Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey


Ex-CDA comments, suggestions, criticisms

 Preston and Gowerville Park

Cockroach Flats

Few will realise it but the Coburg Cricket Club for most of its early life played on the reserve on the north side of Bell Street adjacent to the walls of Pentridge Prison

During the 1870s and 80s, the Collingwood-based local newspaper, the Mercury covered Northcote and Preston as well as the inner suburbs, and on one or two occasions couldn’t help reporting of warders returning cricket balls to the club and one that byplay for visiting teams was batsmen regularly attempting to lob the ball over the wall on the basis that, as one wag suggested, " none of the fieldsmen ever seem keen to go and fetch it!"

For reasons unknown (and perhaps best left that way), the area was originally known as the Cockroach Flats.

The current Coburg City Oval is, by comparison to its counterparts in Northcote and Preston, a relative newcomer in terms of recreation reserves

Cricket was first played there in early  November, 1915, a Sub-District match between Coburg and Camberwell after the local club was given permission to lay a turf wicket in August.

The area between Bell and Harding streets is now the G  A  Bridges Reserve, but previously known as Henderson's Paddock, was acquired in December, 1912 after many months of debate which led to a special referendum on the purchase being included in the Coburg Council elections in August, 1912

Rather than a recreation ground, the main stimulus for the acquisition was a reputed promise by the Education Department to construct a Higher Elementary school (i e  extending to grade eight rather than the six at State schools) if the purchase went ahead and the Council made a frontage along Bell Street available  for a school site

Ratepayers at the referendum voted 843 to 451 for the purchase, but remarkably three councillors who had earlier vetoed the proposed contract were re-elected and two new candidates who actively canvassed the purchase were soundly defeated

No purchase price was disclosed, although it is known that a deposit of £400 was paid  The site was variously put at between 13½ and 15 acres

After the land was acquired, there was a predictable squabble over who should control the reserve, the Coburg Football Club in particular asking for both a section of the area and an oval to be fenced in their bid to gain access to the Victorian Football Association after two consecutive premierships in the Northern Suburbs Association, the cricket club's more modest ambitions of an oval and a turf wicket to replace the old Cockroach Flats ground

And, of course, many ratepayers wanted the land to remain as a reserve for passive recreation

The grandstand was officially opened on 28 March, 1926, the year following the Coburg Football Club's admission into the Victorian Football Association.

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