Newtown Sydney NSW from settlement to 1912
This article, which I have transcribed below was written on the 12 December 1912 and appeared as part of a feature in The Sydney Morning Herald, for Newtown's Municipal Jubilee. The links I added myself. janilye
NEWTOWN'S MUNICIPAL JUBILEE. PAST AND PRESENT.
SOME EARLY HISTORY.
Newtown is an old town-a very old town, in fact, as towns go in Australia.
It may almost be said to have begun with the arrival of Phillip. Certain it is that the man to whom the two grants of land, totalling 210 acres, on which to-day the greater part of Newtown stands, came out to Australia with Governor Phillip in 1788.
This man was one Nicholas Devine, son of a farmer in Burrin, county Cavan, Ireland. For 25 years Nicholas Devine filled the position of principal superintendent of convicts, and he seems to have given satisfaction to his superiors, for we find his services recognised by two grants of the public land the first grant of 120 acres was given to him on January 8, 1734, by "Richard Grose, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony," and the second, a grant of 50 acres, was given by "John Hunter Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony," on October 3, 1799.
And Devine settled there, and, after his native town, he called the place Burrin Farm.
The Grose grant reads, In part:-"In pursuance of the power and authority vested in me is aforesaid, I do by these presents give and grant unto Nicholas Devine, his heirs and assigns, to have and to hold for ever one hundred and twenty acres of land, to be known by the name of Burrin Farm, laying: and situated in the
district of Bulanamlng, and separated on the north side by a road of 200ft in width from the land allotted for the maintenance of a schoolmaster, without the town of Sydney. Such timber as may be growing and to grow hereafter upon the said land, "which may be deemed fit for naval purposes, to be reserved for the use of the
The land granted to Devine by Governor Hunter was bounded on the south-west side by Page, Candells, Jenkins, and Field farm, from which it is separated by a road of 60 feet, and on the south side by an allotment granted unto Samuel Burt, the said 90 acres
of land to be known by the name of Burrin"
On these 210 acres Devine lived for many years and there he died. The land was heavily timbered, but whether any of the timber was ever requisitioned for naval purposes we do not know. We know this, however, that the heirs and assigns of Nicholas Devine who were to have and to hold it for ever, have long since ceased to have any interest in the land. Burrin Farm has ceased to be.
All the farms that once were there about have gone, and on the land are thousands of houses closely packed together, and, where once a few men bade each other the time of day, and inquired how the crops were getting on, many thousands of people-in Newtown and Erskinevllle and Camperdown, in Enmore, St Peters, and the places contiguous thereto-are living and moving in these busy times with never a thought of the old farm lands.
But at a time like this, when Newtown Is celebrating its municipal Jubilee, we may with advantage look back on some of the past history of the place, and recall some of the early life of Australia and some of the men of old. History and romance are here blended in a way that should interest all Australians.
A CELEBRATED CASE
Old hands still speak of the great Devine case- or the Newtown ejectment case as the records have it as a 'cause celebre' which lasted for many days and which was crowded with sensational incident.
In it were engaged most of the leading counsel of the day and many prominent families were concerned in it as defendants.
The date was 1857-27 years after Nicholas Devine had died. Devine went to England, it Is said, as a witness for Bligh, after the latter's deposition and there he married. He however left no issue and on his death his property passed to one Bernard Rochfort, yeoman who had become his assigned servant in 1825.
To Rochfort it is alleged he conveyed the whole of the land comprised in the two grants, and from Rochfort it was purchased in parcels of various sizes by citizens of Sydney who built fine country homes there, spending thousands of pounds. Then suddenly relatives of the deceased Nicholas Devine appeared upon the scene and laid claim to all the land. Rochfort was charged with forcing the old man's signature to the will. Moreover it was claimed that being an assigned servant he was not entitled to possess any land whatever.
The families who were now living on the estate combined to defend the case - to defend their own estates.
It was one of the longest if not the longest list of defendants in a case that this country has any record of.
We have not space to follow it further than to state that in the end proceedings were stopped by the defendants paying a certain sum to the claimant as a solatium. But the evildence given in the case-it was published afterwards in pamphlet form and may be seen in the Public Library.
It is interesting because many of the men who were witnesses lived as boys in Sydney at the beginning of the nineteenth century and told of things that happened in the old convict days. And partlcularly interesting, is it to one who wishes to preserve the old history of Newtown.
