Marrickville, military history

Addison Road Community Centre – 100 Years Serving the Community

To celebrate 100 years of the Addison Road Community Centre (ARCC), two walking tours were organised over the last week.  For anyone who missed out, they should keep an eye out on the ARCC site as they informed me they are looking at running more tours during the coming year.  Thanks to Graham Chacroft and Sue Castrique for their informative talk and the following is a summary of some of the highlights of their talk.

The tour gives an informative insight into how the aborigines, the first settlers, the army and now the community have used the site. They also talked not only about the built features of the centre but the environmental aspects including plants and water.

The site of the Addison Road Centre was once natural wetlands known as the Gumbramorra Swamp. It was occupied by the Cadigal Wangal people who practised fire stick farming. The park like fields that were created attracted wallabies, possums and lizards. They also used the hard turpentine bark to create canoes. The turpentine forests were later cut by settlers to make cobbled roads as it was extremely hard.

The swamp had rich soil surrounding it and was drained to make way for more land. and in 1852, John Purdy & his wife Maryann built a stone cottage and operated a market garden there.  As they got older they started using the rich clay on their 12 acres to make bricks and over 27 000 bricks were manufactured there.

Image: Marrickville Library & History Services

After their deaths the estate was sold off for cheap housing. The swamp often flooded after rain and had poor drainage. The residents also suffered from mosquito plagues and diseases including typhoid. Needless to say they were unable to sell their homes and forced to suffer from whatever nature threw at them. The final blow came in 1889 after 5 days of rain when the Gumbramorra Creek flooded and residents had to be rescued from the rising flood waters.

Shortly after this, the swamp was drained and most of the land was rezoned for industrial use only. Gumbramoora creek still exists on the ARCC and parts of it can be seen in the council nursery area and the building now housing “Reverse Garbage” was built on top of the creek!!

In 1913 the land between Illawarra Road & Addison Road was sold again for housing. A  tramway was built to help encourage land purchases. The estate was poorly designed. The sewerage system could not cope after rain and often a foul stench emanated from the estate and could be smelt in neighbouring suburbs.  The Commonwealth Government purchased 8 acres on July 12th. The Addison Road Army Depot was a major centre for enlistment in Marrickville in almost every conflict in the twentieth century: WW1, WW2, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. It was home to the 9th Field Artillery Brigade which served in Western France and the 53rd & 55th Battalions (New South Wales Rifle Regiment and Western Sydney Regiment) which went to the Kokoda Trail.

Image Source: City of Botany Bay Library

The buildings that can be seen today at the ARCC site were built to provide a registration hall (No 1) which is now Reverse Garbage. During WW1 Addison Road was a riding school with stables (Greek Theatre), horses (exercise yard where child care centre now is) and a large central paddock (the car park). Double stable doors can still be seen on buildings such as the Ethnic Child Care Offices. The large boom gates are still in view in the car park.

In WW2, some horses still remained, however it was mostly taken over by Motor Transport Companies which parked 192 trucks and cars on the horse paddock, turned parade ground.

Between wars the depot’s remount team put on horseback acrobatic demonstrations and the depot was a centre for gymkhanas, boxing tournaments and dances which raised money for local causes.

From 1944 to 1948 Addison Road was the Leave and Transit Depot for NSW. All servicemen returning from overseas had to report to Marrickville first for medicals and to receive leave passes.  The drill hall (Reverse Garbage) was converted to a hospital where servicemen were treated before being transferred to local hospitals.  The Sidetrack Theatre was an x-ray centre.

Womens’ Army Nursing Service
Image: Marrickville Council

In 1946 the Australian Woman’s Army Service also held offices at the site after their Burwood depot was closed.

The stone building on the site, inspite of it’s looks, is one of the most recent buildings on the site. It was the built in 1962 as the armoury for the 3rd Transport Company.

Image: Addison Road Centre

During the years of conscription, many protests took place at the gate entrances to the site. The Save Our Sons movement had a strong vocal presence and many of their protest paraphernalia actually provide valuable information about the ARCC site. An example can be seen HERE

Image Source: Marrickville Council

After the army site was decommissioned in 1975 the depot was handed over to the community. It was first used as an immigration centre and then in 1976 a general community centre.

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