The history of Waverley Park, Oval and Pavilion

Sporting and cricket history
Naming of the building
Naming of the grandstand
Gregory Memorial Fountain

Sporting and cricket history

The sporting history of the park dates from the 1880s when the Waverley Cricket Club gained approval to construct a pitch. Football codes also began using the park at this time. In 1890, the oval was created, and in 1898 the Waverley District Baseball club was founded at the oval.

The first pavilion was built by the Waverley Cricket Club in the 1890s and Council built a second pavilion in 1908 with expanded facilities for the benefit of the cricketers and the public. This Pavilion was replaced in 1939 with an Inter War Functionalist style building. The Bondi United Club was formed in 1946 by ex-servicemen looking to play Rugby League as a means of maintaining friendship.

Following the demolition of the 1939 pavilion in 2010 a number of objects were found buried as fill under the foundations. The majority of the found objects were common bottles and consisted of beer and soda bottles, medicine bottles and ink wells.

Old Oval

1890s: A pavilion was built by the Waverley Cricket Club in Waverley Park in the early 1890s. According to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald of 12 November 1894, the club had ‘brought the ground into first class condition. They have recently erected a pavilion and other conveniences and excellent turf match and practice wickets have been laid.’

1907: The sport of cricket was booming and Waverley Cricket Club called for a new pavilion, as the one being maintained by club members had dressing rooms no longer big enough for the large number of players. The wooden pavilion was refurbished in 1907.

1908: Waverley Council agreed to build a new wooden pavilion with extra seating to lease to the Cricket Club along with the enclosed section of Waverley Oval. A pavilion large enough to accommodate players and 150 spectators was formally opened on 5 December 1908.

1934: A proposal was made for substantial improvements to the oval, including a new pavilion, but it was some time before this happened. Financial constraints of the Great Depression made the proposed cost of £11,400 far too expensive at the time.

1939: Council accepted a tender of £5,992 by AP Pringle for the construction of a new pavilion. It was made of reinforced concrete with a metal roof, had three large dressing rooms, a first aid room, an office and refreshment, recreation and common rooms. The foundation stone of the pavilion was laid by the Hon. Alexander Mair, NSW Premier, on 7 October 1939.


Local resident Frank Walsh recalled his wartime memories of the pavilion: "[The] old wooden pavilion, built for sporting bodies’ use, was also used during World War II to conduct medical examinations on men called up for military duty. That building became the home of the Waverley Ex-Wardens Club when a newer pavilion was built.

"During the blackout periods, quite common in those times, the members used to play cards and the two “fruit machines” in light provided by kerosene lamps.

"A canon mounted on a cement pad on the grass area between Bondi Road and the fence around the oval [had a] loose section which could be swung backward and forward hitting part of the main frame and made an awful racket, much to the annoyance of the people that lived in the houses opposite."

"A canon mounted on a cement pad on the grass area between Bondi Road and the fence around the oval [had a] loose section which could be swung backward and forward hitting part of the main frame and made an awful racket, much to the annoyance of the people that lived in the houses opposite."

For further history of Waverley Oval and Waverley Park click on our local history fact sheet from our local studies department.

Naming of the Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre

Waverley Council passed a motion in April 2012 to re-name the new Waverley Park Pavilion the Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre, in honour of the long association the late Margaret Whitlam (AO) had with the Waverley area. The pavilion was chosen because of its civic, community and recreational facilities incorporating several important aspects of Margaret Whitlam’s life.

Margaret Elaine Dovey was born 19 November, 1919, and raised in the Bondi area. The family home was 2 Miller Street. Her father, Justice Wilfred Dovey, served as a Waverley Councillor between 1935 and 1936. Margaret Dovey loved the water and was a member of Bondi Ladies Amateur Swimming Club, based at the Bondi Baths, and went on to represent Australia in the 1938 British Empire Games, coming sixth in the final of the 220 yards breaststroke. After marrying Edward Gough Whitlam in 1942, Margaret and her new husband moved to Cronulla and then Cabramatta, where Gough became the Labor candidate for the seat of Werriwa which he held until 1978.

Margaret Whitlam Photo

Encouraged by her mother to become a social worker, Margaret also worked part-time at Parramatta Hospital, while raising her family. She had a special interest in women's issues and cultural projects. In 1974 Margaret Whitlam was on the International Women's Year Advisory Committee, she was a director of the Sydney Dance Company from 1977 to 1982, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Law Council of NSW, 1982 to 83. Margaret also chaired the National Council for International Literacy Year and was a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. She served on boards and committees including the ACT Council of Social Service, the Australian Opera and Musica Viva and with the NSW State Library.

In 1983 Margaret Whitlam received the Order of Australia for her services to the community and in the 1990’s she was recognised as a national living treasure.

In their later years Margaret and Gough returned to the eastern suburbs, and Margaret was known to visit her favourite shops and cafes in and around Bondi.

Margaret Whitlam will be remembered, not only as the wife of a Prime Minister, but as a national treasure, and a person who worked tirelessly for the people of Australia, in particular those less fortunate.

Naming of the grandstand

Council named the pavilion’s new grandstand the O’Sullivan Horsell Grandstand in 2011, to honour the contributions to cricket and the Waverley community made by Phil O’Sullivan and Bob Horsell.

Waverley Cricket

Phil O’Sullivan has been involved in local cricket for over 60 years and has held a number of positions on the club’s committee including President. He was instrumental in getting children into the club in the 1960s and 70s, initiating a program that continues, and today involves 750 children in the game.

Bob Horsell has been involved in local cricket for almost 50 years and was the club’s President for 19 years. He has also held the prestigious positions of Chairman of NSW Cricket, Director of Cricket Australia, and Director of the Bradman Foundation, and has been honoured with an Australia Sports Medal for his contribution to making our country a nation of sporting excellence.

Gregory Memorial Fountain

For over 100 years the Gregory Memorial Fountain has stood in Waverley Park. The sandstone fountain with Corinthian pillar and basin was erected in 1911, in memory of Charles W. Gregory by his club mates from Waverley District Cricket Club.

In 1965 it was rededicated to three club members, James Webb, Victor Jackson and Peter Fingleton, accidentally killed in a tragic motor incident while traveling to Parkes to play a city-country social cricket match. Waverley Council has extensively restored the fountain and re-erected it in the grounds near the new centre, close to where it originally stood.


Contact the Centre:

Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre
Waverley Park, Bondi Rd
Bondi Junction
Phone: (02) 9083 8300
Fax: (02) 9389 4839          

Office Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm
Monday to Friday

Sports & Recreation newsletter

Sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter to find out about our sports and recreation programs.Subscribe now