The Midland Oval and Recreation Ground was formally opened by the Mayor of Midland on 21 October 1901. Commemorative trees were planted and a sports meeting was held. Subsequently, the Oval and Recreation Ground has remained largely untouched for nearly 100 years and is one of the most significant and enduring features of the town of Midland.
For some time the residents of Midland have been concerned about business community and Shire of Swan proposals for the carve up of the Midland Oval and Recreation Ground into built commercial and residential lots to be either sold or leased leaving only a small central green space. Within these proposals the Midland Oval would be greatly reduced in size and would become a park for limited passive recreation.
The community of Midland residents does not want to lose its Oval. The current Town Planning Scheme and 1997 Midland Revitalisation Charrette, each have plans dedicated to and turning the historical "sporting heart" and ‘active’ recreational space into a built up area with only a small "residential infill" ‘passive’ park.
Since the turn of the century Midland has had a strong history state wide in many sports most notably football, cricket and cycling, all of which took place on the Midland Oval. The still existing cycling track gives the Oval a distinctive and unique character.
Since the beginning of the town’s formal history, the Midland Oval has been a meeting place for the community, both sporting and social.
The history of the Midland Oval is a long one and integrally bound with the town of Midland which was created out of private development in 1891, rather than government subdivision and it was because of this that the town’s Recreation Ground (and Oval) was never classified as reserve crown land.
Owing to pressure from the development of rail junctions in the Midland Junction area, the Municipality of Helena Vale was formally proclaimed in 1895, with the official triangle set aside for official purpose. Prior to this proclamation, plans of subdivision of the area were surveyed showing streets and light infrastructure around the Official Triangle. A Mr William Byers Wood of Guildford owned most of the lots in Section B Helena Vale and he subsequently subdivided the land showing a 5 acre Recreation Ground which he wanted to bequest to the community. He had however, differences with the Municipal Council of the time and ended up requesting a nominal settlement sum for the land which became the foundation of Midland’s Recreation Ground and Oval. By 1924, the area of the Recreation Ground was extended by the acquisition of adjacent land until a total area in excess of 15 acres was ultimately realised over a period of time.
The Midland Oval/Recreation Ground was designed and intended from its inception at the turn of the century as the town’s Recreation grounds and Oval and has maintained that function consistently throughout the century. It really ought to have been classified as a reserve with all the protection that the status affords, but was not due to the fact that Midland was an exception in that it was created exclusively out of privately owned subdivisions.
The Recreation Ground was first used as a sporting ground in 1901. As extracts from the Swan Express newspaper (SE 22790 1910) illustrate, by 1910 a group representing the town’s sport people met to work on improving the ground. They included such distinguished delegates as Harcourt Harper (The West Australian newspaper family and Woodbridge House Estate-now with the National Trust), as well as delegates from lacrosse, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, bowling and cricket.
WA Cultural Heritage:
From the 19th century Midland has been the gateway to the state’s agricultural and goldmining history east and north, and it would be a great loss to the heritage of Western Australians if such a historically significant town as Midland lost its historical amenities, one of which is the Midland Oval and Recreation Ground.
Every historical town in Western Australia has its Recreation Grounds and Oval. The space for the community, for the local football matches, community shows and celebrations, local school sport carnivals, where the magpies peck the passer by taking a short cut through the oval, eg metropolitan ovals of Fremantle and Perth Oval, country towns such as Brunswick Junction Recreation grounds and oval, etc. A meeting place for community identity and belonging, where traditionally the significant town events take place. If Midland is to retain its independent historical integrity as a Western Australian town of the type founded around the late 19th century, it must retain its Oval and Recreation Grounds.
The Oval is the last large green open space in Midland town centre.It is the town’s green lung. Perth has 10% of its urban environment as green open space and Midland may have only 2% left. Midland used to have five ovals.
It has been largely untouched in the last 100 years. The Midland Oval is the only remaining standard size oval within walking distance of the town centre. It is integral to historical character of the town of Midland. Without the Oval, other aspects of heritage maintained within the town’s heritage precinct are diminished. It also has a distinctive and unique cycling track around its perimeter.
The Oval is visible to many from Morrison Rd, one of the main roads running through the town and is a visual asset to the town. In recent years the Midland Oval has been allowed to become run down so that sporting bodies and associations have been strongly encouraged to relocate outside the town centre. Midland’s community of residents feel strongly that the Midland Oval should be retained and properly drained and maintained, with some tree planting and gardens around its perimeter. A petition of over 600 signatures presented to Council in 1998 reflects this view.
"There were that many people that used the Oval, sporting bodies…in fact in the early days Swan Districts Football Club was going to use the Midland Oval for their home ground… Well, there was the cycling, there was the football. There was the Tball and soccer, tennis, basketball, cricket, baseball. It was used by everybody in those days but it was gradually phased out until in the finish it wasn’t being kept up to scratch the way it should have been".
Harold (Snowy) Bennett 1912 -
Cycling: "The cycle track was let go but the Shire built the other Midvale Cycle Dome. The cricket team. The Swan/Guildford cricket team were relocated out at Lilac Hill Park, which is what the people at Midland found it hard to go all that way out there to watch them unless they had a car. This is what they were concerned about, the same as the Cycling Dome. I mean that’s a fair way out of Midland. That is what the old people in Midland were concerned about because they could walk up Saturday afternoon to the Oval and watch all the sports that was going on and then walk home again. But once the Oval went there’d be no where for them to go to watch the sport that they could go to by walking.."
"There was a big cycling track. They used to have big cycle meetings at the Midland Oval. They had a good cycling track there. Cyclists used to come from all over the State. They used to have road races also. "
Harold (Snowy) Bennett 1912 -
"Oh, they’d race, yes. It was quite popular Northam to Perth, and Merredin to Perth – they used to ride down from Merredin. There was quite a big group of them and, as I say, you get on to Eddie Baron… they had a bike track around the oval then and that used to attract a lot of people.
John Goodchild 1917 –
"I’m sure that the bike riding was organised by Phil Kidd who is still alive, the Eddie Barron and his brother Ray. I don’t know whether the Fullfords were there but there was an association and I think it was run by the Midland Cycling Club. But it was a good concern."
John Pitsikas 1923 -
Football: began to be played in 1904, Midland Railways Company team.During World War 1 there was no football played because the men were at war and one of the teams notable players Waza Gast was killed in France and his death notice appeared in the Swan Express. By 1925 the team colours were black and white and it wasn’t until 1934 that the Swan District teams amalgamated and were relocated to Bassendean. The Swan Districts Reserves in the league side still played on Midland Oval to retain the enormous link between the districts Midland/Guildford/Bassendean. Up until 1998, Sunday league football was still being played on the Oval in the Eastern Hill League.
‘cut across Keane Street at right angles and…there was an oval there, and there used to be…I think from memory, the Swan Districts Football Club used to use that for their games until they moved later down to Bassendean…There was bike riding and all…you know, everything that you could think of, it all took place around that area.’
George Francis Trefry 1928 -
‘I kept playing sport, yes. I played with Swan Districts B Grade. We played on the Midland Oval and had quite a good crowd there it used to be. They used to take the top players out of us and play for Swan Districts… Oh, there was the McInerneys, Parkes – Ronnie Parkes…(Vigar, Watkins) …Well, mainly the football used to be played on Sundays. They used to play a grade of football around here which included Chidlow and Parkerville or Mundaring and Sawyers Valley, all them and Upper Swan and Helena Valley Association they used to come here and play football and cricket on that oval… they did very well in Swans... Some of them were noted players in Western Australia – Ronnie Parkes and Mozey…they got on in the game and they went ahead.
John Goodchild 1917-
Cricket: "In a match played at the WACA Harcourt Harper (one of the veterans of WA cricket, founding member of Midland-Guildford Cricket team at Midland Oval) was knocked unconscious by a rising ball from Ron Halcome. Nothing else being available, a door was removed from its hinges and used to carry him from the ground. Doug Pearce was described as "an artist with the gloves who takes any bowling from anywhere."
Walter Watts was foundation member of Midland’s First Grade team. He played against the first English XI and the first Victorian XI to play in WA. He continued playing with Midland-Guildford for over 30 years. The scoreboard on the Midland Oval is named after this "grand old man" of Cricket.
The wicket was laid on the Midland Oval with a horse and spring cart in 1919 for the Midland Guildford Cricket team. Squares of turf from West Midland were carted to the Oval site. Cricket was played on the pitch within 7 weeks. By 1902/03 a Midland Junction team was admitted into the B Grade state competition at the WACA.
By 1910/11 a Midland team was admitted to the WACA 1st Grade competition. By 1914/15 other players from the Swan Districts area joined and the club’s name was changed to Midland Swan. No teams competed during WW1. During the 1918/19 post war reconstruction many more players were recruited from Guildford and the name of the club was changed to Midland/Guildford Cricket Association. During 1919/20 a team was entered in the state competition at the WACA.
Cricket continued to be played at the Midland Oval, except during WW2, when men working at the Midland Railway Workshops were required for extra service. 1948/49 Wally Driver former Victorian Sheffield Shield player joins Midland-Guildford. Ken Meuleman wins WACA First Grade Battling Aggregate.
1956/57 "It was sparkling cricket and kept the crowd buzzing with excitement. No one left before the end of the game. In fact, one well known lady was heard to say "I’ve got visitors coming for tea, but they’ll just have to wait. This is too good to leave."
