Located near Grey street in Fitzroy Gardens is a wonderful children's playground. I guess the centrepiece would have to be the 20 tonne sculpted concrete dragon that is 7 metres long and 3 metres high, designed by the City of Melbourne and sculpted by members of Mothers Art. Children can slide down the Dragon or swing from the ears of a Giraffe. There is a sandpit, seating, free Toilets and car -parking.
I wonder why a fancy name wasn't given to this nice fountain?
Known as the "Grey Street" fountain, work began on it in 1863. A 30.5 metre pool was built and cluster of rocks were placed in the centre from where water spurts up 15 metres in the air. The pond has aquatic plants with a type of rock garden surrounding it and some garden seats to enjoy the fountain.
I really found this fountain attractive and worth seeing, lucky the people of Melbourne caused an uproar and stopped it from being demolished in 1968!
Grey Street, Fitzroy Gardens.
Fitzroy Gardens were permanently reserved as public gardens in 1848 and known as Fitzroy Square until 1862. They were named after Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, a governor of New South Wales
The gardens were laid out in a classic Victorian–era design, featuring pathways lined with magnificent Elm trees, together with flower gardens, ornamental shrubs and trees which together with extensive lawns create a wonderful place to relax or bring the family
These gardens are close to the CBD and very easy to walk to. I know, I am a gardener who loves parks and gardens, but even if your not, go for walk and have a look inside the Conservatory, visit Cook's cottage, visit the Tudor village and enjoy what else there is to see and do here. This was one of my favorite parks, although Melbourne has many excellent parks!
Other points of interest are the many fountains and statues, cottages and Fairies tree for the children.
If you wish, there is a free guided walking tour departing from the visitor centre every Saturday at 10 am.
The gardens are listed by the National Trust and are on the Victorian Heritage Register as...
"Of historical, aesthetic, architectural, scientific (horticultural) significance."
"They are of social significance because, from their establishment in the early 1860s, the Gardens have been a place of relaxation, passive recreation and entertainment; the Gardens have been the people's park in the city."
Sinclair's cottage is located on the main Elm avenue in Fitzroy Gardens.
It's described as a "polychrome" brick cottage, designed by Melbourne architect Francis Maloney White.
In 1866, Melbourne City Council accepted the tender of Thomas Crowson to build the single storey cottage in Italian Romanesque style.
The cottage has a gabled entrance porch, the walls are of alternating cream and red brickwork, with cream as the dominant colour. Two chimneys are built in alternating red and cream brickwork courses, while the stables have similar but finer details than the main house.
The Cottage is still fairly well like when it was first built as residence of James Sinclair, designer and first Curator of the Fitzroy Gardens.
It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
There is an information board with details about the cottage beside it.
It's called the "old" Bandstand as it dates to 1864, probably making it the first building to be built in the gardens. To me, it looked in very good condition and I loved it had been painted the same cream/lemon colour as the "Temple of the Winds," this really complimented the Corinthian design. No wonder it is popular for weddings!
In 1864 a volunteer band known as "The Head Quarters," performed once a week at Fitzroy Gardens and the Prince's Bridge reserve. Evidently the crowds who came to see them play were a little over enthusiastic, just like the ones today! It became necessary to construct a small enclosure to protect the band from the pressure of the crowd, I don't know if that was the pretty small low iron fence surrounding the bandstand!
Yet another sculpture in Fitzroy Gardens. This one I found in lake, as it was a marble statue of a boy sitting on top of a Turtle. A small fountain and water garden plants surrounded the pond, it was rather peaceful and lovely.
Hard to believe, but it is true somebody stole this heavy sculpture in 1977!
The Victorian Police managed to find it 2.5 years later abandoned in a car park in Richmond.
Mary Gilbert was in the Fitzroy Garden's Conservatory, a bronze figure of a young woman surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants. The name didn't ring a bell, so I read the informative plaque which told me Mary Gilbert was the first European woman to migrate to Victoria. She was the wife of a blacksmith and in the 1830`s became the first European woman to give birth in the Port Phillip district. Her first child was called John Melbourne Gilbert.
