Oxford street is a busy street of fashion and history running through the inner-city suburb of Paddington. It started off as an Aboriginal track and then became the access route to the signal station at South Head. I plan to explore some of Oxford Street, and then wander the suburban streets to see what’s there.
I pass the old ticket booth of Palace Verona. Berkelouw Books and café sits neatly on the opposite corner. It’s the perfect place to relax with a book and coffee or glass of wine before a movie.
Barracks Reserve, a lovely green space, sits between the high sandstone wall of Victoria Barracks and busy Oxford Street. A water pump, erected in 1868, reminds me that residents carted buckets of water to their homes every day. Low hung branches of a beautiful old fig reach out across the wall from the barracks. A red Federal Police Car is parked outside the gates. The public can only visit at prescribed times.
The 32m Town Hall clock tower dominates the Paddington skyline. Sir Henry Parkes laid the foundation stone of this beautiful Victorian building in 1890. Here, besides the Town Hall, you will also find the Palace Chauvel cinema, a library and a local radio station (FM 89.7).
On my fortnightly walks, I often come across an example of community action saving something of heritage significance. The Paddington Reservoir Garden is a case in point. I take my time exploring and reading up about the site. The reservoir stored and supplied water from 1866-1899. After being decommissioned it was used as a storage facility and later as a garage for Water Board cars and lorries. The site was restored and opened in its current form in 2009. Today people walk their dogs while others view a photographic exhibition. A man balances on his hands on a stone bench, his little dog watching from the side. A couple sit in the sun on their not so private balcony overlooking the park.
Returning down the shopfront side of Oxford Street to Glenmore Road and “The Intersection”, I stop to admire a street artist at work. Nothing surreptitious about this street art. It is an authorised work with scissor lift, traffic controller and Hi-Viz vests. I admire the fashion displayed in shop windows. There isn’t time for shopping today. This is the Australian Fashion Walk of Style, identified by brass plaques in the pavement. Some names are familiar. Simona, Akira Isogawa, Collette Dinnigan, and Zimmerman.
Little diversions are part and parcel of my suburban discoveries and I make a quick recce off Glenmore Road into Mary’s Place. Cute little houses are jumbled together between double storey terraces. Paddington is a suburb of Victorian Terraces. The man at Barry Stern Gallery welcomes me and then casually asks my opinion about table seating at a dinner he is planning. Galleries inspire me and this one is no exception. The prices are beyond me, but there is no harm in looking and having a little peak into another world.
The terraces here are neat and well kept. They have names like Hawkstone, Mulgrave, Raglan and Picton. Colourful leadlight windows sit above front doors. Potted trees are beautifully shaped. In a side street, I find the one house that is letting the street down with its lack of care and upkeep. And another that has been “renovated” with tiny white mosaic tiles and a crazy paving wall. Not at all to my taste.
The Royal Hospital for Women Park, on Glenmore Road has a large grassed area and relics reminding visitors of its previous use. Sandstone markers indicate the location of the former tennis court. Remnants of earlier buildings form seating along a sandstone wall. The large letters RHW adorn the preserved chimney stack in the background.
Five ways, a Paddington landmark seems less quaint than when I was last here and I move on to the nearby Sherman Gallery. It has been too long since I enjoyed inspiring artwork and I take my time here. After a quick lunch at a little café, I continue down Glenmore Road. The sound of tennis balls being struck and the call of “net” tells me that Maccabi Tennis White City is hidden behind the green corrugated iron wall on my left.
At Trumper Oval (the cricketer is mentioned in my Bronte blog) the excited chatter of children wearing house colours greets me. A sack race is in progress. I remember the fun of hopping along in a hessian sack.
You can’t walk far in Paddington without stumbling upon a gallery. I am moved and in some cases challenged by what I see in the galleries of The Gallery Precinct. In one, a gleaming whitewashed floor sets off large artworks beautifully. In another, I inspect the animal figures closely. The apparently fluffy outer clothing turns out to be a type of chain-mail made from tiny animal bones. Weird. In another exhibition, my fingers itch to run through the silky fringed animal figures. Wooden packing cases lean against a garage wall. I hesitantly climb the stairs at the back of the garage. Should I be here? Yes, this is the Roslyn Oxley gallery. I love the artwork but wonder who would buy it at $45 000.
A bush track through Trumper Park, reveals a path linking Paddington to Edgecliff Station. What a find. This is a great way to reach the Gallery Precinct by public transport. A seemingly impassable, extremely high sandstone wall faces me. Where to now? A little searching reveals a set of stairs that take me up to Sutherland Street. The beautiful old terraces here have basement rooms. I wonder if they are cold and damp. The Four in Hand gastropub looks inviting, but I have eaten already.
In Jersey Rd, I pass a house with battlements aptly named Castle Terrace. There are large mansions with big gardens on my left as I approach Oxford Street. A police car is parked outside the police station and now closed court house (built in 1880).
The noise and busyness of Oxford Street are a stark contrast to the quiet of the leafy suburban streets. There are plenty of interesting shops and a few more galleries but I walk on, towards William Street. After a long day, I am going to Just William for a few gourmet chocolates. The sign on the door indicates they will be “back in 5”. So, I take a stroll down William Street. This is another find. There are more boutiques, bridal shops, designer names and busy hairdressers. A stooped and weathered old woman, wearing a tattered great coat, waves to me. The deli at the end of the street looks inviting. A strong smell of cocoa greets me when I enter Just William. It is difficult to decide, but I know I will enjoy whatever I choose.
I walk briskly down Oxford towards the city, passing the site of the popular Paddington Markets, Juniper Hall (now owned by the Moran family), and Sweet Art with its flowers and decorated cakes. I have packed a lot in and enjoyed it all. The history, the terraces and above all the galleries. If you go, I suggest you choose either fashion or art. You could do worse than walk up one side of Oxford and down the other popping into whatever shop takes your fancy. Personally, I enjoyed the quieter suburban streets.
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Next stop: Windsor
Click here to plan your trip.
Sometimes you have to go. I use any or all of the following: pubs or hotels, train stations (not always open or clean) and I always use the facilities when I have lunch. This map may be of use.
Click here to find out about opening times of Victoria Barracks.
Barry Stern Galleries is now operated by Maunsell Wickes. It can be found at 19 Glenmore Road, Paddington.
Click here for the link to Sherman Gallery.
And a map to guide you: (If you would like a pdf of the map, email me via the contact page, and I will send one to you).
(NOTE that the time indicated on the map does not allow for any stops. I take an average of 4-5 hours when I explore):