Organised Activities in Western and South Western Sydney
Many leisure activities are organised in a formal way to bring together people with a common purpose. The activities are generally governed by constitutions and rules for meetings and games. Included are sporting teams, performing arts and charity groups and service organisations.
The first cricket played in western Sydney was played in the Hawkesbury district. During the time when Lachlan Macquarie was Governor of the colony cricket matches were played on the green opposite St Matthew's Church Windsor. They were extremely competitive and often a large wager was placed on the result. A description of an early match appeared in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette on 20 December 1890:
The uniform of our crack clubs then consisted of two bare feet and a straw hat, but the Captain was always distinguished by having a red cotton handkerchief tied around his head, and for special matches he invariably has his hair cut with a horse-clipping machine and sported a black pipe, the aroma from which would stifle a skink at a distance of 750 yards. All things being settled, the players adjourned to a paddock, a wicket was built up out of old nail-kegs and coats, or the skull of a dead cow, and then a fat little man shouldered half a paling and sailed in, to the bowling of a six foot fellow armed with a hunk of blue metal rolled up in the heel of an old sock. The primitive batsman would then paste his long opponent all over the field until the latter got pretty full of the business, upon which he would playfully land the sock-covered stone into the tenderest part of the small man's dumpling depot, to the intense delight of the whole of the players..bar one.
After singing a few inverted psalms, and dancing a highland fling around the ground for a few moments, the fat enthusiast would then tear down half the wicket and chase the big bowler until he fell when the aggrieved batsman would sit on his chest and club him over the head with an energy worthy of a better cause (Windsor Richmond Gazette 20/12/1890)
In the 1840s the wickets were very rough and games were played in paddocks or on any level piece of ground. The bowling was usually underarm and it was not until round arm bowling began in the late 1800s that the greater preparation of concrete and turf wickets was necessary.
In 1882 an English team visited the Hawkesbury District and a concrete wicket covered with carpet was laid at the Fairfield Estate of Harry and William McQuade. A pavilion was erected to cater for the 1000 spectators that travelled by train from Sydney to the ground. The local team scored 61, the visitors made 5/135.(Chapman, Gary.J. A History of Cricket in the Hawkesbury District [unpublished 1982] )
Cricket was established early in Campbelltown and was particularly popular at Christmas and Easter Holidays. On Boxing Day 1843 a Campbelltown eleven defeated a team from Camden. In 1878 the recreation reserve (Mawson Park) was fenced to stop stock straying on the field. (Liston, C 1988. Campbelltown: The bicentennial history Allen & Unwin p.113) In Glenfield a Cricket Club was formed in about 1891 and a combined cricket team from the Liverpool sawmills played the Cabramatta sawmen in1900. (Keating, Christopher. On the frontier: a social history of Liverpool. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 p.118) The Badgery's Creek Cricket team was formed in 1896 and is still in existence, celebrating its centenary at a dinner at the Hubertus Country Club in May 1996. A photograph of an early Badgery's Creek Cricket team showed that Badgery's Creek could have fielded two teams although the two twelfth men would have been rather young [photo]. By 1902-3 the Campbelltown Cricket Club was one of the strongest outside Sydney and its annual meeting against Goulburn was regarded as the 'test match of the south-west'. (Liston, C 1988. Campbelltown: The bicentennial history Allen & Unwin , p.160)
The Central Cumberland Electorate G.C took part in the first Electorate Cricket competition by the NSW Cricket Association in 1892 and later changed its name to the Cental Cumberland Cricket Club which, in 1933, covered a wides area from Blacktown to Canley Vale and included such places as Ermington, Baulkham Hills Shire and part of the Bankstown local government area. Among its members were a number of State and Australian team representatives, including Joe Wilson, who bowled W.G. Grace first ball [photo] from Trish. The Auburn-Lidcombe District Cricket Association began in 1922 and by 1997 had fourteen clubs entering twenty teams in competition. The Regents Park Cricket Club held its first meeting in the cowbails at James' Dairy in Amy Street. Subsequent meetings were held at the business premises of the president, Maurice Hogan. He was a local hairdresser and meetings there were often delayed as members would arrive for the meeting to find the President still busy giving 'short back and sides' to his customers. Jensen Park became the club's home ground but because there was no storage at the ground, mats had to be carried a mile from a member's home to the ground - not a popular task. Synthetic covering for pitches has solved this problem.
