By Cathy Jones
Churchill Avenue Strathfield is located between The Boulevarde and Homebush Road. Part of this street is located in the Strathfield Town Centre. The construction of Raw Square, in the late 1960s, had the effect of bisecting the residential area of Churchill Avenue from Strathfield CBD.
Churchill Avenue was originally known as ‘The Avenue’. The name was changed due to duplication with a street with the same name in Homebush. The name Churchill was adopted after World War II and named after British Wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
Churchill Avenue, between Elva Street and Homebush Road contains primarily Federation styled buildings. The relatively late development of this estate occurred, because the much of the land was considered unusable due to the presence of a large watercourse, created by overflow water from Powells Creek (which runs at nearby Elva Street and finishes at Strathfield Square).
Most of the houses in Churchill Avenue were built in the early 1900s. The area between Elva Street and Homebush Road was listed as a heritage conservation area in 1987 in Strathfield Council’s Local Environmental Plan.
59 Churchill Ave Strathfield is built on a 1903 subdivision that was marketed as the ‘Kings Estate’. The estate was subdivided by Robert Joshua King (d.1934) and Mary Ann Balmain (d.1943), the wife of surveyor and Town Clerk of Strathfield Council, John Hope Balmain. The Kings Estate created the western end of Churchill Avenue (then called The Avenue), Redmyre Road (part) and Homebush Road (part).
Local prolific builder John Lyon Gardiner purchased Lot 13 in March 1906. Gardiner was responsible for building many Federation styled houses during this period in streets such as Churchill Avenue, Redmyre Road and Albert Road. It is likely Gardiner built this house, named Gardenia, before selling to James Alfred Booth, a tea merchant and importer. The house was then sold to Sarah Marchett (d.1939) wife of William Matchett (1862-1932), a grazier, who retained ownership until the sale of the house in 1941 after their deaths. The Matchetts lived at Gardenia until 1913 and then rented the house. Occupants of the house included Randolph Nott (1914-1916), James Kennedy (1917-1927), William Ruston (1928-1929) and Charles Hely (1930-1932). During Kennedy’s occupancy, the house was renamed ‘Inglewood’.
William Matchett was a pastoralist and owner of Borambil station as well as other smaller stations. He was one of NSW’s wealthiest men and left an estate valued at £588 538 at his death in 1932, the height of the Great Depression. Matchett later resided at ‘Kelmswood’ 86 Redmyre Road where he died. He was the grandfather of Sonia Hopkins, later Lady McMahon, wife of Sir William McMahon, Prime Minister of Australia.
In 1941, the house was sold to James McGirr (1890-1957). McGirr served as NSW Premier and Colonial Treasurer from 1947 to 1952, and was an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1922 to 1952 resenting the Australian Labor Party. He was born in Parkes NSW and attended Sydney University and graduated with a degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. He worked as a pharmacist before entering politics. He was elected Member for Cootamundra from 1922 to 1925, Cumberland 1925-1927, Bankstown 1927-1950 and Liverpool 1950-1952. Following his resignation as NSW Premier, he served as President of the Maritime Services Board 1952-1955. McGirr became Premier in the difficult period of post-WWII reconstruction. McGirr established the new Housing Commission and the ‘Homes for the People’ program which resulted in the largest home building program in NSW to meet the needs of the growing population in NSW. McGirr also introduced the 40 hour week and long service leave in NSW.
McGirr’s funeral was held at St Martha’s Catholic Church Strathfield and he was buried in his birthplace of Parkes NSW.
After the death of McGirr, the house passed to his widow Valerie (1904-2000).
1957 ‘DEATH OF EX-PREMIER’, The Biz (Fairfield, NSW : 1928 – 1972), 30 October, p. 15. , viewed 12 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189941570
1929 ‘MR. J. A. BOOTH DEAD’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 1 April, p. 5. , viewed 10 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118779245
Rubenstein, W, The All-time Australian 200 Rich List, Allen & Unwin/BRW, 2004.
Land Title searches, NSW Land and Property Information
Society of Australian Genealogists, 2002, Rookwood Cemetery Transcriptions (electronic resource)
Sands Sydney and Suburbs Directory 1881-1933