History of Leumeah

If the Honourable John Davies had got his way, the suburb of Leumeah may today be called "Holly Lea". After all, this was the name the wily politician bestowed on the nearby railway platform when it was built in 1887.

But the name infuriated the surrounding farmers. Mrs Eliza Rudd felt so strongly about it she defaced the platform sign.

The main problem was that Davies had arrogantly called it after his own family homestead, Holly Lea(PDF, 202KB) (which still stands nearby). Quite a bold move for such a johnny-come-lately, who had only moved into the area three years earlier.

Local residents argued the platform name should instead honour pioneer settler, John Warby, whose old land grant of Leumeah stood to the south. By the 1880s, it was owned by influential Joseph and Eliza Rudd.

Like any career politician, Davies no doubt recognised the public mood and quickly had "Leumeah" signs erected along the platform.

John Warby is regarded as the "founding father" of Leumeah. He was transported as a convict in 1792 and ten years later was appointed as a constable to protect the famous wild cattle of the Cow Pastures. In this role he forged a close friendship with the Tharawals and when he was granted 260 acres (104ha) on Bow Bowing Creek in 1816, Warby named his estate after the Aboriginal phrase for "Here I Rest".

This property straddled what is now the border of Campbelltown and Leumeah. His house was demolished in 1963, but his old stable and barn still exist - although there is some confusion over which is which. The stable is home to "The Barn Restaurant", while the barn is part of the "Colonial Motor Inn". Warby lived on Leumeah until his death in 1851.

Parish maps show other early land grantees included James Fletcher, William Kitson, William Ray and Jeremiah Smith. Of these, none left any lasting titular impact, except possibly for the latter, for it's believed Smiths Creek got its name from Jeremiah, whose original land grant enveloped the waterway.

By the late 19th Century, the area was still only thinly sprinkled with signs of civilisation. Thick bushland dominated the eastern slopes, while to the north of Smiths Creek lay the hilly grazing land of Campbellfield Estate (see Minto).

Pembroke Road, stretching south from Minto, was one of the earliest thoroughfares, and like other roads in that suburb, it was named after a member of English aristocracy. The main roadway to Campbelltown was called Rudd Road, in honour of the family which farmed the surrounding fields.

Angle Road began its life as "Angle Lane" and was a narrow path leading from the railway to the Soldier Settlement at Campbelltown East. It probably gained its name from the way it trailed up the hillside. In April 1960 "Lane" was dropped.

August 1926 saw the first major land subdivision of Leumeah, with 320 acres (128ha) placed on the market by John Patrick King, whose family had by then acquired most of the area.

"This magnificent estate, formerly the home of the well known Rudd family, has been subdivided into 119 allotments comprising business sites near the station, large home allotments (and) choice farmlets up to seven acres in area," the estate advertisements claimed.

A King Street was shown on early estate maps - recognising the subdividers - but his soon caused confusion as there was already a street by that name in Campbelltown. So it was renamed Kingsclare Street. The other major road noted the harbourside address of the King family home in Rose Bay - O'Sullivan Road.

Hughes Street, was thought to have been named after a local family.

Yet the expected land buyers did not eventuate and only a fraction of the farmlets were sold. By July 1927, the development syndicate had placed the estate "on hold" and fenced the area so it could be leased for grazing.

The Great Depression did little to encourage growth and it wasn't until 1935 that the subdivision was marketed again. And this time around it met far more enthusiasm from buyers.

Leumeah Progress Association was formed in 1944 and at the start of the 1950s, it asked Campbelltown Council to find a suitable site for a park. About 12 acres (5ha) was acquired and named Orana Park, an Aboriginal word for "Welcome".

In 1970 it became homeground of the Campbelltown Kangaroos Rugby League team, and modernised as Campbelltown's best sports complex. By 1987, it was home of the Western Suburbs Magpies and three years later, was renamed Campbelltown Sportsground.

By the mid-1950s, proposals to increase the size of Leumeah village, by converting farmlets into suburban lots, were scoffed at by aldermen. The forerunner of the State Planning Authority, Cumberland County Council, agreed and in 1957 it limited the allowable village area to sites near the railway line and Rudd Road.

So it was in this area that the earliest suburban estates were developed. By November 1959, the CI News noted a "mushrooming of houses" on farm land once owned by the Whitten family.

Kath Whitten was a member of the NSW Egg Board and would later be Campbelltown's Mayor from 1961-62. Asked to name a street created by the subdivision, the family jokingly offered "Egg Board Avenue". Council eventually chose the title Kulgoa Street.

Maybe nearby Fitzroy Crescent was named in honour of the early NSW Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy, and Forbes Place after Sir Frances Forbes, the colonial Chief Justice who advocated the jury system.

The biggest developments came after March 1959, when a large slice of the village's rural backblocks were converted to a "residential" zoning.

However, there was still no Council policy for naming new streets and it seems developers made all the choices. And almost four decades down the track, we can only guess at their motivations.

Turimetta Avenue, Tallowarra Road, Teralba Road, and Tahlee Crescent all note Aboriginal works. This naming theme was probably chosen to highlight the fact it was the Turimetta company that was developing the estate.

Nicholson Avenue, Brudenell Avenue, Lander Street, Seale Crescent, Craig Avenue and Scriven Street recall the directors of the company. Homann Avenue paid tribute to the estate surveyors, Barry Homann.

Sedgwick Street honours FJ "Mate" Sedgwick, Campbelltown's Mayor from 1957-59.

September 1961 saw the launch of the Housing Commission's first major scheme in the area - 300 homes off Lindesay Street, on the boundary with Campbelltown.

