Earlwood NSW

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SydneyNew South Wales
Population: 16,753 (2011 Census)
Postcode: 2193
LGA: City of Canterbury
State electorate: Canterbury
Federal Division: Barton
Cows grazing near Cooks River, Earlwood, pre 1900.
Since white settlement the district of Earlwood has been known by four names. The earliest name was "Parkes Camp" derived from the Parkes family's name and an inference to the profession of John and his sons - at this time "camp" denoted the headquarters of a group of sawyers.

By about the 1870s the name of the district had changed from Parkes Camp to Parkestown, as the timber was cut out and the local people changed their occupations to suit the resources. Some people from this vicinity gave their address as Forest Hill, a name not associated with any particular family, but described the landscape as it had once been.

The first known use of the name Earlwood, or at least a close version of it, was when Mrs Jane Earl subdivided her land before she sold it in 1884. "The Earlewood Estate" was used as the name of the property when it was surveyed to bring it under Torrens Title later that year. Most of this land was re-subdivided in 1905. This appears to explain the origin of the name, but over the years, there have been a number of suggestions as to how Earlwood got its name.

One was that it was named after Earl (alleged incorrectly to have been a one time Mayor of Bexley living on the Bexley side of Wolli Creek) and the Wood Brothers (who had a pig and poultry farm in the locality).
Rowing on Cooks River, Earlwood, ca 1890s.
The Hocking family say that, when a new name for the suburb was being sought, Walter Henry Hocking thought that, as the brothers had been members of the Earlswood Cricket and Recreation Club at Waterloo, this would be as good a name as any, but the Secretary of the Progress Association wrote down Earlwood. A descendant of Mrs Earl claimed she opened a tavern in the Earlwood area in the late 1880s and called it Earl's Wood, which had been the name of her family's property in England, from which she had migrated. In any case, the Progress Association continued to use the name Forest Hill for many years.

A person who came to Forest Hill in 1905 said many years later: "This hill was then a veritable beauty spot, abounding in giant trees, green valleys and wild flowers. In the bushland, Christmas Bush, Flannel Flowers, Rock Lilies and Native Fuchsias grew in profusion, while fields of maize waved in the breeze and the songs of the birds added to its charm;...". See Earlwood - Name Origin for more information.

John Parks

Macfarlane and Parkes families, of Earlwood, 1910. Photograph courtesy Ron Hunt and Parkes Family Reunion Association.
John Parkes was a convict transported on the Barwell in 1797 for seven years for stealing "a great coat, called a beaver coat, worth sixteen shillings". In 1803 he married Margaret Southern and during 1816 was granted 50 acres in the Botany Bay District. On receipt of this grant, he crossed Cooks River, looked around, and selected his 50 acres at the top of a ridge, surrounded by ironbanks, red mahogony trees and gullies full of ferns, flannel flowers and gymea lillies.

John Parkes' property was situated in the centre of Earlwood. The western boundary was the top end of Woolcott Street and the southern boundary was along William Street from Woolcott Street to Homer Street.

Prior to the 1830s there was a feud in the district regarding right of way across properties to reach the bridge and punt over Cooks River. Once this crossing was established, the Parkes family could earn a good living as sawyers, cutting down the ironbarks and other eucalypts to supply Sydney with building timber and firewood. John then moved his family to the land granted in 1816. By this time the elder of John and Margaret's eleven surviving children were married and the population of the district increased substantially once they moved. The grant became commonly known as Parkes' camp, although the family used the more picturesque names of "Parks Folly" and Mount Clear".


A.G. Wadds Newsagency, Earlwood, 1940s. Photograph courtesy Wadds Family.
Round about 1910 most of the area was covered with scrub and forest. Homer Street was a mere track and a little group of people lived at Undercliffe. There was a dairy on Wolli Creek and one on Wardell Road.

Early shopkeepers were McDonald, who had a butcher's shop on the corner of Homer Street near Undercliffe; and James Steele had a barber's business about 1917.

The first picture show was blown down, and about 1920, Mr. Hocking built another show and also some shops in Homer Street. The Hocking family lived in a big home on the site of the present Roman Catholic Church at Earlwood.

Transport in the early days was provided by Brady's horse-drawn bus which ran from Marrickville to William Street about every hour. Passengers had to walk up the hill from Undercliffe.


Earlwood Public School

Undercliffe Public School, Earlwood, ca 1960s. Photograph courtesy Susan Fotheringham.
The first successful application for a school in this locality was made in 1908 by the local progress Association. The inspector of schools reported Canterbury Public School was sufficient for the requirements of Earlwood, or Forest Hill as the district was then called. A "cluster of 90 houses" was the description applied to the locality. The application was renewed in 1912 and the department of education approved the establishment of a school on June 20th, 1913. At first it was proposed to erect a temporary building, but the decision was then made to wait until a more permanent structure could be provided. The first section of the site, (area 2 acres, 32 perches) was secured in 1914 by purchase from W. Barret for the sum of 500 pounds. A further section of 2 roods, 75 3/4 perches was obtained from Neville and Barrett in July, 1917, this cost 575 pounds and a third portion of 18 3/4 perches was aquired for 30 in February, 1928. The school was completed by Nicholl and Tomkins in 1916; H.M. Moran being the first Headmaster. The enrolment in the first quarter was 110, additions were made in 1918, costing 546 pounds and in 1923, at a cost of 1,715 pounds. The contractor on both occasions being E.J. Hocking. In 1929, a new building containing eight class rooms and a kindergarten room was erected for the infants. This work cost 9,504 pounds. In 1938 a new building for the girls' department and additons to the boy' department were built at a cost of 7,750 pounds.


