Newtown, New South Wales

Newtown, a suburb of Sydney's inner west, is located approximately four kilometres south-west of the Sydney central business district, straddling the local government areas of the City of Sydney and Inner West Council in the state of New South Wales, Australia.

King Street is the main street of Newtown and centre of commercial and entertainment activity. The street follows the spine of a long ridge that rises up near the University of Sydney and extends to the south, becoming the Princes Highway at its southern end.

Enmore Road branches off King Street towards the suburb of Enmore at Newtown Bridge, where the road passes over the railway line at Newtown Station. Enmore Road and King Street together comprise 9.1 kilometres of over 600 shopfronts. The main shopping strip of Newtown is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia. King Street is often referred to as "Eat Str...Read more

Newtown, a suburb of Sydney's inner west, is located approximately four kilometres south-west of the Sydney central business district, straddling the local government areas of the City of Sydney and Inner West Council in the state of New South Wales, Australia.

King Street is the main street of Newtown and centre of commercial and entertainment activity. The street follows the spine of a long ridge that rises up near the University of Sydney and extends to the south, becoming the Princes Highway at its southern end.

Enmore Road branches off King Street towards the suburb of Enmore at Newtown Bridge, where the road passes over the railway line at Newtown Station. Enmore Road and King Street together comprise 9.1 kilometres of over 600 shopfronts. The main shopping strip of Newtown is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia. King Street is often referred to as "Eat Street" in the media due to the large number of cafés, pubs and restaurants of various cultures. Cafés, restaurants and galleries can also be found in the streets surrounding King Street.

Aboriginal history

The area known as Newtown was part of a broader area where Cadigal tribe of the Eora people, who ranged across the entire area from the southern shores of Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay in the south-east and Petersham in the inner-west.

The first indigenous Australian to receive a Christian burial was Tommy, an 11-year-old boy who died of bronchitis in the Sydney Infirmary. He was buried in Camperdown Cemetery, in a section now located outside the wall. The cemetery also contains a sandstone obelisk erected in 1944 by the Rangers League of NSW, in memory of Tommy and three other indigenous Australians buried there: Mogo, William Perry and Wandelina Cabrorigirel, although their graves are no longer identifiable.[1] When the names were transcribed from the records onto the monument, there was an error in deciphering the flowing hand in which many of the original burial dockets were written. It is now known that the fourth name was not Wandelina Cabrorigirel, but Mandelina (Aboriginal).[2]

King street, Newtown's main street, reputedly follows an Aboriginal track that branched out from the main western track, now beneath Broadway and Parramatta Road, and which continued all the way to the coastal plains around Botany Bay.[2] This conflicts with other claims that the main western track was a barrier which divided the land.

19th century  King Street and Newtown Railway Station from a coloured postcard. c.1906

Newtown was established as a residential and farming area in the early 19th century.[3] The area took its name from a grocery store opened there by John and Margaret Webster in 1832, at a site close to where the Newtown railway station stands today. They placed a sign atop their store that read "New Town Stores". Captain Sylvester John Browne, father of Thomas Alexander Browne ("Rolf Boldrewood"), built "Newtown House" in the area around the same time, which has also been cited as the source of the name.[4] The name New Town was adopted, at first unofficially, with the space disappearing to form the name Newtown.[5]

The part of Newtown lying south of King Street was a portion of the two estates granted by Governor Arthur Phillip to the Superintendent of Convicts, Nicholas Devine, in 1794 and 1799. Erskineville and much of Macdonaldtown/Golden Grove were also once part of Devine's grant. In 1827, when Devine was aged about 90, this land was acquired from him by a convict, Bernard Rochford, who sold it to many of Sydney's wealthiest and most influential inhabitants, including the mayor. Devine's heir, John Devine, a coachbuilder of Birmingham, challenged the will, which was blatantly fraudulent. The "Newtown Ejectment Case" was eventually settled out of court by the payment to Devine of an unknown sum of money said to have been "considerable". The land was further divided into housing that is now evidenced by the rows of terrace houses and commercial and industrial premises.[6]

