Introduction: This is the beginning of an article prepared by the City of Canada Bay Heritage Society to record the changing of what was once a workingman’s suburb with an abundance of industries of all types offering employment to people from all walks of life, into a more modern and gentrified suburb. The article will be continued each month. Much of this information has been taken from Concord – A Centenary History by Sheena Coupe (1983).
The Municipality of Concord is a well-defined area bounded on one side by a major natural thoroughfare – the river – and virtually contained on two more sides by important man-made thoroughfares – Parramatta Road and the northern railway. The history and development of Concord are closely linked with these three arteries: the river, the road and the railway. Concord’s Aborigines were dependent upon the river and it was by river that the district was first discovered by European settlers. European settlement in Concord began because of the proximity of Parramatta Road and the early growth of the southern part of the municipality was tied to that great commercial highway. Industry was attracted to Concord, firstly because of the availability of cheap riverside land and, secondly, by the advantages attendant upon the coming of the railway in the 1880s. The railway, too, stimulated residential development at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The development of Cabarita
The development of Cabarita and Mortlake has been largely determined by the close proximity of these districts to the Parramatta River. Cabarita Point and the adjacent Correys Gardens were developed as recreation areas because of their water frontage. At a time when road transport was limited, a water frontage made for greater accessibility and the trip along the Parramatta River from the city was a further attraction. Later, Mortlake owed its growth to the coming of industry to the area. This began in the 1880s when the Australian Gas Light Company established a major works there. What had been a quiet rural district was quickly transformed, first with an influx of people and, soon after, with the associated services of transport, schools, shops and churches.
Two major factors contributed to Concord’s recovery from the Depression. The municipality continued to attract industry and there was even some expansion during the late 1920s and 1930s. This provided work for many of the municipality’s residents. Secondly, because there was still some land available within easy reach of transport facilities, the district remained reasonably attractive to speculative builders even during the darkest days of the early 1930s. Thus, when recovery began, Concord was in a good position to attract new home building. This, in turn, provided work and stimulated local businesses.
Today, about 232 hectares , or twenty per cent , of the Municipality of Concord is zoned for industrial purposes. Significant industries came to Concord towards the end of the nineteenth century, as companies were attracted by the ease of river transport, the convenient location and the relatively cheap land. Industry had another fillip after each of the two world wars when local manufacturing boomed in response to continuing shortages of overseas products. As a result , industry is very much a part of the Concord landscape and an important source of employment to residents and non-residents alike.
Earning a living in the early years
Concord’s first industries were rural: wheat and fruit growing, as well as sheep, cattle and pig raising. With these activities came a range of associated industries and by the mid-nineteenth century shopkeepers, bakers, blacksmiths and others were also living in Concord. Both the Parramatta River and Parramatta Road provided employment, for boat owners and oarsmen, cart drivers and ostlers. An important pioneer industry was timber felling, which began in the earliest years of the Longbottom Stockade. It was actively pursued by the Canadian exiles and continued right through until the 1920s when suburban development removed most of the remaining timber. A timber mill was set up in the Concord Golf Links in 1906 when Walker ‘s Bush was being cleared to make a new course. Timber getting was also a side result of the clearing, in the 1920s and 1930s, of much of Cabarita Park when many of its original trees had died.
The most longlasting of the timber mills of Concord is that of Tanner Middleton. The firm – originally established as Walters, Middleton and Eades – established a mill in Concord before the First World War and by 1933 it was a flourishing concern. According to the jubilee history of that year: The Works cover an area of four acres, handling normally ten million feet of timber per annum. The principal activities comprise log sawing, milling, floorings, linings, weatherboards and mouldings, manufacture of doors and detail joinery. Tanner Middleton still occupies waterfront land fronting Exile Bay.
Quarrying of stone was another significant early industry. It too began when convicts in the Longbottom Stockade worked long and hard to dig out and break the stone that was used in the building and maintenance of Parramatta Road. The Canadians continued this back-breaking work. One early quarry was later transformed into the carpark of the Massey Park Golf Course.
Fishing was a common, sometimes life-sustaining, industry in Concord’s earliest years. Legally and illegally, settlers and convicts fished from boats or from the riverbank or dug oysters from the mud at low tide, just as the Aborigines of the Wangal tribe had done many thousands of years earlier.
Oyster gathering served another purpose, too, for the shells were sold to passing limeburners who took them along the river to be burnt to form mortar for Sydney’s buildings.
Dairying was carried out well into the twentieth century and many older residents of Concord can remember the times when extensive paddocks and dairies stood in a landscape now dominated by rows of suburban cottages.
‘(to be continued)