An important war memorial, the ANZAC Obelisk remembers those who served from New South Wales during the Great War.
For 81 years the Obelisk stood proud at the northern end of Anzac Parade before it was relocated to the median of Anzac Parade during the construction of the Eastern Distributor in 1998. In 2014, the Albert “Tibby” Cotter Walkway at Moore Park project commenced, prompting another relocation.
An evolving state
In 1917 Randwick Road – which led from the city boundary south from Moore Park – was widened and renamed Anzac Parade. The opening was marked by the erection of the ANZAC Obelisk at the northern end of the Anzac Parade at the intersection of Moore Park Road. The widening of the road was recommended by the Royal Commission for the Improvement of the City of Sydney and its Suburbs, 1909.
In the first half of the 20th century, the states and their capitals competed with one another for economic growth. The focus was on essential infrastructure and New South Wales invested heavily in ports, railways, power, and water supply. Before the improvements, Randwick road was merely a dirt track.
The Royal Commission’s recommendations included landscaping of the Parklands adjacent to Randwick Road. An avenue of Moreton Bay figs was planted on each side of the road, and a central avenue of palms along its length. The Obelisk was erected at the northern end of this avenue of palms.
Creating a new memorial for our ANZACs
The Obelisk was designed by Robert Hargreave Brodrick, Architect and City Building Surveyor. An English-born architect who migrated to Australia at the age of 22, Brodrick secured a job as draughtsman in 1883 at the Sydney Municipal Council and held a number of junior roles before being appointed City Architect in 1898 – a position he held until he retired in 1928.
As City Architect, Brodrick was responsible for the construction of virtually all the municipal buildings erected during that time, including the Municipal (or Domain) Baths at Woolloomooloo which were opened in 1908, and the Municipal Markets at the head of Darling Harbour. When he retired, Brodrick had been a departmental head longer than any other office in the Council’s employ.
The ANZAC Obelisk is in a tapered form, about eight metres high and constructed of yellow block Sydney sandstone. The uppermost is topped with four-sided pyramidal apex. The year ‘1917’ is set in bronze within a laurel wreath on one face and letters forming the words ‘Anzac Parade’. The inscription on the plaque card reads:
“This remodelled roadway was officially opened by Lady Mayoress of Sydney Mrs RD Meagher. 1917. The Rt Hon RD Meagher, MLA, Speaker, Lord Mayor of Sydney. RH Brodrick, City Architect. AM Brigg, City Surveyor. TN Nesbitt, Town Clerk.”
The Obelisk cost £284, with the stonework accounting for £95, and the metalwork £189. The successful tenderer for the metalwork was Wunderlich Ltd, a Sydney firm established in the 1890s by brothers Ernest and Alfred Wunderlich.
Known for their importation and manufacture of terracotta tiles, they also produced ornamental metalwork, and had taken out a patent for stamped metal ceilings. One of the company’s earliest ceiling installation was in the Sydney Town Hall.
By 1900, the company was promoting itself as “specialists in metal shopfronts, name-plates, stall boards, mouldings and signs”.
Anzac Parade is born
On 9 January 1917, the Lord Mayor, Alderman RD Meagher wrote a Mayoral Minute proposing that the newly widened Randwick Road be names ‘Anzac Parade’:
The work of widening Randwick Road through Moore Park, extending from Moore Park Road to Bunnerong Road being practically completed, it appears to me that the time is opportune for the Council to allot a suitable name to the thoroughfare which has been so much improved.
When the garden plots along the centre of the roadway have received artistic treatment, which it is proposed should be put into effect at the earliest possible date, and the growth of the fresh line of trees to be planted along the side of the old Zoological Garden Site begin to correspond with the present magnificent Avenue which is now broken at that particular point, the thoroughfare will undoubtedly be one of the most striking and most beautiful in Australia. In this connection therefore, I suggest that the new roadway should be named “Anzac Parade”.
It is true that there is already a thoroughfare in the centre of the City, which is known and described as “Anzac Avenue”, that name having be bestowed by the Council upon the new road extending from College Street through Cook Road to Riley Street. In order to prevent anything clashing in Nomenclature, I suggest the name “Anzac Avenue” should abolished in honour of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Imperial Forces in France substituted in lieu thereof; the name “Anzac” which is associated with so many distinguished memories being reserved for the new improved roadway. I therefore recommend accordingly.
Alderman Meagher’s recommendation was adopted by the Council on 15 January and the decision communicated to the relevant government authorities on 19 January 2017. At the meeting on 29 January, on the motion of Alderman Barlow, the Council further resolved:
That having regard to the fact that the City Council has decided to name the recently improved and widened roadway through Moore Park, Anzac Parade, in accordance with the minute issued by the Lord Mayor, representations by the Council to the Randwick Municipal Council or other authorities interested that the roadway extending from the city boundary right through to Botany Bay should be named Anzac Parade, so as to have one long continuous thoroughfare named after those whom the country desires to honour, thus linking the city to-day with the landing-place of the intrepid Cook.
