Dulwich Hill is an inner western suburb in the Inner West Council. It owes its name to Dulwich, a suburb of London. The area was known by several names before becoming Dulwich Hill in the 1920’s.
New Canterbury Road is the spine of the suburb. It is an old road that runs roughly east to west along a ridge top. The suburb spills down to the north and south on either side of New Canterbury Road. Residential development commenced in the 1870’s. The area is a mosaic of building styles from Victorian mansions (but a few), rustic weatherboard cottages, rows of terrace houses and more substantial cottages from the late Victorian years, to early experiments with Federation era architecture that evolved till the end of World War 1, to areas of Californian Bungalows in various forms and then, there is the Abergeldie Estate. All this development is interspersed with the more recent development of flats, units and townhouses to produce one of the most densely populated suburbs in Sydney.
Given its history of development and redevelopment it is remarkable just how much leadlight remains intact in Dulwich Hill and some of the most unlikely places in which it can be found. From the austerity and geometry of the late Victorian period, to the exuberance of Federation and Art Nouveau, the resettlement of ex-servicemen after World War 1 in their bank dictated Californian bungalows, to the Interwar Flats with their fantastic stairwells and the idiosyncratic conformity of the Abergeldie Estate. It is a wonderful mosaic for anyone interested in leadlight.
When Sydney was first colonised Dulwich Hill and parts of Marrickville, Petersham and Lewisham, had large areas of valuable timber. It is understandable that the colony’s shipbuilder, Thomas Moore acquired a grant of 283.3 hectares in 1799. Some of this grant overlapped with what is now parts of Dulwich Hill. Smaller grants were given to James Bloodworth, the colonies builder and master bricklayer in 1794. James Bloodworth later lived with Sarah Bellamy who was granted 8.1 hectares in the same year. Eventually the two increased their holdings to 99.2 hectares and between Bloodworth Farm and Bellamy Farm they occupied most of the northern slope between New Canterbury Road and Old Canterbury Road.
Dr Robert Wardell was a rather infamous character who consolidated many of the earlier land grants into his Petersham estate in the 1820’s eventually owning over 800 hectares. The area was still heavily timbered with a good water supply and Wardell imported deer and organized hunts. He was murdered by escaped convicts in 1834 and for many years the area was known as Wardell’s Bush. His death did, however, initiate a major phase of development in the area as his estate was divided into several subdivisions.
Many small creeks ran from New Canterbury road north to Long Cove Creek (now Hawthorne Canal) and South to the Cooks River and by the 1860’s there were many market gardens and orchards in the area. Terrace Street was named after the many Chinese families that established market gardens in the area.
Some residential subdivision began as early as 1874 when the land to the north of New Canterbury Road was subdivided as part of the Lewisham Estate. Part of this subdivision involved Eltham Streets, and Cambling Streets (Now Pigott Street), Denison Road and the Boulevard. From this time the area was referred to by many names; 1874-Petersham, 1883-South Petersham, 1884-Marrickville, 1885 Summer Hill, 1889-Petersham, 1892-Lewisham West. The first use of the name Dulwich Hill on sub-division advertising appears in 1890 and by 1894 when a large subdivision of lots in the Durham Estate (near the present shopping centre) were auctioned. By the late 1890's the name appeared to be accepted for the area. While the station continued to be known as Wardell Road Station until 1920, the area around it was, by the early 1900’s, known as Dulwich Hill.
Gladstone Hall, built by William Starkey in 1870 and was part of a large estate which ran from Ewart Street down to the Cooks River. The Gladstone Hotel in the centre of Dulwich Hill which opened in 1884 owes its name to Gladstone Hall. While there had been some residential development in the area of Dulwich Hill from the mid 1870’s, development began to accelerate in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The intersection of New Canterbury Road and Marrickville Roads became a significant area for development because of the terminus for the steam and horse trams and later electric trams that ran from Dulwich Hill to Circular Quay via Newtown. The significance of these trams cannot be underestimated in the development of Dulwich Hill. The building boom of the 1880s finally created a single and continuous area of development in an area that, until that time, had been a semi-rural area with several villages. The depression of the 1890’s slowed development and many of the lots offered in the subdivisions in this decade did not sell initially and were offered for sale again after 1900.
Sefton Hall, built by Marcus Clarke in 1890, was a large mansion and estate in Marrickville Road not far from the intersection of New Canterbury Road. It was unfortunately demolished and the land subdivided and offered for sale as business and residential sites in 1914 by non-other than Stanton & Son who had developed a significant part of Haberfield some 10 years earlier.
From the 1880’s a number of industries began to appear in Dulwich Hill. One of these was Hart & Gallagher's Standard Pottery Works on Canterbury Road between Union and Dennison Streets. The Works Estate was sold in 1902 and resulted in many of the houses now facing Union Street and Canterbury Road. The clay pits were eventually filled in and are now covered with units.
The goods line which opened in 1913 is now the corridor for the Light Rail but it resulted in a number of industries being established in the area. One of these was The Great Western Milling Company, which later became the Waratah Flour Mill, was built adjacent to the goods line in 1914 and its silo’s were a significant feature of the suburb. They still exist as a significant landmark but they, and the associated buildings, have been converted into units. The goods line is now the light rail corridor that starts at Dulwich Hill Station and passes through Arlington and Waratah Mills stations on its way to the city.
The Abergeldie Estate was purchased by Sir Hugh Dixson in 1885. His father was born in Edinburgh. It is understandable that many of the street names in Dulwich Hill would have names deriving from this Scottish heritage. Dixson built a large house and developed the 9.1 hectare estate into, amongst other things, a botanic garden. When he died in 1926 his heirs did not want to live on the estate and despite considerable public outcry, the estate was eventually subdivided in 1928. While the original Abergeldie Estate (and its mansion) was lost it is a significant conservation area. The Abergeldie Estate was the last major area to be subdivided in the Inner West and the 153 lots were all sold on the first day of auction in 1928. The Abergeldie Estate possibly derives its name from Abergeldie Castle in Scotland (Not too far (3km) from the Royal palace at Balmoral.) It is a superb example of residential development and Art Deco planning of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Almost all of the houses are intact or at least sensitively renovated. The Abergeldie Estate is also an area where there is a remarkable amount of intact Art Deco leadlight from the period.
The Abergeldie Estate Heritage Conservation Area
The variety of detailing expressed in fencing, verandahs, gable ends, windows and door joinery, stain glass work, contrasting materials and use of multi-coloured bricks, roof tiling, veranda tiling and decorative features is outstanding and representative of the fashion at the time.
NB: Stain(ed) glass does not appear in the Abergeldie Estate; but leadlight does in abundance!
The aim of this website is to document the leadlight referred to not just in the Abergeldie Estate, but in all of Dulwich Hill.
The photo's of leadlight in Dulwich Hill were taken between October 2018 and March 2019.