Cricket in Blacktown was played on the Blacktown ground (where Westfield Shopping Centre now is) in the 1920s. It was reported that Blacktown had many good cricketers in the period from 1890-1912.
By 1901 the Liverpool Admirals Football Club was established. Campbelltown had two Rugby League teams in 1920 as a result of a split in 1918. The Campbelltown Kangaroos, formed in 1912, and the Campbelltown Originals, regularly played against Liverpool, Camden, Smithfield, Cabramatta and Cordeaux Dam. In 1921 the two teams reformed into the Campbelltown Original Kangaroo Football Club. The football field was at the northern end of town in Charlie Nicol's paddock. At one memorable game in the mid 1930s, Campbelltown architect and club supporter Geoff Gore fired a revolver into the air to stop brawling footballers. (Liston, C 1988. Campbelltown: The bicentennial history Allen & Unwin p. 192-3)
By the late 1930s organised sport was becoming a major part of the social network. In 1935 the Soccer World reported that Lidcombe Oval, previously a 'Rugby League Stronghold' was to become the home of the Goodyear Soccer Club. Soccer has been popular in this area for a long time. The first recorded match in Australia was played on 14 August 1880 on Parramatta Park and it was between a team from The King's School and a team by the name of 'The Wanders'. Marconi Soccer Club commenced in 1958 as a bocce club on five acres of land at Bossley Park. Soccer soon followed in 1960, and in 1963 the Marconi Soccer Club became a member of the NSW Federation of Soccer Clubs while a team of juniors represented the club in the Southern District Soccer Association competition. The club started off in Second Division and after winning the Second Division Championship in the 1969-70 season joined First Division. In 1973 Marconi won the NSW Soccer League Grand Final against Hakoah. The Club itself has continued to grow with major extensions begun in 1991.
The Fairfield United 'Magpies' were one of the first junior Rugby League Clubs to register not only in Australia but in the world. They have always worn black and white except for one season in 1946-47 when they wore sky blue. Rugby League has long been popular in the Fairfield District which has produced such great stars as Peter Sterling and Greg Alexander (Fairfield Patrician Brothers), Bob O'Reilly (Mt Pritchard), Geoff Gerard (Cabramatta) and two legends of league, Arthur Summons (Mt Pritchard) and Vic Hey from Fairfield United who in 1994, at the age of 82, was made a life member of Wests.
There are three major Rugby league clubs in this area: Penrith, Parramatta and Wests. Penrith club began after inter-district Rugby League (Second Division) was introduced in 1963. In the 1965 season it was decided to admit two second division teams into the state cup competition with Wentworthville and Penrith being chosen. Then Penrith continued the claim for elevation to first division. During 1966 it looked as though Wentworthville and Cronulla would be chosen but when the meeting of the full committee of the NSW RFL was held Penrith and Cronulla were chosen for the new places. The club was to be known as the Panthers with the colours of brown and white. The home ground is Penrith Stadium, (originally Penrith Park). In 1988 a new grandstand was built at the oval. In the late 1980s the colours were changed to black and white, red green and yellow stripes and many people called them the 'licorice allsorts'. In 1991 the club won their first premiership under the leadership of Phil Gould. Greg Alexander was their star half-back.
Parramatta Rugby League Club was formed in December 1946 wearing the colours of royal blue and gold. The greatest moment in their history up to 1981 was the winning of the premiership in that year. The great players of the Parramatta club have included Mick Cronin, Pay Price, Steve Edge, Ron Hilditch, Bob O'Reilly, Brett Kenny, Eric Grothe, Peter Sterling and Steve Ella. Parramatta Oval, now Parramatta Football Stadium has always been the home of the Eels named for the symbol of Parramatta, an aboriginal word meaning 'the place where the eels are found'.