This resolution was communicated to the Randwick, Mascot and Botany Councils, with the Town Clerk of Randwick Municipal Council responding on 19 February that:
….my Council will agree to fall in with the suggestion therein made in renaming Eastern Avenue, Bunnerong Road and Broad Road “Anzac Parade”, having already moved somewhat along the line suggested some time since.
The Diggers own memorial
When war broke out, the troops used Moore Park and the adjacent Centennial and Queens Park for military parade drills. Randwick road formed part of the route the soldiers of the First AIF took to march from their training camps on the site of
Kensington Racecourse (now part of the University of New South Wales) to join the military transport ships in the harbour. Their route also included Oxford Street to the city amid cheering crowds. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 19 August 1914:
Despite the fact that nothing was published in the papers about the first march there were tens of thousands thronging the streets to see the first division of the great expeditionary force.
An important focal
The ANZAC Obelisk became the focal point of Anzac Day commemorations for many years. Its construction pre-dated that of the Martin Place Cenotaph, dedicated in 1927, the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier in St Mary’s Cathedral, commissioned in 1928 and unveiled on 26 July 1931, and the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, completed in 1934.
Each year, newspapers reported commemorative activities, with photographs showing the Obelisk adorned with floral wreathes and other tributes. On 26 April 1923, The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
As with all outdoor ceremonies the observance of the day’s significance at Memorial Obelisk, Anzac Parade, was somewhat married by rain. There was however a representative gathering of relatives and soldiers (many of the latter maimed).
A number of soldiers mostly from the First Infantry Brigade, mustered at Darlinghurst Junction and under Lt Jackson marched behind a Boy Scouts band to the monument. Here, in a brief address, Lt Colonel A.B. Stevens, who commanded the 2nd Battalion at Gallipoli, recounted the now historic movements of the Australian force from the time of its departure from Australia to the landing at Anzac Cove.
By the late 1920s Anzac Day commemorations had grown and larger events were held in the City, at the Cenotaph in Martin Place and near the site where the Anzac Memorial was being built in Hyde Park. But returned soldiers and their families continued to gather at the ANZAC Obelisk.
The importance of the Obelisk was underlined by a letter sent to the Council in 1923 by May Mercer, the Founder and Honorary Secretary of the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Mothers, Wives and Widows Association.
In her letter, Mrs Mercer requested the Council erect a small railing around the Obelisk and bands on which to attach flowers and wreaths. The railing was to protect the flowers from being ‘destroyed by children’. The railing wasn’t built but the bands were installed.
Throughout the 1920s the children and families of the dead would gather each Anzac Day to decorate and lay wreaths on the Obelisk. This traditional observance was referred to in a report by the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 April 1928:
It has been the custom in former years for returned members of the Second Battalion to hold a service at the memorial on Anzac Day, but this year all the members joined the larger function in the city. In the afternoon, without ceremony, they laid the customary wreath at the memorial.
After Anzac Day in 1929 The Sydney Morning Herald reported that:
A fairly large congregation gathered at the obelisk Moore Park yesterday afternoon to participate in a service. Loving hands had decorated the memorial and made it a tower of floral beauty.
For Lord Mayor RD Meagher and his contemporaries in 1917, the connection between the Anzacs and Randwick Road was undeniable and the renaming of the road and the erection of the Obelisk that connection for future generations.
Centenary of ANZAC Commemoration
The ANZAC Obelisk now stands proud in the northern corner of Moore Park between Anzac Parade and Moore Park Road. It is now a place for the people of NSW to stop, reflect and honour the brave New South Welshmen and women who served during World War I.
Two Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) were planted either side of the Obelisk to mark the commemoration of its centenary and final resting place. Norfolk Island Pines were one of the three trees originally planted along Anzac Parade.
These distinctive pines are an important species within Centennial Parklands and their shape compliments the ANZAC Obelisk. Additionally another 140 trees have been planted nearby to reform this area of Moore Park for future generations.
The solemn dedication of the memorial was held on Wednesday 15 March 2017. The Commemoration was attended by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) Governor of New South Wales, Mrs Linda Hurley, a range of NSW Ministers, dignitaries from the Australian Defence Force were represented by senior representatives from the Royal Australian Navy, Army and Royal Australian Air Force.
The Governor and Mrs Linda Hurley laid a wreath at the base of the Obelisk during the ceremony as per tradition and many others had done before.
Here are a few images from the Commemoration...
This blog was contributed to by Roads and Maritime Services and historical information authored by Dr Tracy Bradford. Images by Rob Tuckwell Photography (@robtuckwellphotography).