Kingsgrove NSW

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Precolonial Landscape

Kingsgrove
SydneyNew South Wales
Population: 11,516 (2011 Census)
Postcode: 2208
LGA: City of Canterbury, City of Hurstville, City of Rockdale
State electorate: Lakemba
Federal Division: Watson, Banks, Barton


Although it is difficult to imagine now, Kingsgrove was once part of a great forest, with small creeks flowing into what are now Wolli Creek and Bardwell Creek. Birds, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums and other small animals, and fish in the creeks and in nearby rivers and in Botany Bay, provided abundant food for the aborigines.


Hannah Laycock and the First Land Grant

Portrait of Hannah Laycock.

The name Kingsgrove comes from the name given to land granted to Mrs Hannah Laycock (1758-1831) in 1804 - King's Grove Farm. As the grant was given by Governor King, it was probably named in his honour. The grant of 500 acres was dated 11 August 1804. The area was bounded by Kingsgrove Road, William Street, Bexley Road and Stoney Creek Road. In time, the two words became the one word we know today.

Hannah Laycock was the wife of Thomas Laycock, Quartermaster of the NSW Corps. It is not known whether the grant was a way of rewarding Thomas (who already had many grants) for his part in putting down the Castle Hill Rebellion or a sympathy grant to support Hannah because of the improper behaviour of her husband. Hannah's farmhouse was located near the corner of Homer Street and Rosemeath Avenue. Canterbury Council erected a Heritage Panel on this corner to commemorate the site.

Very near where the "very slender bad bridge" was located that Governor Lachlan Macquarie used to cross Cooks River on his return from a tour of the Colony in 1804.
On Thursday 13 December 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie visited Mrs Laycock during an inspection tour. He travelled from Parramatta to Botany Bay at Kogarah, via present day Homebush, Campsie, Kingsgrove and Hurstville. It was on the return journey that he called on Mrs Laycock. He found her at home with her two daughters, and he described the house as "a very neat comfortable well built farm house and well furnished; the good old lady's farm being also in a forward state of improvement in other respects.". he continued his tour via Campsie and Canterbury to Sydney.

Other Land Grants

South of Stoney Creek Road from Preddys Road to Kings Georges Road and stretching to South Hurstville and Kogarah was the 1950 acres grant to John Townson, originally granted in 1808 and re-granted in 1810. John Townson was also granted the 250 acres bounded by Stoney Creek Road, Kingsgrove Road, Morgan Street and Kings Georges Road in 1809 and re-granted it in 1810.

Settlement between Moorefields Road and Wolli Creek is indicated by grants to: John Miller (90 acres - 1810), Charles Watson (80 acres - 1823), Thomas Braimson (40 acres - 1823) and William Lees (100 acres - 1823). To the east of the Laycock and Townson grants was the 1200 acre grant to James Chandler dated 1831 (though promised in 1822) which extended from Wolli Creek to Kogarah and Rockdale. This was called Bexley. North of Morgan Street to Wolli Creek was the 175 acres granted to James Oatley in 1831. When Kingsgrove Estate (Hannah Laycock's grant) was advertised for sale in 1841, the only cleared area was in the vicinity of Homer Street and Rosemeath Avenue. Thus the local legend over many years that the cottage at 9 Bennett Street was governor King's Shooting Lodge is not true. The house is called "Pembroke Cottage", and it once fronted Stoney Creek Road. It was probably built around 1843/1844 by Thomas Spencer West.

Commerce

The forest existing in the St. George area when the white settlers arrived was cleared during the nineteenth century for building timber, fuel for the cooking stoves of Sydney and for charcoal. There may have been sly-grog sellers in the bush around Kingsgrove to meet the needs of the wood-getters, charcoal burners, shingle-splitters and sawyers working in the surrounding forests. In 1850 Evan Evans of Cook's River was given a publican's licence, although the name "The Man of Kent" was not used until the next year. A plaque marks the spot at the corner of Kingsgrove Road and Morris Avenue. In 1856, the "Ne Plus Ultra" Store, opposite "The Man of Kent Inn, Cook's River" advertised to purchase charcoal for half cash and half in the best rations, and if ales, wines, spirits of cordials were wanted, orders could be drawn on in The Man of Kent. In 1923, the old Man of Kent building was hidden by rough shrubs, but its quaint, crooked chimneys twisting to avoid the ridge pole were still visible. The old bar room was garlanded with cobwebs and the cellar full of water. It was probably demolished in the 1930s.

