Earlwood - Name Origin

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Historian.png This article is written by Brian Madden, Canterbury local historian and author. To make any suggestions for additions, please visit the Discussion Page for this article.

The first known use of the name Earlwood, or at least a close version of it, was when the name “The Earlewood Estate” was used as the name of a property when it was surveyed in 1884 to bring it under Torrens Title. Earlier that year, Mrs Jane Earl had subdivided the land bounded by Homer Street, Morgan Street, Wolli Creek and Harold Street (now part of Richard Avenue) before she sold it. The developers probably combined the name of Mrs Earl, who sold the land to them, added “e” to make it sound more high-class, and “wood” to describe the lush vegetation as a bait to attract buyers. It was one of the earliest subdivisions in the district.

The Earlwood area has had many names over the years.

The first land grant in the district was to John Parkes. He was promised his grant (bounded by the present William Street, Woolcott Street, Spark Street, Hamilton Avenue and Earlwood Avenue) by Governor Macquarie in 1816, although it was not officially confirmed until 1831. The family settled on the land about 1829, and made their living as sawyers, clearing the forest covering the whole district. The area became known as “Parkes Camp” and in the 1870s as Parkestown.

With the forest disappearing and market gardens replacing the trees, the name Forest Hill came into use. The name described the landscape as it had once been. It was used at least as early as 1884 when it is mentioned in a Directory. The Forest Hill Progress Association was formed in 1902.

When it was decided in 1914 to open a new Public School, it was pointed out that there was already a Forest Hill School near Wagga Wagga, and another name would be needed. The Principal Senior Inspector of the Department of Public Instruction suggested the residents consider the old name of Parkestown or perhaps they would prefer a new name such as “Le Foret” (The Forest), “Silvestris” (Woody) or “Endendros” (Well Wooded). Whether he consulted the residents is not stated, but the District Inspector recommended Parkestown.

However, a meeting in June 1914 of the Forest Hill Progress Association discussed the future name of the district and voted by 21 to 2 in favour of Earlwood. This name was probably suggested because the site purchased for the new school was on the Earlewood Estate.

The name of the school and the Progress Association were changed to Earlwood soon after. The first Post Office opened in 1920 with the name Earlewood, changing to Earlwood in late 1928 or early 1929.

A suggestion which has been around for many years is wrong. It is that Earlwood was said to be named after Earl, one time Mayor of Bexley, who lived on the Bexley side of Wolli Creek, and the Wood brothers, William and James, who had a pig and poultry farm in the locality. However, Bexley Council, which existed from 1900 to 1948, never had a Mayor or even an alderman named Earl, and, although William and James Wood did own land in Earlwood, this was after the name was coined.

Brian Madden, 2014