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Denistone East 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. The city 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. Modern-day Denistone East is bounded by the Blaxland, Lovell, Rickard and North roads.
The Wallumedegal, or Wallumede, are the traditional owners of this area, which was called Wallumetta before the arrival of Europeans. This clan forms part of the Dharug language group.
Porteous Mount and the Brush Farm Estate become 'Deniston'
On 22 July 1795, 120 acres (48.5 hectares), named Porteous Mount and located in what is now Denistone, were granted to John Varnice, Humphrey Evans and William Ternan. Varnice and Evans were granted 45 acres (18.2 hectares) each, and Ternan 30 acres (12.1 hectares) but the grants were not subdivided. On 24 August 1795 the Reverend Richard Johnson acquired the property. Johnson sold to Michael Connor on 7 March 1800, who transferred to Roger Connor on 12 June 1816.
In 1806, shortly after his arrival in the colony as a free settler, Gregory Blaxland, purchased the 450-acre (182.1-hectare) Brush Farm Estate, also located in modern Denistone. This estate covered most of the area south of 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, east of his Brush Farm Estate.
Forster built an eight-room house which he called Deniston after his birthplace in England, giving the suburb its name. The house burnt down in 1855 but was subsequently rebuilt by Richard Rouse Terry. Denistone House is now part of Ryde Hospital, in the suburb of Denistone.
Dr Thomas Forster sold a portion of his 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. While the property is technically in the suburb of Denistone, the surrounding estate is now Denistone East.
The home was built on a ridge to take advantage of the views. On 16 October 1842, John Blaxland advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald for tenders and plasterers, glaziers and painters, which suggested the dwelling was nearing completion. The foundations, cellar and parts of the west wing were built of local sandstone. The rest of the house was built with mud bricks made at a nearby clay hole. Slate was used for the roof and red cedar for the woodwork.
The house itself has had a number of owners and occupants. In 1952 it was sold to the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Division of Wool Technology was established in and around it. In 1996 the CSIRO moved from Ryde to Victoria and the property went into private hands.
The Hermitage is subdivided
John Blaxland died at The Hermitage on 26 January 1884 and Richard Rouse Terry is said to have been the next owner of the house and its land, which he purchased from Blaxland's 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.
Many of those who purchased land from The Hermitage estate bought several adjoining lots and built large houses. There were many subdivisions from the early twentieth century up to the 1920s, including Blaxland's Hermitage Estate No 2, advertised in 1922 as 'the health spot of Sydney', no doubt due to its elevation.
The arrival of the railway
One significant impetus for the subdivision of the area was the promise of a railway link between Eastwood and St Leonards in the mid-1920s. Estates such as the Dress Circle Estate (part of modern-day East Ryde) were considered because of this promise, and so were estates in Denistone East.
The Crown Estate, 1928, included Russell, Henderson and Brabyn streets. The subdivision plan described that it had
frontages to Blaxland Road and Lovell Street … within 12 minutes walking distance of Eastwood Station whilst the new Eastwood to St Leonards line now being surveyed passes within 5 minutes of the rear of the property.
Tallwood Estate was right on the border of Eastwood and Denistone East 'with the proposed St Leonards–Eastwood railway opposite the station'.
The houses went ahead, while the St Leonards–Eastwood railway line did not.
Interestingly, none of these subdivision plans refer to the suburb as Denistone East or even Denistone. Variously it is Eastwood or Ryde. No doubt the name took hold following the establishment of a railway platform named Denistone halfway between West Ryde and Eastwood in September 1937. 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 pound or 10 pound per foot. The business of this station is mainly coaching, the district strictly residential.
Ryde Council Housing Scheme
One of the most innovative post-World War II housing schemes operated in the municipality of Ryde. This was the Ryde Council Housing Scheme and consisted of a number of project areas in various suburbs including Denistone West, Meadowbank and Gladesville. Two of these projects were undertaken in Denistone East.
The housing shortage that existed before World War II had worsened during the war, due to building restrictions. At the end of the war, as ex-servicemen and women were demobilised, marriage rates increased and so did the need for houses. With federal government funding, the New South Wales Housing Commission embarked on a large-scale program of welfare housing. However, Ryde Council wanted more than welfare housing. Their scheme offered would-be home owners the option of buying houses with small deposits at a low rate of interest, and repayments over a long period. The scheme was distinguished also by its employment of a panel of ten architects and town planners, who were then leaders in their fields.
The scheme provided for the erection by council of 2,500 homes over a five-year period. Each subdivision boasted bitumen-surfaced roads, kerbing and channelling, footpath paving, street beautification and general drainage. Not only was each subdivision planned with attention to the natural contours of the land but roads were designed to reduce traffic speeds and provide safety to residents. The planning of the subdivision was linked with the planning of each house in its own garden setting.
Between 1945 and 1952, 599 houses were built by council and a further 360 were built under a Ryde Loan Scheme.
In Denistone East, Project No 2 consisted of 134 brick homes, which were built on the former Eastwood Golf Links, an area bounded by Kings, Lovell, and Blaxland roads. Project No 6 consisted of 27 houses in Cecil and Birdwood avenues in Denistone East.
No doubt as a result of the influx of families into the area, Denistone East Public School began as an infants' school in 1950 and became a primary school in 1952.
Denistone East Public School, 50 years at Denistone East Public School, 1950 to 2000, the school, Denistone East NSW, 2000
Weir and Phillips, 'Outlook Estate, Denistone: Heritage Assessment and Character Study', Weir and Phillips, Broadway NSW, 2003
Philip Geeves, A Place of Pioneers: The Centenary History of the Municipality of Ryde, Ryde Municipal Council, Ryde NSW, 1970
James Jervis, 'Settlement in the Parish of Hunter's Hill (continued)', Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, 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 NSW, 2002
Kevin Shaw, 'Chatham Farm, 1795–1855', parts 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