Eva Short Recollections

When I was a young girl I had to cross an overhead roadway at Strathfield Station to attend school at Addison College in Rowley Street. That overhead roadway is one of the things that comes vividly to mind when I think of early days in Strathfield. The road spanned the railway station somewhere near its mid-point linking the Boulevarde with Everton Road. It had the appearance of an unsightly hump arid that’s what it was called… ‘The Hump’.

Starting from roughly where the entrance to the pedestrian subway is, ‘The Hump’ rose steeply back, curved over the station and than descended steeply to Everton Road in the direction of Mosley Street. The roadway was very wide and had a footpath on each side. The surfaces were asphalted but were always in a bad condition. There were some small shops – probably six to eight – up the western or Parramatta side of ‘The Hump’. I think they included a barber shop, a tailor shop, and a coffee shop. Horses drawing hansom cabs laboured strenuously up the steep slope and it was not unusual for passengers to alight at the foot of the rise to lighten the load. The cab rank was on the slope to Everton Road. To catch a train, you went up the footpath on the right hand aide, crossed to the other side at the top, bought your ticket (the fare to Sydney was 1/6, children 5d) and went down wooden steps to the platform. I clearly remember that the treads of the steps ware badly worn and people often fell and injured limbs. ‘The Hump’ was removed in the 1920s, to the delight of everyone. I cannot recall the level crossing from the Boulevarde to Mosley Street it must have been done away with before my time.

At the foot of ‘The Hump’ in the Boulevarde was a butcher’s shop. It was owned by Mr. Patterson.  A short distance away on the railway side of Clarendon Street, he also had a large stable, when you passed the stables you would, more often than not, see sides of lamb on the earth floor. Naturally this upset many people and complaints brought health department inspectors from town. One day when Dad was passing along Clarendon Street, no doubt looking disdainfully across at the meat on the floor, Mr Patterson called him over and said ‘Look Mr, Short, it’s made of Plaster of Paris’. He had been making imitation meat to sell to butchers who could afford only one or two sides of lamb.  They would buy dummy sides and hang them up to give the impression of having more.  The meat on the stable floor must have cost Patterson a lot of customers; he went into bankruptcy not long after.

Between the stables and the under-pass (Ring Road 3)[1] there were several small houses but of ordinary type. On the other side of Clarendon Street, almost opposite Elva Street was a fruit shop run by Mrs Clark and her son Tom.  M. F. O’Hara have their offices in the shop now.

Back from there towards the Boulevarde, was a terrace of about a dozen small houses.., very dilapidated and tumble-down. Whoever owned them never spent a penny on them, perhaps they couldn’t afford to as the rents were very low and half the time they were not paid as the families living in the houses were so poor, many of the fathers went to the ‘local’ every night, spent too much on drink and returned home much the worse for wear. This terrace of houses was locally known as the ‘Mud Row’ – it was no loss to see them pulled down about 1915.  The block of flats which border Ring Road 3 now occupy the site.

Between ‘Mud Row’ and the Boulevarde, there wore a couple of very nice homes, which contrasted with the adjacent drabness. One, I recall had a most beautiful pink camellia tree growing in the front garden, it was about 18’ high and something to see.

The large house recently pulled clown in the Boulevarde, for the Plaza development was Dr. Beatty’s old home[2].., it was the big grey house you passed on the left as you came from the car park to the Boulevarde. In recent times, Dr. Mannery had her surgery there. I went to school with the Beatty girls end enjoyed many parties in their home.

Further along the Boulevards, where Cawood & Thompsons ate now, was the chemist shop at J. B. Orr. The Orr family was well known and greatly respected over a very long period of residence. A few years ago I saw a bit in the Herald about them, it included a picture of a sign ‘J. B. Orr & Daughter’ — the daughter being I think, one of the first lady chemists. When the daughter married it became ‘J. B.Orr and Son’.  Eventually the son, Norman, took over from his father. He died a few years ago. One of J. B. Orr’s daughters is still alive…she is Flo Cunningham who lives somewhere near Hornsby.

