Australian Screen

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Patineur Grotesque (1896)

  1. An excellent find. Not sure about the Yarra Park as a possible site - the skating rink is well below the road. Another possible site in the same area is the top end of Fitzroy Gardens looking towards Albert St. At first glance I was reminded of the Lower Esplanade, St. Kilda, then, as now, a favorite entertainment and seaside destination. However, I'm not sure whether the Esplanade, close to Luna Park and the Palais, had been constructed at that time.

    Cyril Jones

  2. #1 from CJones – 6 years, 7 months ago.
  3. There were a number of trick skaters around at the time this was famous skater in particular was r. j. aginton - he performed in the late 1880s though, so this might be a bit too late for him

  4. #2 from 1manonabike – 6 years, 7 months ago.
  5. It strikes me, having lived right near there for a long time, that the lay of the land and the angle of the street on the left is the left hand side of what is now called Alfred Square in St Kilda. It is now a park. The roller skating would have been done on the top of the area that is now the Esplanade in St Kilda.

    In 1905 a memorial to Soldiers who died in Sudan and the Boer was was erected.

    I suggest that if you can locate a good photo of the terrace house on the right hand side of the road on the left, you will confirm this. There is also a white building visible--I think part of this is still standing. I think I know who to contact for more historical details , and you are welcome to contact me. In the interim, please see this photo, and the terrace on the left, though it is from 1905. You will probably need to examine the orginals, and there may well be a photo in the opposite direction-and/or an early skate park or flat area.

    Many terraces were torn down in later years. and -- it is obscure, but it may well be the building on the far left, though trees in the 1890s obscure the view.

    This picture may be even clearer, but the original, and others have to be inspected.

  6. #3 from larryjhs – 6 years, 7 months ago.
  7. I've been in touch with someone who knows StKilda buildings and heritage like very few others. He has had trouble loading the clip, but says---

    Just looking at the first still, I think you could be right about Alfred Square, although the road on the left doesn't seem to be heading quite in
    the right direction. I'd like to see the full clip!
    An alternative idea I had was that it's in Catani Gardens, from where the Pierrot pavilion was, looking up to the corner of Fitzroy St and The Esplanade, where the original quirky roofed Pinacotheca gallery was. It almost fits. Problem is, the land there probably wasn't reclaimed in 1896.
    (Read Butler, Vol II, p206.)

    Butler says Vaudeville acts traditionally took place on the Upper Esplanade and also at the Pierrot site, which supports your theory well.The picture could also conceivably be in Fawkner Park near Toorak Rd, or at the top of the Fitzroy Gardens. But it does look like a quintessential St Kilda scene -- Vaudeville, and early movie making.

  8. #4 from larryjhs – 6 years, 7 months ago.
  9. St Kilda had been suggested to me before, and I used to live in Smith St off Acland Street and so know this area quite well but not as it was in the 1890s! The pictures I have been able to find of 1890s St Kilda of that area around the Esplanade does not have the trees, nor the gate at the top of the sloping path. But of course, I have only been able to look at what is available and have no great knowledge of the area of this period. The Catani Gardens is an interesting option and I did look at Fawkner Park as well but it's that sloping path which I haven't been able to see in any of the photos I've looked at. The building we can see in the background appears to be a 3 storey terrace which made me think of the terraces around the Exhibition building. But when I visited it was obviously not one of those. The houses around Fawkner Park certainly suit this period - we shall have to see!

    Thank you for the name of the skater R.J. Aginton I will follow this up. I do have a list of names of famous skaters but most tended to be foreign and only visiting or where not performing at this time. There is a skater called REXO who was performing at this time but I have found very little information about him and have not been able to link him directly to the film.
    I look forward to hearing more.

    Sally Jackson, NFSA film curator

  10. #5 from sazza – 6 years, 7 months ago.
  11. I wish I could chop down the trees at the back, but this postcard, which is not quite at the same angle, possibly identifies the building at the far left of the film and chimneys of the one on the right in Alfred square, but the two need to be closely looked at again.

  12. #6 from larryjhs – 6 years, 7 months ago.
  13. This location is outside the Exhibition Building in Prince Alfred Park in Sydney.

    The north side of the building can be seen here at~

    The skater was on the south side of the Exhibition Building (to the right of this picture) at~

    The houses and trees seen in the 1896 footage can be seen on Google Earth Street View if you key in "Cleveland Street and Pitt Street Redfern NSW' and swivel their camera around 180 degrees.

  14. #7 from Patineu – 6 years, 6 months ago.
  15. Yes, I agree I would love to remove the trees as well! But that's the thing in St Kilda in 1896 there were no very large trees along the Esplanade or other nearby parks and gardens similar to ones we see in the clip! At least not that I've been able to find.
    I had also previously looked at Prince Alfred Park including photos from the period. The park was similar but the further I looked the more I could see it was not likely to be Prince Alfred Park.
    This image of the Park comes close but of course we cannot see the street looking on to this view.
    Looking on Google Maps I remain unconvinced that the house on the corner of Cleveland and Pitt Street is the large home we see on the street corner in the Patineur Grotesque film clip. Of course, I have been able to view the image in a much larger and clearer format and the house looks to be three storey with a mansard roof which this two storey terrace does not. Also Prince Alfred Park does not seem to have the long incline into the park but it does have a gate very similar to the one in the clip.
    This has been the problem all along. I can find elements from the clip in photos of a variety of places but nothing that gives me that Eureka! moment.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know and please keep looking!

    - Sally Jackson

  16. #8 from sazza – 6 years, 6 months ago.
  17. Looks interesting! Hopefully I'll get to see it at MIFF if National Film and Sound Archive give me tickets :)

  18. #9 from grault – 6 years, 2 months ago.
  19. Patineu (comment #7) is right. NFSA has confirmed that the location is Prince Alfred Park in the South Sydney-Redfern area.

    "With the film now known to be shot in Sydney, this change the probable date it was made. It could be earlier than thought, or it could be after the Melbourne Cup films were made. Either way, Patineur Grotesque is now the earliest footage of Sydney to survive."

    For more information, visit

  20. #10 from miguel – 5 years, 4 months ago.
  21. Look at for even more.

  22. #11 from ombromane – 5 years, 4 months ago.
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