|Historical notes: ||Timeline by Shirley Fitzgerald, 2012, based on research by Terry Kass in Rappoport, 2008 and Sue Zelinka, 1991:
1882: The government reserved from sale 200 acres of land at Bumbora Point, Yarra Bay.
1888: Botany cemetery gazetted, 29 acres, 2 rods, 27 perches.
1893: First internment, Botany Cemetery.
1901: Bunnerong Cemetery gazetted, 25 acres.
1902: James Thomas Smith granted special lease of 15 acres for market garden and poultry farm.
1904: William Foster Anderson granted 10 acres for a market garden - portion 1077.
Catherine King granted a lease of 7 acres 3 roods 34 perches for a poultry farm on portion 1079.
[On portion 1061 which adjoined 1079 the lessee is George Soo Hoo]
1905: Parish map shows the market gardens.
James Hancock granted lease of 10 acres for market garden - portion 1076.
Samuel Hancock granted a lease of 10 acres for a market garden - portion 1078.
1906: James Hancock expands taking over the lease of portion 1077 from Anderson. Lives on the property. Applies unsuccessfully for freehold over 1076 and 1077. The two portions are eventually combined into Lot 1077.
1909: James Hancock sublets 4 acres to Ah Choon who leases on to Ah Fook, Gee Hoi and three other Chinese.
1910: James Hancock applies unsuccessfully for conditional purchase of 1076 & 1077.
1913: Kate King leases Lot 1079 to James King.
1916: [Which?] Hancock's land subleased to Chinese gardeners.
1917: Samuel Hancock is refused conditional purchase of 1078.
1920. James King sub-lets portion 1079.
1920: Samuel Hancock's lease on Lot 1078 is extended 14 years.
1921: Catherine King resumes lease of portion 1079.
1922. Special lease for 7 acres 3 roods 34 perches granted to Kate King for a Poultry Farm, Vegetable Garden, Business Purposes (greengrocer) and Residence, with tenure extending until 1934 at least.
1923: James Hancock sublets Lot 1076 to See Lee & Co.
Samuel Hancock sublets 5 acres on Lot 1078 to Hong Chung.
1924: James Hancock sublets Lot 1077 to Tiy War & Co.
1927: Seven Chinese living on portion 1076.
1932: Leases over portions 1076 and 1077 (not Lot 1077) are renewed to James Hancock.
1933: Lease to Samual Hancock on Lot 1078 is revoked. Tiy War & Co apllies successfully for lease of 8 acres 21 perches on Lot 1078, however this area was progressively reduced to 5 acres 9 perches by 1951.
1939: Kat King's tenure on portion 1079 expires.
1941: Special lease granted to Sun Lee for 4 acres 3 roods 16 perches in Portion 1079, expiring 1948. A special lease to Henry Chan Lum also in this protion expired in 1966.
1954: Part of the land in portions 1077 and 1078 were taken for the survey of Allotment 29, Botany Cemetery.
1957: Tiy War & Co leases 4 acres 19 perches on Lot 1078 until 1966.
1968. From this time Bing Sun Ng and Lo Wun Leong were farming on portion 1079.
Notes: 1. Entries linked to expansion of the cemetery into the market garden land marked *
2. This time line covers only the gardens on the western side of Bunnerong Road. Until the 1980s the gardens continued along the line of drainage on the eastern side of the road as well, and both sides were the subject of early attempts to list the gardens in 1979.
Aboriginal people are believed to have inhabited the Sydney region for at least 20,000 years. The population of Aboriginal people in the Sydney area was estimated by the First Fleet’s Governor Phillip as being around 1500. The traditional owners of the land near La Perouse were the Kameygal, and their proximity to the coast meant that they enjoyed a plentiful supply of fish. The area also had fresh water supplies and places of natural shelter. Rock engravings, grinding grooves and middens remain in the locality in evidence of their occupation.
By the mid nineteenth century most Aboriginal people had either died as the result of European disease or confrontation with British colonisers or moved away in search of food and shelter (Randwick Library webpage, 2003). However later in the 19th century Aboriginal people began moving back to this area, settling in La Perouse where there is still a considerable community, many having strong connections with the Aboriginal community at Wreck Bay near Nowra on the NSW South Coast. From the early 20th century at least La Perouse became a tourist site for Sydneysiders where Aboriginal residents sold souvenirs such as boomerangs and 'snake men' entertained spectators. In 1984 an Aboriginal land claim for the Aboriginal Reserve near the bay was successful (Dictionary of Sydney ‘La Perouse’). More recently an Aboriginal land claim was made successfully on the sandy knoll adjoining the market gardens site known as Hill 60. In 2012 there is also an undecided Aboriginal land claim on the Chinese Market Gardens’ three lots.
When British colonisation of Australia as a penal colony began in 1788 the First Fleet initially landed at Yarra Bay, 300 meters from the Chinese Market Gardens La Perouse, where its creek empties into Botany Bay. Governor Phillip quickly deemed the area unsuitable for settlement as too exposed and swampy with not enough fresh water. Within days the penal settlement had moved a few kilometres north to Port Jackson and found 'a proper situation' at Sydney Cove.
