So that we all know what we are talking about, Lithgow Park and Queen Elizabeth Park are one and the same place, the name change being made to coincide with the Queen’s visit to Lithgow on Friday 12th February 1954.
Lithgow isn’t short of playing fields, but it is rather light on parks and gardens. This is changing as the city grows in the 21st century, but the older parts of town are still deficient. This is a direct result of the city’s industrial past and the acute housing shortages caused by two world wars, when the coal mines and the Small Arms Factory were vital to Australia’s survival. Simply housing an extra 10 000 people took priority and the rapid decline in population after these conflicts were over caused another set of problems.In the early days, there were practically no public spaces near the centre of town. What are today vacant areas used as sporting fields were often industrial sites then. As the population grew, so did the agitation for public parkland.
We read in the “Evening News” from Sydney for 27th November 1894, on page 4, “that Lithgow, which was one of the most important towns in the western district, was without a park of any description, and as far as the deputation knew, there were no Crown lands which were available for the purpose, and the Minister was asked to resume a suitable block for the purpose. At present there was no place where they could hold sports, nor where children could play, without trespassing on private land. In reply the Minister for Lands said there was no money available for the purchase of lands for parks, but should any sum be placed on the estimates for the purpose, the claims of Lithgow would be carefully considered.”
By February 1897 there had been little change and it was not until the following year that we read in the “Sydney Morning Herald”, for Saturday 19th November 1898, on page 9 that “The Hon. J Cook is in receipt of a communication from the Lands Department notifying that the Minister for Lands has approved of 14 acres of land being purchased as a public reserve and park for Lithgow”. Joseph Cook, later Sir Joseph, was a former Lithgow coal miner who had become the local member in the NSW parliament. Later still, he became Prime Minister of Australia. The new boardwalk at Hassan’s Walls (2014) has been named to honour him.Finding and purchasing the site was one thing, but developing it was another. More than 10 years later, money was still being sought for park development. Mr Charles Hoskins, one of the owners of the steel works at Lithgow, offered a sum which had to be matched by other donations. This was proving hard to come by.
|1920's - note the smoky background, now a thing of the past|
After World War 1, the decision was made to place the city’s War Memorial in Lithgow Park, which has meant that the park from then on became the centre of public ceremonies and festivities, a tradition which continues today. Probably the greatest of these was the visit of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on February 12th, 1954. There is a good report of the event in the “Herald” of Saturday 13th February, on page 6. It was to honour Her Majesty that the park’s name was changed from that day on. It sounds like a great time was had by all and the memories of the day remain strong in the district, 60 years on.
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|Uncle Christy Hayward in Lithgow Park 1953|