How The Streets Got Their Names

It has been quite a few weeks since we walked along the streets surrounding MLC School, going between the campuses during the daily school routine. Our Archivist, Barbara Hoffman, has done some research about the streets, their names and their history.

Rowley Street

Rowley Street is named for Captain Thomas Rowley who arrived in Sydney on the ‘Pitt’ (the Fourth Fleet) in February 1792 at the age of 40.

On 28 May 1793, Thomas Rowley acquired his first land grant of 240 acres in the Stanmore/Newtown area which he named ‘Kingston Farm’. (Current research suggests that he may have been born at Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey, UK.) ‘Kingston Farm’ was his principal residence and was where he died in 1806.

Rowley’s ‘Kingston Farm’ went through a number of sales and subdivisions. In the 1830s, 20 acres of the estate (along the now Stanmore Road) was purchased by John Jones. He named this portion ‘Stanmore’ after his birthplace in Middlesex, UK. John Jones was childless and on his death he left his estate to the Wesleyan Church, which allowed Newington College to relocate from Silverwater to their current location in Stanmore. Therefore, coincidentally, both MLC School and our brother school, Newington College, are located on Thomas Rowley Farms.

In 1799, a land grant of 750 acres was given to Thomas Rowley by Governor John Hunter, in the now Burwood/Strathfield area, and was called ‘Rowley’s Farm’. Thomas Rowley primarily used this farm for grazing Merino sheep. Rowley later renamed his farm ‘Burwood’. (A property, Burwood Park, only a few miles from Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey, UK, where Rowley was born, is possibly where the name came from.)

Today, MLC School is situated in what was the north-western section of Thomas Rowley’s ‘Burwood Farm’.

In 1812, Thomas Rowley’s ‘Burwood’ was bought by a well-known Sydney businessman, Alexander Riley, who built the first house in the district, ‘Burwood Villa’, in 1814. The house stood on a site in today’s Burwood Park approximately 400 metres west of the Coronation Club. When the Villa was demolished in 1937 a small granite obelisk was erected to permanently mark its position. Burwood Villa is part of the official crest of Municipality of Burwood.

Park Road

Park Road is named for Burwood Park. (Until 1886, Park Road was known as Riverview Street.)

A 15-acre area of Riley’s land on the western side of Burwood Road was taken back by the Municipality of Burwood (which was incorporated on 27 March 1874) in October 1882 for use as a park. Originally named Edrop’s Paddock, this transformed into the Burwood Park we know today.

Burwood Park was originally a wooded ‘rest’ reserve and did not include open space playing areas. At that time, in the late 1800s, Burwood’s population was much smaller and there were enough private fields and paddocks in the area to satisfy the needs of the cricketers and footballers. As more and more estates were cut up into small blocks these open spaces steadily disappeared so trees were removed from the Park to create spaces for people to enjoy their outdoor sports.

Mt Pleasant Avenue and Grantham Street are named for early Burwood Estate Houses 

Grantham Street takes its name from ‘Grantham’, which was once located in Shaftesbury Road and was the home of hardware and machinery merchant, and politician, James Martin, M.L.A (1850, Darlinghurst – 30 April 1898, Burwood). In 1889 Martin was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the Free Trade member for South Sydney.

In 1900, Australian poet and writer, Dowell O’Reilly, advertised himself as Principal of the Hayworth Preparatory School for Boys in ‘Grantham’. Then after, for some time before its demolition, ‘Grantham’ became St. Bernard’s Private Hospital.

An interesting side note: In 1894, when Dowell O’Reilly was an M.L.A. for Parramatta, he moved the first resolution in the NSW Parliament in favour of women’s suffrage.

Gordon Street

Gordon Street is named for a local Burwood soldier.

This street’s name changed to Gordon Street in 1886 (prior to this it was known as Burwood Street South). The soldier for whom it is named, Gordon, was therefore in service during the colonial period of Australian history, sometime before 1886. A search through the Australian War Memorial records was unable to find any information on this person.

Britannia Avenue

Until 1886 when a lot of Burwood’s streets changed names, Britannia Avenue was known as Jones Lane. It is likely that the name Britannia was chosen in tribute to ‘the mother country’ – the word is a national personification of the United Kingdom.

Comer Street

Comer Street named for a prominent Burwood resident.

Comer Street is named for James Comer who was convicted in his mid-teens in the UK and was sentenced to transportation to NSW for 14 years – he was one of 200 convicts transported on the ship ‘Indian’ in July 1810.

James completed the terms of his sentence in July 1822 and was then a free person – an emancipist. He became a very successful victualler (a person who supplies food, beverages and other provisions for the crew of a vessel at sea) and builder. James Comer built ‘The Bath Arms’ (still in operation on the corner of Burwood and Parramatta Roads) and gifted this to his daughter Mary and her husband Emanuel Neich on their wedding in 1834.

James Comer, Emanuel Neich and family were instrumental in opening a road between the Bath Arms on Parramatta Road to Liverpool Road that was known as Neich’s Lane until 1886 (now Burwood Road) and from Parramatta Road to Hen & Chicken Bay on the Parramatta River.