Built on a narrow strip of land left over from the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction the King George V Memorial Playground (KGV) was built by the Sydney Municipal Council as a part of a scheme to provide playgrounds in crowded inner city suburbs.

Located in York Street (now Cumberland Street) The Rocks, the King George V playground was officially opened on 3 June 1937. By the following year the Sydney Morning Herald reported that 1000 local children, ranging in ages ‘from toddlers to 16 year olds’ were on the playground’s register. (SMH 7 June 1938 p 4) 

The playing grounds are divided off for order's sake. In the large gymnasium area, with its deep bed of tan, there are giant strides, slippery dips, steel ladders mounting to slither bars, and many other contrivances to delight the youthful heart. 

Sydney Morning Herald 25 May 1937, p21

King George V Memorial Children's Playground, York Street North (also known as Cumberland Street),1930s.  Sydney Reference Collection, City of Sydney Archives, SRC10491

Many of Susannah Place children were regular users of the playground. Friends Ron Thompson and David Hamilton fondly recalled playing  ‘racquet ball up against the wall, cricket, basketball’ and a ‘bit of a library’ that was provided for the younger children. 

The guy running it we used to call him ‘Skipper’ he’d turn up at 10 o’clock in the morning with the key and open it…and on school holidays …quite often about 10 or 12 kids would be waiting to get in.

Ron Thompson, tenant 62 Gloucester Street 1933 – 1942

In 2003 Ron Thompson proudly donated his certificate of Athletic Proficiency awarded to him at the age of 15 to Susannah Place Museum. 

‘ To introduce a standard of physical achievement certificates are awarded every year by the Municipal Council to both boys and girls who can balance on a beam, throw a ball certain distance, hit a target, shoot a goal at basketball or climb a rope.’

The Sydney Morning Herald 7 June 1938

Certificate of Athletic Proficiency awarded to Ronald Thompson by the City of Sydney, 1948. Susannah Place Museum, Sydney Living Museums.

In 1983 a mural created by artist Peter Day working with the local residents was painted on the concrete wall of the playground.  Standing in the hot air balloon is John Richardson who was the last supervisor of the playground.

About the Author

Head and shoulders portrait of woman set against brick wall.
Anna Cossu
Susannah Place Museum, Museum of Sydney, Justice and Police Museum
Inspired by wonderful history teachers and after her own foray as a high school teacher, Anna found herself drawn to the world of museums and heritage interpretation.

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