In the next installment of hisotric walking tours around Sydney, Ian Dodds looks at the city’s inner-west suburbs.
WHAT: INDUSTRY, A SUBURB LOST AND A CLASSIC INNER WEST PUB
START POINT: Sydney Park, Corner of Sydney Park Road and King Street St Peters
END POINT: Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, 148 Enmore Road, Enmore. Phone: 9519 1935.
COST OF A NIP OF RUM: $6.90
On the corner of Sydney Park Road and King Street in St Peters are some very distinctive chimneys that are a reminder of brickworks that served Sydney for over 100 years.
The brickworks date back to the 1870s, while the preserved remnants were built around 1893. Chimneys and kilns have been preserved on the site.
Around the brickworks is Sydney Park, 44 hectares in size, and the third largest inner city open space. The park covers what was once the old clay pits and those pits virtually built Federation Sydney. The old Farmers Building, on the corner of Market and George Street Sydney (now the Grace Bros/Myer building) proudly features the bricks produced from this site.
The brickworks are also well known in paleontology because at the pits in 1910, workers discovered a full, intact skeleton of a Paracyclotosaurus davidi – a prehistoric amphibian and the only known species to have lived in Australia.
Once you’ve explored the brickworks and park, drive along the Princes Highway to Sydenham and turn right into Railway Road. All the open space around you is known as Sydenham Green.
This was once a thriving suburb, ripped apart and forever scarred by the building of the third runway at Kingsford Smith Aerodrome. The majority of the homes that once stood here were built in the 1880s and 1890s by the owners of various St Peters brickworks, whose workers lived in them.
Today, a walk through the green will clearly show you the remnant foundations of these cottages and there are several blocks of green to explore. Within the green are sculptures, dedicated to the cottages that once graced this site.
While walking through the green, you’ll notice these cottages would have fallen directly under the flight path of the third runway, constructed 1992–94. The cottages were demolished as they were deemed uninhabitable because of aircraft noise and 152 homes, covering 4.5 hectares, were acquired and bulldozed by the Commonwealth Government. Demolition began on 27 September 1995 amid large protests which prevented the work from proceeding for several days.
However, in the middle of these wastelands, a couple of landmarks survived. The first is St Mary and St Mina’s Coptic Orthodox Church. Built in 1902, originally as the local Methodist church, it was acquired by the Federal Government and given to Marrickville Council for community use. It is no longer used as a church, and its future is still unclear.
Another survivor of the Sydenham demolition was a two-storey sandstone terrace, almost opposite the old church, on 19 Railway Road. It was retained because of its imposing façade.
Alone and looking out of place, it’s been reborn as Stone Villa Inc, leased by Marrickville Council to local artists as a community arts studio. Stone Villa Inc holds an annual art exhibition. For more details phone (02) 9516 1787.
At 117 Railway Road is the Sydenham Station Master’s cottage. A nineteenth century remnant, thought to be built around 1885, the building has remained unoccupied since 1995. There’s currently a large community campaign underway to save it from demolition. It’s now one of just 30 odd station master’s cottages left in New South Wales.
On the corner of Gleeson Avenue and Unwins Bridge Road is Memory Green. Until the massive demolitions in the 1990s, this was the only park in Sydenham. It contains a rarely found memorial to veterans who served in Korea.
Adjacent, is what was once the suburb’s movie theatre. Just after the turn of the century, an open air theatre operated here. In 1917 the basis of the current building was constructed, with a major remodelling in 1937. By the 1950s the theatre was known as the REX.
Despite the era of these movies long passed, the building contains many surprises for those prepared to look for them, such as the faded sign of the “Sydenham Theatre” still on the back.
Time for a drink?
May I recommend the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, on the corner of Simmons Street and Enmore Road, Enmore.
This hotel was established in 1880 with John Smith as the first publican. Today, the hotel is a popular haunt of the inner city crowd, serving quality pub grub.
Just a tip though, with inner city character (and this hotel oozes that), you also get lots of noise. Enjoy your drinks and meals in the small beer garden at the rear. It’s much quieter – especially after those aeroplanes scraping your head back in Enmore!