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Summer Hill, New South Wales

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Summer Hill
Sydney New South Wales
Lackey Street, Summer Hill, NSW, Australia.jpg
Population: 6,130 (2006 census)
Postcode: 2130
Area: 1.1 km² (0.4 sq mi)
Location: 8 km (5 mi) west of Sydney CBD
LGA: Municipality of Ashfield
State/territory electorate(s): Strathfield, Canterbury
Federal Division(s): Grayndler
Suburbs around Summer Hill:
Croydon Haberfield Petersham
Ashfield Summer Hill Lewisham
Ashbury Hurlstone Park Dulwich Hill
NASA image of Sydney's CBD and surrounds, with borders of Summer Hill shown in red.

Summer Hill is a suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Summer Hill is located 8 kilometres west of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the Municipality of Ashfield.

Summer Hill is a primarily residential suburb of the Inner West region, adjoining two of Sydney's major arterial roads, Parramatta Road and Liverpool Road. The first land grant was made in 1794 to former convict and jailor Henry Kable, and the suburb began growing following the opening of the railway station on the Main Suburban Line in 1879.

Before settlement, Summer Hill was the home of the Wangal and Cadigal Aboriginal peoples, and the area was open and inhabited by kangaroos. By the 1920s, the suburb had become relatively upper class, with large estates and mansions built throughout the suburb. Some of these still exist today. Following a transition to a working class suburb in the mid-20th century, when many of the large estates were demolished or subdivided, the suburb today has a "village" character and a mix of medium-density apartment blocks and federation houses. It is also multicultural, with 35% of the population today born overseas.


The boundaries of Summer Hill are defined by Parramatta Road and Liverpool Road to the north, the rear of the properties on the west side of Prospect Road (with a detour around Trinity Grammar School) to the West, Old Canterbury Road to the south, and the north-south goods railway line to the east. North of Summer Hill is the suburb of Haberfield, to the east is Lewisham, to the south is Dulwich Hill, and to the west is Ashfield.

Summer Hill features a mix of federation-era houses, as well as medium density apartment blocks near the railway station. Local independent business people run most of the shops. The local council has defined a village character for the suburb. Summer Hill is a suburb rich in heritage. More than one hundred properties are heritage listed, and the strong feelings of some residents of the suburb towards protecting the local architecture has seen the introduction of a heritage review, which is expected to add more properties to the heritage register.

Despite formerly being working class, Summer Hill and many of the surrounding suburbs have gradually undergone gentrification over recent years. Culturally, Summer Hill is a blend of medium-density European Sydney suburbia, with Italian influences (which are most evident in Leichhardt to the East and Haberfield to the North), Eastern influences (which are most strongly evident in Ashfield to the West), and smaller influences from many other cultures.


Aboriginal culture

Prior to the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in 1788, the area of Summer Hill and its surrounds was the home of the Wangal and Cadigal Aboriginal peoples . What is now called the Hawthorne Canal (originally Long Cove Creek) appears to have marked the boundary between the Cadigal and Wangal aboriginal group lands. Today there is a small park in Summer Hill, called Cadigal Reserve, located at 1-4 Grosvenor Crescent. A bronze plaque placed by Ashfield Council names the reserve after the Cadigal (Eora) group of Koori people . Iron Cove and the mangrove-lined estuaries of the Long Cove and Iron Cove Creeks would have provided a good source of fish and molluscs, the most common food of the coastal tribes in the Sydney basin.

In the early days of the colony, the stretch of land between Iron Cove and the Cook's River was known as the Kangaroo Ground . This name suggests that the land was open terrain favoured by kangaroos, that they were common in the area and may have formed a significant part of the Aboriginal diet.

No record is known to exist relating to the demise of the Aboriginal population from the district. It seems likely that the well-documented outbreak of smallpox among local Aboriginal people in early 1789 had a major impact. Governor Phillip not only recorded that half of the local Aboriginal population was estimated to have died from the disease, but he also noted that the Aboriginal people always "retired from where the diseases appeared" as well.

European settlement

1878 subdivision plan covering the northern half of the suburb. Image courtesy National Library of Australia.

The first land grant in this area was for a farm in 1794, to former convict and jailor Henry Kable. The land in the eastern corner of Summer Hill was an additional grant of 30 acres (12  ha) made to Henry Kable in 1804. This eastern corner would subsequently become part of the estate of James Underwood. Underwood died in 1844 and left a will so complicated that it required special legislation before it could be subdivided.

The earliest known use of the name "Summer Hill" was in 1876, for a land subdivision adjacent to the present-day St Andrew's Anglican Church. The name Summer Hill is thought to be a name chosen by the land sub-divider, presumably based on an attachment for England. Local historians regard the suggestion that the name is a derivation of "Sunning Hill" as a dubious story which has no substance.

Summer Hill's largest mansion, Carleton (now the Grosvenor Hospital's main building), was built in the early 1880s on Liverpool Road for Charles Carleton Skarrat. The suburb boomed with the opening of the railway station in 1879, and was followed by subdivision of much of the surrounding area. Between 1880 and 1910, the area became an upper-class suburb, and was a popular choice for professionals in banking and insurance who worked in the city. Subdivision of gardens for housing continued in the 1920s and 1930s, and socioeconomically the suburb changed as some of the wealthier inhabitants moved to the North Shore. Demolition of most of the surviving mansions in the 1970s allowed erection of home units, especially within walking distance of the railway station.

Commercial area

Flour Mill

Summer Hill's shopping precinct is centered around a small town square with good pedestrian access, and is surrounded by cafés and restaurants along Lackey and Smith Streets. The suburb is very small by Australian standards, having a population of just over 6000, in an area of 1.1 km². It features some fine examples of architecture from the 19th and early 20th century.

The Summer Hill flour mill was built circa 1922, utilising the north-south goods railway line that was constructed during World War 1. The silos were added from the 1950s onwards. The flour mill has been owned by various companies, including Mungo Scott, and Goodman Fielder, and then Allied Mills. In October 2007, the mills were sold to a developer, EG Funds Management, who plans to redevelop the mill site into a residential and commercial precinct.

Churches and other places of worship

There are a number of places of worship in Summer Hill. St Patrick's Catholic Church was built in 1874, and is the oldest known building in the suburb. There is also a small primary school associated with the church and located next to it. The building was originally a private home known as Kelvin Grove, and owned by Mrs Jane Drynan. Much of the exterior of the church is original but none of the internal walls were retained when the building was converted into a church. Following Drynan's death, Kelvin Grove was owned or leased by a succession of different people, including the Haberfield real-estate developer Richard Station, Croydon brick-maker William Downton, and two sisters namely Freeman (one of whom was a nurse). In the 1920s and 1930s Kelvin Grove may have been used as a nursing home. The first mass was celebrated in Kelvin Grove on St Patrick's day 1946, giving the church its name.

St Andrew's Anglican Church has three distinctive internal transept arches, and was designed by a Presbyterian, Alexander Leckie Elphinstone Junior. The foundation stone was laid in 1883, and the top of the spire completed in 1906. The fast construction period, unusual for that time, was indicative of the area's affluence. Recent Asian influences in Summer Hill have brought about the introduction of non-Christian places of worship. The Wong Tai Sin (or Kwan Yin Kur) temple is located on the corners of Kensington Road and Liverpool Road in a building that was a Masonic temple in the 1920s. The same building was converted into the current temple; the lower floor houses the Taoist deity of Wong Tai Sin, and the upper floor houses the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Kwan Yin.


Trinity Grammar School

Summer Hill has two schools. Trinity Grammar School in Prospect Road is a private school catering for students from Year 3 to Year 12. The schools' site has been in continuous use for education for 120 years. The headmaster's house building at Trinity was erected circa 1877. The site operated as several different teaching institutions until it was purchased by the Anglican Church, becoming known as Trinity Grammar School in 1925. Trinity Grammar is one of many wealthy schools in New South Wales, and has previously received some of the largest government subsidies, when comparing total government subsidies per school. An expansion plan by Trinity involving the demolition of houses in nearby Seaview Street caused controversy in 2007. The development was nonetheless approved by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court. ref

Summer Hill Public School in Moonbie Street is a primary school catering for students from Kindergarten to Year 6. It offers selective classes for Year 5 and 6 students under the New South Wales Government's Opportunity Class program. The school was established in 1883 in a wooden shed on two acres of land that had been resumed from James Bartlett. The older buildings currently used at the school date back to 1913 while more modern buildings were constructed in 1977 and 1998.The school, designed in the Victorian Classical style, is listed on the Register of the National Estate.


Summer Hill Railway Station, Grosvenor Crescent entrance.

In the 2001 census, for people travelling to work using just one method of transportation from this postcode, 44% travelled in a car as the driver, 40% took the train, 5% walked, 4% travelled in a car as passenger, 4% took the bus, 1% travelled by bicycle, and 1% travelled by truck. Summer Hill is close to the main thoroughfares of Liverpool Road and Parramatta Road; although they are quite congested at peak times.

