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Archive for January, 2014

The story of Stirling Park Estate

Posted by cegan on January 27, 2014

On the 28th March 1901 the Mercantile League’s J.S Mackenzie of Cricket Club Sandover and Co’s wrote a letter to the editor of the Western Mail requesting that the city council buy the grounds situated on the Stirling Park Estate. With the unveiling of this story, comes with it some important insights into Perth sport and the role Stirling Park Estate had in shaping the cities sporting culture of the early 1900’s. 

Stirling Park Estate which was private property held Australian Rules Football and Cricket from 1898 to November 27th 1902.The location is bounded by Brewer, Lord, Stirling and Edwards Street. It had four wickets and the size of the parcel of land suggests it is a significant, albeit unofficial sporting facility for cricket and football. 

The Mercantile Cricket Association held games in the summer at Stirling Park Estate, which was a rival competition and less elitist than the governing Western Australian Cricket Association. 

In Anthony Barker’s book on the WACA, he describes the strong connection between WA Parliament and the WACA governorship of the late 1890’s. One of the trustees of the ground during this period was F.D North who had direct links to the Premiers office and the Governor Sir W.C Robinson.(The WACA, A.J Barker pg 57). There was an interesting inter-connection between government and the association.

A quote from the Cricket Annual of 1902 expands this point of a disconnect between cricketers of lower socio-economic standings and the Association.

“Boys leaving school look upon the cricket association of West Australia as some august body not to be approached and the clubs as exclusive “sets” whose ranks they would never be allowed to enter” (The WACA, A.Barker, p57) 

Stannage’s article on Sport in Western Australia elicits this point, that cricket was towards the top of the class system and that the sport you played was chosen for you based on where you fit on the class ladder.(A new history of Western Australia 1977. C Stannage).

The rebel Mercantile League sought to challenge the aristocracy of cricket in Western Australia. 

The letter written by J.S Mackenzie showed a strong desire to have a cricket ground for the ‘people’. 

“I would like to give expression in your well known journal to the earnest desire of my fellow cricketers and myself, that the splendid piece of ground called the “Stirling Park Estate” fronting Edward, Lord and Stirling Street should be immediately be acquired by the public…the cricket ground in question would make an ideal ground for the people, as it would improve if we got it purchased by the council” (The Western Mail 28th March 1901)

The people’s ground was Stirling Park estate, it was ingenuity and demand for extra recreational facilities that saw a private piece of land being converted into makeshift sporting facilities. We also see a commonality of what occurred in other cities planning, in which sporting facilities and recreation did not play a large role in urban planning. Hobart would have to buy grounds in the late 1800’s such as South Hobart and North Hobart Oval from free title. Stirling Park Estate would also need a rectification of urban policy if it was to survive. .

Games were played at the ground up until the 27th November 1902. Stirling Park Estate was auctioned off on the 5th October 1902, with all 44 lots sold. The desires and hopes of Mackenzie was lost with political power held by the gentry which is reflected in the electoral law of the time. 

Had the cricket grounds been bought by the local council, with four pitches and ovals it would have remained a significant threat for the ongoing viability of an elitist organisation such as the WACA. Particularly with the standards and talent that was available outside the set social structure. 

But there is far greater issues that occur in the sporting makeup of Perth, the loss of four ovals for cricket and Australian Rules Football in a city of very few recreational grounds would cause increase grounds stress and tension within the codes.  Dr Ian Syson has identified the tensions that existed between Australian Rules Football and Soccer in Perth in this period and has presented on how the media reflected these tensions within Perth society in the early 1900’s.

In a presentation in Melbourne in 2012, Syson noted that between 1900 and 1902 there is a dramatic increase in soccer participation with the trebling of school sides from 4 to 12 school by 1902.

By 1904 the growth had slowed and there was only 14 school sides and the senior competition had been reduced to 4. It is clear that the loss of Stirling Park Estate stifles the growth of soccer between 1902 and 1904. 

The Rebel league that sought to revolutionise the game of cricket in Western Australia was an attack on the set class system of Western Australia. Had it been successful, professionalism of cricket would probably have occurred much sooner. Barker notes the cricket sides that were within travelling distance of the WACA had a decidedly ‘common’ nature. 

 “Junior teams representing different suburbs, major business houses and many occupations, such as policemen, hairdressers, master grocers and bookmakers” (A.J Barker. The WACA, p 57) 

The end of Stirling Park estate, whose sweat and tears of the players was sold for 4,800 pounds also touches on the broader ideological debate occurring on the merits of professional and amateur sport. The houses that are built over the top of Stirling Park Estate are dated post 1902 and border the current NIB Stadium. Little would these residents know, that the ground their houses are situated on had an important role in shaping the sporting culture of Perth. The social and political outcomes of the transfer from recreational to residential use of Stirling Park Estate comes to a head in 1904 when the cities diverse sporting pursuits come together to discuss the development of a ground for all sport.

