Land and suburbs

History of the inner west

Inner West Council was formed by the merger of the former Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville councils. The history of the inner west is diverse, comprising of the rich history of 27 inner city suburbs. We acknowledge that this land area traditionally belonged to the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora nation.

From the working harbour of industrial Balmain to Leichhardt on the margins to the city to the rural outpost of Marrickville, to the garden suburb of Haberfield and the eclectic suburb of Ashfield, the area is a truly host to a history of a dynamic social, political, architectural and environmental history. It is an area undergoing significant change in development to the urban landscape.

The development of suburbs such as Marrickville, Petersham, St Peters, Annandale, Haberfield and Balmain was mainly developed through estates and villa sites sporting grand houses and orchards on acreages. Increased demand for housing in the 1870s and 1880s lead to the major developments of the suburbs we live and work in today. Developers, architects and prominent land owners played an important role in the creation of the Inner West suburbs. Some 61,630 permanent dwellings were constructed in Sydney between 1861 and 1891 including Haberfield, the first comprehensively planned ‘garden suburb’ in Australia and the model township of Annandale.

History and elegance can be observed throughout the inner west with a display of architectural character and richness in house styles enhanced by rich green parks and sporting fields.

The current population of the Inner West area is 185,000 over 36 square kilometers.

The Inner West Council area historically comprises the former municipalities of:

  • Annandale 1894-1948
  • Ashfield: 1871-2016
  • Balmain: 1860-1948
  • Camperdown: 1862-1908
  • Leichhardt: 1871-2016
  • Marrickville: 1861-2016
  • Newtown: 1862-1948
  • Petersham: 1871-1948
  • St Peters: 1871-1948

One of the strongest minds and most determined characters connected with the pioneering movement of the colony, Colonel Johnston, made his home within the suburb of Annandale. Johnston was a member of the marine detachment which arrived with the First Fleet in 1788. He later joined the NSW Corps.

Johnson was favoured with many grants of land and four of them, forming Annandale, became his home. It was from Annandale, also, that in response to a requisition from the citizens dissatisfied with Governor Bligh, Johnston marched his troops, with flags and banners to the residence of the Governor to arrest him. Governor Bligh was then placed aboard ship and commanded to leave the colony. Colonel Johnston was ordered to England under arrest and his grant of Annandale confiscated and converted into a penal settlement by Governor Macquarie, who replaced Bligh. The Annandale grant, however, was subsequently restored to Colonel Johnston, who was succeeded by his son Captain Robert Johnston. Robert Johnston was actively involved as a naval officer in the Napoleonic Wars and the war of 1812 with America. He led a retiring life as the Squire of Annandale.

In 1876 Robert began to subdivide North Annandale. He commenced by offering the area bounded by Parramatta Road, Johnston, Booth and Nelson Streets in lots of 66ft by 190ft. John Young bought about half of these lots. John Young was a dominant figure in the development of Annandale as a suburb, as he was a building contractor of great renown. His contracts included - the Land's Department; St Mary's Cathedral and the western half of the Sydney GPO. By 1895 Annandale was referred to as a "working man's suburb", similar to other inner-city Victorian suburbs with workers housing interspersed with manufacturing industry.

In 1949 the Annandale Council amalgamated with Balmain and Leichhardt Councils to form the Municipality of Leichhardt following a re-distribution of local council boundaries in metropolitan Sydney.

Since the 1970s much of Annandale's manufacturing industry has relocated to other parts of Sydney. The suburb's close proximity to Sydney's CBD coupled with property booms in the 1980s and 1990s has seen Annandale become a highly sought after address. In the 2001 Census the population of Annandale was approximately 8,228 people, an increase of 4.5% in 15 years.

