Tuesday, 22 November 2011

History down the gurgler


As I meandered through the WW2 wing down at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra recently, I happened upon a display board showing part of the city of Sydney with lights indicating assorted facilities available towards the end of the war. See that large light, the one in Hyde Park. That fascinated me!

Upon my return, I did some research, and some stepping out within the park, and bingo! I learnt about the existence of The British Centre from June 1945 until November 1947.


It was a large, two storey unsophisticated building housing a wonderfully sprung dance floor, run for the sustenance of the many British troops of the Pacific Fleet transiting through Sydney at the end of the war. There is not a skerrick of informaton available about it in Hyde Park now: not a plaque. Nothing. The building itself was sold for one pound and transported piece by piece up to the northern suburb of Hornsby where it was transformed into their maternity wing. It is still protected by the two English stone lions that guarded its entrance from College Street.


Nowadays, the section of Hyde Park which housed The British Centre is an expanse of lawn, and the Sandringham Gardens, which were opened in 1954 by QEII. Jim showed the gates to the gardens in his post yesterday, which jiggled my faltering memory. The opening photograph for this post is the fountain at the centre of the gardens, and the photographs adjacent here, show the gardens themself.

11 comments:

Kay L. Davies said...

Beautiful photos, Julie, but I keep wondering why a maternity ward would require a dance floor!
I vaguely remember dancing on one of those well-sprung dance floors when I was very, very young. An experience far superior to dance classes in a school gymnasium some years later.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis», being an avid reader of the history of WWII, found this to be very fascinating, Julie.

Steffe said...

One pound. Not a bad deal.

J Bar said...

Very interesting discovery, Julie. It's amazing how they used to move whole buildings and rebuild them elsewhere. I really like the shot of the pergola and terraced garden beds. Thanks for the mention. :)

Bruce Caspersonn said...

It's too bad you are not a history teacher, sorting out the current flock.
A great post.

Peter said...

This is the post of the year! Love the old map of Sydney and the mystery, oh the mystery. Well Done super sleuth.

Joan Elizabeth said...

The top shot was the mystery for me.

Kevin said...

Good bit of detective work. The terraced garden is an attractive shot.

Rae Walter said...

A fascinating story and great sleuth work Julie.

Julie said...

Thank you, Rae. These are the stories that I get the most from, although they are harder for readers to read and to comment upon.

Glenn said...

The building is now gone for good. The old maternity wing at Hornsby Hospital has been demolished and replaced by a new building on another part of the site. The two lions that stood in front of the British Centre and then the maternity wing of the Hornsby Hospital have been relocated to the front of the new maternity wing.