Many houses in Strathfield have a name. Though it is commonly believed that only exclusive or wealthy homes were given names, most homes built in the Strathfield district prior to the mid-1930’s have a name.
House names preceded street numbering as a means of identifying properties, particularly for postal and delivery services. Houses were usually named by their owner, and occasionally by the architect or builder. By the 1930’s, with rapid residential development and increasing volumes of housing, most streets in Strathfield became numbered and the practice of naming houses declined.
However, in recent times there has also been a notable increase in interest in reviving and researching house names. Throughout Strathfield, many houses display their house name, particularly on plaques outside their home. It is not uncommon for real estate agents to prominently display house names in their advertising, which may add historical interest or possibly prestige to the property for sale.
Though house names were originally conferred for practical reasons, the naming of a house may indicate much about the history of previous occupants eg family origin, country of ancestry or even the name of the ship in which they arrived to Australia. Many other names are drawn from other sources such as aboriginal names, fashionable or popular names of their historical period or constructed names. Some examples of sources of names in Strathfield Local Government Area include:
Ancestry, family and place names
The name of the house can provide considerable information about the previous owner as names were often inspired by the owner’s ancestry or a name of family significance such as place of birth or a family name. Examples include:
- ‘Llandilo’, the home of Sir Philip Sydney Jones, noted physician and son of retailer David Jones, was named after his father’s birthplace in Wales. ‘Llandilo’ is now part of Trinity Grammar on The Boulevarde.
- ‘Glendenning’, 10 Florence Street, was the home of John Wise MLC (c1856-1942). Wise named this home after his mother Jane Glendenning .
- ‘Wemyss’, (Homebush Rd), built by William Affleck MLA (1836-1923) and named after his birthplace, ‘Wemyss’ in Scotland .
- ‘Edgebaston Vale’ (194 Albert Rd) was named for the famous cricket ground in England.
Many early residents were either immigrants or children of immigrants who came to Australia by ship. Many houses are named after the ship they arrived in Australia. Examples include:
Elizabeth Vickery was born on the SS Tiptree and later built the home ‘Tiptree’ . This house was demolished and subdivided for residential development in 1957 but the name lives on in the street Tiptree Avenue.
Many place names in Australia are named or inspired by aboriginal words. Translations of aboriginal words are often quite loose and spelt by as they sounded to English speakers. Despite mistakes and misspellings, the origin of these names appear to be Aboriginal. Examples include:
- ‘Lumeah’ (21 Merley Rd) built c.1924 means ‘here I rest’
- ‘Mycumbene’ (51 Abbotsford Rd) meaning ‘here we sit down’
- ‘Nangur’ (27-29 Homebush Rd), built 1901, meaning ‘shelter’
- ‘Carminya’ (25 Homebush Rd) built 1899 is an altered spelling of the word ‘Carinya’ meaning ‘peaceful home’.
Some names are made up or constructed by their owner. Examples include:
- ‘Brunyarra’ was built for flour miller John Spencer Brunton c.1886. This name is made up of part of his lastname and the aboriginal word ‘Yarra’ meaning hiding place . ‘Brunyarra’ is now part of Santa Maria Del Monte and is located on the corner of Carrington Avenue Strathfield.
- The house ‘Ismay’ in Underwood Rd, which was later subdivided creating Ismay Avenue in Homebush, was named for two of the house owner’s children, Isabelle and May.
Period and fashionable names
As Graham Gould notes in his book ‘House names of Australia’ (2000), many houses were given names which were popular or fashionable during a historical period. During the early to mid-Victorian era, house names had an air of grandeur or regality, yet still maintained personal connections to their occupant such as country of origin. An example is ‘Mount Royal’ (now Australian Catholic University), built for woolbroker and Mayor of Strathfield (1890 & 1892) John Hinchcliff. The name of the home is an obvious allusion to the grandeur of this home.
Many Federation houses used personal names such as:
- ‘Arnottholme’ (65-7 Albert Rd), the home of Arnott’s biscuit founder, William Arnott
- ‘Gwendolyne’ (13 Albyn Rd)
- ‘Virginia’ (81 Redmyre Rd), named for the US place of birth of the owner’s wife.
Federation architecture actively incorporated symbols of Australian nationalism and names of houses also reflected this interest such as:
- ‘Waratah’ (37 Homebush Rd) built 1900.
- ‘Flora’ (22 Broughton Rd) built c1896.
Post World War I was charactised by rapid suburbanisation as housing boomed in the 1920’s and house names became more descriptive of their local surroundings and the prosperity of the twenties, examples include:
- ‘Sunny Brae’ (198 Albert Rd).
‘Strathfield’ as an inspiration
The suburb of Strathfield was named after the house ‘Strathfield’, originally built as ‘Strathfieldsaye’ in 1868 built for Walter Renny, Lord Mayor of Sydney (1869-70). The name ‘Strathfieldsaye’ appears to derive from a ship carrying immigrants which made four voyages to Sydney between 1838 to 1854. The ship was reputedly named after the Duke of Wellington’s country estate ‘Strathfield Saye’.
In turn many houses, unit developments and estate subdivisions are obviously inspired by the locality name of Strathfield. There are a number of examples of houses in Strathfield currently displaying a house name eg Strathcona (Albyn Rd), Strathcourt (Albert Rd); residential subdivisions eg Strathlora and Strathlea Estates in the 1920’s; and even recent high rise apartments are marketed with names such as ‘Strathcourt’ in Beresford Rd.
Fox & Associates, ‘Strathfield Heritage Study’, 1986, Strathfield Municipal Council.
Gould, Graham. ‘House names of Australia’, 2000
Radi, Spearritt & Hinton, ‘Biographical Register of the New South Wales Parliament 1901-1970’, 1979, ANU Press
Sands Sydney Directory (published until 1932/3) Strathfield Council Rates and Valuation Lists
Written and © Cathy Jones 2009