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History of the suburbs

Discover the history behind the local suburbs in the Cumberland region. From name origins to Aboriginal heritage.
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Fairfield

  • Fairfield was probably first seen by Europeans when Watkin Tench, an officer of the marines and explorer, climbed Prospect Hill.
  • On 8 August 1807 Gabriel Louis Marie Huon de Kerrileau received a grant of 100 acres in the centre of present day Fairfield which he called Castel Paul.
  • In 1840 Captain John Horsley bought Castel Paul and renamed the property Fairfield after the family estate in Somerset.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Girraween

  • Girraween is Aboriginal for ‘The place where flowers grow’.It was first settled in the early 1900s. Before that the area was partly known as Major Wentworth’s Farm.
  • Dr D’Arcy Wentworth arrived as the surgeon on the Second Fleet convict transport ‘Neptune’ in 1790 and was one of the early settlers.
  • He received land grants of 2,750 acres - extending over most of Toongabbie, Girraween, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville and some of Greystanes.
  • Development as an independent suburb began in 1910 when land was subdivided and sold by real estate developer Arthur Rickard.
  • Initial lots sold rapidly, some were later sold at much higher prices.
  • Girraween was originally a street name in that subdivision. It had been named Toongabbie Park until the post office opened. The Post Office took the name of Girraween and the suburb was consequently renamed.
  • The School of Arts was founded in 1918 and it played an important part in the social life of Girraween. The Anglican and Catholic Churches held their first services in it. Girraween School also held their first classes there.

Granville

  • In 1855 Granville was known as Parramatta Junction – as it was then the end of the railway line from Sydney to Parramatta. It retained that name until 1880 when 2 public meetings voted that the name be changed.
  • The area was named in honour of Earl of Granville, a former colonial secretary.
  • The present suburb stands on grants once issued to John Harris, Garnham Blaxcell, William Lawson and W.C. Wentworth. The largest was Blaxcell’s grant of 1,125 acres which he received in 1806.
  • The 10th Governor of New South Wales, Charles FitzRoy, set up a hunt club in Granville in the late 1840s to pursue the wild dogs that infested the area.
  • The main road in the area was called Dog Trap Road until 1879 when it became Woodville Road.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Greystanes

The naming of Greystanes

  • Greystanes was named after an historical home on Prospect Hill, built by Nelson Lawson, 3rd child of Lieutenant William Lawson. The house was demolished on 1946.
  • The name ‘Grey Stanes’ given by Nelson Simmons Lawson comes from the outcrop of basalt on Prospect Hill. ‘Grey’ being its colour and ‘Stanes’ being Scottish for stones.
  • The land was granted to Lieutenant William Cummings in 1799, then bought by William Lawson in approximately 1810.
  • William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland and William Charles Wentworth began their successful crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 from this place and discovered the Bathurst Plains.
  • The Lawson family crypt still exists at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Prospect.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Boothtown within Greystanes

  • Part of Greystanes, between present day Hyland Road and the Aqueduct, was once known as Boothtown. This was the name of the property owned by John and Hannah Booth.
  • John was one of the Municipality of Prospect & Sherwood’s original Aldermen, and Mayor from 1880 to 1888.
  • His brother Joseph was also an Alderman and Mayor of Prospect and Sherwood. Both brothers were Aldermen of Parramatta Borough Council.
  • Another brother Samuel, briefly Council Clerk of Prospect and Sherwood, operated a store and post office at Boothtown.
  • Part of this property was used for the Boothtown tent school in 1882 - educating children of workers on the Upper Nepean Scheme project.
  • John and his family were affected by the depression of the 1890s and were forced to sell their property. John refused to leave the property and rented it back for £5 per week.
  • John died in July 1900, leaving Hannah with 8 children. Hannah was forced to sell many family possessions and move from the property.
  • Boothtown is now remembered by the Aqueduct and by Boothtown Reserve. The reserve is located on part of the original Booth property on Gipps Road.
  • A ceremony was held on Sunday 22 May 1983 to dedicate the reserve to John Booth, with many of his decedents in attendance.

Sources: Booth, Elizabeth, Memories of the Booth Family of the Municipality of Prospect and Sherwood [sound recording], Holroyd Oral History Project, recorded 14 October 1990. Ruhen, Carl, Holroyd: centenary 1872-1972, Horwitz, 1972. Karskens, Grace, Holroyd: a special history of Western Sydney, NSW University Press, 1991.

