A Self-Guided Walk in Randwick
According to my research Randwick in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs is so full of heritage and noteworthy buildings that my head is going around in circles. There’s both a Heritage walk and an Art Deco Walk to follow, and some parks that are worth checking out. It will be impossible to cover everything, so bear with me. I’ll do my best and leave you to discover the rest for yourselves.
The bus drops me off in Alison Road opposite The Royal Randwick Racecourse. The light rail construction confuses me. Fences and barricades make it impossible to walk along the racecourse. Instead, on the footpath opposite the racecourse, I pass tired three storey Art Deco unit blocks and contrasting modern ones with shiny chrome detail.
The Mile Post is a tall modern 60s block, noteworthy only because of its name which refers, I believe, not to the distance from Sydney but to the racetrack opposite. Views from the upper units would be spectacular across the racecourse and beyond.
A rather special building stops me in my tracks. Harleigh is a beautiful Art Deco building which doesn’t even get a mention in the Randwick Art Deco walk. The detailed brickwork is exquisite. Beautifully laid in geometric patterns, unit blocks like this are not built anymore.
Museum of Human Diseases
Turning off Alison Road, I walk alongside a row of Morton Bay Figs fenced off from the ongoing light rail work. So many of these huge aged trees have been felled to make way for this new infrastructure. A fan of public transport, I nevertheless wonder if there wasn’t a way for the trees and the light rail to coexist.
There is something at the University of New South Wales that I really want to show you and I enter UNSW at Gate 9. Students walk pass me on their way to lectures or tutorials. Most are head down, engrossed in their phones. The Museum of Human Diseases in The Samuels Building is easy to find. A campus map near the gate directs me past The Biosciences Building which is undergoing a massive refurbishment. I have visited the museum, with its interesting specimen collection, special exhibition areas and interactive Medical Computer Discovery laboratory before and don’t venture in today. It is well worth a special visit.
Art Deco in Randwick
Now, back on the streets I settle into discovering Randwick, my arms swinging freely, my face enjoying the warm sunshine. A black and white cat carefully descends the purpose-built ladder placed under a window for his convenience. He stretches on the concrete drive and miaows to get my attention.
The Randwick Art Deco walk directs me to ‘Redlands’ and ‘Indapur’. Standing tall opposite each other, these tall unit blocks are simple yet elegant, each displaying quite different features of the Art Deco style.
While waiting to cross at the traffic lights, I notice an old green metal pole with a peeling painted cream base. The simple pole has lettering and a circle of dots embossed around the base. A dome of metal mesh tops the open pole. Some sort of vent perhaps? I wonder how many people have even noticed its presence?
Heritage in Randwick
Three beautifully preserved homes stand side by side. Built around 1905 ‘Verona’, ‘Amphion’ and ‘Donacis’ are almost identical architecturally with an angular gable sitting neatly on a stripe of intricate carvings and arched openings leading to the upper balconies.
Nearby the curved brickwork of ‘Rothesay’ (1939) is an example of the Art Deco Ocean Liner design popular in the inter war years. Featuring curved walls, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements like porthole windows this architectural style became known as ‘P &O’ style or ‘Ocean Liner’. That’s something I didn’t know. What I do know is that the Alison Road streetscape is a wonderful example of changing architectural styles.
Hundreds of cars drive past Saint Jude’s Fountain (1866) every day. How many give the carved sandstone structure a second look or know that it provided the young suburb of Randwick with its first public water supply?
It’s always pleasing to discover something unexpected. Today a metal sign hides behind a neatly trimmed hedge. This is the site of the first electric tram terminus. The tram service between Randwick and Waverly started in November 1890.
Randwick Presbyterian Church
There is more Art Deco in Cook Street. ‘Belhaven’ with its curves and ‘Juverna’ with its use of glass bricks are more or less opposite each other in Cook Street. Do cross the road to view them from afar.
People congregate outside the Randwick Presbyterian church. The nearby hearse explains their presence. The church, dating back to 1889, is another Randwick Heritage Building. The single storey church hall has been used by Coogee Boys Preparatory School from 1914.
Two identical and beautifully restored heritage homes (this time Victorian) stand opposite the aqua and salmon pink police station.
A walk down The Avenue provides yet another treat. Facing Alison Park, where children from the local school expend pent up energy chasing each other, are nine Italianate-style terraces built in 1888. The double fronted central home is now a boutique hotel.
Having passed St Jude’s Cemetery and the Fire Station and a man reading his newspaper on the veranda of the local Bowling Club I find the Emanuel School. A security guard lets a student out of the locked gate. The sandstone ‘Aston Lodge’ (1865) is on the school grounds, some distance from the gate. Three flags flutter in the breeze – the Australian, the Aboriginal and the Israeli.
The Randwick Town Hall, built in 1882 reminds me of the Leichhardt Town Hall. Nearby in St Jude’s Cemetery, I read from a brass plate on the white marble grave of Archibald Mosman that Mosman Council cares for his grave. Mosman was named after Archibald Mosman who founded the whaling station in the suburb named after him.
Two large painted metal bells dating back to 1864 rest on either side of a doorway of St Jude’s Anglican Church. In 2000, eight new individually named bells replaced the failing old bells. St Jude’s has one of the oldest English-style “full circle ringing” bell-towers in Australia. This is the second bell tower with of my suburban discoveries. The other is in Chippendale.
