The small suburb of Belfield is bounded by the Cook’s River at the north and bisected at Punchbowl Rd between Strathfield and Canterbury Councils. The name ‘Belfield’ is a constructed from the names of adjoining suburbs Belmore and Enfield, however its’ origin is subject to some debate. Some believe that it came into usage after the opening of the Enfield Marshalling Yards, others state that the name Belfield originated with actions of local residents to establish a local post office. The area of Belfield, bounded by Punchbowl Rd, was originally part of Enfield Council but was absorbed into Strathfield Council in 1949.
Many would be unaware that one of the oldest European settlements in Strathfield Municipality was located in present day Belfield. Land grants commenced in 1809 with a grant of 60 acres to John Alford. In time, these smaller grants were sold and consolidated into larger estates. One of these was the 250 acre ‘Clareville’ Estate, the home Judge John Stephens [1771-1833], the first Supreme Court Judge of NSW and cousin of writers Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. ‘Clareville’ was located on the banks of the Cooks River. Stephens died at ‘Clareville’ in 1833 and this estate was acquired by Charles Elliott in 1849 and later subdivided into smaller residential allotments, establishing streets such as Water St. The street Clareville Close was derived from this source.
Belfield was originally populated by farms, dairies and market gardens. Some homes dating from the late 19th century, reflecting this history, are still in existence in Madeline Street. Homes developed as employment opportunities increased with the establishment of the Enfield Marshalling Yards in 1916. Another wave of residential development in Belfield occurred after World War II with the building of War Service and Housing Commission homes in streets such as Patricia St and Robinson St.
Belfield contains significant parks and open space. Large parks include Cooke Park, named for Thomas Cooke, the last Mayor of Enfield Council and Begnall Oval, named after Jim Begnall. Parks such as Elliott Reserve and Maria Reserve were developed on sites reserved in 1951 by NSW Government for a proposed roadway along the Cooks River travelling from Botany Bay to Chullora. The plan for the ‘Cooks River Country Road’ was eventually discontinued and the M5 motorway proceeded in its’ place. Elliot Reserve was named for the Elliott family, early landowners in Belfield and Maria Reserve, was derived from Maria St, in turn name for the wife of early landholder Edward Saunders.
Acknowledgement is given to the Canterbury & District Historical Society and Canterbury Council Library for their assistance in the research of this article.
© Cathy Jones 2004. This article is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the author.