City Park occupies 6ha (15 acres) near the Tamar river. Included within the park is Albert Hall (constructed in 1891, and significant in its own right), the park's gatehouse, the 1933 John Hart conservatory, and other smaller features including the bandstand, the 1861 fountain and the Jubilee fountain, iron gates and cast iron palisade fencing, and the South African war memorial. The City Park land was originally held as a number of separate titles. A cottage erected on one of these became the residence of Lt. Col. Paterson, military commander of northern Tasmania, in 1808. Paterson exercised authority over New South Wales when Governor Bligh was overthrown in 1808, so the cottage became the centre of government for a brief period.
Extensive government gardens were established around Paterson's cottage, incorporating utilitarian gardens and orchards. From 1825, the cottage served as the northern residence of the Governor. The last Governor to use the cottage was Sir John Franklin. Sir John and Lady Franklin encouraged the formation of the Launceston horticultural society and the cottage was the venue of the society's first exhibition in 1838. Later in 1851, the cottage (known as Franklin Lodge) was the venue for the formation of a northern branch of the Royal Society. Vestiges of this period consist of an old pear tree, a line of existing steps from Brisbane Street and possibly the archaeological remains of the cottage. By 1841 The Horticultural Society was offered a 21 year lease on land to the west of the government cottage to establish a botanic garden. This area was used for exhibitions, plant propagation and experimentation, and plant distribution. The garden was opened to the public once a week and served as Launceston's civic square.
The Sebastopol cannon was given to the citizens of Launceston in recognition of their work in the Crimean War relief fund. The style of the gardens at the time appears to have been Gardenesque and included an 1841 rustic pavillion, a Grecian style lodge. Animal enclosures for kangaroos and emus were introduced in this period. Apart from the Franklins, who were patrons of the society, William Henty, later to be Colonial Secretary, was secretary of the society. The society's president, Robert Campbell Gunn, is significant as an early Australian plant collector and botanist.
Council management began in 1863 and a deed was signed for the area in 1865. Major development of the park occurred between 1877-79 during Launceston's boom period. The layout of the park was altered for the international exhibition held in Launceston in 1891-2, with removal of flower beds and the creation of new paths to blend with exhibition facilities. The 1891 path layout survives, and the site of the annexes built for the exhibiton are now marked by a chess board. Features remaining from this era include Albert Hall, the gatekeeper's cottage and a small building on Tamar Street.
The monkey island marks the location of the former zoo and reflects the continuous use of this area for the display of animals. The layout of the former era was retained and notable features of the park installed, including in 1897, the Jubilee fountain, originally located outside the city gates and moved in 1908 to its present location, the high Victorian filigree cast iron gates, installed to mark the coronation of Edward VII, the cast iron palisade fence on the boundaries of Cimitiere and Tamar Streets, erected between 1903 and 1914, the Boer War memorial erected in 1904, the rock-edged shrubbery on Brisbane Street planted out between 1906-1908, the removal of the rotunda and erection of another bandstand, the Dutch garden created in 1921 on the site of the independent school, the John Hart conservatory of 1935, replacing the 1863 conservatory, and the pioneers' garden.
Under council management the parks were used for public recreation, band recitals, outdoor moving picture shows and horticultural displays. The park area was expanded in 1964 with the addition of a former house site. The area is enclosed with a rusticated stone pergola, and in 1978 a Senses Garden was introduced and the 1861 fountain located to this setting. The garden style demonstrates the trend towards more natural looking low maintenance gardens. This era is also noteworthy for an increased emphasis on children's recreation with the development of the children's playground.
A beautiful park with a great history and an important part of the Launceston community.