Mayor Kath Whitten said streets would be named after British writers and poets to create "character and dignity". Those honoured included John Milton, Thomas Middleton, William Wordsworth, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Cowper. Yet in some contrast, Emerson Street appears to be named after American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In February 1964, another subdivision - off Angle Road - was announced. "The land, which was originally owned by the Warby family, was once a thriving orchard," the CI News reported. "It was later acquired by Mr Springfield who sold to the Housing Commission."

The main road developed was Carrington Circuit - possibly named after Earl Carrington, Governor of NSW from 1885-90.

In July 1966, more than a dozen surrounding streets were named to honour famous inventors. Some of these included steam engine pioneers James Watt and George Stephenson, bridge designers Donald Bailey and Thomas Telford, and electricity visionaries Michael Faraday and Benjamin Franklin.

And of course, there is phonograph inventor, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell, whose claim to fame was the telephone.

Meanwhile, private subdivisions around Angle Road were being finished, and new streets were named for Australian rivers - Barcoo, Loorana and Abercrombie - while others noted waterside locations such as Woronora, Lugarno, Illawong and Burraneer.

By the mid-1960s, development north of Smiths Creek had also progressed. Onslow Place was probably named for the prominent Camden family, while Aston Place noted land grantee John Aston. The origin of Drummard Avenue is more obscure.

In March 1969 the Geographical Names Board officially endorsed Leumeah as the suburb name and in April 1970 it was described in the CI News as "one of the most promising development areas within the city boundaries".

By 1971, a patch of scrub north of the Housing Commission's "writers and poets" estate had been developed as private housing. Streets formed were (Matthew) Arnold Street, (James) Barrie Place, and (Mary) Gilmore Avenue.

Bathurst Street and Cowra Place, developed earlier, were based on the "Australian cities" theme, used on the other side of Waminda Oval in Campbelltown East.

The early 1970s saw developers turn their eyes to the open grassy hills in the north. This was to become Leumeah Heights Estate, and blessed with great views, spacious reserves tall trees and quality homes, it was billed as one of Campbelltown's more prestigious areas.

One of the first street name themes used was "river caves", resulting in Bungonia Road, Colong Crescent, Wombeyan Place, Jenolan Street and Tuglow Place.

Others honoured lakes from across NSW, such as Conjola, Durras, Munmorrah, Wallis, Tabourie, Thirlmere, Tuggerah, Illawarra, Menindee and Narrabeen.

Wyangala Crescent and other streets such as Avon Place, Burrinjuck Place and Warragamba Crescent were named for the famous dams.

But this newly-developing area was hit with an identity crisis in April 1975, when Council was formalising suburb boundaries and proposed slicing Leumeah in half. South of Smiths Creek and Bungonia Road was to retain the name "Leumeah", while north to Westmoreland Road was to become a new neighbourhood of Minto called "Campbellfield". This was in honour of the historic property founded by Dr William Redfern. Some residents were outraged. They had bought homes in Leumeah Heights Estate, their kids went to Leumeah Public School and they shopped and caught the train at Leumeah Station. The critics won and "Campbellfield" was dumped as a choice. Residents pushed instead for endorsement of the more familiar name of Leumeah Heights.

The Geographical Names Board opposed the use of any adjective names such as "Heights", so to avoid another fight, Council simply made the entire area Leumeah. But to this day, some people - mostly estate agents - still incorrectly refer to the area as Leumeah Heights.

While the southern part of the "Heights" area was inundated with watery names, streets in the north looked to Australia's arid outback for inspiration.

Some of the results were Ayes (Rock) Crescent, Birdsville (Track) Crescent, Arunta (Desert) Crescent, Katherine (Gorge) Street, Arnhem (land) Place, Simpson (Desert) Place and Kimberley (Ranges) Street.

A section of the new streetscape was developed over the top of three old gravel roads which trailed over the rural hills for a century of so - Leicester Street, Normandy Terrace and Bellevue Road. The first two titles were reapplied to modern streets, and the third today is recalled by Bellevue Park.

Another old track, Guernsey Road, was divided into two new streets. These became Parkhill Avenue (a name chosen by residents) and Townson Avenue, which remembers pioneer farmer, Robert Townson.

The 1970s also saw a number new streets created as part of the industrial estate. Airds Road honours the early name Governor Macquarie gave the district in 1810. The Grange Road recalls a former farm in Minto, while Hollylea Road pays tribute to the old abode of John Davies MLA. (This road actually follows the path Campbelltown Road had once taken, before it was re-routed closer to Woodbine in 1979).

Concerns were raised in the same that busy Leumeah Road had become a "drag strip" and was particularly dangerous at its intersection with Pembroke Road. It was decided to block off the merging Leumeah Road - but a new access road had to be found. The answer was construction of the first part of the proposed Smiths Creek Bypass.

This bypass had been mooted since the late 1960s as a major link between the freeway and Junction Road. But the small section constructed in the early 1980s - from Pembroke Road to Leumeah Road - still remains the only part ever finished.

Local children had been attending Leumeah Public School since May 1973. But it wasn't until February 1978 that Leumeah High School was opened on Junction Road, close to Ruse.

Nearby Wallaga Avenue and Corunna Avenue were named after two NSW lakes.

By this stage, the only room left for any major estate was in the far north-east corner of the suburb. And in July 1980 these new streets were named after Antarctic explorers.

The first man to reach the South Pole, Roald Amundsen, is noted by the main thoroughfare - Amundsen Street. This was formed when the southern end of Minto's Eagleview Road was blocked off at Westmoreland Road.

Surrounding streets were named after other Antarctic explorers such as Douglas Mawson, Lieutenant Ninnis, Xavier Mertz, Hubert Wilkins, Frank Debenham and Lincoln Ellsworth.

"Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs - How and why they got their names" written by Jeff McGill, Verlie Fowler and Keith Richardson, 1995, published by Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.

Reproduced with permission of the authors.