BALMAIN CATHOLIC CEMETERY: Leichhardt’s best kept secret     

BALMAIN CATHOLIC CEMETERY                                                                                Leichhardt’s best kept secret

Balmain Catholic cemetery was located on 4 acres that now houses St. Columba’s church and presbytery, a primary school, associated buildings and a child care centre, originally built as a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph, who taught at the school. The cemetery opened in 1868 and closed in 1902 and was progressively built over. There is no physical evidence that a cemetery ever existed there.

The story of the cemetery begins with the arrival of two men in 1818 at different times and on different ships, one of those was a young man who had studied law in England, had qualified as a solicitor and who came to New South Wales to make his fortune, he quickly opened a legal practice in Sydney, became very successful, eventually becoming a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly, His name was James Norton. In 1834 Norton bought a large gentleman’s estate, known as the Eastwick Estate and which included a large house, befitting for a wealthy gentleman known as Eastwick House. The estate was roughly bounded by Parramatta Rd, Balmain Rd. Derbyshire St. William St. and Flood St. back to Parramatta Road.

Continue reading BALMAIN CATHOLIC CEMETERY: Leichhardt’s best kept secret     

Coughing Again

From a business point of view, Sydney is dead. Theatres, hotels, picture shows, eateries, schools etc. are closed. Sydney is a city of masks.”

Not a description of May 2020 but of February 1919 according to a newspaper article.

In this talk, renowned local historian Chrys Meader compares Sydney life during the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic to today’s Covid-19 pandemic.

Chrys’ knowledge of the Pneumonic Influenza (Spanish Flu) and it’s impact on the Inner West makes is unparalleled and makes for a fascinating talk.

Mirror Sydney – The Podcast

Missing your regular history talks and walks, why not tune in to these great podcasts created by local history blogger Vanessa Berry.

The newly-launched Mirror Sydney Podcast is based on the award-winning book and blog Mirror Sydney, by Vanessa Berry, with production and music by Lia Tsamaglou. Each episode delves into a familiar, enigmatic, or atmospheric place in the city or suburbs. Inner west residents will recognise a number of familiar locations in the first series!
Berry’s investigations usually start at a point of idle fascination: a notorious op shop at the edge of the airport, Sydney’s least peaceful footpath, newly redundant train routes. What then unfolds is a vivid evocation of urban space, not just its streets, people and infrastructure, but the otherwise inaccessible ambience of its former life.
Listen at and you can also subscribe through your favourite podcast app.

Telling Your Story – Inner West COVID-19

History Collection Drive.

Council’s Library and History Services is collating a COVID-19 community archive and is seeking stories, anecdotes, artworks and images from Inner West citizens.

Right now, the community is experiencing an extraordinary occurrence. Contemporary accounts by everyday people will help future historians make sense of this major life event.

The archive will act as a ‘snapshot’ of the Inner West in lockdown – what it was like, how our world changed and how people were affected.

The community archive wants to hear from singles, families, young people, businesses and artists about how you have managed this time.

Old Marrickville Hospital Site Part 2

The Cottage Hospital

With significant development within Marrickville and a surge in its population now employed in the often-dangerous new industries and factories, there was an urgent call to serve its citizens with the establishment of a hospital.

On the 1st day of March 1895, a public meeting, chaired by the Mayor, at Marrickville Town Hall, it was resolved that a cottage hospital be established within Marrickville.

The foundation stone to Marrickville Cottage Hospital was laid in 1897, and the hospital was admitting its first patients during the year of 1899.


6. Industry and Manufacturing 1890s – 1960s

The period between WW I and WW II saw tremendous growth in Marrickville. Industry provided almost universal employment for local men and women.  In the mills of Vicars, Globe and the Australian Woollen Mills women constituted more than 70% of the workforce.

Vicars Woolen Mills c. 1940s

Whole families spent their working lives in the confines of the factory within walking distance or a short bus or tram ride from their homes.

 7. District Hospital and nursing school 1922 -1990

Formerly known as the Marrickville Cottage Hospital, this Institution was in June 1922, proclaimed a District Hospital, now known as “Marrickville District Hospital.”

This proclamation marked a turning point in the history of the Institution, for it was official recognition by the highest authority of the State that the scope of the Hospital had grown so tremendously that the word “Cottage” could no longer suggest the importance of its influence upon the well-being of the community.

Marrickville Hospital saw the formation of the first Student Nurse Unit in NSW. In 1953 Marrickville Hospital was also one of the first hospitals to commence postgraduate lecture for trained nurse.

A Seven story nursing (since demolished) home opened on Livingstone Road on 25 October 1958.

The nurse training school closed in March 1980 when the last of the present students completed training


1953 – Formation of the first Student Nurse Unit in NSW. Marrickville Hospital was also one of the first hospitals to commence postgraduate lecture for trained nurse.

Seven story nursing home opened on Livingstone Road on 25 October 1958.

The nurse training school closed in March 1980 when the last of the present students completed training.

Hospital Committee set up to raise public support / donations to expand accommodation areas of the hospital due to increasing demands for more hospital beds. The urgent need to for the establishment of a children’s ward was also publicised to the public.  The children’s Ward will contain 15 beds – all donated by different people and carrying the donors’ names.

With the backing of Marrickville Municipal Council in 1945 the Marrickville Municipal Symphony Orchestra presented a series of concerts in the Marrickville Town Hall. Gala Benefit Carnivals at Marrickville Oval including baseball matches between American and Australian soldiers.  Mayoral Floral Ball of 1932 – all proceeds to District Hospital and Ambulance. Often large private donations from random individuals / families / businesses in the community.


Blue Skies Government House, Sydney (1926) Produced by the Marrickville District Hospital Working Committee.

  1. Council receives land 1990s

After heated protests from the local community and the nurses and doctors from the hospital opposed to its closure, the hospital closed in 1990.

In 1995, Marrickville Council purchased the Marrickville Hospital site on the corner of Marrickville and Livingstone’s Roads, with the intention to build new community spaces, including a library and civic centres.

After heated protests both from the local community and the nurses and doctors, the hospital closed in 1990.

1992 – Marrickville Council makes initial approach to NSW Health to purchase the site.

Several reports commissioned to the rezoning of the site, including a new library and Civic Centre, including options including complementary uses such as residential and/or mixed residential/ commercial use development that could be accommodated on the site to assists in funding the project.

Main studies included heritage assessment, functional design study, an urban design and planning study and a financial feasibility study.

In conclusion it was deemed that the former Marrickville District Hospital site is significant at a local level for its contribution to Marrickville’s civic precinct and for its ongoing role within the community.

1994 – Council decides to proceed with the purchase of the site.

In 1995, Marrickville Council purchased the Marrickville Hospital site on the corner of Marrickville and Livingstone’s Roads, with the intention to build new community spaces, including a library and civic centres.

Marrickville Council moves a step closer to delivering on the commitment to build a new library and community hub on the Old Marrickville Hospital vote, with a key vote at the 19 May 2015 Council meeting.

The vote means that the project will move to “Stage 2” of the Tender, where four shortlisted developers will be invited to provide detailed concept plans for the whole site.  One of the terms of the tender is that the successful developer will be required to build the new library and park before beginning on the residential (private) development.

Planning and community consultations was undertaken in 2011 and 2012. Following a tender and design competition. Council appointed architects BVN Architects – concept ‘Blue’ design. Following 2012 local government elections, Council reaffirmed its commitment to build a new library, identifying it as a priority project.

In 2015, Council undertook a tender process, including permitting the demolition of three heritage houses on the site, but maintain significant heritage buildings including the former Old Marrickville Hospital and Nurses quarters.


Graham Brooks and Associates Pty Ltd, Heritage Review, prepared for Marrickville Council, March 2009

9.Community Organisations 2000s – 2009

From 1991 to 2017 many of the buildings on site remained derelict and deteriorated.  Despite this, several of the buildings have accommodated various community organisations and small businesses.

10. Squatters / Buildings derelict…

Since January 1999 Council approved the use of the former Marrickville Hospital site for a variety of community groups and private individuals and organisations – based primarily on non-commercial arrangements.

After the closure of the old Hospital in 1991, the building was occupied by MUD Australia ceramics, reflective of the makers and creative that have grown to occupy local industrial premises and nearby spaces.

Some of the community organisations to occupy the site during its “vacated years” included The MAC (Marrickville Aboriginal Advisory Committee) a legal service for Aboriginal women.  Koori Radio. The Cadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation, and MCTVA – Marrickville Community TV Association.

Vacating notices were sent to occupants in 2009, citing the risks of living and operating in old buildings without adequate fire and safety regulations.

11. Official Opening of new Marrickville Library 31 August 2019

After more than twenty years of public consultation, heated debates and deliberations, the development of the new Marrickville Library and Pavilion exemplifies the Inner West Councils commitment to enhancing Marrickville’s civic precinct and for its ongoing role within the community.


Old Marrickville Hospital Site – part one

As we embark upon the opening of the New Marrickville Library we celebrate the rich history of the Old Marrickville hospital site. With up and coming history tours of the new library there will be exhibitions and events delving into the history. For now we hope you enjoy this post with a timeline of the sites history.

The land on which the former hospital, now Marrickville Library was first granted to Thomas Moore in October 1803. It was the largest grant of land in what would become known as Marrickville Municipality (5 December 1861).

The name of the new borough was taken from the estate of Mr. Thomas Chadler, which was named after his native village of “Marrick,” in the north of Yorkshire, England; the addition of “ville” was added to make it sound more gentrified.

