The Hidden Secrets Of St Peters

March 8th, 2024 - by Brad Gillespie

Many of us pass through St Peters, even those of us who don’t live there.

Adjoining Alexandria, Mascot, Tempe, Sydenham, Marrickville and Newtown, it’s split in half by the Princes Highway, one of the inner west’s main arterial routes.

Those who take the time to stop and enjoy the suburb will be rewarded with some great historic buildings. Dig a little deeper and you’ll also find some fascinating stories about the suburb’s importance to the inner west and the city as a whole.

With that in mind, we explore 10 things that make St Peters a fascinating small suburb.

1. Aboriginal people used the wetlands in the St Peters area as a food source.

According to the Dictionary of Sydney, there’s a hidden waterway under the concrete footpaths of St Peters. Gumbramorra Creek connected the Cooks River with the Gumbramorra Swamp. You can still see evidence of it in the stormwater drain beside Tempe Station.

“The Gadigal people tapped into this thriving wetland as a rich source of wildlife, vegetation and shellfish, but early European residents hated it,” the Dictionary says.

2. The first land grants started to change the area.

After colonisation, the first person to receive a land grant in the area was Provost-Marshal Thomas Smyth, who arrived as a sailor on the First Fleet and became a storekeeper.

In 1799 he was granted 470 acres (1.9 km2) stretching from the Cooks River to present-day Campbell Street. When he died suddenly in 1804, the land was acquired by a wealthy merchant, Robert Campbell. Campbell sold his property in 1830 but also reserved land for the church.

3. The church pre-dates the suburb and gave St Peters its name.

St Peters takes its name from St Peters Anglican Church. The third oldest Anglican church in the city, it was the first to be built with non-convict labour.
The church was consecrated in 1838, having been designed by Thomas Bird, with later alterations in 1875 by Edmund Blacket (who designed the iconic sandstone University of Sydney building and St Andrews Cathedral).

4. St Peters was originally a separate municipality.

From 1871 to 1948, St Peters was a separate municipality. It then became part of the Municipality of Marrickville. It’s now inside the Inner West Council area. Today, the St Peters Town Hall on Unwins Bridge Road houses a branch of the Inner West Library and a small community centre.

5. St Peters railway station opened on 15 October 1884.

When it opened, St Peters Station was one of the larger stations on the Illawarra line to Hurstville, reflecting the area’s importance to both residents and local industry. Today, the station serves trains on the T3 Bankstown Line.

6. It was once a hive of industry.

From the 1870s until after the Second World War, St Peters was the site of brickworks. Over the years, these expanded to take up most of the land east of the Princes Highway. As Sydney grew, these brickworks created bricks used to build houses, shops and other buildings in the surrounding suburbs.
When the brickmaking stopped, the clay pits they drew from operated as a rubbish tip. After the tip closed in the 1980s, the land bordering Alexandria was turned into Sydney Park, while the land further south was used for industrial purposes. Today, only a small portion of industry remains in St Peters.

7. St Peters is famous for a significant paleontology find.

In 1910, the full skeleton of a Paracyclotosaurus davidi, a prehistoric amphibian a little like a salamander, was discovered by quarry workers in the brickworks. It was named after Sir Edgeworth David, a geologist and Antarctic explorer, who arranged for it to be transferred to the British Museum (Natural History).

8. St Peters hosts a pivotal transport interchange.

Today, the St Peters interchange sits on the site of the old brickworks and has become the well-known “spaghetti junction” for the Westconnex project. More than just a motorway interchange, it’s also meant to offer a breathing space for the suburb with a yet-to-be-completed public park that will include over 650,000 plants, shrubs and trees.

9. One of St Peters’ pubs served as the inspiration for a Slim Dusty song.

The Town and Country hotel in St Peters was immortalised in the Slim Dusty recording of the song, "Duncan" and features in the music video. But Slim Dusty didn’t write the lyrics or music to his second most famous song.

Instead, it was created by Pat Alexander, who sold life insurance and had taken a prospective customer, Duncan Urquhart, to the Town and Country Hotel. He didn’t end up making a sale, and he realised Duncan simply enjoyed having a drink with him, resulting in the famous lyrics:

We drink at the Town and Country
Where the atmosphere is great
I love to have a beer with Duncan
'Cause Duncan's me mate, yeah

10. St Peters is small.

According to the last Census, St Peters was home to just 3,629 residents living in 1,717 dwellings. If you want to own a freestanding house in St Peters, be prepared for some competition, as there are only 335 of them (or 22% of dwellings). Meanwhile, 38% of dwellings are semi-detached, row or terrace houses, and 39% are apartments. According to data, the median house price is $1,651,000 and has grown 10% over the past year. Apartment prices have remained relatively stable with a median of $925,000 and strong rental yields of 4.3%.

If you’re interested in making St Peters your home, contact us today.

Photo credit: Wikipedia