Dictionary of Sydney

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Denistone is one of 16 suburbs that form the City of Ryde. The city is approximately 12 kilometres from the centre of Sydney and occupies most of the divide between the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers. Ryde is bisected from west to east by one of Sydney's busiest roads, Victoria Road. It is crossed north-south by another main road, Lane Cove Road and is skirted on the north-west by the M2 Motorway and Epping Road.

At the time of the arrival of Europeans at Sydney Cove in January 1788, the Wallumedegal or Wallumede were the traditional owners of the area which they called Wallumetta. This clan formed part of a large Dharug language group.

Modern day Denistone consists of a number of original land grants: those to Varnice, Evans and Ternan in 1795 (in the area of Denistone House); grants to William Kent in 1797 and George Patfield in 1798 (the area around The Hermitage) and those to William Broughton and Privates John Stone, Richard Taylor and Lewis Williams in 1795 (modern-day Outlook Estate). Subsequent to these grants, throughout much of the nineteenth century, Denistone was consolidated in the hands of a few families of the colonial elite.

On 22 July 1795, 120 acres (48.5 hectares), called Porteous Mount, were granted to John Varnice, Humphrey Evans and William Ternan. Varnice was granted 45 acres (18.2 hectares), Evans 45 acres and Ternan 30 acres (12.1 hectares), but the grants were not subdivided. On August 24, 1795 the Reverend Richard Johnson acquired the property. On 7 March 1800, Johnson sold it to Michael Connor, who transferred to Roger Connor on 12 June 1816.

Farms and big houses

Gregory Blaxland, a free settler, purchased the 450-acre (182-hectare) Brush Farm Estate in 1806 shortly after his arrival in the colony. This estate covered most of the area south from Terry Road to Victoria Road and Tramway Street and east from Brush Road to Shaftsbury Road. In 1829 he transferred Brush Farm Estate to his eldest daughter Elizabeth and her husband Dr Thomas Forster. Forster expanded the estate by purchasing the Porteous Mount grants of 120 acres, east of his Brush Farm Estate. Forster built an eight-room house which he called Deniston after his birthplace in England. He sold a portion of this land to his brother-in-law John Blaxland, eldest son of Gregory. Around 1842 John commissioned colonial architect John Bibb to build a brick and stone house which he called The Hermitage.

On May 23 1840, Dr Forster leased 'the dwelling houses known by the name of Deniston' and 100 acres (40.4 hectares) of land to Major Edward Darvall for a period of 12 years. Darvall was a retired English army officer with strong family connections to the British East India Company. He and his family had arrived in January 1840.

Darvall did not remain at Deniston for the 12 years mentioned in the lease, as the property was again advertised to let in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 March 1849. Major Darvall purchased other property in the Ryde district eventually settling on a large estate of nearly 400 acres (161.8 hectares) stretching from today's Rowe Street, Eastwood to Victoria Road, West Ryde and from Shaftsbury Road to Ryedale Road. The subdivision of the Darvall estate in the twentieth century also released land that forms part of modern-day Denistone.

After the Darvalls' departure, Deniston House was occupied by D Mackellar and his family. The house was burned down by bushfires in 1855. Deniston Estate passed into the hands of Richard Rouse Terry on 9 December 1872. Terry built the stone house known today as Denistone House and resided there for many years. This was a well designed two-storey sandstone building which was completed in 1874. After Terry's death in 1898, a number of tenants occupied the home and the property was gradually subdivided.

Subdivision and development

The Denistone Estate was opened up for sale in 1913. In that year the house itself and 17 acres (6.8 hectares) of land were acquired for a convalescent hospital for men. This subsequently became Ryde Hospital. Richard Rouse Terry's Denistone House is extant.

John Blaxland died at The Hermitage on 26 January 1884 and Richard Rouse Terry is said to have been the next owner of The Hermitage and its land, which he purchased from the Blaxland estate. The first subdivision of the land took place in 1888 when the Miriam Hill Estate near what was then Ryde railway station (now West Ryde) was subdivided.

There were spurts of subdivision in the area. The first impetus came with the opening up of the railway to Hornsby in 1886 and the increased need for both industrial and residential lots in the area. Eastwood Station (originally called Dundas) opened in October 1886, quickly becoming a busy freight depot for local fruit produce. The arrival of the railway coincided with the deaths of a number of pioneering heads of the 'old families', opening the way for their descendants to subdivide their estates.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, estates such as the Highlands and Deniston Estate were advertised. Highlands Estate (1905), was an area bounded by Blaxland, Meriam, Commissioners and Inkerman roads, and it 'unlocked at last, the homestead of the Blaxland family'. Deniston Estate, no 2, (1914) was the slice of land between Blaxland and Denistone roads, immediately to the east and north of Denistone House.

Interestingly none of these subdivision plans refer to the suburb as Denistone. Variously it is Eastwood, Eastwood Ryde, Ryde Eastwood and, for good measure, West Ryde. No doubt the establishment of a railway platform halfway between West Ryde and Eastwood in September 1937, and the naming of it as Denistone, helped with the adoption of the name. It was described as

a pretty little station … besides giving a needed facility to the locality, this Station has helped towards a considerable increase in local land values some rising, we are told, from 30/- to £5 or £10 per foot. The business of this station is mainly coaching, the district strictly residential.

