Dictionary of Sydney

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The suburb of Stanmore lies within the Marrickville local government area four kilometres south west of the centre of Sydney. The traditional owners of the land were the Cadigal people of the Eora nation.

Stanmore developed on both sides of the ridge line of Stanmore Road. This road is believed to follow the line of an ancient Aboriginal walking track. The ridge line contains a number of crests, which provide panoramic views to Botany Bay and the Blue Mountains. The position was, and still is, a real estate selling point.

The suburb is further split by the railway line, which came through in 1855, although Stanmore station was not opened until 1879. Stanmore was once divided along municipal boundaries with most of it in the former municipality of Petersham. South of Stanmore Road, it was within Marrickville municipality. This situation changed on 1 December 1949 when Petersham Council was amalgamated with the municipality of Marrickville.

Early grants to the Rum Corps

On 16 January 1792 Governor Phillip was instructed by a despatch from London to make land grants to officers. The most flamboyant of the early Stanmore settlers was Lieutenant George Johnston, who arrived as a marine on the First Fleet. Johnston would later transfer to the New South Wales Corps, known colloquially as the Rum Corps. Lieutenant Thomas Rowley arrived in 1792 as an officer of the New South Wales Corps on the Pitt. Edward Laing, a surgeon's mate, was also aboard the Pitt where he and Rowley established a long-lasting friendship, working side by side during a virulent smallpox epidemic.

The future suburb of Stanmore was now in the hands of influential officers of the New South Wales Corps. George Johnston would go down in Australian history for his arrest of Governor Bligh during the so called Rum Rebellion. Johnston was also involved in putting down the Irish convict rebellion at the Battle of Vinegar Hill. Governor Bligh's own estate of Camperdown bordered the lands of both Johnston and Rowley.

George Johnston took up his land grant of 670 acres (271 hectares) and named it Annandale, after his Scottish birthplace. The Annandale Estate straddled both sides of Parramatta Road. The northern side, which still bears the suburb name of Annandale, was mainly farmland. The house, gardens and orchards where he lived with his convict de facto wife Esther Abrahams, were located on the southern side. Parramatta Road was the physical boundary between North Annandale and South Annandale, which subsequently became part of Stanmore.

At home with the Johnstons

Annandale House was the first substantial house in the area. Construction commenced in 1799 with bricks baked on the property. Local cedar was also used. The house, which was similar in style to Elizabeth Farm at Parramatta, stood in splendid isolation on the hill between the present Macaulay and Albany roads. There was a dam at the back of the property.

The most distinctive feature of Annandale House and the surrounding estate was the avenue of Norfolk Island pines, which lined the carriageway from Parramatta Road to the house. These pines were a landmark that could be seen by travellers along Parramatta Road on their approach to Sydney.

The pines, said to be the first Norfolk Island pines planted on the Australian mainland, were grown from seedlings Johnston obtained when he was stationed on Norfolk Island. They eventually succumbed to disease and the encroachment of houses as the suburb developed. The last pines were removed in about 1903, and Annandale House itself was demolished in 1905.

Johnston was away for extended periods yet Esther Abrahams confidently managed the estate. She was Jewish and installed a kosher kitchen at Annandale House. Esther also regularly took cows from Annandale to Horsley Park for slaughtering.

Johnston was one of the most successful farmers in the colony and Annandale became one of the most complete farms in the neighbourhood of Sydney. Johnston's guardian, the Duke of Northumberland, sent him purebred merino sheep. Johnston was a close friend of John Macarthur, who is regarded as the father of the Australian merino sheep industry, but Johnston's merinos and some belonging to Thomas Rowley preceded the arrival of Macarthur's own stock by about four years, making Stanmore home to the first merino sheep in Australia. Northumberland Avenue is named after the generous Duke.

George Johnston's role in the Rum Rebellion secured a place in Australian history for Annandale House, from where he rode to arrest Governor Bligh on 26 January 1808. George Johnston died in 1823. He left the Annandale estate to Esther but the family split over her plans to sell Annandale and return to England.

Esther's eldest son, Robert instigated court proceedings to declare her insane and unable to administer the estate. The court case was long, expensive and complicated and in the end Robert succeeded. Esther moved out, only to return to Annandale House 15 years later to be buried in the family vault. The vault, designed by Francis Greenway, was demolished in 1878 and the remains were transferred to Waverley cemetery.

Robert Johnston married Fanny Weller in 1831 and settled at Annandale where they had seven children. He was the first Australian-born officer in the Royal Navy and he was fascinated by Lord Nelson and his battles. This fascination had an outlet once he began to subdivide the Stanmore estate with the naming of streets such as Trafalgar Street. He also named a son Percival Horatio Johnson. There is no Horatio Street but Percival Street is one of the main retail streets in Stanmore. Another son, Bruce, also had a street named after him.