Finding out about Annandale: a brief selection of resources

Annandale on the Web

Annandale Association, 2003. Annandale Amble

Roberts, Alan, 1970s. The Development of the suburb of Annandale : 1876 to 1899. From 'model farm' to 'model township'. Unpublished thesis, University of Sydney BA (Hons)

Leichhardt Historical Journal

Solling, Max and Peter Reynolds,1997. Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City. A Social History Of Leichhardt and the Former Municipalities of Annandale, Balmain and Glebe

Thorp, Wendy for Leichhardt Municipal Council, 1990. Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Studies


Taking its name from a grant of 550 acres that Governor Hunter made to colonial surgeon William Balmain in 1800, the first settlement of the Balmain peninsula was sluggish due, no doubt, to the lack of transport to the area.
From the 1830s until the 1850s Balmain developed as a suburb. By this time regular ferry connections from Balmain to the city had begun operating, and the reliance on steamers, ferries and coastal vessels for both travel and trade resulted in the establishment of shipyards along the harbour foreshores.Shipyards brought workers, who wished to live close to their place of work.

As the population increased so did the demand for services - houses, shops, churches, schools, police, a hospital and local government with Balmain Council being formed in 1860. By the 1880s Balmain claimed to be the leading social suburb in Sydney. Numerous clubs were formed including rowing, swimming, bowling and cricket. Institutes such as the Balmain Literary Institute, the Balmain Working Men's Institute and Balmain School of Arts were also established.

The prosperity and security of Balmain continued to attract industry to the peninsula. However, by the late 1880s it was apparent that the suburb was overcrowded and badly organised. Factories were opened next door to houses and schools, streets had been created in the most inappropriate places and the suburb went into a decline. By the early 20th century the industrial activity had dropped, the old population was moving out of the suburb and a younger, poorer population was moving into the area. Balmain's affluent character was changing: by 1933, 38.1 per cent of Balmain workers were unemployed (the NSW average was 18.4 per cent).

Balmain Population Statistics, 1848 - 1936:

Year - 1848; Population - 1,337
Year - 1872; Population - 6,826
Year - 1880; Population - 8,000
Year - 1882; Population - 16,928
Year - 1895; Population - 28,460
Year - 1910; Population - 31,500
Year - 1915; Population - 33,000
Year - 1920; Population - 33,540
Year - 1936; Population - 28,268

Post World War Two saw large scale industry in Balmain dominate the peninsula's foreshore. Sites such as the Balmain Coal Loader, Balmain Power Station, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Monsanto and Caltex, while becoming a source of employment for many Balmain locals, gave the suburb a reputation for noise and pollution. In 1948 following a redistribution of local government boundaries, Balmain Council ceased to exist as Balmain, Birchgrove and Rozelle and along with Annandale, were placed under Leichhardt Council administration. By the mid-1960s small numbers of tertiary educated middle-class 'professionals', attracted by the suburbs architecture, harbour frontages and close location to the CBD began moving into the area. In 1965 the Balmain Association was formed with the aim to give residents a voice in planning decisions and heritage issues such as the demolition of historic buildings on the peninsula.

As the 1970s progressed Balmain's reputation as a solidly working class industrial - residential suburb changed. Many of the peninsula's houses underwent 'gentrification' and renovation by their new owners who were overwhelmingly tertiary educated and middle class. The changing demographics of Balmain in the 1970s and 1980s came about in tandem with the closure of much of the areas industry. This resulted in the opening up of the peninsula's foreshores to public access, in part the result of determined resident action by individuals and groups such as the Balmain Association. By 1990 Balmain and neighbouring Birchgrove were considered to be among Sydney's most desirable waterfront locations, and a housing boom during the 1990s saw huge swathes of land redeveloped into housing on sites previously zoned industrial.

Balmain population statistics, 1986 - 2001

Year - 1986; Population - 10,239
Year - 1991; Population - 10,915
Year - 1996; Population - 10,978
Year - 2001; Population - 13,892

Finding out about Balmain: a brief selection of resources

Balmain Association

Balmain Coal Mine History

Balmain Rowing Club History

Balmain Sailing Club History

Davidson, Bonnie, 1994. Streets, Lanes and Places Balmain, Birchgrove and Rozelle, 1836 - 1994.

