This area has an extensive history well beyond the Longbottom Stockade that was established there.
Although there is nothing of Longbottom to be seen there now, the area still holds a lot of Concord and Sydney’s history.
“Longbottom” is a traditional English place name derived from the old word “bottom”, once used in the north of England to describe low-lying, swampy alluvial ground.
Part of the land on which it stood was granted to Lt. William Lawson (of Blue Mountains fame). Later the land was bought by D’Arcy Wentworth, who returned it to the government in 1814 in exchange for 486 hectares of grazing land at Bringelly.
This area was originally selected by Governor Phillip, soon after the establishment of the Government Farm at Rose Hill, around the year 1792, as a halfway station between Sydney and Parramatta.
In 1819 an agricultural establishment, similar to that at Grose Farm was formed there. It comprised nearly 700 acres and contained some valuable timber, which was cut and sawn on the spot and conveyed to Sydney in boats along the Parramatta River, where part of the farm of Longbottom was situated. As the land was gradually cleared of wood the area of cultivation was extended.
In about 1838 part of the Longbottom Farm was sold off and the area reduced to about 280 acres.
Convict road gangs were still housed in the original buildings and a small detachment of mounted police was stationed there to deal with local problems such as the apprehension of escaped prisoners and bushrangers. Part served the police as a centre for horse training and agistment.
At first, a log stockade was erected, and there the prisoners were detained for a night on their 24-kilometre trek from Sydney to Parramatta, or vice-versa. As a rule, they were handcuffed together while on the road. But the more desperate characters (bushrangers, etc.) also wore leg irons, so that their march was a slow one, and the rest at Longbottom Stockade was, doubtless, a welcome one.
It was strategically established adjoining what was simply called “The Path” (now Parramatta Road), and was chosen because of the availability of fresh water and its “halfway” location.
Later a more substantial lock-up was erected. It consisted of three cottages, built on sandstone foundations, with brick walls eighteen inches thick.
An article in the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal in 1922 states:
The mounted police were located at what was called the Stockade, on what is now St Luke’s Park (Concord). It was, for many years, known as the police paddocks.
There were two mounted police. They patrolled the Parramatta Road from Burwood halfway to Parramatta and also halfway to Sydney at night. They wore swords, which could be heard to clank against their stirrups.
At the entrance to the police paddocks stood what was called the roundhouse, a very old and dilapidated structure, commonly reported to be haunted. It had iron-barred window openings. No doubt convict prisoners were lodged in the building.
About the centre of the paddocks ran a deep-harrow stream, bordered on each side by tall swamp oaks (casuarina), which gave out a sighing sound when there was a breeze. Behind the paddocks, towards the bay, was a thick bush of casuarina, a haunt for butcher birds and curlews. The high tide, in those years, reached the Parramatta Road along the stream mentioned.
By 1840 the government was looking to sell or lease it. But in that year it took on a new role as the detention centre for a group of French Canadian political exiles and so acquired a unique place in Australia’s history.
The rebellion of the French Canadians was the result of a complex web of political, social and economic grievances spanning more than a single generation.
Outright rebellion broke out in 1837 and culminated in a last desperate stand in 1838, where their efforts proved no match for the British forces. The captured rebels endured a series of trials. Twenty-nine men were executed. However, public opinion stopped any further executions and the prisoners were placed aboard the Buffalo, where they spent the next 5 months while the ship made its voyage to Australia.
In February 1840 ninety-one English-speaking rebels were disembarked at Hobart Town, while fifty-eight French-speaking Canadians continued on board for a further 10 days until they reached Port Jackson.
The Governor, Sir George Gipps, was uncertain whether they should remain in New South Wales or be sent on to Norfolk Island.
However, as most of them were Catholics, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Australia, Jr. John Bede Polding, interceded with the government on their behalf and Gipps agreed to allow them to stay in Sydney and they were transferred to Longbottom.
Because of its relative isolation, it seemed to be a suitable place in which to incarcerate the rebels and keep them out of the public eye during their enforced stay . . .
. . . A ramshackle village had grown up around the stockade and formal plans for the Village of Longbottom were drawn up. In 1843, after the Canadian exiles had moved out, the land was subdivided into building blocks and the Village of Longbottom was laid out in an area close to the Parramatta Road. The area included the site of St Luke’s Park, Cintra Park and part of the Canada Bay reclamation area westward to Concord Road. It stretched north from Parramatta Road to just beyond Crane Street.
During its 50 years of existence, the Stockade and government-owned land around it served a variety of functions – overnight stopping point, local prison, police barracks, government farm and timber mill, agistment land for police horses and government oxen, and detention centre for the 58 French Canadian exiles.
In 1886 a large area of just over 66 acres (28 hectares) was dedicated as a recreation area, to be known as St. Luke’s Park. A large portion was swamp land – about 25 acres having been reclaimed by garbage deposits, and portions laid out for sports of all descriptions, such as cricket, football, vigoro, hockey and a trotting track. There were three turf and eight concrete wickets, a number of which were on the reclaimed ground.
Western Suburbs Rugby Union Football Club was the lessee of the Concord Oval (St Luke’s Park) from 1904, with the exception of a few years when war and other circumstances broke the continuity.
In 1943 the name was changed to Waratah Park when it became the home ground of Rugby Union in Sydney.
The old wooden grandstands were demolished in 1985 to turn it into a world-class stadium which, in 1987, hosted six matches in the 1987 Rugby World Cup. It later became the home ground of West Harbour RFC.
In 2010 plans were announced to expand and rejuvenate Concord Oval and in 2023 it re-opened as Concord Oval Community & Sports Precinct.
Its facilities include: green open spaces; indoor recreation centre with gym, multipurpose sports courts and group fitness rooms; rooms for community programmes, activities and functions; match day facilities for local sports clubs; and a Centre of Excellence for the Wests Tigers.
Unfortunately, Ian Burnett our speaker listed for October, has had to cancel his talk but our Local Studies Librarian, John Johnson has stepped in to take his place.
John will be talking on The Longbottom Stockade: History Revisited at the City of Canada Bay Museum at 2:00 pm on Saturday, 7th October. Entry is free but donations are always welcome. Everyone is welcome to attend.