Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gumbramorra swamp, or Sydenham if you like

I know Gumbramorra swamp quite well. It's dry, heavily paved and filled with factories. Plus the odd house or 3. When it rains, however, the swamp rises fast and floods Sydenham and Victoria Roads to car door-level in places. You get a bow-wave effect as you drive through it. I know this because a storm flooded this area in '79 and knocked out the electricals on my VW Golf. That sort of thing - stuck fast in a temporary lake - sticks in your mind.  

It wasn't always exactly so developed and the story is interesting, so here are some links and quotes.

Quoted sections via Chrys Meader, 'Sydenham', Dictionary of Sydney, 2008,, viewed 15 December 2011

Most of the western half of Sydenham was within the Gumbramorra Swamp, a local Aboriginal name, which provided an effective boundary for the early European land grants. The majority of Sydenham stands within Thomas Moore's Douglas Farm, granted in 1799. Thomas Moore was one of the largest landowners in the area.

Another grant of 30 acres (12.1 hectares) was made in 1799 to emancipated convict, John Fincham but it was virtually useless land as it was entirely contained by the swamp.
What else would you give an ex-con but a swamp? It certainly looked different back then: 

The Gumbramorra Swamp emptied into the Gumbramorra Creek and then into Cooks River. Part of Sydenham and the suburbs of St Peters and Tempe developed to the south east of the swamp and the suburb of Marrickville to the west of it. Gumbramorra Swamp consisted of marshland at the foot of the declining sandstone and shoal ridges of Marrickville, in a relatively narrow area surrounded by low hills. At the mouth of the Gumbramorra Creek were mudflats, which were also evident in the swamp itself. Behind these mudflats and mangroves was the characteristic salt marsh. These conditions supported abundant wildlife. The Gumbramorra Swamp was a good source of food for the Aborigines.
I think that should be "sandstone and shale" ridges, by the way. I can imagine it, the low hills with dry sclerophyll eucalypt forest giving way to casuarinas followed by fresh-water mangroves and mudflats in a narrow strip along Sydenham (previously Swamp) Road. Given that it was elevated above the Cooks River it was in effect a large hanging swamp, with another such smaller swamp above it around Addison Road, Marrickville. It would indeed have risen and fallen with La Nina/El Nino events but afforded some sort of regular food and freshwater supply most times. It's hard to believe that now, of course. It basically looks very drab and industrial in the most part.  

Of course it got developed, we know that, but surprisingly it was for cheap housing at first... until disaster struck.

In 1881 the tramway was constructed along the western boundary of the swamp, now Victoria Road. Part of the original line for the tramway was laid down in the swamp as an incentive to development.

The Tramvale subdivision was then offered for sale in 160 lots with double frontages. The subdivision targeted the working class, stressing the availability of employment within 'a centre of a manufacturing district' with a 'certainty of a rise in value'. The estate was badly designed, afflicted with regular flooding and poor drainage. It lacked basic sewerage facilities. Tramvale was notorious for its stench, which the breeze carried all the way to nearby Marrickville, St Peters and Tempe. Its inhabitants also suffered from a range of diseases, including typhoid fever. In summer the mosquito plagues reached epidemic proportions.

The stressed owners of Tramvale would never see a return on their investment. After five days of heavy rain in May 1889, Cooks River flooded and the water rushed up Gumbramorra Creek and into the swamp. Tramvale was the worst hit, with residents having to be rescued as their homes went quickly under water. There was a public outcry and questions were raised in the NSW Parliament about the ethics of developers who sold cheap land, which was both unhealthy and subject to regular flooding, to working-class people, who would never be able to resell.
And the fix was to make it industrial land only (for the most part, as some houses were built later). A pumping station was also built in Carrington Road and later the stormwater system of drains and pits was constructed. One such drain runs parallel with Sydenham Road and intrepid adventuring school kids have attested to its easy traverse to Sydenham. They can probably also attest to blind panic during flash floods after summer storms. 

And to quote my own work...