Lawrence, Joan, 1995. A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe.

Liddle, David, 1985. The Balmain Book.

Reynolds, Peter and Paul Flottman, 1976. Balmain. A history of the land grant.

Solling, Max and Peter Reynolds, 1997. Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City. A Social History Of Leichhardt and the Former Municipalities of Annandale, Balmain and Glebe.

Thorp, Wendy for Leichhardt Municipal Council, 1990. Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study.


Birchgrove, lying next to Balmain, was named after Birchgrove House which was built by Lieutenant John Birch around 1812. Birch was paymaster of the 73rd regiment, and is recorded as having added Grove to his surname when naming the house as there was a large number of orange trees growing on the site.

The original Birchgrove House was constructed of stone which was probably quarried on the estate, its roof made from shingles split from casuarinas. In 1827 Birch Grove was described in the Sydney press as having a garden of about three acres containing some 500 fruit trees.

John Birch did not hold onto the property for long, selling the entire estate, including the land grant, to merchant Rowland Loane in 1814. After this time, the estate changed hands several times and in 1854 it was purchased by Didier Numa Joubert, who had arrived in the colony from France several years earlier. Joubert never took up residence at the property, leasing it instead to William Salmon Deloitte. Following Deloitte's departure in 1856 Joubert laid the foundations for Birchgrove as we know it today by commencing the first residential subdivision - today's street pattern in Birchgrove was largely generated from what was proposed in his 1860 plan, with streets, such as Louisa and Numa, named after members of the Joubert family.

By 1862 Joubert had surrendered his remaining interest in the estate with the Bank of New South Wales taking control. However by 1878 82 lots of the original subdivision were still unsold. In that year three businessmen - McLean, McGregor and Threlkeld bought the remaining lots of the estate and commissioned architect Ferdinand Reuss to draw up a new plan for subdivision and sale. Reuss's plan would see the roads that were laid out in the 1860 plan remain and additional land was carved off the grounds of Birch Grove House in 1886.By 1902 the reclamation of the Snails Bay mud flats was almost complete, resulting in the development of Birchgrove Oval and recreation grounds. Some twenty years later the park was catering to tennis players and sports spectators with the building of tennis courts and a pavilion.

In 1967 a significant piece of the suburbs heritage was lost when Birchgrove House was demolished to make way for home units. Since the 1970s Birchgrove's position on a peninsula with dress-circle harbour and city skyline views has resulted in property prices in the area becoming some of Sydney's most expensive.

Finding out about Birchgrove: a brief selection of resources

Davidson, Bonnie.1994. Streets, Lanes and Places Balmain, Birchgrove and Rozelle, 1836 - 1994.

Lawrence, Joan, 1995. A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe.

Solling, Max and Peter Reynolds, 1997. Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City. A Social History of Leichhardt and the Former Municipalities of Annandale, Balmain and Glebe.

Thorp, Wendy for Leichhardt Municipal Council, 1990. Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study.


Camperdown was named in 1806 by Governor William Bligh, who was granted an estate there of 97.1 ha (240 acres). Bligh was decorated for his role in the British naval victory against the Dutch at the Battle of Camperdown (Kamperduin) in 1797. Kamperduin, literally the Dunes of Kamp, is the name of a north Holland village, near the North Sea. Camperdown was a separate municipality from 1862 to 1908.

Camperdown Cemetery, established in 1848, is one of the oldest European burial sites in New South Wales. The first interment was Sir Maurice O'Connell, son in law of Governor Bligh. The vault also contains the remains of his grandson, Richard Murray O'Connell.

Dulwich Hill was named after the London suburb of Dulwich. Earlier names were Wardell's Bush and Wardell's Hill, after the extensive estate of Dr Robert Wardell. Parts of what is now Dulwich Hill were referred to until about 1911 as Fern Hill.

The last extensive subdivision of land in the Marrickville LGA occurred in 1928 at Dulwich Hill. This was the Abergeldie Estate, property of Sir Hugh Dixson, tobacco tycoon and philanthropist. The subdivision comprised 153 allotments with the auctioneer selling all of the allotments on the one day with the sale finishing by candlelight.

