Marrickvill is a large inner west suburb. It is currently a work in progress but should be completed my April or May 2022
The suburb of Marrickville
The suburb of Marrickville is about 7 kilometres south-west of Sydney and covers an area of 6 square kilometres. It has a very diverse population of almost 29000 people (in 2018). The Cooks River forms a significant part of the southern border of Marrickville and the arrival of the railway line in 1895 to Bankstown in 1895 created a definite border to the south-eastern side of the suburb. Wardell Road marks the western border and Newington Road roughly defines the northern border. The name ‘Marrickville’ was ‘gazetted’ in 1861 and is derived from the ‘Marrick Estate’ of Thomas Calder (24 ha around the intersection of Victoria Road and Chapel Street) who came from the village of ‘Marrick’ in North Yorkshire.
Most of the residential development of Marrickville occurred in the years leading up to Federation (1900). Almost all of the subdivisions were aimed at working class people who would live and work in the areas around Marrickville. Leadlight was not often used in the smaller homes of working class people.
After the arrival of the First Fleet, what we now know of as Marrickville was a place where runaway convicts could hide out in the heavily timbered bush or disappear quietly into the Gumbramorra swamp. This swamp was fed by local streams and fed by the Cooks River. The availability of timber, clay, and fresh water would later influence the development of Marrickville.
The adjacent suburbs of Newtown and St Peters through to Summer Hill were referred to as the 'Kangaroo Ground' because of the open grassland, but the area of Marrickville was valued for its wealth of timber, particularly for boatbuilding. While there were some land grants as early as 1793 to Surgeon John White, Captain John Rowley and Lieutenant George Johnston, and others to emancipated convicts in 1794. It was an initial grant of 190 hectares (470 acres) to Thomas Moore in 1799 that took advantage of the timber. Another grant of 30 acres (12.1 hectares) was made in 1799 to John Fincham, also an emancipated convict. It consisted of the Gumbramorra swamp and was considered to be virtually useless.
Dr Robert Wardell eventually purchased 800 hectares of land in the Marrickville area (including the former estate of Thomas Moore). Wardell had arrived in the colony in 1824 with and became a friend of William Charles Wentworth who had arrived in Sydney in 1810. Wentworth, together with Gregory Blaxland and William Lawson were the first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains in 1813 gaining considerable notoriety and land grants. Wardell and Wentworth established ’the Australian’, Sydney’s first independent newspaper. Both were barristers and it was by this means that Wardell became extremely wealthy. He entered into relationship with Sarah Rowe and constructed a substantial residence at ‘Sarah Dell’, on the current site of Fort Street High School in Petersham. Sarah Rowe and Robert Wardell did not have any children and, paradoxically, this resulted in the creation of what is now Marrickville and some street names.
Wardell fenced his entire property and stocked it with imported English deer and conducted hunting parties through the bush to the Cooks River. On the 7th of September 1834, in the process of conducting an inspection of his estate, he was murdered by three runaway convicts. Strangely, as a lawyer, he died intestate or without a will. Had he made a will he could not have passed on his estate to Sarah Rowe because her ‘husband’ was still alive. Wardell's three married sisters (in England) could not legally own property in their own right, so, in 1840, his three brothers-in-law each got a third of the estate! They were Charles Priddle, John Fisher and John Frazer. Priddle was the only one to move to Sydney. Wardell’s huge estate was now open for development. The Priddle family must have retained their estate for almost 80 years because the first subdivision of the estate occurred in 1906 and another in 1912. Priddle Street obviously bears their name and Frazer Street was, almost certainly, named after John Frazer.
Following the subdivision of Wardell’s estate, Marrickville became a popular location for farms and market gardens due to the proximity of ample water supplies in the Gumbramorra Swamp. Stonemasons mined the sandstone cliffs along the Cooks River and ridge lines of the Marrickville valley and numerous small dairy farms were established.