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Guildford

  • 640 acres of land was granted to Lieutenant Samuel North, an ex-military officer and civil servant, in 1837 in recognition of the 15 years he served in the army.
  • Samuel called it Guildford after a relative, the Earl of Guildford of Surrey, England.
  • Wild dogs roamed the area and a system was evolved to trap them and rid Guildford of these pests. Dog Trap Road (now Woodville Road) was named after traps set along its length.
  • In 1867, Guildford Post Office was opened on Dog Trap Road. Prior to that the few residents of the area were listed as being within the Fairfield postal district.
  • In 1871 a provisional school for young children, on the corner of Orchardleigh and Dog Trap Roads was opened.
  • The Railway station opened in 1876.
  • Some Guildford roads are also named after places in Surrey, England: such as Chertsey Road, St Ann’s Hill Road, Surrey Terrace and Addlestone Road.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988

Holroyd

  • On 5 July 1872, this area was named the Municipality of Prospect and Sherwood.
  • The name was changed by the Governor on 11 January 1927 to the Municipality of Holroyd.
  • The name Holroyd was chosen to honour the first Mayor, Alderman Judge Arthur Todd Holroyd.
  • The suburb is bordered by Neil Street, Pitt Street, Walpole Street and the rail line. It includes the Holroyd Gardens Development – which was officially announced on 10 June 1994.
  • The suburb was extended to the north on 15 October 1999 to include the area bordered by Walpole Street, Pitt Street, the Western Freeway (M4) as the northern boundary, Church Street, Woodville Road and the rail line.
  • This suburb has also been known as Granville West and Merrylands.

Mays Hill

  • Thomas May bought this land in 1859, when the government domain was first divided. This land surrounded Government House at Parramatta.
  • His house, Park Lodge, was built on a hill on the property. The area was planted with many citrus orchards.
  • Mays Hill was where the Council held its first meeting. As a result, the first Council Chambers were built here.
  • Mays Hill Cemetery is the only cemetery in Holroyd and contains the graves of many well-known families, including the Paytens, Fullagars, Houisons, Downs, Ardills and Mustons.
  • This cemetery was originally known as Western Road Cemetery.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Merrylands

  • Merrylands is the largest suburb in Holroyd and is the central business area of the city.
  • The name Merrylands was suggested by Arthur Todd Holroyd, the first Mayor, who named the railway station Merrylands after a family property in England.
  • Holroyd acquired his land at Merrylands in 1855. It was part of the original Sherwood Estate, which was a grant of 1,165 acres made to William Sherwin on June 25 1831, and named after the famous forest in England.
  • Arthur Holroyd brought other land nearby to extend his property.
  • Earlier land grants in the area had been made to Richard Atkins, John Bowman, Charles Walker, Benjamin Barrow and William Puckey. At the time of these grants, the Governor had reserved a large section of land for churches and schools.
  • Much of Merrylands was built on that land when subdivision began in the late 1860s.
  • Merrylands Road was approved in 1868 to join Warren and Woodville Roads.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988. Parts of this suburb have also been known as Gough Town and Loftus Park.

Pemulwuy

  • This area is named after the Bidjigal clan leader Pemulwuy (c. 1750-1802)
  • Pemulwuy led the Indigenous resistance against European settlement in the Prospect, Toongabbie, Parramatta Georges River and Hawkesbury River areas from 1795 until his death.
  • In February 2004 Holroyd City Council announced that former quarry and CSIRO sites at Prospect Hill would form the new suburb of Pemulwuy, recognising the Aboriginal significance of the site and the Aboriginal leader who played an important role in the history of the area.
  • Early property developers, advertised the property development as Nelsons Ridge, Pemulwuy – recognising Nelson Simmons Lawson, son of explorer William Lawson, and owner of the Greystanes Estate, on which Pemulwuy is located.
  • Streets in this suburb are named after local Indigenous words and early land owners.
  • Driftway Drive is named after the drift way used by the CSIRO to move sheep about their sheep biology research site, and Reconciliation Drive is named in honour of the reconciliation conference held at Prospect Hill in 1805.
  • This suburb was also known as Prospect.

Pendle Hill

  • Pendle Hill’s railway was built in the 1880s. However the station didn’t open until 12 April 1924.
  • The suburb was originally part of the acreage owned by D’Arcy Wentworth.
  • Mr George A Bond bought a large part of the farm, bounded by Pendle Way, Dunmore Street and Jones Street. He lived in what is now Dunmore House.
  • Bond’s clothing was established in 1915. And in 1923, Bond built a cotton spinning mill on his property.
  • Bond then talked the the railway authorities into building a special platform at the rail station for his employees – making their walk to work easier.
  • The suburb was named after Pendleton in Lancashire, the centre of England’s cotton industry, at Bond’s request.
  • Bonds is now an internationally successful company.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Prospect

  • In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip stood on a hill in this area and looked towards the mountains in the west; he named the eastern side of the hill Bellevue.
  • In 1789 Captain Watkin Tench, an officer from the First Fleet, stood on the hill and saw the distant Blue Mountains. He was so impressed by the prospect of their rugged beauty that the hill he stood on became known as Tench’s Prospect Hill.
  • Governor Phillip formed a farming settlement of at least 12 families in the Prospect area in 1791 granting land to convicts. Some of those convicts were still serving their sentences.
  • Prospect Reservoir is now the most prominent feature of the area. This is part of the Upper Nepean water scheme, which was completed in 1888. It conserves water for Sydney and suburbs.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Smithfield

  • Smithfield was originally called Chisholm’s Bush.
  • In 1836 John Ryan Brennan was granted 1,650 acres, on which he built a large cattle yard and meat market.
  • The Smithfield name was chosen in honour of the major meat markets in both London and Dublin.
  • When the saleyards opened in 1841, there were plans to build a village around the saleyards. These failed but the Smithfield name remained.
  • The public school opened in 1850.
  • By the 1880s Smithfield had churches for 3 different religions with cemeteries.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Toongabbie

  • Toongabbie is Aboriginal for ‘a place near water’ or ‘meeting of the waters’.
  • Old Toongabbie refers to where Toongabbee and Quarry Creeks meet.
  • The area is still often called Toongabbee Creek.
  • Settlement began in 1791 when Governor Phillip established a farm on which many convicts were employed.
  • On 1st April 1794, the first grants were recorded as ‘in the district of Toongabbie’.
  • By 1804 the area was used for cattle grazing and as a camp for convicts working there.
  • Many of the early settlers created orchards on the land and more were established when the Western railway line came through in 1880, linking Toongabbie with the thriving town of Granville.
  • One of Australia’s famous explorers was born at Toongabbie on 18 June 1797. He was Hamilton Hume who, with William Hilton Hovell, explored the route to Port Phillip in Victoria and back in 1824 to 1825.
  • Hamilton Hume died at Yass on 19 April 1873, an area he helped to discover.
  • The original district cemetery, known as Mays Hill Cemetery is nearby.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Wentworthville

  • Suburb was named after D’Arcy Wentworth, father of William Charles Wentworth – who explored the route over the Blue Mountains with Blaxland and Lawson.
  • D’Arcy Wentworth arrived as the surgeon on the ‘Neptune’ in 1790, which was convict transport in the Second Fleet.
  • In 1810 D’Arcy Wentworth received a land grant to which he added to his other land purchases until he held 2,750 acres.
  • He called the estate Fitzwilliam Place and the house Wentworth Wood House, after an English property that was owned by Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford.
  • In the 1840s, a highly respected citizen called William Fullagar established the popular Star Inn near Ettalong and Western Road.
  • Fullagar also opened the main cattle saleyards in the colony in 1845.
  • The suburb’s railway platform opened as T R Smith’s Platform in 1883. The name was changed to Wentworthville on 1 August 1885.
  • The line cut through the Wentworth Estate and in the 1880s subdivision of the land began.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Westmead

  • The name Westmead comes from ‘mead’ (old English for meadow) and ‘west’, indicating its location from Parramatta.
  • Westmead was originally the western part of the Government House land at Parramatta. The remains of the land are now Parramatta Park.
  • The name Westmead was not used until 1859 when the first part of the land was subdivided. Subdivision was completed in 1889.
  • Orchards were established by many new settlers, including some well-known people in the area – such as George Oakes, Nat Payten and William Fullagar.
  • In 1883 residents petitioned the Railways Department for a train station on the Western Line. Westmead station was built in April later that year.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Widemere

  • Widemere was once a suburb within the Greystanes region- located south-west of Holroyd, with connections to Prospect (Blacktown) and Fairfiield.
  • Widemere was the property name of the Hyland family who lived in the area.
  • The Sydney & Suburban Blue Metal Quarries Ltd operated the Widemere Quarry on the south side of Prospect Hill.
  • From October 1925, an 8 kilometre tram line operated from the quarry and ended at the railway yards near Fairfield station. It transported contents from the quarry for loading onto goods trains.
  • The Widemere Quarry line closed in 1945.
  • Widemere is remembered by Widemere Public School located in Nemesia Street, Widemere Reserve in Gardenia Parade, and Widemere Road, Wetherill Park.

Woodpark

  • A small suburb possibly named after an early estate.
  • All streets in the suburb are named after flowers.
  • There are 3 small reserves in the suburb and Sherwood Grange Public School and Holroyd High School are nearby.
  • Main pipes of the Sydney Water supply pass through this suburb. The main pipeline from Warragamba Dam runs parallel with Woodpark Road on its south side and Sydney’s water supply canal runs north.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

Yennora

  • This is a small suburb between Fairfield and Holroyd.
  • Its name is Aboriginal and means ‘to stroll’.
  • The Granville to Liverpool train line was constructed in 1927, and eventually serviced Yennora’s wool stores which were built in 1971.
  • The Yennora Wool Centre now receives wool in its natural state, prepares it for sale, arranges inspection by wool brokers, prepares the wool that has been sold for export in containers, and conducts wool sales twice a year.

Source: Frances Pollon: The Book of Sydney Suburbs, 1988.

For details about Aboriginal heritage and first settlement of the Cumberland area, see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander information.