Enmore was named after Enmore House, built in 1835 by Captain Sylvester Browne, a master mariner with the East India Company. Browne named his house after the West Indian estate of a business associate, the head of James Cavan & Co, which in turn took its name from a London suburb. Browne's son wrote several Australian classics, including Robbery Under Arms, under the name of Rolf Boldrewood.

Enmore House was the home of the Josephson family from 1842 to its demolition in 1883. After his death his son Joshua Frey Josephson lived there until 1883. Joshua Frey Josephson had four sons and nine daughters from three marriages. One son, Joshua Percy Josephson was Mayor of Marrickville in 1901. Five streets are named after five daughters – Clara, Laura, Marian, Pearl and Sarah.


Explore the history of Haberfield and explore the origin of the Garden Suburb.

Learn about Haberfield Hall House, the Haberfield Locomotive and its connection with Harry Potter, the Haberfield Life Boat, Haberfield Alms House, 19th century philanthropy, Lady Sarah’s will, the link with David Jones and much more.

Click here for Haberfield Curios

Leichhardt began its existence as a number of land grants. In particular two brothers Hugh and John Piper had a number of large grants between them. Hugh Piper established "Piperston". This estate was bought in 1846 by Walter Beames who was a friend of Ludwig Leichhardt. Beames assisted Leichhardt with provisions for his explorations and he also changed the name of "Piperston" to Leichhardt after his friend.

One of the largest estates in Leichhardt was the Elswick estate which was owned by James Norton, solicitor and MLC. This was eventually subdivided into hundreds of blocks of land. There were also dairies in Leichhardt but these too, eventually fell victim to residential development. Leichhardt was incorporated as a municipality in 1871. The 1880s was a time of development for Leichhardt as large public buildings such as the Post Office and the Town Hall were built.

Transport was improved with the extensive development of the tram system and also the nearby rail network. Throughout the period 1900 - 1920 large areas of Leichhardt were subdivided and the population grew substantially in this time.

Leichhardt Population Statistics, 1848 - 1936:

Year - 1900; Population - 16,560
Year - 1905; Population - 19,585
Year - 1910; Population - 25,000
Year - 1915; Population - 27,870
Year - 1920; Population - 30,544
Year - 1925; Population - 31,000(estimate)
Year - 1932; Population - 32,000 (estimate)

Number of Houses in Leichhardt, 1900 - 1932

Year - 1900; 3,312
Year - 1910; 4,650
Year - 1915; 5,556
Year - 1925; 6,354
Year - 1932; 6,628

In 1949 Balmain and Annandale Councils were amalgamated with Leichhardt (and from 1968 - 2002 Glebe was also incorporated into the Leichhardt Municipal Council area). Italian migration, which had begun in the 1920s, increased rapidly after WWII and Leichhardt became largely influenced by Italian culture, particularly the cafes, but also with the production of the newspaper "La Fiamma". Although the Italian population is decreasing in Leichhardt there is still a strong Italian influence on the suburb, reinforced with the opening in 2000 of the Italian Forum shopping and residential complex and the opening of Casa D'Italia, headquarters of the Italian cultural and social support agency Co.As.It in Norton Street.

The 2001 Census revealed the changing demographics of Leichhardt, in particular a decrease in the number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and a rise in the median annual income.

