Mortlake in the 1890s


Mortlake was originally 30 hectares of land granted to John Miller, John Robertson and Benjamin Butcher in July 1795. This land was subsequently acquired by John Ward and then by his adopted heir, Alexander MacDonald. The area was originally called Bottle Point, the name used to designate the point at the head of the peninsula.

In 1837 the name Mortlake Point was in use, but this had changed by 1857 when it had become Bachelors Point and by 1890 was known as either Bachelors or Green Point. Today it has resumed its name of Mortlake Point and the suburb is known as Mortlake.

In 1884, the Australian Gas Light Company purchased 32 hectares of land at Mortlake and gas was produced there in 1886. By 1890, Mortlake was the largest and most densely populated area in the municipality.
Here is how one commentator saw Mortlake.

Around these works a township has grown up within the past four years. There are Mr Sturt’s hotel, several large stores, an eating-house with the sign ‘all meals 6d’ in large letters; the Concord Working Men’s Club, … an Anglican and a Congregational church, a large number of working men’s cottages, and other evidences of progress and civilization.

There are the Village of Concord, the Village of Longbottom, the Village of Beaconsfield, and several other smaller clusters of houses in various parts of the municipality, but by far the largest is that of Mortlake.

The remainder of the municipality consists of large paddocks, fine residences with gardens and extensive grounds and waste land (sic), much of which is covered with a healthy growth of eucalyptus, wattles and other trees.

Round Hen and Chicken Bay, at the head of Major’s Bay, and along the course of Powell’s Creek, there are extensive flats covered with mangrove, and more or less swampy, but the greater part of the district is high ground, with rich soil, and many beautiful and picturesque drives.

Soon after the gasworks were opened, the municipal council made an arrangement whereby the Gas Company supplied tarred metal, and the council formed and made a roadway from the works to the Parramatta Road. Since then, other roads have been made by the council in a similar way, and these are the best and cleanest roads to be found in the metropolitan districts, except those roads which are wood paved. The asphalting is, however, only laid down in the centre, and the sides are still in the most primitive condition. The council has also laid down strips of asphalting about 2 ft [0.6 m] wide along the footpaths, so that pedestrians may go from one end of the extensive municipality to the other without dirtying their boots.

Sheena Coupe

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