Old St. David’s Church Of England Arncliffe

by Peter Orlovich

The following article, from the researching pen of Mr. Peter Orlovich, M. A. , a member of our Society, deals with certain phases of the early history of Old St. David’s Church of England at Arncliffe, and also throws light on the pioneering Hannam family who were amongst the early settlers of the area. The article was initially prepared for the congregation of, shall we say, New St. David’s, located at Forest Road, Arncliffe. Through the kindness of the Rector, the Rev. N. G. Robinson, our Society has been permitted to republish the article, which has great historical value. So little information has survived in relation to Old St. David’s, a circumstance brought about by the loss of relevant minute books and a somewhat chequered existence under different administrations. A further article, to be published by the Society, is in course of preparation.

The story of Old St. David’s Church of England, Arncliffe, might be said to commence with the conviction and transportation of Reuben Hannam alias Richard Hannam to New South Wales in 1811. Reuben Hannam, a brick and tile maker by calling, and a native of Somersetshire, England, was convicted at the Somerset Assizes on the 31st March, 1810, and sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived in Sydney on the convict transport “Admiral Gambler” on the 29th September, 1811, and in due course was employed as Overseer of Brick Makers in Sydney.

Rueben Hannam’s Cottage (Wolli Creek)

In August, 1813, Reuben Hannam addressed a Memorial to Governor Macquarie, in which he stated:-

“That the Memorialist is a Prisoner of this Colony, and arrived in the Ship Admiral Gambier, having much reason to consider that his Term of Transportation is during his natural Life. That the Memorialist left in England, a Vhf and Children for whom he has entertained a Serious affection, and whom, he has most lamentably to reflect, must be under extreme hardships in their native country as they are bereft of their only succour a Husband and a Father. That the great and compassionate goodness of his Most Majesty extended tcr your poor Memorialist that mercy which continues to him a blessing of existence, so that he might cordially repent of his past Errors, and regenerate in this distant Region, under Your Excellency’s benign authority, wherefore, your Memorialist, conscious that the power which interposed in lengthening the days, had no less in view, the promotion of the happiness of your Memorialist, should his conduct render him worthy of the favourable charge, he entertains a hope that through the Medium of Your Excellency’s humane Representation and interposition, his Wife and Family may be permitted to follow his footsteps and to share his Destinies, which Memorialist is assured his forlorn partner would very gladly do. The Memorialist therefore supplicates Your Excellency in this behalf; that he may share in the bounty which has extended itself so generally for the good of the Unfortunate, most humbly prays as the greatest blessing he can derive on Earth to see his Dear Wife and Children once again, and believe great and good Sir, that his tears and theirs gratefully flow in praise of your goodness &c

Reuben Hannam”

This Memorial, together with a certificate signed by the Rev. William Cowper (Assistant Chaplain) and Isaac Nichols (Principal Superinten- dent of Convicts) testifying to the good conduct of Reuben Hannam in the Colony, was transmitted by Governor Macquarie to Under Secretary Goulburn on the 20th August, 1813 with a request that the documents be submitted for the favourable consideration of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Bathurst, and recommending him to- order a passage for Hannam’s wife and children “in one of the first Convict Ships coming out to this Colony.” (Historical Records of Australia, Ser. 1, v. 8, p. 78-79)

As a direct consequence of Reuben Hannam’s Memorial, his son David embarked on the “Lady Northampton” about the same time and sailed for New South Wales, his age then being about 8 years. David Hannam settled in the colony, and on the 15th November, 1825 was ordered or promised 60 acres of land by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane. The land was soon thereafter occupied by David Hannam in the Parish of St. George, County of Cumberland, although the grant was not made until the 31st August, 1833 by Governor Bourke, on the condition that 16 acres be cleared and cultivated, or buildings or fences erected, or other permanent improvements made to the value of £10. Reuben Hannam was granted 100 acres on the same date adjoining his son’s farm.

David Hannam married Mary Masterson of the Airds district on the 17th March, 1828 at St. Peter’s Church, Campbelltown. David was then aged 23 and his wife was 17 years old. They resided apparently on the farm at “Cook’s River”, with John Masterson, aged 12 years, and three assigned or emancipated convict labourers.

In 1857, David and Mary Hannam had a family of twelve, Reuben (28 years) John (25), Elizabeth (23), Mary (21), Phillis (18), David (16), James Australia (14), Charlotte (12), Sarah Jane (10), Catharine (8), Lydia (6) and Louisa Ruth (born 6th April, 1857).

Reuben Hannam died on the 14th December, 1852 aged 73 years, his wife predeceasing him at the age of 62 years on the 5th February, 1852. David Hannam died at the age of 67 years on the 5th September, 1872 at his residence on the “New Illawarra Road” at Cook’s River. He was survived by his widow, four sons and eight daughters.

Old St David’s, Arncliffe

The site of Old St. David’s Church, Arncliffe is located within the primary grant issued to David Hannam. There were clearly two churches erected on the site. The earlier of the two appears to have been erected early in 1861, and a reference to its construction was made in The Church of England Chronicle, vol. 5, No. 5, March 7th, 1961. p. 36:-

“PARISH OF ST. PETER’S, COOK’S RIVER”

“A small School-house has lately been built for the benefit of a numerous and scattered population south of the Cook’s River Dam. Half an acre of land was kindly given by Mr. D. Hannam several years ago, and some money collected, the work was begun, but soon failed; and a traveller through the retired bush between Woolli Creek and the Eastern Wollongong Road, would have stumbled suddenly on grass-grown ruins of rubble work, half raised between rough hewn corner posts. During the last few months a sub- scription has again been set on foot and carried out with praise- worthy zeal by wives of two respectable cottagers, so that on the whole £42 has been raised. The building was recommenced, the front and two end walls of good stonework, the back wall of slabs, in the hope of afterwards adding two rooms for a Teacher’s residence. The roof is of galvanised iron for security against bush fires; the ceiling and slabs inside neatly covered with calico; the floor of Asphalte, which will, it is hoped, combine a constant dryness with freedom from white ants. The building is 22 feet long, by 14 feet wide, and 8 feet high under the eaves, and the whole presents a pleasant appearance. A neat pulpit and forms (to seat about 40 persons) complete the furniture inside. The whole cost is £43.

