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Leichhardt began its existence as a number of land grants. In particular two brothers Hugh and John Piper had a number of large grants between them. Hugh Piper established "Piperston". This estate was bought in 1846 by Walter Beames who was a friend of Ludwig Leichhardt. Beames assisted Leichhardt with provisions for his explorations and he also changed the name of "Piperston" to Leichhardt after his friend.

One of the largest estates in Leichhardt was the Elswick estate which was owned by James Norton, solicitor and MLC. This was eventually subdivided into hundreds of blocks of land. There were also dairies in Leichhardt but these too, eventually fell victim to residential development.

Leichhardt was incorporated as a municipality in 1871. The 1880s was a time of development for Leichhardt as large public buildings such as the Post Office and the Town Hall were built.

Transport was improved with the extensive development of the tram system and also the nearby rail network. Throughout the period 1900 - 1920 large areas of Leichhardt were subdivided and the population grew substantially in this time.

Leichhardt Population Statistics, 1848 - 1936:

Year - 1900; Population - 16,560
Year - 1905; Population - 19,585
Year - 1910; Population - 25,000
Year - 1915; Population - 27,870
Year - 1920; Population - 30,544
Year - 1925; Population - 31,000(estimate)
Year - 1932; Population - 32,000 (estimate)

Number of Houses in Leichhardt, 1900 - 1932

Year - 1900; 3,312
Year - 1910; 4,650
Year - 1915; 5,556
Year - 1925; 6,354
Year - 1932; 6,628

In 1949 Balmain and Annandale Councils were amalgamated with Leichhardt (and from 1968 - 2002 Glebe was also incorporated into the Leichhardt Municipal Council area). Italian migration, which had begun in the 1920s, increased rapidly after WWII and Leichhardt became largely influenced by Italian culture, particularly the cafes, but also with the production of the newspaper "La Fiamma". Although the Italian population is decreasing in Leichhardt there is still a strong Italian influence on the suburb, reinforced with the opening in 2000 of the Italian Forum shopping and residential complex and the opening of Casa D'Italia, headquarters of the Italian cultural and social support agency Co.As.It in Norton Street.

The 2001 Census revealed the changing demographics of Leichhardt, in particular a decrease in the number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and a rise in the median annual income. 

Leichhardt Map 1880s (PDF 14.4MB)

Leichhardt - An Historical Timeline

100,000 years ago Aboriginal people reached Australia.

Dreaming - 1770 Over 500 Aboriginal nations occupy specific areas of Australia - The traditional owners of the Leichhardt area are the Wangal of the Eora language group.

1794 First land grants in the Leichhardt area. John Prentice received 100 acres and called his land 'Hampton Farm'. Land granted to Thomas Bigges and William Thomas.
1806 Major George Johnston received a land grant (present-day Annandale).

1810 Land grant to Martha Moore.

1811 Land grant to Ensign Hugh Piper and also to his brother, Captain John Piper. Captain Piper called his land 'Piperston'.

1831-32 Captain Piper sold four large portions of his estate to James Forster (Elswick Estate), Abraham Hearn, Prosper de Mestre (Helsarmel Estate), and David Ramsay.

1834 James Norton purchased Elswick Estate (which included Elswick House built by Forster).

James Norton, founder of Messrs Norton, Smith & Co., member of the first Legislative Council. Marion Street was named after his second wife.

1846-47 Walter Beames purchased 'Piperston Estate' and renamed the property 'Leichhardt' after his friend the explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt.

1849 Beames subdivided his property. At this time the area was still part of Petersham.

1862 The Non-vested National School of Petersham opened with 53 pupils.

1868 Balmain Cemetery opened in Norton Street.

1869 A new school building was erected on the corner of Marion and Norton Streets, however, by the time of completion it was already too small.
Catholic Cemetery opened on Elswick, William and Allen Streets.

1870 Wesleyans open a church and school.

1871 The Non-vested National School of Petersham was renamed Leichhardt Public School.
On 14 December, Leichhardt was incorporated after a petition was presented to the Governor of NSW. Area included present-day Leichhardt, Annandale and Lilyfield.
The municipality's first mayor was Frank Beames.

1873 80 pupils at Leichhardt Public School.

1880s By the 1880s the municipality was in debt owing to the need to improve facilities within Leichhardt due to rapid population growth.
Local newspaper established - Leichhardt and Petersham Guardian.

1880 John Wetherill sold 'Elswick' to Excelsior Building Society. The property was then subdivided, selling for £3-£8 per foot.
Police station built in Marlborough Street and opened with one constable stationed there.