Sailing out of Botany Bay, the authorities on the First Fleet were probably alarmed to see two French ships entering the bay. This was a strangely coincidental meeting of the first two European expeditions to the east coast of Australia since Captain Cook’s historic ‘discovery’ in 1770. Captain of the French expedition, La Vicompte de La Perouse was on a scientific tour of the world, probably with imperialist underpinnings, and sought to replenish his supplies and rest his crew. They landed at a small bay next to Yarra Bay, now known as ‘Frenchman’s Bay’ where they set up a stockade and planted European vegetable seeds in a plot that became known as ‘the Frenchman’s Gardens’, probably intended to feed the crew on the return trip home. After setting sail in March 1788 La Perouse was never seen again (by Europeans) and the ruins of his ships were only discovered decades later, off the coast of what is now Vanuatu (Dictionary of Sydney ‘La Perouse’).
Local historian Greg Blaxland has suggested that the Chinese Market Gardens La Perouse may have been established in the same place as La Perouse’s vegetable garden of 1788, making it possibly the first site of European food cultivation in Australia (Blaxland, 1999). However Ivan Barko’s study of the location of ‘The French Garden at La Perouse’ demonstrates that while the location of the Frenchman’s Gardens remains uncertain, it is almost certainly not the site of the Chinese Market Gardens. For example, he quotes from the writings of Victor Lottin, a Frenchman who visited in 1824, which states that La Perouse’s plot was ‘located at 300 paces’ distance from the tower’ (Barko, 2011). Around 1822 the British had built a watchtower on a high point south of La Perouse’s stockade and stationed troops there to keep watch for smugglers. This tower still stands (Dictionary of Sydney ‘La Perouse’) and is located about 2 km from the closest edge of the Chinese Market Gardens. Nonetheless the close proximity of the Frenchman’s Gardens to the Chinese Market Gardens does add to their significance as a historic locality of food cultivation in NSW.
The township of La Perouse is 14 kilometres south of the city centre but was only connected to the city by road in 1869 and then by tram in 1902. The first telegraph cable between Australia and New Zealand (and ultimately the rest of the world) was built at La Perouse in 1876.
Market Gardens in Randwick
The first farms in the La Perouse area were recorded in 1830 on land granted to John Brown on the shores of Botany Bay. His land grant was adjacent to the creek and north west of the subject gardens,. There he built Bunnerong House, the first private dwelling in Randwick municipality, and which was surrounded by orchards - making it another historic site of food cultivation in this locality. ‘Boonerong’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘small creek’ according to an 1831 letter from Brown to the Colonial Secretary (Read, 2011, 4-5).
Later 19th century maps show numerous market gardens dotted throughout the municipality although Shirley Fitzgerald states that examination of relevant maps demonstrates that the Chinese Market Gardens La Perouse site was not used for market gardening before 1904 (2012).. According to Randwick - A Social History (1985), the market gardens in the south of the municipality in the vicinity of the Chinese Market Gardens, were established to capitalise on the fertile soil and abundant water from the swampy Botany Bay hinterland, that at one time vegetables were among the chief products of the locality. The Perumal Murphy heritage study of Randwick (1989) states that Chinese people were farming the market gardens at La Perouse from 1860 in the wake of the gold rushes. However Paul Rappoport’s research into the history of lessees of the three lots at the Chinese Market Gardens La Perouse suggests that the first formal sub-leases made to people with Chinese names dates only from 1909 (2008). A search of Sands Directories indicates that the first record of people with Chinese names living in the Bunnerong Road site date from the late 1920s.
Randwick - A Social History (1985) suggests that before the 1860s, market gardens in the locality were owned and tended by Europeans, some being attached to the wealthiest homes in Randwick. However by the 1860s many Chinese were coming into the area and working market gardens. Chinese people were discriminated against in NSW during the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries, and after the gold rush market gardening was one of the few occupations open to them. As Daphne Lowe Kelley of the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia submitted:
In the 19th and 20th centuries when faced with discriminatory attitudes and legislation, combined with restrictive laws, many of the early Chinese turned to market gardening for a living, growing vegetables for the Australian market. As well as market gardening, many Chinese were also employed in the wholesale and retail marketing of fruit and vegetables. Market gardening features as an occupation in the majority of Chinese Australian families whose forebears settled in Australia in the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century (Kelley, 2012).