On Sunday afternoon, February 24th, the first service was performed by the Rev. A. H. Bull, M. A. , Minister of the district of St.. Peter’s, who purposes to attend there on alternate Sunday afternoons.

A collection was made after the service amounting to £1.11. lOd. , to complete the funds required.

Mr. Charles Kellett has undertaken the charge of the school., which having no aid from Government, must at least for the present depend on local resources.

A.H.B.”

St David’s Church of England (circa 1875)

The second church -, the. present structure – appears to have been built sometime between 1875 and 1892, for in 1875, the Rev. Stanley Howard, incumbent of St. Peter’s, Cook’s River, recorded his observations of the original School-house and church in a letter to a relative, a copy of which was published in the Church of England Messenger, Arncliffe of August, 1934. (See attached copy).

The Town and Country Journal of the 27th August, 1892 featured an article on the churches of Christ Church, Bexley and St. David’s Arncliffe, including sketches of both, and the latter is quite clearly the present Old St. David’s. “It has not much pretension to architectural beauty, but is not unpicturesque”, noted the observer .. . . “St. David’s is a much older building than Christchurch, and what there is of architecture is of an early English character. The weather stained shingle roof gives a good bit of rich brown grey., and the primitive belfry is, in its way, not uncomely.”

There are, however, two main questions which I consider essential to a more rounded history of the Church, but which I regret I have been as yet unable to answer:

(1) When, and what form of legal title to the land occupied by the Church was actually granted to the Church or its trustees?

(2) When the present structure was built?

I regret I could not undertake the research to establish these points at present. I trust this information supplied will be of some benefit.”

“St. Peter’s Parsonage,

St. Peters, nr. Sydney, N. S. W.

Monday, 22nd August, 1875.

I have long contemplated a day’s riding in the bush with my good neighbour, Mr. Done, over the River, to view his parish. We agreed to do it this day: so I provided myself with a bag full of edibles not to be despised even by a dainty appetite; and we met at the dam at 10 o’clock. First we rode for about a mile and a half to Arncliffe Church, which was certainly a remarkable edifice. I hardly ever tried to sketch in my life before, as you will suppose when you see the accompanying attempts; but I feel I must try and put a few lines together to give you an idea of the reality; and I think I have partly succeeded. Someone who visited it said they must certainly not destroy that when they built another, but leave it as a “fossil remains.” The attempt at the sketch inside is the least successful, because I can’t manage the shading — but I must send it. The Vestry you see is an old clothes horse done up with canvas and whitewash. Over the desk is a. hole in the ceiling — for ventilation I suppose — from which frequently appears a large green snake, hanging down over the preacher’s head. On the walls are tacked pieces of bent tin supporting “patty pan” to hold the candles. A very old-looking table and a few clean benches completes the ecclesiastical furniture of this Cathedral Church I must confess that it looked clean enough in spite of the rest.

St Davids, Arncliffe – 1875

From this we rode through the bush, along roads which were often the merest tracks, to Belmore. We occasionally got on a good road for a while, and passed nice cottages with pretty orange trees loaded with fruit in the gardens. Then we would suddenly dive into the forest again, and ride through tall, thick bush, among which the acacia was most lovely, in full blossom, so rich and golden. Belmore Church is better than my sketch represents. We heard the children read. Then we rode to Connelly’s Creek, and, borrowing a “billy-pot” and cups (yes, and she actually gave us saucers and spoons, which quite spoilt our bush tea, as it requires to be stirred with a stick to give it its true flavour), we found a sheltered place at the foot of two big gum trees and lit our fire, and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. It was great fun Mr. Done is an elderly gentleman, but full of spirits, and a most genial as well as spiritually minded companion. I believe he felt as much as a boy as I did The spot will not soon be forgotten by me. If I were a sketcher I would send you a pencil representation of it. I need hardly say that it was (as George used to express it when we went for expeditions together ) “sanctified by the word of God — – it was John xvii — and prayer.”

Then we rode up a slope on the opposite side of the little creek, and dived again into a very pretty piece of regular forest, amongst which the rays of the afternoon sun shone softly and richly. After a few miles we came to Lord’s Forest Church, which I had not time to put on paper, but I send you an extract from an inscription. We reached Mr. Done’s house at Rocky Point — a small but very substantial new parsonage which he has had great difficulty in raising — at sunset. I could not stay to touch the neatly prepared tea, but hastened home, having thoroughly enjoyed the 26 mile ride.”

This article was first published in the February 1970 edition of our magazine.
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A Link with the Past

by Fred Gannon

In his beautiful home at Tempe Mr. Fred Gannon, who is the oldest solicitor on the rolls of New South Wales, now spends the quiet evening of his days. He has reached a hardy old age of 85 interesting years; his wife is still living, and his sons and relations worthily carry on the famous name in the legal circles of Sydney. Time was when Mr. Gannon held for many years the largest criminal practice in the city, and his experiences run far back to the beginnings of the State.

Mr. Gannon is supposed to be an invalid; but his long record in sport has left him hardier than the average man of middle age. His memories are clear about famous criminals, but more vivid in his remembrance of the shooting matches he won and the games he had played. His house is filled with trophies won at pigeon shooting; one room is almost lined with silver prizes. He was a great cricketer in the old Albert Ground – in the days when it was not considered playing the game to bowl overhand; and as a fisherman he was famous.

Mr. Gannon was born in Argyle Street. His father, Mr. Michael Gannon, was a well-known early settler. He bought what was afterwards known as Gannon’s Forest, an expanse of bush that started from Arncliffe and extended to Hurstville, 2400 acres of valuable firewood. He paid for it only 7/6 an acre; and his son, Mr. Leslie Gannon, solicitor, holds the original deed. Gannon’s Forest nowadays includes all Bexley, Rockdale, Carlton, and Hurstville, and every acre is worth approximately £500.

Michael Gannon was a shrewd man. There was only one way of getting into Gannon’s Forest to cut firewood, and only one way to come out – that was at the dam at Tempe. There was a toll-gate there, and Michael Gannon was on the spot. Every cart going in to cut firewood had to pay toll to the owner of the forest for his load. Thousands of loads were cut every day to keep the home fires of Sydney burning.