By Chris Egan








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The forgotten story of Cottesloe Beach Oval

Posted by cegan on January 21, 2014

When I was first trawling Trove and came across Cottesloe Beach Oval, I instantly thought it would be a venue in what is presently known as Cottesloe. I then assumed it would be Cottesloe Oval, and beach had just been dropped off the end over time as the name was too long

Then when researching I saw that in the 1920’s there was two venues that sport was played at Cottesloe Oval and Cottesloe Beach Oval. The historical record in publications such as Soccer Anzacs said Caledonians played at Mann Oval, there was no note of it being called Cottesloe Beach Oval. I needed more evidence to find out what and where Cottesloe Beach Oval was located.

It wasn’t until a photo on trove titled Cottesloe Beach (now Mosman Park) that I looked further afield and didn’t look for evidence of a soccer pitch on the world famous Cottesloe Promenade .

In a long forgotten story the town of Mosman Park was called  The District of Cottesloe Beach, much to the disdain of the government at the time. It was named after Cottesloe Beach Railway Station, which is now called Mosman Park Station on the Fremantle Line. Mosman Park was called Cottesloe Beach for 21 years from 1909-1930 before eventually being renamed a long with the ground.

I used spatial archaeology to confirm that Mann Oval, named after the President of Cottesloe Beach Council was in fact Cottesloe Beach Oval, a name long forgotten by supporters and historians alike. The field is more square shaped than oval and is quite compact compared to ovals such as Fremantle Oval.

The archaeological spatial boundaries show a ground that held rectangular codes and Australian Rules in the 1920’s as Cottesloe Beach Oval did. Williamson noted that community acceptance of both codes in the 1930’s at the ground. However the major football code of the region was Association Football.  Australian Rules Football was not hated, but it knew its place, that it was not as popular as the world game in many parts of the western suburbs.

Caledonians success in the 1920’s relates to the community and local decision makers passion for the game which carries on for much of the early 20th century

 On the 31st March 1933 the council had allocated a Caledonians home game ahead of a WAFA fixture which had to be rescheduled to the following weekend. The opposite occurred  in other parts of Perth such as Leederville and Subiaco where soccer would often be kicked out or denied entrance to sporting fields. .Showing the pre-eminent position held by the code in this part of Perth

Today Mosman Park’s major football code is Australian Rules Football not soccer.

Preliminary research on how this occurred leads back to the entrance into the WAFL of Claremont Tigers in 1925. Due to the strength of soccer the Tigers were very weak at the same time Caledonians were at their peak.

 In John Williamson’s Soccer Anzacs, Williamson argues that local councils defined how Perth interacted with sport. A particular election would change the attitudes, rates and access to a particular ground depending on which councillors had been elected.

The decision by the neighbouring Claremont Council in 1925 to spend 5000 pounds on Claremont Oval and evict Claremont Soccer Club from the ground is evidence of a council decision that changed a communities sporting interest.

So why did the Claremont Tigers get established in a region that was an island of British Soccer hegemony?  

Much like the establishment of Greater Western Sydney Giants, Claremont Tigers came into the WAFL based on being an untapped population, despite other sides based on talent and interest being more applicable to join the top league. It was an Australian Rules Football administration decision to be represented in every district and thus Claremont was the only district which was not represented in the top competition.

This administration decision changed the region from Association Football to Australian Rules Football and thus a ground that used to hold three football codes, with soccer being given priority has only the Australian game being played on it today. The name of Cottesloe Beach Oval, when soccer was at its peak is long gone.

But grounds such as Cottesloe Beach Oval have stories to tell, its spatial shape shows the legacy and prominence of the rectangular codes in the region.

As in my other articles on my blog, spatial archaeology can be used in sports history to interpret stories not written down in the historical record.

The WACA ground went from an oval suited to Australian Rules Football, to squared off boundaries in its last redevelopment because it wanted to be home to Perth Glory after its contract with the AFL had finished. The growth of soccer in the late 1990’s is reflected in the spatial archaeology of the WACA.

Field spaces are simply an expression of a community and sports will adapt venues according to the social demands of the time. Grounds and stadia are often the creation of a surrounding community, whether at regional or a more city bound level.

 The lost name of Cottesloe Beach Oval, from both memories and historical interpretations in the region reflects a community that no longer sees Association Football as its most popular football code. However the archaeological footprint remains to elicit the fact that in this region in the early part of the 20th century, the world game reigned supreme. 

By Chris Egan



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