Western Suburbs Rugby League Club was formed in 1908 and in 1909 were amalgamated with Cumberland. The club was originally centred around Ashfield. As new clubs were formed (St George, Canterbury Bankstown and Parramatta) they each took a slice of Wests territory. Eventually, after a fight to stay in the competition they moved to Orana Park at Campbelltown. Wests original home was Lidcombe Oval, where they were originally known as 'the fruit pickers'. The club has retained its black and white colours which resulted in the name 'Magpies'.
The Parramatta Rugby Union Club was started in 1879 and it competed against Sydney University, the Wallaroos, the Waratahs, Redfern and The Pirates. The King's School was very involved in the early life of the club. The British team of 1888 played a match against present and past King's School students which ended in a 10 all draw and in 1889 the visiting Maoris defeated a combined Parramatta-King's School team 21-0. When district competition started in 1899 the Parramatta Club became part of the Western Suburbs Club with three home grounds, Parramatta, Concord Oval and Pratten Park. The Club was re-established in 1934 with W.H (Wild Bill) Cerutti as Captain and Bryan Palmer as Coach.
The first race meeting in Parramatta was held in April 1810. Later, in 1885 a racecourse was built on what had been John Macarthur's estate - Rosehill Racecourse which was acquired by the Sydney Turf Club in 1946. One important race held there is the STC Golden Slipper Stakes which is recognised as the premier two year old race in Australia.
Horse racing and breeding has had a long association with the Blacktown area - a thoroughbred is even included in the City's Coat of Arms. The property Bungarribee was known from early times for the breeding of horses, first by Thomas Icely who owned the first thoroughbred mare in the colony, in the 1820s. Later Alfred Cheeke and John Tait set up a stud farm in Mount Druitt in about 1855, winning the first AJC Derby with their horse Clove in 1865.
In Liverpool too, horse racing had long been part of the gentry's social and financial business. D'Arcy Wentworth's horse Hector, once owned by the Duke of Wellington, was kept at Liverpool and when he died he was famous enough to rate an obituary in the Sydney Gazette. (Keating, Christopher. On the frontier: a social history of Liverpool. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 p. 116) James Badgery, of Badgery's Creek, was also an enthusiastic horse breeder. His horse Jockey Boy won the fifty guinea Magistrates Plate in 1811 in competition with horses of the 73rd regiment. In May 1819 another cup was competed for, at the Hyde Park course. The event brought together the best horses of the time and was run in heats. James Badgery's 'very good horse' Rob Roy won the cup which is still in the possession of the Badgery family. (Donald p.4-5). In 1832 the Sydney Turf Club opened a new course near Liverpool. This was probably the old Collingwood racecourse and races were still being held there in 1900. By at least the 1890s the Liverpool Turf Club had been formed and was holding races at the Woodlands course near O'Brien Parade off Orange Grove Road. By 1892 this venture was known as the Liverpool Horse and Galloway Racing Club. (Keating, Christopher. On the frontier: a social history of Liverpool. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 p.116)
In Campbelltown the annual races were a popular event in the 1840s. They were held on the Campbellfield estate along Bow Bowing Creek. The Campbelltown Turf Club leased 60 acres (24ha) from John Keighran for a racecourse. 'Visitors and horse owners, riders and grooms thronged Campbelltown on days before the races, with 'mysterious looking animals, supposed to be horses, under a mountain of blanket clothing' (Liston, C 1988. Campbelltown: The bicentennial history Allen & Unwin p.113). There were three days of racing with the major races on the first and third days and hurdle races and sweepstakes on the second. Champion jockey Charles Stanley rode for Judge Cheeke of Varroville. He rode the winner of the 1868 Melbourne Cup Glencoe. He married Emma Fieldhouse and ran the Sportsman's Arms Hotel in Campbelltown. (Liston, C 1988. Campbelltown: The bicentennial history Allen & Unwin p.113). A racecourse was built at Studley Park, Narellan and meetings were regularly held there in the 1890s. Patrons caught the train to Campbelltown and then the Camden tram to Narellan. Races were held at Menangle Park from the 1870s. Two railway sidings were built to bring people to the track. Two horse enthusiasts who left their mark on racing in a number of ways were William Long and William Forrester. Long, the son of a wealthy ex-convict wine merchant, had a passion for racing. In the early 1880s he brought J.H Stroud's Warwick park grant north of Liverpool and by 1884 he had also developed his property across the river, building stables and tracks there. He called the estate Chipping Norton. Long was the squire of Chipping Norton until 1901 when the banks foreclosed on him. His most successful horse Grand Flaneur won the Melbourne Cup in 1880. Long sold the Warwick Park estate in 1882 to William Forrester who became one of the most successful trainers of his time and in 1889 he and E.A Oatley were the principals in the formation of the Warwick farm Racing Club. Forrester owned two Melbourne Cup winners, Gaulus in 1897, and The Grafter in 1898. Forrester died almost destitute not long after his last winner The Watch Dog, won the Ellesmere Stakes at Randwick in 1901. (Keating, Christopher. On the frontier: a social history of Liverpool. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 p.116-117). In 1922 the syndicate sold the racecourse to the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) for 75 000 pounds and after holding four race meetings in 1923 it was closed for redevelopment. The new course opened in 1925 and the railway line to it was electrified in 1929. The first broadcast of a race meeting took place at Warwick Farm racecourse in August 1933.