Alexandra canal | Out out damned Blog!
The principal access roads to the Marrick village were Illawarra Road, a narrow track running south and Swamp (later called Sydenham) Road, running from the west to the south-east. A western track ran from Parramatta Road through Petersham and downhill to link up to Swamp Road, later becoming Petersham Road, and another (again from Parramatta Road) became Livingstone Road. To the south (on higher ground) was another track which became the present Marrickville Road. As now, it ran from current New Canterbury Road to the swampland at Sydenham. Crucially, it connected all the north/south tracks in an east/west fashion and came into its own when the trams were routed down Victoria Street (Road) and the Bankstown railway line came into being.

Another Council document on the History of The Gumbramorra Swamp is worth a look, especially this extract: “early settlement of the upland areas naturally impinged on the swamp. Since much of the region was given over to grazing and timber-getting, the edges of the Swamp served a useful purpose to the inhabitants who worked the later Wardell estate. The existence of habitation on both sides of the Swamp encouraged some traffic across. By the 1840s, a track, and then a road, ran across the swamp to Unwin’s Bridge Road. This ‘Swamp Road’ is Sydenham Road“.

And “in 1855 the 60 acre estate of Thomas E Chalder, called Marrick, was subdivided. It became the village named Marrickville (1861) and the centre of the municipality. The village remained small, with only the minimum of community services. It was bounded, generally, by Illawarra Road, Chapel St, Fitzroy St and Sydenham (Swamp) Road and was in the vicinity of the north-western section of the Swamp. The construction of the tramway along Victoria St, the principal north-south route on the western side of the Swamp, in 1881 promoted settlement in the district at a time of large-scale suburban expansion. At the same time, plans for the Illawarra Railway (opened 1884) concentrated on the eastern side of the swampland, adjacent to Unwin’s Bridge Road. The Swamp area was no longer a relatively isolated and neglected sector.”

Sydenham railway station (on the Illawarra line) was originally Marrickville Station, renamed when today’s Marrickville station, closer to the intersection of Illawarra and Marrickville Roads, was established.
The general area, courtesy Google Maps.

View Larger Map
Zoom into the centre to see the industrial area for a rough approximation of the swamp's extent. West from Sydenham Railway Station along Sydenham Rd to Enmore road is dead flat but rises to a ridge along the east (Tempe to St Peters) with a gentler rise to Marrickville Road to the south and higher land to the north and west. Addison Rd swamp is to the north west. There are plenty of drains in evidence if you look hard and the heritage-listed pumping station and pit lies between Sydenham and St Peters stations. 

Gumbramorra Creek flowed into Cooks River to the south of the creek, so I expect the original course is along or near Carrington Road, where a steam-driven pumping station was sited.
View Larger Map

More soon, I promise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rose Bay flying boat base - Sydney's other International Airport

Rose Bay S25_377 by gtveloce
Rose Bay S25_377, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Or the real Sydney International Airport, if you like. Image somewhat re-processed of course. You can see a 'boat in there somewhere....

Worth a read:

Or here is an updated list of Sydney's airports.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kensington Racecourse: Wilson's 1926 directory

Kensington_Wilsons 1926_287 by gtveloce
Kensington_Wilsons 1926_287, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Last one on Kenso, and it's the racecourse that became a university - of NSW, to be precise. Kensington racetrack was a pony course adjacent - probably too close - to the Randwick horse racing track. Randwick won out politically and the Kensington ponies were shifted south to Ascot (or Mascot, if you like). The Old Tote building became a theatre under NIDA and the rest of the land became the UNSW.

There are also some interesting tram formations on this 1926 map, including the Dacey Ave line and the loop on the other side of Anzac Parade from the racetracks.

View Larger Map

or checkout my list of Sydney and surrounding airstrips and airports

Kensington, Heffron and Randwick: Wilson's 1926

Kensington_Wilsons 1926_288 by gtveloce
Kensington_Wilsons 1926_288, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Lots of changes here since 1926. Long Bay Road becomes today's Malabar Road and the trams have gone, of course. What is now Heffron Park is not yet split by Fitzgerald Ave and plenty of houses are missing. Also the old Randwick rifle range has yet to shrink or lose its tram link (along Araluen Street, below).

View Larger Map

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Long Bay: Wilson's 1926 street directory

Long Bay_Wilsons 1926_289 by gtveloce
Long Bay_Wilsons 1926_289, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Nice advert for a dream home in Randwick... wonder if that house still exists?