Leichhardt: A historical timeline

  • 100,000 years ago Aboriginal people reached Australia.
  • Dreaming - 1770 Over 500 Aboriginal nations occupy specific areas of Australia - The traditional owners of the Leichhardt area are the Wangal of the Eora language group.
  • 1794 First land grants in the Leichhardt area. John Prentice received 100 acres and called his land 'Hampton Farm'. Land granted to Thomas Bigges and William Thomas.
  • 1806 Major George Johnston received a land grant (present-day Annandale).
  • 1810 Land grant to Martha Moore.
  • 1811 Land grant to Ensign Hugh Piper and also to his brother, Captain John Piper. Captain Piper called his land 'Piperston'.
  • 1831-32 Captain Piper sold four large portions of his estate to James Forster (Elswick Estate), Abraham Hearn, Prosper de Mestre (Helsarmel Estate), and David Ramsay.
  • 1834 James Norton purchased Elswick Estate (which included Elswick House built by Forster).
    James Norton, founder of Messrs Norton, Smith & Co., member of the first Legislative Council. Marion Street was named after his second wife.
  • 1846-47 Walter Beames purchased 'Piperston Estate' and renamed the property 'Leichhardt' after his friend the explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt.
  • 1849 Beames subdivided his property. At this time the area was still part of Petersham.
  • 1862 The Non-vested National School of Petersham opened with 53 pupils.
  • 1868 Balmain Cemetery opened in Norton Street.
  • 1869 A new school building was erected on the corner of Marion and Norton Streets, however, by the time of completion it was already too small.
  • Catholic Cemetery opened on Elswick, William and Allen Streets.
  • 1870 Wesleyans open a church and school.
  • 1871 The Non-vested National School of Petersham was renamed Leichhardt Public School.

On 14 December, Leichhardt was incorporated after a petition was presented to the Governor of NSW. Area included present-day Leichhardt, Annandale and Lilyfield.

The municipality's first mayor was Frank Beames.

  • 1873 80 pupils at Leichhardt Public School.
  • 1880s By the 1880s the municipality was in debt owing to the need to improve facilities within Leichhardt due to rapid population growth.

Local newspaper established - Leichhardt and Petersham Guardian.

  • 1880 John Wetherill sold 'Elswick' to Excelsior Building Society. The property was then subdivided, selling for £3-£8 per foot.

Police station built in Marlborough Street and opened with one constable stationed there.

  • 1880-81 Congregational Church established.
  • 1881 Leichhardt Council requested that a post office be established in Leichhardt. This resulted in a post office being opened in George Purdie's general store in George Street, Leichhardt.
  • 1883 First official Post and Telegraph Office was opened at 9 Short Street.
    Leichhardt West School opened - now called Orange Grove Public School.
  • 1884 All Souls Anglican Church built. Designed by Blacket & Sons.
  • 1885 Leichhardt Presbyterian Church opened, corner of Renwick, Marion and Norton Sts.

1886 Leichhardt Rowing Club formed.

  • 1888 St Martha's Industrial Girls Home opened in Elswick House. Domestic skills were taught to poor and orphaned girls.

Leichhardt Town Hall opened. Designed by Drinke & Walcot and cost £6000 to build. The clock was added in 1897.