In the Boulevarde where Jewells store is now, was a little shop which sold sweets, penny pencils, books and school things. It was run by a Miss Schofield who was a tiny lady of about 5’, with a wasp-like waist. She dressed herself in black calico blouses and skirts, wore long tight sleeves arid a piece of velvet around her neck, and a ‘transformation’ on her head. She was always very neat and tidy. She must have liked us kids even though she thought we were little devils, because every Tuesday she had what she called a ‘Taste day’ and we queued up outside the shop and she’d give us half a dozen boiled sweets in a cone formed from butcher’s paper. It was a wonderful way for tier to dispose of her stale sweets; we loved them and she got lots of customers, but woe betide the poor child who turned up twice on the same afternoon.

Where the Bank of N.S.W[3]., is now, was a hardware-grocery shop run by Mr. A. W. Alley. He was one of the Alley family, notable and numerous in Braidwood.

Santa Maria Del Monte College on the corner of Carrington Street, was once the residence of one of the Grace family[4]. When he moved it was used for wedding receptions, balls and the like[5].  Later on it became the College.

The Addison College mentioned earlier, had on its staff misses Margaret and Kathleen Thompson who were sisters of Frank Thompson of the firm – Matthew Thompson, who for years was chairman of the board of P.L.C. He died early this year in his nineties. Margaret and Kathleen Thompson commenced their own school – ‘Branxton’ in Homebush Road which now stands at No. 37.  They were wonderful people and very good teachers …. hundreds of girls must have gone through their hands.  ‘Branxton’ eventually merged with P.L.C. and moved to Margaret Street. Margaret died some years ago but Kathleen passed away only a few weeks ago.

It is true that there were some very prominent people and many beautiful homes in early Strathfield.  Mr Randall has mentioned some in his recollections and I can add a few more.

The large two-storey building on the corner of Oxford and Homebush Road, now occupied by a White Russian organisation was once the residence of Mr F J Wallis[6]. He was a generous benefactor of Meriden School, a leading member of the board for many years.   He helped tremendously with the rebuilding of the school.

Further along towards Albert Road, adjacent to the boundary of the Todman Property ‘Milroy’ was the home ‘Tarry-Hi-Hi’ built by James R. Powell who secured one of the original grants to free settlers[7]. The home which still stands, is still occupied by members of the same family. Elva Street was named after Elva Powell who was either Mrs. Powell or her daughter.

The Lindeman wine family lived in the house on the corner of Homebush Road end Albert Road directly opposite the Homebush-Strathfield Congregational Church, and next door to ‘Branxton’ School. Several houses along Homebush Road, (now No. 29) opposite St. Anne’s Rectory, was the home Ronald Beale, the manufacture or of the widely known Beale pianos. Mr. Beale was a prominent member of the Congregational Church.

A family named Hardy lived in a large two-storey house opposite the Lindemans. The house later became ‘Bronwyn’ Private Hospital and more recently was replaced by the present block of units.

The large residence at 14-16 Oxford Road, near the Council’s parks and gardens depot was the home of the Abbott family. Mr, Abbott had extensive pastoral interests, mostly in Queensland I think. The house has been remodelled.

Mr Thomas Wise M.L.C. lived in ‘Glendenning’ on the corner of Redmyre Road and Florence Street, opposite Woodstock Private Hospital[8]. He would go to sittings of the Upper House, but as soon as he got the nod that a vote was not likely to be taken that night, he would return home, frequently to be hustled back by taxi around mid-night for unexpected divisions. Miss Wise, the last of the ‘Glendenning’ passed away in September last at Mowll Village at the precious age of 95. I believe there are grandchildren living in the district.

The private hospital building opposite ‘Glendenning’ was the home of the Starkey family – leading soft drink manufacturers of that time[9]. I think an elderly daughter, Miss Allie Starkey is still alive.

In Albert Road Mr. Arthur James Cozens occupied the former residence of William Arnott. Like Mr. Todman, he was high up in the tobacco industry. One of the significant internal features of this lovely home was the tremendous size of the room. I knew Doreen Cozens quite well and I never ceased to be amazed at the size of her bedroom.

