The Grandstand at Pratten Park turned 100 in August 2020. Regrettably there was not an official celebration but the Society wants to acknowledge this historic milestone and the contribution Pratten Park and the Grandstand makes to the heritage of Ashfield. Happy Birthday Grandstand!
Pratten Park turned 100 years old in 2012. Negotiations for the construction of a grandstand commenced in 1914 between Ashfield Council and the NSW Rugby Football League. By 1915 there was to be a ‘pavilion’ to accommodate 450 people, complete with dressing rooms, lavatories, showers and lockers. The demands of World War 1 however meant that the plans were deferred.
When building the pavilion actually started in May 1920, the Council decided it would oversee the construction and employ local labour. While the initial discussions were with NSW Rugby, by now the term ‘cricket pavilion’ appears in correspondence with Cricket NSW.
The grandstand has two foundation stones. One was laid by Senator Herbert Pratten who had been largely responsible for the creation of Pratten Park when he was a Mayor of Ashfield; he donated £500 for its construction. The other foundation stone was laid by Frank Owen Hedger, who was the Mayor of Ashfield at the time.
In 2013 the silver trowel used by Mayor Hedger to lay the foundation stone went up for auction. The Ashfield and District Historical Society is not a museum and certainly did not have the funds to buy it. Fortunately, the Western Suburbs Leagues Club did and it now has possession of the trowel.
In 2007 Western Suburbs District Cricket Club received a grant of $331, 000 from Cricket NSW and Ashfield Council agreed to provide an additional $190,000, for a much-needed upgrade and restoration of the grandstand. In November 2007 Council agreed to name the refurbished stand the ‘Davidson Simpson Stand’ in honour of two former and famous Western Suburbs players.
Bobby (Robert Baddeley) Simpson grew up in Marrickville. He played cricket for Marrickville West Primary School, Tempe High School, St Clements Methodist Church and Western Suburbs District Cricket Club. But that was just his start. He played first grade for NSW just before his 17th birthday. He was picked in the Australian team that toured South Africa in 1957-58 where he took 13 slips catches. He was picked to captain Australia against South Africa and again for the UK Ashes Tour of 1964 where Australia retained the Ashes. After his retirement from test cricket he went on to coach the Australian cricket team in 1986. He was an outstanding cricket player and coach, a native of Sydney’s inner west, who played numerous games at Pratten Park.
Alan Keith Davidson was born in Lisarow and came to Western Suburbs for the 1952/53 season. He captained Wests in 1963/64 and 1964/65 winning the premiership during his first season in charge. At a Test level, Davidson was the first player to score 100 runs and take 10 wickets in the one test. He went on to play 44 tests for Australia and was the President of the NSW Cricket Association for 30 years. The Alan Davidson Award is the highest, most prestigious and most coveted award annually presented by the Western Suburbs District Cricket Club.
Given the performance of these two notable players for the Western Suburbs District Cricket Club it is understandable that the refurbished pavilion was named the Davidson Simpson Stand in 2007.
For further information on the history of Pratten Park and the Grandstand please contact the Ashfield & District Historical Society to see our Journal ‘Pratten Park 100 Years’, Ashfield History No 19, or visit our rooms at Thirning Villa on one of our open days.
The Society holds a copy of a 2006 publication of the Western Suburbs District Cricket Club outlining the history of the Club. The book titled “Cricket in Black and White: 110 Not Out The history of the Western Suburbs District Cricket Club” was compiled by Max Bonnell.
Copies of ‘Pratten Park 100 Years’ can be obtained from the Society for $25.