Gadigal Avenue, Zetland: History Of Your Street

August 24th, 2018 - by Brad Gillespie

Gadigal Avenue in Zetland has evolved from a swampy area, which nourished the local Indigenous population, to a modern residential hub near the heart of Sydney.

The Name

Gadigal Avenue’s name is a tribute to the Indigenous Australians who inhabited Sydney long before European Settlement.

The Gadigal people belong to one of the 29 clan groups of the Eora Nation. Their territory stretched along the southern side of Sydney Harbour to the area that is now Petersham, the southern boundary of their land now forms the Alexandria Canal and Cooks River.

Life changed for the community following the arrival of the First Fleet. Aside from territorial disputes, a smallpox epidemic in 1789 all but decimated the Gadigal people.

The Area

Today, Gadigal Avenue in Zetland runs south from O’Dea Avenue and west to Joynton Avenue.
The apartment blocks now stand in an area which used to be verdant swampland where the Gadigal people foraged around this pivotal body of water.

Water Supply

The swamp was also lucrative for European Settlers who were keen on establishing a manufacturing industry. In 1815, the first water mill was built in the area.

In 1823, the swamp was part of a 1400-acre parcel of land granted to William Hutchinson, a former convict who was engaged in early manufacturing, trading and banking in Sydney. The water from the swamp was utilised in the milling, tanning, fellmongering, wool washing, brewing, soap making and gardening industries.

These demands eventually shrank the available water supply and the size of the swamp decreased dramatically.

The Race Course

Sir James John Joynton Smith, a hotelier, purchased the land in 1904. He drained the swamp to create the Victoria Park Racecourse, which was opened for pony racing in 1908. He claimed the venue was the 'first course in Australia to cater for ladies in the provision of retiring rooms.’

The track was used for car racing and for one of Australia’s first aeroplane flights in 1909. The site was taken over by the military during the Second World War and closed down in 1944.


In 1948 Lord William Nuffield of the British Motor Corporation purchased the race course, with the intention of constructing a mixed development – part motor-manufacturing plant, part residential. The City Council rejected the residential component provided in the initial subdivision plans because the area was earmarked for industrial use only. The plans were approved in 1951 and finalised in 1952.

In 1954, the assembly plant opened with 150 employees. This workforce expanded to 4000 people in the mid-sixties when the factory was in full production. The company became the Leyland Corporation of Australia in 1972 and was shut in December 1974, following the worldwide collapse of British Leyland and its associates.

The Navy

The Royal Australian Navy took over the site after the Leylands operation closed. They used the area for warehousing and servicing military equipment from ship propellers to frozen food. At its peak 800 people – mostly civilians – worked at the naval stores. In 1990, operations began to wind down and The Navy vacated the premises in 1996.


In 1997 Landcom acquired the land and devised the layout for infrastructure like sewers, communications and new roads, in order to provide housing for 3800 people. Gadigal Avenue was conceived during this process.

The existing buildings were knocked down by 1999.

This century has seen the completion of many modern apartment blocks on Gadigal Avenue, removing the area completely from its swampland past.

Well known landmarks along Gadigal Avenue include East Village shopping centre and Joynton Park.

Recent sales

We recently sold 6/30 Gadigal Avenue.

If you’re interested in learning more about Zetland’s fascinating history or lifestyle today, talk to us at Brad Gillespie – we’re local experts in the neighbourhood.