Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Originally part of the homeland of the Wallumeda people, the traditional owners of the land, Beecroft and Cheltenham are almost unique among Sydney suburbs, as large parts of them are heritage areas.

 

Situated 26.5 kilometres from Redfern Station, then the Sydney terminus, Beecroft developed along the railway line from Sydney to Newcastle, opening in 1886. It was a small platform in the middle of nowhere, named after Hannah Copeland, the wife of Henry Copeland, Secretary (ie Minister) for Lands. The first land sales took place here in 1887.

 

Cheltenham, named after the home town of a significant early settler, William Chorley, was the name given to the railway station opened in 1898, 25 Km from Sydney.

 

Both suburbs became known for their quiet village atmosphere and fine gardens. Despite closer development throughout Sydney over the last few decades, they retain something of the semi-rural atmosphere of their origins. Many significant people have had associations with Beecroft and Cheltenham. Some of their stories can be found here.

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BEECROFT CHELTENHAM HISTORY GROUP AND THE FIRST PATRON

The present Beecroft Cheltenham History Group was assembled at least ten years before the publication of its first book. Ian McLeod, one of the first members recalls that he was inspired to suggest such a group after hearing Helen Barker give a talk to the Beecroft Civic Trust about the notable houses of the Hornsby Shire. Helen had published a book on her research into domestic dwellings of the shire.

Ian contacted people whom he thought would be interested in contributing their skills and so it was born.

Amongst the first were Carol Liston a history professional both academic and also in holding the president’s position of the Royal Australian Historical Society. Heather Garnsey another profession Ralph Hawkins a born historian who without formal training had researched the Pennant hills Convict Timber establishment and collecting convict made bricks and tools(recognisable to sharp eyes as they have an arrow on them)Ralph’s expertise was recognised when the Museum of Sydney was opened and he was offered a position there. Alan Tierney and his wife Judith were very able in collating maps, photographs and editing Heather Thomas who had better computer skills that any of us for which we were to be very grateful, Enid Slade an unsung heroine of the group her passion for Australian history prompted her to commit to travelling to Parramatta Public Library one day each week to consult the copies of very early regional newspapers covering the Hawkesbury area in particular. That is where Pennant Hills and Beecroft news, such as it was, was published. Doing it all by public transport and long hand transcriptions, this provided the meat on the bones of the other rudimentary records available. Enid ,once home each week, would type out several pages of her research and then a copy would be given to each member. These proved invaluable when wanting to collate information about local events ,particularly music groups, garden clubs,l  ocal progress association. together with  births, deaths and marriages of local folk. Trevor MacCaskill was to prove a guiding hand to the group with his years of experience as headmaster of a large private school he was more than capable of coping with any and every situation which arose along the way. And at the end of each meeting he would review what each member had said they would follow up and with this record he would start the next months meeting-bit like being back at school but he kept us rolling on and meeting deadlines. Catherine Bartho was also part of the group having finished a midlife degree in Australian History at Macquarie University was fresh with new thinking in the university world  of womens history and indigenous history.Several in the group had published books and ther experience was invaluable.As Carol Liston advised at the beginning iy would take several years before the local people felt a confidence in the group to share their family photographs of life here.People need to know that there would be a certain respect for their stories.

And so the very rewarding work of the group began. We had also been alerted to the cost of doing thorough research. Libraries such as the Mitchell Library charged a fee for copies of road maps, photos and documents in their care. Reams and reams of paper were consumed in providing copies of Enid’s research. These small costs were nothing as to the cost of actually publishing which would require a book designer, proof reader   and publisher. So a separate committee called the social committee was formed to raise funds for a publishing account.T here was gratifying support from the local community who supported dinners at Cheltenham Recreation Club, sale table in Beecroft Arcade of tea towels with local designs. The group taught themselves to screen-print under the guidance of Heather Smallbone and in her garage. Members became adept at tea towels and then hessian when the idea came to make hessian shopping bags with the message ’I’ m an Old Bag from Beecroft’ These sold like hot cakes and became collectors items as each bag had a number on it ‘s tag.

A local identity who also showed support for the group was the well known actress Ruth Cracknell who lived locally as Mrs Phillips and wanted to be one of the community. In order to help the publishing fund Ruth offered to do a n evening of Shakespearean odes. Looking back the social committee knew they could have charged much more for the tickets which sold almost before they were printed and which people still say to one another’ were you there ‘.It was such a memorable occasion. The hall of St. Johns Anglican church was transformed into an Edwardian drawing room with suitable lighting and some furniture lent from local homes. Beautiful flower arrangements filled up the barren spaces and a mellow atmosphere was created with soft music .

See Ruth Cracknell  under People  on this Website.

Prior to the Shakespearean evening, the group had invited Ruth to be its patron and when she accepted it was arranged with Hornsby Council to have a suitable native tree planted on the Village Green to mark the forthcoming book. The tree flourished during the writing and polishing years and when the launch date arrived ,the tree blew over in a storm. It has never been replaced.

The monthly meetings of the group were held in one anothers homes. Several members of the group brought their expertise and in one case pocket book. Ross Barwick was very active for some time. It was during his years that an old sign which had been located in the Byles Reserve was retrieved in a much damaged state. Thanks to the generosity of Ross and his family the old sign was not put in the bush to be vandalised again but entrusted to the care of the Beecroft Public School. It seems it was stored away somewhere and subsequent headmasters and mistresses had no idea what it was. Maybe one day it will turn up again just as the lovely stained glass windows which are now in the foyer of Cheltenham Girls High School were retrieved.

During the writing years, often differing opinions had to be reconciled always amicably I might add. Would mention be made of the early population of fruit growers, timber and dairy owners being on the whole protestant. Would it be pointed out that there was no pub and also no Catholic Church although many residents would say that the area had voted in the referendum against havingretail liquor outlets. At the end of the nineteenth century the inner city of Sydney was a place of open drains, horse drawn vehicles and a typhus epidemic. Many people who came out to the Beecroft Cheltenham area were looking for a healthier environment for their families. A morning and evening train service would take city workers to and from work, One story told was of the commuter who took with him to work a homing pigeon. When he left the office, the pigeon was released and would arrive back to tell the family it was time for dinner to be cooked. Lovely local stories but are they history? Can you write history when there is negative evidence? Questions historians ponder.

In keeping with the realisation permeating the world of Australian history was the fact that our history did not start at 1788 but there was a much longer unwritten account of the human habitation prior to white settlement.Indigenous history was now being taught at Macquarie University one of the first tertiary institutions to regard its importance. Marcia Langton was one of the first indigenous lecturers, If our local history was to be accurate we would have to find what we did not know. We were very ably assisted by Prof Jim Cohen from Macquarie University to be able to have the first chapters acknowledging the presence and lives of the Dharug people.IN the past thirty years since publication, more has come to light of first impact of these people on the land with remnants of their tools, weapons, use of fire.

With the main body of the book having been completes,the process of editing was undertaker by an inner core of members ably assisted by Alan and Judith Tierney.Help with photographs and maps also required some expertise aand Helen Barker offered to compile an index.

With the end of the project in sight some thought had to be given to the book launch.Who where and when.The School of Arts having been the centre of the social life of the community was the obvious place,the date was set in cooperation with the printer giving a reasonable margin for unforseen holdups and of course our patron had to be consulted as to her availability.

All hands were on deck for the preselling of the book.and it was very gratifying that people ordered multiple copies and were willing to pay without seeing the final product. A very comfortable place to be for the committee to have money coming in as the ‘Swiss bank account ‘started some years before already had sufficient funds to cover costs, Most committee members had agreed to be distributors of the volumes after the launch.

And so it was on a Saturday afternoon in the presence of all the local dignitaries RuthCracknell with her fine sense of occasion welcomed the arrival of the bookand she was presented with a copy of the book, some flowers-----and a bag of oranges. This bringing howls of laughter both from Ruth and the audience as her famous role in Mother and Son had shown her on the way to a funeral stopping to buy oranges.

