Terrace houses predominate in Newtown There are single, double or triple storey terraces which may stand alone or in groups of between two and twenty. Shop/residences followed a similar pattern. 1 A few of the original estate homes survived such as Stanmore House, Reiby House and Gowrie House. Newtown was one of the most densely populated suburbs of Sydney. Table 2 shows the number of persons per acre for census years with other suburbs for comparison.

We will now turn to a consideration of everyday life in Newtown as seen by some residents from the 1890s on. Although Newtown’s two main thoroughfares offered every type of shop a feature of suburban life were the men who came around the streets selling various goods, the hawkers. Hawkers were required to be licensed by the Newtown Council. Council minutes regularly include the granting of licences to sell fish, rabbits, milk, butcher meat and ham and beef in the municipality.1 The rabbitoh would call out “Rabbitoh, Rabbitoh” round the back lanes every day with rabbits hanging around the inside of his cart. A pair of rabbits cost sixpence. The man chopped their heads off and skinned them, keeping the skins.2 The clothes prop man would call out “clothes props” or “props today – props today” and Jessie Mottram’s grandmother used to chop up one of her good props so she could buy another.3 The clothes prop was a sapling eight or ten feet long with a fork in the end and two or three were used to prop the line up.4 The wood and coal man with his blackened face would carry bags of coke, coal and wood to the houses to be used in the fuel stoves and to light the copper.5 When the fruit and vegetable man called it was an occasion as all the neighbours met. On ice days the front doors were left open and children stood around while the block was chipped into the right size for the ice chest and the iceman gave them ice to suck.6 The bottle-oh was also a favourite with children who ran out for halfpenny a bottle. The milkman called morning and afternoon every day and three times on Sunday when he called out, “Milk for the babies and cream for the ladies and lay-ay-ty.” Then the women ran out to get milk for the Sunday pudding.7

  • 1. Newtown Municipal Council Minutes 27th April 1909, p. 17, 11th May 1909 p. 23 and 22nd June 1909, p. 44 (Hereafter NMC).
  • 2. Pearl Cole, interview by telephone, 10th July 1982 (B. 1891) and Jessie Bateson, personal interview, 3rd August 1982 (B. 1905)
  • 3. J. Bateson, interview cited.
  • 4. William D. McGilchrist, letter 17th July 1983. (B. 1912)
  • 5. F. N. Smith, Memoirs, unpublished ms. in author’s possession 1982, p. 4 and J. Bateson, interview cited.
  • 6. F. N. Smith, op. cit., pp. 4-5
  • 7. P. Cole, interview cited.

1883 Organised Jewish life in Newtown started in about 1883 in the form of a minyan held at the home of Abram and Naomi Solomon at 6 Georgina Street, around 50 meters from the current site of the Synagogue. The minyan then moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Selig of Alice Street, Newtown.  As the numbers of those attending grew, the congregation rented rooms at the Oddfellows Hall in Wilson Street. The first Minister to hold a position at the Synagogue was Reverend Isaac Morris, who had recently arrived from Cardiff.

1904 The name for the Synagogue was decided. Mikveh Yisroel means “the Hope of Israel” or possibly “the Bath of Israel” referring  to the talmudic idea – that the bath that cleanses Israel is their Father in Heaven.

1912 Land was purchased in L’Avenue, now known as Georgina Street.

1917 Reverend A. T. Chodowski was appointed, who, as well as conducting Services worked to provide child education and kosher meat to the community.

1918 A ceremony of laying the foundation stones for the synagogue was held in June.

1919 At 3pm on the afternnon of Sunday 7th September, the new Synagogue was overflowing with a broad representation of Sydney’s Jewish community.

1921-1936 Rabbi Lenzer oversaw strong growth of the congregation and inspired Synagogue membership and participation.

1936-1955 Reverend I. Rabinovitch then took over until his death in 1955.

1957-1969 Reverend B. Skolnick

1969-1973 Reverend  Asher Dobelsky undertook ministerial duties at the shule while also teaching Jewish Studies and Hebrew at Moriah College. His tenure at the shule saw the decline in shule membership of previous years arrested with a significant increase in simchas as well as overflowing attendances on the High Holidays. In 1973 Reverend Dobelsky and his family sadly left Newtown to move to Perth where Reverend Dobelsky joined the Korsunski Carmel School as head of Jewish Studies (Primary) while also taking on the duties of Chazzan at the Perth Shule.

1973-1976    Revered Rueben Fisher 1977-1993 Reverend S. Piaster

1993-1997 Rabbi Y. Wernick was commited to community leadership.

1997-2001 Rabbi D. Friedman

2001-2004 Rabbi Levi Selwyn and Rebbitzen Naomi successfully expanded the spiritual depth of the Jewish community in Sydney through education programs, which included classes on everything from Kabbalah to Talmudic Law, and the deep, internal significance of the Talmudic stories; through community outreach in arenas that varied from hospital rooms to the street corners where one could share the mitzvah of learning to put on Teffilin, and a kosher vegetarian falafel stand at the Newtown Fair Day; and through magical holiday programs, each sporting a unique theme, such as the famous Seventies Disco Purim Party, complete with strobe lights and a mural painted just for the occasion, to the Purim Puppet Show that was the centerpiece one year of the children’s Purim program.