Walking through the shopping strip of Randwick now, I note that the building facades are similar to many in various shopping strips of suburban Sydney. A gable with the name Mills Arcades faces another announcing Hetta Buildings.
The Old Post Office
Look carefully beneath the lettering on a building called Easts House. You can just see the original lettering identifying the Post Office. The Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club bought, restored and renamed the building in 2000 and made it available to the Ted Noffs Foundation for their work with troubled youth.
Outside the old post office is the Jubilee Fountain with its ornate lamp.
Fred Hollows Reserve
From Alison Road, I descend the steps to the Fred Hollows Reserve boardwalk. This long narrow park is a little oasis in a gully squeezed between houses and unit blocks. The rare Gully Skink was first discovered here in the 1980s. The only wildlife I see are a couple of yellow eyed currawongs in the undergrowth.
Lunch and Pubs
Soon I’m back in suburbia and looking for lunch. St Marks Café on Clovelly Street is empty but looks inviting and the menu is interesting. I enjoy my coffee, lunch and well-earned break from walking.
The Dog Hotel wasn’t on my list of places to look out for. It should have been. The delightful Art Deco tiled scrolls above the windows and decorative tiled walls deserve closer inspection.
Walking with renewed vigour after lunch, I am back in Avoca Street stopped at traffic lights and watching a man hanging over the awning of the Coach and Horses Hotel. He is struggling to scrape off old painted lettering. He’d be better off on a ladder.
Nugal Hall and more Heritage
There are plenty of grand old buildings in Avoca Street. ‘Torquay’, ‘Ilfracombe’ and ‘Clovelly’ are similar in design to the pair around the corner in Alison Road. Down a side street, I am looking for ‘Nugal Hall’. A woman watches me from her slightly open garage door. As I pass she slips inside, closing the door behind her. Constructed in 1853 in Gothic Revival Style, the mansion is set back from the road and not easy to see clearly.
Randwick is full of heritage and history. ‘Ventnor’ is on the grounds of Our Lady of Sacred Heart, and the Captain Cook Statue stands proudly in front of the Cookhouse Bar and Grill.
I admire Randwick Lodge before moving on to The Royal Hotel. The Victorian-era heritage building has original features including decorative wrought iron balconies and beautiful chandeliers.
Next door two more beautifully restored homes now provide short term accommodation as part of Sydney Lodges. Over the road the sandstone former residence for Superintendents of the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children is swamped by tall modern medical buildings associated with the nearby hospital.
After walking for some time, I realise that something isn’t right and I need to retrace my steps. The Randwick Environment Park was always going to be a stretch. As it’s getting late, I’ll leave it for another time.
The Inglis Stables
In Young Street, the Inglis Stables are controversially being redeveloped into the Newmarket Residential precinct. The project includes a public park and the sales ring will become an interactive playground. The big Inglis stables will be handed over to Council for community use.
Memories flood back as I walk through the streets towards The Spot (a shopping area and student hang out named after T.M Tyreman’s The Spot Ironmongery store). When my daughters lived on campus at UNSW, we would meet at The Spot for dinner. The eclectic window display at “Maybe Frank” is still there.
There are more cafés and restaurants along St Pauls Street than I remember. Of course, the Ritz cinema, one of the few surviving cinemas built in the 1930s remains. The façade is a fine example of Art Deco architecture. On the pavement outside The Ritz is the Australian Film Walk of Fame. Brass plaques honour film makers and artists including Michael Caton, Claudia Karvan, Steve Bisley, Jack Thompson and Deborah Mailman.
School’s out and The Spot is suddenly overrun with girls from nearby Brigidine College. The streets are crazy with busses and cars and the feel is somewhat manic. I squeeze my way through the crowd of students waiting for their bus, bulging backpacks adding to the confusion. The sweet aroma of hot chocolate drifts from The Sweet Spot Patisserie. The display of pastries and cakes is tempting but lunch wasn’t that long ago.
A man in a red jumper walks past Gower Galtees, around the corner in Coogee Bay Road, another example of Art Deco/Ocean Liner architecture. Three two-storey Art Deco Flats in Ada Avenue are divided into four flats each. They are rather simple in design with the third painted a blue grey over the brickwork. Perhaps not worth the effort.
Proud of our Elders
While there is little street art in Randwick, one important mural is the 30-year-old “Proud of our Elders”. Recently recreated after becoming rather tired, the mural acknowledges the Indigenous and immigrant communities that contributed to the City of Randwick.
It seems like I have unintentionally saved the best for last. For some reason I walk down Waratah Avenue to look behind the buildings that front Belmore Road. Shelters above the door alcoves that lead into the flats can only be described as solid brick chocolate biscuits fitted horizontally into the brick wall. I have never seen anything like it. Back on Belmore Road the “Flight Centre” building which also has striking brickwork.
Randwick is well worth exploring
My last suburban discovery, Annandale, blew me away with the architecture and heritage on display. This week, Randwick has had the same effect. This time I found a range of architectural styles but would probably say that the Art Deco buildings were my favourite.
Thank you so much to Jenny who suggested I walk through Randwick. While I have missed a few places, hopefully this post will encourage you to explore Randwick for yourself. At the very least take a walk down Alison Street and Avoca Street.