All About Rhodes
Did you know that the Inner West suburb of Rhodes is one of Sydney’s fastest growing suburbs? The thriving suburb has changed dramatically over recent years and now boasts a huge waterside shopping complex, including one of the first IKEA stores in Australia. Many of the former industrial sites, which once dominated the area, have been transformed into major residential, retail and business spaces providing a hip and happening metropolitan hub.
Historically the indigenous people occupied the land surrounding Rhodes, and had done so for thousands of years, utilising the Parramatta River as a source of food and transport. The land belonged to the Wangal clan who inhabited the area from Parramatta to Birchgrove. The River was a key source of food and transport, with great spiritual significance.
Discover more about the fascinating history and development of Rhodes in our ‘Suburbs of Canada Bay’ series.
Now Rhodes is home to about 12,000 people and sits 16 kilometres west of the Sydney CBD – or just 22 minutes by train. It is located on a peninsula between Bray Bay and Homebush Bay, on the southern bank of the Parramatta River. Dominated by apartments, offices and shops, this suburb offers a highly convenient location and lifestyle.
The suburb is very a multicultural melting pot, with just 18 per cent of people born in Australia. The most common countries of birth are China at 38.2%, South Korea (10.7%), India (4.4%), Hong Kong (2.7%) and Saudi Arabia (1.7%).
Interestingly, residents have a median age of 29 years, which is significantly younger than the national median of 38 years. Some 96 per cent of residents live in flats, units or apartments and the average household size is 2.4 people.
The suburb is broken up into three main sections – east of Concord Road features parklands and also has two residential streets with beautiful detached houses next to the Parramatta River. The central section is mainly offices and warehouses, plus several community facilities including a community centre (formerly Rhodes Public School), an aged care hostel and the fire station. The western side of Rhodes (west of the railway line) was once chemical plants, but since major developments started in the mid-80s, is now home to many new apartment blocks plus the Rhodes Waterside Shopping Centre, new parks and a public foreshore walkway.
Rhodes has a rich history. The suburb was named after the home of an early resident, Thomas Walker (1791–1861), which was built on the north-eastern side of the peninsula overlooking the Parramatta River.
Walker named his property Rhodes after his grandmother’s home, Rhodes Hall, in Leeds, England. In 1832, Walker retired and went to live in Tasmania and the house was leased. His wife Anna returned with her family to live at Rhodes House in 1870. The house was demolished in 1918, when the land was purchased by the John Darling & Son Flour Mills.
Braygrove and Brays Bay Reserve
Following the arrival of the British, the Rhodes peninsula received its first land grants in 1794. John Bray and his wife Mary were among the early pioneers who settled on the land. The first stage of their home, Braygrove, had been built by 1800. Braygrove was the first house on the Rhodes peninsula and in the Concord area and Alfred Llewellyn Bray was the first Mayor of Concord. Braygrove was later extended and remodelled and remained in the in the Bray family until 1914 when it was purchased by Tulloch’s Phoenix Ironworks.
Brays Bay Reserve, which is situated between Mcllwaine Park and Rhodes Park, is also named after the Bray family. It is an area of historical significance to World War II, including the start of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway and remains from the Ship Building Yards.
Uhrs Point at Rhodes takes its name from George Richard Uhr (1822-1864) who built his home on the peninsula overlooking the Parramatta River. Uhr held the position of Deputy Sheriff and later Sheriff of NSW.
The land was subdivided for housing in 1912. It was advertised as being 20 minutes from the city and famous throughout Australia as the starting point of all the great boat races.
Throughout the twentieth century, Rhodes became more and more industrialised, initially with heavy industrial manufacturing. From the 1930 to the mid 1980s, the western part of the suburb was largely taken up by chemical manufacturing. The main manufacturers were Berger Paints, CSR Chemicals, Union Carbide and Allied Feeds.
One of the earliest companies to set up in the area was G & C Hoskins, who established a pipeworks on the western side of the railway line in 1911. This site was later purchased by CSR Chemicals in 1943, who manufactured a range of chemicals including the first cellulose acetate (used in acetate rayon and plastics) in Australia.
Tulloch’s Phoenix Ironworks was established at Rhodes in 1914, manufacturing everything from railway bridges to gardening equipment. Previously the Tulloch’s factory was at Pyrmont and supplied the structural steelwork for many buildings including the QVB and Sydney Town Hall. Tulloch’s dominated the Rhodes peninsula for almost 60 years and as a result, Tulloch Avenue and Phoenix Avenue are named after the company. It is now the site of Hewlett Packard offices in Sydney.
Residential and Commercial Development
In the mid 80s, industries started moving away from the peninsula and these large industrial sites were identified as prime locations for residential and commercial development. Several sites required remediation to remove contaminants.
In 2004 the Rhodes Waterside Shopping Centre was completed and in 2009 the Rhodes West Master Plan was released. Further development is afoot as part of the recently announced Rhodes East Master Plan – including more apartments (up to 38 storeys high), shops, a leisure centre, pool, a primary school and a childcare centre.
The state government is also proposing upgrades to Concord Road, a new ferry wharf, improved public transport services and a pedestrian land bridge to better connect the east and west side of the suburb.
Rhodes Railway Station
Rhodes Station was opened in 1886 as part of the Northern Rail line between Hornsby and Strathfield, during a period of great expansion for NSW’s railway system. It was the first station along the Northern line, with Concord Station opening the following year.
The Meadowbank Rhodes Railway Bridge was also completed in 1886 and is one of the oldest surviving railway bridges in NSW. It was constructed by Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton, who was renowned as the ‘father of New South Wales railways’. The bridge was seen as a symbol of the emerging federation in Australia as it became an important link to northern NSW and Queensland as well as Victoria and South Australia in the south. Today, the bridge is a cycle and pedestrian path.
Rhodes Fire Station
Rhodes has one of the last Fire & Rescue NSW stations staffed wholly by paid volunteers in inner metropolitan Sydney. It was established on land owned by the McIlwaine family. Three generations of the family have been Captains of the fire brigade.
In 1914 Charles McIlwaine, who had been a fireman at Darlinghurst, bought land at Rhodes as the site for his family home. He founded the Rhodes Volunteer Fire Brigade which at first operated with a hand-drawn fire hose.
Mcllwaine Park in Rhodes is also named after this well-known local family and commemorates their remarkable service to the community.
Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway
The Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway is a beautiful 800-metre rainforest walk which links Concord Hospital (where many World War 2 veterans were nursed back to health) with Rhodes Station. The track is located along the foreshore of Brays Bay on the Parramatta River, and is a unique tribute to the Australian troops who fought in the World War 2 Papua New Guinea campaign.
This campaign took place from July 1942 until January 1943 in the Owen Stanley range and on the beaches of Northern Papua to stop the advance of Japanese forces. There are 22 stations along the walkway that highlight places of significance in the campaign. It also includes a beautiful rose garden and a Mangrove timber boardwalk with vegetation typical in New Guinea.
Lewis Berger Park
Rhodes’ newest park, which opened in 2016, pays tribute to the industrial heritage of the area. During the 19th century, Berger paints were imported into Australia and in 1916 the company established a factory at Rhodes to help supply Australian needs. In 1932 the factory provided some 60,000 litres of paint for the Sydney Harbour Bridge while during the World War 2 it provided paint for military purposes, especially aircraft.
Image Source: Domain