 Relaying tram tracks in Newtown 1927

Part of the area now falling within the present boundaries of Newtown, north of King Street, was originally part of Camperdown. This area was named by Governor William Bligh, who received it as a land grant in 1806 and passed it to his daughter and son-in-law on his return to England in 1810. In 1848 part of this land was acquired by the Sydney Church of England Cemetery Company to create a general cemetery beyond the boundary of the City of Sydney.[7] Camperdown Cemetery, just one block away from King Street, was to become significant in the life of the suburb. Between its consecration in 1849 and its closure to further sales in 1868 it saw 15,000 burials of people from all over Sydney.[8] Of that number, approximately half were paupers buried in unmarked and often communal graves, sometimes as many as 12 in a day during a measles epidemic.[9] Camperdown Cemetery remains, though much reduced in size, as a rare example of mid-19th-century cemetery landscaping. It retains the Cemetery Lodge and huge fig tree dating from 1848, as well as a number of oak trees of the same date. It survived to become the main green space of Newtown. Among the notables buried in the cemetery are explorer-surveyor Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, Major Edmund Lockyer and Mary, Lady Jamison (widow of the colonial pioneer landowner, physician, constitutional reformer and "knight of the realm", Sir John Jamison), and Eliza Emily Donnithorne, recluse and rumoured inspiration for Miss Havisham. The cemetery also holds the remains of many of the victims of the wreck of the Dunbar in 1857.[10]

 Marcus Clark, one of Australia's leading retailers was based in Newtown.

From 1845, when the first Anglican church was built on the site of the present Community Centre on Stephen Street, by Edmund Blacket, a number of churches were established, including St Joseph's Roman Catholic church in the 1850s, the Methodist church on King Street, now Newtown Mission, and the Baptist church in Church Street. The present St Stephen's Anglican church, a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was designed, like its predecessor, by Blacket, and built in the grounds of the cemetery between 1871 and 1880. Both it and the cemetery are on the National Trust register of buildings of national significance. Its Mears and Stainbank carillon is unique in Australia, while its Walker and Sons organ of 1874 is regarded as one of the finest in New South Wales.[11]

On 12 December 1862 the Municipality of Newtown was incorporated and divided into three wards: O'Connell, Kingston and Enmore, covering 480 acres (194.25 ha). In 1893 a plan was discussed to rename the council area "South Sydney" (as three municipalities North of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) had merged to form North Sydney three years earlier), but nothing came of it.[12]


Although there are a few earlier buildings in Newtown, the most rapid development came in the late 19th century, with many former farms and other large properties being subdivided and developed as row-houses, known popularly as "terrace houses". With their predominance of Victorian-era houses with stuccoed facades, balconies of iron lace and moulded architectural ornaments, many Newtown streets are similar to those of other well-known inner-city suburbs like Glebe, Paddington and Balmain.

From about 1870 onwards, a large proportion of Newtown's residents lived in terrace houses of the cheapest possible construction. Many of these terraces were "two-up two-down", with rear kitchen, some having adjoining walls only one brick thick and a continuous shared roofspace.[13] Hundreds of these terrace houses still remain, generally 4 metres (13 ft) wide. It was not uncommon for speculative builders to build a row of these small houses terminating in a house of 1½ width at the corner of the street, this last being a commercial premises, or "corner store". During the Federation period, single-storey row houses became increasingly common.

 'Sympathetic' infill development

This preponderance of small houses is indicative of the working-class employment of most Newtown residents, many of whom worked in the city or at local shops, factories, warehouses, brickyards and at the nearby Eveleigh Railway Workshops. Retail and service trades dominated the suburb increasingly throughout this period, with tradesmen and shopkeepers together accounting for 70–75% of the working population.[14] During the late 19th century and early 20th century, Newtown prospered, so much so that in the Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Newtown, published in 1912, it was described as "one of the most wealthy suburbs around Sydney".[15]

 Linthorpe Estate, Newtown, Auction, 1905.

