English gardens, wreaths for the fallen, and judges for chooks, Robertson Park has a whole lot of history behind it.
Flash back to the 19th century the place was a people magnet with its agricultural shows held at the park. Amid the hub of activity, there were ring events and judging competitions. Items that fell under the judge’s eagle eye were food, birds, chooks, garden produce, and cattle, according to the Mudgee Museum.
The rural shows are now held at the AREC.
Deciduous trees were planted in 1891, when the Mudgee Market Square was renamed Robertson Park in honour of Sir John Robertson, a politician.
Robertson had been a significant figure in NSW state politics, serving as Member for Mudgee, and five times as state premier.
He is well known for giving poorer land buyers more opportunity to buy up pastoral land through the Robertson land acts of 1861. Around this time, wealthy ‘squatters’ had taken up large portions of land illegally, and this act sought to give others access to purchasing land.
The park’s band rotunda was built in 1903 by a carpenter and bricklayer team, James Stoddart and Charles Casimir for the handsome price of £100 - a good few years before we established our national currency in 1910. It was used for park entertainment, with a band playing there.
The pair had worked on the Mudgee police barracks, and went on to build residencies according to the Mudgee Guardian archives.
But the rotunda also had great significance for some local Boer War volunteers, as their names were unveiled in 1907 in remembrance of their service in South Africa.
In 1899-1902 more than 16,000 Australians served in South Africa as part of the British Empire, who were fighting against - and ultimately overcame - two Dutch republics. Three names of the men who served are listed on an honour roll plaque attached to the bottom of the rotunda.
Not to be outdone, the Mudgee District Fallen Soldiers Memorial sits at the Eastern end of the park, not far from the Mudgee Preschool. Erected in 1925, it commemorates locals who gave their lives in ensuing wars. The Korean War and Vietnam War servicemen names are on the front of the memorial, and First World War names occupy the second side, and Second World War names are seen on the third and fourth sides.
Every year wreaths are laid there, on Anzac Day and on Remembrance Day, according to the Mudgee Museum.
A fountain popped up in the park in the 1970’s, but was filled in eventually and replaced with local artist Nigel White’s big bird sculpture, which has since moved.
So with much change over the years the park hasn’t lost its splendor. Sandy Sheridan from the Mudgee Museum said the park has been the equivalent to a green ‘English village’, and is a great draw card for the community.
“The park has beautiful trees, well manicured lawns, nice kids’ area, BBQs, and places to sit and have lunch,” she said.
It’s a park that showcases much of the town’s history, and serves as a retreat for residents and tourists alike.
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