Campsie NSW

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SydneyNew South Wales
Population: 21,218 (2011 Census)
Postcode: 2193
LGA: City of Canterbury
State electorate: Canterbury
Federal Division: Watson

Early History

Portrait of the Reverend Richard Johnson, ca 1800
Portrait of Hannah Laycock.

Prior to white settlement, the aborigines in the Sydney area enjoyed a pleasant climate and there was a plentiful food supply, including fish and other products from the sea and the rivers. The whole area between the Cooks and Georges Rivers was covered by a forest of huge trees. What is now the suburb of Campsie was a gently sloping area from the ridge which is now Canterbury Road to Cooks River on the east and north, and a steeper slope to Cup and Saucer Creek on the south.

No doubt workers on Canterbury Farm, which was a land grant to Reverend Richard Johnson in 1793, crossed Cooks River into the present day Campsie before 1804, but 1804 is the year in which the recorded history of the district begins. In 1804, Hannah Laycock was given a 500 acre grant which she called "King's Grove Farm" and her two sons William and Samuel were given 100 acres each on either side of Canterbury Road between Northcote Street and Charlotte Street. When travelling from and to Sydney, the Laycocks crossed Cooks River by a bridge at the northern end of present-day Beamish Street, and what became Beamish Street was the access road between the river and their farms.
Canterbury Road from Beamish Street, Campsie, 1883

Governor Macquarie travelled along this road on Thursday 13th December, 1810, when he visited Mrs Laycock's farm at Kingsgrove and John Townson's house on Kogarah Bay. In his Journal, Macquarie wrote they crossed Cooks River "twice over a very slender bad bridge", which was "rather dangerous for a carriage".

When further grants of land were made, what is now Beamish Street was used as a boundary to define blocks. One grant was of 100 acres to John Redman, the Chief Constable in Sydney. Redman later bought the adjoining farm of 200 acres from the grantee, Thomas Capon, plus further holdings to the west, and by 1822 his farms totalled 500 acres. These farms were worked by convicts, who kept Sydney gaol supplied with firewood and timber from the property.

On the Eastern side of the road, John Bentley, a retired soldier, received 80 acres and Reverend William Pascoe Crook, a missionary in the South Seas, received 100 acres.

The road lapsed into a rough right-of-way very soon, (perhaps as early as 1814 when the Liverpool Road was opened) and the river crossing at the Punch Bowl (near the present Georges River Road, Coronation Parade, and Punchbowl Road crossing) was favoured. However, it remained in the lands records to become a suburban road in the 1870s. It was named after Francis Beamish, who owned land on the Eastern side.

Land sub-division

Campsie Park Estate Advertising Brochure, ca 1885.
In 1851, John Redman's first grant, "John Farm" was bought by the Scott Brothers, who renamed it "Campsie Farm". When the land boom came in the 1880s, the farm was purchased and subdivided by the Anglo-Australian Investment, Finance and Land Company Ltd, under the name "Campsie Park Estate". It is believed to be named after the district of Campsie in Scotland, where there is also a range of hills known as the Campsie Fells.

In August 1885, two men murdered a police constable on Canterbury Road, near Cooks River. The men were returning from a day in Sydney, and they alighted from the train at Ashfield, walked to Canterbury (where they must have disturbed the constable) and then continued on to their camp. The first newspaper report said the wanted men worked at Redman's Bush, and subsequent reports said the men lived in tents with a number of men engaged in clearing land at "Kempsey Park".

The first advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald for the Campsie Park Estate appeared on 13th October, 1885. The construction of a railway was being discussed and land speculators were anticipating the commencement of such a work. When the railway line from Sydenham to Belmore was built, the line passed through the Campsie Park Estate, and a platform on the estate was known as Campsie. The line opened to Belmore on 1st February, 1895, and was extended to Bankstown in 1909.