Keith Slater was chosen as a member of the Australian Test Team v England in 1958. He was the first Western Australian player to be selected from WA to play in a Test match against England. He played Sheffield Shield Cricket and is one of the few Western Australians to have made 2,000 runs and taken 100 wickets for WA in the matches.
Kevin Gartrell and Tony Mateljan were chosen in 1959 to play Sheffield Shield Cricket.During the 1959/60 season, the Midland Guildford Cricket Association hosted at match played against the visiting West Indies cricket team at the Midland Oval.
1968/69 Midland-Guildford under 16 team playing Perth could only muster 10 players. After obtaining Perth’s permission, Peter Richardson’s sister Bronwen was included in the eleven. She batted at number 11 and was not out when the tenth wicket fell. Her fielding too, was of a very high standard. Does this make Bronwen the first girl to play pennant Cricket?
1968 – Norm O’Neill was transferred to Perth and chose to play with Midland-Guildford. Mike O’Shaughnessy won the WACA Bowling Trophy, Kevin Gartrell headed the WACA, Denis Yagmich won the WACA Fielding Trophy. In 1969/70 Tony Mann won the WACA batting average. 1973/74 Tony Mann, Bruce Yardley, Wally Edwards and Denis Yagmich represented the State. In 1979, the club relocated to its new site at Lilac Park, Guildford, after 60 years on the Midland Oval.
Other sporting activities played on the Oval included TBall , soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, croquet, boxing, footracing.
Hockey: "I supposed they played hockey and that but I wasn’t interested in hockey"
Stella Clarissa Anderson 1901 –
Logchops & Boxing: " We had log-chops there at the same time too on the Midland oval, yes, there were log-chops there. Boxing – boxing used to be there at one stage. They used to have the boxing ring up. I fought a couple of times but I got a hiding twice and I never went back to boxing. (laughter)"
John Pitsikas 1923
Baseball: "We had the most successful baseball team in Australia. At one stage we actually held a world record for the number of consecutive baseball premierships the senior team won, from 1953 through to 1960, and I was fortunate to be a part of at least the ones beyond ’56, …Some of the boys from Midland with whom I played with Swan Districts in baseball were also fortunate enough to play for their State and for their country. So Midland had…the likes of people like Keith Slater and Kevin Gartrell, Tony Mateljan, all who played State and Australian Test Cricket for their country…(other great players of the era were Rod Byrne, Peter Colquhoun, Howard Walker, Brian Crutchet and our coach Roy Gooch.)
James Kaye Greenham 1940 -
"Oh, that was back in the ‘30’s in the first team in Midland Junction, the first baseball team…we were called the Young Labour League and then they formed the Hawks…
Wally Davis 1911 -
Bowling Club: Midland Junction joined the WA Bowling Assoc in 1909, one of a total of 12 metropolitan and six country clubs…In 1907 Messrs J Horton, W R Crosbie, V J Duthie and P Sampson called a public meeting to lay down a green on a portion of the Town Recreation Reserve. In 1914 Midland won the Glick Shield competition.
(Before the war, where was the bowling green?) "Where it is now, in Morrison Road. The same place, only they never had that big clubhouse there then, they had a little wooden shack and no licence. (laughs)…there wasn’t room to do anything…It was only men then, there were no women in the club them days – no women’s club… very few of them left here now…I don’t think there’s any over there now that was a bowler when I first knew them before the war...I think I’m about the sole survivor of that lot. (laughs)"
Wally Davis1911 –
"They were going to relocate them up at Morrison Park, but the place they were going to put them was in the Mundaring Shire and that was too far away for them, so they’re still there. I don’t know how long it’s going to be before they move."
Harold (Snowy) Bennett 1912 -
Croquet: "On the other side of the oval the (men and) ladies used to play bowls, and they also used to play another game called croquet, mostly ladies. They used to go there and play Saturdays and night-time but the men would play the bowls until it was redeveloped into a bigger place, and the ladies always used to play croquet there."
John Pitsakis 1923 –
Trotting: By 1914 trotting meetings were held at the ground (Swan Express (SE4/12/1914).
"Family affairs, like families would get there, yes, especially amongst the cycling – the wives and the families and their people would come along..oh yes, there was a stall there…for cool drinks and chocolates, lollies, (hot dogs) and everything like that. Oh yes, it was big enough…in the Midland oval they had a wooden rail that went right around the oval. In some part of the oval it was wide but there were narrow parts too. But, as I say, up to 1000 people would fit around there quite comfortably, around Midland oval."