Sixty years ago Cook’s River was the Potts Point of Sydney. It was the residential area of all the leading men of those days; and the curious visitor will find to-day the remains of fine old houses, each set proudly on one of the high hills. Tempe’s great industry was shell-gathering, to burn for lime; for this was before the great discovery of good limestone quarries. The late Mr. D. Cairncross, of Rockdale, was one of the early lime-burners.

The communication with Sydney was chiefly by ‘buses, and when the road was muddy the ‘bus proprietors got any price they demanded. There were profiteers even in those days.”

This article was first published in the February 1970 edition of our magazine.
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Book Review – The Aborigines of the Sydney District before 1788 by Peter Turbet, Kangaroo Press 1989 (160 pages)

reviewed by Laurice Bondfield


The author collects together in this small book as much information as possible about the tribes who lived in the Sydney region before 1788. He covers such topics as social organisation, languages, food gathering, marriage and family life, medical treatments, religion, initiation and artistic expression. Although the Aboriginal people who lived along the coastline of NSW shared many customs, they were also diverse in languages, tools and cultural practices.

The writer cites three types of sources for the information he presents: the observations of the colonial diarists and missionaries, the memoirs and testimonies of Aboriginal people and the results of archaeological excavation.

The St George District was home to the Bidjigal people. It is possible that their territory extended as far as Castle Hill. The famous guerilla leader Pemulwuy had connections to this area. In 1790 he fatally speared a man named M’Entire near the Cooks River. Later in 1797 he took refuge in the country near the mouth of the Georges River after escaping from a hospital in Parramatta.

Local archaeological digs at Curracurang overhang in Royal National Park and a shell midden at Gymea Bay have yielded information about the shelter and diet of Bidjigal people. A tantalising reference by a colonial diarist to a “village of bark huts” that once stood near the mouth of the Cooks River makes you wish to know more- were they a permanent seasonal site or something more?

The evidence of rock art at La Perouse and in Royal National Park shelters gives evidence of a rich cultural and religious life.

The Aborigines of the Sydney District Before 1788 is a good first reference book. It was published in 1989 and in the 22 years since then more research has been carried out. Most of this research is published in academic journals and is sometimes difficult for the general reader to gain access to. In the last few years one or two more books on Aboriginal life in the Sydney region for a general audience have been published and I intend to review one of them, Rivers and Resilience about Aboriginal life past and present on the Georges River, for a later journal as Rockdale Library has a copy.


This article was first published in the January 2011 edition of our magazine.
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New Logo and Magazine Archive

New SGHS Logo

During our November meeting, members unanimously approved a new logo designed by Tina Workman.

The striking image at the centre of the logo is of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. It represents our connection to the St George District.

Magazine Archive

Our society has published a regular newsletter/bulletin/magazine since 1961. Over 440 editions have been produced.

Fred Scott has digitised each edition. The process requires considerable effort to scan each page. The volunteers and staff at the Internet Archive apply a similar process to build their digital library. A video of the process shows the careful effort to build this valuable resource.

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Many Thanks to Tina Workman and Fred Scott!

The Rockdale Historical Society – Tasks For The New Society

Precis of a talk delivered on 12th July, 1961, by Mr. W. Poster (Councillor of the Royal Historical Society of N.S.W. and Headmaster of the James Cook High School, Kogarah)

The chief task of any newly formed Historical Society is to add to the information already in existence.

The Rockdale Historical Society has an almost unlimited field in which to work.

James Cook, discoverer of this part of Australia and possibly the first white man to set foot in what is now the Rockdale Municipality,is comparatively unknown yet a wealth of information on him is available.

The same may be said of Arthur Phillip.

This district is particularly rich in family histories. Those of James Chandler whose estate “Bexley” covered a huge portion at the Rockdale Municipality and Alexander Brodie Sparkes whose home “Tempe House” still stands would each make a first class lecture.

No one has yet written a history of the Rockdale School of Arts yet all its records are still in existence. Only the Rockdale Methodist Church has written a history of its existence. The history of State and Federal Politics in this area is untouched despite the fact that this district produced some of the most colourful personalities of the early years.

Accuracy must be the keynote of all research. “Everything is wrong until it can be proved right”.

Where can this information be obtained?

Thanks to the foresight of David Scott Mitchell, Australia has an- unrivalled collection of its early history. Mitchell was an assiduous collector of Australiana. When he died in 1907 he left over .70,000 volumes and 6,000 manuscripts and diaries on Australia plus £70,000 for additional purchases. Australia, thanks to Mitchell, is the only country in the world which can trace its origins from its original beginnings. Today the collection numbers some 150,000 volumes.

Always go to the Mitchell Library where original manuscripts, newspapers and Statistical register and the Historical Records of N.S.W. are available. Secure a reader’s ticket and the rest is up to you.

Other places to obtain information include the Railways’ Department Historical Society, the Registrar General’s Department for early land grants and transfers. The Lands Department. The records of various churches, Municipal records and newspapers.

All are available to the genuine student of history.

This article was first published in the February 1962 edition of our magazine.

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No Ordinary Flag

In 1915, after the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli and as men around the country were joining the Australian Imperial Force, a small group at Bexley Public School took up their needles to support the war effort. By making a donation to the local fund to buy ‘comforts’ for the troops, donors could have their names embroidered on the flag. Fifty-nine donors came forward and raised £42.

Continue reading “No Ordinary Flag”

A Suggested Sunday Afternoon Drive

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.
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The Early Settlement of Wolli Creek

by Gifford Eardley

The Wolli Creek, one of the principal tributaries of Cook’s River, junctions with the latter immediately adjacent to the railway bridge at Tempe. In former years its upper waters flowed complacently through a gently sloped forested area which merged into sandstone hill country in the vicinity of the present day Bexley North Railway Station. These sandstone hills were covered with indigenous flora of great beauty and even to-day small remnants of gum tree forest remain within the confines of Girraiween Park at Earlwood. The rocky escarpment continues along the northern and then western banks of the stream to Nanny-goat Hill at Turrella. At the old Arncliffe Street ford (now Henderson Street) the lower waters become brackish and subject to tidal influence, although the banks are still a waving mass of reeds, the haunt of reed-warblers, grass-birds, ibis and coot.

