European settlement of the Strathfield district commenced in 1793 in the area which is the current day Homebush. Land grants were made to English farmers Thomas Rose, Thomas Webb, Edward Powell and Frederick Meredith by the NSW Governor Phillip to establish food supplies for Sydney. These were the first land grants made to free settlers [non-convict] and the area of the land grants was known as Liberty Plains. These farms failed as the soil conditions did not allow crops to be grown and most of these early farms were abandoned.
Other land grants were made in the early 1800’s including grants to D’Arcy Wentworth (Homebush), William Roberts (Strathfield South and Greenacre) and John Alford (Belfield). A large grant was made to James Wilshire in 1808, located from current day Redmyre Rd Strathfield to the Cooks River. Most of Strathfield is built on this land. This land was later known as the Redmire Estate, when owned by Samuel Terry. In 1847, Catholic Priest Father John Joseph Therry was granted land in Strathfield South, which is known as the Village of St Ann’s. The original St Ann’s Church was built from money raised by selling the surrounding land for houses to be built. Large lots of land were sold to Joseph Newton and Joseph Hyde Potts in 1841 to the west of the Redmire Estate.
Liberty Plains Settlers
The first land grants to free settlers in NSW. were made in the Strathfield Municipality in 1793 in response to Governor Philip’s request for the introduction of ‘practical farmers’ to the settlement. These settlers (who arrived on the ship Bellona in January, 1793) were described in the Secretary of State’s Despatch of July 14th, 1792, as ‘Thomas Rose, aged 40, farmer from Blandford, his wife, Mrs. Jane Rose, and their children, Thomas, Mary, Joshua and Richard, also Elizabeth Fish, aged 18, related to the family.’
Other members of the group were ‘Edward Powell, aged 30, farmer and fisherman from Lancaster, Thomas Webb (and his wife) gardener, Joseph Webb, aged 18, nephew of Thomas Webb, Frederick Meredith, baker, and Walter Brodie, blacksmith’. Meredith, Thomas Webb and Powell had already visited Sydney as ordinary seamen.
An area ‘at the upper end of the harbour above the flats and to the South Side’ having been selected by the settlers, their different allotments were surveyed and marked out and early in the month they took possession of their land, giving the name ‘Liberty Plains’ to the district in which their farms were situated.’
Powell and Thomas Webb first received 80 acres each, Meredith and J. Webb, 60 acres each and Rose and his family, 120 acres. All settlers had their passages paid and received on landing an assortment of tools and implements from public stores, 2 years provisions, 1 year of clothing, and the services of convicts assigned to them. Joseph Webb named his grant ‘Lutner Farm’, Rose ‘Hunter’s Hut’, Meredith ‘Charlotte Farm’, Thomas Webb ‘Webb’s Endeavour’ and Powell ‘Dorset Green’.
The settlement at Liberty Plains for agricultural purposes was immediately followed by a progressive settlement of the surrounding area – it had been Grose’s wish to have a settlement midway between Sydney and Parramatta for the ‘convenience and safety of the traveling public’.
Hence, much of the land immediately to the North (Concord) and North West (Abbatoirs and its environs) was allotted to the non-commissioned officers and privates of the NSW. Corps (many of whom disposed of their 25 acre lots as soon as granted).
With the assistance of convict labour the ‘Liberty Plains’ settlers cleared and cultivated the land, but the productive capacity of the land becoming soon exhausted under cropping, continuous clearing of the land was found necessary and this costly process appeared to have reduced the farmers to a state of poverty. Such was their plight that a Committee of Enquiry under Samuel Marsden and Surgeon Arndell was set up to report and as a result it was decided to increase the holdings of the settlers in 1798 — hence an additional 70 acres was granted to Rose and his sons, and 60 acres fronting Parramatta Road and Homebush Bay to Meredith.
So unproductive was the land that most settlers, whilst retaining an interest in their farms, obtained employment elsewhere such as Edward Powell who entered the Public Service as a constable at the Hawkesbury River. Mrs. Thomas Webb, whose husband had died in 1795, abandoned her right to her husband’s land and this, together with Powell’s grant ultimately became the property of Simeon Lord whose name appears on the official maps as grantee of the combined areas of 160 acres.
