In March 1856, following a petition by Williamstown residents, a 10 acre site was formally set aside for a public park and pleasure ground.
The gardens were designed by Edward La Trobe Bateman, who also designed the Carlton Gardens adjacent to the Exhibition Buildings. By 1859 the gardens had been set out, beds had been trenched and plantings had begun.
Donations of plants, seed and cuttings came from Ferdinand von Mueller, a director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, and Daniel Bunce, first curator of the Geelong Botanic Gardens.
As the site was exposed to coastal winds, shelter plantings of wattles and other fast-growing species were first established to protect the rare and vulnerable plants that were then introduced.
The gardens were formally opened on the 2nd January 1860. Mr S. Thake was appointed as curator in 1889 and made major changes including:
Four 12 tonne cannons, which came from Fort Gellibrand, were added to the gardens and then relocated to The Strand during the 1970s. The remnants of a bandstand built in the 1930s can still be seen.
(Courtesy Hobsons Bay City Council website)
A potted history