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News > Docco's Diary > Docco's Diary: Background to the beautiful Ovals of St Peter's College

Docco's Diary: Background to the beautiful Ovals of St Peter's College

The School's ovals and playing fields are arguably some of the finest of any school in Australia.

It is acknowledged by many that St Peter’s College has the finest facilities of any school in Australia. The Ovals have never looked better than they do in 2021. Some old scholars may not be aware of the history of our beautiful Ovals, which we are fortunate to have. Although our School, after being founded on July 15th, 1847, moved to its present site in January 1850, we did not have most of these ovals when we moved to this site.


Saints vs Poonindie XI Cricket match on Main Oval, 1874

Main Oval

The Main Oval was laid out in 1873, but for many years it was in poor condition and the only pitches were concrete. In 1894 the School Sports had to be transferred to Adelaide Oval.


A last cow grazing on the Main, 1890, a familiar sight from St Peter’s College’s earliest days


In 1890, the School’s Main Oval was finally fenced, which meant that the School cows were confined to the field at the back of the School (now the Caterer Oval). Notice the new line of plane trees in front of Old School House, which means these trees are now over 130 years old.

The turn of the century ushered in a new era. The ground was properly grassed and a turf wicket was laid. In 1900, a pavilion was built. In 1901 a permanent groundsman was appointed. In 1954 the pavilion was refurbished, updated and named the Nitschke Pavilion in memory of Richard Nitschke (DAC 1935), who was killed in the Second World War on 21 November 1941 at Benghazi in North Africa on service with the RAAF. Richard Nitschke was a School Prefect and was one of the finest athletes the School has ever had. He was in the First XI Cricket Team and First XVIII Football Team for four years, and the Athletics Team for two.


1933 Intercollegiate Cricket Match

In 1977 the centre wicket was completely renewed for the third time. A total area of 100ft by 60ft was excavated to an average of 7 inches and it was refilled with a mixture of Gawler River loam and washed sand. A top dressing of black Ashbourne cricket soil was laid and couch grass was sown. It continues to be used for cricket in the summer and for AFL football in the winter. The cricket pitch is now regarded by many as one of the best in the State.

Girdlestone and Palm House Ovals

At 2 o’clock on Saturday 6th December 1924, with a game of cricket between an old scholars Second XI and a St Peter’s College Second XI, the Girdlestone Oval was formally opened for sport. The land, now used for the Girdlestone Oval, the Palm House Oval and Palm House buildings had been bought on November 18th, 1918. It had originally been the site of Marshall’s furniture factory. The purchase of this land increased the size of the School grounds to 64 acres. Headmaster Bickersteth commented in his Speech Day address in 1923:

“Our school grounds are gradually developing, especially the Girdlestone Ground. I hope that in a short time it may be as good as the School Oval”.

The Girdlestone Oval (originally known as the Girdlestone Ground) was named after Henry Girdlestone, Headmaster 1894-1915. In 2021 the Girdlestone Oval is used for cricket and AFL football. Cricket and soccer are played on the Palm House Oval.

Lloyd Oval

The Lloyd Oval was laid out for sport in 1935. There is a plaque at the edge of the Oval, which says:

“The Lloyd Oval was named in recognition of Sir Howard Watson Lloyd, an old scholar whose generous support made the use of this space possible as an oval in 1935”.

Sir Howard Watson Lloyd had left the School in 1885 and was on the Council of Governors 1918-1951. There has been a long association over many generations between the Lloyd family and St Peter’s College. At one time in the late 1930s, the whole school did PE on the Lloyd Oval. There are now two soccer pitches on the Lloyd. For many years there was a hockey pitch on the Lloyd, but hockey moved to a hard surface on the Williams Oval in 2001. In the summer the Lloyd is used for cricket.


The Lloyd Oval site before it was developed, 1929

Northern Ovals

On March 21st, 1873, the School Council purchased 14 acres and a house from the South Australian Company on which Mrs Southam grazed cows. The area was known as the Southam Paddock and for a number of years was leased for grazing. This area later became the Caterer, Wilson, Williams and Farr Ovals.


Southam’s Paddock circa 1905. This photo taken from what is now known as the Caterer Oval, shows the original gymnasium (now Da Costa Dining Hall) with laundry out to dry.  The building with the two peaks, to left of the gym, is the classroom and lab. And to the right is of course the Main Building (now Old School House).

The Caterer Oval was laid out in 1931. It was named after Mr TA Caterer, a long-serving teacher, who had been Acting Headmaster in 1904 and again in the period 1916-1919.

The Brookman Pavilion in the SW corner of the Caterer Oval was built in 1953 in memory of Michael Brookman (FLL 1933), who lost his life on service with the RAAF. He was killed in action, in Egypt, on 14th July 1942, aged 26 years.

Also in 1953 the Caterer and Wilson Ovals were regraded, extended and improved. The building of the Pavilion and the regrading of the back ovals were carried out as a joint project of the School, old scholars and the Brookman family.

The Wilson Oval is named after the School’s first Headmaster Reverend TP Wilson. Both the Caterer and Wilson Ovals are used for cricket in the summer and for AFL football in the winter.

The Williams Oval is named after Rev Francis Williams (Headmaster 1882-1889). It was converted to a hard surface (all-weather) Hockey/Tennis area in 2001. The opening ceremony was on April 8th, 2001. Shortened matches were played during the afternoon, giving every boy from Junior to Year 12 the opportunity to participate. The afternoon concluded with an entertaining 1-1 tied game between an old scholars’ team and the 1st XI squad.

The Farr Oval was named after the School’s second Headmaster George Henry Farr (Headmaster 1854-1878) and is used for both rugby and soccer in the winter and for athletics and cricket in the summer.

Those who have visited schools in rural areas of England will agree that many of them have beautiful and extensive playing fields. But there is no other school in the world that has ovals of the quality of ours so close to a capital city.

In 2021 boys continue to gain great benefit from taking part in winter and summer sports on these magnificent ovals, which are wonderfully well maintained by an outstanding grounds staff.

Old scholars sporting teams continue to use the Caterer and Wilson Ovals for AFL football and cricket. The Lloyd Oval and Farr Oval are used for old scholars soccer. The Williams is used for hockey.

Our School Prayer includes the lovely words “that beauty, order and reverence may be the message of its walls and fields”. Our ovals (fields) continue to convey this message strongly in 2021.

David Docwra

David Docwra retired from St Peter’s College in December 2015 after 37 years’ service and will be fondly remembered by many as a dedicated teacher, a committed coach of squash, cricket and soccer, and most especially as a passionate Head of Hawkes House for 21 years.

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