by Paul Irish, historian & commentator When Europeans first arrived in the area we know today as Paddington, they saw several creeks winding their way through the scrub of what was later called the La Crozia Valley towards the mudflats of Rushcutters Bay and into Sydney Harbour. Aboriginal people had known the Paddington area for much longer; since before the bay they knew as Kogerah or the harbour even existed.
They had witnessed their creation and the evolution of the local landscape. 20,000 years ago the Paddington area was bound up in a global ice age. Though there were no glaciers in Sydney, but the climate was cooler and sea levels were much lower. The harbour headlands looked down over a forested valley to a river that meandered its way along what is now Sydney Harbour to the ocean many kilometres east of today’s coast. Rushcutters Creek flowed down into thatriver between the ridges of Darling Point and Darlinghurst, passing between the hilltops of Clark Island and Garden Island along the way.
We do not know much about how Aboriginal people lived in this ancient landscape, but we know they were there. Archaeological remains elsewhere in the Sydney region show this, but much of the evidence closest to Paddington now sits beneath the waves. Around 18,000 years ago the sea began to rise
as ice sheets elsewhere in the world began to melt. Over the next 10,000 years, hundreds of generations of coastal Sydney people watched the water slowly encroach across the coastal plain to fill the valley of Sydney Harbour.
The rising waters consumed up to two metres of shoreline each year and
may have caused the realignment of some coastal groups as their lands
were flooded. But the end result was the creation of a harbour and bays
that teemed with fish and shellfish; a fishing paradise that Aboriginal
people expertly exploited . . .
Chapter 2 - Mapping Paddington
by Bill Morrsion, architect & urban desgner What gives Paddington its special qualities? Is it the houses, with their
pitched roofs and chimneys, the balconies and the iron lace, the detail and
the decoration, the stepping and the unlimited variation on a theme. How is that different to Surry Hills, Glebe or Newtown,all built roughly around the same time and deploying similar architectural typologies. Max Kelly put his finger on it: “... the streets of Paddington have a vitality and a spontaneity
. . .determined, not by the dictates of logic or ease of construction but by the boundaries of early land grants . . .that decided the complex and aesthetically pleasing street pattern”.
This chapter sets about reading between the lines, unfolding the story
of Paddington through a series of specially prepared maps showing the development of the place at key intervals in its history. Early Paddington underwent very little comprehensive mapping; and those fragments that do exist require assembling, interrogating and reinterpreting to provide a fuller understanding of the place and the influences that made it. No rules or
plans guided its creation; it developed rather, via a series of unrelated events,
each of which influenced the next and resulted in what others have called an accidental suburb. Whether accidental or not it was a supreme example of laissez-faire giving rise to a unique environment and one which continues
to attract people to its urban lifestyle . . .
Chapter 3 - Ever-changing Paddington
by Garry Wotherspoon and Paul Ashton, historians What we now know as the suburb of Paddington has had a long,
ever-changing and chequered history. It is now one of Sydney’s more iconic and emblematic places, and one of the biggest and most intact Victorian suburbs anywhere in the world. Its existence today is largely due to efforts by its residents to fight off those who have tried
to destroy it – state and council bureaucrats, indifferent property
owners, the Department of Main Roads and developers. A tale of struggle. But also one of hope.
Paddington really began in the early 1840s, with the construction of
the Victoria Barracks. . . However the good economic times the colony was experiencing, built on the pastoral industry and the South Pacific maritime trade, were not to last. The 1840s was a tumultuous decade that, while it saw the formal end of convict transportation in 1840, also experienced a major depression in the following years. And while that economic slump slowed the colony’s growth, other developments were to have a beneficial effect in the Paddington area. Governor Bourke’s decision to move the military barracks, which housed those ‘licentious’ soldiers of the New South Wales Corps, from Wynyard Square that kick-started Paddington’s development, changing it from a quasi-rural place to an increasingly urban space . . .
Chapter 4 - Early Paddington
by Robert Griffin, heritage consultant & conservationist . . . However, the greatest development of Paddington was to take place from
the 1870s to the 1890s. The surviving early land grants such as that of Thomas West, the estates of the Rushcutters Valley gentry and the faltering start to housing in the Paddington village and Paddington estate were all to undergo
an extraordinary scale of change, as increasing land values and the demand
for housing near the city saw the rapid increase in the rate of subdivision.
Row upon row and street upon street of working and middle-class housing were created and a newspaper article of 1884 succinctly described the transformation of Paddington:
“A decade has scarcely elapsed since the greater portion was covered with
ti-tree, intersected by creeks and rocky eminences and which have now given place to well-constructed streets, business premises and comfortable homes …”
Remarkably, the fine streetscapes of terrace housing that were created at
this time have survived largely intact. Perhaps more remarkably, despite
this period of intense subdivision and transformation, much of the earlier character and evidence of the initial development of the place has survived. This is evident in the fabric of the built and natural environment of Paddington; in street names and street layouts such as Glenmore Road; phases of villa development – from the earliest, Juniper Hall, to the last, Olive Bank Villa – and in the small terrace houses of the Paddington village. It is the quality
and extent of this environment gives Paddington its unique character . . .
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Preview Chapters 5 to 8 here • Chapters 9 to 11 here