Rhodes history

Rhodes railway station 1909
Rhodes railway station 1909

Prior to the arrival of the British in 1788, the Rhodes peninsula was part of the traditional lands of the Wangal Clan, one of 29 tribes of the Eora nation. The Wangal are believed to have inhabited the area for at least 15,000 years.

In 1794 the first land grants on the Rhodes peninsula were made to John Bray, Frederick Meredith and Simon Donally. This set the pattern for much of the nineteenth century with the peninsula essentially being divided between these three estates.

John Bray and his wife Mary settled on the land and by 1800 the first stage of their home Braygrove had been built. This was the first house on the Rhodes peninsula and in the Concord area. It was later extensively extended and remodelled by their descendants Thomas and Alfred Bray. The property remained in the Bray family until 1914 when it was purchased by Tulloch’s Phoenix Ironworks.

In 1819 Thomas Walker (1791-1861) purchased the land at Rhodes from Meredith and following his marriage to Anna Elizabeth Blaxland in 1823 built Rhodes House. The house was named after Rhodes Hall, his mother’s ancestral home near Leeds in Britain and, in turn, gave its name to the peninsula. The estate remained in the Walker family until 1913 although sections of the estate were subdivided in 1895 and 1910. In 1918 the house was demolished to make way for the John Darling & Son flour mill.

In the 1840s George Richard Uhr, Sheriff of NSW purchased the land granted to Simon Donally and built Llewellyn House. Uhrs Point is named after him.

In 1886 the Northern Rail line between Strathfield and Hornsby was opened with a railway station at Rhodes. This provided a necessary transport link which gave impetus to industrial development along the rail line.

The landscape of Rhodes was dominated throughout much of the twentieth century by increasing industrialisation. In the early 1900s the NSW State Sawmill was established at Rhodes. This was later purchased by H. McKenzie, timber merchants and joiners who continued on the site until 1969.

G. & C. Hoskins established a pipeworks on the western side of the railway at Rhodes in 1911. CSR Chemicals Ltd purchased the site from Hoskins in 1943 and produced acetic anhydride and cellulose acetate developed in response to war needs.

Tulloch’s Phoenix Ironworks was established in 1914, between the railway and Concord Road. Initially Tulloch’s manufactured a wide range of engineered goods including railway bridges, viaducts, locomotives and rolling stock. The company also produced a range of more modest foundry goods such as wrought iron tubes and garden tools. During World War II various industries along the Parramatta River were diverted to war time production. Tulloch’s and part of the Phillip’s site became the Commonwealth Shipbuilding Yard No. 4.

For several years from 1974, Philips Industries, manufactured Malvern Star and Speedwell bicycles across the road from the Tulloch’s site, on the eastern side of Concord Road. Another engineering manufacturer, Rider and Bell Pty Ltd, started operations in Rhodes in 1920 and produced a range of automotive components, fishing and gardening equipment. It was notable as Australia’s only producer of brass firemen’s helmets.

The silos of Allied Feed Mills Pty Ltd which dominated Rhodes Point were located on the earlier site of John Darling’s flour mill established in 1919. Allied Mills, with its subsidiary, Allied Feeds, took over the flour mill in 1963. Further down the street, Timbrol Limited, a timber preservative manufacturer, was established in 1928. In 1957 Timbrol merged with the giant US Union Carbide organisation to form Union Carbide Australia Limited. Union Carbide became a major producer of chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, as well as extruded polyethylene film at Rhodes.

Lewis Berger & Sons (Australia) Pty Ltd was a major industry which began production in Alfred Street Rhodes in 1917. Production included white lead, linseed oil and paint. Berger’s supplied the 272, 762 litres of paint required for the Sydney Harbour Bridge which opened in 1932.

Industry dominated the Rhodes landscape up until the 1980s when changing industrial needs led to industries moving away from the Peninsula. The large industrial sites were identified as prime locations for residential development. Several sites required remediation to remove contaminants to make them acceptable for residential development. In 2004 the Rhodes Waterside Shopping Centre was completed and in 2009 the Rhodes West Master Plan was released.

Page last updated on: 02/04/14

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