Mitchell Road, Alexandria: History Of Your Street

March 12th, 2018 - by Brad Gillespie

Mitchell Road, Alexandria, is an inner-city enclave, bustling with activity throughout the day.

The road has not strayed too far from its industrial past but has had a recent injection of warmth, with Brooklyn-style warehouse conversions, restaurants, cafes and parks.

Over the years, the area has evolved and so has the demographic living in it. Read on to find out more about its past:

Mitchell Road, Alexandria

History:

In some ways, all roads from Alexandria lead to Sydney Park. And Mitchell Road is no exception, stretching from Henderson Road all the way to Sydney Park.
Pre-settlement, the area was part swamp, marsh and part forest, with turpentine and ironbark trees.

At the start of 19th century the area was part of the District of Bullanaming. The grasslands, which predated Newtown and St Peters, were a kangaroo hunting ground for the Cadigal and Wangal People. They also fished and camped along the swamps and creeks.

European Settlement:

In 1796, a 40-acre land grant on the site of today’s Sydney Park was awarded to First-Fleet convict Elizabeth Needham after her sentence had expired.

The parcel of land was then sold to John and Gregory Blaxland in 1808 and then to Daniel Cooper in 1822. It was passed down to several generations of the Cooper family who leased the land to factories in the 1880's.

The Name:

As more people flocked to the area it received a new name: Alexandria. Depending on who you ask this was either after Alexandra of Denmark who was the Princess of Wales and later became the Queen of the United Kingdom; or after the British victory over Napoleon in Alexandria, Egypt.

Mitchell Road was named after Joseph Mitchell, a ship owner, politician and steel manufacturer who represented Newtown in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly on three occasions: 1881-82, 1883-85 and 1888.

Bricks:

Thanks to the rich alluvial soil the area drew in pottery and brick makers. In the early 19th century brick, pottery and tile works were founded in the district.

A lot of these companies leased the land for their factories. But in 1887 Josiah Gentle started purchasing the territory, where he eventually formed the Bedford Brickworks, named after his home town in the UK.

The bricks made from this factory were used to construct many buildings on Mitchell Road and in the surrounding area.

Industry

In the 1940’s Alexandria became known as the Birmingham of Australia. There were 550 factories located on 405 hectares, which made the suburb one of Australia’s largest industrial districts.

There were 22,000 people employed in the precinct.

Unfortunately, like Birmingham slums formed in the area, with many workers living in poor conditions due to economic pressure.

End of an Era

In 1936 the Austral Brick Company bought out the Bedford Brick Works, which operated on the same site until 1970.

Meanwhile, in 1948, the deep clay brick-pits were transformed into a municipal waste depot and household rubbish was dumped into the pits until 1976.

When the tips were closed they were sealed with a layer of soil and building rubble, in order to eventually establish Sydney Park.

Mitchell Road Landmarks

7-9 Mitchell Road – This heritage conversion block once belonged to a NSW Mission and Church Hall Group. The two-story church is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture.

Fratelli Fresh – The restaurant on 52 Mitchell Road used the bones of the Buckland Hotel for its establishment. The pub-like atmosphere is still in place with casual dining options, indoor and out.

Mitchell + Fountain – For many years 76 Mitchell Road was the home of Mitchell Road Antiques. Now the warehouse has been converted into residential and commercial blocks. The units have retained their historical charm with original brickwork, exposed beams and raw, unfinished surfaces.

Victorian Terrace Housing – 91-95 Mitchell Road are Victorian single-story terraces used to house the factory workers living in the area at the beginning of the 20th century.

Erskineville Oval – Erskineville Oval is at 149 Mitchell Road, Erskineville. It was proclaimed as Macdonaldtown Park in 1892, and changed its name to Erskineville Park when the name of the municipality changed. The park contained a sports ground for cricket and football and was the home for the Newtown rugby league from 1913 to 1954. The land was taken over for a housing scheme in 1937 and the sports oval was reconstructed. In 2006 it received a major overhaul so that it could be used for the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league club.

Park Sydney – 149-163 Mitchell Road was a former industrial estate. Currently, it’s transitioning into a residential complex, with 1.5 Hectares of open space at its epicentre. There will be daycare, retail and playgrounds on-site, with the developers hoping to build an instant community.

The Parkview Hotel – The Parkview Hotel was opened in 1898 to be Sydney’s answer to an English tavern. The pub’s first host was charged with adulterating his rum and whiskey and often drew in gangs who fought battles on the streets of inner-Sydney. Today the pub is restored and far more civilised. It’s found on 178-180 Mitchell Road, overlooking Erskineville Oval.

Copper Mill – 338-356 Mitchell Road was once a printing press and was rumoured to have been the headquarters of an illegal drug ring. Now it’s a great place for breakfast and coffee, their signature drink is a coconut hot chocolate.

Trams - The area became so inundated with people that better transport became necessary. In 1902, a tram line going through Mitchell Rd was established. It ran until 1959.