Sydney Cricket Ground - History

History

In 1811, the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, established the second Sydney Common, about one-and-a-half miles wide and extending south from South Head Rd (now Oxford St) to where Randwick Racecourse is today. Part sandhills, part swamp and situated on the south-eastern fringe of the city, it was used as a rubbish dump in the 1850s and not regarded as an ideal place for sport. In 1851, part of the Sydney Common south of Victoria Barracks was granted to the British Army for use as a garden and cricket ground for the soldiers. Its first user was the 11th North Devonshire Regiment which flattened and graded the southern part of the rifle range adjacent to the Barracks.

In the next couple of years, the teams from Victoria Barracks combined themselves into a more permanent organisation and called themselves the Garrison Club. The ground therefore became known as the Garrison Ground when it was first opened in February 1854.

Up until that time Hyde Park had been the main sporting and racing ground in the colony but when it was dedicated as public gardens in 1856 city cricketers and footballers had to find somewhere else to play.

In the late 1860s another part of the Sydney Common, the area west of the Garrison Ground to the then Dowling Street, was opened for public recreation. It was named Moore Park after the Mayor of Sydney, Charles Moore, who planted a number of Moreton Bay Fig trees which exist to this day. As well as the location of Sydney's first zoo, Moore Park was a regular venue for games between Sydney rugby clubs Sydney University and the Wallaroos. Sydney at the time was a small, dense city and best navigated on foot and Moore Park was on the outskirts. It was not liked so much by cricketers because it was too far from the city.

When the commander of the Sydney garrison, Lieutenant-Colonel John Richardson, aligned his soldiers to the East Sydney Cricket Club, the Garrison Ground became known as the Civil and Military Ground. In 1870 British troops left Victoria barracks and the future of the Civil and Military Ground became uncertain. However, with the closure of the Albert Ground in the 1870s, the NSW Cricket Association (NSWCA) began regular use of the Civil and Military Ground.

In 1875 the NSW Government began to upgrade the ground. Despite efforts by Victoria Barracks and then the Carlingford, Redfern, Fitzroy and Albert cricket clubs to take control, the then president of the NSWCA, Richard Driver (after whom Driver Avenue outside the ground is named), persuaded the government to let the NSWCA look after the ground's administration. In 1876, the ground was dedicated by Governor Sir Hercules Robinson.

The NSWCA had influential supporters. Driver himself was a prominent MP and solicitor for the City of Sydney Council. The Minister for Lands, Thomas Garrett, was also supportive; his son was about to break into the colonial side. It is hardly surprising therefore that within a couple of years of the NSWCA taking control of the ground, the governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, appointed Driver himself, William W. Stephen and Phillip Sheridan (after whom a grandstand was named), the first trustees. Two trustees were appointed by the government and one by the NSWCA. The close relationship between the Trust and the NSWCA is evidenced by the fact that they pooled funds for the next six years. The military's link with the ground was finally severed when John Richardson and the Sydney garrison went to fight in the Sudan. The trustees then took the opportunity to rename the ground the Association Ground

In 1883 the most prominent trustee, Sheridan, regarding the ground as the responsibility of the trustees, began to act independently of the NSWCA, resulting in the NSWCA losing control of the ground. Over the next century there was constant conflict between the Trust and the NSWCA over whether other sports such as rugby, tennis and cycling, the organisers of which were all keen to use the venue, had access to it. One conflict in 1904, over the Trust's plan to hold a cycling event which clashed with a cricket match, ended up in court. The NSWCA's influence was eventually reduced even further over the years due to changes in the way the State Government appointed trustees.

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