest natural asset, Cooper Park is one of Sydney’s least known arcadian treasures. A veritable Secret Garden, its rich history and cultural significance contributes heavily to the current push to have these glorious parklands State Heritage Listed, elevating them from their current Local Heritage Listing.

Cooper Park is full of meandering pathways, bridges and hidden gazebos                                       
Made up of a vast 17.7 hectares, approximately 12 hectares consist of urban bushland which acts as a botanical lung for surrounding residents. Throughout the charming acreage, one discovers such novelties as Moon Bridge, Rosewood Walk and Coral Steps, meandering pathways, ponds and weirs, secret grottoes, gazebos, sandstone staircases and even an earthen amphitheatre. But how did this hidden gem become a public asset to the Eastern Suburbs when all around it are multi-million dollar properties?

Map of Woollahra showing Point Piper Estate 1889                                                            Woollahra House circa 1885

It started back in the early 19th century, when wealthy merchant and renowned philanthropist, Sir Daniel Cooper, purchased the land as part of his Point Piper Estate. Initially a convict, through his business acumen and charm, Daniel Cooper was eventually knighted. It was one of his descendants, Sir William Charles Cooper, who donated the entire gully from Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, to Manning Road, Double Bay to Woollahra Council in 1913. However, due to the outbreak of World War I, the park was not finally gazetted until 1917.

Also in 1917, the Chinese Market Gardens that had operated along the valley floor since the 1840s, were moved and the land was incorporated into Cooper Park in 1917. The ‘City Beautiful’ movement which had developed in Europe and North America in the late 19th century began to influence urban design in Australia although relatively few examples were developed in NSW. However, with this movement in mind, in 1927 a design competition was conducted for the development of Cooper Park. The winning design by architects S E Coleman and RCG Coulter, began to be implemented soon after.

Cooper Park Synthetic Shelters

Specialised craftspeople, including Mr H Arnold, were brought in to construct specific features including the synthetic stone shelters from ferro-cement, based on his previous work in constructing faux rock animal enclosures at Taronga Zoo. Ernest Miles, head of a gang of fifty, taught workers to cut and lay stone. He led the team of stoneworkers to construct the Moon Bridge in the centre of the park. A tennis pavilion and tennis courts were also constructed in the 20s.

On its completion in 1929, Cooper Park was deemed an oasis from the bustling city. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 29 December 1929, under the headline ‘Valley of Surprise near Heart of City, describes the park as “A valley where all is peace, away from the noise of street traffic, the roar of trams, and the strident, jarring tooting of motor sirens”.

Beginning in 1931, numerous trees were planted with a focus on native tree species included 500 specimens of Tasmanian Blue Gum, Lilly Pilly, assorted wattles and Queensland Kauri. Additional plantings of exotic species included Weeping Willow, Liquidambar, White Poplar, Cottonwood and Sweet Gum. Almost all of these trees remain today in all their mature glory.

Cooper Park Entrance Columns

In 1948 Cooper Park was extended to include Bellevue Gardens into the grounds. Then fast forward to 1994, when two sandstone Doric columns which once graced the old 1847 Sydney Post Office were installed at the Victoria Road entrance to Cooper Park, at the top of the stone steps down into the Amphitheatre. For a time after the demolition of the old post office, the columns were moved to Elizabeth Bay House, then to Vaucluse House where they stood for many years.

Brook at Cooper Park

Cooper Park’s cultural history dates back even further, with Aboriginal engravings and rock shelters dating back to 1788 still evident today. The brook that still exists today, meandering through the park, follows the line of a volcanic dyke that formed during the Jurassic age. Stretching up from either side of the creek are sandstone and riparian forests and woodland vegetation, providing diverse habitats for local fauna.

Rising resplendently above this idyllic park is the divine new Denwol development, Splendour which even has its very own Secret Garden. Cramer Property are delighted to present The Final Release of The Splendour Residences as seen below:

Splendour Residences, Bellevue Hill

Contact the Cramer team to learn more:

Emma Chappell
Head of Projects (Sales & Marketing)
Tel: +61 (0)404 769509

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