Also noted is the tram line up Perry Street, right onto Bunnerong Road, keeping well to the left before crossing the road onto the right side and finally enjoying some reserved track. I guess the road traffic was fairly light in any case but it seems odd to cross sides like that....

St Peters: Wilson's 1926 street directory

St Peters_Wilsons 1926_290 by gtveloce
St Peters_Wilsons 1926_290, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Note 'King Street' for today's Princes Highway, the dam at the Cooks River and the cricket ground on King St near Station Street. Also the advert for lime from kilns on Canal Rd is interesting.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An interesting historical note about Narara, the sunken steamer off Barrenjoey - not the suburb. Or is it?

A snaky tale of ships and sea... well, in part, anyway. In summary, "Narara" appears to mean "black snake" in local Aboriginal language and it is a name that has adorned a ship that sank off Barrenjoey as well as the Gosford suburb. I note that Wikipedia hasn't updated its spelling of Barrenjoey since 1909... perhaps that is the preferred spelling? 

Narara (ship) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Narara was a wooden carvel screw steamer built in 1900 at Jervis Bay, that was wrecked when it sprang a leak whilst carrying general cargo between Sydney and the Hawkesbury River and was lost at 2 ml SE off Little Reef Newport near, Barranjoey, New South Wales on the 29 May 1909. The vessel commenced her runs from Sydney Harbour to the Hawkesbury River in January 1900 and continued on this run till the time of her final 1909 sinking. During 1903 the vessel was burned to the water line and sank at its mooring only to be refloated and rebuilt and started back on the same run.

Narara, New South Wales - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The name 'Narara' can be traced back to the local Aboriginal term for 'black snake', which appears on the official emblem of Narara Valley High School and the scarf of 1st Narara Scout Group.[1][2]

Narara, New South Wales - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Narara largely consisted of orchards and small mixed farms. Water from the small dams that used to be accessible from Narara Creek Road was piped in wooden piping across Narara Creek to the Railway station to supply steam trains. The dams were also a popular swimming spot especially when the ladder and walkway still existed on the lower dam wall.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bo Diddley plays Henson Park, 1976

The legendary Bo Diddley once played Henson Park in Marrickville, NSW using a local backing band (whose name escapes me..! ). Support was Jeff St John and the Silver Studs, MC was Donnie Sutherland. I believe it was 1976. Luckily enough I was there to take these blurry pics...

FYI Henson Park was a rugby league football ground and before that a cycling velodrome and key venue for the 1938 Empire Games. It wasn't usually a rock venue....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where Qantas hid its DC4 fleet

QF DC4 EDB Sydney 75_245 by gtveloce
QF DC4 EDB Sydney 75_245, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
It must have been a tad embarrassing as well as expensive (and arguably romantic, in a way) for Qantas to have to maintain such old aircraft well into the jet age.

Between trips to Norfolk Island's short grass strip the old birds were maintained in the hangars furthest from any passenger terminal but plainly visible to anyone driving from the domestic terminals to the "new" international terminal on the far side of the airfield. It was semi-hidden but by far the most interesting part of Sydney Airport in the 1970s...

Air transport in the 70s: QF DC4, 1977

QF DC4 1977_229 by gtveloce
QF DC4 1977_229, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Perhaps even more surprising than seeing big 4-engined turbo-prop L188 Electras flying into Sydney Airport in the 1970s was seeing (and hearing!) these 4-engined piston and prop-driven Douglas DC4 airliners in regular service from Sydney to Norfolk island!

They would often appear on the distant horizon to the east and north of where I was at Marrickville and lumber their way onto a short final approach to runway 16, making a left turn late over Sydenham. Presumably they were a slow-moving nuisance for the faster jets and were "hurried up" by air traffic control.

Air transport in the 1970s - Ansett L188 Electra

Ansett L188 Electra 76_918 by gtveloce
Ansett L188 Electra 76_918, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Excuse the blur but it was hand-held after dusk!! Point is that it's an L188 Electra, one-time workhorse for TAA and Ansett, forced to serve out its days carrying cargo at night. Sydney then (as now) had a curfew on jets so "quieter" prop-driven aircraft did the night-time shifts. It extended the life of this Ansett Electra, which was retired from passenger duties in the early 1970s.

