The inception of the Albury Botanic Gardens began with the original Government grant in 1864 of 50 acres (20 hectares) of land, later occupied by Albury Sports Ground, Noreuil Park, Hovell Tree Park, the Albury Base Hospital and the Gardens. The Albury Botanic Gardens were officially formed in 1877, when Albury had a population of a mere 3,000 people - and lacked the relative wealth of the prosperous gold minning centres such as Bendigo and Ballarat. However, the completion of the railway from Melbourne to Wodonga in 1873 made Albury a natural channel for Riverina produce bound for the markets of the Victorian capital and gave the town a boost to its municipal self-confidence.
In 1887-88 Smollett Street was extended through the Botanic Reserve and the bridge over the Bungambrawatha Creek was built. The Gardens were then given their present boundaries, with an area of approximately 10 acres (4 hectares). Initially, the Gardens were laid out with straight paths and rows of pines, elms and other trees. In 1901 Mr J.E.R. Fellowes was appointed curator, a position he held for 36 years. In this time he transformed the Gardens. The straight paths and shrub beds became curved and rounded, giving a softer, less formal appearance. Shrubberies, annual borders, collections of Australian rainforest trees, exotic trees & palms were established. Since then some changes have taken place, but the layout has remained basically the same.
Over the years the gardens have won many awards for layout, planting design and annual displays. The AlburyCity's staff and indeed all of Albury’s citizens have good reason to be proud of the Gardens. This self-guided heritage walk is intended to introduce you to some of the Gardens’ history and its significance for the City of Albury.
The main entrance to the Gardens is through the Robert M. Wilkinson Memorial Gates, named to honour the Dean Street retailer who was Mayor from 1903 to 1905. It is fitting that the gates were sited to face the hospital, one of the many institutions to which Mr Wilkinson gave his support. The gates were officially opened in 1908 by the N.S.W. Premier, Mr C.G. Wade.
This was erected in 1955 by the Rotary Club as a memorial to Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, who visited Albury in 1935.
First Tree Planted
An English Elm, (Ulmus procera), was planted in 1877 near the north- east entrance by Alderman W.J. Jones, the Mayor. He was nicknamed “Coffin Jones”, as undertaking was part of his cabinet making business. This was the first tree planted in the Gardens and forms part of the avenue renowned for its beauty and shade during autumn and summer. It was not until 1879 that a tree-planting program began in the streets of Albury.
The “White Lady” is a statue of the Greek Muse of Tragedy, Melpomene. She was one of the nine goddesses who traditionally gave inspiration to the arts and sciences. The statue was presented to the town of Albury in 1892 by Alderman Charles Schmiedt (proprietor of the Albury Hotel), who served on the Council from 1887 to 1892 and again from 1898 to 1901.
Copper Beech Tree
This tree (Fagus sylvatica var. purpurea), was donated by the Albury Lions Club in 1982 as a living memorial to J.D. (Jim) Phillips for his services to the National Heart Foundation of Australia and twenty-five years of service to the Lions Club. Mr Phillips, who died in 1982, was a co-founder in 1952 of farm machinery manufacturer, Connor Shea.
Sundial And Stone Seats
These were a gift to the people of Albury and District from T.H. Mate Ltd on the occasion of the centenary of the company in 1950. Mr Mate started his business at the corner of Townsend and Hume Streets, when that was the town centre. As the commercial centre gradually moved north and east, Mate’s built a large store at the corner of Dean and Kiewa Streets.
A Barbary Oak and a Red Oak (Quercus ilex var. ballota, Quercus rubra) were planted on 17th July, 1908 by Alderman Waugh and Mrs Waugh during his first term as Mayor; he served 20 terms between 1907 and 1939. Mrs Waugh’s oak has since died and has been removed. Another Red Oak has been planted by the International Plant Propagators Society in 1993.
Grown from a seed collected from the shores of Gallipoli, (Pinus halepensis var. brutia), was planted on Anzac Day 1936 by James Fellowes, the Curator, on behalf of the returned servicemen of the R.S.S.I.L.A., later to become the R.S.L. Damaged by lightning in 1999, a new seedling from the original tree has been planted nearby and wood from the tree used by Albury Wodonga Woodturners to make furnishings for the SS&A Club.
Albury’s First Bowling Green
In 1905 Albury’s first bowling club was founded and a bowling green was laid out by the Council in this area. Charles Dight is said to have mown it with a scythe. The former Customs House was moved from the Union Bridge to the Gardens for use as a clubhouse. The club moved to a larger site in Macaulay Street in 1922.
The Curators Residence
The charming brick house in the south west corner of the gardens was built in 1909 to replace the original weatherboard residence.
The original design incorporated one large pond with an island in the centre that was home to waterfowl and a Wedge Tailed Eagle. The pond’s design has been changed and upgraded many times.
Site Of Rose Garden
A rosery and pergola for climbing roses were built in this area in 1923 but was replaced by the present rose garden in 1963. Rose beds redesigned in 2000, using design elements from the J.E.R. Fellowes 1906 plan.
The monument was erected by the inhabitants of the Hume River (now Murray River) District in honour of Hamilton Hume, to commemorate his discovery of the river on 16th November, 1824. He and William Hovell went farther downstream on that day but returned on the next day and marked two trees, before crossing the river upstream near the present Hume Dam. The word “District” was inserted (with some difficulty) when it was pointed out that the inhabitants of the Hume River itself were fish! The monument was unveiled by Robert Brown, Albury’s first settler, on 19th July, 1858 to mark the site of the tree carved by Hamilton Hume in 1824, which had been destroyed by fire. The monument was relocated to the Botanic Gardens in 1884.
The Huon Tree
A Queensland Brushbox (Lophostemon confertus) was planted in memory of Sergeant Norman Huon, who died in action in Egypt in December 1916. He was a grandson of Paul Huon, Elizabeth Mitchell’s brother, but was not a nephew of Hamilton Hume, as stated on the plaque.
The band rotunda was built in 1890. Before that, band recitals were given from hotel balconies. The rotunda was restored in 1979 and dedicated to the memory of Robert Brown, Albury’s first settler, on the centenary of his death.
To mark the centenary of the establishment of the Gardens these trees were planted in 1977. A Golden Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Aurea’), planted by the Mayor John Roach and a Golden Indian Cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea’), planted by a former Mayor, Cleaver Bunton.
The Tulip Tree
The variegated tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Aureo-marginatum’) honours the memory of Elizabeth Mitchell (nee Huon). She was the owner of “Mungabareena”, the first station formed on the Murray River, which had an area of 36,000 acres and included the site of Albury. Elizabeth was the daughter of Count Gabriel Marie Louis Houn de Kerilleau, who left France at the time of the French Revolution, arrived in Sydney in 1794 and enlisted in the New South Wales Corps. In 1812 Elizabeth married William Mitchell, who later took up land at Bungonia, near Goulburn. After his death in 1837, Elizabeth, aquired “Mungabareena”. In 1842 she sent her eldest son, Thomas to take charge temporarily. Elizabeth later arrived by bullock wagon with seven of her children. She is known as “the Mother of Albury”.
The Charles Hilton Dight drinking fountain was erected by his friends & unveiled in 1916. Elizabeth Mitchell was his grandmother, and the explorer Hamilton Hume was his uncle by marriage. His father, John Dight, was a well known landholder in Albury’s early days. His property was known as Dight’s Forest and stretched from the Murray at Bungowannah to Jindera.
The first tree (Pyrus ussuriensis) was planted in 1984 by the Albury Horticultural Society’s President but was replaced in 1992 after it was damaged in a storm. It was planted by the Albury City Council as an expression of appreciation for the Society’s continued support in donating plant name plaques to the gardens.