East of the ford the stream follows a winding course through alluvial flats until salt water is reached in the vicinity of the eastern slope of Unwin’s Hill which, at this point is contiguous with the northern bank. Here the stream widened and flowed through a dense forest of swamp oaks established on the flood lands just above normal high water mark. This location has completely lost its trees and its once pristine beauty has been despoiled by vast quantities of household rubbish dumped on the site by courtesy of the Canterbury Municipal Council. Curving to the north the stream avoids the low rocky knoll which became the site of Tempe House and near the Tempe Railway Station mingles its waters with Cook’s River.

Wolli Creek has a length of approximately six miles and drains an area which lays midway between the watersheds of Georges River and Cook’s River.

For the purposes of this narrative it is thought best to trace the development of settlement along the meanderings of Wolli Creek by conveniently commencing from Rocky Point Road at the intersection of old time Arncliffe Street. Incidentally the name “Wolli” is understood to have the aboriginal meaning of “Camping Place.” It is proposed to give a description as far as my personal explorations of the area have permitted, of the various residences and farm houses which had been erected at different times prior to the beginning of the present century.

Before commencing our journey westwards we may give a backward glance across the samphire marsh land laying eastwards from Rocky Point Road to “Bonnie Doon”, a palatial residence nestling in the lee of a grove of magnificent Moreton Bay figtrees, which, unfortunately, have recently been sadly butchered. The original builder of “Bonnie Doon” has still to be ascertained by the writer but a family named McCrae was in occupation around the eighteen-nineties, Latterly the grounds have been utilised for golfing purposes, the old home being placed in good repair and adapted, #6 a club house.

Immediately beyond the northern approach to the Cook’s River Bridge (or the earlier dam located on the site) could be seen the two kilns where Mr. Caincross burnt shells to make lime for the building of old Sydney town. It is understood the furnaces were located either on or near Holbeach Avenue at the head of the boat harbour.

Opposite the intersection of Arncliffe Street and Rocky Point Road were three wharves (the larger being known as the Main Wharf) against the Cooks River western bank where sleepers necessary for the construction of the suburban section of the Illawarra Railway were unloaded. These sleepers were cut in the forests of the Northern Rivers and brought to the entrance of Botany Bay by schooners and other sailing craft. The timber was unloaded into flat-bottomed and square-ended scows and taken by a small exuberant-voiced tug-boat to the aforementioned three wharves. Here the sleepers were unloaded by a crane and placed on small railway trucks for haulage by horses to the contractor’s depot located midway between Sydenham (then Marrickville) and St. Peters Railway Stations. This little know tramway crossed Rocky Point Road on the level and skirted the southern bank of Cooks River between the road and the Illawarra Railway bridges. Approaching the vicinity of the latter the tramway curved northwards and, crossing the river by means of a temporary trestle, followed the route of the present line to the depot. It is of interest to note that the materials for the construction of the railway bridge at Como were taken over this tramway from the depot to the wharves and then by punt and tugboat to Botany Bay, along the channel to Georges River and thence upstream to Como. It may be assumed that the tramway was removed about 1883 or 1884.

The building of the Western Suburbs Sewer Main, the fine viaducts of which can be seen in many places stretching across the Arncliffe flats, also brought traffic to the wharves at Tempe. Bricks in vast quantities were landed from punts and taken to the scene of operations by a more or less unending stream of horse-drawn tip carts.

After this digression we turn westwards and immediately on our left, with its frontage to Rocky Point Road, is the old Tempe Family Hotel. This two storey hostelry flanked by tall Norfolk Island Pines and having age old gum trees in the back yard, appears to have been opened by Mr. McInnes. The hotel eventually came into the possession of Mr. Jacobs and was subsequently renamed the “Gladstone”. It was closed about 1911 under the provisions of the Local Option Act and remained in a more or less derelict condition until 195 when it was demolished and the site utilised as a garage. In its heyday, before the coming of the Illawarra Railway, mine host advertised in the South Coast newspapers that the hotel was most convenient for visitors travelling by road to the city. Their horses could be provided with ample agistment, the menu and liquor list all that could be desired and horse coaches left Tempe at specified times for Sydney. In the vicinity of the Gladstone Hotel, perhaps next door, was the general store of William Smithson who catered for the needs of the local village of Tempe (the name given to the hanlet clustered around the old “Tempe” homestead south of Cooks River) and also provided postal facilities for the district at large.

We now enter the eastern extremity of Arncliffe Street, a truly rural thoroughfare, with the Tempe Family Hotel agistment paddock and sundry down-at-heel stables and sheds on our left and a rock walled cutting, marking the southern boundary of Mr. Spark’s ‘Tempe House” property, on our right. The shingled roofed stables, wash house, and out buildings of “Tempe House” are next met, perched on high ground above the level of Arncliffe Street; access to these structures was made by a private road which led through the property from Rocky Point Road, the access gate still being in use today.

“Tempe House” was built about 1828 by Alexander Brodie Spark a business man of Sydney, on the southern bank of Cooks River. It was a typical and elegant country residence of the period, which contained six large rooms in addition to the usual kitchen scullery and other appointments. The grounds were extensive and laid out in gardens and orchards. Many native trees were retained and mingled well with European tree planting.

Mr. Spark died in October, 1856 and the property was ultimately divided into a large number of small allotments ranged around the then newly constructed Bonar and Spark Streets in the western area. Amongst later owners of “Tempe House” was Mr. Richardson who subsequently moved to “Wickham” a fine house erected on the western side of Rocky Point Road immediately north of the Forest Road intersection.

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan, a Roman Catholic order, came into the possession of “Tempe House” early in eighteen eighties and opened their well known laundry, St. Magdalen’s Retreat, in 1887. These good people have kept the home in excellent repair and the old atmosphere has been retained amidst sylvan surroundings.

The Illawarra Road, which found its way to Wollongong and places beyond, left Arncliffe Street at a point almost opposite and south of “Tempe House” stables. This once main thoroughfare has been by-passed with the coming of the Illawarra Railway and relegated to a secondary street serving the surrounding industrial area which has developed in recent years.

At the south-western corner of Illawarra Road and Arncliffe Street was located the stables and coach houses of the Circular Quay – Tempe line of horse omnibuses. Although plying from the northern side of Cooks River Bridge the busmen always carried passengers to and from the depot. In the depot yard was a large pond in daily use for watering and bathing the horses. All trace of this once busy scene was removed when the area was adapted for tramway store purposes.

Continuing westwards along the course of Arncliffe Street, the former home attached to Grundy’s Dairy is to be seen on the south side of the roadway. This building is four square in its design and built of brick. It served from about 1916 onwards as the administration office for the Wolli Creek Tram Depot, an establishment that has recently been abandoned and one devoted to the storage of materials relative to tramway trackage. A grove of casurina trees, survivals of the days of yore, were axed out of existence in 1961. There was also a Cabbage Tree Palm which flourished against and inside the railway fence until removed for the benefit of somebody’s cabbage patch. It was the first of the species out from Sydney and one that authority should have retained for this very reason. Now it is no more and the cabbage patch has reverted to a weedy growth of no particular interest.

Opposite Grundy’s dairy farm but on the northern side lay Mr. Mitchell’s cottage with its frontage facing Spark Street, the site afterwards being marked by a solitary magnolia tree. The house was somewhat similar in appearance to the Grundy residence.

Spark Street led northwards, from the intersection with Arncliffe Street to Cooks River, where a short dead-end continuation, named Tempe Street led eastwards alongside the southern river bank. Immediately opposite Mr. Mitchell’s Place and later divided from its spark Street frontage by the railway, was Pine Farm. This cottage was demolished to make way for the quadruplication of the Illawarra Railway and was sited against the present Wolli Creek Junction Signal Box. Portion of the old garden still remains and the magnolia and other trees adjacent to the signal box formerly surrounded the little weatherboard building. The advent of the Illawarra Railway brought about the realignment of Spark Street and its western boundary was now formed by the post and rails of the railway fence. A short laneway, which may still be seen, was made to connect with Pine Farm, the track passing between the present Arncliffe Timber Company’s premises and the railway fence on the western side of the line.

Leaving Spark Street the Arncliffe Street continued westwards and, about 1882-3, was ramped to cross the railway on the level. Gates across the roadway were installed and a four-square standard pattern gate-keeper’s residence, with central chimney, was erected on the south-western side of the crossing. This building still stands and is occupied, so it is understood, by one of the railway gangers. For many years a large willow-tree shed its beauty and materially assisted in draining the gate-house yard of its excess moisture, but was removed for reasons unknown.

About 1914-15 the Government resumed, for tramway depot purposes, a short section of Arncliffe Street east of and including the railway level crossing. The resumption also included the full length of Spark Street, the Grundy farm and the bus depot on the southern side of that Street, together with the adjacent Mitchell property. A single line extension of the Cooks River Tramway was carried along Rocky Point Road and across the Cook’s River Bridge. This line curved into Arncliffe Street and terminated in a number of sidings serving the various adjuncts of the new depot. The large elevated blue-metal bins that had previously been erected on Erskineville Railway Goods Sidings were dismantled and re-erected at the Wolli Creek Depot. A portion of this structure, now derelict, remains in-situ although the tramway tracks have largely been removed. The area has been handed over to private industry in recent years and is now graced by the tanks and elevators of concrete mixing establishments.

With the resumption of Arncliffe Street, just mentioned, it was necessary to provide road traffic with an alternative crossing of the Illawarra Railway tracks. To this end a by-pass, known for years as Arncliffe Street and later as Guess Avenue, left Bonar Street and passing eastward through the old Fripp property it entered a subway beneath the lines. The by-pass then skirted the southern border of the former Mitchell property to the intersection of the Illawarra Road.

Next door and on the western side of Arncliffe Street Level Crossing gatekeeper’s cottage is a small weatherboard building formerly in the possession of the Fripp family. A tiny detached kitchen with a wide brick chimney was at the rear of the premises and lay derelict and creeper enshrouded for some years prior to its demolition in 19 . The Fripp property extended southwards to Thompson Street and westward to Bonar Street. Across the road from the Bonar Street frontage another member of the Fripp family lived in a small slab hut which had to be demolished to make way for the Western Suburbs Sewer.

About 1894 Mr. Justin McSweeney, a leading contractor specialising in civil engineering and railway works purchased the southernmost portion of the Fripp property, bounded by Thompson and Bonar Streets. As a residence suitable for a bachelor he erected a one-room wide two storey house flush with the Thompson Street, frontage. On the northern side of this building he placed verandahs to both ground and upper floor which permitted a fine view over the swamp lands surrounding Wolli Creek and Cook’s River. Twitted by his confreres about this somewhat humble abode McSweeney built the mansion known as “Kirnbank” which adjoined and was connected with his first home. It is said that after the building was completed he married Miss Dawson (of Dawson’s hotel near the Mortuary Station at Sydney). This lady found no favour with the locality and the McSweeneys moved to more congenial surroundings at Elizabeth Bay. “Kirnbank” was then occupied by McSweeney’s sister and niece.

The grounds were pleasantly laid out and a terraced rose garden was a special feature, the bushes being supplied by the neighbouring Johnson’s Nursery. The fine balustrade which still remains on the property was moulded in cement by Mr. Martin who resided nearby in Booth Street. Along the fence line of the railway was planted an avenue of Moreton Bay fig-trees and camphor-laurels, one the finest landmarks in the district. Unfortunately these have been largely destroyed by the inroads of a not particularly tidy industrial undertaking.

Mr. McSweeney owned the Federal Timber Mill at Rozelle and amongst a multitude of other contracts built the Harris Street Electric Tramway at Pyrmont, the Erskineville Tramway and the section of line between the Gap and Watsons Bay Terminus. One of his major works was the construction of the Western Suburbs Sewer which passed beneath “Kirnbank” on its way to the nauseous Arncliffe Sewerage Farm located at the southern shores of Cook’s River near its entrance to Botany Bay. McSweeney was greatly interested in race horses and ran his own stable. Said horses broke down his fabulous rose garden thereby breaking the heart of Mr. Johnson, the nearby nurseryman who had planted and tended the once glorious show.