Sculptor Ailsa O`Connor used her daughter as the model for the bronze sculpture, created for the 1975 International Women`s Year.
You don't have to be a child to enjoy the Fairies tree that is located next to the Tudor Village. Children would love the fairies and for me, it was thinking how clever the artist "Ola Cohn" had been to carve so many shapes in the stump of a Red Gum tree, well over 300 years in age.
The tree had died many years before, meaning somehow the trunk had to be preserved. The way they did this was by extracting it from the ground and treating it with chemicals, then it was remounted on a concrete base, hoping that it would last for a long time.
They had quite a find during the process - A mummified brush tail possum over 40 years old was found perfectly preserved within the trunk.
Cohn took between1931 to 1934 working on carving fairies, dwarfs, gnomes, Kookaburra, koalas, flying foxes and many other Australian animals and birds. Then they were painted.
When finished she gifted her beautiful work to the city's children.
"The Fairies Tree", inscribed on the tree's plaque :
"I have carved in a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you, and the fairies, but mostly for the fairies and those who believe in them, for they will understand how necessary it is to have a fairy sanctuary - a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures."
She has written and had published these books, two have been republished.
The Fairies' Tree (1932)
More about the Fairies' Tree (1933)
Castles in the Air (1936)
Mostly Cats (1964)
Not far from the Tudor Village and on the other side of the Kiosk, is where I came across a beautiful Neo- classical Rotunda, known as the "Temple of the Winds." It has been here since 1873 and still looks wonderful! The building has a bluestone platform, a domed concrete roof supported by 10 Corinthian columns, this is quite unusual as there are usually only 8 or 12 columns. This is very similar to a Temple in the Botanic gardens.
Where these gardens are standing was once the site of bluestone quarries.
Clarendon street side of Fitzroy gardens.
Well, not a real one, a miniature Tudor Village! 77 year old Edgar Wilson created the village as a hobby, he actually made three of them!
One of them he presented to the City of Melbourne through the City of Lambeth, England, in appreciation of Melbourne's generosity in sending food to Britain, during the Second World War. A set of houses was also given to Lambeth for Brockwell Park.
Probably an English person viewing the model village would know the styles and what the buildings were used for, perhaps reminisce if they are living in Australia. Those who come from Kent, England would definitely remember the "Tudor" period of English history in Kent. The village has many thatched cottages, a village church, school, hotel, barns, stocks, pump, and all public buildings which make up an English village. Also included is a scale model of Shakespeare's home and Anne Hathaway’s cottage. All the buildings were made from cement and then painted in 1948.
As a hobbyist, Edgar Wilson has done a good job! The area is fenced so you can't walk in amongst the buildings but you can walk all the way around it. My only complaint was the lawn needed mowing badly, this spoilt the area a bit.
FREE TO VIEW
Situated beside the Conservatory door is a massive statue of a draped form in marble, this is the Statue of Meditation.
There is a story.......
On the plaque it states it was a gift from Madame Gaston-Saint.
Madame Gaston- Saint was an Australian who was married to a wealthy Frenchman. She had the statue made by Robert Delandre, once completed it was to be located in the tiny Victorian town of Rheole, where it would memorialise her father. As this didn't happen it was gifted to the Melbourne City council in 1933, in turn they placed it beside the Conservatory in Fitzroy gardens.
Noted sculptor Paul Montford who unveiled the statue wasn't a happy chappy!
He complained to the mayor: 'In my opinion its artistic value is far below any other statuary in Fitzroy Gardens, and it is probably the worst figure in any public place in Melbourne."
Well, it hasn't been removed, so I will leave it up to you to view and to give your view on the "Statue of Meditation."
Conservatory, Fitzroy Gardens
I probably would never have walked out the back door of the Conservatory but for the crowd of people in there, and I wanted to get away.
I was pleased I did, as there was a nice paved courtyard surround by many shrubs, and another shallow pond, this time a cast-iron ornamental fountain, featuring a snake coiled around the figure of a boy, atop a granite shaped ball.
This style of cast-iron fountain was made in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire England around or before 1900. .
Now known as the Conservatory Fountain (Boy with Serpent).
LOCATION Fitzroy gardens, Back of Conservatory