History of Narwee
Narwee Primary School is built on land given in 1809, to Richard Podmore, a free settler, who came to New South Wales as a soldier in the N.S.W. Corps in 1792, on the ship "Pitt". Land between today's Penshurst Road and King Georges Road belonged to Richard Tuckwell, another soldier from the same Company. At the time of the land grant, the area was covered with a very thick ironbark forest.
Tuckwell and Podmore sold their grants to Patrick Moore and Robert Gardner, both ex-convicts, in 1819 and 1820, and "Bob the Gardener", as he was known, began to clear trees and develop a farm on Podmore's grant, which he called "Sunning Hill Farm". The property was later extended to cover Emery's 30 acre grant next door. This was farmed by Gardner's adopted son, Thomas Gardner Whitehall.
At that stage there were very few farms in the district. Men earned a living by cutting down the trees and selling the logs for firewood and timber to build houses and boats. Narwee did not exist as a locality; it was called "Bob the Gardner's Farm", and there were so few people living in the area that bushrangers could easily hide for weeks in the forest without being discovered.
Sydney Hunt Club
In the 1830's, the Sydney Hunt Club used to hold its hunting meetings in this area. Reports in the newspapers of the time tell of groups of men trotting through the thick forest below Oatley's (near Beverly Hills) and chasing deer across Bob the Gardener's and other nearby farms. It was called "wild and difficult country". The deer were imported by the upper classes when they came from England, so they could follow the same gentlemanly sports they did at home. The fields of young barley particularly attracted the deer, and many a crop was damaged by first being grazed by escaped animals, and later being galloped across by the Hunt in pursuit of a good day's sport.
At the top of the hill, in the block surrounded by today's Shorter Avenue, Penshurst Road, Grove Avenue and Karne Street, there was a farm and orchard called "Stacey's Farm". Dennis Stacey, the ex-convict owner, lived there at first, and later it was occupied by Joseph Williamson. A wooden cottage containing four rooms, with a kitchen built separately for fear of fire was built, plus a stable, a fowl house, and huts for the men working on the property.
The land south or Broadarrow Road was granted to Dr Robert Townson as sheep grazing land in 1809. It was not used for this, as Townson complained it was not suitable, being too hilly and rocky. It was sold to John Connell, a Sydney merchant, and became Known as "Connell's Bush". It was also occupied by sawyers and firewood gatherers, among whom were Thomas Collins, John and Betty Hardy, Joseph Fretus, Michael Connolly, William Humphreys, Samuel Lewis, Thomas Sheldon and the Whitworth family. The name of the locality was later corrupted to "Connelly's Bush", after one of the farmers who lived there.
When Bob the Gardener died in 1873, he was, it was claimed, over one hundreds years old. His farm was left to his wife, Sarah or Basalena Gardner, his step-children, the Hickman family, and his only son, also named Robert Gardner. When rumours that a new railway would be built through the district began to spread in Sydney, a land speculator called William Graham Cameron persuaded the family to sell Sunning Hill. In 1885, however, the Minister for Public Works, decided on a more northerly route, and Cameron was unable to sell his land. For this reason, he became one of the most vocal opponents of the railway to Burwood Road (now Belmore). The property was eventually subdivided by the Intercolonial Investment Land and Building Company Ltd in 1912, and sold as the ten-acre farms of the "Graham Park Estate", each costing between 65 Pounds and 142 Pounds 10 Shillings.
Tuckwell"s Farm stayed in the family of Patrick Moore until this century. His son, Peter, was well known among woodcutters of the district, because he was the coach for everyone who wanted to become a boxer. This was a very popular sport among sawyers of the ninteenth century. They fought in clearings, cut well away from settlements, because they did not want to be found by the police - the sport was officially banned. They did not wear boxing gloves, and fought, sometimes for 150 rounds, until one of the boxers was knocked out, or had his arm broken.
The suburb was named when the railway was built in 1931. Narwee is an Aboriginal word meaning "sun", an appropriate name for an area once called "Sunning Hill Farm". People living there at the time were mostly poultry farmers and market gardeners, and a city florist had a large garden west of the railway station. After the railway came through, people bought up land for residences. Little building was done during the Depression and World War II, but the suburb grew rapidly in the 1950's, when the area was settled by young families.
Prepared by Canterbury City Library
MUIR, Lesley. Narwee: early history. In: Canterbury & District Historical Society Journal Series 2, No. 12 .