2004-2005 Acting Rabbi Mottel Gestetner fullfilled  a vitial roll  of keeping  the services and community dinners going while the board searched for a full time rabbi. Mottel is continuing his university studies and we wish him our best.  He is, and always will be, considered a part of the Newtown Community.

2005 and onwards Rabbi and Rebbitzen Rosenthal have come to Newtown.  Their enthusiasam and excitment is welcomed here and they have already become an integral part of our small and unique community.

Five generations of Jews have participated in the life of this congregation. Australia has few Jewish communal buildings, which carry the heritage, history and architectural merit that the Newtown Synagogue pocesses. Continuity of Jewish life is an ideal that motivates those who work and participate in the life of the Synagogue.


Newtown derived its name from a store opened by John Webster, which stood on the site of the Oxford Hotel in King Street. Webster named his store the New Town Store to distinquish it from the established settlements at Camperdown, cooks River and O’Connell Town. The name Newtown was recorded as early as 1832.

By the late 19th century King Street had become one of the largest suburban retail shopping centres which competed with the CBD.

Newtown Rugby League Footbal Club was the first rugby league club in Australia, formed at a public meeting in Newtown Town Hall on 8 January 1908.

Newtown was a separate municipality from 1862 to 1949.

Newtown is an inner-city suburb about 5 kilometers. from the Sydney CBD. The area has gone through a number of social transformations since it was first established in 1862, when 200 houses were formed into the municipality of Newtown. Originally it was home to Sydney�s bourgeoisie, but by 1900 it had been transformed into a working class stronghold, home to the factory, waterside and domestic workers of that era.

Throughout much of the last century Newtown and surrounding suburbs have been home to workers who were strongly unionised and voted Labor. In 1931 there was a battle between members of the Unemployed Workers Movement and police, when a family in Union Street were about to be evicted. Around thirty militants and police were injured.

The 1950s saw an influx of migrants move in, giving Newtown a distinctly cosmopolitan feel. In the 1970s they were joined by a wave of young, educated and often politically active people. Newtown became popular with artists, filmmakers, writers, students, academics, unionists, teachers – people who were setting the agenda in the arts, politics, gay and lesbian culture, the women�s movement and the environmental movement. Many of them still live in the suburb, sharing it with residents who were born here and a new wave of city workers – many employed in the media, finance, entertainment, government and legal sectors.

Newtown�s King street and Enmore Road are packed with restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, weird and wonderful specialty shops and bookshops. The footpaths are always busy and the traffic is terrible.

The eclectic mix of Goths, professionals, artists, tattooed, pierced and spikey young things plus the down and out and homeless always makes for a rich tapestry of contemporary Sydney society.

All Photos kindly reproduced from ‘Newtown (A Pictorial History)’ By Alan Sharpe. Kingclear Books 1999.

Newtown StationNewtown

NewtownNewtown Today

Organised Jewish life in Newtown commenced around 1883 in the form of a minyan held at the home of Abram and Naomi Solomon. Their home was at 6 Georgina Street, around 50 meters from the current site of the Synagogue.

Five generations of Jews have participated in the life of this congregation. Australia has few Jewish communal buildings, which carry the heritage, history and architectural merit that the Newtown Synagogue pocesses.

Continuity of Jewish life is an ideal that motivates those who work and participate in the life of the Synagogue. According to government statistics, there are 400 Jewish households in Sydney’s Inner West. Most of those do not participate in organised Jewish life. Our mission statement is to draw some of these people back. Physical heritage in terms of a beautiful, historic synagogue and spiritual heritage, in terms of a link with five generations of Jewish life in Sydney, is Newtown Synagogue’s raison d’etre. This is what will draw those people back.



27 March 2001


As part of Council’s Centenary of Federation celebrations it is proposed that a
conducted walking tour of Wilson Street, North Newtown, take place on Sunday 22
April by South Sydney Heritage Society during Heritage Week 2001.

In conjunction with this event, I have been asked to unveil a plaque at 210 Wilson
Street, North Newtown.  This 1896 building, once a bakery and shop, was purchased
by Bruce and Sarah Lay in 1979.   Since that time they have undertaken extensive
restoration work.  In particular and of wide interest, was the restoration of the
verandah over the footway.   For Council it raised the conflicting issue of public safety
verses heritage integrity.

With the personal eloquent persuasion of the owners and their vision that a desire to
faithfully restore and conserve a building was achievable to the satisfaction of all.  I
congratulate the Lays.

The program for the day will be:
1.30 pm – Dedication at 210 Wilson St
2.00 pm – Walk on Wilson Street
3.30 pm – Afternoon tea at Hollis Park.

This early area of what became Newtown was called O’Connell Town after the O’Connells.

John Webster established a store on the corner of what is now King Street and Eliza Street. He called his store the ‘New Town Store’ to distinguish it from the stores established earlier in O’Connell Town.

