Text: Chris Chardon
Image: Peter Holderness
In the 1870s the Stirling Oval, as we know it today, was the paddock adjoining the Halfway House, Stirling East, “kindly placed at the disposal of the club (cricket) by Mr. Beames” Beames owned the hotel and land on which the oval was. i.e. it was privately owned and there was no ownership security for the community facility. This uncertainty saw in the late 1800s the community develop an oval where the Heathfield High School now stands. This was on land under the control of the district council and hence provided a security of tenure. It was colloquially known as the “Old Rec”.
In 1877 J & A. G. Johnston, brewers from Oakbank, acquired 16 acres of land in Stirling. This land included the hotel and adjacent oval. Johnstons had a plan drawn up whereby approximately half of what is now the oval was to be sold as housing blocks – the half adjacent to Mount Barker Road was to accommodate the hotel sewerage issues. Two streets were planned in the sub-division Oak and Bank Streets.
Johnstons changed their mind and in 1936, the centenary year of South Australia’s founding, the ownership of the oval was placed in the hands of the District Council of Stirling. Oak and Bank Streets became Oakbank Street as we know it today.
Johnstons granted the land to the district under what is known as the Johnston Trust. A copy of this trust is included in Chris Chardon’s book Stirling: a personal view. This document became critical in the 1980s. Due to the catastrophic Ash Wednesday fires of 1980 the District Council of Stirling incurred a huge compensation debt. It proposed to sell many council owned assets including the oval but application of the provisions of the Trust prevented this.
Do you have memories/photos associated with the Stirling Oval? Have you been part of a sporting club that uses this oval? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling