Country Footy – A golden heritage: how Square’s ground has changed

by Richard Jones

REIGNING Bendigo Football League premiers Golden Square have used the Wade Street ground, now known as Country Vet Oval, since the 1930s.

But how and why did the Wade Street Oval become Square’s home?

Well, the site in the Bendigo Creek where gold was first discovered in the district in 1851 is just 100 metres away from the ground, in Maple Street. A plaque marks the area where shepherds’ wives Mrs Margaret Kennedy and Mrs Farrell found the very first, precious nuggets.

The deep lead mining ventures which followed the hard work of the original alluvial gold-diggers left huge mounds of mullock, sand and slum.

One of these enormous dumps was known as Allingham’s Sand Dump – named after the proprietor of the battery which processed the ore.

It was situated in wasteland, formerly part of the twists and turns which abutted the Bendigo Creek.

On December 9th, 1926, at a meeting called to form a Golden Square Progress Association, it was moved the Bendigo City Council be approached. People at the meeting wanted a sports ground established on the unused sand dump.

But things were not as simple as they seemed. First of all, permission had to be sought from the Mines Department which controlled the land back then.

At last, when approval was obtained residents formed a working bee and set about levelling the dump.

More than 100 people turned up in preparation for the monumental task. They came along with picks, shovels, planks, wheelbarrows, hand trolleys, rails and horses and drays.

After a lot of back-breaking work the general consensus was that the task was too great. A better way had to be found.

So a huge bazaar was held to raise funds to let the task of levelling the sand dump by tender. This involved most of Golden Square’s women making produce and fineries for sale.

The bazaar was a financial success and the job was let to a contracting firm: W. Dole and Son.

The Doles had a team of horses plus the equipment needed to finish the task.

The City Council then provided 800 loads of topsoil to enable the planting of grass, and a wooden fence was erected to ring the oval. It was now 1932.

The South Bendigo Cricket Club changed its name to Golden Square and contested matches on the turf wickets which were placed in the centre of the oval.

And the opening of the oval paved the way for the eventual formation of the Golden Square Football Club in 1935. The Mustards, as they were then known, won the BFL premierships in 1938 and 1939, very soon after their inaugural season.

The first change shed was a small wooden structure on the eastern side of the oval near the present-day swimming pool. Tennis courts were also laid on the area which now forms the back green of the Golden Square Bowling Club.

In 1952 a more substantial clubhouse was moved from the Upper Reserve (now known as the QEO) to become the club’s new headquarters.

A kiosk and a female toilet were added to the structure. These facilities stood at the Wade Street Oval for 20 years.

In 1971 the Square committee decided that their confined little ground was too small for senior footy. A delegation met with the Bendigo City Council, on site, to try and resolve the issue.

The councilors and city officials set the Square a challenge. If the club could convince three property holders along Maple Street to sell part of their backyards then they would consider approving the enlargement.

The football club would also have to provide labour to remove the existing fence and replace it with a steel, chain wire fence around the enlarged arena.

The challenge was accepted and met by Arthur Doye and Col. Pinal. Neville Howell did the surveying and set out the oval and with the assistance of a small party of veteran volunteers consisting of Wally Hansford, Abb Doye and Jeff Dennis the new oval became a reality.

Two years later in 1973 a State Government grant of $45,000 was finally won with special assistance from Councillor Dick Turner. This funding was to go towards the construction of new clubrooms at Wade Street. The Golden Square committee decided the contract would be theirs — club people would build the rooms.

Arthur Doye was appointed overseer and with Max Kelly set about trying to find suitable foundations. “We finally achieved this with the aid of century-old mining maps provided by former mine manager and club boot-studder, Tom Rowe,” Mr Doye said.

“The maps indicated a small area of subterranean quartz reef on which a two-story building could be erected,” he added.

The rooms were built and officially opened for the start of the 1975 BFL season with the Square required to provide an extra $20,000 for additional foundations and public toilets.

At the end of the 1984 season additions were needed to the upstairs social rooms, plus a new kitchen and kiosk to service the area.

Builders Ken and Tony Cowling carried out this work with valuable assistance from John Pell, Leigh Williams, Clarrie McConville, Greg Pain and others.

The additions were opened in April, 1985, and have enabled the club to provide outstanding facilities for the sports public. Moves are afoot to extend even more upstairs.

In 1993 two tall light towers were erected to facilitate proper training routines during the dark, winter months.

And in 1997 netball courts were added to the Wade Street complex to allow the Bulldogs to host visiting clubs in the ever-expanding netball competition.

The former Golden Square clubhouse and kiosk, which became the visitors’ rooms and home of the TAC Cup Bendigo Pioneers, were destroyed by fire in February, 2003. This building was the one relocated from the QEO in 1952.

The replacement Square and Pioneers change rooms have been in use at Country Vet Oval for a few seasons now.

[NOTE: 1930s grand final scores – 1938: Golden Square 21.13 (139) d. Eaglehawk 14.7 (91) and 1939: Golden Square 14.8 (92) d. Maryborough 12.12 (84).]

Comments

  1. pauldaffey says:

    Richard,

    As one who played (badly) at Golden Square for two years, I find this piece fascinating. I had no idea that the ground was enlarged in the ’60s; it was just never mentioned when I played there in the early ’90s.

    A lot of work has gone into improvements over the years. Clubs in which supporters band together to do such works are invariably strong.

    But those brick club rooms are shockers. Less ambience than an outhouse, and the the concrete shell that is the home club’s dressing room is the coldest place in central Victoria.

    No wonder I kept doing my hamstring.

  2. Richard E. Jones says:

    IF you’re referring to the ‘home’ club changing rooms ‘shell’, Daff, they are now used by the visiting club.

    The newer and more cavernous ‘shell’ just along the concourse is where the Dogs get changed these days.
    It’s the new addition built after the 2003 fire destroyed the old wooden rooms on the half-forward flank, Maple Street end.

    The former tennis club courts have long been swallowed up by the GS Bowling Club. Interesting to note by taking a quick peek in the “Sat. night snoozer” Cameron Noakes’ Sunday Age bowls reports.
    Big proportion of the pics accompanying Noakes-y’s pennant reports show young blokes under-35 sending down a bowl.

    Has the reign of old blokes my vintage been superseded by the young colts in the venerable sport of bowls ??

  3. Richard,

    Correct. Bowls is the new cycling.

  4. Richard Naco says:

    I’m heading towards codger vintage, but I won’t play bowls till it becomes full contact.

    Or they let you play nude (sheer terror may be the ace up my sleeve, so to speak).

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