The ‘Sydney Gazette’ wrote, on 24/11/1832, ‘the neighbourhood about the spot known as Devine’s Farm has obtained the name ‘Newtown’.

This mention of ‘Devine’s Farm’ brings up the subject of two other early land grants in the area, those to Nicholas Devine, some of which grants became part of the South Eastern area of the Municipality of Newtown, incorporated in December 1862.

Nicholas Devine (Divine) arrived in the second fleet in 1790. He was appointed Superintendent of Convicts. He was given two grants totalling some 210 acres, 120 acres in 1794 and 90 acres in 1799. He named these ‘Burren Farm’.

The grant to Nicholas Devine covered the area bounded approximately by Wilson Street, King Street, what is now known as Sydney Park Road, a line a bit West of Mitchell Road and returning to Wilson Street approximately where Forbes Street joins Wilson Street.

As mentioned earlier, the constant erosion of the ridge resulted in Burren Farm being located on some of the finest agricultural land in the area. This enabled Nicholas Devine to establish an orchard, vineyard and productive gardens.

In 1811 Nicholas Devine was replaced, due to ill health, by Isaac Nichols as Superintendent of Convicts.

The early land grants in the area were subdivided over the years into ‘Villas’ and occupied mostly by the wealthy merchant class. Names such as Reiby, Thurnby, Gowrie, Linthorpe, The Pines, Camdenville and Retiro are etched into the history of Newtown.

The subdivision of these early grants started slowly and gathered pace as Newtown developed. However, the two grants to Nicholas Devine were the subject of an interesting legal battle between the heirs of Nicholas Devine and some of the most influential members of Sydney society when their title was challenged by Devine’s heirs from Ireland. This battle continued over several years and became known as the “Newtown Ejectment” case. The case finally ended when the defendants paid Devine’s heirs a sum of money in settlement.

As more people moved into the area and the wealthy moved out these estates were subdivided into the building lots that make up the present day Newtown.

Newtown reached its zenith in the early 20th century and began its decline in the inter-war years. The early inhabitants started moving to the outer suburbs with larger lots and a better lifestyle. Following the second world war, with the increase in migration, Newtown became the home for many aspiring migrants and it began to prosper again. The Greeks made their mark in Newtown and although many of the early Greek settlers have moved on the Greek Orthodox Church, which was the old Congregational Church located in King Street just South of the railway station, still flourishes in Newtown while almost all of the early Newtown churches have fallen by the wayside. Some have been demolished to make way for units, such as the Presbyterian Church and others have been taken over by other denominations.

The Newtown Municipal Council, as incorporated in 1862, ceased to exist at the end of 1948 when it became part of an enlarged City of Sydney council along with other surrounding councils. The area has swung between the City of Sydney council and the South Sydney City council twice since. The latest change to the area was the transfer back to the City of Sydney council in 2004 with the abolition of the South Sydney City Council. The South Sydney City council lasted only 16 years in its last incarnation, 1998-2004.

The suburb of Newtown has again started its re-birth, due in no small manner to its close proximity to the City and its excellent public transport. Modern families and upwardly mobile young adults have transformed the Newtown of old into the vibrant cosmopolitan area of today.

Graeme Nichols.

wilson st gallery

wilson st prominant cycling area


[edit] Aboriginal history

The Newtown area was part of the land of the Cadigal band of the Eora people, who ranged across the entire area from the southern shores of Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay in the south-east and Petersham in the west. It was through the land management methods of the aboriginal people that the extensive grasslands of predominantly Kangaroo Grass, commented upon by Watkin Tench were maintained as ideal breeding grounds for kangaroos.[2]

The first Aborigine to receive a Christian burial was Tommy, an eleven year old boy who died of bronchitis in the Sydney Infirmary. He was buried in Camperdown Cemetery, in a section now located outside the wall. The cemetery also contains a sandstone obelisk erected in 1944 by the Rangers League of NSW, in memory of Tommy and three other Aborigines buried there – Mogo, William Perry and Wandelina Cabrorigirel, although their graves are no longer identifiable. [3] When the names were transcribed from the records onto the monument, there was an error in deciphering the flowing hand in which many of the original burial dockets were written. It is now known that the fourth name was not Wandelina Cabrorigirel, but Mandelina (Aboriginal) [4]

[edit] 19th century

King Street and Newtown Railway Station from a coloured postcard. c.1906

Newtown’s reputation as a retail precinct was established early. Marcus Clark, one of Australias leading retailers was based there.

