Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey


Ex-CDA comments, suggestions, criticisms

 Preston and Gowerville Park

Preston and Gowerville Park  : A Timeline

In February, 2013, the author completed on behalf of the Preston Cricket Club an extensive history of Preston and Gowerville Park, aka "Cramer Street" since moves were first made to acquire the land in 1875.

The photograph right shows Preston Park on Sunday, 17 November, 1918, a Thanksgiving Day service following the end of the First World War some six days beforehand  It was taken by Evan Luly (1895 - 1985), a keen amateur photographer who lived in Preston for most of his life.

It clearly shows the pine trees that originally surrounded the park, the cycling track on the playing surface, and what appears to be a flower bed just inside the post-and-rail fence constructed in 1904.   The original woodeen pavilion can just be seen on the right.

A synopsis of some of the topics covered :

Preston and the  Park : A TimeLine

1838-39 The lands that were to become Preston are sold off at public auction - 12 lots ranging   from 312 to 1,117 acres at prices ranging from 8/3d per acre to £2 1 6d (High, Bell   and Miller Streets to Merri Creek)

1853 Land between today's Westgarth Street and Merri Creek set aside as a site for a township; 14 acres in Westgarth Street gazetted as a public park in 1867; Shire of Jika appointed as managers of Northcote Park in 1873

1854 The name Preston chosen after the establishment of the first post office at Wood's store

1860 The first Preston Cricket Club noted in matches against Phillipstown (south-east Brunswick) behind the Preston Arms Hotel  Later race meetings on the same site

1874 Proposals to establish a recreation reserve behind the Shire of Jika offices at the Junction Hotel rejected

1875 At the instigation of Cr , J  C  Clinch, Shire of Jika acquires nine acres in Cramer Street after the partial subdivision of Shepherd's Run; Preston and Gowerville Park  A Preston Park Cricket Club noted as offering to plough and sow grass if the area is enclosed

1877 A five-foot high picket fence completed around the Park at a cost of £86   Moves by ratepayers to acquire the vacant land east to High Street

1880 A wooden "pavilion" costing just £16 is erected on the eastern side  Remarkably, this humble structure remained until 1925!  Gowerville Cricket Club formed and allocated use of the Park  Running water laid on to the Park

1885 The Shire of Jike becomes the Shire of Preston after Northcote was proclaimed an independent Borough in 1883  Requests for use of the Park by the Preston and Gowerville Football Club rejected   Two cricket wickets are known to have existed, at the north and south ends, running north-south

1887 Preston Football Club granted access to the Park on a two-month trial

1888-89 Caretaker appointed to the Park at a contract rate of £10 per annum  The Preston Leader introduced (1888)  Spencer Street to Whittlesea railway via North Fitzroy, Carlton and Royal Park opens (1889)

1892 Admission charges first allowed at the Park for a series of football matches in aid of a fund supporting the families of 15 players and officials of the Mornington Football Club drowned in a boating accident in Port Phillip Bay  A gate-keeper's cottage noted in south-western corner of the Park, later used by the caretaker

1895-97 "Draconian restrictions" on access to the Park   Bans restrict access to hours between sunrise and sunset, shooting and hunting banned  A "full-time" caretaker (also Inspector of Health) appointed at £100 per annum

1899 Plans to move the financially-stricken Preston Reading and Recreation Rooms from Clifton Grove to the Park as an alternative pavilion thwarted after the Catholic Church buys the site for use as a school

1901 After considerable controversy, an inner picket fence was erected around the playing arena at a cost of just over £57  Today's Preston Cricket Club formed (as Preston Districts)

1904 Following Preston Football Club's admission into senior V F A  ranks, three ticket boxes, a press box are erected and a member's reserve at the northern-western corner of the Park was fenced off   A cycling track of around 15 feet width was laid inside the oval at the behest of the Preston Cycling Club

1907 The two-pitch usage of the ground ended; the circumstances in controversial circumstances

1914 Underground sewerage laid on to public conveniences at the north and south end of the Park (date of connection to the pavilion remains unknown)

1919 Electricity connected to the pavilion   Police presence during football matches for the first time

1919-23 Playing surface in both summer and winter noted as badly impacted by long grass, particularly in infestation of onion weed  Council agrees (1023) to devote proceeds from the sale of pine trees around the Park to purchase a horse-drawn mower

1922 A turf wicket is laid following the Preston Cricket Club's application to join the Sub-District Cricket Association  Plans to build Municipal Baths were quickly torpedoed when preliminary drawings showed they could not be built without impacting the playing area

1924 Following a re-formation of the Preston Municipal Band, a band rotunda was erected in the north-western corner at a cost of around £125   Plans were announced for construction of the southern end of today's grandstand, a tender of £3,100 for the stand, plus another £308 for tiling

1925 The grandstand was officially in December  The pavilion of 1880 lived to fight another day - after several applications, the building was removed to Bell Park for the use of the Preston Ladies Cricket Club and the Preston Soccer Club

