BAG History Group / Hewett Sports Grounds
Opening of the Pavilion in 1905 at Hewett Oval
Image credit - Blackwood South Neighbourhood Watch May 2007
In 2020 the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles will be on the reserves and parks of the Mitcham Hills district.
For the early settlers in the Blackwood district, the church provided not only a place for worship, but also a social hub. By the end of the 19th century, sport was added to the social scene and much of it focused on the Blackwood Oval, as it was known at the time, bordered by Coromandel Parade, Cummins Street, Adey Road and Garnet Avenue.
From the end of the 19th century the Oval was home to cricket, tennis, football, hockey and basketball and, with the establishment in 1903 of the Blackwood Boys Club Hall across the road (today the site of the Baptist Church), locals could also enjoy roller skating, gymnastics, badminton, table tennis, and billiards.
The oval was used for many fundraising events during WWI, and again in the 1950s as the venue for the Floral Fairs which raised money for the building of the Memorial Hall to replace the by now dilapidated Boys Club Hall.
After the demolition of the Hall in 1976 and the subsequent building of the Blackwood Rec Centre, squash, trampolining, kindergym and netball were also available. The area was the sporting and social hub of the local community for much of the 20th century.
In 1976 the Blackwood Oval was renamed the Hewett Sports Ground honoring the Hewett family who have been members, presidents, captains and champions in local sports teams since the 1880s. Early pioneer Daniel Hewett and his four sons all played for the Coromandel Cricket Club, plus 12 grandsons and several great grandsons.
In the late 1930s the Blackwood Football Club, which began in the 1890s, began playing its home matches on the oval. Although this comment refers to an earlier ground on which the club played, it could well have applied to this oval: the ground was in a very sloppy condition, and many of the players were in a sad plight long before the game was finished. Originally the change rooms with very basic facilities – no showers - were under the Pavilion which opened in 1905. The change rooms continued to be used by the visiting opposition when the local team moved in 1955 to the more salubrious new clubrooms. Without shelter of any kind, the loyal supporters were also in a sad plight, but their suffering was relieved by
the mouth-watering pasties provided by Stratfold’s bakery. Other refreshments were sometimes available from a caravan towed to the site when required.
The heyday of football at Blackwood Oval was over when, in 1978, the club moved to Blackwood Hill.
The Coromandel Cricket Club was formed in Coromandel Valley in 1862, making it one of the oldest clubs in the state. In 1892 the club bought land from Mr Batt, a clerk of the Mitcham Council, on Coromandel Parade in Blackwood where many of the players lived. Unlike the previous comment about the football oval, the 1914 drought brought this comment: Owing to the state of the Oval, runs are proving hard to obtain, and unless we get enough rain to settle the sand, the high drivers are likely to have the best of the argument.
A number of tennis courts both private and public existed around the district from the end of the 19th century with the Blackwood Tennis Club being formed in 1904. While Daniel Hewett and his sons were playing cricket, his daughters were enjoying tennis. A photo of a group of players taken in 1908 includes four Hewett girls. The Blackwood Magazine in early 1914 mentions a ‘Continental’ (evening social event) organised by the tennis club to fund repairs to the courts. Admittance was 6 pence and the event made a profit of 20 pounds. By November the impact of the war was being felt. After the team had played an unsuccessful, but enjoyable nonetheless, match against the Clarendon club late travellers on the road to Clarendon report having passed a trolly from which proceeded a strange medley of sound meant, so the travellers think, to be singing, the noise or song apparently being about some place called Tipperary.
In the 21st century tennis, cricket, soccer, football and netball continue to be played but the reserve now also provides much loved green space for joggers and walkers. Weekdays see a group of toddlers and their minders, fortified by coffee from the nearby Baptist Church, enjoying the playground at the corner of Coromandel Parade and Garnet Avenue.
How important to the community are the oval and its surrounds, was demonstrated in 2012 when Telstra proposed to build a phone tower at the southern end of the oval to satisfy complaints from Craigburn Farm and Flagstaff Hill residents about the quality of their mobile phone and Internet access. The attraction for Telstra was that this land is the
highest point in the area. Nearby residents successfully challenged the initial proposal but the tower was eventually built at the northern end of the reserve.
In 2020 a major upgrade including new clubrooms, change rooms and storage space, took place at the oval. A far cry from the old galvanised iron Pavilion which was famous for the impact on unwary supporters of the splinters on its wooden benches.
Hewett Oval in 2020