Newtown was established as a residential and farming area in the early 19th century.[5] The area took its name from a grocery store opened there by John and Eliza Webster in 1832, at a site close to where the Newtown railway station stands today. They placed a sign on top of their store that read “New Town Stores”. The name New Town was adopted, at first unofficially, with the space disappearing to form the name Newtown.[6]

The part of Newtown lying south of King Street was a portion of the two estates granted by Governor Arthur Phillip to the Superintendent of Convicts, Nicholas Devine, in 1794 and 1799. Erskineville and much of MacDonaldtown were also once part of Devine’s grant. In 1827, at a time when Devine was aged about 90, this land was acquired from him by a convict, Bernard Rochford, who sold it to many of Sydney’s wealthiest and most influential inhabitants including the Mayor. Devine’s heir, John Devine, a coachbuilder of Birmingham, challenged the will which was blatantly fraudulent. The “Newtown Ejectment Case” was eventually settled out of court by the payment to Devine of an unknown sum of money said to have been “considerable”. The land was further divided into the housing that is now evidenced by the rows of terrace houses and commercial and industrial premises. [7]

Part of the area which now falls within the present boundaries of Newtown, north of King Street, was originally part of Camperdown. This area was named by Governor William Bligh who received it as a land grant in 1806 and who passed it to his daughter and son-in-law on his return to England in 1810. In 1848 part of this land was acquired by the Sydney Church of England Cemetery Company to create a general cemetery beyond the boundary of the City of Sydney.[8] Camperdown Cemetery, just one block away from King Street, Newtown, was to become significant in the life of the suburb. Between its consecration in 1849 and its closure to further sales in 1868 it saw 15,000 burials of people from all over Sydney.[9] Of that number, approximately half were paupers buried in unmarked and often communal graves, sometimes as many as twelve in a day during a measles epidemic.[10] Camperdown Cemetery remains, though much reduced in size, as a rare example of mid 19th century cemetery landscaping. It retains the Cemetery Lodge and huge fig tree dating from 1848, as well as a number of oak trees of the same date. It survived to become the main “greenspace” of Newtown, its large stand of trees giving it something the character of an oasis. Among the significant people buried in the cemetery are the famous explorer-surveyor Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, Major Edmund Lockyer and Mary, Lady Jamison (the widow of the renowned colonial pioneer landowner, physician, constitutional reformer and ‘knight of the realm’, Sir John Jamison). The cemetery also holds the remains of the victims of the wreck of the Dunbar in 1857.[11]

From 1845, when the first Anglican church was built on the site of the present Community Centre on Stephen Street, by Edmund Blacket, a number of churches were established, including St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in the 1850s, the Methodist Church on King Street, now Newtown Mission, and the Baptist Church in Church Street. The present St Stephen’s Anglican Church, a renowned example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was designed, like its predecessor, by Edmund Blacket, and constructed in the pre-existent cemetery from 1871 to 1880. With Camperdown Cemetery it is on the National Trust register of buildings of National Significance. Its Mears and Stainbank carillon is unique in Australia, while its Walker and Sons organ of 1874 is regarded as one of the finest in New South Wales.[12]

On December 12, 1862 the Municipality of Newtown was incorporated and divided into three wards: O’Connell, Kingston and Enmore, covering 480 acres (1.92 square kilometres). In 1893 a plan was discussed to rename the council area ‘South Sydney’ (as two municipalities North of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) had merged to form North Sydney three years earlier), but nothing came of it.[13]

[edit] Housing

Although there are a few earlier buildings in Newtown the most rapid development occurred in the late 1800s[citation needed], with many former farms and other large properties being subdivided and developed as row-houses, known popularly as “terrace houses”. With their predominance of Victorian-era houses with stuccoed facades, balconies of iron lace and moulded architectural ornaments, many Newtown streets are similar to those of other well-known inner city suburbs like Glebe, Paddington and Balmain.

From about 1870 onwards, Newtown had a large proportion of its residents living in terrace houses of the cheapest possible construction, much of which was “two-up two-down” with rear kitchen, some having adjoining walls only one brick thick and a continuous shared roofspace.[14] Hundreds of these terrace houses still remain, generally 4 metres (13 ft) wide. It was not uncommon for speculative builders to build a row of these small houses terminating in a house of 1 1/2 width at the corner of the street, this last being a commercial premises, or “Corner Store”. During the Federation period, single storey row houses became increasing common.

This preponderance of small houses is indicative of the working-class employment of most of the Newtown residents, many of whom worked in the city or at local shops, factories, warehouses, brickyards and at the nearby Eveleigh Railway Workshops. Retail and service trades dominated the suburb increasingly throughout this period, with tradesmen and shopkeepers together accounting for 70-75% of the working population.[15] During the late 1800s and early 1900s Newtown prospered, so much so that in the Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Newtown, published in 1912, it was described as “… one of the most wealthy suburbs around Sydney.”[16]

A number of imposing Victorian mansions were also built on larger estates, as well as rows of larger and more stylish terrace houses in certain areas such as Brown Street in North Newtown, and Holmwood Street in South Newtown. As in many other historic areas of Sydney, some of the largest and most important houses, such as ‘Erskine Villa’ (formerly on Erskineville Road, and which gave its name to the suburb of Erskineville), were demolished and the estates subdivided. Another loss was the home of Mary Reibey in Station Street, which was acquired by the NSW Department of Housing in 1964, demolished in 1967, and replaced by a public housing apartment block. Only the cottage of Mary Reibey’s dairyman survives, a little further down the street.[17]

One of the most impressive surviving sets of 19th Century housing in Newtown is the imposing terrace of five elegant five-storey mansions running along Warren Ball Avenue in North Newtown, facing onto Hollis Park.

From the late 1800s onwards, the Newtown area became a major commercial and industrial centre. King Street developed into a thriving retail precinct and the Newtown area was soon dotted with factories, workshops, warehouses and commercial and retail premises of all kinds and sizes. Several major industries were established in the greater Newtown area from the late 1800s, including the Eveleigh rail workshops, the IXL jam and preserves factory in north Newtown/Darlington, the St Peters brickworks and the Fowler Potteries in Camperdown.

[edit] Early 20th century

Although it prospered in the late 1800s, during the first half of the 20th century, and especially during The Depression, like many inner-city Sydney suburbs such as Glebe and Paddington.the area became increasingly run down[citation needed], with wealthy Sydneysiders preferring to settle in newer and more prestigious areas like Strathfield and Burwood, and especially the North Shore and Eastern suburbs. In 1949, Newtown was incorporated into the City of Sydney.

[edit] Mid 20th century

Although it was originally a relatively prosperous suburb – the legacy of which is the numerous lavish Victorian mansions still standing in the area – Newtown and its surrounds gradually became a working-class enclave, and for much of the 20th century, Newtown was a low-income blue-collar suburb, often denigrated as a slum. In the post-war period, the low rents and house prices attracted newly-arrived European migrants, and Newtown’s population changed radically, becoming home to a sizeable migrant community.[18]

In 1968, a controversial redistribution of local government boundaries by the Askin State Liberal government saw part of Newtown placed under Marrickville Council.

From the 1970s, as the post-war population prospered, raised families and aged, many moved to outlying suburbs to build larger houses, a supply of picturesque and relatively cheap terrace houses and cottages entered the rental market.[citation needed] Because of its proximity to the expanding Sydney University and the Sydney CBD, the comparatively low rents, and the availability of a wide range of cafes, pubs and restaurants, Newtown began to attract university students in the 1960s and 1970s. The area became one of the major centres for student share-households in Sydney and was a mecca for many young people. As Newtown gained a reputation as a bohemian centre, the gay and lesbian population also increased.[citation needed]

Crago Flour Mill

Silo apartment complex

[edit] Late 20th century and early 21st century

The 1980s was the period that probably saw the greatest diversity in Newtown. At this time, cheap housing was still available. During the 1990s many long-established businesses closed[citation needed], including Brennan’s Department Store, a charming old-fashioned department store founded in the 1800s, and one of the last relics of the heyday of Victorian commerce in Newtown.

Many homes have been restored and represent an example of nineteenth century architecture in Sydney. The northern end of Newtown (closer to the University and the city) is considered the more prestigious, with house prices and rents in this part of town often higher than those for similar properties in south Newtown, Enmore or St Peters. Like other similar inner-Sydney suburbs (most notably Paddington and Glebe) the trend of gentrification has led to another significant shift in Newtown’s demographics. From the 1970s onwards, many major industrial and commercial sites in the Newtown area were closed or vacated. Many of these former commercial sites have since been redeveloped as housing such as the Alpha House and Beta House apartment complexes on King Street, which were formerly both multi-storey warehouses.

One of the most significant and visible changes to the area has been the redevelopment of the Silo apartment complex, which occupies part of Crago Flour Mills and former grain silos, which had been built on the site of the original Newtown station, at the end of Station Street. Rather than demolishing the silos and building a new structure, the developers undertook a major reconstruction of the building and created a series of circular apartment spaces, augmented by the construction of more traditionally shaped apartments on the lower levels.

[edit] Geography

The main street of Newtown, King Street which becomes the Princes Highway at its southern end, follows the spine of a long ridge that rises up near Sydney University and extends to the south. The street reputedly follows an ancient Aboriginal track that branched out from the main western track, now beneath Broadway and Parramatta Road, and which continued all the way to the coastal plains around Botany Bay.[4] According to the colonial diarist Watkin Tench, when Europeans arrived in Sydney it was possible to walk easily all the way from Sydney Cove to Botany Bay in a few hours, through a grassy and lightly-wooded area that Tench described as being like English parkland.[19] The predominant grass of the area was Kangaroo Grass, of which a substantial remnant continues to exist with several other species of native flora within Camperdown Cemetery.

[edit] Commercial area

King Street is the main street of Newtown and centre of commercial and entertainment activity. Enmore Road branches off King Street towards the suburb of Enmore at Newtown Bridge, where the road passes over the railway line at Newtown Station. Enmore Road and King Street together comprise a 9.1 kilometre round-trip of some 600 shopfronts. The main shopping strip of Newtown is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia.[20] King Street is often referred to as “Eat Street” in the media due to the large number of cafés, pubs and restaurants. Newtown is a centre of Thai cuisine, but its diverse culture has attracted an astounding array of cuisines, including Balinese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese, Indian, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Spanish, African, French, Turkish, Sri Lankan, Lebanese and both traditional and modern Australian.[21] Cafe’s, restaurants and galleries can also be found in the streets surrounding King Street – in particular Enmore Road, Wilson Street and Australia Street. Erskineville Road’s cafes and pubs are also a short walk from King Street.

