I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published July 6th 2013
Melbourne's Tranquility Base - The Fitzroy Gardens
Fitzroy Gardens is one of those Melbourne icons that everyone can relate to and which seem to have been there forever unchanged.
Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens are perhaps best know as the home of Captain Cooks Cottage
I can remember visiting the gardens as a very young child for family picnics in, what even then, was a perfectly manicured landscape located right on the cities edge.
A little research shows that a reserve or garden has existed here for 165 years, since 1848 in fact when the initial 64 acres 926 Hectares) was set aside by the Colonial Government and known initially as Fitzroy Square. The change of name to Fitzroy Gardens happened in 1862, named after Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy who was Governor of New South Wales from 1846 to 1851 and then Governor-General of Australian Colonies until 1855. Take a stroll through these meticulously maintained, peaceful gardens today and it's difficult to believe that they host more than 2 million visitors annually.
The Conservatory has been hosting spectacular floral displays since opening in 1930
The gardens are a magnet for families and particularly popular with young children attracted by, among other things, the world famous 'Fairies Tree'.
Ola Cohn's labour of love, the 'Fairies Tree' is a favourite with children
Taking the form of fairies, gnomes and native animals & birds lovingly carved into the stump of a 300 year old red gum the 'Fairies Tree' is the work of Carola (Ola) Cohn, a Bendigo born artist and sculptor who worked for 3 years from 1931 to 1934 to shape the 'Fairies Tree'.
Obviously the carvings were done years after the tree died so there was considerable risk that rotting of the timber would eventually rob the gardens of the much loved work of art. In 1970 the stump was removed and chemically treated before being remounted on a concrete base.
The 'Fairies Tree' owes its origins to Ola Cohn's love of animals and her inspiration on seeing the 'Elfin Tree' in Kensington Park, London.
Another attraction for children is the miniature Tudor Village. Cast in cement the village is the work of London pensioner Edgar Wilson. Then 77 years old Mr Wilson constructed three such villages not long after World War 2. One was presented to the City of Melbourne as a token of appreciation for food supplies sent from Melbourne to England during the war. The display was opened by Melbourne's Lord Mayor on 21st May 1948. A Tudor period village the display includes scale replicas of the homes of William Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway.
The miniature Tudor Village was a gift to the people of Melbourne
Fitzroy Gardens are perhaps best known as the home of Captain Cooks Cottage.
The cottage was the Cook family home in Great Ayton, Yorkshire and it's thought Captain James Cook lived in it between 1736 and 1745.
Purchased by Russell Grimwade in 1933 the cottage was dismantled, packed into 253 packing crates and shipped to Melbourne, arriving in April 1934.
Twice restored, one in the late 1950's and again in 1970 Cooks Cottage is a 'must see' attraction in one of the world's great inner-city parks.
Other attractions in the gardens include the famous Spanish style conservatory, home to spectacular floral displays since its opening in 1930 and Sinclair's Cottage, the former home gardener James Sinclair and his family.
Fitzroy Gardens 'Temple Of The Winds' Rotunda
A dozen or more fountains and sculptures are scattered throughout the Fitzroy Gardens which are as attractive to the people of Melbourne today as they have ever been.
The statue of Diana and The Hounds is found near the Conservatory