Good water supplies attracted market gardeners and the area was becoming very multicultural; something that Marrickville is well known for to this date. The Meek, Graham, Purdy and Moncur families came from Scotland together with Sun Hop Yin and Mow Chow from China, Nicholas Compagnoni from Italy and Pfoeffer from Germany. Stonemasons, like Adam Schwebel from Germany, also arrived to quarry the sandstone along the Cooks River.
Compagnoli’s garden (next to Pfoeffer’s Garden) was described as ‘Part of Lot 9, Sec D, Fisher’s Subdivision. No.1B Petersham Estate, and also 700 Acres granted to Thomas Moore’. This traces the history of the area from the original grant to Thomas Moore (for the timber), its acquisition by Dr Robert Wardell, after whose death it was passed on to John Fisher, after which it was broken into allotments for market gardeners such as Compagnoni and Pfoeffer and then into residential lots in the 1870’s.
In 1855 Thomas Chalder subdivided his 60-acre Marrick Estate, establishing the street grid for the village of Marrickville. Municipal buildings, shops, churches and residences soon followed, bounded by the present-day Illawarra Road, Chapel Street, Fitzroy Street and Sydenham Road. Parts of Marrickville remained well timbered and the area continued to be referred to as Wardell’s Bush. By the mid-19th century Marrickville was a thriving rural suburb with a diverse population that included small agricultural properties, residences and grand estates owned by wealthy professionals. An 1895 real estate plan indicates that many of the small residential lots were occupied prior to the construction of Marrickville Station.
Development after this occurred rather rapidly. Now, interspersed between the dairy farms, market gardens, quarries and an increasing number of brick pits making use of the good quality clay and the increasing demand for bricks were churches, halls, and shops. When Marrickville was incorporated as a municipality in 1861 it was in a state of transition. It was becoming increasingly residential and industrial. When the ‘Tramvale’ estate was auctioned in 1881 the residential lots were described as being ‘In the Centre of the Manufacturing District’.
From the subdivision of Wardell's estate, Thomas Holt, a wool merchant, financier and politician (and philanthropist) with investments in gold mining and interests in oyster growing, purchased 130 acres in 1859. In 1886 he built an estate and mansion known as ‘The Warren’ and it became a significant feature of Marrickville. The mansion was huge and built of stone in the Victorian Gothic style. The grounds were stocked with rabbits (for hunting) and other exotic animals such as alpacas. The Warren was such a feature of Marrickville that ‘Grand Villa Sites’ on the Warren Grove Estate, adjacent to The Warren, were offered for sale in in 1876. Others were advertised as ‘Overlooking the Warren’. The Warren View Hotel in Newtown, several kilometres away, overlooked this obvious landmark at the time. Holt returned to England in 1883 and the estate was subdivided. The house itself was purchased by the New South Wales State Government in 1919 and subsequently demolished and an estate, ‘The Warren’ was created for returned soldiers from WW1 with what is now Richards Avenue as the centre and flanked by Mansion Street and McGowan Avenue.
The good clay had a big impact on Marrickville. Many of the large mansions and villas that had been built in the ‘rural’ environment of market gardens, dairies and orchards were demolished to allow access to the clay. Further subdivisions occurred to provide housing for the ‘workers’ needed in the growing number of industries in Marrickville. In the late 1870’s and 1880’s Sydney experienced a building boom and there was an enormous demand for bricks. In Marrickville in the 1880’s the population increased by 400%. The pits did not produce just bricks. Many of the brick pits became flooded and were filled in after they had worked the clays. Henson Park was once Thomas Daley's Standsure Brick Company which operated from 1886 to 1914. Tragically nine young boys drowned in this flooded brickpit. Marrickville Park is also built on the site of an old brick pit.
The Fowler Company, in Fitzroy Street, produced pottery such as toilet bowls and cisterns, wall tiles and basins as well as earthen ware pipes. The pits began to close down in the 1890’s and most were filled in by the local council to create parks and recreation grounds. Over time, the brickpits changed the social and economic complexion of the Marrickville area.
