Oral History: Harvey Hatfield "A Story of Early Marrickville"

The following is an oral history that came from the City of Canterbury Library website. It originally appeared in the Canterbury District Historical Society Journal (S1 No6) from April 1967.


by Mr. Harvey Hatfield

Seymour’s Corner once the haunt of “blackguards.”

As a lad of twelve I commenced work at Shrublands, Marrickville Road, It was then the home of Mrs. Smith, of Goodlet and Smith, earthenware pipe manufacturers. Before starting work, I was brought up at Canterbury. There, I used to go, with about a dozen other schoolboys, on the 7.30 a.m. train from Canterbury to Marrickville every Tuesday and Friday to buy meat to last several days. We could buy half a sheep for 2/6, stewing steak at 2 ½ d. lb., and rump steak at 4 ½ d. lb. Marrickville in those days was the main shopping centre as far as Belmore. The trams only ran as far as Marrickville and only as far as Cook Road in slack times.

Image Source: Marrickville Library Images

I saw the construction of the extension of the line to Dulwich Hill, and the opening ceremony for the extension was celebrated with a banquet in the grounds of Shrublands. When the first three shops were built in Marrickville Road, Dulwich Hill, they were occupied by a fruiterer, grocer and draper. The fruiterer was the late Mr. Tea Cave, whose family still carry on the same business. A prominent resident of Dulwich Hill was the late Marcus Clark. He had a property which extended from Macarthur Parade along Marrickville Road to Durham Street and to Beach Road at the rear. It was a familiar sight to see him mounted on his black charger riding to business every day. I can remember the police station in a private cottage in Petersham Road. Inspector Stanwick was the officer in charge. St. Clement’s Church services were then held in what is now the school hall at the rear. A small hotel standing on the corner of Marrickville and IIIawarra Roads was known a “The Empress of India” and was owned by Mr. Thompson.

Carmichael’s “Success” Stoves had their first factory in a small tin shed where Coles’ Shoe Store now stands and from that point on, it was open paddocks to Victoria Road. There was nothing on the opposite side of the road from Frampton Avenue to the corner of Marrickville Road and Victoria Road. The name “Blackguards’ Corner”, came into use because of the larrikinisms at that point of a group known as the Flat Rats.

From Victoria Road to Sydenham Station was known as Tramvale, and whenever rain fell heavily for three or four days the road was deeply flooded and residents had to be rescued by the police in boats. People travelling by tram could not get off at Sydenham Road, but had to continue to Seymour’s Corner.

I have seen most of the large factories built in the district, including Australian Woollen Mills, Globe Mills, Lears, General Motors, Malleable Castings, Fowlers Pottery and Shelleys Soft Drinks. Marrickville Margarine factory as established by Mr. C. Abel, who was proprietor of a large wholesale pastry factory in Newtown. At certain times of the year he had great difficulty in obtaining butter for his business, so he began the manufacture of margarine as substitute.

Image Source: Marrickville Library Services

Marrickville was then a district of brick pits and numerous bakeries and dairies. Now one has to be content with block runs and no choice of milkmen. Every butcher employed a boy who rode a pony, with a basket of meat on his arm. He would call with the meat for breakfast at 7 a.m., collect the order for dinner and deliver it before lunchtime. The greengrocer called with his cart three times week, collected orders and delivered the goods to the doorstep. The baker called every day. The “rabbit-oh” called three times a week and as many as half a dozen hawkers of fruit and vegetable every day.
What a different story today! Poor old grandmas have to trudge around the shops with perhaps two baskets and young mothers have to do their shopping and keep an eye on their children at the same time. Is this what you call progress? I don’t think so.

There was once a large hotel on the banks of Cook’s River at Undercliffe. People used to go in bus loads to enjoy picnicking on the river. There were two boatsheds at Tempe, one at Undercliffe, one at Wardell Road and one at the dam at Canterbury.

It was a pretty sight. There were oak trees and plenty of other timber right down to the river and plenty of sites for picnic lunches. I remember my father telling that a building on the bank on the Canterbury side of the river at Undercliffe was the old toll house. Vehicles were charged one penny to cross the bridge. The only other crossing was at Canterbury Road, Canterbury, three miles away.

Another picnic site was at the foot of Garnet Street, Hurlstone Park. It was known as Starkey’s, named after Mr. Starkey, who owned Gladstone Hall, which extended from Ewart Street to the banks of the river. Another old hotel stood where the ambulance station is now. It was known as Donohue’s, and near it was a hundred yards cinder track. Quoits were also played there every Saturday afternoon. In 1905, I drove the first resident doctor, Doctor Curtis Hodgson, to start a practice in Dulwich Hill.
Two of the oldest shops carried on by the same families are Robert Harris’ (jewellers) and Broadley’s shoe store (Mr. Stan Reynolds). I was well aquainted with Mr. Jack Purdy, who was reported to be the first white child to be born in Marrickville. The property now occupied by the militia in Addison Road was known as Purdy’s Estate.

Riverside Park, Cooks River
Image Source: Marrickville Library Services

A large area of land facing Agar Street to Newington Road was worked as a market garden by Chinese, and another area from the railway bridge in Livingstone Road to Warren Road, was also a market garden owned and worked by a Mr. Moncur, after whom Moncur Street was named. Letters were mostly delivered on horseback, but Charlie Davison, Jim Gleeson, George Russell, Bill Stuanton and Len Attwell did the local shops on foot. Mr. R. G. Brereton, who built two shops in Marrickville in 1885 and opened a chemist shop, was known throughout the whole district for his advice and care of the poor and sick. He had a bigger practice than any medical man of that day.
I remember well the turning of the first sod of the railway line from Sydenham to Belmore. On that occasion they roasted a whole bullock, and had a greasy pig chase and a greasy pole at the top of which was a rooster in a bag as a prize.
(C.D.H.S.J. S.1 No.6.)

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