Street Names of Beecroft and Cheltenham

Albert Road

Named after Prince Albert (1819-1861) the husband of Queen Victoria

Allerton Road

This was created by the 1959 subdivision by Hilda Seale. The name comes from the property ‘Allerton’ on Murray Farm Road owned by her sister Mary Isobel Crosbie McDonnell and her husband Pierce McDonnell from at least 1915-1933.

Bambara Crescent

This derives from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘forest.’ Created by the subdivision in 1960 of “Plympton” the property of Charles Churchill Tucker. The first subdivision using this name was by Stocks and Holdings.

Bingara Road

Created by the subdivision in 1960 of “Plympton” the property of Charles Churchill Tucker. The first subdivision using this name was by Stocks and Holdings.

Blackwood Close

Named after the Blackwood family who built and lived at “Maraba” 8 Beecroft Road

Bullawai Place

Created by the subdivision in 1960 of “Plympton” the property of Charles Churchill Tucker. This was also the site of the Borseman orchard and the Webster cut flower farm. The first subdivision using this name was by L J Hooker.

Burns Road

Incorrectly named after the Byrne’s family who had a dairy on this land until 1946

Carawatha Street

Created by the subdivision in 1960 of “Plympton” the property of Charles Churchill Tucker. This was also the site of the Borseman orchard and the Webster cut flower farm. The first subdivision using this name was by L J Hooker.

Calool Road

Created by the subdivision in 1960 of “Plympton” the property of Charles Churchill Tucker. The first subdivision using this name was by Stocks and Holdings.

Carlisle Crecent

Named after the Carlisle family who lived at “Kelvin Grove” 557 Pennant Hills Road. The street was formed in 1953.

Castle Howard Road

Castle Howard is a famous mansion near Malton in Yorkshire. Malton was the birthplace of Sir Henry Copeland’s wives.

Chapman Avenue

Named after the Chapman family who lived in “The Grange”

Chapman Avenue

Named after the Chapman family who lived in “The Grange”

Copeland Road

Named after Sir Henry Copeland (1839-1904) who was Secretary (now known as Minister) for Lands in the NSW Parliament in 1886-1887 and again 1891-1894

Edwards Avenue

Created in a 1963 subdivision it was named after an early landowner John Edwards

Ferndale Road

Created by a subdivision in 1930 by O F Nelson & Co Ltd

Finlay Avenue

This was created by the 1959 subdivision by Hilda Searle. This was named after Douglas Joseph Finlay who was killed in WW1 and was the brother of both Mrs Frank (Hilda) Seale and Mrs Pierce (Mary Isobel) Crosbie-McDonnell of ‘Allerton’ Murray Farm Road Beecroft.

Fiona Road

Named after “Fiona” the home of Frederick and Eliza Mason who lived on the south side of Copeland Road near the present day intersection with Hull Road

Garrett Road

Named after the Garrett family who lived nearby in at least 1917

Glenwood Street

Created in 1963 as part of the subdivision of the Barwick Estate.

Grace Avenue

This street was developed in the 1950s by Alice Oxley. Originally it was a through road but became a cul de sac with the construction of the Thompson’s Corner Tunnel in 1993. Alice Oxley named the street after her mother Grace Oxley who died in 1936. Her parents owned an 18 ½ acre orchard between Cardinal Avenue and Thompson’s Corner from 1905. It contained a house called ‘Camerton’ (on the southern side of Pennant Hills Road) which was their home. Samuel (Alice’s father) was a produce merchant. Many of the original houses were built by Geoffrey Smith. 

Hannah Street

This street was named after the first wife of Sir Henry Copeland who was Hannah the daughter of James Beecroft brewer of Malton Yorkshire, England. 

Hull Road

Named after the city in Yorkshire – which was the County from whence Sir Henry Copeland came.

Jacinta Avenue

Named after the young Portuguese girl Jacinta who, with her friends Lucia and Francisco, witnessed the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima on 13 May 1913. The street was so named by Herbert George Willis as a result of his placing his faith in Our Lady of Fatima following the death of his son Eric, in a plane crash in Japan as a member of the occupation forces in December 1946. Herbert George Willis owned a 3 acre farm in Albert Road (while working as a design engineer with the Railway) which he later subdivided.

John Street

Created in a 1963 subdivision it was named after an early landowner John Edwards

Karril Avenue

Created by a subdivision in 1960 of land owned by the Bandiera and Rizzardo and Chix families.

Keira Place

Created by a subdivision in 1960 of land owned by the Bandiera and Rizzardo and Chix families.

Kent Street

Named after Captain William Kent who was granted 460 acres in this vicinity in 1803. It originated as a means of hauling timber.

Kenwick Lane

This lane arose from a combination of the names of Ken Brown and Wickham Beaston who owned the land upon which this lane was built. Their wives (Billie Brown and Joan Beaston) were potters who established in 1969 their own gallery in Beecroft which they called Kenwick Gallery because of the same combination of names.

Kirkham Street

Kirkham is a town about 10 km southwest of Malton in Yorkshire. It has a priory which is a local landmark. It is therefore another name with a connection to the wives of Sir Henry Copeland.

Lamorna Avenue

Was created in a 1960 subdivision undertaken by Westfield Corporation. The land was part of the Maher family holdings.

Lynbrae Avenue

This was created by a 1961 subdivision of “Chelodene” the home of Ted and Lila Maher. Mrs Maher gave the name to the street. The street was extended in 1964 by the subdivision by Lillian Cartwright of her 7 acre family home “Sunny Glen.”

Lyne Road

Named after Sir William John Lyne (1844-1913) a Premier of NSW.

Mahers Close

This is the remnant of Mahers Road following the construction of the motorway. It was named after the Maher family who lived in its vicinity. Edward Maher was a significant landowner including 28 acres purchased in 1855 from the Mount Wilberforce property of the Reverend Samuel Marsden and in 1882 ‘Murray Farm’.

Mallada Place

Created by a 1960 sudvision of the Rizzardo cut flower farm called ‘La Tosca’

Malton Road

This road was named after Malton a town in Yorkshire, England, where the wives of Sir Henry Copeland were born.

Marron Place

Created by a 1960 sudvision of the Rizzardo cut flower farm called ‘La Tosca’

Mawson Avenue

This was created by a 1958 subdivision

Marwood Drive

This was created by a 1961 subdivision of “Chelodene” the home of Ted and Lila Maher. Mrs Maher gave the name to the street.

Mary Street

This street was named after the second wife of Sir Henry Copeland who was Mary the daughter of James Beecroft brewer of Malton Yorkshire, England. 

Mason Street

Named after “Mason’s Paddock” which it ran through. Mason was Frederick Mason a builder living in Hannah Street, Beecroft. He and his wife were stalwarts of the Methodist (now Uniting) Church in Beecroft. Mason’s Paddock was the site of an early cricket pitch.

Meadow Close

This was created in a 1967 subdivision.

Midson Road

Named after the Midson family who lived in the vicinity. Edward Midson arrived in the Colony in 1855. William Midson was credited with naming Epping. This road ends at its southern extremity at what is now Terry Street Eastwood and which was the end of the former Dundas Municipality.

Murray (and Murray Farm) Road

Named after Andrew Murray who arrived in the Colony in 1817 and owned land in the vicinity. His wife was the daughter of David Kilpack, a convict arriving on the First Fleet and the holder of one of the earliest grants in the district.

Norwood Avenue

Named after ‘Norwood’ the Finch family home on this site. The house was built around 1890. Originally comprising 10 acres leased by Robert Finch and his sons Desmond and Bruce they purchased it in 1939. It was originally an orchard but later specialised in flowers. The subdivision was in 1964.

Park Avenue

This street was created by a subdivision of 1903 of an area known as Beecroft Park Estate – hence the name of this street.

Parker Close

Named after the Badgery-Parker family that created the subdivision in 1962.

Redgrove Avenue

Created by a subdivision in 1930 by O F Nelson & Co Ltd

Roselea Way

Named because of the rose nurseries in the area it was created in 1964 as part of the subdivision of the Pennant Hills Wireless Station

Saracen Road

Created by a subdivision in 1930 by O F Nelson & Co Ltd

Seale Close

Intended by the developer to be called Bruce Close local residents successfully lobbied for it to be named after the family whose home was demolished to make way for the subdivision – the Seale family.

Sunhaven Road

Created by a 1964 subdivision it is named after the house on the site “Sunhaven” which had been built by the French Fogolins family

Sutherland Road

Named after Councillor Charles Sutherland who was a Councillor of Hornsby Shire for 33 years and President for 10 years

The Boulevard

The name of the street was given by William Chorley after the name of a street in the town where he married, Cheltenham, England.

The Promenade

The name of the street was given by William Chorley after the name of a street in the town where he married, Cheltenham, England.

Tristania Way

Tristania is the botanical name for the tree known as the Brush Box.

Wandeen Avenue

The name of the street takes its name from the original home – “Wandeen Cottage,” 2 Wandeen Avenue.

Welham Street

Named after a parish in Leicestershire connected with the Copeland family

York Street

This street was named after the county which was the birth place of both wives of Sir Henry Copeland.

 

Chorley Avenue, Cheltenham

From the corner of Chorley Avenue and Cheltenham Road, look northwards along Chorley Avenue to see how the road is not intrusive in the vista before you: there are wide mown verges, there are no curbs or gutter and trees are both native and exotic – blackbutt, red mahogany and Sydney peppermint. This scene is a classic landscape.

3.         This was the home of Owen Ludlow, a lawyer who purchased the law practice of Marie Byles when she retired from practice. It was built by the Hon J F Dey – for which see 7. It was sold in 2021.

4          has diamond paned windows that are shuttered. It is of the dark blue Thornleigh brick. It has shingles in the gable and a recently landscaped garden that contributes to the setting of the house.

7,         is an imposing two-storeyed pale brick home of the 1950s with again an entry framed like 20 Sutherland Road, but this time with the addition of a keystone. It has a beautiful garden. Formerly it was the home of Mr Justice John Dey (of the NSW Industrial Commission) (1911-1994) and his wife Keelah. As they aged they moved into 3 Chorley, on the corner, for their last years in Cheltenham. It was from 3 that they were members of the Civic Trust from 1985 to 1994. This was the address of G Ross for membership of the Civic Trust in 2007.

11,       This was the home of William (Billy) Ewart Hart. Born in Parramatta in 1885 he built his first aeroplane in 1910. In September 1911 he purchased a Bristol Box kite from a touring British aeroplane company and after a few lessons flew it solo by the following November. He received Australian aviator’s licence number 1 on 5 December 1911. The month before he flew 76 km from Penrith to Sydney completing the first cross country flight in NSW in 55 minutes and reaching 6,500ft. In the following year on 29 June he won Australia’s first air race flying from 32 km from Botany to Parramatta Park. A memorial in Parramatta Park commemorates this event. In 1912 he was badly injured flying at Richmond and while he had a flying school and acted as an instructor (including in No 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps in the First World War) he never flew again. He enlisted in the First World War to fly (having to go to London to enlist but cabled his mother “the leg that was so badly broken in the big smash at Richmond came against him.” 

He had a heart attack and died suddenly in Sydney on 29 July 1943. The RAAF flew overhead at his funeral.

This was the address of Mrs M Hartley for membership of the Civic Trust between 1990 and 2000 and Mr Crittenden in 2006.

15, Norcull, was originally the home of Mr Cecil Ernest Rahn (1897-1988) and his wife Eva May (nee Littlejohn) from 1929 until at least 1963. In the electoral rolls his occupation is recorded as being a labourer. Note in particular the carvings at the bottom of the flight of imposing stairs. On one side an owl and the other a pelican and chick. There is an imposing deodar in the front year and the use of columns combined with the brick. The windows are leadlight.

The house is listed on the Hornsby Shire Council Heritage Register which comprises Schedule 5 (Environmental Heritage) of the Hornsby Local Environment Plan 2013.

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