'Exploded' gasometer at Kingsgrove, from The Age 16th February, 1956.
The Robin Hood and Little John Inn in Stoney Creek Road near Gloucester Road was licenced in 1854. A few months earlier, the same person had been refused a licence because the building to be called "The Farmer's Retreat" at Kings Grove, Cooks's River" was " a mile from any public road, near a bush track frequented only by woodmen". Another inn in the vicinity of present-day Forrester Street was licenced for only one year in 1860. It was to Thomas Chard for the Kingsgrove Inn.

Thomas Smithson had a factory for the manufacture of tobacco and snuff on the southern side of Stoney Creek Road and half way between Caroline Street and Kingsgrove Road, for about 20 years from 1854.

Smithson's Wine Bar operated on the site of the clubhouse of the Bexley Golf Club in Stoney Creek Road from about 1880 to the 1930's. Stone's slaughter yards were behind the wine bar. If Kingsgrove ever had a landmark, it was the gasometer in Kingsgrove Road which was built in 1926-27, "exploded" in 1956, and was removed in 1979.

Churches

Moorfields Methodist Church, Kingsgrove, date unknown.
The spiritual side was also looked after, with the Moorfields Wesleyan Chapel in Moorefields Road opening in 1851. A cemetery adjoining this church is the last resting place of many of the district's pioneers, the oldest remaining headstone being that of James Chard (father of John Chard who gave the land) who died in 1856. It is said that a number of the graves at the back of the cemetery were of aborigines and convicts and were unmarked and unknown. According to the reminiscences of Evan Evan's daughter Maria Smithson, aborigines held week-long corroborees about twice a year opposite The Man of Kent Inn. [1]

Kingsgrove Baptist Church in Stoney Creek Road was opened in 1875. Services commenced at St. Albans Road in 1888 but the church transferred to Belmore in 1907.

Education

About 1850, a man named George Cheesewright (nicknamed "Old Cheesy" by the children) ran a school in a slab-hut with a bark roof at Kingsgrove. The place was crude with only the roughest and simplest furniture and an earth floor. Evan Evans of The Man of Kent Inn had taken him into his household to ensure that the school continued to operate. Incidentlly, there were denominational schools at Canterbury from the early 1840's and a Church of England school at Lord's Forest (later Gannons Forest now Hurstville) about 1850.

Moorefields Public School opened in 1862 in the Wesleyan chapel in Moorefields Road, and , except for a period in 1856-66, continued there until a new public school building opened in Moorefields Road at the corner of Ada Street in 1879. This school closed when Belmore South School opened in 1917. Other public schools opened at Hurstville in 1876, Bexley in 1887, and Hurstville West in 1892 (this school was renamed Dumbleton in 1915 and Beverly Hills in 1940). By the early 1900s, there were slaughteryards, market gardens, dairies and poultry farms scattered through the district. Ferguson's Nursery was on the site of Kingsgrove High School and the Housing Commission area. Mashman's pottery commenced in 1908.

Transport

The Arncliffe to Bexley tram in Firth Street, Arncliffe, circa 1910. Photograph courtesy Rockdale Library Service.
There was a horsebus service operating from Kingsgrove through Marrickville, to Sydney in 1870. It probably ran through present-day Earlwood and Undercliffe. Public transport became a little easier for Kingsgrove residents when the first stage of a railway line to Wollongong opened to Hurstville on 15 October 1884, and a line from Sydenham to Belmore opened on 1 February 1895. A tram ran from Arncliffe Station through Bexley and along Stoney Creek Road to Preddys Road from 1909 to 1926, leading to a growth in population which was served by a small group of shops at the tram terminus, Kingsgrove Public School which opened in 1918, and Kingsgrove Post Office which opened in 1919 in Stoney Creek Road near the Baptist Church. The Kingsgrove West Bexley Progress Association was formed in 1919, the first in the district.

The first Kingsgrove Post Office was established in 1870. The location is not known but was probably near the corner of the present Bexley Road and Homer Street. It closed the same year, re-opened in 1883 and closed again in 1887.

LGA Division

Parts of Kingsgrove are in three different local government areas - Rockdale, Hurstville and Canterbury. North of Wolli Creek is in Canterbury (established 1879). That part of Kingsgrove which is now in Rockdale local government area began its municipal life as a ward of Hurstville proclaimed in 1887. The residents of Bexley Ward were very dissatisfied with their treatment by Hurstville Council and successfully petitioned for a separate municipality. The Municipality of Bexley came into being in 1900. Rockdale and Bexley Municipalities were amalgamated in 1949.


Railway

Kingsgrove Railway Station, official opening, 1931. Photograph courtesy Brian Madden.
Kingsgrove as we know it today developed after the opening of the Tempe to East Hills railway in 1931. A rail line as far as Salt Pan Creek was recommended in 1923, then it was proposed as far as East Hills. The principal reason for the line was to relieve congestion on the Bankstown and Illawarra lines.

