Researching the History of Your Canterbury House
This guide has been prepared to help researchers use the resources of the Local History collection at Campsie Library. Researchers may be keen to find the name of their house, to restore a name-plate, or to know when their house was built, to help with period restoration. Others may be more interested in when a relative lived in a house, and to know the development of the street, subdivision and suburb. Whatever the goal, this research can be richly rewarding.
The key to understanding the development of our suburbs is land subdivision. In the early days of the colony of New South Wales, settlers were granted land in lots ranging from 30 acres to a single ex-convict to hundreds of acres if the person was well connected. Small farms tended to be bought up and consolidated into larger holdings by the wealthy. As Sydney and the suburbs expanded towards Canterbury in the late 19th century, the large farms were broken up into smaller farmlets for market gardening, dairying or chicken farming. With the building of public transport, these small farms became valuable, and they were further sub-divided and sold off as suburban house blocks. These subdivisions varied in size from a couple of streets to many acres.
The main feature of Canterbury housing is its bungalows. Apart from a small number of Victorian style buildings, the houses built before World War 1 are in the Federation style. Housing built between World Wars 1 and 2 are Interwar bungalows or Californian bungalows.
Very few blocks of flats were built before the 1960s, until a change in building regulations led to many bungalows being replaced by low-rise flats. This is a continuing process. This has made Canterbury one of the most densely populated local government areas in Sydney.
Rate books can be valuable to date when a house was built. As only two volumes of the early Canterbury City Council rate books survive, it is necessary to use some of the other resources held in the Local History Collection. These are described within this section.
A word of caution: researching a house built after 1933 can be difficult, and researchers may wish to contact the library's Local History staff for assistance. Staff are always happy to assist with enquiries, and they can be contacted on:
Photo: Canterbury Town Hall.