John Pitsakis 1923 –
"Yes, Our main entertainment was my dad used to drive us in every Sunday night (into Midland) to hear the Salvation Army band…(and) he used to sneak up and watch the trots. (laughs). He’d deposited us at the band and then he’d…they used to have trot meetings, trotting races, in Midland in those days…on the old arena there, the ground, Midland… (oval)"
Lennard Douglas Marshall 1910 –
"Well, yes, the circus used to come now and again…"
Ronald Shepherd 1922 -
"One of the big events, sport wise and more social, I think, was the Scottish…There was a Highland sports day every year in Midland on the oval and it used to be quite an event because they had all the bands with pipers and drums and whatever and they would march… they’d come down Helena Street past the theatre and up The Avenue and then all the way up there to the oval. The kids and people used to follow them all the way down, you know, with the pipes swirling…and then everybody would troop into the Oval and they would have Scottish Games and races and caber throwing and they’d have stalls selling toffee apples and whatever. But it was a day! and people from all over would come to that…Midland was the focal point for activities on that day"
They used to have pushbike races…and gee there used to be thousands of people going to that. There were fields of…50 or 100 riders…and sometimes they’d do that circuit more than once in a day. it was quite a big event. Other than that and the football matches on weekends…I think the Scotties and the bike riders, that used to be two of annual events that I can just call to mind."
George Francis Trefry 1928 -
"I played with Swan Districts B Grade. We played on the Midland Oval and had quite a good crowd there it used to be… Oh they had a bike track around the Oval then and that used to attract a LOT of people during the races and things like that. They’d have sporting events as well (just around that area was the tennis courts) and there’d be a lot of people would get around those areas.
John Goodchild 1917 -
"You used to go because of that. We had friends also that lived in the Avenue and if you stood by the back fence on a box you could see things going on over in the…well, we used to call it the "Rec". I have an idea…I don’t think it is the Rec anymore. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, if they’re going to make housing in it, I have no idea…The recreation ground, we used to call it the Rec. But I don’t know whether it’s still the Rec or not. But that was near the tennis clubs, you see, and the bowls. We used to go and watch them. My dad used to play bowls – not a terrible lot but he was very keen when he had the time to have game…You could stand on a box and look over the fence for free because it was at the back of the garden fence, you see, down at the foot of the yard…if you went in the gateway, the proper entrance, you would have to pay…but for a few of the homes there, their back fence circled on to it and you could see everything from there – a bird’s eye view."
Stella Clarissa Anderson 1901 -
"I think the discussion on the Midland Oval is still going on. No, that was a hot potato that one.
I was one of the main combatants in that area because people in Midland regarded the Oval as theirs and they did not see why it should be taken over by the Shire for the development of shopping centres because at that point of time, apart from their attachment to the Midland Oval they considered that we had quite enough shops in the Midland area as it was.
I was very concerned and I took the matter up. In fact, Lloydy Penn and myself were very active in trying to maintain the Oval and if that couldn’t be done, to ensure that the sporting bodies that used the oval got sporting facilities in the near vicinity.
Our argument was that at that time Midland oval was about the only area in Midland that was still available for the bodies that were using sports…There was hardly any areas in the Midland area that they could be relocated close where they didn’t have to catch a bus or catch a train or use a car because the Midland Oval was a central piece and people of Midland used it. They couldn’t see anywhere close handy, even if they did shift from Midland Oval, where they could relocate them. Midland people considered that was their property, not the property of the Swan Shire to sell…
Well, another body concerned about the redevelopment of the Midland Oval was the Senior Citizens Association. They’d been told that part of the land that they owned or used would be taken up and redeveloped with the Midland Oval…We had a good senior citizens hall there, right outside the gates of the Midland Oval. We used to have meals-on-wheels to make the meals there and then deliver them around the Midland area and around Guildford area as well…we had a large dining room where we used to have our bingo nights and meetings…We had some good bingo nights there.
That is what the old people in Midland were concerned about because they could walk up Saturday afternoon to the Oval and watch all the sports that was going on and then walk home again. But once the Oval went there’d be no where for them to go to watch the sport that they could go to by walking…They had to widen Morrison Road for the traffic and they took a part of the bowling club away – one of the greens.
mid 1980’s/1986 : We had meetings about that (Midland Oval development) but when it came to light that the planners had put in a proposition to the council that it be declared deferred commercial and, of course, when that came up I knew right along once that was declared deferred commercial, any time at all it could declare it as commercial and it’s gone. Lloydy Penn got the petition up and we had meetings will all the sporting bodies and I eventually moved at the full council meeting that before any action was taken on the redevelopment of the Midland Oval, that a referendum of the ratepayers be held. Well that’s still on the books now."
Harold (Snowy ) Bennett 1912-
Midland Oral History Centennial Project in Association with the Library and Information Service of WA & JS Battye Library Oral History Unit: Interviewer G O’Hanlan
Shire of Swan Oral Interviews