Nearly opposite the Fripp’s cottage, on the northern side of Arncliffe Street, was a four roomed cottage of brick. This edifice was named “Ferngrove” and still retained its original shingled roof which, in later years was covered with corrugated iron. The building was occupied, prior to 1890, by the Anderson family who conducted a nursery business on the premises. Then came the Johnson family of Nurserymen who carried on well into the 1930’s. Mr. Johnson also established a nursery on the western side of the Western Suburb’s outfall Sewer main, the site nowadays being used by a carrying concern. “Ferngrove”eventually came into the possession of Mr. Lusty who had married a daughter of the former owner. His name is perpetuated in Lusty Street, a title given to the short section of the old Arncliffe Street between the Bonar Street intersection and the long abandoned level railway crossing.

A deviation of Arncliffe Street was made necessary with the construction of the above-mentioned Western Suburbs Sewer Main. Pedestrians could pass through a single arched subway beneath the structure but road traffic had to be diverted into the up-graded Bonar Street until the underground portion of the main had been crossed. Here a by-pass road ran down hill on the western side of the main to rejoin Arncliffe Street. Skirting the northern boundary of Johnson’s Nursery the intersection of Water Street is reached. This laneway passed northward through the salt marsh to give access to Wolli Creek. At Water Street corner the old Arncliffe Street turned south-westwards, skirting an extensive gardening property, cultivated at one time by Mr. Sun Lee, which lay between the roadway and Wolli Creek. The house occupied by the Chinese gardeners was formerly the West Botany Primitive Methodist Church which, presumably after the “Union” in 1901-2 when this sect linked forces with the Wesleyan religious group, came into the possession of the Chinamen. The old brick building now became cluttered with sundry cart and packing sheds of all heights and shapes. There is something whimsical and wholly delightful about Chinese architecture of the shanty variety. Squares, levels, and plumbs go by the board and sundry holes, both large and small, are covered by the best means and materials available. To the artist the effect is truly delightful but to the regulation conscious Municipal Official the result is a nightmare of incongruity.

In 1961 the whole ensemble of abandoned Methodist Church and its oriental additions was torn down and the once beautifully laid out market garden levelled ready for the erection of yet another factory.

Almost opposite the site of the old Primitive Methodist Church is the intersection of Nelson Street, a short thoroughfare giving connection with Walker Street which skirts the base of the rocky escarpment known as Vinegar Hill (later as The Knoll) and runs parallel with and on the southern side of Arncliffe Street. Located at the south-west corner of Nelson Street is the two-storey house formerly occupied by Mr. Walker. This gentleman built the aforementioned Primitive Methodist Church and was principal leader and preacher to its small congregation. His home is remarkably featureless in design and free from the usual embellishments which decorated other houses of its period. Unfortunately the premises, though still occupied, are falling into disrepair and, so it is mooted, will shortly be dismantled.

Almost immediately opposite the Walker residence in Walker Street is a small weatherboard cottage ensconced behind a huge camphor-laurel tree and perched on the steep slopes of the hillside well above street level. This old home has the distinction of being the second oldest building the immediate area, the Walker home being the first.

Continuing in its south-westerly direction Arncliffe Street skirted the border of the original grant made to William Packer which, until recently, was intensely cultivated as a market garden. The area is destined for industrial development and the once fertile ground has been covered with mullock filling in order to bring it to road level. Arncliffe Street turned sharply to the northwest to follow the western boundary of this former market garden. Cousin’s Dairy-farm built on Chant’s land lay against the roadway immediately north of the present Goddard Street. Their property was later subdivided into a number of housing blocks.

Before turning westwards to follow the northern boundary of the historic Hannam grant, Arncliffe Street passed by “Wolliville”, (No.139) a two-storey residence belonging to the Brickwood family. This fine residence is peculiar in having the upper windows of two rear wings facing inward on to a central courtyard covered by an extension of the roof (a most unusual arrangement) and left open at its outer or eastern side.

We now reach the property formerly allocated to Reuben Hannam, a convict who eventually became overseer of the Government brickyards established on the southern slopes of Brickfield Hill in Sydney on what is now the site of Anthony Hordern & Sons. According to report Reuben Hannam was instrumental in making the first sandstock bricks, from a mixture composed of lime, ash, and sand. As a reward he was allocated a grant of 100 acres along the southern bank of Wolli Creek. It would appear that apart from constructing a small two roomed cottage on the estate little use was made of this land until it came into the possession of the Bucknell family. When this event took place the Hannam’s moved across to the opposite side of Arncliffe Street and lived in a rambling weatherboard building which stands today as No. 112. It is said that the old well (reputed to never run dry) is covered by the cottage next door (No. ). Reuben Hannam died in 1852 and his son David resided for many years at No. 112.

William Bucknell erected quite a commodious residence of stone which he named “Avondale”. Considerable improvements were made to the land and it has been stated that sheep farming was one of the many pursuits carried on by this gentleman. The house evidently became damp and when first noted by the writer it had its outer walls encased in weatherboard; really a weatherboard veneer in modern parlance. There were dormer windows projecting along the line of the front roof, the latter being of the type known as “Snug Dutch” which was very popular in house design along the Hawkesbury River. The fence ranging along Arncliffe Street was bordered with pine trees which were removed when portion of the land was taken over for the East Hills Railway in the late nineteen-twenties. After William Bucknell’s death, “Avondale” was maintained more as a residence than a farm and only a few cows and horses were to be seen in the various paddocks. One of the sons, ‘Lionel’ by name, took over a station property in the Inverell district and Reginald who resided at Avondale, became the local stock inspector.

A grave was located at a short distance east of the frontage of Avondale and marked by a six feet high vertical pillar of rounded sandstone, the whole being enclosed by a low white-painted picket fence. Prior to the demolition of “Avondale” (about 1927 – 1928) this headstone was removed, although the white fence still remained in-situ.

