Duration: 2-3 hours
Price Guide: $0
This tour can take longer, if you decide to stop for refreshments. Apart from train tickets and food and drinks it’s entirely cost free.
Catch a Bankstown line train to St Peters Railway Station, which opened in 1884 with the construction of the Illawarra railway line to Hurstville.
St Peters is the home of the Town and Country Hotel, immortalised in the song by Australian country music legend Slim Dusty I Love to Have a Beer with Duncan.
From the station, cross the Princes Highway towards the brick chimneys visible in Sydney Park.
Continuing up the highest hill, you can appreciate a 360 degree panorama. Facing the city centre, and turning clockwise: you can see, to the northeast, the light towers of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Not sure if it’s true or just urban myth, but there is rumoured to be a circus elephant buried somewhere in the park.
Continue down the other side of the hill to the traffic lights and cross into Mitchell Road. This is the border between Erskineville and Alexandria, named after Princess Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII. By 1943, Alexandria was the largest industrial district in Australia, and known as the Birmingham of Australia, with 550 factories in just 1,000 acres.
Turn left at the first lights, then take the first right into Eve Street then left at Macdonald Street. Take a right at George Street.
You’re now well into Erskineville, featured in the indie film, Erskineville Kings, one of the last projects that Hugh Jackman worked on before he was offered the role of Wolverine in X-Men. Also home to retro hard rock band Wolfmother.
On the left at 165-173 George Street notice the tiny high-gabled terrace cottages, a feature of this novels..
Turn left at Victoria Street (there are more tiny terraces on your left) and continue to Pleasant Avenue. You can do a detour here … to see how the avenue lives up to its name. Then head up Morrissey Road and turn right at Lambert Street. Plenty of regal-looking terraces and an old corner store at George Street. Turn left and head up to Erskineville Road.
The Rose of Australia Hotel is the perfect place for drink. The bar is heritage-listed, although it has had modifications done in recent years.
Cross Erskineville Road and head to the left. There are a number of buildings of interest on the walk towards Newtown.
35 Erskineville Road – The Imperial Hotel – the famous drag-show pub featured in the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Continue across the railway line and turn right into Linthorpe Street. Follow it to the end and then left at Brown Street and right at the roundabout to take you on to Wilson Street. Follow Wilson Street for about four blocks to Hollis Park.
Easily the most elaborate group of dwellings in Newtown, built on land purchased by Magistrate John Kettle when Bligh’s ‘Camperdown’ estate was subdivided. The houses, built in the 1880s, formed part of a planned development unusual in Sydney and considered a ‘throw back’ to the planned squares of London and Brighton. Hollis Park was resumed for education purposes in 1892 but leased for a peppercorn rental to the Newtown Municipality as a playground in 1911. It is named after Robert Hollis MLA, a prominent advocate of trade unionism, who lived in Newman Street. Warren Ball Avenue is named after the prominent Newtown Councillor and businessman and Georgina Street after Kettle’s daughter.
Walk to the top of Hollis Park and then right, following Georgina Street up to King Street.
Originally called Cook’s River Road, this thoroughfare was named King Street in 1877 and even last century caused much concern with the dust, mud and noise created by the heavy traffic of drays, carriages, horse omnibuses, horse trams and, later, steam trams. One of Sydney’s many toll bars crossed King Street at the corner of Forbes Street. On King Street, between Georgina and Fitzroy Streets, stood Cambridge Hall where lived Eliza Donnithorne, the recluse around whose lonely vigil much local legend has grown.
Follow King Street to the West (away from the Sydney CBD) until you reach Missenden Road. Cross to the Marlborough Hotel.
Site of O’Connell Town, one of the two hamlets from which the village of Newtown developed. Captain Maurice O’Connell married Williams Bligh’s daughter, Mary, thus acquiring her share of his ‘Camperdown’ estate which he subdivided in the 1840s. The Marlborough Hotel was once known as the Daniel Lambert Hotel whose namesake was a well-known identity who, it is claimed, upon his death in 1809, weighed over 300kilos! Many of the buildings in King Street were erected in the latter years of the 19th Century and exhibit many of the features of Victorian architecture. Nearby streets e.g. O’Connell, Bucknell, Brown and Egan are named after early landholders and residents.
Walk 30 metres down Missenden Road to Campos Coffee – arguably the best in Sydney. Stop for a drink if you like and then turn left on Longdown Street, right on O’Connell Street, then left on Prospect Street and up Church Street to St Stephens Church.
The cemetery was consecrated in 1841, since which there has been over 18,000 burials. Many graves were removed to this site from the old George Street Cemetery to make way for the Town Hall and from the old Devonshire Street Cemetery to make way for Central Railway Station. Amongst those buried here are Surveyor General Sir Thomas Mitchell, Sir Maurice O’Connell, Alexander Macleay of Elizabeth Bay House and many luminaries of the early colony, especially from this municipality.
Turn left from the church gates and follow the outer walls around through Camperdown Memorial Park. Careful where you tread … there are graves under foot. Walk between the church wall and the playground and you’ll see the Church Avenue terraces ahead.
Church Avenue Terrace is a neat, single-storey terrace built in the 1880s. Terrace and terrace-type houses built in pairs were the dominant forms of domestic dwelling constructed in the municipality, mostly in the boom period of the 1880s. Most premises were rented, but often the owner of a terrace or pair resided in one of the houses. In 1890, a commodious, two-storey terrace house in Newtown was let for about 30 shillings per week. Most terraces comprised between four and eight houses, but terraces of between 10 and 20 were not uncommon.
Down Mary Street can be seen the Post Office in King Street, cnr. Erskineville Road, built in 1890 on the site of an older Post Office. The first Post Office in Newtown was in King Street, near Missenden Road.
Walk along Lennox Avenue to the west, to the corner of Australia Street.
Up until 1879, all court cases were heard in the old Central Police Courts in the city, where the Queen Victoria Building now stands. The Newtown Courthouse, designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, was built between 1833-35. Construction is of stuccoed brick with a slate roof.
Head south towards King Street and turn right past the old Town Hall (now the Neighbourhood Centre) and over the train lines along Enmore Road to Station Street.
Further along Enmore Road to Reiby Street and on the corner is the Friendly Societies Dispensary built in 1902 and enlarged in 1912. It served the needs of a number of Lodges already established in Newtown, providing sick and funeral benefits. Cost per member, in 1912, was sixpence each month.
Hidden behind the liquor shop – and indeed behind a thousand alterations – is Stanmore House, Newtown’s only surviving old mansion, now barely recognisable. It was built in 1847 and 1855 by Mary Reiby for her daughter Elizabeth Anne who married Captain Joseph Long Innes. It was of Colonial Regency design with a central entrance and gable, wide verandah and capped columns. It is claimed that Sir Joseph Long Innes, who was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1873 and was one-time Attorney General of NSW, was born here in 1834. James Pemmell, parliamentarian and wealthy flour merchant, lived here until his death in 1906.
Cross Enmore Road and then turn right on to Reiby, left at Rawson, right at Station, then left into Holt Street.
Newtown Congregational Church, now the Greek Orthodox Church, opened in 1856 was built on land donated by Hon. J. Fairfax, founder of the Sydney Morning Herald. The first pastor was Rev. S. C. Kent, also principal of nearby Camden College. The school which adjoined the church was intended to provide a basic education for students who would proceed to the College for theological training.
Turn left on King Street and cross the road. As you walk up to the Newtown Train Station, a couple of buildings are worth noting.
The end of the tour is Newtown 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). It was soon serviced by 10 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.