I remember both TAA and Ansett Electras swooping in from the south, joining the 16 approach quite late, over Marrickville or even Sydenham in order to 'nip in' before a bigger jet. They often soared over my head, one following the other in the 2-airline parallel timetable days.

This particular shot was taken in 1976, close to final retirement from the fleet.

A wet Coogee Crit, 1987

Coogee Crit 1987_040 by gtveloce
Coogee Crit 1987_040, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Well I think it was '87. It's the Coogee crit stage of the Bank Race, anyway, which held criteriums and road stages in and between various towns in Queensland and NSW. Some promising guy named Jan Ullrich won it overall one year...

or checkout my list of Sydney and surrounding airstrips and airports

Austin in a Marrickville Street circa 1948

Austin 02 by gtveloce
Austin 02, a photo by gtveloce on Flickr.
Snazzy Austin caught in a Marrickville Street around 1948 or thereabouts.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some notes on Camperdown and its Town Hall

Camperdown Municipality went insolvent to the extent that its Town Hall was sold off by the Sheriff in 1909. The Town Hall itself was (seemingly) in "George Street" according to public notices of that time in the Sydney Morning Herald - but there is no George Street in Camperdown these days. There is one in nearby Erskineville, though. Or maybe 'George St' has been renamed? Other records suggest that the Town Hall was between King and Bishopgate Streets, and that's entirely on the other side of Newtown, towards Parramatta Road - where we actually expect to find Camperdown nowadays. Otherwise I'll just keep looking...

UPDATE: Found it! George Street was (of course!) renamed - it's now Parramatta Road. The Camperdown Town Hall was beside the primary school, corner of Mallet Street and Parramatta Road.

Records of Councils Absorbed by Sydney City Council - City of Sydney
Sydney City Council (known as the Municipal Council of Sydney until 1949) took over the small and struggling Municipality of Camperdown.
Records of Councils Absorbed by Sydney City Council - City of Sydney
The City lost most of the areas it had acquired.
Part of Camperdown (west of about Church Street/Mallett Street north) and part of Newtown (west of King Street) were transferred to the Municipality of Marrickville.
On 9th August, 1803 an area of land was granted to Thomas Rowley. Part of that grant later became the Kingston estate. Australia Street is marked on subdivision maps for the 1860s in the huge area known as North Kingston estate. Part of the street was in the Camperdown Estate. However, there would have been people residing where Australia Street now is before the street existed. A few streets south there was a very large land grant and there were people living in scattered cottages around this area.
The Municipality of Camperdown was formed in 1862, taking in the Parramatta Road end of Australia St. It was dissolved in 1908, at which time the area was absorbed by the City of Sydney. Newtown Council was formed in 1863, taking in the King Street end of Australia St. Newtown Council held their first meeting in 1865, one of the councillors appears to be a property owner (but not occupant) in Australia Street - Conley (or Connelly, who later became chairman). It was abolished in 1949 and the area was also absorbed by the Sydney City Council. In 1968 the area was carved up between Marrickville Council and (South) Sydney Council. In 1988 the area came fully under Marrickville.
Marrickville Council - History of Suburbs
Camperdown was named in 1806 by Governor William Bligh, who was granted an estate there of 97.1 ha (240 acres). Bligh was decorated for his role in the British naval victory against the Dutch at the Battle of Camperdown (Kamperduin) in 1797. Kamperduin, literally the Dunes of Kamp, is the name of a north Holland village, near the North Sea.

Camperdown was a separate municipality from 1862 to 1908.

Camperdown Cemetery, established in 1848, is one of the oldest European burial sites in New South Wales. The first interment was Sir Maurice O"Connell, son in law of Governor Bligh. The vault also contains the remains of his grandson, Richard Murray O'Connell.
Victoria Park, Camperdown - City of Sydney
Victoria Park, Camperdown

Victoria Park is at the junction of City Road and Parramatta Road adjacent to the University of Sydney. Both roads began as walking tracks in the 1790s, leading from Sydney to Botany Bay and Parramatta. This was the site of some of the earliest land grants in the colony in 1789 when 1000 acres was reserved to provide farmlands and pasture to support church, government and school officials. Early names for the area included the Kangaroo Grounds and Parakeet Hill.