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Tennyson Point 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. It 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 the Dharug language group.
The suburb comprises 10 streets, bounded on the west by Morrisons Bay, on the east by Glades Bay and to the north by Morrison Road. The southern boundary is the Parramatta River. Morrison Road and Morrisons Bay are named in honour of Archibald Morrison, a member of the New South Wales Corps who was granted land in 1795 slightly to the west of present-day Tennyson Point. Glades Bay honours John Glade, an early landholder of the area, after whom Gladesville is named.
Early land grants
Modern day Tennyson Point was originally part of a land grant to William Raven (1756–1814). He was a master mariner and merchant who sailed to New South Wales in 1792 as captain and part owner of the Britannia. In 1795 he was granted 100 acres (40 hectares) at Eastern Farms, so named because it was east of Parramatta. In 1799 he received a further 285 acres (115 hectares) in the area, north of what is now Tennyson Point. The tip of the peninsula, Raven Point, is named in his honour.
Subsequently this land was acquired by James Squire. He had been transported on the Friendship in the First Fleet, transferring to the Charlotte in a reshuffle of passengers: by 1798 he was the licensed proprietor of an inn called the Malting Shovel, located on the Parramatta River. At the time of his death in 1822 he owned significant sections of modern-day Putney, in addition to Tennyson Point.
James Squire Farnell, the grandson of James Squire, inherited part of the former Squire property on the death of his father, Thomas Farnell. James became a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1866, a member of the Legislative Council from 1885 and Premier from 18 December 1877 to 20 December 1878. The Tennyson area remained virtually unused except for timber-getting until Farnell subdivided and sold it in 1887. It was known as Farnell's Bush.
Life on the river
While the point may have been under-utilised the same cannot be said for the river.
By the 1850s the annual Anniversary Regatta, held on 26 January on the Parramatta River, was a major event in Sydney's sporting calendar. From the 1860s, the river was the venue for major inter-colonial rowing races and from 1871 it became a venue for intervarsity races too. A championship rowing course was defined on the river, beginning at Charity Point near Isaac Shepherd's house Helenie (modern day Meadowbank) and finishing at a group of three rocks called The Brothers at Henley. The real heyday of the river as a sporting venue began in 1877, when the first contest to be held in Australia for the title 'Champion Sculler of the World' was held here. The Illustrated Sydney News estimated that between 60,000 and 70,000 people witnessed the race. A Dapto sculler named Bill Beach challenged the world champion, Canadian Edward Hanlan. The contest took place in August 1884
witnessed by about 100,000 spectators including the passengers of over 60 steamers and at least 500 small boats.
So, when a subdivision took place, it was natural that one of the major selling points of the Estate was that it had, 'splendid water frontages … facing the Championship course.'
The Champion Course: from Tennyson a perfect view is obtained of over two-thirds of the whole course, including the finishing point, and the fortunate resident of Tennyson may lounge at ease on his own verandah and witness some of the greatest athletic trials of strength and endurance known to the aquatic world.
The association of the Estate with the river was reinforced with the naming of its streets. Champion Street is so named because of the Championship Course or because of the individual champion; Beach Street is named in honour of the sculler Bill Beach; Deeble Street is named in honour of J Deeble, a publican, who became Beach's sponsor; Kemp Street is named in honour of Peter Kemp (1852–1921) who started sculling in 1887 and travelled to England with Beach as a trainer, while Teemer Street is named after an obscure American sculler who rowed in Australia in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.
The subdivision plan of 1887 clearly shows the origin of the name Tennyson. In the top left-hand corner is a sketch of a distinguished older gentleman above whose head is a laurel wreath. Underneath is the name 'Tennyson', a reference to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, England's Poet Laureate from 1850 until his death in 1892.
While sculling as a spectator sport was obviously popular the same cannot be said for the land that afforded such an excellent view of the course. Evidence from the subdivision plans shows that sales of the land were slow, and a second sale took place in 1894. Only a small percentage of the 1887 lots had sold and further sales were undertaken in 1900 and 1901. By 1904 most of the peninsula had been purchased and by 1905 the shaded lots that had been sold far outnumbered those that were available for purchase. One significant property from this early period of subdivision is Ravenswood. It was built on the eastern shore of Morrisons Bay and dates from the 1890s.
Another use of the river was for swimming baths. In 1918 Tennyson Swimming Club sought council support for the construction of a tidal pool at the end of Bayview Street. It was short-lived and the lease was surrendered in 1922.
While the bulk of the suburb is residential there is an industrial history to the area also. At Morrisons Bay a furniture manufacturer obtained permission for reclamation work in 1934. The factory, purchased for Tennyson Textiles in 1946, expanded on the site, and by 1958 employed 160 people. However, from the 1960s onwards, as industrial sites on the Parramatta River were closed, residents and councils have sought more land along the foreshore for public use. For some companies, such as Tennyson Textiles, the council took an active role in discussing the opportunities with the owners. Eventually the river frontage, including the majority of the reclaimed land, was secured as a public park and the remainder was developed as townhouses to recoup some of council's outlay.
In 1999, suburb boundaries within the Ryde local government area were re-examined and Tennyson was renamed Tennyson Point.
'Ryde foreshore natural and cultural heritage study', stage 1, draft, Godden Mackay Logan Pty Ltd, Redfern NSW, 2007
Gregory Blaxell, The river: Sydney Cove to Parramatta, Brush Farm Historical Society, Eastwood NSW, 2004
Philip Geeves, A place of pioneers: the centenary history of the Municipality of Ryde, Ryde Municipal Council, Ryde NSW, 1970
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
Alex McAndrew, Glimpses of Gladesville, the author, Epping NSW, 2004
Kevin Shaw (ed), Historic Ryde: a guide to some significant heritage sites in the City of Ryde, Ryde District Historical Society, Ryde NSW, 2002