The expansion of industry and improved transport links created a more industrial suburb, populated mostly by working class people. Development came at a price, and some of the grand homes of the area were demolished to make way for the brick pits, while other estates were subdivided to accommodate the growing population in basic two up, two down terrace houses.
Various manufacturing facilities and heavy industries began to establish themselves in Marrickville in the 1890’s and many residential lots were purchased to make way for these industries. The Vicars family established a large woollen mill in 1893 on the site of what is now Marrickville Metro. Preserved within the Metro is a house known as ‘The Mill’ that was originally built c.1860 and later occupied by the Vicars Family. It is a beautiful example of the rural estate homes that would have been built in Marrickville. Together with Globe Worsted Mills and Australian Woollen Mills these mills were significant employers, particularly of women, at times employing many thousands of workers between them.
In the 1880’s Marrickville boomed. The large number of clay pits and manufacturing industries that had established themselves in the area required workers. The number of subdivisions peaked in the 1880’s and thousands of homes were built to accommodate these workers. Large numbers of terrace housing, both single and two storey were built along with hundreds of semi-detached homes. Development during this period has had a significant effect on the streetscape and heritage of Marrickville. These workers homes were rarely adorned with leadlight. That was only for the well off and though many of the mansions and estates of Marrickville were demolished to make way for brick pits and subdivision, a few magnificent buildings remain and with them is their leadlight
Trams and the railway had a significant influence on the development of Marrickville. By 1884 Sydney had 50 kilometres of tramway lines. Initially the trams were steam powered. By I894 the tram line ran from Central, through Newtown, along Enmore Road to Victoria Road and then turned right into Marrickville Road and then on to the terminus in Dulwich Hill. Marrickville station opened in 1895. Trams and the tramway featured in at least 9 of the subdivision plans indicating it was a good selling point. The station features in at least 10 of the subdivision plans so public transport was a very significant feature of Marrickville in the 1890’s.
The coming of the trams was foreshadowed in the ‘Tramvale’ subdivision of 160 lots with double frontages was offered for sale in 1881. It was a fiasco. It was built over the Gumbramorra Swamp and was offered for sale after an extended period of drought. As Marrickville became increasingly industrialised the subdivision targeted the working class, stressing the availability of employment ‘In the Centre of a Manufacturing District' with a 'certainty of a rise in value'. The estate and other adjacent areas were subject to minor flooding but the major flooding that occurred in 1889 left no alternative for the land use to be changed from residential to industrial.
At Marrickville especially the condition of affairs was deplorable.
'... after the torrents of Sunday the area known as Tramvale was transformed into a huge lake. But the worst had not then been realised. With the exception of occasional lulls in the evening, rain continued to fall; By daylight the surface of the country lying between Victoria-road on the one side and the railway line on the other was completely blotted out by the surging waters. Looking across the space nothing but the tops of fences, the tufts of trees, and the roofs of huts and houses was visible.'
The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday May 28 1889
The area is now entirely industrial. Wicks Park, on the corner of Sydenham Road and Victoria Road marks the lowest point of the Gubramorra Swamp.
The Sydenham Pit & Drainage Pumping Station No.001 is built at the end of Saywell Street and adjacent to the ‘Tramvale Estate’. It was built in the Depression years of the early 1930’s using the abundance of labour employed in public works to provide relief work for the unemployed. It’s construction though, indicated that flooding in the area was still a problem as it still is.
The Sydney Steel Company was one of the major companies operating on the former site of the Gumbramorra Swamp. It was founded in 1910 by Scottish migrant, Alexander Stuart, and by 1935 employed over 7500 workers and covered 11 acres (4.5 hectares). Sydney Steel was one many factories built after the swamp was drained.
General Motors established a large assembly plant on Carrington Road in 1926, also built over the swamp. A pumping station was also built in Carrington Road and later the stormwater system of drains and pits was constructed. Carrington road is now almost entirely industrial and is still prone to occasional flooding.
Most of the heavy industry has left Marrickville and has been replaced by hundreds of light industries, largely in the original industrial areas built over the Gumbramorra Swamp.