Hargrave Park was an area which has now been absorbed into Warwick Farm and in the 1920s and 1930s Hargrave Park itself was used as an airfield. It was developed by The Australian Aero Club which had great plans for the site, intending to turn it into a country club which the magazine Flying for 1 November 1929 described as a 'Flying Country Club'. One idea was to include a golf course in the grand plan. In 1929 the Aero Club approved a proposal to spend 55 000 pounds on the development of an aerodrome near the Warwick Farm Racecourse. 210 acres were purchased and the site was named Hargrave Park on July 7th 1930. The aerodrome was officially opened with a pageant on 20 September 1930. A long time resident of Liverpool, Mrs Enid Floyd, recalled occasions when the pioneer aviators would land their rather lightweight craft in the area and introduced the locals to the wonders and thrills of the new technological marvel of flight..
[Sir Charles] Kingsford Smith would take up joy flights from there and I believe he would charge more than the others...because of his reputation. And I do remember my grandmother going down there with my sister for a joy flight unknown to the rest of the family. So they were horrified when she came back and told them. Planes then were more or less stuck together when you think of planes today. But Kingsford-Smith and Ulm both came to Liverpool and landed at the common (Woodward Park) and they flew the Southern Cross there and put it on display for the Liverpool people...Mainly all of the flights went out of Hargrave Park, which as you probably know was named after one of our aviation pioneers.
The Hoxton Park Aerodrome has been operating since the 1940s and is used mainly by flying schools for training and recreation.
Penrith Aerodrome was situated on the property Thornton Hall which was a large property built for Thomas Smith, a Penrith publican, probably in the 1870s. In the early 1900s the area around Thornton Hall became known as Belmore Park. The site was used by a racecourse, cricket pitch, football ground, aerodrome, motor speedway and later an aerodrome again. On 3rd November 1922 William Ewart Hart flew a Bristol Box kite solo from Belmore Park. He completed the first cross country flight in New South Wales from Penrith via St Marys to Moore Park on 18 November of that year. At one stage the site was a racecourse but on at least one occasion the racing was interrupted for a cricket match when a team of english players, including the great W.G Grace, took part in a match on a specially prepared pitch which was still in existence in 1936.
The Schofields Flying Club in 1976 had 60 members, lots of enthusiasm but no aircraft and no money to buy one. It was decided to hold an airshow, hoping to at least raise a deposit for a plane. With a budget of $10 000 the airshow was organised and on 26 September 1976 the first Schofields Air Show was held. It lasted two hours and involved mostly light aircraft of various types and vintage. 10 000 people turned up and the show made a profit of $11 000. Interest in the air show continued to grow and by 1980 it was decided to hold the show bi-annually. The most outstanding show was the Australian Bicentennial Air Show, a highlight of the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988. It was the largest aviation event ever held in the southern hemisphere.
In the 1920s the Belmore Park was used for the Penrith Speedway, which ran on a dirt track, one mile in circumference. Car and motor cycle races were held here.
