By Cathy Jones.
June 2015 marks the 130th anniversary of the establishment of Strathfield Council in 1985.
In the 1880s residents of the Strathfield, Strathfield South and Homebush areas petitioned the State Government demanding the right to form their own local government in order to manage and control their local area. After many petitions from residents, approval was granted to establish local government by the NSW Governor in 1885. In the 1891 Census, the population of the current Strathfield Council area was 2290 residents. In 2015, the population is now an estimated 40,000 residents and it is expected by 2031, the population will total 80,000 residents.
When Strathfield Council was first established on 2 June 1885, it included the areas of Redmyre (now Strathfield), Homebush and Druitt Town (now Strathfield South). By 1892, the area of Homebush West was added. In the 1940s the west ward of Enfield Council and Homebush Council was added to the Council area. Today’s Strathfield Council is 14.1km² in size and includes the suburbs of Strathfield, Strathfield South, Homebush, Homebush West, Chullora and Greenacre.
In 1885, the name ‘Strathfield’ was adopted for the new Council. The name derived from house ‘Strathfield’ which was owned by jeweller John Hardy of city firm ‘Hardy Bros Jewellers’. This firm is still in operation today.
The first Council comprised six Aldermen including stockbroker George Thompson, grandson of retailer David Jones. Thompson’s home ‘Llanelly’ (now ‘Steephurst’ 20-22 Albyn Road Strathfield) was used for meetings of Council until the building in 1887 of the current Council Chambers at 65 Homebush Road Strathfield. The first Mayor of Strathfield was George Hardie. The Strathfield Council Chambers were designed by architect John Sulman, who the Sulman Art Prize is named for. This building has been continuously occupied by Strathfield Council since 1887.
Over its 130 years, the Council of Strathfield has aimed to create and support high quality and desirable areas for people to live, work, study and visit, with good quality housing, plentiful parks and open space, tree lined streets supported by well maintained streets and community facilities.
In the 1880s, Council adopted the ‘Boulevarding’ program which established the design and unique ‘look’ of Strathfield. The design is based on a miniature version of 19th Century French influence by George Haussman involving wide, straight, tree lined streets, with wide footpaths for afternoon strolls. One of Council’s objectives was to create a pedestrian suburb with wide and safe footpaths connected to civic buildings, monuments or focal points such as parks.
The ‘Boulevarding’ program featured wide streets (minimum 66 feet which was significantly wider than the inner city standards of day), footpaths on both sides of the road (to encourage pedestrian access), street trees and kerbs and guttering. Strathfield’s streets were initially lit by gas lighting, which was later replaced by electricity. Strathfield was one of the first areas of Sydney to establish a water and sewerage system, which was completed in 1912.
Strathfield Council was the first Council in NSW to utilise the new planning powers by declaring most of the Strathfield area a residential district in April 1920. This proclamation, which continued until 1969, prohibited the building of shops, theatres, industry etc except in restricted areas. The Council also enforced land subdivision standards, which were generally a minimum 50 feet street frontage on a large land allotment. In comparison, the average Sydney land subdivision was 40 feet frontages or less. Community concerns regarding potential for house fires and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza, scarlet fever etc were addressed by Council’s imposition of health and building standards such as prohibition of the building of timber structures from 1920, increased separation between buildings eg buffer space at side and rear to promote healthy living standards and rigorous programs of building and health inspections.
The earliest homes in Strathfield date back to the 1870’s. Strathfield features a wide range of heritage property including Victorian, Federation, Interwar and Post War architecture. Many of Strathfield’s finest homes are listed as heritage items and conservation areas on Council’s Local Environmental Plan. These listings are designed to conserve important heritage items for current and future generations.
Strathfield Park was the first park in Strathfield and was dedicated in 1914. From this early acquisition, Council has subsequently acquired 123 hectares of parks and open space, which is about 9% of the total land area of Strathfield. Open space is dedicated to parks, golf courses, sportsgrounds and natural areas such as Mason Park Wetlands. To maintain Strathfield’s parks, Council established a Gardener’s Department in 1911 to ensure the natural environment of Strathfield is well maintained and supported.
Strathfield was one of the first Councils to establish a public library service in the 1940’s. The Council boasts two libraries which have over 200,000 visitors each year. Over the 70 years since the service was established, the library has lent thousands of books, DVDs, magazines and provided internet and WIFI access to many residents, students and visitors.
The first railway station in the Strathfield area was Homebush in 1855, followed by Strathfield Station in 1877 [then called Redmyre] and then Flemington in 1884. The Strathfield area is also serviced by an extensive road network including the M4 Motorway, Parramatta Road and Liverpool Road (built 1812-2814). Council manages the regional and local road network and constantly lobbies the State Government for improvements to Strathfield’s transport networks, including advocating for an upgraded transport interchange at the Strathfield Town Centre.
The Strathfield Council area today is home of over 40,000 residents. Though known for its residential areas and schools, it also has vibrant business centres and communities that generate over $3 billion annually in Gross Regional Product (GRP) as well as the most connected transport systems in Sydney.
In its 130th year, Council gives thanks to the many men and women who have served as Mayor or as Aldermen (now Councillors), the Council staff, community volunteers, local businesses and many thousands of residents over time who have made Strathfield their home and contributed to the development of one of the best and desirable areas of Sydney. Happy Anniversary, Strathfield Council.