Meanwhile, Captain Thomas Rowley, having been granted an area of 260 acres in 1799, adjoining the other grants, increased his Liberty Plains property in 1803 by adding the grant of Joseph Webb and the end of Rose’s 120 acres. Following the first unsuccessful farming attempts, the area remained almost in a state of neglect until the return of Powell in 1807 to his original grants, which he again took up, in addition to the adjoining 80 acres formerly held by Thomas Webb.
Shortly afterwards, Powell was granted an additional 19 acres with frontage to the Parramatta Road on the North and (the now) Coventry Road on the West. Anticipating the patronage of the traveling public, Powell erected a building on the Parramatta Road which he called the ‘Halfway House’ and having obtained a liquor licence, established a hotel and store. By his death in 1814, Powell had acquired 500 acres — that is all of the land granted to the free settlers on the left bank of Powell’s Creek. The entire property having been left to his son, Edward Powell, and daughter, Mary, it was first rented out and then purchased in 1823 by James Underwood (the original grantee’s son-in-law).
The Wentworth Estate
Meanwhile, further grants had been made to the north west and south of the original grants: 920 acres to Darcy Wentworth in an area north of Parramatta Road and running from Powell’s Creek to Haslam’s Creek and to the Parramatta River upon which Wentworth chose to erect his homestead named ‘The Homebush Estate’.
The Redmire Estate
570 acres was granted in 1808 to James Wilshire (bounded on the south by the Cooks River, The Boulevarde and Coronation Parade to the east), which he called ‘Wilshire’s Farm’. This land was later acquired by Samuel Terry in 1824 and named the ‘Redmire Estate’ after Terry’s birthplace in Yorkshire. After the death of his widow, Rosetta, in 1858, the land was sold to W. W. Billyard. The Estate was further subdivided in 1867 into blocks from 3-13 acres each with frontages from 4-8 chains to Station Road, Railway Road, Homebush Road, Liverpool Road, Water and Dean Streets and Redmire Boulevarde (former name of The Boulevarde).
The Redmire locality became incorporated under the name of ‘Strathfield’ (the residence of John Hardy, a City jeweler) on June 2, 1885, when local government was formed. The original areas of the new Strathfield Municipality included Redmire, Druitt Town [now Strathfield South] and Homebush.
The Underwood Estate
Sections of the Underwood property to the south of the railway (opened in 1855) were subdivided for sale in 1878. The Sydney Morning Herald of November 2, 1878, described the subdivision thus:
‘. . . a portion of the estate close to the railway station has been laid out as the ‘Village of Homebush’. The ground was allotted into 15 sections, intersected by streets, with names almost identical with those in use to-day.
On June 30, 1823, 450 acres to the west of the free settlers’ land and extending from Parramatta Road southerly to the Liverpool Road had been granted as a ‘glebe’ to the Chaplain of St. James’ Church, Sydney. After 1826, this reverted to the Crown, and in 1841 was divided into 2 portions of 256 and 283 acres and sold. The northern 256 acres was purchased by Joseph Hyde Potts, and the southern 283 acres, purchased by Joseph Newton. (Barker Road now separates these two areas.)
In 1858 the Newton Estate was acquired by Judge Joshua Josephson and marginal portions of the area were afterwards subdivided and sold. Most were sold under the title ‘Josephson’s Estate’ from 1916 onwards.
St Ann’s Village
Father John Joseph Therry was granted 47 acres in an area called ‘Bark Huts’ in March 1837. To finance the building of the original St. Anne’s Church (foundation stone laid July 1841) Father Therry offered 4 acre blocks for £25, but insufficient money being available, a further 134 allotments were offered for sale in 1854 and the streets of the subdivision named after Saints or dignitaries of the Church.
So it was that during the latter part of the 19th century many of the old semi-rural grants within the ‘Liberty Plains’ District, especially along the principal lines of traffic, were subdivided into homestead areas and later into residential allotments, to meet the requirements of professional men, merchants and government officials.
Fox and Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study Vol. 1 and 2, Strathfield Municipal Council, 1986.
Jones, Cathy, ‘A short history of Strathfield’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter, January 2005.
Jones, MA, Oasis in the West: Strathfield’s First One Hundred Years, Allen and Unwin, 1985.
Kohen, James., The Darug and their Neighbours: the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Sydney Region, Darug Link in association with Blacktown and District Historical Association, 1993.
Strathfield Municipal Council, Strathfield Information Sheet: some notes on the Municipality of Strathfield, 1974.
Turbet, Peter, The Aborigines of the Sydney District before 1788, Kangaroo Press, 2001.