Ashfield, New South Wales facts for kids
Sydney, New South Wales
Liverpool Road, Ashfield
|Area:||3.5 km² (1.4 sq mi)|
|Location:||9 km (6 mi) west of Sydney CBD|
|LGA:||Inner West Council|
Ashfield's population is highly multicultural. Its urban density is relatively high for Australia, with the majority of the area's dwellings being a mixture of mainly post-war low-rise flats (apartment blocks) and Federation-era detached houses. Amongst these are a number of grand Victorian buildings that offer a hint of Ashfield's rich cultural heritage.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area now known as Ashfield within a broader area Wangal people moved and lived, having migrated from South East Asia and then downwards. Exact numbers are unknown, some research indicates there was between 8000 and 10000 aboriginal people in the broader Sydney region, fluctuating with the seasons and tribal conflict. Their territory was believed to be centred on modern-day Concord and stretched east to the swampland of Long Cove Creek (now known as Hawthorne Canal). The land was heavily wooded at the time with tall eucalypts covering the higher ground and a variety of swampy trees along Iron Cove Creek. The people hunted by killing native animals and fish. Violence is known to have occurred both between tribes and within tribes, in particular towards women.
Early British settlement
By 1790, a rough track had been built between the colony's two settlements at Sydney Cove and Parramatta. This route later became the main artery of the expanding Greater Sydney and, as the northern boundary of what is now Ashfield, dictated early British settlement in the area. The first land grant in the area was made to Rev Richard Johnson in 1793 and all of it had been granted by 1810. By the 1820s, all the grants had been amalgamated into two large estates: Ashfield Park (the northern half between Liverpool Rd and Parramatta Rd) and Canterbury Estate (the area south of Liverpool Rd). Ashfield Park was named by Robert Campbell, whose father was the laird of Ashfield in Scotland.
In 1838, Elizabeth Underwood, then owner of Ashfield Park, subdivided part of her land to form the village of Ashfield between Liverpool Rd and Alt St. Part of the subdivision was the building of St John's Church in Alt St in 1841. This is the oldest surviving building in Ashfield. By 1855, the village had about 70 houses and 200 residents. However, the opening of the Sydney-Parramatta railway line that year, with Ashfield as one of its six original stations, led to a population explosion. In 1872, there were enough residents for the area to be granted a municipal council. By 1890, the population had grown to 11,000.
During this time, Ashfield was seen as a highly desirable location compared to the city, which had become crowded and pestilent. Many grand Victorian houses were built in the latter part of the 19th century. But by the time of World War I, the suburb had fallen out of favour and the rich residents had mostly headed for the North Shore. Many of the grand homes were knocked down in the 1920s and 30s and replaced with small art deco blocks of flats or semi-detached houses. A few remain, however, and are listed in the Landmarks section.
By the 1950s, the population of Ashfield had begun to fall, as it had in many surrounding suburbs, as people moved to newer houses on larger blocks of land on the urban fringe. The Council's response was to start approving large blocks of flats, many of which were built during the 1960s and 70s but which also continue to be built today. There is, however, recognition of the area's heritage with many buildings in the suburb protected by heritage orders.
While never a noted industrial suburb, Ashfield has had a couple of significant industries. On Parramatta Rd near Frederick St was the Australian Six motor car factory which opened in 1920. The site later became an AWA factory producing radio valves and other components. The site has since been turned into a commercial and residential development. On the other side of Frederick St was the Peek Freans biscuit factory, the tower of which was (and still is) a familiar site to passing motorists on Parramatta Rd. However, this factory is also no longer industrial, serving today as a large hardware store.
For visitors passing through Ashfield along Parramatta Road, Liverpool Road or the railway line, the three main landmarks that stand out are the tower of the old Peek Frean Biscuit factory (now Bunnings) on Parramatta Road, Wests Leagues Club on Liverpool Road next to the railway line and the Ashfield water reservoir in Holden Street to the south of the town centre. The water tower was built in 1912 and provides the water supply for the surrounding areas.