Two railway lines run through Summer Hill. Summer Hill railway station is located on the Inner West Line of the CityRail network. The railway station was opened on 15 September, 1879, and most of the local shops are clustered close to the station. Travelling towards the city, the railway stops in order are Lewisham, Petersham, Stanmore, Newtown, Macdonaldtown, Redfern, Central, and Town Hall. Travelling west towards Strathfield, the stops are Ashfield, Croydon, Burwood, and Strathfield. A recent renovation of the railway station was completed in 2004, after a public outcry about the ugliness and overwhelming size of a proposed overhead pedestrian walkway. The revised design used the more expensive option of refurbishing the existing underground walkway.

The Metropolitan Goods rail line also runs through the suburb, although as at 2007 it is only being used for freight purposes. In October 2007, following the sale of the Summer Hill flour mills Metro Light Rail, the last user of the line, expressed interest in extending their light rail service from Lilyfield through to Summer Hill and on to Dulwich Hill Station. The New South Wales Government said it would "consider any proposal put to it", and welcomed proposals for the extension as a possible way to improve inner-city transport options.

Other forms of transport are also provided. There are five Sydney Buses routes that service the area—the 480 and 483 follow routes along Parramatta Road and then Liverpool Road, the 461 travels along Parramatta Road, the 413 travels along Junction Road, and some 409 buses stop at the railway station outside of peak hours. The area is also gradually becoming more bicycle friendly, with several bicycle paths in the suburb. A local group, "Friends of the Greenway" wish to see a bicycle and walking corridor built alongside the Metropolitan Goods Line once the freight service ceases.



Ancestry as determined by birthplace of parents

In the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing, the population of the Summer Hill postcode area was 6,130 people, in an area of 1.1  square kilometres. The population was 51% females, 49% males. 45% of the population was born overseas with China (6%), England (4%) and New Zealand (2%) the most common. The five strongest religious affiliations in the area were in descending order: Catholic (27%), no religion (27%), Anglican (11%), Buddhism (4%) and Orthodox Christian (3%). The majority of dwelling were flats, units or apartments (60%) followed by separate houses (23%) and semi-detached, terrace houses, or townhouses (15%).

Notable residents

Numerous notable people have been born or lived in Summer Hill including:

  • Normand Henry Baker (1908-1955), Archibald Prize winning artist.
  • Dr John Belisario (1820-1900), Dentist at the later end of the 19th century, recorded as living in Summer Hill in the 1891 census. First dentist in Australia to administer ether to a patient to carry out dental work.
  • Colonel Matron Kathleen Best (1910-1957), first director of the Women's Australian Army Corp.
  • David Elphinstone (1847-1916), architect and builder.
  • Justice Greg James (born 1944), former judge of the Supreme Court of NSW.
  • Edwin Johnson (1835-1894), Education reformer, undersecretary to the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Ninian Melville Jnr (1843-1897), local furniture maker and member of the NSW Parliament who also became Mayor of Newtown and later Ashfield.
  • John Paton (1833-1914), Won the Victoria Cross for bravery in India in 1857. A Summer Hill Park is named after him.
  • Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Famous Australian artist who briefly lived in Summer Hill.
  • Ian Temby QC (born 1942), first head of the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption.
  • Rt Hon Sir Cyril Walsh (1909-1973), lawyer and Justice of the High Court of Australia.
  • Virginia Gay All Saints actress and contestant on channel seven's It Takes Two.


State Elections
  Labor 50.3%
  Greens 22.7%
  Liberal 19.2%
  Unity Party 3.5%
  Democrats 2.3%
  Independent 2%
Federal Elections
  Labor 48.3%
  Liberal 27.5%
  Greens 20.3%
  Democrats 2.5%
  Socialist Alliance 1.4%

Summer Hill is in the safe Labor federal electoral division of Grayndler. This seat has been held continuously by Labor since it was proclaimed in 1949. It has been held by current member Anthony Albanese since 1996. Anthony Albanese is the Minister for Infrastructure, Planning, Local Government and Regional Development.

For NSW state elections, Summer Hill is predominantly in the Electoral district of Strathfield. Summer Hill was added to this state seat when the safe Labor electorate of Ashfield was abolished in 1999. From 1999 to 2003 it was held by Paul Whelan (the former State Police minister) of the Australian Labor Party. As of 2003 the seat was held by Virginia Judge, of the Australian Labor Party.

Local political issues include:

  • Proposed construction of the M4 East, diverting traffic from Parramatta Road, and which construction option should be used.
  • Opposition to plans that would result an increase in traffic at Kingsford Smith International Airport, and thus more aircraft noise.
  • Concern over the proposed new supermarket building, and whether it is in keeping with the local shopping area.
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