A number of imposing Victorian mansions were also built on larger estates, as well as rows of larger and more stylish terrace houses in certain areas such as Brown Street in North Newtown and Holmwood Street in South Newtown. As in many other historic areas of Sydney, some of the largest and most important houses, such as "Erskine Villa" (formerly on Erskineville Road, and which gave its name to the suburb of Erskineville), were demolished and the estates subdivided. Another loss was the home of Mary Reibey in Station Street, which was acquired by the NSW Department of Housing in 1964, demolished in 1967, and replaced with an 8-story public housing tower block. Only the cottage of Reibey's dairyman survives, a little further down the street.[16]

One of the most impressive surviving sets of 19th-century housing in Newtown is the imposing terrace of five elegant five-storey mansions running along Warren Ball Avenue in North Newtown, facing onto Hollis Park.

From the late 19th century onwards, the Newtown area became a major commercial and industrial centre. King Street developed into a thriving retail precinct and the area was soon dotted with factories, workshops, warehouses and commercial and retail premises of all kinds and sizes. Several major industries were established in the greater Newtown area from the late 19th century, including the Eveleigh Railway Workshops, the IXL jam and preserves factory in North Newtown/Darlington, the St Peters brickworks and the Fowler Potteries in Camperdown.

Public housing

Newtown is home to some public housing pockets built throughout the late 1960s to the 1970s, mainly consisting of unit complexes with walk-up apartments, extensive townhouses and tower blocks closely built together on small blocks of land, resided by the suburbs 1000 social housing tenants. These housing complexes dominate the housing stock on some of Newtown streets.[17]

The large housing estates gradually shrunk as many of the homes were demolished and or reverted to private ownership as the surrounding area slowly went through gentrification.

 Golden Grove Housing Estate from Forbes Street (1999)

Most complexes were built with Radburn principles, with prefabricated walk-up flats and apartment blocks accessed by communal pathways and courtyards separated from roads, creating densely populated concentrations of disadvantage. The Radburn design has been widely criticised in outer-suburbs estates,[18] allegedly contributing to some fire hazards[19] and social problems[20][21][22][23] with isolated areas giving local criminals a place to commit crime and evade motorised patrols.

Homes in these areas are owned by either the NSW Department of Housing or the Aboriginal Housing Office. The complexes take up a significant amount of Newtown’s Indigenous Australian population.

The SA1 covering the Golden Grove housing estate according to the 2016 census, is the suburbs most economically/socially disadvantaged.

Department of Housing sites in Newtown:

8 Prefabricated terraces, 7 walk-up flats, 250–350 residents. Alice Street/Camden Street

9 Prefabricated walk-up flats, 75–120 residents. Alice Street/Hawken Street corner

13 Prefabricated walk-up flats, 1 6-story tower block, 300–500 residents. Forbes Street/Golden Grove Street/Darlington Road

1 9-story tower block, numerous Victorian terrace houses, 170–240 residents. Station Street/Reiby Lane corner

As well as numerous Victorian terrace houses and walk-up flat developments scattered around the suburbs streets.

Early 20th century

Although it prospered in the late 19th century, during the first half of the 20th century, and especially during the Depression, like many inner-city Sydney suburbs such as Glebe and Paddington, the area became increasingly run down as wealthy Sydneysiders preferred to settle in newer and more prestigious areas. In 1949, Newtown was incorporated into the City of Sydney.

