The Homebush North Shopping Centre is located on Parramatta Road Homebush near the corner of Knight Street (formerly Rochester Street). The establishment and later decline of this commercial centre reflects the changing development and demographic patterns of the Homebush North area.
Parramatta Road is one of Sydney’s busiest roads and stretches 23 km from Broadway in Sydney City to Church Street in Parramatta, running through suburbs like Homebush and Strathfield. Overtime, shops were established along Parramatta Road, generally servicing the day to day needs of the local community. The centre at Homebush, like many shops along Parramatta Road in the Inner West, has been in decline for many years. Increased traffic along Parramatta Road, closure of the Homebush Vogue theatre (and its later uses – ice skating rink and nightclub theatre restaurant), closure of banks and industries such as Arnott’s Biscuit Factory and EMI factory, as well as competition from nearby shopping malls and large supermarkets have contributed to the decline of the Homebush shopping centre on Parramatta Road and the abandonment of many of the shops as viable businesses.
The development of this centre is tied to the expansion of transport. Important transport routes were established in Homebush such as Parramatta Road and Homebush Rail Station, which linked Sydney to Parramatta by road and rail. Homebush Rail Station was opened in 1855 and was one of Sydney’s first four stations between the City and Parramatta. Most of the early development of Homebush in late 19th century and early 20th century related to the Homebush saleyards.
In its early history, Rochester Street Homebush extended to Parramatta Road and crossed the railway tracks, linking the Rochester Street shops at Homebush South with the Parramatta Road shops at Homebush North. After the realignment and elevation of the railway tracks, the two sides of the shopping centre became separated and impeded, impeding pedestrian access.
By the 1920s with an increased residential and worker population, a shopping and commercial district on Parramatta Road developed. Most shops on Parramatta Road were owned and developed by John Henry Cross in the early 1920s. Cross was a prominent local identity. For a time, he was licencee of the Horse & Jockey Hotel and an Alderman of Homebush Council from 1924 to 1934. While serving on Homebush Council, he was elected to Manly Council in January 1932 and elected Mayor in December 1932. In 1934, he resigned from Homebush Council though he continued to own most of the shops at Homebush North until his death in 1943.
Records indicate that most of the shops built on both sides of Parramatta Road between Knight Street and Subway Lane (south side) and between Powell Street and Underwood Road (north side) were built by Cross between 1920 and 1921. Most shops were two storey with a shop on the ground floor and a residence built above the shop.
Decline of the Parramatta Road shops probably commenced with increased car ownership and vehicle use post World War II resulting in increasing traffic congestion but the opening of large shopping malls such as Burwood Westfield had significant impact on the viability of small strip shopping centres as larger centres could offer a wide variety of shops and services in one location.
Homebush Council Committee Reports 1915-1920
Homebush Council Valuation Lists 1919, 1921 (Supplementary), 1924, 1928
Jones, C ‘History of Homebush Council’
Sands Sydney and Suburban Directory for Homebush (1908-1932)
‘Mr J H Cross Dead’, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 1943.
Wise’s Post Office Directory and Sydney Trades Directory, 1936