Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

 

 

 

 

 

The Field of Mars Common, stretching between Hunters Hill and Pennant Hills lay to the east of these small farms. In the 1860s spirited debate began about whether the Government should retain the Common or sell it and subdivide the land for residential purposes. Residents who lived at the Hunters Hill end were eager for the land to be subdivided and sold to finance better road transport. In the Pennant Hills district a majority wanted the Common to remain. Finally, in 1874, the New South Wales Parliament voted for resumption and sale and the Iron Cove and Gladesville bridges were opened by 1882.

However, it was the move to build a railway that led to the creation of the suburbs of Beecroft, and later Cheltenham. NSW legislators, especially the country members, saw the urgency of providing a link to Sydney from the northern railway line from Hornsby to Newcastle. John Whitton, the Engineer-in-Chief of the Railways, assessed various proposals and a number of routes were surveyed. The approved route was to link Homebush (now Strathfield), via a bridge built across the Parramatta River, north through Eastwood and up the steep slope in the former Common to Hornsby. Platforms were planned at Ryde, Dundas (now Eastwood), Field of Mars (Epping), Beecroft, Thornleigh and Hornsby. As the line neared completion, auction sales began. Such sales were a major event, as Government land sales were not common except in rural areas.

Henry Copeland, the Minister for Lands, gave the name Beecroft to the new village to be founded in the former Field of Mars. Beecroft was the maiden name of his wife Hannah and her sister Mary, who became his second wife. His Yorkshire roots influenced his choice of other names for the new streets: Hull (his birthplace), Malton, Castle Howard and York. Allotments near the station platform were to be ½ to 1 acre in size, and further away 2 acres.

Establishing a new suburb

The first land sale was held in July 1887. The Government set reserve prices which were quite high. Although speculators were prominent among the purchasers, many of the buyers who established homes on the land they purchased were businessmen like Lesley Herring, Manager Director of wool brokers Goldsborough Mort & Co and William Harrison, a timber merchant. City wine and spirit merchants James Cawley Tucker and his son Charles Churchill Tucker were among the first buyers. Charles had already purchased land on the Murray estate. Gentlemen's tailor and outfitter, William Chorley, purchased land including a large holding further south from the Beecroft railway platform and ultimately he used persuasion to have a new platform built at Cheltenham, near his home. A shopping precinct was planned near the station platform at Beecroft and also along Beecroft Parade (Road). Open space was reserved, later to become the Village Green, Beecroft Park (Reserve) and Cheltenham Park (Reserve). Later land sales attracted similar buyers.

The price of the land, the distance of the new suburb from the city and the high cost of fares meant that Beecroft attracted affluent citizens rather than lower paid workers, although tradesmen and building workers were among the early settlers. From the first it was a gentrified middle class suburb that attracted family men with a strong sense of civic duty and a certain high-mindedness, who had a commitment to creating a cohesive community in this attractive and healthy environment.

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