When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mystery of Centenary Park Concrete Sisters - Brisbane's Missing Acclimatistion Garden Statues, 1937.

Jo Besley from the Queensland Museum was looking for four statues recently on ABC Local Radio 612. A  listener was keen to know whatever happened to the four statues that once stood at the Acclimatisation Gardens (now known as Bowen Park) opposite the Royal Brisbane Hospital. We did a little project research and found the following.

The statues, representing the four seasons, were thought to have first appeared in the gardens in the 1860's, their origin unknown. The gardens ownership was later transferred to the Brisbane City Council and in about 1920 a portion of Bowen Park was sold to the R.N.A. to expand the showground site, at this time Summer and Autumn were removed from the park, leaving sisters Spring and Winter behind.

The image above is from the The Courier Mail, 1937, which reported the "Mystery of Centenary Park Concrete Sisters Cleared Up". The statue photographed is Summer (seen far left in top image) and the article reveals that two "mystery" concrete sisters in the park are in fact Summer and Autumn from the Acclimatisation Gardens and describes them in a sorry state.

The ladies, cast in cement, have neither name nor legend upon their concrete pedestals. They look demurely north near the centre of the little park. The winds and the rain and sun of many years have caused their paint to crack and peel, giving them complexions like surfers' backs a week after the Christmas holidays. The lady on the left of the path has a sheaf of wheaten hay under one arm. In the. other hand she holds firmly what looks like a sausage but is really the handle of what was once a sickle. The patch of paint off one eye gives her a forlorn look.Her sister across the way looks down cast, although she carries a .basket of roses under one arm and a plaster posy in the other. One bare foot peeps out beneath her long gown. It seems that in pique she has kicked the nameless pedestal, for her pretty toes are stubbed and broken.

The photo above was taken in 1932 and centre left is what looks to be Summer and Autumn. The final fate of the four statues is unknown, but the weather-beaten condition described in 1937 would indicate they were heading nearing their use by date. Cast in cement, the original statues would have been quite detailed but unfortunately not of a material to stand the test of times.


1937 'Mystery of Centenary Park Cement Sisters Cleared Up.',The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 21 April, p. 16.

Wright, G. P 1875, Fountain and terracotta statues in the Acclimatisation Gardens, Bowen Park, Brisbane, ca. 1875, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Unidentified 1931, Centenary Park, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, ca. 1931, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

1 comment: