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

Killara

Killara, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘permanent’, ‘always there’, was the name given by James George Edwards to the suburb that developed around the railway station opened in 1899, between Lindfield and Gordon.  Killara, as the name of a suburb was a creation of the 20th century.  Fourteen kilometres from Sydney, 365 feet (110 metres) above sea level and with a name that symbolises a feeling of permanence, Killara is often described as ‘a lush haven’, ‘a quiet retreat’, an area of ‘solid respectability’.  It stretches between the Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour; its northern boundary used to run from Essex Street across the Highway and along Greengate Road (though this has since been extended north by several streets on the eastern side of the artery), and its southern boundaries are Fiddens Wharf Road and Treatts Road.

We have to thank Edwards for Killara.  For it was he who had the tenacity, the courage and the financial means to create a garden suburb, with large allotments, little commercial development and no industrial sites at all.  He is justifiably called the Father of Killara.  Despite inevitable changes in the 20th century, Killara retains its air of respectability and homeliness.


Locksley Street (c1920 : Sept 2007)

Early Settlers

The first Europeans to inhabit this area were convict timber cutters and their overseers, who set up camp around 1805, on the banks of the Lane Cove River, near the foot of the present Fiddens Wharf Road.  There they constructed sawpits, huts, a well (filled in 1914) and a wharf.  The timber was dragged by hand, along tracks known variously as the Government Road (now Beaumont Road) and Wharf Road, across the flats now known as the Redbank Oval, and down to the wharf.  At its height, the population of the camp consisted of three overseers, eleven sawyers, four fellers, seven shingle-splitters, eight carriage-drivers, four stockmen, one boatman, two smiths, one wheelwright, five labourers and two watchmen.  The site was disbanded about 1819.  The hardships these convicts suffered are symbolically represented today in the steps following the original convict track down to the wharf, though these steps were not actually built during the convict period, being a 1930s depression initiative.

On 5 April 1821, Governor Lachlan Macquarie issued five crown grants of land, of decreasing size, in the area that now comprises Killara, including 40 acres to Joseph Fidden.  Grantees were not to resell within five years and in that time, 20 acres of each grant were to be cultivated, but these conditions were never enforced.  Over the next two decades, the land was exploited for timber, mostly blackbutt and ironbark, stringy bark and blue gum, the last two species considered by Macquarie as ‘the best and fittest for Buildings and Floorings’.  In 1834 a sixth and by far the largest grant, of 160 acres, was made to Jane Macgillivray (nee Bradley) as a marriage portion.  This was one of the very few grants made to women.  About 1856 this grant, known as Springdale, was still occupied by Mrs Jane Macgillivray, a schoolmistress from Parramatta and mother of six, who built a weatherboard cottage there and in it conducted a girls’ school – the first in the Killara area.

Once the timber was exhausted, the original grants were resold and divided time and time again.  For example, the 100 acres granted to John Griffiths, on the western side of the highway, was eventually purchased in 1839 by John Lewis Spencer, a solicitor, who planted much of the land as an orchard.  After his death in 1856, the land was again resold many times; the fences fell down, cattle strayed there, the fruit trees died and the stone cottage Spencer had built was burnt in a bush fire.

© Ku-ring-gai Historical Society Inc.