|Historical notes: ||AREA HISTORY
Aboriginal people inhabited the Sydney basin for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. The northern coastal area of Sydney was home to the Guringai people, western Sydney was home to the Dharug clans, and southern Sydney was inhabited by the Dharawal clans. The Guringai lived primarily along the foreshores of the harbour, and fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands of the area. All clans harvested food from their surrounding bush. Self-sufficient and harmonious, they had no need to travel far from their lands, since the resources around them were so abundant, and trade with other tribal groups was well established. The British arrival in 1788 had a dramatic impact on all of the Sydney clans. Food resources were quickly diminished by the invaders, who had little understanding of the local environment. As a result, the Aboriginal people throughout the Sydney Basin were soon close to starvation. The Sydney clans fought back against the invaders, but the introduction of diseases from Europe and Asia, most notably smallpox, destroyed over half the population. The clearing of land for settlements and farms displaced local tribes and reduced the availability of natural food resources, leaving Aboriginal people reliant on white food and clothing. The French surgeon and pharmacist Rene Primavere Lesson, who visited Sydney in 1824, wrote: "the tribes today are reduced to fragments scattered all around Port Jackson, on the land where their ancestors lived and which they do not wish to leave." (Information taken from City of Ryde Aboriginal Site Management Report, Aboriginal Heritage Office, 2011).
In the early years of European settlement of Sydney, the Ryde area was found to be highly suitable for farming and orchards, and early colonial land grants to marines were given to encourage agriculture. In January 1792 land in the area which extended from Dundas to the Lane Cove River along the northern bank of the river, was granted to eight marines. The area was named by Governor Phillip the “Field of Mars”, Mars being the ancient Roman God of war, named to reflect the military associations of the land grantees. Two of these land grants were made in the modern area of the suburb of Ryde. Isaac Archer and John Colethread each received 80 acres of land on the site of the present Ryde-Parramatta Golf Links (now in West Ryde).
These grants were followed soon after by grants to ten emancipated convicts in February 1792, the land being further to the east of the marine’s grants, in the area now central to Ryde. Most of the grants were small, from 30 to 100 acres. This area was called Eastern Farms or the Eastern Boundary. By 1794 the name Eastern Farms had given way to Kissing Point, a name believed to have originated from the way in which heavily laden boats passing up the Parramatta River bumped or ‘kissed’ the rocky outcrop which extends into the river at today’s Kissing Point. Further grants were issued in 1794 and 1795, gradually occupying most of the foreshores between Meadowbank and Gladesville. Some of the grants were at North Brush, north of the Field of Mars settlement, in the area of Brush Farm and Eastwood.
Much later these were bought by John Macarthur, Gregory Blaxland and the Reverend Samuel Marsden. The district remained an important orcharding area throughout the 19th century.
The land on which Ryde House (now Willandra) was built was part of the emancipist John Small's 1794 grant and was acquired by James Devlin in 1828 from Thomas Small, James' step-father. James Devlin (1808-1875) was born in NSW, the son of Irish exile Arthur Devlin and his colonial-born wife Priscilla Squire. Devlin was originally a wheelwright, and later became a successful developer and contractor. James Devlin was a warden of St Anne's Church, Ryde and also a trustee for many years, and a Trustee of the Field of Mars Common, Devlin was instrumental in advocating for the proclamation of Ryde as a municipality and was one of the first Ryde aldermen in 1871. Devlin's Creek and Devlin Street are named after James Devlin. (Pollen, 1996).
About 1840 the name Ryde began to be used in the locality, with Devlin's 1841 subdivision being the earliest documented use of this name. Megan Martin has shown that the names Ryde and Turner Street were both chosen by James Devlin to honour the new Anglican Minister, Rev. George Turner, whose wife was a native of the English Ryde. Devlin and his neighbour, James Shepherd, had some 40 lots surveyed in a subdivision they named the Village of Ryde, with Devlin's 'East Ryde' facing St. Anne's Church and Shepherd's 'West Ryde' facing the road to Parramatta.
Devlin designed and began building the house now known as "Willandra" in 1841 on the old Small's farm and the Devlin family moved into the house in 1845. At that time it was called Ryde House.
In 1862 a campaign was begun to establish a public school in the Ryde village and in 1867 a formal application was made to the NSW Government for a public school to be established at Ryde. A local contribution of 100 pounds guaranteed by Messrs J.S. Farnell, E. Drinkwater, G. Wicks, W. Small and J. Devlin was promised towards the cost of a school building.
The Ryde Public School opened in 1868 in the premises of a former inn (Stanley's Inn) on the corner of Parkes Street (later Blaxland Road) and Tucker Street, a stone building with a timber shingled roof on a 10 acre site, which was purchased for 280 pounds and altered and enlarged to accommodate 3 classrooms and a new teacher's residence.
Less than ten years later, a new public school, with an adjoining teachers' residence, was opened on the ridge of Pope Street. A local campaign for a new public school building led to the erection in 1877 of a single-storey sandstone building, designed by government architect George Allen Mansfield. It opened in May 1877 with one qualified teacher and two pupil-teachers supervising an average attendance of 113 students in that first year. It was considered "more appropriate than the old premises originally built as a public house". (ref : Sydney Morning Herald March 30 1877 p.3).
At the first Arbor Day in NSW in 1890, on the initiative of the Minister for Public Instruction, trees were planted in the "Ryde Superior School Reserve" by Lord and Lady Carrington. The first tree was planted by Lady Carrington, wife of the Governor of New South Wales.
Lord and Lady Jersey opened a new Infant's school building (2 storey sandstone building) on 16 May 1892.
In July 1895 the teachers and scholars of Ryde Public School, together with Ryde's benefactor, Jane Darvall were presented by Mr and Mrs George Lovell with an illuminated address which commemorated the role of the former Mayor and Mayoress of Ryde in the inauguration of Arbor Day in New South Wales five years earlier. In return the Ryde school board and students presented Lord and Lady Carrington with an illuminated address, a very artistic production, designed and executed by Mr and Mrs JH Hunt, the headmaster and mistress of the school. (ref : Cumberland Argus & Fruitgrowers Advocate July 19 1890 p.8).
Petitions were presented to the Council of Education in 1919 and 1923 which resulted in the erection of brick classrooms to relieve overcrowding. The school already had separate Infants and Primary Departments. By 1929 enrolments had risen to 700, and the same year the Primary School was divided into separate Boy's and Girl's Departments. In 1934 a new Infants School building was constructed (Historic Ryde, 2002).
In 1986 a school hall was constructed, and a monument funded by the NSW Bicentennial Council.
The school continues to provide public primary education for the Ryde area.