Continue reading Old Marrickville Hospital Site – part one

Living Heritage Festival – Tempe House

For the first time in Bayside and the Inner West, leading historians, heritage experts and community influencers are brought together by the Historic Houses Association of Australia for a fantastic day long festival at Tempe House. Join Stephen Gapps, Paul Irish, Ian Tyrrell, Hilary Davidson, Stuart Read, Helen Davies; Paintwrights, Thorne Decorative Plasterwork, and the Heritage Stoneworks Team along with local historical societies and guilds for a celebration of the forgotten crafts of the past and the heritage skills of tomorrow.

Across Discovery Point Park and Mt Olympus enjoy history pop-ups and tours – hear from local historians about the stories of the people, house and life around Tempe House from the 1830s to today’s restoration. Chat to the experts about native bee keeping, heritage sustainability and learn about how life was lived on the banks of the Cooks River.

In the Chapel, Villa and Courtyard, traditional trade skills are on display including heritage stonework, plasterwork and exhibits of paint, stencilling and wood graining techniques. Also on display is an exhibition of rare colonial fashion gowns with demonstrations by a range of craft artisans. Learn about historic lace making, the art of quilling and join a sewing circle.

Heritage workshops will be inside Tempe House – Find out how to research the history of your house from a local studies historian.  Learn hands-on practical skills in conservation and how to value your precious antiques. Hear about environmental sustainability for your heritage home. Join in and use recycled material to create a no-waste basket that you can take home

In the former stables, historians, writers and community activists delve further into the layered histories of Tempe House site, landscape and the river environment. Speakers focus on specific themes ranging from histories of place, architecture and social life to popular expressions of history and questions of identity.

Artisan craft and local food stalls including vintage fashion, upcycled goods and ‘Willie the Boatman’ craft beer for sale.

book your tickets here 

Miss Ashfield 1931 – Miss Marie Walker – PIN

Miss Ashfield, Miss Marie Walker of 231 Liverpool Road Ashfield was one of 19 participants in the Miss Sydney fundraising competition organised by United Charities Fund of NSW.

This pin was donated to Ashfield Council in 1984 by Jim Sherry of Summer Hill

After a close competition, Miss Rockdale was crowned Miss Sydney on December 2, 1931. Having recieved  209,305 votes and raising over £872, she took home the crown and £50 prize money.

Runner up Miss Marrickville won £30, raising over £609 and receiving 146,375 votes. Miss Ashfield came in third place with 82,171 votes, raising over £342 and winning £20.

Details & newspaper clippings from TROVE

Miss Ashfield finished 3rd, behind Miss Rockdale and Miss Marrickville.

MISS. SYDNEY GIRLS (1931, October 24). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from

October 24 1931


Heritage Festival – Haberfield Association Yasmar House and St Davids

So the 2019 Heritage Festival: Connecting People Places and the Past has come to a close with 14 vibrant events including open houses, walking tours, history talks, two exhibitions and the Built Environment Awards attracting over 8oo attendees.

Last Saturday, May 11, the Haberfield Association held a very successful event with the opening of the garden at Yasmar to the public. About 320 people attended. A petition asking the NSW State government to keep Yasmar in public ownership was circulated and 209 people signed the petition. Once 500 signatures are obtained, our local MLA for Summer Hill, Jo Haylen, will present this petition to the State parliament. As a result of this day, the Association obtained eleven new members and ten more people volunteered to help renovate the garden at Yasmar. Many factors contributed to the success of this event but one important one was the positive and cheerful attitude maintained by everyone throughout the day. Congratulations and thanks to all these people.


ANZAC Day 2019

The traditional Anzac ideals of courage endurance and mateship are still relevant today, established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The inner west had a total of 14,522 WW1 enlistments. There are some cases where multiple members of one family have enlisted in different battalions.

Studio portrait of 164 Private John (Jack) Booth, A Company, 20th Battalion.

John Booth was a shipwright of Balmain, NSW, he enlisted in March 1915 and embarked on HMAT Berrima in June of that year. He was killed in action on 9 October 1917 at Passchendaele.

The Booth Brothers

Studio portrait of 9481 Driver (Dvr) Samuel Hordern Booth, 1st Divisional Train (left), his brother 164 Private (Pte) John Booth, 20th Battalion (seated) and an unidentified soldier. Dvr Samuel Booth, a carpenter from Balmain, NSW prior to enlistment, embarked with the 14th Reinforcements from Sydney on HMAT Ballarat on 16 February 1916. Later transferring to No 28 Company, Army Service Corps, he returned to Australia on 23 June 1919. Pte John Booth, a shipwright and also from Balmain, NSW prior to enlistment, embarked with A Company from Sydney on HMAT Berrima on 25 June 1915. Following service at Gallipoli, he transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Company in France. Later returning to the 20th Battalion, he was posted as missing in action in Belgium. It was subsequently determined that he had been killed in action at Passchendaele on 9 October 1917. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium. See also A05787.

For more on John Booth click here 

For a selection of images depicting servicemen of the Inner West click here

For further information on memorials and WW1 service men and honour boards please email:

Images courtesy of Inner West Library and History