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History of Hurstville

See also History of Local Suburbs


For more than ten thousand years Aborigines lived in the area around Botany Bay. The aborigines living along Georges River, from Botany Bay to near Liverpool were part of the Eora tribe, known as the Gwiyagal group.

The aborigines would have used the caves along Georges River for shelter, and middens in Oatley and Lugarno are evidence of aboriginal occupation. 

The First Land Grants

Two of the largest land grants in the Sydney region were granted to Captain John Townson and his brother Robert Townson in 1808, and are in the Hurstville area. The grant to Captain John Townson of 1950 acres includes the present suburb of Hurstville and part of Bexley, while Penshurst, Mortdale and parts of Peakhurst are on land granted to Robert Townson. Captain John Townson was granted a further 250 acres of land in the Kingsgrove and Beverly Hills area in 1809. The Townson brothers were not satisfied with this land as it was not suitable for wool production, and probably did not occupy this land.

Several land grants were made in the area now known as Riverwood to Charles Doudall, James Ryan, Jane Trotter and Mary Shepley, in 1809 and in 1816 to Mary Redman. They probably occupied their land grants, and therefore became the first settlers apart from the aborigines.  

Early Settlers

George Tyrell and Thomas McCaffrey and John Robert Peake were early settlers in the Peakhurst area, and Robert Gardiner and James Oatley in the Beverly Hills - Narwee area, and Thomas Lawrence in the Lugarno area.

In the Hurstville area Simeon Lord, a wealthy merchant, purchased Captain John Townsons land in 1812, and it became known as Lord's Forest. He may have leased the land to timber getters and the 1841 Census shows William Trimby in residence. Following the death of Simeon Lord the land came under the control of John Rose Holden and James Holt of the Bank of NSW.  

Forest Road

In 1839 a dam was constructed on the Cooks River at Tempe with a roadway on top of it, thus providing a direct route to Sydney. In 1843 Mitchells Line of Road to the Illawarra was cut through the forest, and today is known as Forest Road. A hand winched punt was established at Lugarno, and the road carried over the Woronora River, opening up a settlement at Bottle Forest, now know as Heathcote. The road did not generate much traffic as it was only suitable for travellers on horseback from Woronora to Wollongong, and no suitable descent to Wollongong was made, however the road was important in opening the Hurstville district up to settlement.  

Small Farms

Gannon's Forest Subdivision

Michael Gannon purchased the Lord's Forest estate in 1850. The subdivision included small farms along what is now Croydon Road, and larger farms purchased by Dent, Peake and Ibbotson.

Subdivision of Dr. Robert Townson's Grant

In 1830 John Connell purchased the land originally granted to Robert Townson, and after his death in 1849 the estate was divided between his grandsons Elias Pearson Laycock and John Connell Laycock.

John Connell Laycock sold the land north of Forest Road to W.W. Billyard, and the land south of Forest Road to Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. Billyard subdivided his land into 16 small farms, with a road that became Baumans Road, Peakhurst running through the centre. Mort's subdivision of 1855 into 17 lots, was known as Mort's Farms.

Elias Pearson Laycock's land was subdivided in 1869 as the Connell's Bush subdivision, but most of the land became part of the Penshurst Park Estate, a subdivision into lots about five acres in size, on which several country mansions were built.

The early settlers were mainly timber getters or charcoal burners, but as the thick forest was cleared market gardens and orchards became established, and later dairy farms became common. 

Development of the District

St George
St. George's Anglican Church, Forest Road, built 1856

The Blue Post Inn was opened in 1850 by Richard Fulljames.

The first church was the St.Georges Church of England. Services were held in a bush shed from 1854, and later in the house of George Crew the schoolmaster. A wooden church was built in 1856 on land donated by George Crew.

The first school in the district was conducted in in Crew's Tent from 1853 and this became the Lord's Forest Church of England school in the wooden church built in 1856.

Charles Claggett's store became a Post Office in 1864.

A Public School replaced the denominational school in 1876, and a school inspector decided it should be called Hurstville School, and the Post Office adopted the new name in 1881.

A policeman was appointed in 1882, the police quarters being half of the butchers shambles. If an arrest was made he would have to walk the prisoner to Newtown.  

Hurstville Railway Station
Hurstville Railway Station in 1893

The most important event in the history of the district occurred on Wednesday 15th October, 1884 when the Illawarra Railway was opened as far as Hurstville. Land was rapidly subdivided into residential blocks, and land sales boomed.

Over the following decade mansions were built for capitalists and professional men who could now commute easily to the City, and most of the land in Hurstville, Penshurst, Mortdale and Oatley was subdivided into residential building blocks. Also in 1884 the Hurstville Steam Brick Co., opened, better known as Judds Brickworks, Mortdale, providing more employment.

In 1886 the first telephone in the district was installed in the Post Office, and telephones became more common after the opening of the Kogarah exchange in 1896.  

