Excerpt: Heritage Victoria Register VHR H2337 – ROYAL PARK

Royal Park was an integral element in Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe’s vision, from the mid-1840s, of Melbourne as a city surrounded by extensive public parklands, which were considered to be vital to the health and wellbeing of the inhabitants. 

The site was part of the large area of land north of the city reserved for public purposes in 1845, and La Trobe personally identified the boundaries of the future park on the day of his departure from the colony in 1854. 

By the time the park was gazetted in 1876 it had been reduced in size by residential development. The park has provided the site for various scientific endeavours, including the establishment of an Experimental Farm (1858) and as a reserve set aside for the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria (1861), part of which later became the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens. 

The park received national recognition as the starting point of Burke and Wills’ expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860, an event marked by a memorial cairn in 1890. 

Royal Park has been used for a range of military purposes from the late-nineteenth century: as the site for a government powder magazine, for displays and parades and as an important military camp during World Wars I and II. 

The Park has also been the site of various institutions for public health and welfare, including the Royal Children’s Hospital. It has provided an open space for large public gatherings and civic functions as well as being an extensive public recreation ground. It has been a venue for various sporting competitions from the late 1850s, including cricket, football and golf, and is particularly associated with women’s sport. 

Royal Park has been appreciated as a place of beauty since the arrival of European settlers, and this is evident in writings and artworks. Throughout its history there has been ongoing concern for its preservation, and despite various excisions the reserve has remained relatively unchanged in size since 1876. 

The retention and replanting of much indigenous vegetation is a feature of Royal Park and in 2010 the City of Melbourne won national recognition for its implementation of the 1984 Master Plan which helped preserve and develop the natural landscape so close to the city centre.

Royal Park is part of the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.