Monday, November 21, 2011

Walking Into The Past

In 1973 the Daily Mirror newspaper described Ingleburn as a "wasteland" dominated by "ugliness, lack of amenities and boredom". As a teenager growing up in the suburb at the time I was absolutely gobsmacked that anyone would describe my town in such vitriolic manner and also as a result of that article, I don't even think my mother has bought a Murdoch published newspaper for nearly 40 years! 

When I was a young kid growing up in Ingleburn in Sydney's south western suburbs, history was something that happened in more exotic locales. In the NSW school history syllabus during the 60's & 70's, we were taught about the great monarchs of the United Kingdom, the journey of Australia's discovery by Captain James Cook, Australia's convict transportation era, the explorations of the Australian continent, the deeds by our brave fighting men at Gallipoli (World War 1) and the defeat of the Japanese by the sons of Gallipoli at Kokoda (World War 2). All great historical events in their own right and it was probably deemed sufficient in the public school curriculum at the time, given the limited resources available to educators at the time.

However, history existed right under our noses if we cared to suspend our prejudices, remove our blinkers and just look at our own town.

The development of Ingleburn can be traced back to colonial botanist, George Caley, who in 1805 traveled from Prospect across to the upper reaches of the Georges River mapping its course near Ingleburn. Not long after the travels of Caley, settlers pushed out of the Sydney confines and into the area that is now known as Ingleburn. In 1809 four soldiers, William Hall, William Neale, Joshua Alliot and Timothy Loughin from the NSW Corps took up farm selections in the area that became known as Soldiers Flat, on the eastern side of Bunburry Curran Creek (according to Parish Maps of the late 1830's show that Bunburry is spelt with 2 r's and not with one 'r' as it is today). Although the southern railway came through in 1858, it wasn't until 1869 that a rail platform was built on the Neale property to service the growing rural industries and so a name had to be found for the new locality. The name chosen was Macquarie Fields, named after the large property located on William Redfern's land holdings to the north of the platform. The properties near the platform changed hands a few times up until 1881 when the area was purchased by Elias Laycock and the home he built on his new holdings  was called Ingleburn House. Also in 1881 William Redfern's former Macquarie Fields property was subdiivided and became the new village of Macquarie Fields. To save confusion over the names in August 1883 the railway authorities decided to adopt the name of the nearby Elias Laycocks house, so the name was changed to Ingleburn. When the area around the station was eventually subdivided, the area simply became known as Ingleburn as well.

As Ingleburn was basically a rural village, most of the early buildings were constructed using easily accessible building materials such as timber and iron. Even the local public school, which was relocated from Brooks Point near Appin and opened in 1887 was originally built as a timber and iron structure. The current brick building, including the teachers residence, that stands on the site today were constructed in 1892 at a cost of  £1097/9/0 ($1.6 million) which reflects the standing Ingleburn had achieved in it's very short history.

Ingleburn even managed their own civic affairs when they elected their own council and which first sat in1896. The first meetings were conducted in Alderman Smiths lounge room (as there was no council chambers at the time) with Mr Barff serving as Ingleburn's first Lord Mayor. Also serving were some old Ingleburian names such as Mr Percival and Mr Collins (the areas first Postmaster) who were elected as Alderman in the first local administration. Eventually the council was incorporated into the Campbelltown Council in 1948. One of the legacies of the Ingleburn Council was the development of Kings Park (now called the Georges River Reserve) in the late 30's as a recreation area and was popular spot for swimming on those hot summer days. It was also where a lot of local kids, myself included, learnt to swim, mainly thanks to the now heritage listed weir that made the conditions less treacherous by artificially slowing down the fast flowing water. The area was also used extensively by the Scouting movement for orienteering and bush related activities, a real asset to the early community before the age of swimming pools.   

In 1901, the original railway station burnt to the ground and so the government decided that it would be one of the first built in the contemporary style of the day, that is in what is known as the 'Initial Island' style. Ingleburn railway is one of the few remaining examples of the first attempts to implement this style of rail architecture into the Sydney metro area and is considered to be the prototype for many other railway station buildings that were erected in the 1910 -20  period using this style.

The Ingleburn School of Arts (Community Hall) is another example of pride in local community, built in the 1920's it is an example of the Art Deco style that was becoming in vogue around that time. The hall has survived during this time, however a recent redevelopment of the Ingleburn Arts Precinct, saw the old hall demolished and now only the facade remains.
It was during the 1970's that population of the former rural village exploded, when the Housing Commission and developers opened up vast tracts of farmland to housing and changed the face of my town forever, dragging the locals from a sleepy insular backwater, to a thriving Sydney suburb. However, what puts Ingleburn apart for other suburbs in south west Sydney is that Ingleburn has a very rich civic and architectural history  ... all you have to do is look.

N.B. - I'd like to thank the Campbelltown City Library, the online resources of the National Library of Australia, the late Ingleburn historian Mrs Genevieve Tregear & my 4th Form history teacher Miss Burrows, who gave me my inspiration ... better late than never!. 

No comments: