Glebe Island, where Bill Gosling used to work, was once an island. Then it was connected to the mainland by a causeway. This was enlarged when abattoirs were constructed there in the 1850s, and the island was later further flattened for wharves and grain stores.
This was one of many different schemes that have changed the shape of the harbour foreshore. Blackwattle Bay is shown on an 1836 map as reaching up to Parramatta Road, where a small bridge crosses it – now only the street names, and some observation of topography, show us that it went that far. By 1854 Bay Street runs down to the head of the bay; by 1866 there is a bridge linking Pyrmont and Glebe about a third of the way up the bay; by 1868 the bridge is labelled as an embankment and Wattle St is a straight line marked where Black Wattle Creek used to run.
By 1885 the area that was filled in was called Wentworth Park.[i]The park provided space for the same late-19thcentury leisure activities as at the Sir Joseph Banks Pleasure Grounds, or the Como Pleasure Grounds, or the Avenue Pleasure Grounds at Hunters Hill: concerts, picnics and sports. In 1939 it became the permanent venue for a different kind of sport: greyhound racing.[ii]On the other side of Glebe, a similar story: Johnston’s Creek and Orphan School Creek met at the head of Rozelle Bay, where a little bridge now crosses a stormwater drain at the lowest point of Wigram Road.[iii]The area was reclaimed for parkland, and Harold Park Paceway – another racing venue, this one for trotting horses – established on its edge in 1902.[iv]
Glebe’s southern edge is formed by Parramatta Road, its intersection with Glebe Point Road opposite Victoria Park, filling in the angle between Parramatta Road and City Road as it has done since some of the earliest maps: behind that is Sydney University.
This stands on land granted in 1792 to Lieutenant-Governor Grose who had a lease of 30 acres out of the 400 acre Crown reserve that had been set aside for Crown, church and school purposes – ‘The Glebe’. He sold his lease on when he left the colony in 1794, but the name stuck as ‘Grose Farm’. This was the edge of the city for many years, as the old boundary marker at the end of Glebe Point Road shows. Paintings of Sydney in 1818 by Sophia Campbell (1777-1833), and in 1819 by Joseph Lycett (c.1774-1828) show the growing city from its periphery.[v]
[i]Ashton, P & Waterson, D. Sydney takes shape: a history in maps. Hema Maps, 2000.
[iii]Leichhardt: on the margins of the city. Max Solling and Peter Reynolds. Allen & Unwin, 1997, p10.
[v]First Views of Australia, 1788-1825. A history of early Sydney. Tim McCormick. David Ell Press, Longueville Publications, 1987.