Ashfield Council produces a number of guides for heritage walks in the area. To the south of the town centre are Plynlimmon (built 1867) in Norton St and now a child care centre; Glenore (built 1897) and Buninyong (built 1901), two adjacent properties in Tintern Road; Mountjoy (built 1870) now part of the hospital in Victoria Street; Glentworth (built 1887) also in Victoria Street and now part of a retirement village; Ashfield Castle (built 1887) in Queen Street and originally known as Ambleside; Thirning Villa, (built 1868) and now part of Pratten Park; Gallop House in Arthur Street, now part of a nursing home; and Milton in Blackwood Avenue, which was built in the 1850s and was once home to NSW Premier Sir Henry Parkes. North of the railway line are Pittwood in Charlotte Street, formerly part of a nursing home but now used by Sydney Missionary and Bible College; the impressive tower of Amesbury (built 1888) in Alt Street; nearby Taringa in Taringa Street; and Gorton in Henry Street, which was built in 1860 and since 1876 has been the Infants Home. On Lapish Avenue on the western end of town still stands a street scape of five Art Deco Sydney Bungalow styled semi-detached pairs and a block of units at each end that were designed and built during World War II as speculative housing the full history of the land has been meticulously research and documented.
A number of these properties are listed on the Register of the National Estate including Amesbury, Ashfield Castle, Buninyong, Glenore, Taringa and two unnamed Gothic houses at 177-179 Norton Street. Also listed on the Register are Ashfield Park (see Parks section), the police and fire station in Victoria Street, and the band rotunda in Yeo Park.
The first church in Ashfield was St. John the Baptist's Anglican Church in Alt Street. It was part of Elizabeth Underwood's 1838 subdivision that gave rise to the village of Ashfield and was reserved by her for the purpose of 'the erection of an Episcopalian Church'. Prior to then, Anglican church services had been held in her house. Work on St Johns began in 1840 and after the project was taken over by colonial architect Edmund Blacket, it was consecrated in 1845. It is the oldest surviving building in Ashfield.
In 1842, neighbouring landowner Robert Campbell made an acre of land between Liverpool Road and Norton Street available for a Methodist chapel and schoolhouse. In 1864 a larger building was erected on the site which still exists as the Ashfield Uniting Church. It is also home of the Exodus Foundation providing 400 meals a day to the needy.
The Presbyterians didn't build a local church until 1876, choosing a site on the corner of Liverpool Rd and Knox Street. Prior to this they attended St David's in Haberfield. Although they later built a larger church on the same Knox Street site, the original church is located at the South Western corner of the property, having been moved twice from its original location.
Catholic services began in the area in 1880 with the establishment of Bethlehem College. Services quickly outgrew the school's small chapel and in 1894, the Vincentian Fathers started building a church in Bland Street, opposite Bethlehem. Designed by Catholic Architects Sheerin and Hennessy in a grand Romanesque style, St Vincents was completed in 1907.
The Baptists held their first service in the School of Arts building on the corner of Liverpool Road and Holden Street. After building a small church further down Holden Street in 1886, they returned to the School of Arts in 1903 which then became known as the Baptist Tabernacle. In 1937, they sold the building, which was knocked down and replaced with a cinema, and moved to their current site on the corner of Holden and Norton Streets. It is Gothic in style with a landmark tower, an impressive street facade and a sympathetically designed adjoining hall.
The Seventh-day Adventists have had a church in Ashfield for over 100 years. The church was first established from a series of camp meetings held in the area in the late 1890s. The current church is located on Charlotte Street.
Ashfield Park on Parramatta Road is one of the finest urban landscapes in Sydney. It features big phoenix palms, a war memorial, a children's playground with a statue of Mary Poppins, a monument to International Mother Language Day built by former artist-in-residence Ian Marr and the Bangladeshi community, a statue of Philippines national hero Jose Rizal, a sporting field and one of Sydney's oldest bowling clubs. The park, which is just over 6 hectares in area, was proclaimed in 1885 when it was claimed at the time you could 'see all the way to Martin Place'.
The area's major sporting ground is Pratten Park, home of the Western Suburbs grade cricket club in summer and used by the Canterbury District Soccer Football Association in winter. There are also tennis courts and a bowling club adjacent to the main oval. Thirning Villa, located within the park, is home to the Ashfield District Historical Society and an artist in residence sponsored by the local council.
The other sporting field in the area is at Hammond Park on Frederick Street. It predates both Ashfield Park and Pratten Park having begun life in 1877 as a private cricket ground. In 1888, it was intended to be the setting for the first descent of a parachute from a hot air balloon in Australia. Unfortunately, the parachutist (JT Williams) missed the mark and landed in Homebush, roughly 4 km away. This park was also the site of an ice skating rink in the late 1800s.
The other parks of note in the area are Yeo Park on the southern edge of the suburb and featuring a National Heritage listed band rotunda, and Explorers Park on the corner of Parramatta Road and Liverpool Road, built to commemorate the point where many early British explorers began their journeys west and south. It also features engraved images from early indigenous people in Sydney.
