Did you know that Centennial Park was once a boggy marsh called Lachlan Swamp? It makes sense when you wander around the park’s large ponds and notice the manmade walls or dams that contain them.
But before this area became the beautiful park it is today it served a different purpose. Before I explain, I need to mention the Tank Stream which was the original creek that the colony was built around in 1788. It runs from around Hyde Park to Circular Quay. Yes, it still runs today in what is now a storm water drain.
By the 1820s, the Tank Stream had become polluted so engineer John Busby was asked to find a new water source. He surveyed Lachlan Swamp and reported that it would be suitable stating that its water was “free from every taste and smell, and so soft as to be fit for every purpose”.
Lachlan Swamp was Sydney’s main source of water from 1837 to 1859. It was transported to the colony through a tunnel. But we’ll tell you more about that in our next post.
The photographed area, still called Lachlan Swamp, is in the centre of the park and maintains some of the original natural springs that fed the wetland. How much this resembles the original landscape I’m not sure, but walking through this less manicured space with the sound of the trickling creek at least makes it easier to imagine how the area must have been before it became a park.
Another interesting fact is that Lachlan Swamp hosted the last known public duel in Australia between Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Thomas L. Mitchell and an old Premier of NSW, Stuart Donaldson. Neither man was hit but a bullet did go through Mr Donaldson’s hat!
Note: I try to be as accurate as possible but make no guarantees. Please use this information at your own risk.
“The People’s Park: Centennial Park – A History” by Professor Paul Ashton, Kate Blackmore and Armanda Scorrano
Centennial Parklands History Walk app