The beautiful and peaceful Hurley Park is often overlooked in comparison with Mawson and Koshigaya parks. I find myself regularly drawn to it. It has a history that dates back to the early days of Campbelltown's settlement with it's convict-built reservoir and cattle tanks the dominant attraction.
Locating information about Hurley Park that was not associated with early water conservation construction proved a challenge. Much has been written about this aspect of the park and I will concentrate on the rest of the park in this post.
Hurley Park was either named for the well-known pioneer John Hurley or his son P.B. Hurley. John Hurley, a convict, had arrived in Campbelltown by 1832 and was listed as an innkeeper at the King's Arms. He was also a successful pastoralist and politician. John has been incorrectly identified as the man who saw Fred Fisher's ghost in 1826, probably because it sounded like John Farley who actually saw the apparition.
A 1948 aerial photo of Hurley Park
Besides the occupation of the cattle tank and reservoir, the park was originally a paddock where cattle grazed. According to Jeff McGill in his book Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs, the park appears to have been used as a "common", however in 1897 it reverted to the Crown. Jeff further writes that Alderman Charles Bull led efforts to have the paddock declared a park. Hurley Park is mentioned in the Daily Telegraph in 1889 where it discussed how the residents of Campbelltown were very indignant at the state of the park. It wrote that some time ago the council tried to get the care of it vested in them, and they intended petitioning the Government on the matter.
Not much is written about the park until 1918 when the reservoir was the scene of a regatta that is referred to as Jack's Day. Most of the town went and there is a photo of boats and swimming to mark the occasion.
Jack's Day Regatta on the reservoir in 1918
Starting in the 1920s the park was a popular moonlight rendezvous for young lovers in Campbelltown. During the 1920s through to about the 1950s, it was common for teenagers attending dances at the Town Hall in Queen Street to be seen taking an alternate course home through Hurley Park. Apparently, old timers recalled after chilly mornings that horses were regularly found without their winter rugs after the teenagers moved them to the frosty ground!
In 1926 Hurley Park was leased to Vince Tripp for one pound a year and for three pounds the following year. In 1933 debate raged in the town about whether or not cattle and bulls should be allowed to graze in the public park. The threat of bulls charging at people terrified the locals.
Former local historian Ed McBarron wrote about the trees in the park. He claimed that the trees came from the State Nursery in Badgally Road. The park was and is still home to Moreton Bay Figs, Canary Island Pines, Stone Pines, Bunya Pines and various gums and eucalypts.
According to Ed, the drainage gully in the park was once used as a favoured place to play two-up on Sunday mornings. There was always one bloke posted to act as "cockatoo"!
The park was the scene of a tragedy one day in 1961. Six year-old Greg O'Brien from nearby Allman Street drowned in an excavation that was dug for a new playing field. It added to other drowning tragedies in the cattle tank in the 1920s and 30s.
There was even a rubbish tip in the park. Maps show the location adjacent to Lithgow Street, not far from where it meets George Street. It was quite small and no traces remain. The park was also home to an early inn where Dumaresq Street once met George Street.
In the 1960s the park was reconfigured for sporting fields. Baseball was played regularly on the new sporting field and football and cricket were later played.
Baseball on Hurley Park in 1970
Do you have any interesting memories from Hurley Park that you would like to share?
Written by Andrew Allen
The Trees of Hurley Park
In Grist Mills Vol. 2, No. 2, April 1984
Daily Telegraph, 12 August 1889, p5
Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September 1961
McGill, Jeff et al 1995
Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs: how and why they got their names
Campbelltown: Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society
McGill, Jeff 1993
Campbelltown: Campbelltown City Council