Location: Where is North St Marys?
North St Marys, New South Wales Australia, is located in the north eastern corner of the City of Penrith. It is bounded by Ropes Creek to the east, the Western Railway line to the south and the regional suburb of St Marys to the west and south. The Dunheved/St Marys Industrial Estate borders North St Marys being the oldest established industrial site in the City of Penrith. This residential suburb is isolated from the regional area of St Marys by physical barriers like the Ropes Creek corridor carrying high voltage power lines, the railway line and the industrial area. However, North St Marys has a strong community spirit evidenced by the preparation of a Social Plan which was completed in 1989. The Social Plan described North St Marys as ‘a typical post-war working class Australian community’.
33 45′ S 150 47′ E
|Postcode: 2760||Population: 3,921 (2016 Census)||Distance from Sydney: 47 km NW|
|Area: 3.16 km2 or 316 ha||Density: 12.8people per ha (2016 Census)||North St Marys NSW on Google Maps|
The Aborigines of South Creek
The first inhabitants of the Sydney basin bounded by Port Jackson and Botany Bay in the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, north to the Hawkesbury River and south to Appin, had in common the Dharug language. Fourteen tribes or clans made up this language group and the people who inhabited both sides of South Creek were known as the Gomerrigal-Tongarra clan.
Unlike the Blue Mountains clans who used rock shelters, the Gomerrigal-Tongarra people lived in open camp sites along the creek in simple gunyahs. These were constructed from three leaning poles lashed together at the top and covered on two sides with bark. They had a habit of smearing mud on their skin to protect them from the effects of both weather and insects. In winter they wore animal skins to keep warm.
Very little is known of their cultural and ceremonial life. According to researcher and writer James L. Kohen, the Gomerrigal-Tongarra clan had rights to the ridges at Plumpton and the gravels of Eastern Creek. From these areas they used red silcrete rocks to make sharp flakes which were then fashioned into tools or used as barbs on spears. The MacLaurin family (who lived at Mamre) also asserted that the bodies of the dead were not buried, but wrapped in bark and placed on platforms elevated in the branches of trees.
There are no remaining rock carvings or marked trees in the area. Emily MacLaurin described a meeting place on South Creek at Mamre at a point where ‘…the Creek takes in a small stream from the west, the right bank of which reaches into the creek in a narrow finger’. It is thought that despite the arrival of the Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1804, ceremonies continued to be held at this spot for some time.
By 1816 however, the Gomerrigal-Tongarra, together with the rest of the Dharug clans, had been ravaged either by clashes with the settlers or by contracting European diseases. They became increasingly dependent on the settlers for their survival. Although they had always maintained a camp on or around the Mamre estate, the Rev. Samuel Marsden now sought to encourage them to work in exchange for food and clothing. He was obviously successful in this endeavour, as by 1835 the Quaker missionary James Backhouse wrote in his journal after a visit to Mamre that ‘…the South Creek Natives may be considered as half-domesticated, and they often assist in the agricultural operations of the settlers.’ He was also impressed by the fact that the wife of their Aboriginal guide – supplied by Marsden – could read, having been ‘educated in a school, formerly kept for the Natives, at Parramatta’. The next day, Backhouse travelled onto Penrith, his guide ‘another South Creek Black, named Simeon. His wife was killed, about two years ago, by some of those whom he termed “Wild Natives”…We tried in vain to persuade this man to accompany us to Wellington Valley; he did not like to go…These people are afraid of other tribes of their own race’.
Another visitor, Charles Darwin, passing through Mamre in January 1836, was impressed by the ‘…good humour and superior hunting skills’ of the Aborigines he encountered around Penrith.
History has given us sparse records indeed about the Gomerrigal-Tongarra people. As part of the Dharug-speaking Aborigines, their life-style was probably similar to others of the Dharug clans. They were hunter-gatherers over specifically defined territories, in this case, mainly the banks of South Creek; and they adhered to particular laws of kinship, marriage, sexual practice and burial which ensured the well-being of the clan. Men and women had particular roles in the clan which were clearly defined; children were given a totem name; traditional medicine was carried out by the ‘koradji’ or doctor; and, like all Aborigines they had a spiritual Dreaming.
The clash of European and Aboriginal cultures, despite original good intentions, meant that the Gomerrigal-Tongarra people and their culture was virtually destroyed within a century of white settlement.
