Saturday, July 3, 2010

A bit more history on the Victoria Park racecourse, now Green Square

More from the oral history transcript of an interview with Bill Whittaker provided by the City of Sydney. This time on Victoria Park racecourse, which became the Leyland factory, Naval Stores and finally (so far) housing.

Oh, yes, well, daytime trotting, it prospered at times and, you know, the Depression came in 1929 in the first years after they’d renamed it and things were tough, there was very little money, and daytime trotting had big disadvantages. They couldn’t race Saturday because it would have been in opposition to the galloping - which had been going for a hundred years, they were relatively used to it - and they couldn’t really compete for the patronage from the punters when the races would have been that Saturday because every Saturday afternoon racing in Sydney, so they had to race Monday afternoons. There were two tracks, Harold Park and Victoria Park. Victoria Park was established in 1911 by Sir James Joynton Smith and Sir James Joynton Smith played a very active and prominent role in the establishment of daytime trotting at Victoria Park, which he owned. Sir Joynton Smith was one of the most interesting characters in Sydney history. He was Lord Mayor of Sydney for several years, I think he was second president of the New South Wales Rugby League, the organisation which has flourished so much. He actually supported the rugby league when they broke away from the rugby union. Sir Joynton Smith established Smith’s weekly, the newspaper - very prominent newspaper - and he also built the Carrington Hotel at Katoomba and he also built a beautiful arcade – I think it was called the Victoria Arcade – down near the Australia Hotel and the Prince Edward Theatre in the old days in Sydney. It was a beautiful arcade that sadly has been demolished. So,
you can see he was very prominent and he lifted the image of trotting in Sydney. He was also chairman of the South Sydney Hospital and when Victoria Park was established from the proceeds of the first meeting he in fact donated five hundred pounds – a lot of money then – to the South Sydney Hospital charity to help improve it and establish the place.

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