Members of the Australian Chinese community have worked the Chinese Market Gardens La Perouse for over a century, often passing control of it from one generation to another, or from one family to another. Many Chinese immigrants started their work life in Australia by working in market gardens such as these and then developed related business such as restaurants, food manufacture and the export of food. Sometimes market gardening was not a stand-alone enterprise but had connections with Dixon Street businesses (at the centre of Sydney’s Chinatown) which in turn had connections with businesses in Hong Kong or China. Acquiring a lease apparently allowed a certain number of workers to come in. The more workers a company had, the easier it was to deploy them across the state to work in rural stores and gardens or at the markets within a network of businesses owned by the same Chinese businessmen. Market gardens were also sometimes used as a cover for illegal immigrants (e.g. ‘Man deported to Red China after 8 years in Australia’ Sydney Morning Herald 14 April 1962 – he had worked on a market garden ‘in Matraville’). Thus running a garden was one way of introducing an increased number of workers under the restrictive immigration laws (Michael Williams, Chinese Settlement in New South Wales p.34). This is possibly the reason for Tiy War and Co leasing one of the lots at the Chinese Market Gardens at La Perouse from the 1920s. Throughout the twentieth century market gardens helped numerous Chinese immigrants to survive and become established in Australia.
Randwick - A Social History suggests that the men who worked on the gardens were paid low wages although given board and food. The vegetables were washed in a large central shed, and the men sometimes lived in corrugated iron huts on site, cooking over open fires. They were often up by 4am, off with their vegetables to market. Some also hawked the vegetables on Sydney streets or sold them door-to door. The Chinese gardeners were respected in the area and the image of an 'Old Chow' (as the gardeners were called) was a vivid one for many older residents (Randwick Council, 1985). The market gardens continued to be cultivated throughout the twentieth century, many coming under the control of wealthy Chinese merchants in Dixon and Hay Streets, thus being linked into the wider network of Chinese economic activity in NSW (Randwick, 1985, pp157-159).
Most of the market gardens in the north of the Randwick municipality were overtaken by housing by the late nineteenth century, but several of the market gardens in the south near La Perouse survived into more recent times, probably because of their relative isolation and low-lying terrain. By 1961, there were just nine market garden Crown Land leases left in the Randwick municipality, confined to two areas: four in the Wassell Street area and five in the Bunnerong Road area. Now there are just three left on the Bunnerong Road site. During the 1960s Randwick Council made considerable efforts to prevent long-term extensions of these leases by the Crown in order to facilitate the future use of these areas for residential purposes such a public housing. [To be expanded]
Musecape wrote of the La Perouse cultural landscape in 1997:
The relative isolation of La Perouse, at the southern end of Sydney’s south eastern suburbs has led to the general area being regarded as one of quarantine – a suitable location for the isolation of society’s outcasts: Aboriginal people (at La Perouse), those suffering from infectious diseases (at Prince Henry Hospital), criminals (at Long Bay), the aged (at Bare Island and the Cable Station), the unemployed during the Great Depressions of the 1930s and migrants in the years after World War II. La Perouse accordingly has high levels of social significance as a reminder of past attitudes to disadvantaged groups in the community. (Musecape, 1997, p29)
[History of interactions with La Perouse Aboriginal community and Hill 60 shanty town to be expanded]
In 2010 the three lots that make up the Chinese Markets Gardens La Perouse had been under continuous cultivation by the same three Chinese families for between 35 and 60 years. However in 2011 the family elder who farmed Lot 1079 retired and Crown Lands have not advertised for new lessees. Thus in 2012 this lot lies fallow and overgrown. In 2012 the other two lots continue to be cultivated by the Teng and Ha families.
With the increase in Asian immigrants since 1990, new vegetables have been introduced to the mainstream Australian diet. ‘When my Dad started on the farm 40 years ago, they grew mostly Australian vegetables such as celery’ said Gordon Ha. ‘Now with the demand for new vegetables, we are growing Chinese vegetables like Bok Choy, Cho(y) Sum and Chinese broccoli’ (Heritage Branch press release, 1999).
[To be completed. Shirley Fitzgerald’s commissioned review 2012 states:
These notes should explore the nature of the terrain (swampy, rocky, distant) and place the longevity of the survival of the market gardens in this context.
This section should also recognise the role of these gardens within the overall colonial pattern and distribution of horticulture and with reference to its distribution across the urban area of Sydney. Market gardens were not ex-urban or semi-urban land uses, but integral to the urbanisation process. This was well understood in the 19th century when market gardens were ubiquitous throughout Sydney.
Subsequent understanding of market gardening as an urban fringe land use, based on calculations of urban land values became the normal way of theorising them as the 20th century progressed. Increasingly the land use was pushed to the urban fringes until today they are located on primarily in the southwest and north–west of the greater metropolitan area.
Currently there is a new paradigm emerging that posits an urban model in which horticulture, gardening and even agriculture are once again becoming integral to the urban condition.
This section should also contain something on La Perouse as a microcosm of continuous and sequential land occupation patterns from a pre -colonial Indigenous presence to industrial activities are legible in the landscape. (Fitzgerald, 2012)
In addition the Heritge Branch suggests that parallel with a rise of ‘Farmers Markets’, community garden creation and a thirst for ‘local’ food, knowledge about vegetable and fruit gardening, there is a growing interest in reducing ‘food miles’ and having locally-grown food, sourced from as close to the end-market as possible. Existing market gardens complement this trend, and could be expected to have high social value to the current community.]