  • 1889 New post office built, corner of Wetherill and Norton Sts.
  • 1890s Volunteer fire station opened, corner of Marion Street and Balmain Road.
  • 1894 360 acres known as the East Ward of Leichhardt between Johnston's Creek and White's Creek, from Parramatta Road to Rozelle Bay, became the Municipality of Annandale.
  • 1898 St Columbus Catholic Church/School opened.
  • 1902 Permanent fire station built on the corner of Marion Street and Balmain Road.
  • 1903 District band established.
  • 1904 School of Arts built on Marion Street, next door to the fire station.
  • 1905 Leichhardt Swimming Baths opened in Long Cove (adjacent to Leichhardt Park).
  • 1907 Public telephone installed at the post office.
  • 1908 Leichhardt Boy Scouts established.
  • 1911 New School of Arts building erected on the old site.
  • 1914 Leichhardt Trades School built on Balmain Road.
  • 1917 Italian Nationals came to Australia and settled in Leichhardt in the area between Balmain Road and Hill Street, establishing businesses, religious and cultural institutions.
  • 1921 The Leichhardt Municipality held its Jubilee Carnival.
  • 1928 First road concreting - Norton and Marion Sts.
  • 1941 Balmain Cemetery became a public park and was named Pioneer's Memorial Park.
  • 1946 Capuchin Order arrived in Leichhardt to attend to the needs of the Italian community. This order established the paper La Fiamma.
  • 1947 Increase in Italian migrants, who settled in Leichhardt because of the availability of unskilled work, affordable housing and the outreach work of St Fiacres Catholic Church to the Italian immigrant population.
  • 1949 The Municipalities of Annandale and Balmain amalgamated with Leichhardt Municipality.
  • 1954 Associazione Polisportiva Italian-Australiana (APIA) founded.
  • 1957 APIA Club established its base in Norton Street moving to Fraser Street in 1961.
  • 1958 Buses replaced trams.
  • 1961 Leichhardt Amateur Swimming Club formed.
  • 1968 Glebe transferred from City of Sydney to become part of Leichhardt Municipality.
  • 1994 Leichhardt Municipal Council adopted officially as corporate name.
  • 2000 Italian Forum shopping complex opens on Norton Street. Previously a Water Board depot, the Italian Forum on Norton Street had its beginnings when the NSW government granted Leichhardt's Italian community the 12,000 sq metre block of land on the condition that 10% of the development be devoted to cultural facilities such as an Italian cultural centre and public library.
  • 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data reveals the changing demographics of Leichhardt, in particular a decrease in the number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds and a rise in the median annual income.
  • 2003 Glebe and Forest Lodge transferred back to City of Sydney administration.
    Leichhardt Library relocates to the Italian Forum.

Finding out about Leichhardt: a brief selection of resources

Benedetti, Livio, 1999. Leichhardt : Dipping into the Past.

Connolly, Bob and Robin Anderson, 1996. Rats in the Ranks. (video, DVD)

Groom, Barry, 1982. Leichhardt : an Era in Pictures: the Photography of J.G. Park.

Italians in Leichhardt - a History

Johnston, Robert. Leichhardt : A Political Experiment in Local Government.

Lawrence, Joan, 1995. A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe.

Leichhardt Historical Journal

Leichhardt Municipal Council, 2001.The History and Heritage of Italian- Australians in the Leichhardt Municipality.

Solling, Max and Peter Reynolds, 1997. Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City. A Social History Of Leichhardt and the Former Municipalities of Annandale , Balmain and Glebe.

Thorp, Wendy for Leichhardt Municipal Council, 1990. Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study.

Vialoux, A. and CM Reeves, 1921,rep.1992. Leichhardt : its History and Progress, 1871-1921.


Lewisham was named in 1834 after the estate of Joshua Frey Josephson, businessman and judge and also owner of Enmore House. He named it after the London Borough of Lewisham, which means Leofsa's village or manor.

Lewisham is notable in railway history. It was the termination point for the first train journey in the NSW colony in 1855, although the railway station was not built until 1885. The whipple truss bridge over Long Cove Creek was constructed 1885-1886 featuring North American technology developed by Squire Whipple. It is probably the most significant railway bridge site in Australia, certainly in NSW. It has the unique distinction of 4 different types of bridges from different eras. The Institution of Engineers Australia designated the Viaduct in 1994 as an historic engineering marker.

The Original residents of Marrickville were the Gadigal people, who lived in the area for more than 40,000 years. The Gadigal were a clan of the Darug people and spoke the coastal Eora language. Other clans of the area included the Wangal, the Kameygal and the Bediagal. aboriginal artefacts found around cooks River and Alexandra Canal area indicate at least 7,000 years of occupation.

Marrickville has, from the earliest days of European settlement, been distinguished by its multicultural nature. European settlement of the area commenced with the first land grant in 1789. By 1809 all land within the district had been granted. By the 1830s Marrickville had been consolidated into five great estates, Annandale, Kingston Farm Sara Dell, Tempe and Enmore. Only several hundred people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including English, Scottish, Italian, German, Dutch and Chinese, lived here. By the 1830s Marrickville had been cleared and cultivated, the principal occupants were rural-grain-growing, market gardens, timber cutting dairy farms, pig and poultry farms.

