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THE HISTORY OF BALMAIN -
From the 1830s until the 1850s Balmain developed as a suburb.
The reliance on steamers, ferries and coastal vessels for both
travel and trade resulted in the establishment of shipyards
along the harbour foreshores.
Shipyards brought workers, who wished to live close to their
place of work. As the population increased so did the demand
for services - houses, shops, churches, schools, police, a hospital
and local government. By the 1880s Balmain claimed to be the
leading social suburb in Sydney. Numerous clubs were formed
including rowing, swimming, bowling and cricket. Institutes
such as the Balmain Literary Institute, the Balmain Working
Men's Institute and Balmain School of Arts were also established.
prosperity and security of Balmain continued to attract industry
to the peninsula. However, by the late 1880s it was apparent
that the suburb was overcrowded and badly organised. Factories
were opened next door to houses and schools, streets had been
created in the most inappropriate places and the suburb went
into a decline. By the early 20th century the industrial activity
had dropped, the old population was moving out of the suburb
and a younger, poorer population was moving into the area. Balmain's
affluent character was changing: by 1933, 38.1 per cent of Balmain
workers were unemployed (the NSW average was 18.4 per cent).
1800 William Balmain, Principal Surgeon of
NSW (and First Fleet surgeon) received a grant of 550 acres
from the Governor of NSW for services rendered. Today the area
is called Balmain.
John Gilchrist purchased the 550 acres from William Balmain
for five shillings. It appears that William Balmain sold the
land as payment of a debt he owed John Gilchrist.
Birchgrove House, overlooking Snails Bay, was built by John
Birch. It is believed to be the first house on the peninsula.
Waterview, the second house on the peninsula was built by this
date. The builder is unknown, but it was occupied by Nicol Drysdale
Stenhouse at one stage.
John Gilchrist began to subdivide the 550 acres. He extended
the 'Balmain Road', which branched off the Parramatta Road at
Petersham, to the end of the peninsula. Today it is Darling
Street. The subdivisions were initially sold for £56 an
acre; as sales progressed the cost per acre increased. John
Gilchrist made a profit of over £70 000.
of those who purchased the land were sailors and shipbuilders.
Cockatoo Island established as a penal settlement.
First church built was the Presbyterian Church in Darling Street.
Henry Perdriau established a steam ferry service to the City
of Sydney. The Balmain Ferry Fleet continued operating until
1882 when it was sold to the Balmain Steam Ferry Co.
First post office opened in the local general store. Mail was
carried by boat to and from Sydney.
Foundation stone to St Augustine's Church laid.
Inaugural Balmain Regatta, an annual social and sporting event
that continued until 1914.
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and Thomas Rowntree built the first dry
dock in Sydney Harbour. It was known as the Waterview Bay Dry
Dock and was the largest in Australia until 1890.
The Watch House, the first police station and lock up was built.
The original was designed by Edmund Blacket and completed by
Balmain School of Arts was established and operated in various
places until 1863 when a building was specially designed by
Booth, shipbuilder, rented sawmills at Johnstons Bay. He eventually
purchased these sawmills which were named Booths Balmain Sawmill
and were the largest in NSW.
of Sydney's historical & unique suburbs with a story to
Petition signed by residents requesting that the Borough of
Balmain be incorporated.
Borough of Balmain was incorporated and became a municipality,
holding its first meeting in Captain Rowntree's shop on 3 April
1860. The first temporary offices were in rented rooms in Adolphus
Street and then later in St Mary's Church, Balmain. The first
chairman was Ralph Mansfield in 1860. The first mayor was John
Booth in 1867. The mayors were leading local businessmen and
industrialists of the day. Others included Henry Perdriau, Thomas
Stephenson Rowntree, Joseph Mullens and George Elliott.
school opened in temporary premises with 138 pupils. It was
known as the Balmain National School.
volunteer Balmain Rifles was formed to resist French colonial
First letterbox on corner of Darling and Nicholson Streets.
Site located for Balmain National School. The building was completed
The Working Men's Institute was established.
Elliot Brothers Manufacturing Chemists & Druggists built
a factory, Balmain Chemical Works, on the foreshore of Iron
Balmain National School became a public school.
First newspaper in Balmain called the Balmain Reporter.
