by Ron Rathbone
Note: This self-guided history drive was published in 1962. After almost 60 years of change, it’s a fascinating journey into the past.
Commencing at the new Cooks River Bridge.
On your right you have the lovely 134-year-old country retreat of Alexander Brodie Spark. Continue along Princes Highway to Burrows Street then turn left into Eden Street. Again on your right are four very fine old homes, two of them in particularly good repair (Nos. 15 and 27). Turn left into Forest Road past the very ancient Catholic Convent building and continue on across Princes Highway to Wickham Street where you park. Leave your car and walk back along Princes Highway to the pedestrian overhead bridge. On your left is the old sandstone home of W.A. Dettman (rather difficult to see through the trees – No. 166 Princes Highway) and next door, the Arncliffe Public School, the oldest part of which dates back to 1875. (If you are athletic enough you can climb over the fence and inspect the quaint old sandstone structure).
Return to your car and continue down Wickham Street turning right into West Botany Street where there are a number of old homes. Turn right again at Avenal Street and proceed to the top of the hill. At the intersection of Avenal and Segenhoe Streets are some more fine old residences.
Continue on down Avenal Street to the Highway where you turn left until you reach Hattersley Street on your right. Proceed along Hattersley Street which has a number of old homes in it to the Banksia Subway through which you pass making two sharp left hand turns to bring you into Roach Street. Continue along Roach Street and Somerville Street to Forest Road at the junction of which is another old home, now the Catholic Presbytery.
Again turn left and proceed along Forest Road. Rosslyn Hospital is yet another old home and just past St. David’s Church on your right is “The Towers” set well back from the road. As you proceed along Forest Road, note Nos. 134/136, the enormous two storied semi-detached building near the corner of Bayview Street. This building is unique in Sydney and its ironwork quite outstanding. “Coburra” on your left and “Wilga” also on your left are also lovely old homes.
At Pile Street and Wolli Creek Road, turn right and right again to bring you into Wollongong Road back along which you proceed to Arncliffe. On your left are the twin “Milsop” Residences one in good repair, one not, but both quite distinctive. At the next cross street, stop – for here is one of Rockdale’s if not Sydney’s real glories, The Salvation Army Girls’ Home, a magnificent old mansion with a wealth of iron work unrivalled in the Metropolitan Area.
Proceed down Wollongong Road to Kembla Street where you turn left. Spare a look at No. 15 on the left (Aid. Earle’s old home) and then turn right into Hirst Street (more old houses) until passing Arncliffe Park, you come to Old St. David’s Church. Turn left up Edward Street, right into Willington Street and sharp right into Loftus Street. On your right is the Loftus Street Special School (J.G. Farleigh’s home complete with stables). If you complete your journey via Kelsey Street, Wollongong Road, Done Street and Firth Street to Forest Road you pass a wealth of old houses, a milk bar where you may quench your thirst and a telephone where you may ring the Secretary (LW. 4813) who planned this trip and abuse him if you got lost.
This article was first published in the Rockdale Historical Society (RHS) Bulletin, August 1962, vol.1 no. 4. The Rockdale Historical Society was the founding name of our society. It was changed in 1962.