History of early European settlement This site is approximately 3.5 hectares, which was part of a 60 acre land grant to William Faithfull in 1809, who sold it to Simeon Lord. Faithfull's lan was re-granted to Simeon Lord in 1816. Lord acquired 800 acres in the area between Liverpool Road and Cooks River and named it the Brighton Estate. Lord sold to WH Moore, the colony's first free solicitor, in 1824. Moore sold in 1834 to Francis Stephen, who subdivided the estate into small farms as the Brighton Farm subdivision in 1836-38. WJ Hobbs subdivided the area around Picken Oval into suburban blocks in 1878 as part of the of the Croydon Park Estate 2nd subdivision. It took in all land west from Croydon Avenue to Melrose Street, and from Georges River Road to the Cooks River. Two houses on the corner of Wentworth Avenue and Brighton Avenue are shown as already existing on the resubdivision of the Croydon Park 1st Subdivision in 1893. Geography The proximity to the original course of Cooks River and one of its tributary streams has dictated the history of what we now know as Picken Oval. The adjoining Croydon Park Bowling Club greens were built on land which was originally the high water mark for Cooks River. The river took quite a different course originally, and ran in a large loop through the bowling greens and the park of Croydon Park. When the Croydon Park Estate 2nd subdivision was done in 1881, there was some reclamation of the land near the then high water mark of Cooks River, to make a causeway or bridge across the river. This was near today's Albert Road, where Brighton Avenue bends. The course of the river was altered as part of the Cooks River Improvement Scheme, when it was concreted along near Picken Oval, during the 1930s. The large loop was flattened, as can be seen from the attached map. The north end of Picken Oval had a section of Brighton Brook running through it originally. This creek rose around Mitchell Street Enfield and fed into Cooks River at a lagoon where Rosedale Reserve is now. The open stormwater channel which runs across the northern end of Picken Oval was constructed in the 1920s to contain the creek. The original bed of the creek was filled, and this land was always on a separate title. The land was undulating in 1954, with a 15 feet difference between the lowest and highest levels. The land now comprising the oval was a number of parcels of land. One parcel was between the stormwater channel and the original course of Brighton Brook, and another was south of the original brook. A third cuts the oval in half, level with a lane from Hampton Street into the oval. In 1933 a dairy keeper was listed as living at 66 Hampton Street (the last block next to the oval and the river), indicating the oval may have been used to graze cows. The history of this land from the 1930s until it was purchased by William Picken in 1954 is unclear. It is believed that cows grazed on the property, that it may also have used for horses, and that it may have been used for soccer before 1954. It was considered vacant land. History since 1954 The oval was zoned CPS - County Open Space. Mr William (Bill) Picken Snr purchased the land in 1954. As president of the Canterbury Trotters, Owners & Trainers Association, he applied to Canterbury Council on 17 September 1954 to construct a training track on an area of 6.5 acres, and offered to dedicate sufficient land for the use of the Croydon Park Bowling Club to construct 3 greens and a clubhouse. Council agreed to support the application to the Cumberland County Council initially for 10 years. This was subject to him meeting certain conditions. The main conditions were: 1) Donation of land for the bowling club
2) The area enclosed by the track be made available for organised sport. There was a problem with the levels of the land inside the track perimeter not being level, and Mr Picken was required to grade and grass this area.
The permit was not issued until 1956, but the file shows Mr Picken had begun construction of the track by 1955 and was using it as such. The Western Suburbs Australian Football Club leased Picken Oval from about July 1957 until they relocated to Wagener Oval in 1975. It appears Picken Oval was not used by organised sport after 1975, and was used solely by horse riders and trainers until the 1990s. In 1986 Council took Mr Picken to court over his failure to remove shade shelters and corrals inside the oval. Council's action was successful. Development proposals submitted with an option to purchase the land from Bill Picken Snr. 1970 GJ Coles lodged a development application to build a K Mart Department Store on Picken Oval. Council was strongly opposed to development on the area and Council requested on 31 October 1973 that the State Planning Authority (SPA) acquire Picken Oval for Open Space Purposes. The Western Suburbs Australian Football Club Ltd also opposed the development - they had been using the area for 14 years, and claimed they had input "considerable amounts of time and voluntary effort have gone into lifting the area from a condition suitable only for dumping rubbish to a superb playing field.' The Croydon Park Bowling & Recreation Club was also opposed to the development of the land adjoining its greens and clubhouse. The Cooks River Valley Association also urged Council to keep Picken Oval as undeveloped land, and local residents petitioned Council.
1974 RPO No. 2 Pty Ltd lodged a DA to build a villa/town house residential complex. The proposal included the dedication of a green belt of 4,500 square metres and of average depth of 25 metres adjacent to Cooks River as a public reserve.
1978 Western Suburbs Rugby League Club DA to develop as a sporting stadium.
1979 T Kierath lodged a DA to redevelop Picken Oval as a sporting complex, with roller skating rink, tennis courts, mini golf and swimming pool. A public meeting organised by Council to obtain the views of residents was held on 4 March 1980, and this led to Council agreeing to support the application. Many letters of support for the sports complex were received from local schools and churches, who supported the provision of indoor facilities for young people. But a 'Keep Picken Oval Open Space' committee was formed, with Jack Mundey as president, and they organised a public meeting to lobby Council to reject the proposal (See attached press clipping). A decision was put on hold for 6 months, and Council again asked the State Government to buy the land for open space.
1980 On 29 August the Planning and Environment Commission wrote to Council notifying that the Minister had rejected the application by the developer to have the Planning Scheme zoning suspended to allow the development. The Minister approved the Commission to enter into negotiations to acquire Picken Oval.
The matter dragged on for years, with the Department of Planning taking a long time to value the land, and it may be that the Picken family were not anxious to sell for some of this period. Various other development schemes were mooted by representatives on behalf of the Picken family, but no other DA's were submitted. In 1984 a letter was sent to Council expresssing interest in building an aged persons complex plus tennis courts, with a portion of the land being donated to Council for a park.
1987 Bill Picken Snr died in 1987.
1989 The Department of Planning advised they had agreed to purchase from the Picken family in the week before 15 December 1989.
1990 The land was placed in Council's care, control and management upon gazettal on 4 May 1990, on the condition that it be used as a public reserve for recreation.
A press report of 30 May 1990 reported that the Department of Planning had purchased Picken Oval for $4.5 million. The Inner Western Suburbs Horse Owners Association quotes $4.4 million.
REFERENCES Larcombe, FA Change & challenge: a history of the municipality of Canterbury NSW, CMC, 1979
Madden, Brian J and Lesley Muir Campsie's past: a history of Campsie and Croydon Park, NSW Campsie: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1988
Muir, Lesley Personal communication 25 and 29 June 1999