Painting of Campsie Railway Station, 1908

As soon as it became apparent a railway was to be built, two other farms were subdivided into suburban allotments. The Harcourt model suburb, formerly Mary Redman's farm, was laid out by W.E.H. Phillips in 1889. It had wide avenues ornamented by trees and statuary. The numbered avenues north-west of the railway station formed this estate, which was much admired as an ideal subdivision for the working man to build a house in the 'peaceful repose" of the country.

The Mildura Estate, formerly Bramshot Farm, cultivated since before 1841 as an orchard, later a market garden, was subdivided in 1892. Because of the names of the streets, it is now known as Poet's Corner. House and land packages on this small estate were very cheap, so it was here that most of the earliest suburban houses in Campsie were built. Despite the land subdivisions and the opening of the railway, development in Campsie was slow.

Public Services

99 Eighth Avenue in Campsie, built in the 1910s
First telephone in Campsie, 1940

In 1909, the population of the whole Municipality was approximately 6000, with about 1300 houses and other buildings. By 1914, there were 5000 buildings and a population of 24000, with probably the most marked development occurring in Campsie. It was during these years the characteristic brick and timber Federation houses of the area, with their stained glass windows and fretwork verandah decorations, were built.

The first Post Office opened on 1st April, 1890, at the corner of Beamish Street (now Brighton Avenue) and Browning Street, on the Mildura Estate, indicating the development there. A postman from Canterbury delivered the mail. In 1906, the Post Office was moved to Ninth Avenue, in what was to be described as a shanty. It then moved to Beamish Street. In 1911, Campsie was making rapid progress and the status of the office was raised - but it still operated from the front room of a house. The first official building, on the present site in Anglo Road, opened in 1916. This building was replaced in 1974 and in 1995 it moved to a shop on the top floor of the Campsie Centre.

Applications for a public school at Campsie were declined in 1895, 1898, and 1900, the nearest school being at Croydon Park. Campsie Public School opened in temporary premises in the Kia-Ora Hall on 20th July, 1908 and the first permanent building was erected in 1909. Attendances then increased rapidly.

Secondary classes were taught at Campsie School between 1940 and 1959. Harcourt Public School opened in 1926. The Catholic school and church building at Canterbury was moved to Campsie in 1915 and the school later became known as St. Mels.

Early this century, there were still areas of bush on each side of Beamish Street, with a great variety of bird life, and snakes were prevalent. Firewood could be collected for home use, and open creeks ran down to the river, with eels in the ponds. There were slaughterhouses on the southern side of Canterbury Road opposite Beamish Street, market gardens on Cooks River, and there were many dairies and orchards.

There were so few houses, that army exercises were held over the Easter Weekend in 1904, with the troops camped in the area bounded by Canterbury Road, Beamish Street and the railway line.

Beamish Street was a dirt track with many holes and was not concreted until the Depression of the 1930s.

Canterbury Road, which had been put through in the 1850s, was usually in better condition as it was a main artery.

Horse-drawn buses provided public transport before motor buses commenced during World War 1. A waggonette service to Sydney along Canterbury Road from the present-day Punchbowl (then known as Belmore) commenced in 1880. The nearest trams to Campsie were in George's River Road (to Ashfield and Burwood) and at Canterbury and Earlwood. Electric train services on the Bankstown line commenced in 1926.

Community Services

Fire Brigade Officers, Campsie, c 1907
Campsie Picture Palace, ca 1920s

As the suburb grew, people began to form groups, providing much needed local services, as well as social activities.

A fire station, manned by volunteers, opened in Campsie in 1907. The only equipment was a hand-reel which had to be dragged to the fire. In 1912, the brigade acquired a horse and engine.

The Campsie Band was established in 1909 and in subsequent years won many championships. The band played in Beamish Street on the Friday late shopping night before World War 11.

An ambulance service with a hand litter (a stretcher on wheels with a hood) was provided in the early 1900s and took patients to Western Suburbs Hospital.

