Location: Where is St Marys?
St Marys, New South Wales Australia, is located on the eastern side of the Penrith Local Government Area. Its western boundary is South Creek with the M4 Motorway as its southern boundary. Marsden Road and Sydney Street divides this suburb from the smaller suburbs of Colyton and Oxley Park on its eastern boundary. Its northern section takes in the previously named industrial suburb of Dunheved. St Marys has a long and rich industrial and agricultural history including tanneries and munitions. The area which is now the suburb is much reduced from its historical perspective known as St Marys. This suburb is the major industrial, commercial and residential centre for the eastern side of the local government area. This suburb services many rural and urban communities, making it a vital part of the City of Penrith.33 45′ S 150 46′ E
|Postcode: 2760||Distance from Sydney: 45 km|
|Area: 9.57 km2 or 957 ha||St Marys NSW on Google Maps|
Roads & Streets
- Although the Great Western Highway cuts through the suburb, most through traffic uses the M4 motorway, the southern boundary of St Marys. The Great Western Highway is a vital thoroughfare west to Penrith and east to Blacktown and Sydney.
- Queen Street is the main street in the Central Business District of St Marys. Originally known as Windsor Road and later Station Street, this street was re-named after Queen Victoria in June 1897 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.
- Mamre Road is the major thoroughfare through St Marys to St Clair and the southern suburbs of the Penrith LGA. It connects with Elizabeth Drive and on to Liverpool. Named after Rev. Samuel Marsden’s property Mamre.
- Sydney Street is the dividing road between Oxley Park and St Marys. Across the Highway it changes to Marsden Road that divides St Marys from Colyton. Named in 1919 after battleship HMAS Sydney which sank the Emden in 1914 during World War One.
- Marsden Road is the dividing road between Colyton and St Marys. Named after Rev. Samuel Marsden who owned nearby property Mamre.
- Brisbane Street is a major thoroughfare in the suburb. Named in 1919 after battleship HMAS Brisbane.
- Adelaide Street is a major thoroughfare in the suburb. Named in 1919 after battleship HMAS Adelaide.
- Canberra Street is a major thoroughfare in the suburb. Named in 1919 after battleship HMAS Canberra.
- Glossop Street is the only thoroughfare to North St Marys and the industrial areas of St Marys and Dunheved. Named after Captain John Glossop, Commander of the HMAS Sydney.
- Hobart Street is a major thoroughfare in the suburb that runs along the railway line and runs into Melbourne Street. Named in 1919 after battleship HMAS Hobart.
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 were virtually destroyed within a century of
Cree, Laura Murray, ‘Mamre’ Place of Promise, St Marys, 1995.
Backhouse, James, ‘Account of a Journey from Parramatta Across the Blue Mountains’, in Mackaness, George, Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains of New South Wales 1813-1841, Sydney, Horwitz-Grahame, 1965.
Origin of the place name – St Marys
Named after the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene, built between 1837- 40 and consecrated by Bishop Broughton in 1840, it is one of the few townships in the world actually named after a church. The site was believed to have been chosen by Phillip Parker King’s mother. The property had been acquired from John Oxley in 1828 by King, the original grant having been made in 1823. Other land grants in the area included those to Anna Josepha King in 1807 (Dunheved), Samuel Marsden (Mamre), and Mary Putland (Frogmore). The area was first called South Creek, because European settlement was originally centred along the banks of the creek. The land grants became working holdings because of the permanent water supply. The rich alluvial soil ensured an expanding agricultural community and its location on the Great Western Road meant that it became a convenient staging post. The name St. Marys was first used when the St. Marys Post Office was opened on the 1st October, 1840. The township formed part of a grant to Mary Putland (later married Sir Maurice O’Connell), the daughter of Governor William Bligh. Closer settlement of the area was made possible when in 1842 part of the O’Connell
Estate was subdivided.
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.
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.
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. 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.
|1804||Land grants made along South Creek by Governor King|
|1806||Land grants to King family ratified by Governor Bligh|
|1813||May||Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth set out from Gregory Blaxland’s farm Leeholme to attempt to cross the Blue Mountains|
|1817||Phillip Parker King (son of Gov. King) married Harriet Lethbridge in St Mary Magdalene Church in Launceston Cornwall near Dunheved Castle|
|1822||Construction of Mamre homestead begins|
|1827||Harriet King arrives in Sydney with her brother Robert Copeland Lethbridge. Harriet settled at Dunheved estate and Robert built Werrington House|
|1832||After the death of John Oxley, his property at St. Marys is purchased by Phillip Parker King. Ann Josepha King, Phillip’s mother chose a site for an Anglican Church|
|1834||Travellers Rest Inn opened. First in the district|
|1837||22 November||Foundation stone laid for St Mary Magdalene Anglican Church|
|1839||First school opened with 39 pupils|
|1839||South Creek Inn opened|
|1840||22 April||St Mary Magdalene Church is consecrated|
|1840||1 October||First Post Office opened on the O’Connell estate|
|1842||26 May||First town allotments sold from the O’Connell estate|
|1850||John Page opened a large tannery along South Creek|
|1852||Andrew Thompson born in St Marys, elder son of
Samuel Thompson, tanner.
|1853||15 April||Woolpack Inn opened by James Hackett|
|1862||7 July||Railway line from St Marys (South Creek) to the Crossroads (Kingswood) opened.|
|1863||27 July||National School opened|
|1878||15 March||St Marys Public School opened|
|1879||30 May||Branch of Bank of New South Wales opened near Victoria Park|
|1882||October||Andrew Thompson enlarged his tannery to take up 77 hectares|
|1885||1 August||The name St Marys appeared on a railway timetable replacing the name South Creek|
|1886||Mimosa built for Andrew Thompson by John Sainsbury|
|1887||12 October||Andrew Thompson celebrated the opening of his enlarged tannery|
|1889||James Bennett’s home Bronte built by Joseph Sainsbury|
|1890||4 March||St Marys proclaimed a Municipality|
|1890||Newmarket Cattle saleyards built|
|1892||Foundation stone laid by Cardinal Moran for a Catholic Church|
|1897||June||Station Street re-named Queen Street in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee|
|1910||29 April||Telephone exchange opened|
|1918||30 October||Andrew Thompson died at his home at Tyrone Erskine Park|
|1941||St Marys Industrial Estate established|
|1941||Munitions filling factory established on 3,500 acres|
|1946||Government leased 600/700 acres of Commonwealth land for private industrial use|
|1949||1 January||Castlereagh, Mulgoa, St. Marys and Penrith Shires amalgamated to form the Municipality of Penrith|
|1955||New High School built|
|1955||8 October||First electric train between Blacktown and Penrith, including St Marys|
|1961||September||St Marys South Public School opened|
|1988||9 February||Governor King’s headstone relocated from England to St Mary Magdalene Church|
|2003||South Creek is dual named as Wianamatta, meaning ‘Mother Place’ in the Dharug language|
Historic buildings & places
St Mary Magdalene Anglican Church: Phillip Parker King donated the land on which St. Mary Magdalene Church was to be built in a style similar to St. Mary Magdalene Church in Dunheved, Cornwall, England. The foundation stone was laid on 22 November 1837, the same day as St. Stephen’s in Penrith. The bricks for the church were made from clay found on the Dunheved estate. The church was completed in 1840 with Bishop Broughton returning for the April consecration service. The bricks were cement-rendered and the original slate roof was later replaced with tiles. Inside, the north wall bears a fine glass window to the memory of John King Lethbridge. The cemetery has many impressive headstones marking the passing of important characters in Australian history: The King & Lethbridge families and many other well known St. Marys family names: Hackett, Charker, Turner, Andrews and Beacroft.
Bronte: The two-storey house on the corner of King and Gidley Streets, was once the home of James Bennett of the famous firm of ‘G and J Bennett’, wheelwrights and wagon builders of St Marys. The wagons produced by the Bennett firm gained a national reputation for quality in the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. Completed in 1889, the house was designed by architect Mr W. Sykes and was built by local St Marys builder, Joseph Sainsbury.
photo: Google maps
Mamre: Originally owned by Reverend Samuel Marsden, Mamre got its name from the Old Testament, Genesis 13, Verse 18: “Then Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron.” By the end of 1794, Marsden had purchased 128 acres at South Creek near St. Marys. In 1804, Marsden was granted an extra 1,030 acre in the same location. On this grant Marsden was to build the house “Mamre”. An article in the “Nepean Times” newspaper, 19th July, 1924 (p.2) suggests that some sort of building on “Mamre” was used as a wool store in the very early 1800’s. It is thought that the original building was intended to be a wool store, but upon partial completion, it was turned into a residence. Although the actual date of completion is not certain, the National Trust suggests that the building that we now know as “Mamre” was built somewhere between 1830-1840.
Mimosa: Situated at the corner of Putland Street and Pages Road, St, Marys, the two-storied house Mimosa stands today as one of the most elegant and historic houses of the area.Former owner, Dr David Chandler restored the house to its former glory. The house was originally built for St Marys tannery owner and businessman, Andrew Thompson.
Completed in 1894, it was designed and built by local building contractor Joseph Sainsbury. According to a report in the Nepean Times newspaper at the time of its completion, Mimosa was considered to be “without a doubt, the costliest building in the Nepean district”. The building created considerable interest at the time, the local newspaper making frequent references to its progress. Finally, in the first issue of 1895, the Nepean Times reported that the Thompson family has shifted into their new home. The house was at first lit by acetylene gas, chosen by Andrew Thompson in preference to electricity as being the most economic. Some of the original gas fittings still remain a feature of its beautiful restored house. This fine example of late-Victorian architecture was classified by the National Trust in October, 1980.
St Marys Duration Cottages: During World War II a munitions factory was established in St Marys employing up to 3500 people so houses were built to accomodate some of these new employees. They were given the name of Duration Cottages as they were only intended to remain for the duration of the war, however most are still standing today around their central park. The cottages are a heritage conservation area.
For photos and more information on St Marys, search Penrith City Library’s catalogue using an All Resources search.
- Green, Annette, St Marys Industrial Heritage Study, Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1987.
- Murray, Robert and White, Kate Dharug & Dungaree: The History of Penrith and St Marys to 1860. Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1988.
- Nepean District Historical Society, From Castlereagh to Claremont Meadows: Historical Places of Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1997.
- Parr, Lorna, A History of the Nepean and District Street Names, Nepean District Historical Society, Penrith, 1990.
- Parr, Lorna, Penrith Calendar, Nepean District Historical Society, 1987.
- Stacker, Lorraine, Pictorial History: Penrith & St Marys, 2nd ed., Kingsclear Books, 2013.
- Stacker, Lorraine, Penrith: the makings of a City, Halstead Press, 2014.
- Stapleton, E. South Creek – St. Marys – From Village to City St. Marys. St. Marys Historical Society. 1983.
- Stevenson, Colin R., Place Names and their Origins within the City of Penrith, Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1985.
- Stickley, Christine, The Old Charm of Penrith, 2nd ed., the author, 1984.