There were bushrangers at Newtown once, for in 1822 we read Nicholas Devine and his wife were beaten by bushrangers till they were almost senseless". One witness John Lucas said, "I am a native of the colony and have great recollection. I know Nicholas Devine 54 or 55 years ago. I lived on Church Hill then, and Devine lived in Bridge street and afterwards we lived near each other at Newtown. I knew him in 1800, and I recollect his being beaten by the bushrangers in 1822. He had a sap ling fence around his farm, and I used to go there to get firewood". Another witness Michael Willlam Henry said that he came to the colony in 1800 and was formerly in the Marines "The last commander that I sailed under" he said " was Lord Nelson"
There is much interesting history in these Pages but it must be passed over.
O'CONNELLTOWN AND "THE NEW TOWN"
Sydney has grown greatly in the last hundred years the city has expanded, large suburbs have grown up and where once the blacks had corroborees and bushrangers held men up, we have a metropolis with a population of nearlv three quarters of a million. Newtown like so many of our other suburbs has grown from small things to big things It is in fact, the busiest of all our suburbs today.
But before Newtown was O'Connelltown, (called after Sir Maurlce O'Connell, who lies burled In the old Camperdown Cemetery near St. Stephen's Church) was flourishing and though, the name has now gone, some of the old inhabitants still say they live in O'Connelltown.
Exactly how Newtown got its name is not quite clear. But years ago - many years ago- there were half a dozen small cottages situated between Beehag's block (where Hatters' Arcade now stands) and Eliza street and the records of the Wesleyan Church show that services were held in one of these old cottages in 1838.
Probably they were built about 1830. There was a big break from St. John's Tavern (now the Shakespeare Hotel, at the corner of King and Hordern streets) to Beehag's property Then, in addition to the cottages referred
to, there were brickworks, surrounded by a number of old huts, on what is now known as the Gowrie Estate, at the rear of Newtown Markets. In all probability this group of buildings came to be called "the new town," and so the place got its name. There are some who tell us, however, that a small vlllage sprang up at St. Peters, and that it used to be referred to as "New Town."
Many of the streets in Newtown are named after the men of the early days. O'Connell street, for instance, is named after Sir Maurice Charles O'Connell, a cousin of the celebrated Daniel O'Connoll. He landed in Sydney in 1809, In command of the 73rd Regiment, and bearing a commission as Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales and its dependencies and immediately after his arrlval he married Mrs. Putland, the brave and dutiful daughter of Governor Bligh. He died in Sydney on May 25, 1818, and his remains were the first to be interred in the Church of England cemetery at Newtown-known as the old Camperdown Cemotery. It was in Sydney that his no less distinguished son, Sir Maurlce Charles O'Connoll (President of legislatlve Council of Queensland, and four times Actlng-Governor of Queensland), was born. Bligh-street, Newtown, reminds us that the land on the west side of King-street, from Forbes street down to Missenden-road, comprised the grant to Bligh, and in the forties and fifties it was all practically vacant land.
THE OLD TOLL BARS.
There have been great changes since then, and there is scarce a vacant piece of land there now. The old tollbars have gone, and the railway and tramway run through the land where the old farms were. There were three gates on what was then known as Cook's River-road-one at Forbes-street (tho entrance from the city), one on what is now the Newtown railway bridge, and one at the dam, Cook's River. By paying at one of them the traveller was given a pass to clear the others for the same day only. The road, being one of the main roads, was vested in the Cook's River-road trust. Before it was taken over by the trust it was one of the worst out of the city, but a couple of years afterwards it was acknowledged to be the best in the colony. The gates were leased or sold for three-year periods, and the first to take charge was G A. Davis, an old resident of the district. The trust could only raise money by the sale of the tollbars; It had no power to tax anyone save those who went through the gates.
It was near the old toll-bar, and between King-Street and Bligh-street, that Dr. Samson's acadamy for boys and young men stood, and many of his scholars became prominent business men in the city.
Close by, in Bligh street, was the residence of "Parson" Kemp, who was the first minister of St Stephen's. The old house is still standing. At the bottom of Nelson-street, now called Little Queen street, was Gough's College Hotel, afterwards known as "Gough's Folly," because It was built off the main road, with no population near at the time. It certainly did seem an out-of-the-way place for an hotel but probably Gough was a far-seelng man. "I do not think he was mad," said an old resident to a "Herald reporter, "because there was a lot or building going on about there, and he opened his house to catch the trade. More over, the University was being built, St. Paul's College, St. John's College, and several smaller places. " From which It would appear that Mr. Gough expected to do a big trade with the University!
It is not without Interest to note. In those skyscraper days, that the first three-story building in Newtown was put up in King street by a Mr, Peden, who was connected with one of the city banks, and used as a private residence. To-day it is a pastrycook's shop.
WHEN THE TOWN WAS INCORPORATED.