The Public works Committee recommended the line to State Parliament in August, 1924, expecting a small operating profit and opening up good building land. The debate on the Bill to construct the line took only 15 minutes after it was introduced at 5.12am on 17 December 1924, and the Governors assent given on 23 December but no funds were provided. Just before the State Elections in 1927, the Premier, Jack Lang, performed the Turning of the First Sod ceremony at Padstow in September, 1927, but he lost the election. However, the new non-labour government in April, 1928, instructed the Railways Commissioners to commence work on the line.

Much to the annoyance of the residents of the larger settlement of Dumbleton, the double line and the electrification ended at Kingsgrove. The first train left Kingsgrove for Tempe at 4.59am on Monday 21 September 1931, and there was an Official Opening ceremony the following Saturday. The Official Opening of the Kingsgrove-East Hills section was on Saturday, 21 December 1931, and the regular service by rail motor began the following Monday. Passengers to the city from beyond Kingsgrove had to change from the rail motor to the electric train at Kingsgrove and on most journeys change trains again at Tempe. It was not until December, 1939 that the Kingsgrove-East Hills section was electrified. The goods siding at Kingsgrove closed in 1940.

Residential Development 1930s

Kingsgrove Post Office [box 609]. Photograph courtesy Australian National Archives
Kingsgrove Post Office [box 609] When the Tempe to East Hills railway opened in 1931, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and the expected housing development along the line did not eventuate. When the Postal Inspector reported in June 1936 on a request for a post office near the station, he said that there was only one store in Croydon Road ( now Kingsgrove Road) near the station and the district was sparsely settled. By 1940, steady development had occured - there were 17 shops , 3 in course of construction and others to be commenced. There were 520 residences within half a mile of the station, the majority of these were of a good type and had been erected within the previous three years, and building expansion was still taking place. It was decided to open a non-official Post Office called Kingsgrove near the station, and the name of the Post Office in Stoney Creek Road was changed to Benhill. Benhill became Bexley West in 1942 and continued to operate until 1968.

Other developments as a result of the home building were the opening of Kingsgrove Methodist Church in 1939, and St. Thomas' Anglican Church in 1941. The Piccadilly Picture Theatre in Kingsgrove Road near Edward Street opened in 1940. (It closed in 1959 because of the efffect of television). Bexley Golf Course opened in 1939. The first policemen stationed in the suburb operated from a weatherboard call box on the railway ramp in 1943. The present Police Station was opened in 1965.

Post-war years

Housing Commission Opening, Kingsgrove. Photograph courtesy State Library of NSW.
During World War II there was an anti-aircraft battery north of Homer Street (later a Housing Commission area), and a big fire occurred at the brickworks site in Moorefields Road when stored copra ignited. Once the war was over, the exceptional rate of building made Kingsgrove a large and important suburb, and the Kingsgrove Industrial Area began. Kingsgrove Bus Depot opened in 1948.

In 1948, the Ten Thousandth Home erected by the Housing Commission of NSW, at the corner of Stoney Creek Road and Margaret Street, was officially opened by the Premeir, Mr McGirr. It was one of 124 dwellings on the former Ferguson's Nusery site.

In 1949, the Catholic Church-Hall in Shaw Street was built, although masses had been said in a hall in Staples Street from 1931. Bexley Bowling Club was opened in 1950. An army hut was provided for an official Post Office to open in 1951, but it was not until 1971 that a new and modern building was provided. The Grove Inn near the station opened in 1954. Kingsgrove RSL Sub-Branch received its charter in 1952, the Club began in 1956 and moved to its present site in 1960.

Catholic primary and high schools were built in the 1950s. an infants school operated on the Kingsgrove North High School site from 1952 to 1958, the High School opening was in 1959. Kingsgrove High School opened in 1960.

"Kingsgrove Slasher"

In the late 1950s, everyone had heard of Kingsgrove because of the "Kingsgrove Slasher". The district was terrorised for three years by a night stalker who gained entry into hundreds of houses and slashed the clothing of sleeping women before vanishing as silently as he had arrived. The man was finally arrested on April 30, 1959, at the foot of Nannygoat Hill near Turella Railway station when he literally ran into the arms of waiting police. Detective Sargeant Brian Doyle a Kingsgrove resident, who was in charge of the operation, had reached the position of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police when he retired in 1979.

The East Hills to Glenfield rail connection was officially opened on 21 December 1987 and a limited service began the same afternoon. The full service between Macarthur and the city commenced on 11 September 1988.

Prepared by Canterbury City Library

Brian Madden.


References

  1. Article "by the late Maria Smithson",Propeller, April 1 1937, p. 6.