Hurstville Volunteer Fire Brigade
Hurstville Volunteer Fire Brigade

Also in 1886 St. Michael's Catholic Church was opened, and a petition of 635 landowners and residents of the district called for the establishment of the Hurstville Municipal Council, which was achieved on 28th March, 1887.

Water and gas mains were laid in 1895.

A volunteer fire brigade was formed in 1897.

Another two brickwork's were opened - the Federal Brick Company in Hurstville in 1907, and Mashmans at Kingsgrove, in 1904.

In 1911 Hurstville Oval and the Propeller newspaper were established.

The St. George County Council was established for electricity supply, which began in circa 1920

Hurstville Retail and Commercial Centre

First shops in Hurstville, opposite Public School, Forest Road approx. 1900.

The first shop in Hurstville was Claggett's store and post office, which was located on Forest Road, near to where Kenwyn Street is today. The Blue Post Inn was on the opposite side of the road, near where Roberts Lane is today. A two storey building containing four shops was built nearby in the 1890's or early 1900's. This then was the original commercial centre.

Hurstville Hotel cnr. MacMahon Street & Forest Road c.1900-1910

Before the coming of the railway in 1884 Forest Road followed the course of Ormonde Parade, and near where the R.S.L. is now, stood the Gardeners Arms, a hotel owned by Mrs. Humphrey.

Further along was the Free and Easy, previously called the Currency Lass. Cock fights and skittles were played here. Horse races were held along Forest Road from the Free and Easy to about where Bridge Street is now. The other recreation area was Chappelow's Paddock, behind the Blue Post Inn, where horse racing and pigeon shooting took place.

In 1883 a Hurstville correspondent to the Town and Country Journal pointed out that "our police quarters, at present one half of a butcher's shambles are neither elegant, nor much like a public building, and the prospect of walking a prisoner to Newton [court house] makes our policeman's lot not a happy one."

An immediate effect on Hurstville of the construction of the railway was the closure of the Gardeners Arms and the Free and Easy hotels, which were replaced by Patrick MacMahon's hotel on the site of the present Hurstville Hotel in MacMahon Street.

Forest Road originally meandered over the other side of the railway line, but following the construction of the railway Forest Road was made to run parallel to the railway line where the shopping centre now stands.

The railway station became the centre of the shopping centre in time, as shops took advantage of the trade created by railway passengers, and the old "village" near the Public School declined.

The first shops near the railway station were built along Forest Road, between Diments Way (then known as Station Avenue) and Mac Mahon Street. Early shops (as listed in Sands Directory 1900) were:

A. Croft's shop, Forest Road, Hurstville in 1911
  • Sam McFarlane, produce merchant
  • Harry Farr, grocer
  • Post Telegraph and Money Order Office and Savings Bank - Walter O. Mason, postmaster
  • Fred Brown, estate agent
  • Frederick Heslop, bootmaker
  • O'Brien and Co., sanitary engineers
  • M. J. Carew Boot and Shoe Store
  • J. Chappelow, tobacconist
  • Peter Low, newsagent
  • Thomas Kirk, chemist
  • James MacLeod, surgeon
  • Charles Rembert, blacksmith
  • Walter Austin, saddler
  • Henry Beaney, bootmaker
  • M. Hoy, butcher
  • Hurstville Hotel

Opposite the railway station was originally swampy ground - one of the sources of Bardwell Creek. The land needed to be drained, and logs were used as piles for the foundations of the buildings. A two storey building containing four shops was built in 1907, and occupied by A. Croft, fruiterer, Gannon and Gibson, grocers, Bert Jolley, tailor, and Miss H. J. Chicken, confectioner.

Jolley's Store and Arcade, Forest Road, Hurstville in 1934

Later Bert Jolley owned the whole building which became Jolleys Emporium, and Jolleys Arcade was built underneath.

The land from here to Rose Street was owned by A.E. Humphries a cab proprietor. It was known as Humphrey's Paddock, and was used for grazing horses.

Forest Road, Hurstville, in 1930

There was a stationmasters cottage near to the station, and a Post Office was built further up the hill in 1904. The Railways owned the land between the line and Forest Road, so shops were not built on this side of Forest Road until the land was sold off in sections in the 1920's and 1930's.


Hurstville Railway Station cab rank 1926

The area in front of the railway station was used as a taxi stand and bus stop until it was converted into Memorial Park.

C. Diment's store

The largest shops in Hurstville were Barters, a department store, Diments, a large variety store and Swans hardware. Woolworths, Winns, Waltons and Coles had large stores in Forest Road, Hurstville.

The Hurstville Super Centre was built over the railway station in 1965, one of the earliest developments of this type.

After the opening of Westfield in 1978, and especially after the expansion of Westfield in 1990, Forest Road declined as the focus of the shopping centre.

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