Ku-ring-gai Historical Society Inc
incorporating the
Ku-ring-gai Family History Centre

Gordon

Gordon is contained within the borders of Blackbutt and Falls Creek to the west, Cecil Street and McIntosh Street to the south, High Ridge Creek to the east, and Mona Vale Road, Highlands Avenue, and Rosedale extending to High Ridge Creek, to the north.

The name Gordon had its origin as the Gordondale Estate, the estate owned by Robert McIntosh in what is now central Gordon. McIntosh’s estate had in turn taken its name from the Parish of Gordon, in the County of Cumberland named in the Surveyor-Generalship of Sir Thomas Mitchell (1828-1855). This parish roughly corresponded with the area of the Shire of Ku-ring-gai, gazetted in 1906. The name Gordon was allocated by Mitchell to honour a superior officer and friend, Sir James Willoughby Gordon, who held the position of Quartermaster-General of the Horse Guards, London. Gordon was accepted as an official place-name when the post office changed its name from Lane Cove to Gordon in 1879.

Pacific Highway, Gordon circa 1950 Pacific Highway, Gordon, September 2007
Pacific Highway (c1950 : Sept 2007)

Early Settlers

Land in central Gordon was formally granted in 1821 to William Foster, Joseph Smith and Daniel Mathew. It is believed that Foster had occupied his 70 acres some time before 1814, and Smith had also been in the area earlier. Michael Ansell and Benjamin Clayton received grants in 1823. By 1834, Robert McIntosh had acquired 40 acres to the east of the ridge from Ansell, and by 1840, John Bean was farming to the west of the road. In the earliest parish maps, 220 acres in central Gordon is shown as Bean’s Farm.

Although early residents were indicated as living in Hunters Hill, the area soon became known as Lane Cove. What is now Gordon quickly established itself as the nucleus of settlement, and a school was established by Governor Macquarie in 1816 on a 60 acre grant later occupied by St John the Evangelist Church. Ten pounds was set aside by the Governor for the school. A Sydney Gazette notice stated that the school was for ‘the cultivation of morals, and to improve the education of children of both sexes, as also to improve the females in their domestic duties’. The school at Lane Cove was the only one in the district: by 1840 teacher William and Sarah Gunn had 17 boys and 23 girls in attendance.

By 1840 the area was notorious for smuggling, sly grog and fighting bouts. Just down the road from the churches and schools was the Green Gate public house, built in 1832 on part of William Foster’s grant, and frequented by the many timber-getters extracting timber from the forests of the upper north shore. Geary’s Gang of bushrangers was based in a cave in the dense bush and caves in the valley which bisects Gordon and East Gordon, now called Gordon Creek. In 1921, J G Edwards, writing for the Evening News stated that Geary’s Cave was then still known by that name.

The period 1840-1880 was the heyday of orchard activity, and the pioneers of early Gordon such as Robert McIntosh and John Brown consolidated their interests at this time. McIntosh’s large holdings to the east of the highway were subdivided by 1879, with Park Avenue and Mount William Street being laid down. It was in this period also that orchards and orangeries were developed by John Brown and William McIntosh and others, who were later so instrumental in founding St Johns Church.

Community Life

Postal services for Lane Cove were established in February, 1860. The office was the rear of a brick cottage, Iolanthe, on the highway, which still stands on ground occupied by Ravenswood School for Girls. The postmistress was Miss Eliza Edwards, sister of J G Edwards, and letters were delivered by the butcher, baker or any one of the residents who called into the office.

The first Ku-ring-gai churches were to be found in the Gordon area. The grant which contained Governor Macquarie's ‘Lane Cove’ school was subject to the control of the Church of England, so church services were held once a month in the schoolhouse. This practice continued until about 1854. A bushfire later destroyed the building. Wesleyan services began at the home of William Catt in Killara in 1842, when they were transferred to the home of John Johnson, opposite Fiddens Wharf Road in Killara. By 1854, services were transferred to a new church, the Lane Cove Chapel, in the grounds of what is now Ravenswood School. The chapel was also used as a school. This Wesleyan denominational school became a public school under the name of Lane Cove School in 1871.

The community was also agitating for a more prominent school building, and in 1875 a site on the corner of Park Avenue and the highway was purchased from Henry McIntosh. The school building, with teacher’s residence attached, was occupied in 1876, with James George Edwards as head teacher. This purchase was made by the colonial government, and was among the first undertaken with considerable assistance from the community. It was part of a conscious push by the government to take over denominational schools. The Lane Cove School in the grounds of Ravenswood closed down when the new school opened. In November 1885 the name of the new school was officially changed from Lane Cove to Gordon Public School.

Between 1840-1880, people and produce from Gordon destined for Sydney Town commonly used a route to Lofberg’s Wharf. This was the most northerly of the Lane Cove River wharves, and was downstream of De Burghs Bridge, below the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole was the major swimming hole for children in the Lane Cove/Gordon area for over 100 years. The route was constructed by Jonas Lofberg, who had an orchard in the West Pymble area. An old 1850 river crossing was south of the present De Burghs Bridge, winding its way through lands which until recently were classified as West Gordon. Walking tracks to the river were beyond the streets now known as Merriwa, McIntyre and Ridge Streets.

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