|Historical notes: ||The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.
With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.
(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )
Marrickville Brickworks - their arrival
"The Wianamatta Shale overlay of the Hawkesbury land from the Georges River to Sydney contained extensive clay deposits. It also encouraged tall vegetation growth, thus providing fuel. The brickworks site was on the edge of the Wianamatta Shale belt and thus formed a significant part of it. Immediately to the east of the site on the ridge to Cooks River, the land slopes to the Botany wetlands with their estaurine vegetation and large banksia scrub. The brickworks site, though geologically apart from Botany, has extensive views over the lowlands, and brickmakers were able to cooperate with manufacturers who established themselves in Alexandria and the Shea's Creek district.
The district from Newtown, to the west of the ridge to Cooks River and south of the Parramatta Road, was occupied by Europeans from early in the 19th century. It provided to be useful for timber, grazing dairying and even some agriculture. At first locked up in large estates (eg. that of Robert Wardell) it began to be subdivided in the 1830s and 1840s. Along the Cooks River ridge, from Newtown to Tempe gentleman's estates began to appear. Land utilisation and large-scale residences came to be joined at Marrickville by industry. A principal activity was brickmaking, taking advantage of the district's large clay deposits and using labour from the growing population. The manufacture of bricks and tiles, together with pottery, gradually developed.
Early Sydney brickmaking had been concentrated at Brickfield Hill, Haymarket. It had been predominantly an official enterprise. The spread of activity to the west and south-west was a matter of private initiative. Brickmaking was traditionally a family affair and migrant families began to operate small manufactories in clay country, with a good supply of timber for fuel and an adequate supply of water, beyond Newtown.
The process of brick production was small in size and simple in operation. There were clay bricks, mixed to the required consistency by hand, processed into moulds and fired in simple kilns. By the 1860s, as the post-Gold Rush boom promoted a heavy demand, small works proliferated. While the majority were in Newtown - St Peters region, others were to be found right across the Marrickville area, as far as Canterbury Road.
Marrickville Brickworks - later developments
By the 1870s, brickmaking in Sydney was entering the machine age. Henry Goodsell, of a well-known family in the trade, introduced a steam-powered brickmaking machine, and made shale-plastic bricks in 1871. Others followed his example over the next decade.
The housing boom of the 1880s gave a great fillip to the industry. While some smaller operators merged, the outcome was the perpetuation of family concerns, but now with a larger labour force. By the end of this decade, machine-moulding was common. Not only was the volume of production greatly increased but the quality and value of the product itself were enhanced, with the novel use of shale. With these changes, there naturally occurred a range of improvements to the on-site brickworks structures.
Brickmaking was carried on widely. There were works as far afield as Canterbury and at nearly Dulwich Hill (Playford), Illawarra Road (Burling) and on the present sites of Livingstone Oval (Porter) and Henson Park (Daley). But the largest concentration of operations was on the eastern sector of the present Marrickville, in the municipality (1871) of St Peter's. From Camdenville south towards Tempe, along the lines of Cooks River Road (now Princes Highway) and the adjacent Unwin's Bridge Road, and extending east towards Shea's Creek, a range brickworks developed.
Brickmaking was an important Marrickville industry. Only in the St. Peter's sector, however, did it have sufficient impact to create an industrial area. The pits and chimneys came to dominate the scene and occupied a substantial proportion of the population. The long line of gentleman's residential estates were eroded to provide space for brickmaking. North St Peters was an industrial suburb by late in the nineteenth century.
By the turn of the century, brickmakers in the Marrickville area began to undergo change. Some small pits were worked out and closed. Some family firms gave way to limited companies. Mechanisation and the demand for more elaborate and expensive plants favoured the bigger concerns. The demand for bricks remained high in the housing boom of the post-war years but thereafter declined. The centre of Sydney's house-building business moved further west, where the new State Brickworks at Homebush provided ample material.
While the St. Peter's district experienced change similar to that of Marrickville generally, it remained more closely connected with brickmaking. There was an intensity about the local industry not found elsewhere. The clay and shale deposits were abundant, the specialised labour force was larger, the Illawarra railway line nearby to provide transport and St. Peters was close to the rapidly growing industrial area of Alexandria. At one time or another, the area east of the present Princes Highway, from Mitchell Road in the north to Canal Road in the south, contained nine brick (or brick and tile) works - NSW, Warren, Bedford, City, Carrington, St Peters, Central, Austral and Ralford. Other industries also occupied this area.
The Bedford works occupied the present site of Sydney Park, at its north-west corner. It was a family business conducted by the Gentles, who came from England in the early 1840s. Josiah Gentle began making bricks in the Camdenville district in 1873. He operated several local works until he established the Bedford Brickworks (named after his birthplace in England) in 1893 on land first utilised by the Goodsells. The Gentle family lived at The Towers, near the Holmwood Estate, on what became, in 1890, Dickson Street. Josiah died a wealthy man and widely respected, in 1912 and left the business to his three sons. It was then valued at 70,000 pounds.
The Bedford works, which concentrated on dry-press bricks, grew rapidly, becoming one of the largest in the area known to brickmakers as "The Flat". It imported two Hoffman (sometimes written as Hoffmann) kilns, one of which was earlier referred to as a Hardy Patent kiln. They produced common bricks in large quantities, being designed for high output and continuous firing. The Hoffman kilns were an indication of the Bedford works' progressive policy and featured in its pictorial advertising. There were six down draught kilns, in two clusters. Since their design allowed exact control of the firing process, they produced "specials", coloured face bricks or, as the Bedford signage called them "facing bricks". Extensive underground flues and dampers led from the kilns to the three chimneys. A fourth chimney was placed in a Hoffman kiln.
The kilns formed the majority of the building structures. Central to the production procedure was the processing plant, a two storey building with a brick base and a storey post construction with corrugated iron walls. Here all processes preliminary to the operation of the kilns were carried on.
The Bedford site was fronted, on the corner of Mitchell Street and Princes Highway, by a two-storey brick office building, a more impressive structure than is usually associated with brickworks.
The Bedford and Austral Brickworks
The Depression of the early 1930s had a severe impact on the St Peters brickworks scene. Some operations were shut down, other underwent rationalisation. While Marrickville industry in general survived the Depression with little difficulty, brickmaking never fully recovered. In 1933 the Gentle family was succeeded at the Bedford works by the Austral Brick Company. Austral had conducted a large efficient operation since the 1880s at the corner of the Pacific Highway and Cowper Street. Its plant was similar to that of the Bedford complex and its output and labour force were larger. The Bedford site, after a period of decline, was closed in 1970. The original Austral Brick Company site remained in operation until 1983. Meanwhile, Austral had extended its operations to a more efficient Eastwood plant and to its present headquarters at Horsely Park. " (History by Ken Cable from Tropman & Tropman Architects "Sydney Park Brick Kiln & Chimney Precinct, St Peters Heritage & Structural Assessment Report", 28/2/2000).