The advent of he East Hills Railway made necessary the realignment of Arncliffe Street in the vicinity of the present Turrella Railway Station. The continuation westwards of the old road to the Wolli Creek water – splash has been named Henderson Street; the northern frontages of which are now occupied by a series of industrial undertakings which have eliminated all trace of the former “Avondale” homestead. The diversion of Arncliffe Street southwards alongside the Turrella Railway station was named Loftus Street and has since been re-named Turrella Street.

Reverting to the old time Arncliffe Street we find that almost immediately opposite “Avondale” and on the southern side of the Arncliffe Street alignment was the property and stone residence of the Chappelow family of whom there is a record in 1853. These people established a dairy and the home paddock was the somewhat rocky area bounded by Arncliffe, Henry, Cook and Hannam Streets. Incidentally the short dead-end street, aptly named Short Street, which invaded into the Chappelow property from Cook Street, served two houses (Nos. 2 and 3) and was extended through to Arncliffe Street, when the local street arrangements were modified about 1927 – 1928 in connection with the East Hills Railway. Short Street now became Reede Street and gave direct access from Turrella Railway Station to Cook Street and places beyond. The Chappelow homestead, located near the intersection of Henry and Arncliffe Streets, was enshrouded by a dense growth of trees which included a magnificent Moreton Bay Fig Tree. The dairy cattle were also placed on an agistment paddock which ranged along the southern bank of Wolli Creek in the vicinity of Ferngrove Nursery. In later years the property was taken over by Streets Ice Cream Limited and all trace of the Chappelow homestead and its tree-girt surroundings have been removed.

Proceeding along Arncliffe Street and accompanied by the row of magnificent pine trees flanking the boundary fence of the Bucknell property we reach the Hannam Street intersection. On the western side of this intersection was located the Griggs’ homestead, named “Valencia” which was distinguished by splendid cedar tree, hard by the front gate and also by several pepper-trees, which added their lustre at the rear of the premises. As the house stood in the projected path of the East Hills Railway it had to be demolished, the materials being utilised in the building of a new home which stands near the corner of Hannam and Turrella Streets. However, the cedar tree remained for many years before it fell before the wanton axe of one who did not like trees.

Westwards from Hannam Street the old and now abandoned route of Arncliffe Street fell sharply through a shallow cutting to the water-splash or ford laid through the waters of Wolli Creek. The stream was and is to this day, most picturesque, at this point. Weeping willows line both banks, broken here and there by sombre-hued she-oaks and there is even a basket willow to be seen hard by the foot bridge which has supplanted the original forded crossing. The plaintive call of the grass-bird and the rich melody of the reed-warblers can be heard at the proper season whilst in winter the area is haunted by coveys of black duck and literally hundreds of Pred Cormorants. In and out amongst the reed beds are dab-chicks, dotterals, and water hens, whilst the constantly flicking white tail feathers of the purple gallenule can be discerned in the deep-shadows. Spur winged plover, egrets, herons, ibis, and other water-fowl are all acquainted with the pleasures associated with this proclaimed bird sanctuary.

Crossing the ford the old road continued westward and divided the grant given to Joshua Thorp into two sections. Both of these areas were fertile bottoms and were intensely cultivated as market gardens. They cam eventually under Chinese ownership, but a series of unprecedented floods forced these industrious people out of business. Since then the land on the southern side has reverted to a vast reed covered swamp, whilst that on the north has become a wilderness of rank growth.

Flax plants still survive along the route and at the western alignment of Joshua Thorp’s property the ancient road way turned northwards to avoid the sloping ramparts of Nanny Goat Hill. At the road bend and above flood level stood the shanty which housed the Chinese gardeners cultivating the southern section of the original Thorp grant. This edifice was ingeniously fabricated from galvanised iron nailed higgledy-piggledy at all manner of angles. An ingenious arrangement of stay poles placed at strategic points kept the exterior walls from collapsing. Even certain of these all important stays had to be further stayed to keep them in a somewhat vertical position. To an artist the hutment was a sheer joy, particularly when the scarlet coral tree, which still remains, was in full bloom.

There was also a small weatherboard cottage of the “Hudson Ready-Built” type adjacent to the aforementioned gardener’s residence which faced towards the northern section of Arncliffe Street. The site of this house is also marked today by its former setting of coral trees.

Breasting a gentle slope a second series of Chinese shanties and attendant sheds and stables was met, flanked by two majestic Norfolk Island pine trees and encircled by smallish robinia trees, the latter still being in evidence on the site. This group of Chinese cultivated the northern portion of the Joshua Thorp grant, which extended eastwards to Wolli Creek. The architecture of the buildings and particularly the outhouses was delightful in its execution. For instance, one shed had needed re-roofing and evidently a job lot of corrugated iron had been obtained, say in six foot and ten foot sheets. The six foot sheets covered the northern slope of the hip roof without trouble but the ten foot length proved too long for the southern side. Obviously in the absence of tin snips or other cutting tools and in the interest of economy they had to be used. The four foot overhang above the ridge was of no consequence to the Celestial mind and they thus unwittingly set an early example of the purely functional rat-baggery which characterises today’s so-called modern architecture.

North of and adjacent to the last mentioned Chinese establishment was a tree-girt cottage, with its frontage facing east towards Wolli Creek, belonging in its later days to William Woods. This gentleman used his property as a pig farm, consequently its immediate surroundings were cluttered with sundry sheds and pot-boiling appurtenances calculated to give the animals the comforts which they richly deserved. However, swine fever smote the herd and their destruction put Mr. Woods out of business. His brother, James, who dealt in horses, now took over the premises and used them as a stud farm. The motor-age brought about the cessation of this activity and the old house was demolished about 19. Scattered about the now unoccupied land are sundry foundations, draped with black berries, which tell the discerning eye something of the swine raising of yore.

Opposite the former entrance to the Woods’ establishment the Arncliffe Street resumed its westerly course and hence forwards was dignified as Arncliffe Road. They way now led through a picturesque valley, tightly enclosed by sandstone hills; until by a devious up graded route it reached Homer Street which traversed the crest of Campbell’s Hill, and gave eastward connection to Sydney, via Unwins Bridge Road and westward connection to the Bexley Road. According to report the old Arncliffe Road and Arncliffe Street were the means of access between the city and the various farms and settlements of West Botany, until such time as the construction of the Cook’s River Dam was completed.

Nowadays the route is blocked by fences between the eastern or lower end of Arncliffe Road and the crossing at Wolli Creek near Turrella Railway Station. However,

pedestrian traffic is catered for by footpath, and a footbridge spans Wolli Creek. The journey from Old Tempe to Homer Street via the old road is still very pleasant and surprisingly rural in some of its aspects. Much of the land has been taken up since 1900 by suburban housing and lately, unfortunately, by industrial concerns which do not add one wit to the beauty of the landscape.

The second section of this essay on Wolli Creek and its immediate surroundings will commence at the corner of Hannam and Arncliffe Streets and proceed upstream to the New Illawarra Road crossing at Bexley North.

This article was first published in the Rockdale Historical Society (RHS) Bulletin, June 1962, vol.1 no. 3. The Rockdale Historical Society was the founding name of our society. It was changed in 1962.
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Rockdale Fire Brigade

The precise date of the formation of a Fire Brigade in the Municipality of Rockdale cannot be established from the Board’s records but it is known that the St. George Volunteer Fire Company was located at Rockdale in April, 1891, for during that month of that year that Company applied to the Fire Brigades Board for telephone communication, but was refused, such permission however, being granted in February, 1894.

In March, 1895, the provisions of the Fire Brigades Act Of 1884 were applied to the Municipality of Rockdale by action taken by the Government of the day. The gazettal of this fact failed to meet with the approval of the Superintendent of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade as he drew particular attention to this fact in his annual report for the year 1895 by the inclusion in that report of the following words: –

“This (the inclusion of Rockdale) is notable as being the first inclusion within the Metropolitan district of Municipalities so distant from the City and it is a matter for anxious consideration how a fair amount of protection is to be extended to them (the citizens of Rockdale).”

In 1895 the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Company was situated in Rocky Point Road, now known as Princes Highway, and its complement comprised 16 men, 1 horse, 1 manual fire engine and 800′ of hose. The fire station and plant belonged to the Company and the Board subsidised it to the extent of £70 per annum, whilst the Council’s contribution to the Board in 1895 was £74: 5: 6.

During its first year in existence as a Brigade under the jurisdiction of the Fire Brigades Board the Company responded to 8 calls of fire of which 3 were false alarms, the actual fires being as shown hereunder :-

  • Tuesday 23.4.1895 2.35 a.m. A grass fire on property owned by Robert Lattler, James Street. Extinguished by buckets of water.
  • Sunday 1.7.1895 2.50 a.m. A stable in Bay Street owned by W. Ogden slightly damaged by fire. Extinguished by buckets of water.
  • Monday 29.7.1895 1.00 a.m. A cottage of 4 rooms with contents burnt out and fallen down in Farr Street, owned by R. Kerr, Jeweller. Extinguished by two hydrants, the outbreak having been caused by the upsetting of a kerosene lamp.
  • Saturday 13.4.1895 8.15 p.m. Bed & bedding damaged by fire in a bedroom on the 1st floor of a private dwelling owned by Mr. P. Porteous, Watkins Street. Extinguished by buckets of water.
  • Saturday 9.11.1895 9.50 p.m. A private dwelling being the house owned by Mr. George Leider, Herman Street. The dwelling which contained six rooms was, with contents, burnt out and the roof partly off. The side of the stables and portion of fencing was damaged by fire. The outbreak was extinguished by one hydrant and the cause was unknown.

In April, 1896, the Volunteer Company wrote to the Board and asked it for assistance to build a new fire station. The Company had £75 in hand towards the structure and it had already paid £25 for the land. Tenders had been called and it was considered that the whole project could be completed for £150. Strangely enough there was no mention by the Company where it had purchased the new site nor did the Board of the day or the Superintendent visit the area to ascertain where it was situated but nevertheless the Board approved the granting of £75 from its funds to the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Company on the understanding that the Company vest the land and the station in the name of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board.

The Superintendent asked the Company to forward him a copy of the plans and specifications of the new project when it was found that tenders had been called for a structure without drainage, floors, doors or a stable. In these circumstances the Board refused to proceed further in the matter and the Company was informed accordingly.

The need for new premises, however, was fully realised by all concerned and in June, 1896, the Board visited Rockdale where a Mr. Cooke offered it 30′ of land in Rocky Point Road (now Princes Highway) with a depth of 200′ to a laneway at the rear at £7 a foot, The Board accepted this offer and a fire station together with quarters was erected thereon and occupied on the 1st June, 1897.

In 1904 the Board purchased the adjoining lot having a frontage of 31′ 11″ in order to overcome the difficulty of an encroachment.

The Rockdale Fire Station was officially opened on the 4th June, 1897 by the President of the Board, Mr. C. Bown, he being accompanied by Mr. T.M. Tinley and F.I. Jackson, both members of the Board and Superintendent Bear.

Whilst there is no record of the names of the original personnel of the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Company, it is known that Volunteer Fireman Russell was the first occupant of the new quarters of the fire station erected by the Board in 1897. He paid the Board a rental of 10/- per week for that privilege.

On the opening of this station the strength of horses was increased from 1 to 2 and name of one of them was “Warrior”.

In 1900 some of the Volunteer Firemen were Bandsmen and a Band known as the Rockdale Fire Brigade Band was formed. This Band is reported to have been one of the premier bands of the State winning the Highland Society’s Band Contest on the 2nd January, 1905, and the Forbes Band Contest on the 30th January, of that year. Over the years the Volunteer Firemen resigned from the Band which, however, continued to keep its identity and practice in the billiard room at the rear of the station. An unfortunate incident occurred in 1908 when it is alleged that this Band by “very forceful playing” broke up an important political meeting of the day and the Superintendent of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades issued a direction that the Band was no longer to be called the Rockdale Fire Brigade Band and they were refused permission to practice on the Board’s premises.

This article was first published in the Rockdale Historical Society (RHS) Bulletin, April 1962, vol.1 no. 2. The Rockdale Historical Society was the founding name of our society. It was changed in 1962.
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Images courtesy of Bayside Library.