A house called ‘Elourera’ built on land which was part of ‘Agincourt’ — Washington H. Soul’s property — was the house of R. H. Beardsmore, an Accountant who was who was highly placed in the state Public Service. He had the distinction or otherwise, of being, the one who declined to sign the cheque, which would have given supply to the ill-fated Lang Government in 1930.

Mr. George Todman of ‘Milroy’ was a tobacco merchant. He was a wealthy man and a generous one. A lot of his money went towards the building of the Homebush-Strathfield Congregational Church; he also provided the organ. He is honoured by a plaque in the church. One of Mr. Todman’s daughters married Walter Buzacott of the fence wire firm, and lived in Florence Street almost opposite the Wise’s[10]; another daughter became Mrs. Slatyer and lived in the large house opposite St. Anne’s Church[11].  They had at least one daughter – Joyce Slatyer.

Mr. Todman’s interest in the Congregational Church reminds me of a ‘feud’, between him and Dr. Phillip Sydney-Jones. In the early days the Congregational Church was in Burwood and both their families attended it. Becoming disenchanted with the setup at Burwood, they decided on the need for a church in Strathfield, but they were at complete loggerheads as to the best location, so each more or less built his own church – Dr. Phillip Sydney-Jones, the Trinity Church at the corner of Morwick Street and the Boulevarde and George Todman, the Homebush-Strathfield Congregational Church in Albert Road. To everyone else it was absurd to have two churches so close together, but such was the wealth of both men they could not afford to sink their differences[12].

I knew the family of J.R. Firth, a former Mayor.  He lived in ‘Holmfirth’ which still stands on the corner of Ring Road 3 and Redmyre Road — one of the few survivors in the large block under the Plaza development[13].  The family moved up to Victoria Street – next door to the Vickery family – after their son Bernard died.  There were three daughters; one married Maynard Davies, son of Pastor Davies.

There were at least three families of Vickerys but I did not know any of them well.  Mrs and Mrs Stanton Vickery lived in Victoria Street[14]; Rev. Ebenezer Vickery resided in ‘Tiptree’ on the corner of Wakeford Road and Kingsland Road[15].  One of his sons, Evan became a minister and a daughter married a Mr. Parker a leading figure in the Burwood Branch of the U.A.P. (Liberal Party). Mrs. Parker is still living in Livingstone Street Burwood. The third family who I believe were related to the Stanton Vickerys lived near Mackenzie Street and had extensive mining interests on the south coast[16].

In my early days, the Holley Wood and Coal shop was in Redmyre Road where the Baby Health Centre is now[17]. I knew the place well because I had to go there frequently to order fuel. Mr. Holley was a huge man, at least 20 stone, well known to everyone. He used to travel about in a sulky and it was quite a sight to see him flattening the springs on one side of the seat whilst his wife or son were seemingly perched high above him at the ether end. A son – Mr. J. Holley now elderly, is living at 9 Brunswick Avenue.

Mr. Arditto, whom Mr. Randall thought may have been headmaster of the Grammar School, was our next door neighbour. Actually he was the lessee of the Strathfield Hotel and had had a fondness for growing prize chrysanthemums. I remember he used to lash umbrellas to the stakes to protect the blooms from the rain which invariably fell during the flowering season.

You asked me about the name of our home, ‘Tarpeena’; wail it was named after a small country town in South Australia which my Mum and Dad came across, and liked, when touring on their honeymoon.

Earlier I mentioned a large camellia tree which was growing in a front garden in Clarendon Street. I recall clearly that when Mr. Hoskins, of Hoskins Iron and Steel, built a residence at Wollongong he bought the camellia tree and had it transplanted down there. He had gardeners up here for days preparing for its removal. They secured the root bell with wire netting and lifted it out by crane and carted it to Wollongong on a dray. It was a beautiful job of work and fascinating to see. But the remarkable thing was that in a new garden Mr Hoskins had a tree that had been growing elsewhere for years.

