HERITAGE CONSULTANT HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGIST
LEICHHARDT HERITAGE STUDY
WENDYTHORP. HERITAGE CONSULTANT HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGIST. 17 Lansdowne Street, Eastwood, NSW 2122 Tel. (02) 8584336
municipality. It is historical directions used to places items in a context.
meant to highlight major and initiatives which may be of environmental significance
The time allowed for this study, in common with all heritage studies, precludes an intensive or extensive search of primary records. The historical discussion is generally based on secondary sources although considerable effort has been made to consult primary references both to validate the conclusions of secondary sources as well as to explore contemporary evidence for the development of the themes.
The major constraint in defining themes and identifying historic trends in Leichhardt has been the lack of documentary evidence in certain areas, particularly for subjects such as resident perceptions of their own locality as opposed to "outsiders" views and the influence of, for example, speculative building in some areas of the municipality. If the documentary evidence for these aspects does exist it will require more intensive research than this examination will allow.
2.0 HISTORIC THEMES
Leichhardt Municipality incorporates eight inner city suburbs; Balmain, Birchgrove, Rozelle, Lilyfield, Leichhardt, Annandale, Forest Lodge and Glebe. Each deserves a history of its own. They have been individually shaped and developed by historical trends and events unique to themselves. Balmain is quite different to Annandale, Glebe quite different to Rozelle.
However, while it is impossible to write a single history that will adequately and exactly define the development of each suburb, certain themes may be extracted from the wealth of documentary evidence available for this area which provide paths 'which may be followed to reveal the complex and rich identity of this inner city area.
Certain themes are more applicable to some areas than others. This is unavoidable. Collectively, though, they help to provide an understanding of the development of the municipality as a single unit.
Four primary historic study area. Each have a primary themes are:
themes have number of
been defined for the secondary themes. The
water and Land - The Influence of Topography and Geography
City Living - The Growth of Urban Settlement
Working Class Suburbs - The Role of Industry
A Sense of Community - The Development of Local Government and Suburban Identities.
These themes, and the secondary themes which amplify the primary themes, are presented in the following sections.
2.1 Water and Land - The Influence of Topography and Geography
The original topography and later changes made to it have greatly influenced the development and use of the study area. The geographical relationship of this area to the city of Sydney is particularly important in understanding the growth of Leichhardt. The development of transport systems to exploit this relationship has been a fundamental element in the expansion of the communities and built environment. Aesthetic qualities, also, have influenced the development and character of Leichhardt.
2.1.1 Geological and Topographic Features
The early settlement of the study area was both favoured and hampered by a number of geological and topographic factors. The uncompromising terrain actively discouraged settlement for some time;
"When Governor Phillip landed in Sydney Cove ... the party explored a bold peninsula with a rock bound coastline and in an areas just a mile square. This peninsula ... was covered with a dense tea tree scrub through which the gum trees struggled for an existence. The rocky coastline was lined with brambles and native currants but for farming the land was regarded as utterly useless. Indeed nobody would look at it with favour for settlement purposes and it was quickly discarded but an idea struck the early settlers that this would make an admirable trap for kangaroos ... many a fine kangaroo thus fell where the School of Arts and the Methodist Church of Balmain now stand." (1)
Once established, though, the presence of shale soils made for possible cropping and pastures. In addition, a variety of natural resources lent themselves to assisting early settlement; clay deposits were available for brick making, stone and timber for building. The availability of fresh water from a number of creeks ensured the success of settlement and enabled industrial ventures to be initiated.
As time progressed and concerns other than agrarian came to the fore the natural features of the study area began to appear desirable. The earliest sale notices for land in the area stress the advantages of the natural features for development. "Snug" bays could be formed into dockyards and the extensive waterside frontages would allow an owner
to "moor his inward and outward bound ships" (2).
In particular the physical relationship to Sydney was stressed;
"Balmain is a peninsula; on three sides it is bound by water ... Its east or rather N.E. portion consists of three smaller peninsulas lying respectively between Johnston's Bay and Waterview Bay, Waterview Bay and Snails Bay, and Snails. Bay and the entrance to the Parramatta River. It is the first of these three divisions that the bulk of the population is to be found. This is much more extensive than either of the other two, is more accessible from Sydney and is the part where settlement first took place." (3)
Glebe, too, favoured early settlement because of its relationship and access the city;
"Glebe is a suburban municipality adjoining the city of Sydney, situated on a tongue of land lying between Blackwattle Cove and Rozelle Bay. It is a populous suburb and a favourite place of residence for merchants and others having business in town." (4)
The first subdivision notices for Leichhardt noted;
"Its contiguosness to the town of Sydney is known to everyone; turning off at the Wool pack Inn you are presently on the estate and the numerous gentlemen's seats and residences of influential persons connected in daily occupations with Sydney shows at once that it is a neighbourhood not only of choice but popular enquiry." (5)
Topography continued to be an influential force in the later settlement of the area. For example, the ridges which ran through portions of the study area provided an elevated position and good drainage which was conducive to more exclusive forms of housing. Swampy areas evolved a different type of settlement. Jevons noted this distinction in his mid nineteenth century social survey of Sydney where social distinction was defined by the relative elevation of the house,
"The suburban professionals,
first class chief
districts follow somewhat the trend of the high land and are generally very distinctly separated from the lowest class residences. A large proportion of the first class residences are country villas or mansions situated quite beyond the limits of the town.
"Second class residences (mechanics, skilled artisans) are more numerous and equally diffused but are most thickly placed in the intermediate districts at a short distance from the central part of the town. Thus ... Glebe ... and Balmain form the principal second class resident districts of Sydney.
" Third class residences (labourers and lower orders) collect about a few district centres or form a part of the town peculiar to themselves, generally in the lowest or least desirable localities." (6)
Even as late as 1966 the importance of the relationship of the city to the municipality was recognized, or perhaps rediscovered, as a positive asset in the development of the area. New housing developments were encouraged and these,
"bring the realization of fact that Balmain is close to the City and that travel to the city is quicker and cheaper than many outlying areas." (7)
The large portion of the study area which fronts onto the harbour and river encouraged the development of water borne transport to the area as well as influencing the location of industry. This in turn has been critical in the establishment and evolution of settlement and has influenced the character or quality for which some areas are famous.
Man made changes to the topography have contributed greatly to the environment of the study area. Significant reclamation projects were carried out during the later nineteenth century often resulting in the provision of public recreation areas. For example, reclamation at Birchgrove during the 1880s resulted in Birchgrove Park; Wentworth Park was reclaimed from the bay. Federal and Jubilee Parks were mud flats which were filled with sand from the Bay.
The relationship of the study area to the city allied with the provision of reliable transport was crucial to the
development and expansion of urban society. Hence the combination of geology, topography, geography and aesthetic qualities have proven to be the foundations upon which the structure of society could be built.
Transportation, the availability of or otherwise, has been the key to the expansion of Leichhardt. Balmain and Glebe developed ahead of other suburbs Wl~nln ~ne municipality because they had access to transportation earlier than other areas, specifically water borne forms.
"Experience taught them that the growth of the district was retarded by the want of means of communication with Sydney and the only way the early settlers near the Point could reach