Liverpool Speedway ran from 1967 to 1985 and was a banked dolomite surface built and promoted by Alderman Frank Oliveri. Vehicles racing there included early and late model sedans, modified sprint cars, grand prix 'midgets' and junior speed cars. Solo bikes and sidecars were trialled for a while but were thought to be too dangerous.
Motor racing was also held at the Warwick Farm Race Course in the early 1960s by the Australian Automobile Racing Club. Other racetracks in Western Sydney include Oran Park (near Cobbity) and Eastern Creek Raceway which has hosted the Motor Bike Grand Prix on occasion.
Rifle clubs formed in Camden as part of the military reserve, receiving government funding for ammunition. The Campbelltown Rifle Club was formed in 1907 by LW Smith, PC Marlow and AR Payten, with an indoor rifle range being built at the showground. A women's club, Campbelltown Ladies Rifle Club, was formed in 1925 and competed regularly from the late 1920s. It was the only club for females in New South Wales, although other clubs allowed women to compete. Competitions also took place at the Anzac Rifle Range, Holsworthy during the 1930s and 1940s, with a clubhouse for the Concord Rifle Club being erected there.
Soon after Mawson Park in Campbelltown was fenced in 1878, an athletic club formed with a meeting being held in July 1878 with 150 people attending to see distance, speed and age races. (Liston, C 1988. Campbelltown: The bicentennial history Allen & Unwin p.113). Athletics in Liverpool flourished after World War Two, with the establishment of Liverpool Womens' Amateur Athletic Club in June 1959. Little Athletics for children has been a feature of junior athletics across Western Sydney since the end of the war. Betty Cuthbert is perhaps the most notable athlete from the district, residing at Ermington when she competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Bowling Clubs throughout Western Sydney have been a popular pastime for older resident of Western Sydney since the 1925. Campbelltown Bowling Club opened its doors in 192?, next to Mawson Park and is still going strong, and providing social and sporting opportunities for participants.
The significance of sport to Western Sydney is evidenced by the establishment and success of Westfields Sports High School at Fairfield West. The school was originally a local co-educational high school when opened in 1963 but is now a centre for sporting excellence. Of the total 1550 students at the school, 650 are talented sports students, many of whom compete at state and national competitions in their chosen sports.
Musical and Theatre Groups
On summer afternoons Liverpool locals gathered in Bigge Park, to relax to the sound of Liverpool Brass Band, as early as 1898. Musical groups in Campbelltown were often short lived at the turn of the century but the Campbelltown Theatre Group still performs live theatre productions today in the old Campbelltown Town Hall. Campbelltown Brass Band and the Fisher's Ghost Youth Orchestra, are two Campbelltown musical ensembles who provide lively musical accompaniment at many local events.
Live theatre groups have included theatrical
productions at the German Concentration Camp at 'Holdsworthy' during World War
...Herr Ludwig Schroeder requested permission to erect a tent to provide a 'social centre where men could get together and talk, exchange views, play cards [and] perhaps also sing German songs together'. They were given permission and an old military tent which they erected with timber from an old farmhouse. This grew into The German Theatre Society of Liverpool and provided a haven for those with theatrical talent. Because the camp was for male internees only, men had to take female roles and over the years some 'acquired feminine mannerisms, both in speech and movement'.(Splivalo, Anthony. The Home Fires Fremantle Arts Press, 1982)
The Richmond Players celebrated 45 years of 'entertaining Hawkesbury residents' in May 1997. The theatre began in 1952 with the production of Slow Curtain. In 1963 the Hawkesbury Choral Society combined with the Players to produce Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury. A Richmond Players Junior Theatre was meeting in 1977 on Wednesdays and in 1975 presented a locally written rock opera So They Sang. Amateur theatre has thrived in Fairfield as well - they really knew how to get down to business as the image below reflects.(Radio Dentistry - Shakin' The Blues 1957)
A new centre for performing arts was opened in Penrith in1990, named the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Theatre. The Riverside Theatre at Parramatta and the Hills Centre also cater for drama and musical performances.