From farm to suburb

The death of Robert in 1883 marked the beginning of the declining years of the Annandale Estate. The original farm with its fields of barley, wheat and oats was still intact. The head of the family was now his widow Fanny Johnston, but ownership of South Annandale passed to their sons.

The proximity of Stanmore and Petersham railway stations made the area attractive to developers. Fanny Johnston contributed £3,000 to the cost of new buildings at Stanmore station in 1886.

Fanny died in 1896 at Annandale House. Gradually the outer lands of South Annandale were sold off until Annandale House was surrounded and left standing alone on a large suburban block. The main subdivisions occurred between 1883 and 1906. The demolition of Annandale House in 1905 marked the start of the final phase of subdivision and building. On 13 October 1917 the last sale of land on the South Annandale Estate took place.

The fields and small creeks of South Annandale Estate disappeared under early twentieth-century development, and Annandale as a place name vanished from the southern side of Parramatta Road.

The Kingston Estate

Thomas Rowley resigned from the New South Wales Corps in 1802 due to health ill and the desire to concentrate on his Kingston Farm. Rowley's retirement did not last long however and he died on 27 May 1806 of tuberculosis. He was given a military funeral. The New South Wales Corps formed a procession on the parade ground at the corner of the present George and Grosvenor streets, Sydney, before marching along Parramatta Road to Kingston Farm. Governor King was among the large number of dignitaries present. Rowley was buried on his property within sight of his house but his remains were later removed to Camperdown Cemetery, and eventually to Waverley Cemetery.

Kingston Farm was left to Elizabeth Selwyn, his ex-convict partner whom he never married, and their children. Her share was dependent on her 'continu[ing] solo and unmarried'. As the children were young, George Johnston and John Harris, Surgeon of the New South Wales Corps, were made legal guardians and administrators of the estate.

Kingston farm was sold for £1,000 in 1835 to James Holt, a property speculator. In 1854 James Holt sold it for £150 per acre, for a total of £23,078 to Thomas Holt, who also later purchased a large proportion of Thomas Moore's Douglas Farm. The relationship of Thomas Holt to James Holt is not known. Holt Street in Stanmore is named after Thomas.

The Kingston Estate was divided into North and South Kingston. South Kingston was further divided into West Kingston and both belong to the suburb of Stanmore. Today, North Kingston is part of the neighbouring suburb of Newtown.

The final mention of the Kingston Farm and homestead was in the Sydney Gazette on 27 January 1842. It noted,

By order of the mortgagees the remaining portion of the Kingston Farm with dwelling house and outbuildings erected thereon. It will be sold in one lot and comprises:

The remaining portion of the Kingston Farm, with the dwelling house erected thereon, together with detached buildings, namely cooking house, servant's rooms, gig house, stables and shed.

The exact location of the homestead is not known. Elizabeth Selwyn was still living in the homestead on Kingston Farm when she died on 25 June 1843. The family is remembered in the names of Kingston Road and Rowley Street.

Descendants of Thomas Rowley and Elizabeth Selwyn were still living in the vicinity of the Kingston estate into the early twentieth century. A grandson, John Lucas, was member of the Legislative Assembly for Canterbury, 1860–65 and 1871–80 and a member of the Legislative Council from 1888–1902. Another grandson, Thomas Rowley, was regarded as one of the best cricket fast bowlers in Sydney in the 1840s.

A new generation of landholders

In the 1860s substantial parts of South Kingston were acquired by TS Mort, who established the famous shipyard at Balmain. In 1886 all of the West Kingston estate was acquired by ETJ Wrench, a leading Sydney auctioneer. The final subdivision of the West Kingston estate occurred on 13 September 1902.

The streets of the West Kingston estate were given the names of the English counties Derby, Surrey, Warwick, Durham, Lincoln and Stafford.

Kingston Farm had just been sold and Robert Johnston had finally got his hands on the Annandale Estate when the prosperous saddler, John Jones, purchased his 20 acres (8 hectares) of land in the 1830s along Stanmore Road. He named his estate Stanmore after his birthplace in Middlesex, a south-eastern county of England. The land had been part of an original grant to Edward Laing and was known as Laing's Clear. Today, much of Jones's Stanmore estate is preserved in an open state as the site of Newington College in Stanmore Road.

