History of Rosemeadow

Contrary to the romantic image conjured up by its title, Rosemeadow was not named after some nebulous paddock of wild roses. The southern suburb of Campbelltown actually honours an early settler, Thomas Rose (1772-1836), who bought Mount Gilead farm in 1818.

This extensive property was estimated at 2460 acres (984ha) in 1828, and stretched into what is now the southernmost portion of Rosemeadow.

Rose won considerable fame in the early colony for his experiments in water conservation, and in 1825 built a huge dam on his property. He also built a smaller dam near Appin Road for the use of his hard-pressed neighbours during the drought of 1829. Long hours as a baker and publican had helped secure his wealth.

But it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from romanticised fiction when reading through old newspaper reports. One article described Rose as "an educated, much travelled and aristocratic type of man" who "drove a carriage emblazoned with his crest". Not a bad image for someone who in reality had arrived in Sydney wearing the chains of a convict.

Mysterious tales were often concocted about the reason for Rose's arrival in the colony, to hide his penal past. Early Campbelltown historian, J.P. McGuanne, described him in 1920 as "the most respectable of the first free settlers".

Certainly, Rose was a man worthy of respect. He was kind, community-minded, resourceful, and always willing to "have a go". At various times he was a stockholder in the Bank of NSW, a trustee of the Sydney Public Free Grammar School, and treasurer of the Sydney Reading Room.

Always on the lookout for a good investment, Rose also joined the ill-fated Fred Fisher in a paper making venture. The memories of Rose's activities and generosity in Campbelltown continued for many years after his death.

When his daughter died in March 1929, the local press devoted most of her obituary to Rose himself, It claimed that when he built a tower mill on his farm in 1834, he gristed wheat for local farmers and only charged them half-rates for two years. His "multitudinous acts of charity for the poor of the district" were highly praised. "So beloved and respected was he, that when he drove to town people touched their hats to him," the obituary reported.

Thomas Rose Drive, between the local shopping centre and the strangely named Ambarvale High School (it is actually in Rosemeadow), pays tribute to his contributions.

But the oldest thoroughfare is without a doubt Fitzgibbon Lane. Once a simple farm track, it is now a major access road into the suburb.

The age-old name itself comes from a family connected with the area for generations. One of the best-known members was Timothy Roy Fitzgibbon (1893-1951), who was an alderman on Council for 18 years. With his wife, Mary, he lived on a dairy property called Killara - first farmed by his Irish-born grandfather, Timothy Fitzgibbon.

As a boy, Roy attended the old "Avoca Vale Public School" near Sugarloaf Hill. An expert cattle judge, he was the chief steward of the local Agricultural Society for many years, vice-president of the football club, and vice-president of the local milk zone's Dairymen's Council.

Fitzgibbon Lane once went all the way to Menangle Road, but now only a small portion adjoining Appin Road survives. It ends abruptly at Copperfield Drive, much of its old path now taken up by Rizal Park and Demetrius Road.

Although plans to create the modern suburb were drawn up in the mid-1970s, it remained farms and dams for the rest of the decade, while development occurred at Ambarvale to the north. When the Rosemeadow name was approved in 1976, cows were still grazing happily on the site.

But the creep of suburbia finally arrived with the next decade, the charge being led by the NSW Housing Commission. Landcom soon acquired portions of land and opened estates. In later years, private developers would also get involved.

Faced with the job of giving the new streets names in July 1980, the Council approved what seemed a colourful theme - characters from the plays of the "immortal bard", William Shakespeare.

Some of the more obvious results were Hamlet Crescent, Cleopatra Drive, Othello Avenue and Macbeth Way. And of course, where there is a Juliet Close there has to be a Romeo Crescent nearby. But what about the others?

Montague Place, Capulet Place, Sampson Place, Gregory Street and Balthasar Close all come from Romeo and Juliet, while the play Julius Casear inspired Julius Road, Cicero Way, Claudius Place, Brutus Way, Pindarus Way, Cassius Way and Calpurnia Way.

Donalbain, Banquo, Macduff, Seyton, Malcolm and Siward are from Macbeth, and Polonius, Horatio, Reynaldo, Marcellus, Bernardo, Fortinbras, Francisco and Ophelia grace the pages of Hamlet. The tragedy of King Lear spawned Edmund, Oswald, Regan, Cordelia and, of course, Lear.

Figures from Othello include Iago, Roderigo, Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca, while The Tempest gave us Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, Ceres, Caliban, Alonso and Ariel.

Anthony Drive, Eros Place, Demetrius Road, Scarus Place, Philo Close, Agrippa Street, Menus Place, Canidius Street, Charmian Place, Alexis Place, Octavia Avenue and Iras Place rose up from Anthony and Cleopatra.

The Twelfth Night is represented by Viola, Sebastian, Orsion, Olivia and Malvolio, Winter's Tale by Leontes and Dorcus, and The Merchant of Venice by Antonio, Jessica, Lorenzo and Portia.

Westminster, Willoughby, Berkley, Fitzwater, Exton, Langley and Mowbray are all from Richard II, while Bardolph, Vernon, Falstaff, Coleville, Glendower, Blunt and Archibald are from Henry IV. Midsummer Night's Dream is represented by Theseus and Lysander.

Copperfield Drive is named after the classic Dickens novel, David Copperfield, because it originates in Ambarvale, where streets recall the characters of Charles Dickens.

Ambarvale High School was first established as a temporary facility on the present site of Thomas Reddall High School in Ambarvale. But in early 1989 it was relocated to a permanent location in Rosemeadow - but kept its old name to retain continuity for students. Rosemeadow Public School began classes in 1986.

But the oldest school in the suburb is John Therry Catholic High School, opened in 1980 and named after the pioneering priest, Father John Joseph Therry (1790-1864). The Mary Brooksbank Special School (1987) was named after a local settler and diarist.

Haydon Park honours Barkley Haydon, who was a gardener at the old Campbelltown State Nursery and Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.

Rizal Park gets its title from a Filipino patriot, Dr Jose Rizal (1861-96). This was on the request of the Philippine-Australian Friendship Association which helps maintain the reserve. Rizal was a writer, scholar and scientist who encouraged non-violent reform and independence for his homeland. But accused of sedition, he was shot by a Spanish firing squad.

"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.