Ashfield Aquatic Centre has 3 swimming pools. The outdoor 50m pool is open all year round and heated in winter. There is also a 25m indoor pool and a 33m water polo pool which was refurbished in 2009.
|2011 Census Ashfield|
|Median weekly income||$1314||$1447||$1234|
|Born in Australia||41%||60%||70%|
|Born in China||15%||3.4%||1.5%|
|Living in houses||27%||61%||76%|
|Living in apartments||63%||26%||14%|
In the 2011 census of Population and Housing, Ashfield had a population of 22,189 people, in an area of 3.5 square kilometres. The median age (35) was slightly younger than the national average (37) while the median household income ($1314 per week) was slightly better off than the national average but lower than the figure for the Greater Sydney region.
One area where Ashfield differed markedly from the national figures was in its ethnic mix. Australian born residents are a minority with only 41% of Ashfield residents being Australian-born. Foreigner birth were from 15% born in China and 6% born in India. A fifth of the population spoke a Chinese language at home (Mandarin 14% and Cantonese 6%).
The other area where Ashfield differs is its housing. Of the 8,215 occupied private dwellings counted, 63% were flats (compared to the national figure of just 14%), 27% were detached houses, while 9% were semi-detached or attached houses. The high number of flats contributed to a higher than average number of people renting (46%) compared to houses owned outright (24%) or being purchased (26%).
The following notable people were born or lived in Ashfield:
- Daphne Akhurst (1903–1933): Five times Australian Open tennis champion, who was born and raised in Ashfield.
- Geraldine Brooks (1955-): Pulitzer- Prize-winning author, she grew up in Ashfield and lived there during her University studies.
- Robert Campbell (1769–1846): Early settler responsible for giving Ashfield its name.
- William Christie (1863–1922): Former Serjeant-at-Arms of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly was a resident of Ashfield at the time of his death.
- Ian Clunies Ross (1899–1959): Veterinary scientist and founder of the CSIRO, he was for a while commemorated on the Australian $50 note.
- Rev Bill Crews (1944-): As the Minister of Ashfield Uniting Church, he created the Exodus Foundation to assist homeless and abandoned youth.
- Mei Quong Tart (1850–1903): Prominent Sydney businessman, tea house owner and acting consul to the Imperial Chinese government in the late 19th century.
- Sir Henry Parkes (1815–1896): Former NSW Premier and "Father of Federation", he lived in Ashfield during the 1870s.
- P. L. Travers (1899–1996): Author of five volumes of Mary Poppins stories, she lived in Ashfield during her later school years.
The major community event in Ashfield each year is the Carnival of Cultures, a celebration of the area's multiculturalism. Held every year since 1996 in Ashfield Park, it includes performances, food stalls and children's entertainment. In recent years, the Sydney Writers' Festival has also held part of its program in Ashfield as part of the regular Authors at Ashfield series of talks.
Ashfield Council has developed a program of community arts in the suburb. This includes the funding of an artist-in-residence, who is based at Thirning Villa in Pratten Park. The current artist is Dubbo painter Lara Scolari. Part of her residency involves artist talks, community workshops and teaching at local schools. In front of Thirning Villa is Ashfield's version of the Rosetta Stone, made by former artist-in-residence Ian Marr and featuring a passage from the Iliad by Homer in twelve different community languages. Another former artist was the writer Van Badham.
Ashfield has a long history with the sport of rugby league. The Western Suburbs Magpies rugby league team was formed in Ashfield in 1908 and played in the inaugural New South Wales Rugby League competition that year. The club won its four premierships (1930, 1934, 1948 & 1952) while based at Pratten Park. It moved west to Lidcombe in 1967, then southwest to Campbelltown in 1987. In 2000, the club merged with the Balmain Tigers to create the Wests Tigers which splits its games between Leichhardt and Campbelltown. The Wests Leagues Club has stayed in Ashfield since 1908 despite the wanderings of its home ground.
Ashfield also holds a cycling milestone when it hosted the first woman's cycling race in the world in 1888. Dorothy Morrell won the two-mile (3 km) race.
Images for kids
Ashfield Town Hall in 1938. The original Victorian building was extensively remodelled in the Art Deco style in the 1920s. This building was demolished in the 1970s to make way for Ashfield Mall and the current Council buildings. Photo courtesy State Library of NSW
Ashfield, New South Wales Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.