Newington College

John Jones's saddlery business was located in George Street, Sydney. He was married twice but had no children. Jones died at Stanmore in 1848 and left his estate to the Wesleyan Methodist Church, enabling Newington College to relocate from Silverwater.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church was not his first choice as beneficiary. Originally he had agreed to endow the child of some friends, but the families had drifted apart and Jones changed his will, naming Edmund Webb, his wife's young nephew, as his heir. Webb duly arrived in Sydney from England but was shocked to learn that Jones expected him to serve a five-year apprenticeship in the grocer shop of a friend in Sydney. Webb eventually agreed but told Jones that he would only serve the apprenticeship until his twenty-first birthday. Webb suffered chronic asthma and became too ill to continue as a grocer's apprentice. Jones then petulantly discarded Webb and left his estate to the Wesleyan Methodist Church.

Newington College did not obtain title to the estate until 1873 upon the death of Jones's widow, Catherine Jones, who had continued to live in the family home known as The Cottage. The house later provided residential accommodation for theological students, before it was demolished for a new wing of the school.

Edmund Webb became a successful mercer in Bathurst and a respected Methodist layman. It was Webb who made the suggestion that the Stanmore Estate should be the new home of Newington College. The college opened on 18 January 1881 with about 70 students and staff and another four theological students.

Eminent graduates include Sir Thomas Bavin, the Premier of New South Wales 1927–30, Sir Ian Clunies Ross, the founder of CSIRO, and other people who have excelled in art, music, and on the sports field. Australian rugby captains Nick Farr-Jones and Phil Kearns attended Newington College.

The work of Methodist missionaries in Pacific countries such as Tonga and Fiji meant that Newington College received students from these areas. In 1896 Prince William Tupuo, son of the King of Tonga and six other young men attended the school. The King of Tonga, Taufa'aha Tupou IV, who died in 2007, also attended the school. Taufa'aha Tupou IV was one of the world's longest serving monarchs, reigning for 41 years.

The area of John Jones's Stanmore Estate remains as Newington College but the surrounds have altered greatly since the first students arrived. The sheep and cattle of countryside Stanmore have gone forever. Aircraft noise from Kingsford-Smith Airport comes and goes depending on the direction of the flight path.

Name changes and confused boundaries

Municipal government arrived when Petersham Municipal Council was incorporated on 14 December 1871. The population was over 750 people and growing and the majority of Stanmore lay within the Petersham municipality.

Petersham Council kept the names of the old estates of South Annandale and South Kingston as ward names. In 1925 Petersham Council named a small park on Stanmore Road as South Kingston Park. The name only lasted 15 years however, and the park was renamed Maundrell Park, after Walter L Maundrell, Mayor of Petersham in 1925, 1935 and 1939.Today, the stone marker bearing the name South Kingston Park stands as a silent sentinel. The name is wearing away, just as the original South Kingston name has faded from memory.

In 1879, naming of the railway station Stanmore rather than Annandale or Kingston embedded the name for the suburb. The station was opened for 'the convenience of the residents of the hamlet of Stanmore'. Stanmore's identity as a growing suburb, even one with rather indistinct boundaries, can be traced to the opening of the station.

The hamlet of Stanmore mainly consisted of those streets on the south side of the railway line, which had been part of the old Laing Estate, with the very English names of Cavendish Street, Cambridge Street and Harrow Road.

A retreat for city businessmen

The railway station provided access to the city of Sydney at reasonable cost for those who worked or owned businesses in Sydney. Wealthy businessmen and tradespeople lived side by side as Stanmore developed as a desirable residential address.

William Paling, founder of Paling's Music Store in Sydney, bought land in Stanmore in the 1870s. He lived at Woerden, named after his birthplace in the Netherlands, on the corner of Merchant and Cambridge streets, Stanmore. Woerden was a typical late Victorian two-storey villa with servants' quarters and stables. In the 1950s, the house was owned by Montague Lea of the Darrell Lea family, chocolate manufacturers.

By the late 1970s population density and lack of open space was a real concern for the residents of Stanmore, as it was with most other inner city suburbs. The site of Montague Gardens was purchased under a State Government plan to create an open space in the inner city and the house was demolished.

William Paling had other land holdings in Cambridge Street, Stanmore. Prior to moving to Woerden, Paling commenced work on The Lodge, the largest house still existing in Stanmore. The Lodge represents a fine example of the domestic Gothic style of architecture with steep pitched gables, decorative barge boarding and a picturesque entry port. Paling sold the The Lodge to Sir Alexander Stuart, a merchant and politician, who was Premier of New South Wales from 1883 to 1885. In 1886 the original house was enlarged. It was purchased by the Salvation Army in 1900, and was used as a rescue home for pregnant women, mainly single mothers, who needed accommodation. The Salvation Army later used it as children's home and a young women's hostel until 1988. It is now the Salvation Army School for Leadership Training, part of the Army's Booth College.