1880-81 Congregational Church established.

1881 Leichhardt Council requested that a post office be established in Leichhardt. This resulted in a post office being opened in George Purdie's general store in George Street, Leichhardt.

1883 First official Post and Telegraph Office was opened at 9 Short Street.
Leichhardt West School opened - now called Orange Grove Public School.

1884 All Souls Anglican Church built. Designed by Blacket & Sons.

1885 Leichhardt Presbyterian Church opened, corner of Renwick, Marion and Norton Sts.

1886 Leichhardt Rowing Club formed.

1888 St Martha's Industrial Girls Home opened in Elswick House. Domestic skills were taught to poor and orphaned girls.
Leichhardt Town Hall opened. Designed by Drinke & Walcot and cost £6000 to build. The clock was added in 1897.

1889 New post office built, corner of Wetherill and Norton Sts.

1890s Volunteer fire station opened, corner of Marion Street and Balmain Road.

1894 360 acres known as the East Ward of Leichhardt between Johnston's Creek and White's Creek, from Parramatta Road to Rozelle Bay, became the Municipality of Annandale.

1898 St Columbus Catholic Church/School opened.
1902 Permanent fire station built on the corner of Marion Street and Balmain Road.

1903 District band established.

1904 School of Arts built on Marion Street, next door to the fire station.

1905 Leichhardt Swimming Baths opened in Long Cove (adjacent to Leichhardt Park).

1907 Public telephone installed at the post office.

1908 Leichhardt Boy Scouts established.

1911 New School of Arts building erected on the old site.

1914 Leichhardt Trades School built on Balmain Road.

1917 Italian Nationals came to Australia and settled in Leichhardt in the area between Balmain Road and Hill Street, establishing businesses, religious and cultural institutions.

1921 The Leichhardt Municipality held its Jubilee Carnival.

1928 First road concreting - Norton and Marion Sts.

1941 Balmain Cemetery became a public park and was named Pioneer's Memorial Park.

1946 Capuchin Order arrived in Leichhardt to attend to the needs of the Italian community. This order established the paper La Fiamma.

1947 Increase in Italian migrants, who settled in Leichhardt because of the availability of unskilled work, affordable housing and the outreach work of St Fiacres Catholic Church to the Italian immigrant population.

1949 The Municipalities of Annandale and Balmain amalgamated with Leichhardt Municipality.

1954 Associazione Polisportiva Italian-Australiana (APIA) founded.

1957 APIA Club established its base in Norton Street moving to Fraser Street in 1961.

1958 Buses replaced trams.

1961 Leichhardt Amateur Swimming Club formed.

1968 Glebe transferred from City of Sydney to become part of Leichhardt Municipality.

1994 Leichhardt Municipal Council adopted officially as corporate name.

2000 Italian Forum shopping complex opens on Norton Street. Previously a Water Board depot, the Italian Forum on Norton Street had its beginnings when the NSW government granted Leichhardt's Italian community the 12 000 sq metre block of land on the condition that 10% of the development be devoted to cultural facilities such as an Italian cultural centre and public library.

2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data reveals the changing demographics of Leichhardt, in particular a decrease in the number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds and a rise in the median annual income.

2003 Glebe and Forest Lodge transferred back to City of Sydney administration.
Leichhardt Library relocates to the Italian Forum.

The information for this historical timeline of Leichhardt was taken from the Local History Files at Leichhardt Library.

Finding out about: Leichhardt a brief selection of resources

Benedetti, Livio, 1999. Leichhardt : Dipping into the Past.

Connolly, Bob and Robin Anderson, 1996. Rats in the Ranks. (video, DVD)

Groom, Barry, 1982. Leichhardt : an Era in Pictures: the Photography of J.G. Park. 

Italians in Leichhardt - a History

Johnston, Robert. Leichhardt : A Political Experiment in Local Government.

Lawrence, Joan, 1995. A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe.  

Leichhardt Historical Journal

Leichhardt Municipal Council, 2001.The History and Heritage of Italian- Australians in the Leichhardt Municipality. 

Leichhardt Rowing Club 

Solling, Max and Peter Reynolds, 1997. Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City. A Social History Of Leichhardt and the Former Municipalities of Annandale , Balmain and Glebe

Thorp, Wendy for Leichhardt Municipal Council, 1990. Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study.

Vialoux, A. and CM Reeves, 1921,rep.1992. Leichhardt : its History and Progress, 1871-1921

Sydney Secondary College, Leichhardt Campus 

Sydney Light Rail