1926 Preston Football Club re-admitted to the Victorian Football Association  Upgrades to the Park over the next year or two include a new press box, kiosk, toilet facilities and gates

1928 Embankments around the oval completed   Experiments with dirt track speedway racing   Tenders called for construction of caretaker's house in south-western corner

1930 Opening round of the V F A  season attracts a crowd of 15,000, the largest ever of the Park

1932? Six-feet high privet hedge planed around park as park of sustenance work during the depression   Ground resurfacing over the summer of 1931-32

1935 The Jubilee celebration of the Shire and later City of Preston attracts some novel events to the Park, including a Military Tattoo complete with a mock bombing raid, greyhound racing, and a boxing and wrestling tournament

1942 Air raid shelters dug in north-eastern corner  

1944 Moves to rename the grounds as Kingsbury Park in honour of the late Bruce Kingsbury V C  (1943)  Preston District Junior Football Association formed   

1947 First noted usage of "Bullants" for football club

1949 New wooden, internally-operated scoreboard erected   Electric siren installed

1952 Victorian Football Association's new Thirds competition replaces baseball as the curtain-raiser to senior matches

1956 Extensive works to widen the ground by up to eighteen feet sees both football and cricket clubs play the season at Coburg,

1957 First television broadcast from the Park (June 1)

1960s Changes around the Park include opening of P A N C H  (1959), the demolition of Zwar's Tannery for a bowling alley (1960), and closure of Broadhurst's Tannery in Murray Road (160) and Cook's Timber Yard (1967) with construction of the Preston Market commencing the following year

1960 First Sunday Victorian Football Association matches with admission by "donation"

1961 The caretaker's house in the south-west corner of the Park (22 Bruce Street) demolished and practice wickets moved from the south-eastern corner of the oval   Grandstand extended at northern end (but with no roof)

1962 Fitzroy Football Club attempts to take over the ground fail

1967 ATV-0 commence regular transmissions of both Saturday and Sunday V F A  games

1969 Plans announced for construction of Preston Football Club Social Club

1970 Cantilever roof extended over northern end of stand  New brick scoreboard erected and terracing extended around northern end of the Park

1977 Social Club finally opens after many delays with planning and licensing issues

1979 Plans announced for a $280,000 auditorium, gymnasium, sauna and spa room, training area, change rooms, kiosk, toilets, press facilities  Later shelved after State Labour Government announced plans for casino licenses

1981 Floodlights installed, Preston Council leases strip on eastern boundary of the Park from Railways for car parking

1985 PFC Annual Report includes beer sales for the first time ($14,405 net compared to canteen $11,508)

1993 Creation of elite under-18 football competition (ultimately the T A C  Cup) sees the elimination of League and Association Thirds

1994 Merger of Preston and Northcote councils creates Darebin Council  Playing surface at the Park deteriorates to an alarming level

1996 Preston and Northern Knights Football Clubs merge to become Preston Knights Football Club

1998 Preston Knights Football Club license revoked, the decision later overturned after negotiations with the administrator of the sacked Darebin Council saw an agreement for major drainage works for the playing surface

2000 A F L  Reserves abolished and a new Victorian Football League introduced with a mixture of combinations  Northern Bullants forced to play home matches against teams with A F L  players at Victoria Park due to change rooms deemed to be inadequate

2001 Home matches return to the Park with rooms under the stand combined for opposition teams and the Bullants using temporary rooms erected behind the scoreboard

2002 New change rooms and administration block opened to the south of the grandstand

2005 Darebin Council releases a Master Plan for wider community access and use of the Park   Initial work sees removal of the embankment in the south-eastern corner and establishment of a children's playground and replacement of the corrugated iron Mary Street fence with an open-mesh equivalent

2009 A F L  announce $1 4 million grant for each of the stand-alone and affiliated V F L  Plans for redevelopment of social areas   Surface of the oval re-sown with drought-tolerant grass, Preston Cricket Club play all away games

2010 Works commence on redevelopment of reception centre  Preston Football Club Social Club trades for the last time in August

2011 New dining facility opens, but with no kitchen or beer available on tap due to budget overruns and design flaws   Administration area extended to accommodate Northern Knights offices  

2012 Cramer Street streetscape redesigned   Ticket boxes and wire fence removed, frontage along Cramer Street landscaped and new gates installed

2013 Another gate installed behind Cramer Street goals (nobody knows why)!  Change rooms extended with medical room and small gymnasium for use by Northern Knights   Reception centre completed with an additional grant from Darebin Council


Later 1980s to early 1990s around four to five metres on the eastern side of the Park were lost when Council of the day opted for right angle parking in Mary Street, The year is unknown to me as it was during a period when I was not connected to the area

Also reports on the planned widening of the oval in 1954 suggested Preston may become the first V F A  club to have a bar   The availability of liquor at grounds was probably a Victorian Football Association decision, but I have not been able to trace when one could purchase beer at the ground  I believe that after trouble at other non-policed grounds, Preston Council banned liquor from being brought into the ground in 1977