Ryedale estate to Outlook estate

After the coming of the railway, the next impetus to subdivision in the area began in the mid-1920s and was spurred by the promise of a railway link between Eastwood and St Leonards. Because of this promise, a subdivision in Denistone called the Outlook Estate was developed, bounded by Bellevue, Trelawney, Chatham and Burmah roads as far north as Outlook Park, in the westernmost part of the suburb. It had been part of the Ryedale estate, 400 acres (161.8 hectares) which became part of western Denistone and surrounding suburbs.

The land on which the Outlook Estate is now located was first granted jointly to a storekeeper, William Broughton, and to Privates John Stone, Richard Taylor and Lewis Williams on 22 July 1795. This was called Chatham Farm and was bounded (approximately) by the intersections of modern-day Rowe Street and Shaftsbury Road, the intersection of Bigland Avenue and Shaftsbury Road, the intersection of Simla and Chatham Roads, and the Eastwood Centre. The southern part of this grant is now part of Denistone, while the northern part is now part of Eastwood. One month after the grant was made, William Broughton purchased the shares of his partners. Before leaving for Norfolk Island to take up a position of storekeeper in 1802, Broughton appointed Captain John Macarthur (of the New South Wales Corps) as his Sydney attorney. Macarthur sold Chatham Farm to Lieutenant John Brabyn (c1759-1835). He had arrived in Sydney as an ensign of the New South Wales Corps aboard the Marquis Cornwallis in 1796.

Three months after purchasing Chatham Farm, Brabyn was granted a further 200 acres (81 hectares) within modern-day Denistone, a grant he subsequently named York Farm. John Bennett, who had also arrived on the Marquis Cornwallis, with a seven-year sentence, leased 10 acres (4 hectares) of Chatham Farm from at least 1802, at which time his sentence had expired. John Brabyn sold Chatham Farm in June 1806 to John Bennett. In 1818 Bennett expanded the farm by purchasing a large section of the estate of William Balmain. With this acquisition, Bennett's land extended from modern-day Rowe Street to the Parramatta River, and from Ryedale Road to Shaftsbury Road north of Victoria Road, and Station Street to the Ryde-Parramatta golf course south of Victoria Road.

John Bennett never married. Upon his death in July 1829 Chatham Farm was inherited by his nephew William Bennett (died 1865) who had arrived in Sydney in 1820 as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. William and his wife Susan (or Susannah) Brown lived in Chatham Cottage. The cottage was located near the modern-day intersection of Bellevue and Bigland avenues. Later, they built a five-room stone cottage on what was later the site of the Meadowbank tennis courts.

On 20 July 1855 William and Susan Bennett sold 373 acres (151 hectares) of their estate to Major Edward Darvall. This land sale involved land from four original grants: James Thompson's original grant, Chatham Farm, Balmain Farm and most of Henderson Hill. Soon after purchasing their estate, the Darvalls built a two-storey mansion on the site of St Columb's Church (Ryedale House) and planted a 50-acre (20-hectare) orchard around it. Upon the Major's death in 1869, the ownership of the Ryedale land passed to his widow, his second wife, Jane Darvall (nee McCullough).

While other estates were subdivided in the last decades of the nineteenth century, Jane Darvall kept the majority of the Ryedale estate intact until the beginning of the twentieth century. When Jane Darvall died in 1899 the estate was inherited by her only son Anthony William Darvall. The subdivision of the Ryedale estate was begun by him. Anthony William's sons, Edward Roger and George Harrison Darvall, and his son-in-law William Herbert Bean continued the subdivision of the former Darvall Estate following Anthony's death in 1915. Darvall Estates 2 and 3, (1915) northern Anthony Road and Miriam Road in Denistone were part of this.

The Outlook Estate was the sixth and last subdivision of the Ryedale estate. The 124 home sites were advertised for private sale in 1929. The building of these houses took place during the 1930s and 1940s. The Eastwood-St Leonards railway line was never built.


50 years at Denistone East Public School, 1950 to 2000, Denistone East Public School, Denistone East NSW, 2000

Outlook Estate, Denistone: heritage assessment and character study, Weir and Phillips, Broadway, 2003

Philip Geeves, A place of pioneers: the centenary history of the Municipality of Ryde, Ryde Municipal Council, Ryde, 1970

James Jervis, 'Settlement in the parish of Hunter's Hill (continued)', Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, vol 46, part 6, 1960

MCI Levy, Wallumetta: a history of Ryde and its district 1792 to 1945, Ryde Municipal Council, Ryde NSW, 1947

Megan Martin, A pictorial history of Ryde, Kingsclear Books, Alexandria NSW, 1998

Kevin Shaw (ed), Historic Ryde: a guide to some significant heritage sites in the City of Ryde, Ryde District Historical Society, Ryde, 2002

Kevin Shaw, 'Chatham Farm 1795-1855' pts 1-3, Ryde Recorder: newsletter of the Ryde District Historical Society, vol 24, no 4, September 1990; vol 25, no 1, March 1991; vol 26, no 5, November,1992