De Soza Park

Buninyong and District Historical Society

De Soza Park

The Park is named after Henry Joseph (Simon) De Soza, who successfully mined for gold in the Buninyong area in the 19th Century. He was a bachelor, who distributed much of his wealth to good causes in the community. For his philanthropy, he was crowned "Gold King of Buninyong" in 1883.

When the idea of a community festival took wing in the early 1970s, De Soza was seen as the obvious patron for the festival. Hence in January 1982 a working party got together to put up a poppet head in the public reserve beside the Crown Hotel. The poppet head would associate Buninyong once again with mining, and with the successful miner Simon De Soza.

[Gold King re-enactment] Re-enactment of the crowning of
Henry De Soza as Gold King
(on left, holding sheaf),
Buninyong Festival, February 1991

In the 1860s the Crown Gold Mine had operated beside the hotel, and its waste used to pour over into Forrest St. At the western end in the swampy surrounds of the creek, a tannery developed which operated with great success until its closure in 1926. A dam excavated for the business is called Tannery Dam.

In 1979 Buninyong Shire Council resolved to clean up the area. Help came from the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, plus a number of service groups including Keep Buninyong Beautiful, Scouts and Cubs, the Lions Club and the Buninyong Festival Committee.

Some of the chief movers and shakers of 1982 in the project to erect the poppet head were Ron Nicholls, Ivan Eames, Graham Gooding, Derick Leather, Russell Williams, David Searl and Ed O'Loughlin. The Festival flag, which flew from the newly completed poppet head in 1982, was made by Lindsey Chambers.

The project was complete by the date of the Festival. The following year, the Park was officially blessed and named at the Opening. A temporary stage was erected for performers.

In 1986, to mark Victoria's Sesquicentennial, a rotunda was erected, designed by Ballarat architect Ewan Jones. Elizabeth Gilfillan, then of "Eyre Cottage", designed the rose garden and surroundings. The sculpture, a Chilean gold crushing mill, was completed by Nicola Pammett whilst a sculpture student at the Ballarat College of Advanced Education.

For many years the Festival Committee worked to build a permanent stage, a project which came to fruition in 1996. Around the same time, the City of Ballarat added playground equipment. Many trees - both deciduous and native - have been planted in the Park, and we thank all those voluntary groups who have devoted much love and care to the Park.