When Newtown was incorporated there were only about 15 buildings on the east side of King-street, extending from Forbes-street to the railway bridge. Mr. Hordern, who laid the foundations of the firm of Hordern Brothers, is said to have lived on the corner of Fitzroy-street. Lower down, on the Cook's River-road, was Dent's large block. It ran from Short-street to Holt-street
The Hon. Thomas Holt, M.L.C., built a very large mansion there, and it was afterward.
used as the Camden College, with the Rev. S. C. Kent as the principal. Many prominent men of the city were educated there, among them the late Mr. Samuel Hordern and his brother Anthony, Dr. A. Watson, and Dr. Knaggs. Mr. Holt also built Camden-terrace, end portion of this terrace is still standing. He is also remembered for having built what was then the largest mansion in the colony. This was at Marrickville, and it was known as "The Warren." He imported a thousand rabbits, and stocked the land, and made it a rabbit run, and is now blamed for the rabbit pest in this country. This property was later occupied by the Carmelite nuns, but it is now unoccupied, and its castle-like character makes it an object of much interest.
The principal business places of Enmore are situated on what was once the "Josephson block."
Joshua Frey Josephson owned a great area of the land thereabouts, and lived in a mansion on the spot where the Enmore tram terminus now is. He was one of our early Judges, and In 1848 was Mayor of Sydney. Another of our Judges who lived out here, in "Stanmore House." was Sir George Long Innes. Still another famous place in this locality was 'Reiby House' once belonging to Mary Reiby
THE OLDEST HOUSE
The Old White Horse, built about 1838 on Cook's River-road, and standing opposite Pat tinson's grocer shop, is the oldest house in Newtown to-day. It Is built of laths and plaster, and so dates back to very early times. The hotel was one of the old-time wayside places that stood back some distance from the road.
It had one of the old colonial water troughs-the trunk of a tree hollowed out in the front. It was kept in the early days by a man named Isaac Titterton and afterwards by James Richards who was one of the first bus propietors plying between Newtown and Sydney. This man drove in one morning to town and reported that gold had been found in Newtown and there was a rush at once, all sorts of fancy prices being paid to the busmen to take people out. The gold was alleged to have been found out in Garsod's brickyards, now known as the Gowrie Estate.
Gold, it is true, was found there, but only a few grains of it, and the old hands state that "Jimmy Richards found it to make business for his hotel and his 'buses." Hundreds of people joined in the "rush."
There was a well at the hotel, and the top of it was left off one night, with the result that a woman with a child in her arms fell in. It was in the days of the crinoline, and so the woman kept afloat until she was taken out, but the child was drowned.
The City Bank building was originally erected by John Donohoe as an hotel, but an iron monger named Matthew Harrison, who had his place a little lower down, offered a big rent, with a long lease, and it was accepted, and the place was never opened as a hotel.
On the same site, before this place was built, there was an old slab hut built with a bark roof, occupied by an old man, known as "Billy the Bull," so called because he used to work an old bull in the shafts of a dray as others worked a horse. He was a hawker and wood carter.
The Bank of Australasia once stood on the site of Ralph Mason's old smithy shop. Then the bank bought it.
Up to that time the price paid was the highest given for land in Newtown. The Bank of Australasia first started opposite where the Bank Hotel is now.
One by one those old houses - the owners of many of which figured as defendants in the Devine case - have disappeared, and the large grounds in which they stood have been sub divided and sold to meet the demands of our modern life. The last to go was "Thurnby." It was the home of T. C. Brellatt, leading flour-miller in the colony at that time, and the first returning officer in Newtown. After living there for many years he sold the property to Mr. Foster, who afterwards became Judge Foster, and represented Newtown in Parliament for some years.
The old place was recently pulled down, and the ground is now nearly all built on. But a few of the old houses that figured in the Devine case are still standing-Reiby House, in Statlon street; Donohoe's old cottage, in Ersklnevllle road (now part of a cordial factory); two shops on Cook's River-road, now occupied by a pawnbroker; and "The Retreat," at the corner of Burrin and Wilson Streets.
There has, indeed, been a transformation since the days when Nicholas Devine lived upon his farm. Life is far swifter now than in the days when the mailman drove leisurely through the place, blowing the old-fashioned horn. Time is far more precious than it was when a large boiler (now in the possession of Mr. Macquarie Walker, of Wells-street) burst, and went rolling with a thunderous noise along King-street, Newtown, and the driver and fireman of a train that had pulled up at the station left their train to go and see what all the commotion was about.
A suggestion has been made to the committee in charge of the celebrations that steps be taken to make the oldest residents guests
of honour at some of the functions. It is a suggestion that will probably be acted upon.
The Newtown Project for the Sydney Archives