Church groups were active in Campsie. The work of the Methodists began in 1897 on the Mildura Estate. A Baptist Church and a Salvation Army Corps commenced in 1912, and a Congregational Church opened in 1913. in 1915, the Catholic Church built in Canterbury behind the Town hall in 1894 was transferred to Campsie where greater numbers lived.

The Campsie School of Arts, with its Reading Room, was formed in 1921. This was an important adult education venture before and after World War 11.

The Campsie Sub-branch of the Returned Servicemens League was formed in 1928.

By the 1920s the Campsie shopping centre in Beamish street was already well established.

An open-air picture theatre, the Campsie Palace, had opened in 1910 at the corner of Beamish Street and Evaline Street. This became the Excelsis, and later the Odeon. In the 1950s, Campsie had two theatres, the Odeon and the Orion, the latter in the building now the Orion Centre.

Constable "Reggie" Rudd was the resident Constable operating from a residence in Beamish Street. He was a local landmark, and many tales were told about him. The Police Station and Courthouse in Campsie were built in 1926.

After many years effort, the Canterbury District Memorial Hospital in Canterbury Road was officially opened on 26th October, 1929, and the first patient was admitted on 11th November, 1929.

Campsie's own newspaper, "The Campsie News", was established in 1939, replacing another district paper "The Alert" founded on 1907. Soon after, "The Campsie News" amalgamated with "The Lakemba Advance" and continued as "The Campsie News and Lakemba Advance" until 1979.

Council Chambers and Administration Building, during construction, Campsie, 1963
Campsie Library entrance 1998

The Canterbury Council Administration Building in Beamish Street was opened in 1963, replacing the old Town Hall in Canterbury Road, which had served the Canterbury Local Government Area since 1888.

During 1986 the Campsie centre in Amy Street opened featuring a variety of shops. Fosseys was one of these stores on the first level. In 1995 a food hall opened on the Fossey's site. The Canterbury Central Library was officially opened on the ground floor of the Campsie Centre on 6 December 1986. It had moved from its previous building at 139 Beamish Street where it had operated since 1958. The first public library opened in Campsie in 1946 at 157 Beamish Street.

Prepared by Canterbury City Library

© Brian Madden, Lesley Muir and Canterbury City Council


Walter Mackinder spraying lettuce on Mackinder's Market Garden ca 1920. Courtesy Jan and Phil Gregory
Sunbeam, Wade Street, Campsie, ca 1980s, Photography by Greg Ritchie

Walter and Sarah Mackinder married in 1907. They had eight children: Alice, Gladys, Edith, Susan, William, Lucy, Walter (Mick) and Norman. Walter and Sarah established a market garden on 10 acres of land fronting Charlotte Street, Campsie, probably by 1910. The Mackinder family home was known as "Alice Villa" and Cup and Saucer Creek ran through the garden. Walter's grandson, Ray Bolwell, who visited the farm as a child in the 1940s tells "The big day on the Mackinder farm was Market Day which was once a week. The truck was loaded up the day before with produce - usually potatoes, beetroot, carrots, pumpkin, squashes or melons. The truck left early in the morning before dawn for the trip to the produce markets at the Haymarket."

Sarah Mackinder died at Campsie in 1947 and in 1951 Walter sold their land at Charlotte Street to the Sunbeam Corporation. [1]

From 1951 to 2002 the electrical appliance manufacturer Sunbeam owned the land and produced the iconic Victa Lawnmower along with toasters and kettles. When the factory closed in 2002 the area was then rezoned for residential use and is now the site of Clemton Park Village with new street names of Victa, Sunbeam and Mackinder connecting to its past usage.


  • MADDEN, Brian and MUIR, Lesley. Suburbs of Canterbury Municipality: History No. 1: Campsie. [Campsie, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, NSW, 1984.
  • City of Canterbury Local History Photograph Collection - Files 211/211089