[edit] Transport

Newtown Railway Station

[edit] Rail

Newtown railway station is located on the Inner West line of the CityRail network. The station opened in 1855, as one of the original four intermediate stations on the Sydney to Parramatta rail line (the others being Ashfield, Burwood, and Homebush), and it was soon serviced by ten steam trains per day. In 1878 the station was moved from its original location at the end of Station Street to its current location by the fork of King Street and Enmore Road.

Although well served by trains, the station’s accessibility is far from ideal, since the present station was built into a deep, narrow cutting under King St, with the result that the platforms are several metres below street level and can only be accessed by a steep stairway. In its 2007 budget, the NSW state government committed to funding for a much-needed upgrade to the station[22] including the installation of lifts, new stairways and canopies, toilets and lighting.

Until the 1960s (when trams were phased out in many parts of Australia, including Sydney) Newtown was a major hub for train-tram transfers; a number of regular electric tram services were centred there and the old Newtown tram depot (long vacant and now largely derelict) still stands next to the station.

[edit] Buses

Sydney Buses operates buses to Newtown. The trams from the pre 1960s were replaced by regular bus services which inherited the old route numbers — 422, 426, 428 — and follow the old tram routes that run along King Street and Enmore Road, going inwards to the city and outwards to Tempe, Dulwich Hill and Canterbury respectively. Since then the 423 service from the city to Kingsgrove via Newtown has been added. There is also the 352 service that goes east through Surry Hills, to Bondi Junction and the 370 service running north to the University of Sydney and Leichhardt and south-east to the University of New South Wales and Coogee.

[edit] Education

In the 1990s, Newtown High School was chosen by the NSW Department of Education and Training as the site for a new specialised performing arts high school, which would combine traditional academic subjects with music and theatrical performance education. The school was renamed Newtown High School of the Performing Arts.

Primary and infants school include:

  • Newtown Public School
  • North Newtown Public School
  • Australia Street Infants School
  • Camdenville Public School

[edit] Landmarks

[edit] Pubs

In part because of its industrial and commercial history, the Newtown area contains a significant number of pubs. These include a number of late Victorian period establishments and several in an Art Deco style from the mid-1900s. In July 2000, one of these, “The Marlborough”, called by historian Chrys Meader “the Gateway to Newtown” because of its visually commanding appearance at a wide intersection of King Street and Missenden Road, was stripped of all its original Art Deco tiles and had its upper floor substantially damaged before protests to the council prevented it going further.

[edit] The Trocadero

The Trocadero, restored in 2007

One of the major architectural conservation projects in Newtown in recent years has been the restoration of the Trocadero dance hall in King Street North. This large entertainment venue opened in 1889 and is one of the last 19th century dance halls still standing in Sydney. Over the years it functioned variously as a dance hall, a skating rink, a cinema, a boxing and vaudeville venue, a bicycle factory and a motor body works.

From 1920 onwards it was owned by the Grace Brothers retail company, and several sections were leased out as shops or accommodation. For many years the shopfront on the northern side of the building housed Maurice’s Lebanese Restaurant, commemorated in John Kennedy’s “On King St, I’m A King”. The building was purchased by Moore Theological College in 1974, and from 1981 to 1994 it housed the Con Dellis used furniture store, but all occupation ceased after that time. Fortunately, a comprehensive restoration program during 2005–2006 by Moore College has returned this outstanding 19th century building, including its elaborate Flemish-style facade, to its former glory.[23]

[edit] Burland Hall

One Newtown landmark which has undergone many changes during the 20th century is the site of the former Burland Community Hall [24], on King St. In the early 1900s the site was occupied by the original Hub Theatre.[25][26] From the mid-1900s it was occupied by an Art Deco-style cinema operated the Hoyts cinema chain.[citation needed] In the mid-1960s the cinema was converted into a community hall and it was renamed Burland Community Hall in 1965.[27] For many years it was the venue for community events such as dances, concerts, film screenings, meetings, parties, wedding receptions and a community market. In 1986 the upper floor of the hall was taken over for the Newtown branch of the City of Sydney library network, following the decision by Marrickville Council to close their Newtown library branch due to budgetary constraints. In 1995 the library moved to new premises in the former Salvation Army Citadel in nearby Brown St, and Burland Hall was redeveloped into offices and retail premises.[28]

[edit] Hub Theatre

One of the most notable (and formerly infamous) local landmarks is the Hub Theatre, located opposite Newtown Station, next to the old Newtown Town Hall. The original Hub stood at 222 King St, on the site of the Burland Community Hall, but this site was taken over and rebuilt as a cinema by the Hoyts chain in the mid-1900s and the Hub moved to its present location, on the site of an earlier vaudeville theatre. It was converted to a cinema in the 1930s, but from the early 1970s onwards, with the relaxation of Australia’s repressive censorship laws, it was used to screen pornographic films and for the staging of live “adult” sex shows, including the long-running “Little French Maid”. The Hub closed as a ‘porno’ venue in the early 1990s and had been vacant for some time; the owners of the Dendy chain attempted to secure the venue for its Newtown cinema, but were unsuccessful. Recently, the Hub has been home to live comedy shows and other such performances, seeing a rejuvenation of the building.[29]