In 1861 the Municipality of Marrickville was proclaimed. It was soon followed by Newtown (1862) then St Peters (1871) and Petersham (1871) and Petersham (1872). Camperdown was proclaimed in 1861 but did not function until 1868. From the 1880s to the 1920s Marrickville grew from a sparsely settled rural area to a densely populated industrial region. in 1948, just before the amalgamation of Petersham and St Peters Council, the combined population of the original municipalities peaked at over 89,000 people. In 1968 there was a realignment of boundaries, and sections of Newtown and Camperdown were added to the Marrickville LGA.

Migration has been paramount in the history of Marrickville. Each wave of migration added to its character. The peak of migration occurred from the 1950s and late 1970s when very large numbers of migrants arrived from southern Europe. the middle East and Asia. the area has continued to become a new home to a diverse array of cultural groups. In the 2011 Census 30.7% of Marrickville residents spoke a language other than English at home, with Greek, Vietnamese, Arabic and Portuguese being most common.

Newtown derived its name from a store opened by John Webster, which stood on the site of the Oxford Hotel in King Street. Webster named his store the New Town Store to distinguish it from the established settlements at Camperdown, cooks River and O'Connell Town. The name Newtown was recorded as early as 1832. By the late 19th century King Street had become one of the largest suburban retail shopping centres which competed with the CBD.

Newtown Rugby League Football Club was the first rugby league club in Australia, formed at a public meeting in Newtown Town Hall on 8 January 1908.

Newtown was a separate municipality from 1862 to 1949.

Rozelle was part of the original land grant of 550 acres made to colonial surgeon William Balmain in 1800 by Governor Hunter.

