Beecroft

2008
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Beecroft

Beecroft is in the parish of the Field of Mars and the Hornsby local government area.

Before the coming of Europeans, the area of Beecroft belonged to the Wallumedegal people, associated with the Dharug language group, whose lands stretched across the Sydney basin.

Field of Mars Common

Beecroft was originally a portion of the Field of Mars Common, which covered 5,050 acres (2044 hectares). In 1804, Governor King allocated the common land for the inhabitants of the district, and the first trustees were James Squire, Francis Oakes and David Brown. [1]

By 1847 the commons, including the Eastern Common to the west of the Field of Mars, comprised 6,235 acres (2,523 hectares). This land was resumed by the government in 1874 as crown land. It was later subdivided and sold.

Timber-getters were among the first people to use the Field of Mars Common, and licences were issued for that purpose until the 1870s.

Beecroft develops

Although it was sometimes assumed that Beecroft was named after a bee farm run by a Mr Abram, [2] the suburb in fact took its name from the sisters Hannah and Mary Beecroft, who were the first and second wives of Henry Copeland, minister for lands in the 1880s and 1890s. Copeland also named a number of the streets in Beecroft, mostly after places around Hull in Yorkshire, where he was born.

Beecroft developed with the building of the railway line from Strathfield to Hornsby. A decision was made to build a platform at Beecroft three months before the railway line was officially opened, as new crown land was being sold in the area, and it was anticipated that the blocks would increase in value if there was a station close by.

The first sales of land were in July 1887, nearly a year after the railway opened on 17 September 1886. Prices ranged from £16 to £33. Advertisements for the subdivision stressed the health benefits of living at a higher elevation, 450 feet (137 metres), above the city smog.

Most purchasers were from the middle class, as a high reserve price was placed on the land, and the cost of train travel was prohibitive for industrial workers. Many of the early buildings were large villas set on big blocks. The subdivisions ranged from a quarter to half an acre (1012 to 2024 square metres) near the railway line, to five acres (two hectares) further away from the station. The planners envisaged a mix of lifestyles within a rural setting of orchards and farmlands, with land set aside for public use. [3]

A second platform was opened in 1892, 100 metres north of the first, but both were replaced in 1914 with the island platform which remains today. [4]

Building a community

The census of 1891 showed a population of 205 in Beecroft, and in that same year the Beecroft Progress Association was formed.

A post office was opened in a local store in 1895, and a public school set up in 1897.

In 1904, the Beecroft School of Arts was opened, after the Progress Association had carried out a fundraising campaign for the building. A library was soon opened, followed by a billiard room in June the next year, with an extension in 1910.

Although today there is a modern shopping centre with arcades and boutiques, Beecroft is still largely a residential suburb with tracts of bushland remaining.

Notes

[1] Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust, A plan of management for Pennant Hills Park and some surrounding bushland, Sydney, 1976

[2] D Carmichael, Tales of Beecroft, the author, Sydney, 1981, p 6

[3] Beecroft/Cheltenham Heritage Conservation Area Review, Draft Report, May 2003

[4] P Dewey, Local Colour, Hornsby Shire Historical Society, vol 6 no 8, p 6

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