[edit] Heritage

The following buildings are on the Register of the National Estate:[30]

  • St Stephen’s Church and Camperdown Cemetery, Church Street
  • Court House and Former Police Station, Australia and Eliza Streets
  • ANZ Bank Building, 327 King Street
  • CBC Bank Building, 325 King Street

[edit] Housing

Since the 1840s, when the Newtown area began to change from a rural to a commercial and residential landscape and the establishment of Sydney University in 1850, it has been home to a very diverse community, which is evidenced by the styles of domestic architecture. The few remaining houses of the 1830s and 1840s range from “Golden Grove” on Forbes Street to tiny and austere “working-men’s” cottages in Hordern Street. Golden Grove was a much-altered building, extended into a convent and now a Healing Centre for the Anglican Church it has retained several rare features of the early 19th century.

The trend of class diversity was to continue and expand into cultural diversity in the mid 20th century with post-war migration bringing hundreds of European migrants to the area. From the late 20th century, the gentrification of Newtown and its close proximity to the Sydney CBD saw a rapid increase in house prices. This has put pressure on the large numbers of students in shared housing in the area.

[edit] Culture

Newtown today is a vibrant Sydney suburb with over 600 stores, 70 restaurants (including many Thai restaurants), 40 cafes, pubs and entertainment venues along King Street and Enmore Road.[citation needed]

[edit] Live music

Newtown has been a hub for live entertainment since the late 1800s. During the 1980s the many pubs in the area housed a thriving live music scene, notably the The Sandringham in King Street.[citation needed] One of the best-known Australian bands to emerge from this scene was The Whitlams, who held down a formative residency at “The Sando” for several years. Musician John Kennedy wrote a tribute to the area in the mid-1980s. His single “On King St I’m A King” namechecked familiar Newtown landmarks and local figures of the time, including “The Wire Man” (a local eccentric who collected wire and wire coathangers), Maurice’s Lebanese restaurant, and the Coles New World supermarket, which occupied the site of the current Dendy Cinema.[citation needed]

Throughout the 1990s it was particularly known as a centre for indie rock, with the suburb home to many musicians and several live venues. In the late nineties it boasted a handful of popular venues: Goldmans / Newtown RSL, The Globe, Feedback and The Sandringham, all of which had closed by the late 1990s. Afer its takeover by Petersham RSL Club, the former Newtown RSL reopened as a music venue under the name of @Newtown, although live concerts ceased in 2006.

In recent years, the suburb has enjoyed a renaissance with the return of live music to The Sandringham (dubbed by regulars as “The Sando”) after the pub’s upper floor was rebuilt as a performance room, and small ensembles and bands still perform in the front bar. Popular ‘Sando’ residencies have included the duo of Dave Tice (ex-Buffalo) and Mark Evans (ex AC/DC), and cult singer-songwriter-keyboardist Louis Tillett.[citation needed] Another recent addition to Newtown’s live music scene is the small live venue The Vanguard at the north end of King Street, and the continuing popularity of the lyric-sized Enmore Theatre.

The New Theatre

Cafe at the Newtown Performing Arts School

The Newtown Festival in 2004

[edit] Theatre

Newtown and its surrounding areas have the highest concentration of independent theatres and live performance spaces in Sydney.[citation needed] Theatres include:

In the 1970s and 1980s many theatres, cinemas and music venues in the Sydney CBD closed,[citation needed] and some of the best-known, including the Regent Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre were demolished. Due to the lack of “lyric” sized venues, the Enmore Theatre in Enmore Road has become one of the busiest medium-sized concert venues in Sydney.

[edit] Festivals

Newtown hosts a number of annual festivals.

The Newtown Festival is a community festival of free live music, events, workshops, and stalls which has been held annually since 1981. Held in Camperdown Memorial Park adjacent to St. Stephen’s Church. The purpose of the Festival is to raise funds for the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, an association which provides services to the aged, people with disabilities, people from non-English speaking backgrounds and people on low incomes. Controversially, in 2006 for the first time the festival was held within a fenced confine.[citation needed]

Feastability, Newtown’s Food and Wine Festival, showcases the eclectic international cuisines of the Newtown Precinct along with Australian wine, local pubs and brewers, bakers and confectioners. The festival, which is held on the last Sunday of each September, started in the mid 1990s as 6 stalls outside the legendary Hub and has grown to become a major event of the inner west. It now takes place in the grounds of Newtown School of Performing Arts, has over 40 stalls and features all-day entertainment from musicians and artists as well as kids activities. The festival is organised by Marrickville Council.