The occupations of the alderman of Petersham Council reflected the demographics of the area. The first Mayor, William Pigott, was a leading Sydney solicitor and founder of the firm Pigott & Stinson, which still exists. Percy Hordern, Mayor in 1897–99, 1903–05 and 1908–10, was a member of the Hordern family, who owned Hordern's department store in Sydney.

By the early years of the twentieth century Stanmore was a residential suburb of Victorian villas and Federation houses. It had largely escaped the industrial development of its suburban neighbours such as Marrickville. Later however, it did support a few industries. The number of factories in Stanmore was not large, yet they did occupy substantial premises and were important industrial concerns.

Industrial inroads

Small's Chocolates, Peacock's Jam, the engineering firm of Davies Shephard, and Starkey's ginger beer factory were all located along Bridge Road. Today these factories have gone and have been replaced by new developments of professional suites and offices or they have been refurbished.

Small's chocolate factory is now apartments, appropriately known as The Chocolate Factory Apartments. Starkey's ginger beer factory was restored and adapted into a complex of commercial and light industrial units. The complex won the 2004 Marrickville Medal for Conservation, awarded annually by Marrickville Council.

Socially down … and up

From the late 1940s onwards, many of the large Victorian villas, which had been built for large families, were converted to boarding houses. The 1960s also saw the demolition of homes on large sites and the ubiquitous red brick flats replacing them, but there was not the wholesale demolition of homes in Stanmore that occurred elsewhere. Most Stanmore streets have changed little from the early years of the twentieth century.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s Stanmore experienced another shift with many of the boarding houses sold to new owners eager to restore them. This process of gentrification continues.

Stanmore is home to the Cyprus Club on Stanmore Road, formerly the Newtown Leagues Club. The Newtown Rugby League Club bought the land from the Presbyterian Church which had run the Dunmore Presbyterian Girl's Hostel there from 1924 as a residential home for country girls who had to come to Sydney to further their education. It was named after the early Presbyterian minister and educator, John Dunmore Lang. The hostel was eventually demolished to make space for the car park of the Newtown Rugby League Club.

In 1968 the Newtown Leagues Club spent over a million dollars extending the premises which were bought by the Cypriots in 1988. The exterior still exudes that 1960s club vibe. There are very few clubs left in Sydney of that vintage. The Cyprus Club has many activities, including the sponsorship of a local Stanmore soccer team and a community outreach program.

Stanmore has connections with contemporary Aboriginal society. Shirley Smith (1921–98) better known as 'Mum Shirl', welfare worker and Aboriginal activist, lived in Stanmore. In 1997 she was named by the National Trust as one of Australia's 100 National Living Treasures.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) was formed in 1977 in Young Street, Sydney, but later moved to Stanmore. It is a community-based organisation, designed to promote discussion amongst the diverse Aboriginal communities involved in developing Aboriginal education policy and to advise government and educational organisations.

The avenue of Norfolk Island pines is gone. No one will gallop off to arrest a governor. Troops will not march up Parramatta Road to farewell one of their own. Yet Stanmore continues to be a mixed suburb of people from many backgrounds and socio-economic groups. It has become home to people from diverse cultural backgrounds including Greek, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese. The African community is a recent and emerging community. It is this mix that makes Stanmore a vibrant suburb while still retaining a village atmosphere.


Richard Cashman and Chrys Meader, Marrickville: Rural Outpost to Inner City, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1990

Henry Holt, An Energetic Colonist: A Biographical Account of the Activities of the late Hon. Thomas Holt, MLC, Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, 1972

Chrys Meader, Richard Cashman and Anne Carolan, Marrickville: People and Places, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1994

Petersham Municipal Council, Some Reasons Why the Council of The Municipality of Petersham is Opposed to the Government's Proposal to Amalgamate Local Government Areas in the County of Cumberland, Petersham Municipal Council, 1947

Tony Prescott, 'The Early History of Stanmore', Heritage: Journal of the Marrickville Society, no 2, November 1985, pp 28–35

Ian Ramage, A Cameo of Captain Thomas Rowley: a biographical note, Wahroonga, 1981

Percival Serle, Dictionary of Australian Biography, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1949

Allan Shepherd, The Story of Petersham 1793–1948, Petersham Municipal Council, Petersham, 1948

Stanmore Society, Stanmore's Early Days, compiled from articles in the Stanmore Society's Newsletter, Petersham, 1988