A History Tour Of Waterloo

From wetlands to industrial hub to thriving modern suburb, Waterloo has been through many changes over the years.

Waterloo before 1788

Indigenous people have lived in the Sydney region for tens of thousands of years. The territory of the Gadigal people covered an area that stretched from the inner west down to the Cooks River and out to South Head, including what today we call Waterloo.

There were around 29 clans in the area, collectively referred to as the Eora Nation. Evidence of their presence in the surrounding area was once seen in ancient engravings near Moore Park. Carved into sandstone, the engravings were first recorded in the 1890s by the government surveyor William Campbell, but have sadly since been destroyed.

Portrait of Bennelong, a senior Wangal clansman of the Eora — Photo from Wikipedia

European settlement of Waterloo

Before European settlement, the land where Waterloo Park now stands was a wetland with swamps, streams and undulating sandhills. But all that was to change.

One man who was influential in shaping the new suburb was John Thomas Campbell. Born in Ireland in 1770, Campbell was appointed secretary to Governor Lachlan Macquarie soon after his arrival in the colony in 1810. A loyal supporter and ally of the governor, Campbell received a grant of 185 acres in 1825. He called the area, which encompassed much of today’s Waterloo, Mount Lachlan Estate in honour of Macquarie.

Around the same time, convict-turned-businessman William Hutchison was granted 1400 acres nearby. In naming his holding he gave birth to a suburb. The name he chose? The Waterloo Estate.

A growing industrial hub

As well as bestowing the suburb’s name, Hutchison was also instrumental in kickstarting the area’s industrial boom.

Waterloo’s industrial heritage began in the 1820s with the establishment of Waterloo flour mill, built and owned by William Hutchison, and the Fisher and Duncan paper mill. Tanning and wool preparation facilities were also part of Waterloo’s early industrial landscape.

Industrialisation of the area continued, and in the 1850s the Grissell Building made its debut. An extremely rare building, the customised structure was designed and made of iron by Henry & M.D. Grissell and is one of only two known remaining examples of the London foundry’s work.

Thinking of selling?

Just researching the market?

The early 20th century saw the construction of the Wormald Brothers fire equipment factory on Young Street, now home to Artbank Sydney. As the century progressed, Waterloo became home to the Chubb factory (now an apartment building) and in the 1930s AGM built its iconic heritage-listed glass factory on South Dowling Street.

The Waterloo Heritage Conservation Area

Waterloo Town Hall designed by John Smedley — Photo from Wikipedia

Comprising an area bounded by Phillip St, Morehead St, McEvoy St and Pitt St, what is now the Waterloo Heritage Conservation Area was part of the early residential subdivision of the Mount Lachlan Estate.

The area provided housing for employees of the growing nearby industrial areas. Initial development of housing began on the high ground surrounding the swamp, and also near Sheas Creek (now a stormwater channel).

The conservation area encompasses Waterloo Town Hall and the Elizabeth Street shops. Largely intact terrace houses along McEvoy Street, Kensington Lane, Lenton Parade, Kellick Street and other streets offer a glimpse into the area’s Victorian past.

Waterloo today

With a vibrant community and proximity to the city and airport, Waterloo is fast becoming a place more people want to call home.

The suburb enjoys amenities such as parks and community gardens, like Eden and Waterloo Estate community gardens, and Centennial Parklands are a stone’s throw away. And with the state government’s urban renewal program, Waterloo is set to benefit from better facilities, improved public transport, and new homes and shops.

To make Waterloo your home, call our team today.

Article by Brendon Clark
‘The details matter - through every part of the process.’ With decades of runs on the board alongside a fresh outlook, Brendon is co-director of Clark - and one half of one of Sydney’s most dynamic and successful real estate duos. Having carved out a reputation for results in the… Read More
Previous Post
Four Projects Set to Transform Waterloo
Next Post
Who Is Buying In Our Local Area?