St. George's Church of England, Earlwood

St. George's was opened as a Mission Church within the St. Clement's, Marrickville on December 18 , 1915, by Archbishop Wright. Archdeacon William Martin, as rector of Marrickville, had charge of the church, and services were conducted by Curates and Laymen from St. Clement's. One of them, the Rev. L.G. Edmondson, was appointed Curate-in-charge when an independant Conventional district of Earlwood was created in 1926. Earlwood was raised to the status successively, of Parochial District in 1938, and Parish in 1942.

Church buildings have been extended by the addition of a rectory in 1928, a school hall in 1933 and a larger parish hall in 1940.

Earlwood Salvation Army

The Salvation Army began its work at Earlwood in 1925, when the first service was held by Major Butt on September 12, 1925. Land for a Citadel was purchased on October 17, 1929. The foundation stone of the building was laid by Commissioner William Mackenzie on March 4, 1933; the Citadel was opened by Colonel E. Knight on May 13, 1933.

Roman Catholic Church, Earlwood

The first Roman Catholic church service in Earlwood was held in the Progress Association's Hall at Undercliffe in 1922. The Celebrant was the Rev. J. Smith of Tempe and there were about 50 people present. Land for the present church buildings in Homer Street was acquired in 1923 and the foundation stone of the first church was laid by Archbishop Kelley in 1926. This church was extended in 1938 and the foundation stone of the new church, was laid in 1950.

The district of Earlwood was made a Parish in 1928, the first Parish Priest being Father John Troy. In 1934, Father Bernard Clancy became Parish Priest and he was succeeded in office by the Very Rev. Monsignor W.P. Clark, P.P.,P.C. in 1936.


Earlwood's Ex-Servicemen's Club
In 1926 returned servicemen in the Earlwood area held a meeting on a vacant allotment at the corner of Guedecourt Avenue and Thompson Street when it was decided to form an organisation called "The Earlwood Soldiers Welfare Association" with C. Perry as President and S. Hart, Secretary.

The membership gradually increased and a move was made to Kennedy's Hall, Homer Street, Earlwood (now the Chelsea Theatre) for the meetings of the Association. It became necessary to move during 1928 and the Parish Priest of Earlwood (the late Father Troy) offered the use of his school room in which to hold the meetings and social functions.

It was then decided to endeavour to build a hall and club rooms. Through the efforts of the Federal Member, the Hon. E. McTiernan, a block of land was obtained and the purchase money paid by installments. It was necessary to appoint trustees and Messrs. J. Brock, E.L. Culley, J. Hine, A. Meek and B. Thompson were elected.

The association obtained an old military hut from Randwick through the good offices of the Hon. Sir Charles Marr and Mr. E. Hocking M.L.A. A couple of the association's members, Mr. McEwan and Mr. Bert Proudfoot carted the material from Randwick to Earlwood at weekends. During the Depression voluntary labour was used to erect club rooms. Mr. Les Coleman took charge of the building operations and when the work was finished the Club held its meetings in its own home.


There was a bus service operating from Kingsgrove, through Marrickville, to Sydney in 1870. It probably ran through present-day Earlwood and Undercliffe. In 1880 Canterbury Council approved a number of horse drawn services affecting what is now the Earlwood area. In August 1881, T. Hascham and W. Jolly applied for permission to run buses between Kingsgrove and Sydney, and Council raised no objection. Later in the year, Willian Farrell began to run a bus to Sydney via Undercliffe Bridge. In 1888, R. Kilkelly told Council that the residents of Parkestown intended to present Farrell with a coach and sixteen horses and asked for permission to run the coach four times a day to Sydney. Council recommended that Farrell's application be granted.

With its bus services connecting the district to the city, and its successful industrial development, Parkestown was rapidly developing into a desirable piece of real estate on the rural-urban fringe of Sydney.

Post Office

In 1906 the daily postal service to the whole of the existing Canterbury Local government area was provided by Canterbury Post Office by two mounted postmen, two postmen on bicycles and one on foot. It was an enviably efficient service, as these postmen were abliged to be back at Canterbury Post Office no later than 10.55am so that letters collected by them from the 13 letterboxes throughout the delivery area might be dispatched by the 11.07am train which arrived in Sydney in time to catch the 12.30pm city delivery. An attempt to move Earlwood's historic postbox to Birkenhead Point was thwarted in 1980. The postbox, which is located in Homer Street at the terminus, (near the library) is an example of the Bell-type letter receivers which first came into use in 1856 and were based on a model used in France.


JERVIS, James. A History of the Municipality of Canterbury. [Campsie, NSW: Canterbury City Council], 1951.

MADDEN, Brian J. and MUIR, Lesley. Earlwood's past: a history of Earlwood, Undercliffe and Clemton Park, NSW. [Campsie, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1989.