  • 1842 Broughton House, a two storey Georgian Mansion with circular driveway and pleasure gardens built at Callan Park.
  • 1861 The peninsula boundary line was placed at Elliot, Reynolds and Crescent Streets, Balmain. The land lying to the west of this boundary extending to the gates of Callan Park was called Balmain West.
  • 1870s Alfred Hancock, W.H. Paling, R.J. Paling, Dr L. Foucart and others purchased large blocks of land in Balmain West. These blocks were subdivided and sold to those who had arrived in the area to build Callan Park and the Iron Cove Bridge. This was known as the 'Home for the People Scheme'.
  • 1873 Callan Park Estate purchased by the Parkes Government for use as an asylum for the insane. St Paul's Church built on the corner of Darling Street and Weston Road. (now Victoria Road).
  • 1874 St Thomas ' Anglican Church, Darling Street, designed by Edmund Blacket.
  • 1877 Balmain West residents petitioned for a post office, as the Balmain Post and Telegraph Office was not adequate for the developing suburb. The Callan Park branch of Gladesville Mental Hospital was opened with the transfer of 44 male patients from Gladesville Hospital to the 'Callan Homestead'. A boat, the "Mabel", made daily trips between the two hospitals.
  • 1878 Balmain West Public School opened. Designed by John Horbury Hunt. Work commenced on the new stone buildings at Callan Park, designed for approximately 700 patients. The stone was quarried on site.
  • 1880s The grocery shop on the corner of Weston Road and Withecombe Street became the Balmain West Post Office. Joseph Gosling, the grocer, was the postmaster. By this time the area had expanded into a large shopping centre, accelerated by the availability of cheap property and trams to Ryde.
  • 1884 Balmain West Public School became known as Darling Road Public School. In 1885 it was renamed Darling Road Superior School.
  • 1885 New asylum for the insane, Callan Park, officially opened. Named after North American physician Thomas Story Kirkbride the complex was described as a magnificent collection of buildings.
  • 1887 Volunteer Fire Brigade established at 584 Darling Street.
  • 1892 Postmaster General declared Rozelle as the official name of Balmain West. The origin of the name Rozelle is unknown. The bay had been called Rozella Bay for many years. The name Rozelle may have been after the rosella bird or the rosella flower. First steam tram in the area terminated at Darling Road Superior School, corner of Darling and Merton Streets. The same year the tramline was extended to Gladstone Park.
  • 1894 Rozelle Post Office opened.
  • 1895 The Volunteer Fire Brigade ceased to exist.
  • 1896 A public telephone was installed at Rozelle Post Office (one of fifteen in the metropolitan area).
  • 1902 Tramline electrified.
  • 1907 Rozelle Mechanics Institute built on Weston Road. Darling Road Superior School renamed Rozelle Superior Public School.
  • 1909 Rozelle Fire Station, No. 49, opened on the corner of Darling and Oxford Streets.
  • 1912 Tramline connecting Rozelle with Leichhardt was opened. Broughton House, now known as Broughton Hall, opens as Number 13 Australian Army Hospital, treating returned servicemen.
  • 1921 Broughton Hall becomes NSW's first psychiatric clinic for voluntary patients.
  • 1925 Rozelle Theatre was opened on the corner of Red Lion and Darling Streets.
  • 1945 Rozelle Fire Station closed and was used as Bush Fire Station No. 99 until 1956.
  • 1959 Post office demolished to widen Victoria Road. The widening had been under discussion since the 1920s.
  • 1966 Rozelle Junior Boys High School finds itself in the news when it is revealed on the ABC current affairs programme "Four Corners" that the school is the most disadvantaged in NSW.
  • 1976 Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic merges with Callan Park Hospital to become Rozelle Hospital.
  • 1980s Rozelle's reputation as a solidly working class residential suburb begins to change. Many of the area's houses underwent 'gentrification' - renovation by their new owners who were overwhelmingly tertiary educated and middle class. The changing demographics of Rozelle in the 1980s mirrored the experience of neighbouring Balmain in the 1970s, and came about in tandem with the closure of much of the areas industry.
  • 1990s Rozelle and neighbouring Balmain experience a housing boom as huge swathes of land are redeveloped into housing on sites previously zoned industrial.
  • 1994 The historic Kirkbride building at Rozelle Hospital closes its doors to psychiatric patients after almost 120 years; all patients were transferred to other sites on the Rozelle Hospital campus.
  • 1996 After extensive renovations the Kirkbride building re-opens as the new home of the University of Sydney's Sydney College of the Arts.
  • 2002 NSW Health Department releases a draft Master Plan for the Callan Park site. The plan's recommendations include the transfer of all hospital facilities at Rozelle Hospital to the Concord Hospital campus and the sale of approximately 20% of the site. The Master Plan's recommendations meet fierce resistance from community members, led by the resident action group Friends of Callan Park. The level of community reaction to plans for the site results in the State government's decision to shelve plans to sell a portion of the site for development.
  • 2005 NSW government announces that plans to relocate Rozelle Hospital to the Concord Hospital site have been put on hold

Finding out about Rozelle: a brief selection of resources

Davidson, Bonnie.1994. Streets, Lanes and Places Balmain, Birchgrove and Rozelle, 1836 - 1994.

History of Rozelle Hospital

Leong, Ken, 1984. Rozelle Hospital, 1819 - 1984 its origins and development: the amalgamation of Callan Park Mental Hospital and Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic.

Solling, Max and Peter Reynolds, 1997. Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City. A Social History of Leichhardt and the Former Municipalities of Annandale, Balmain and Glebe.

Thorp, Wendy for Leichhardt Municipal Council, 1990. Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study. References: Lawrence, Joan, 1995. A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe.

Tempe was named after Alexander Brodie Spark which was built in 1835 on the southern bank of Cooks River. Spark named his house after the beautiful Vale of Tempe, beneath Mount Olympus in Greece. The railway station opened in 1884 and Tempe became a popular resort with large crowds attracted to Cooks River for swimming and boating.

Rate this page

  • Rate as The content was useful25.00% The content was useful votes
  • Rate as The content was not useful75.00% The content was not useful votes

Thanks for your feedback. We will use this data to improve the content of this page.

Page last updated: 02 May 2024