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History of Moore Park

Zoological GardensOrigin and historical notes

In 1866 Sydney City Council dedicated 378 acres (153 hectares) of the north west section of Sydney Common as a recreation ground for the public to help alleviate growing pressures for outdoor activities, particularly organised sports.

The area was named Moore Park in 1867 after Charles Moore, Mayor of Sydney City Council 1867-1869. Moore Park became the focus for major sporting events and entertainment facilities with the establishment of the Zoological Gardens in 1879 (Sydney’s first zoo and included a bear pit and elephant house), the Royal Agricultural Society Showground, and the first course of the Australian Golf Club in 1882.

Sydney Girls’ High School (1920) and Sydney Boys’ High School (1928) were built on this site as well.

As a historical footnote, Moore Park was additionally the place where the first polo match in Australia was played!

Historical boundaries

At the time of dedication, Moore Park was bounded to the south by Lachlan Estate and Randwick Racecourse, to the west by Dowling Street, to the north by Old South Head Road, and to the east by the Lachlan Water Reserve. A road lined with stone pines marked this eastern boundary of the park and the western boundary of the water reserve.

Two other roads crossed Moore Park prior to 1866; the first was known as Old Botany Road and was used by hunters and fisherman initially and later by pleasure seekers traveling to Coogee and Botany.

The second road provided a western entrance to a cemetery that was located off South Dowling Street. The dedicated land encompassed the Tunnel Reserve (1827-1838), the Military Barracks and the Military Cricket Ground.

Topography and Usage Patterns

Moore Park consisted of a series of gently rolling hills, three water bodies and varied scrub vegetation. Commonly known as the Sand Hills, the land was prone to erosion.

By the mid 19th century, the land was degraded and barren, more a result of years of timber getting, pillaging and dumping than of inherent environmental qualities. The removal of timber in particular had led to erosion problems, so that by the early 1860s Charles Moore the alderman and Charles Moore, the Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens, collaborated to stabilise the soils with plantings of indigenous shrubs and couch grass. The shrubs failed, but the couch grass succeeded quickly, and sparked discussion about the loss of native vegetation.

Four of the sand hills were conspicuous enough to be named: Mount Steel, Mount Rennie, Constitution Hill and Mount Lang. However, in the process of transforming the common into parkland, these hills were modified greatly.


Today Mount Steel is the least altered of the four. Mt. Rennie was reconfigured as a platform for Golf House in 1926 and Mt. Lang, across from the modern day Sydney Cricket Ground, was terraced and ramped for unknown reasons and disappeared after the 1940s.

The fate of Constitution Hill is not clear. The Moore Park Golf Course (established in 1926 and continuously modified) has taken advantage of and modified the gently rolling topography in establishing fairways.

The management of Moore Park, except the two stadia, was transferred to the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust in the early 1990s.

Moore Park now provides 115 hectares of leisure choices. It has tennis and netball courts, the ES Marks Athletics Field, and an 18-hole Group One public golf course and driving range. It is also used as a venue for circuses and other outdoor events.

The image below shows Moore Park looking back to the Sydney CBD and harbour.


Moore Park Aerial

Further information

For more information on the history of Centennial Parklands, its parks and features, visit our history and heritage section.