Kingswood History

Kingswood  – The cross roads of Penrith

Kingswood is one of the oldest settled areas within the City of Penrith. Its boundaries sweep from Parker Street to the University of Western Sydney site, and from Kananga Reserve in the north to Caddens Road in the south. Kingswood has changed from bushland to rural and industrial, with tanning, wood carting and sawmilling prominent activities.   In the twentieth century, Kingswood developed into the city’s chief educational district with private and public schooling, a major TAFE facility for Western Sydney and the University of Western Sydney. Kingswood is also the centre of leading regional medical facilities in and around the Nepean District Hospital. This suburb is of not only local, but also regional importance for its educational and medical assets.

Several land grants span the current suburb of Kingswood. John Best received a land grant of 470 acres in 1814, south of the Great Western Road. In the same year, Samuel Foster received 400 acres, east of Best’s grant. Phillip Parker King received 1500 acres, north of Foster and Best’s grants.

Samuel Foster had arrived as a free settler on the Sydney Cove in 1807. In the colony, Foster and Ann Single formed a relationship and had a daughter Mary. Foster had thought of returning to England, but remained in the colony, becoming a baker and publican in O’Connell Street Sydney. In 1815, he received two grants, one of 100 acres, north of the Great Western Road, later known as Lautly Farm, and, 300 acres south of the Great Western Road, known as Santly. In 1815, Foster purchased William Tunks Castlereagh grant. Two years later, Ann Single’s son, John arrived in the colony. He received a grant of 240 acres south of Hornsey Wood shortly after his arrival in the colony. Foster and Ann Single appeared to have left the colony in 1818 and he died in Birmingham in July 1819. Upon his death, the Tunks grant was left to John Single.  

During construction of the Great Western Road by Cox, Major Druitt inspected the work in 1817 at the intersection of the Northern Road (later known as Bringelly Road ) with the Great Western Road. The Northern Road was an important transport route from Richmond to the Cowpastures, near Camden. Druitt named the area The Cross Roads, a name that the area would retain for several decades.

Few houses were built at the Cross Roads for the next 50 years. A general store, which later served as a post office, served the sparsely populated district. In 1885, local storekeeper William Ireland requested the government provide a postal service for the district. In his letter he stated that ‘There is a railway siding with two sawmills, a blacksmith’s shop, my store, two fruit stalls and about 25 dwellings about the crossroads, together with a number of farms and orchards’.

Locals named King’s grant, King’s Bush or King’s Wood as the area was not cleared until it was subdivided in the late nineteenth century as Cambridge Park. The area was heavily timbered and attracted associated industries like timber getting, sawmilling and tanning. In 1882, 175 lots of land on either side of the railway line were sold as Penrith Park estate. It included the area of Joseph and Walter Streets on the north side and George and French Streets on the south side.

The roads were virtually dirt tracks between districts and in wet weather the large drays carting wood from Mulgoa, Greendale and Luddenham to Kingswood sawmills would make deep furrows into the Northern Road, making it impassable for general traffic.

Drovers herded their cattle through Kingswood from Camden  and Campbelltown to Singleton and Maitland in the Hunter district. An amusing incident occurred in 1936 when a wayward cow broke away from a herd and rampaged through the hospital (now Governor Phillip Hospital ). It climbed the step of the main hospital block and entered the men’s medical ward. The animal broke a window and finally became wedged between a bed and the wall. The drover herded the animal out of the hospital while the nurses guarded the patients.

Land speculator, Andrew McCulloch purchased Mary O’Connell’s Coallee grant, on the eastern edge of Kingswood, in 1856 and subdivided it into farming lots. One purchaser, Thomas Fisher, owned 111 acres where the University of Western Sydney now stands, south of the Great Western Highway. He was a boot and shoe merchant from Sydney who, upon his death in 1884, bequeathed £32,000 to the University of Sydney for the establishment of a university library, known today as Fisher Library.

Henry Nash, another purchaser, owned the far western blocks of Coallee where the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE is today. Bernard Molloy purchased this land in 1869 and named his farm, Claremont. After his death in 1885, the farm was divided between his children and in 1903, it was again divided into smaller blocks. In 1966, the Starline Drive-in Theatre was opened on Claremont land in O’Connell Street. It accommodated 400 cars on its 16 acre site. The screen, made in Adelaide, was 108 feet long and 56 feet deep. It closed in 1984 with the advent of home videos.

On 7 July 1862, the railway line from St Marys (South Creek) to Cross Roads was completed and a temporary platform, Cross Road Siding, was set up for Penrith residents, about half way between Kingswood and Penrith. It was removed when the line was completed to Penrith and the station opened in January 1863. In March 1887, a wooden railway platform was constructed at the intersection of Bringelly Road with the Great Western Road and was named Kingswood Siding, in recognition of the name given to the area by locals. Local residents had been campaigning to have the district’s name changed from Cross Roads. At a public meeting they preferred the name Penrithville, but the name was changed to Kingswood, and a year later the name of the platform was shortened to Kingswood. A wooden bridge crossed over the railway line at Kingswood Station, where Bringelly Road changed to Richmond Road. Gates closed the road when the trains passed through.

William Millen, the last Kingswood tanner, established his tannery in 1895, while Fred Jones established his in 1897, north of the railway line. Millen closed his business in 1958.

Local businessman Fred Jones owned an area known as King’s Bush, bounded by Parker Street, Jamison and Bringelly Road and the Great Western Road, where the Nepean Hospital now stands. He used the area as a trotting track for his racehorses. In the 1930s, he divided this land up and gave twenty blocks away for homes for the unemployed. Parker Street was just a bush track for many years until the early 1960s when Kingswood railway crossing was closed and the Parker Street overpass built. Houses along the street were moved about 30 feet back and Parker Street developed into a six-lane main road.

In 1938, the Jones site was purchased for £500 by the State government for a new hospital. Some wrangling over the site, and the war, intervened and it was not until May 1952 that the foundation stone was laid for the new Nepean District Hospital, completed in 1956 at a cost of £650 000. The government soon realised that the 100-bed hospital would be insufficient for the growing district. In 1993, the hospital was redeveloped and upgraded at a cost of $92 million.  

In September 1903, a new 15-acre cemetery was gazetted in Copeland Avenue. It was expected to be sufficient for 100 years. The first burial was on 16 August 1910 for Doris Vivian, the five-year-old daughter of Kingswood Public School ’s head master.  In 1914, the northern section of the St Stephens estate was subdivided.

Along the Great Western Highway at Kingswood a large park known as Chapman Gardens provided recreational and open space for the people of Kingswood. The park was dedicated in 1976 to William Chapman, a community leader, who was Mayor of Penrith from 1949 to 1956 and again from 1961 to 1968.

In 1960, St Dominic’s College was officially opened followed in 1963 by St Joseph  ‘s School Church. The Nepean College of Advanced Education was established in 1973 and the administrators lived in a homestead on the property in Second Avenue, which had once been a vineyard. The College was granted university status and in 1988 became the University of Western Sydney. 

Kingswood  was designated a suburb of Penrith in 1970.

Lorraine Stacker
Penrith City Library