I’m told that Powell’s Creek flooded a lot in the early days but I can’t remember any particular occasion except during the Second World War. One morning there was a terrific cloudburst at breakfast time and rain fell down in torrents. I was a V.A.D at the time and later that morning I was to go on duty in town. When I walked down the street rivers of water were still running out of gates across the footpath and the whole area towards the station was under water, the depth at the underpass being about 8 feet. The odd sight however was boats being used to ferry people to the station. Seeing was believing, but I had not seen it happen before nor have I since.

About this article

First published in Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter Vol.2 No.6 March 1980.  The recorded and transcribed by Syd Malcolm.

Eva Short died in Strathfield in 1988.

[1]Ring Road 3 is Raw Square.

[2] The house was ‘Clareinnis’.  This was once the home of David Buchannan MLC.

[3] Westpac, cnr Boulevarde and Lyons Street.

[4] Albert Grace, one of the brothers who founded Grace Bros Stores.

[5] The house was later called ‘Del Monte’ and was a reception centre.

[6] The house was ‘Merriwa’ and owned by F J Wallis, a former Mayor of Strathfield.

[7] James Powell was a descendent of Edward Powell, an original land grantee.

[8] It is John Wise, not Thomas.  ‘Glendenning’ is 10 Florence Street.

[9] The Starkey family lived in ‘Woodstock’ 88 Redmyre Road Strathfield.

[10] Mildred Todman married Walter Buzacott.  They lived at ‘Winkurra’ 15 Florence St Strathfield.  It is in the same street as ‘Glendenning’ but not exactly opposite.

[11] Elsie Todman married Charles Slatyer, an architect.  They lived at ‘Carminya’ 25 Homebush Road Strathfield.

[12] The story is not confirmed by other evidence.  Trinity was built in 1889, while Homebush-Strathfield was built in 1884.  The Jones and Thompson families (of Strathfield and Burwood), who financed the building of Trinity Congregational Church, were members of the Burwood church.  They left the Burwood Church.   together with the Rev. Littlemore and built the Trinity Church.  There seems to be little evidence of a feud between Jones and Todman.

[13] ‘Holmfirth’ has been demolished.

[14] This should be Stanley Vickery.

[15] This should be Rev. Charles Newman, who married Elizabeth Vickery, daughter of Ebenezer Vickery MLC, one of Sydney’s wealthiest men.

[16] She is referring to George Begg Vickery.  He was the brother of Elizabeth Vickery.  Stanley Vickery was not a relation.

[17] 52 Redmyre Road.  This property is still owned by Strathfield Council and leased out as health centre.


  1. Very thankful to read towards the end of the article, correction regarding the home “Tiptree”. Ebenezer’s daughter Elizabeth who had married Rev. Charles Newman in 1900 lived at “Tip Tree” after it was designed and built for them by Charles’ son Alfred Gambier Newman.


    1. This is a transcript of an oral history and it does contain some mistakes. However, I thought it was more accurate to leave the transcript in-tact but add footnotes for further information, clarification or amendment. Regards Cathy


  2. Eva Short’s recollections give a fascinating insight into one of Sydney’s most interesting suburbs. Cathy’s footnotes are an excellent way of checking the veracity of the story as well as providing further information.


  3. Does anyone have information especially a photo of T Holley from the family mentioned above. Am researching this man in relation to his hobby of Poultry.


    1. Hi Anne.
      Thomas Holley was a great-grandfather of mine. I was recently given a copy of your book, because old Tom’s picture is in it, so I am glad to see you managed to find one. Would you mind if I asked where you managed to get it?


      1. Anne Anderson, the above commenter, was the editor for a book about poultry.


  4. Incredibly interesting, such a fascinating recollection. I guess the Todman mentioned would be the same person who donated enough money to western suburbs hospital to have an entire ward named after him!


  5. Hello I am also interested in a photo of Thomas Holley for a history being published on St Martha’s Parish Strathfield. Can anyone assist please?


  6. Thomas Holley , Angelo Arditto s and many other Strathfield families are included in the recently released book Faith. Hospitality and Service, social history of St Martha’s Strathfield, which is available from the Parish office in Homebush Road.


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