Origin of the place name – Ropes Creek
This watercourse, which forms the eastern boundary of the City of Penrith, was named after Anthony Rope who was a convict who arrived with the First Fleet in 1788. He married a female convict, Elizabeth Pulley in May 1788. Rope learned bricklaying whilst working at Brickfields near Sydney and later moved to the Nepean District. In 1806, the Ropes were renting 48 acres on the Nepean and by 1820 had been granted 20 acres in the district. Anthony Rope died at Castlereagh in 1843. James “Toby” Ryan (1818-1899) was the grandson of Anthony Rope.
Origin of the place name – North St Marys
Phillip Parker King received a land grant in 1820 of 650 acres which he named Triangle Farm. No development appeared to have occurred until the 1940s. The Commonwealth acquired part of the land and a housing estate was established for employees of the St Marys Munitions Factory. Within this small estate there are 41 allotments, 33 with cottages and three open space areas. It is an early example of Radburn planning principles applied to housing sub-division designed by prominent Australian architect, Walter Bunning. The architect, a consultant to the Department of the Interior designed the houses to face the open space areas. During the late 1950s, the NSW Housing Commission acquired the majority of King’s grant and designed a new residential estate in a semi circular pattern. All of its streets were named after trees. This residential development coincided with a major industrial project at the St Marys Munitions Factory completed in 1957. The name – North St Marys – is indicative of the suburb’s northern location in relation to St Marys.
Origin of the place name – Dunheved
In 1806 Governor Philip Gidley King made several large land grants totalling 3780 acres to his son and three daughters, and the following year Governor William Bligh granted an additional 790 acres to Anna Josepha King, the ex-governor’s wife. The latter property was named Thanks but the Kings returned to England soon after and Philip Gidley King died there in 1808. Meanwhile the estate was managed by Rowland Hassall with William Hayes as overseer. While Phillip Parker King – the ex-governor’s – son returned to Australia with his wife – the former Harriet Lethbridge – in 1817, he was more involved with naval matters than the land at this time. It wasn’t until his mother returned to Australia in 1832 that the property was renamed Dunhaved – which means ‘hill-head’ – after the 13th century keep of the old castle in Launceston Cornwall, the town of her late husband’s birth. Dunhaved House was built on the property by Phillip Parker King. When the property was sold in 1904 and it became a suburb, the name began to change, first of all to Dunheaved and in the 1950s to Dunheved, the name it now bears. The estate of Dunhaved was one of the largest in the Colony. Large numbers of cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses were bred here; grain was grown; and orchards developed. The cattle herd in particular was highly praised, and between 80 and 100 servants were employed to work the place. Sadly this once great property is no longer in existence. The house was demolished and a large munitions factory was built on the bulk of the estate in 1942, together with a railway station called Dunheved, to transport all the workers involved at the site. After the Second World War, there was considerable expansion. The area immediately to the south of Dunhaved House became mainly an industrial sub-division and housing estate. The western end, a heavily wooded area, later became the suburb of Kingswood, and the remaining open grasslands disappeared under housing estates in the rapid expansion of the 1960s and 1970s. Today South Creek forms the boundary between Dunheved and Werrington County. It is now an area within St Marys.
|1820||12 July||Phillip Parker King granted 650 acres which was named Triangle farm|
|1940s||Housing designed for employees of the St Marys Munitions Factory|
|1942||33 cottages constructed on town planning principles advocated by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright. The planning was undertaken by Walter Bunning|
|1945||St Marys Council appointed Walter Bunning to prepare a development plan for the municipality based on the principles of a satellite town to offer industrial opportunities for businesses and specialised housing and facilities|
|1950s||North St Marys residential development by the NSW Housing Commission|
|1983||Neighbourhood Centre opened|
|1984||St Marys Permanent Cottage Area was declared a heritage area|
|1989||June||North St Marys Social Plan completed|
Population Historical Timeline
For photos and more information on North St Marys, search Penrith City Library’s catalogue using an All Resources search.
Fisher, A. E. Munitions Filling Factory: The St Marys Story over the past 45 years, Aug 1945.
Murray, Robert and White, Kate Dharug & Dungaree: The History of Penrith and St Marys to 1860. Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1988.
Parr, Lorna, A History of the Nepean and District Street Names, Nepean District Historical Society, Penrith, 1990.
Stacker, Lorraine Pictorial history: Penrith & St Marys, Kingsclear Books, 2002.
Stapleton, E. South Creek – St. Marys – From Village to City St. Marys, St. Marys Historical Society, 1983.
Stickley, Christine The Old Charm of Penrith, St. Marys 1984.
‘Protection for old estate’, Sydney West Business, 29 Oct-11 Nov 1984, p. 11.
North St Marys Social Plan, with annual progress reports, Penrith, Penrith City Council, 1989.