Mid-20th century  Crago Flour Mill

Newtown was originally a relatively prosperous suburb, the legacy of which is the numerous lavish Victorian mansions still standing in the area. However, many parts of Newtown had gradually become a working-class enclave, and for much of the 20th century, Newtown was a low-income blue-collar suburb, often denigrated as a slum. In the post-war period, the low rents and house prices attracted newly arrived European migrants, and Newtown's population changed radically, becoming home to a sizeable migrant community.[24]

In 1968, a controversial redistribution of local government boundaries by the Askin state Liberal government saw part of Newtown become part of Marrickville Council. From the 1970s, as the post-war population prospered, raised families and aged, many moved to outlying suburbs to build larger houses, resulting in a supply of relatively cheap terrace houses and cottages entered the rental market. Because of its proximity to the expanding Sydney University and the Sydney central business district, along with the comparatively low rents, Newtown began to attract university students in the 1960s and 1970s. The area became a centre for student share-households in Sydney and the development of cafés, pubs and restaurants made it a mecca for many young people. Newtown gained a reputation as a bohemian centre and the gay and lesbian population also increased.

Late 20th century and early 21st century  100–102 Lord Street, Newtown

The 1980s was the period that probably saw the greatest diversity in Newtown. At this time, cheap housing was still available. During the 1990s many long-established businesses closed, including Brennan's Department Store, a charming old-fashioned department store founded in the 19th century, and one of the last relics of the heyday of Victorian commerce in Newtown.

 Typical Newtown Terrace

Many homes have been restored and remain examples of 19th-century architecture in Sydney. The northern end of Newtown (closer to the university and the city) is considered the more prestigious, with house prices and rents in this part of town often higher than those for similar properties in South Newtown, Enmore or St Peters. Like other similar inner-Sydney suburbs (most notably Paddington and Glebe), gentrification has led to another shift in Newtown's demographics. From the 1970s onwards, many major industrial and commercial sites in the area were closed or vacated. Many of these former commercial sites have since been redeveloped as housing such as the Alpha House and Beta House apartment complexes on King Street, which were formerly both multi-storey warehouses. Prior to becoming apartments, Alpha and Beta house became two artist warehouses that accommodated the birthing of many national and international performing arts companies and artists. One such company, "Legs on the Wall", was created in Beta House.

^ Camperdown Cemetery Burial Dockets, Anglican Archives. ^ a b "Home". Barani. ^ Time-line of the Newtown Municipal Area Archived 29 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine ^ "Mr. Sylvester Browne". Sydney Morning Herald. No. 24, 204. New South Wales, Australia. 5 August 1915. p. 6. Retrieved 12 July 2018 – via National Library of Australia. ^ Paul Bourke, William and Martha Bucknell, Sydney Archives Archived 29 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine ^ Matt Murphy, The Newtown Ejectment Case, Sydney Archives [1]. Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine ^ Chrys Meader Beyond the Boundary Stone, Marrickville Council Library Service, 1997 ^ Camperdown Cemetery Burial Dockets, Anglican Archives ^ CCT Burial Dockets ^ Chrys Meader ^ Tamsyn Taylor, "St. Stephen's Newtown", in Heritage – Journal of the Marrickville Historical Society ^ The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Compiled by Frances Pollon, Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1990, Published in Australia ISBN 0-207-14495-8 ^ One such a row is in Hordern St. between Victoria and Prospect Sts. ^ Pelosi, Janet: The Municipality Of Newtown 1892–1922: A Social Sketch, Chapter 1 Archived 29 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine ^ Pelosi, op.cit., Introduction Archived 1 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine ^ School Archived 29 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine ^ Top Sydney Microburbs: Public Housing Heat Map Microburbs ^ "Notorious public housing estate to be largely rebuilt". The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 May 2002. Retrieved 5 October 2020. ^ Alexander, Harriet (18 May 2019). "Residents stranded after fire at Newtown apartment block". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 October 2020. ^ Police charge man over drug supply – Inner West PAC Mirage News ^ Man charged over stabbing in Sydney's inner west Adelaide Advertiser ^ "Sydney man shot in the eye, drugs found". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 October 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2020. ^ "Violence on the rise in Newtown, suspected homophobic attack victim says". 14 April 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2020. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 September 2007. Retrieved 29 May 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) page 10
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