Under the Blue Moon Festival is an alternative community festival held in September. The event has a variety of entertainment; live music, discussions, street performances, fashion shows and other subculture presentations, especially those of the Goth community. Local business and special interest groups provide a diverse variety of entertainment, including a local alternative hairdresser and even the local mortuary with a display of coffins.[32]

[edit] Sport

Newtown Rugby League Club — the “Newtown Jets” — is Australia’s oldest existing rugby league club, formed in 1908.[33] They currently compete in the NSWRL Premier League competition, a tier below the NRL‘s national premiership, and enjoy strong support in the local area and good crowds at their home ground of Henson Park, Marrickville.

[edit] Film and television

In the late 1960s, ground-breaking Australian TV drama series You Can’t See Round Corners, starred Rowena Wallace and Ken Shorter as a draft dodger hiding out in Newtown.[citation needed]

In the mid-1980s, the well-known service station on King Street (built in the Spanish Mission style) was used as a location for scenes in the Ray Lawrence film Bliss, which was based on the novel by Peter Carey. In the film, the service station was used as the childhood home of Harry Joy’s wife Bettina, played by Lynette Curran.

Garage Days directed by Alex Proyas, depicts a fictional indie rock band based in Newtown, and Erskineville Kings, starring Hugh Jackman, features extensive use of locations in Newtown and Erskineville.

The ABC television drama, Love Is A Four Letter Word, starring musician-actor Peter Fenton and featuring live bands each episode, included extensive location shooting at the Courthouse Hotel in Australia Street.

St Stephen’s Church and Camperdown Cemetery have regularly been used as sites for filming movies, TV and videos, notably in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

[edit] Graffiti and street art

The Dr. King Mural, King St, Newtown

The Newtown area is also known for its creative graffiti and “street art”. The most prominent of these works are the large murals created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which were painted on the walls of houses and shops in the Newtown-Erskineville area. Graffiti of all kinds can be found throughout the area and spray-painted “tags” have proliferated all over the area in recent years, although more recently the style of tagging has become far more elaborate than the simple spray-can signatures that litter walls throughout the district.

Examples include a mural of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on King St (painted by Andrew Aiken (Seems)and Juilee Pryor) ., the “Great Wave” mural in Gowrie Street, the “Three Proud People” mural (a reproduction of the famous photo taken at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics), and the “map of Africa” mural in King St.

[edit] Gay and lesbian culture

The gay and lesbian community of Newtown also extends into neighbouring Glebe, Leichhardt, Annandale, Marrickville, Enmore and Dulwich Hill.[citation needed] The area was home to two of Sydney’s most well-established gay and lesbian pubs, the Newtown Hotel closed its doors in 2007 and the nearby Imperial Hotel in Erskineville, the famous drag show pub featured in the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The Imperial closed for renovations but has not reopened, due to licensing wrangles with the local council.

The Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service in Newtown provides free telephone counselling for gays and lesbians living in NSW, as well as Twenty 10, a support organisation for young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender-questioning people who are under 26 and having problems at home or have recently become homeless.

[edit] Population

[edit] Demographics

In the 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing, the population of the Newtown postcode area was 15,027 people, in an area of 1.9 square kilometres. The population was 49% females, 51% males. 33% of the population was born overseas. The eight strongest religious affiliations in the area were in descending order: No religion, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox Christian, Buddhism, Uniting Church, Presbyterian and Reformed, and other Christian. The 3 most common forms of dwelling were in decreasing order: a semi-detached, row or terrace house, or townhouse; a flat, unit or apartment; a separate house.

[edit] Notable residents

King Street shops – the Palmer Buildings on King St north, featuring the recently restored verandah

King Street – Wilson Street intersection

[edit] Governance

Like most of central and inner-city Sydney, Newtown is one of the traditional ‘heartlands’ of support for the Australian Labor Party. As a result, while Newtown and other areas were within the City Council boundary, the ALP was able to control Council for several decades.[citation needed]

[edit] Local

Newtown is in both the Marrickville Council and City of Sydney local government areas.

The Liberal Party state government of Robert Askin, which came to power in 1966, was keen to see Labor’s control eliminated, so in 1967 Askin abolished Sydney City Council, installed a tribunal of administrators, and undertook a controversial redistribution of the city’s boundaries, which saw much of the former ward of Newtown re-allocated to the neighbouring municpalies of South Sydney and Marrickville — thus moving a significant portion of the Labor-voting population out of the Sydney City Council electoral area.[citation needed]

[edit] State

Newtown is predominantly in the State Electoral District of Marrickville, which was represented by the then Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge until his resignation on August 10, 2005. The resulting by-election, held on September 17, 2005 was won by Carmel Tebbutt.

[edit] Federal

For Federal elections, Newtown lies partly in the electorate of Grayndler, currently represented by Anthony Albanese of the ALP, and partly in the electorate of Sydney, currently represented by Tanya Plibersek, also of the ALP.

Both of these electorates saw strong Green votes in the 2001 election, and it was expected that the Green candidates, rather than the Liberal Party, would provide the main opposition to the ALP in the 2004 election, although the Liberals ultimately did narrowly retain their lead over the Greens in these electorates.



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