First burial in the Balmain Cemetery. The cemetery was located
in Norton Street, Leichhardt.
Cockatoo Island ceased functioning as a penal settlement. An
industrial school for girls was established on the island and
called 'Biloela', an Aboriginal word for cockatoo.
Government Savings Banks of NSW opened an agency in the local
post office. The bank was later known as the Commonwealth Bank.
Gas mains extended to Balmain.
The Bank of NSW opened its first branch on the corner of Darling
Street and Curtis Road.
Volunteer Company of Firefighters was formed.
New Balmain school building completed beside present day Gladstone
Park. The boys remained in the old building and the new building
became the girls and infants department. The school became known
as the Pigeon Ground School.
Balmain Bowling Club was established.
Balmain Council Chambers were built. Designed by James McDonald.
National School became known as Balmain Superior Public School.
Shark-proof swimming pool was built at White Horse Point.
Balmain Swimming Club was formed.
Balmain Cottage Hospital was opened with four beds for the treatment
of male patients.
Combined police court and post office built. Designed by James
was described as a working man's suburb.
'Alderley House' in Booth Street was purchased for use as a
hospital, as the Cottage Hospital was too small. This hospital
became known as the Balmain and District Hospital.
Victoria Jubilee Floating Dock was built at John Booth's sawmill
to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
Brothers opened their first school in Thames Street with 150
Balmain Town Hall built. Designed by Edward H. Buchanan.
Balmain Telephone Exchange opened.
The Balmain workers founded the Labor Electoral League at a
meeting in the Unity Hall. The League was later called the Political
Labor League and then became the Australian Labor Party.
First tram services from the city to Darling Street, Balmain.
Tramline extended to Gladstone Park.
telephone was installed at the Balmain Post Office for public
use. A fee was charged.
Permanent station was built in Darling Street for the Volunteer
Company of Firefighters.
William Hesketh Lever purchased a site on which to build his
factory in order to produce soap and coconut oil. Home of Sunlight
Harbour Collieries Ltd was formed to mine the Bulli Coal Seam.
Land on the corner of Birchgrove Road and Water Street, near
Iron Cove, was purchased. The two shafts 'Birthday' and 'Jubilee'
were sunken in 1897.
Permanent firefighters replaced the Volunteer Company.
First load of coal brought up from the
The tramline was extended to the Darling Street wharf.
Glebe Island became part of the municipality (933 acres).
The Balmain Rugby League Football Club held its inaugural meeting
in Balmain Town Hall. The colours of striped black and gold
were adopted. The pullover became known as 'tiger stripes',
hence the nickname 'Tigers'. Birchgrove Oval became the club's
Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Ltd was established
to supply electricity to Balmain. Electric street lighting was
installed and public buildings also received lighting.
destructor built to replace the tip in Elkington Park.
The last burial in Balmain Cemetery in May.
Commonwealth Government acquired Cockatoo Island as a defence
installation - ship repair and ship building continued.
Reservoir built under Gladstone Park.
Boys Department at Balmain Public School left the old building
and moved into the Girls Department.
First motor buses to Balmain.
Council requested that all verandah posts on shops in the main
thoroughfares be removed and replaced with cantilevered awnings.
Main streets were resurfaced in asphalt and cement concrete.
The Balmain Coal Mine was shut down.
The Natural Gas and Oil Exploration Ltd tapped into the gas
reserves in the Balmain Coal Mine and extracted gas supplies.
Resumed operation in 1942-45 to extract gas.
The Old Balmain (Leichhardt) Cemetery Act 1941, abolished the
Balmain Cemetery. The Cemetery was converted into a park known
as the Pioneer's Memorial Park.
Balmain ceased being a municipality and was amalgamated with
10 December 1948, the Balmain Council held its farewell ball,
the proceeds of which went to the 'Miss Australia Quest' and
The Red Cross Society.
The last mayor was Richard M. O'Connor.
Scheme Report stated that more than half the houses in Balmain
Migrant population began to move into the area.
Morts Dock closed.
Decrease in industry in Balmain.
Balmain Association formed.
history of Balmain was taken from the Local History Files at
Leichhardt Library and the Sydney
Inner West Virtual Library
BALMAIN LODGE -
Darling St, BALMAIN, NSW 2041