Haberfield: discover the Garden Suburb

Haberfield is often known in the Inner West for its extensive homes, authentic Italian produce and picturesque parks. But did you know that the suburb would not have existed had it not been for an outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney? Yes, Haberfield was developed in 1901, the first “Garden Suburb”, extolling the virtues of fresh air, gardens and parks at the end of the plague. It was to be “slum-less, lane-less and pub-less”. The subdivision had individually designed, free-standing houses set on quarter-acre blocks – Haberfield is the birthplace of the Australian dream. Our modern-day desire to own our own home with a backyard and a garage began here.

Haberfield is bounded by Iron Cove­ – part of Sydney Harbour – Hawthorne Canal, Iron Cove Creek and Parramatta Road, this small pocket of Sydney’s Inner West is just 6.5 kilometres from the CBD.

We explore the suburb of Haberfield in our latest local profile.

The People

The 2016 census reported there were 6,457 residents in Haberfield. 66.6% of these people were born in Australia, 12.7% in Italy and 2.8% England. 64.8% spoke only English at home, while 20.7% spoke Italian and 2.1% Greek. The population is older than average in Haberfield with a median age of 44 and with 19.6% of people aged 65 and over. As for religion, 47.5% responded Catholic 47.5% and 25.2% selected no religion.


Haberfield is part of a broader area where the Darug tride known as the Wangals or Cadigals of the Eora nation lived. The Hawthorne Canal is believed to be a border between two tribes.

After white settlement, the peninsula jutting out into Iron Cove was part of the 1806 480-acre Sunning Hill Farm land grant given to Nicholas Bayley of the New South Wales Corps. It was then bought by emancipist Simeon Lord, some say by dubious means, who the colony’s largest landowner at the time and a member of the main roads board. Lord gave the land as a dowry for his daughter Sarah on her marriage to Dr David Ramsay in 1825. The estate was renamed Dobroyde and the Ramsays developed orchards in the area and built a number of houses for their family, including Yasmar (Ramsay spelt backwards), as well as St David’s Presbyterian church. The Ramsays also created four of the suburb’s current-day streets: Ramsay Street, Dalhousie Street (named after the Ramsay’s historic home in Scotland), Boomerang Street and Waratah Street. It was still in large part characterised by pristine bushland and was known locally as “Ramsay’s Bush”.

Birth of the Garden Suburb

At the end of the century some of the 10 Ramsay children sold 50 acres of land to Richard Stanton, then mayor of Ashfield. He subdivided it to create Australia’s the first comprehensively planned “garden suburb”, and one of the earliest manifestations of the “garden city” movement in the world. It was a response to  outbreaks of the bubonic plague suffered in overcrowded parts of the inner city, encouraging fresh air as there were parks and a specified space between each house. The development was also to be “slumless, laneless and publess,” according to Stanton.

Stanton named the suburb ‘Haberfield’, after the English branch of his family. A  staunch Federationist, Stanton named the streets after all but two of the members of the original 1901 federal cabinet. This led to the suburb also being known as the “Federation Suburb”.

Houses by Design

Approximately 1,500 were constructed in Haberfield and adjoining areas. They were individually designed by architects John Spencer-Stansfield and D Wormaldof of architectural firm Spencer, Stansfield and Wormald in Federation, Arts and Crafts or Bungalow styles. Houses in Haberfield were typically detached double-brick dwellings, unlike the terraces that were common in Sydney at the time, and built on their own block of land. No two houses were alike, although there were many common themes. The roofs were either slate or Marseilles tile. All had front verandahs and gardens with distinctive plantings, fences, gates and curving tiled paths. They also had room for a car. Most of these houses are now heritage-listed.

Town Planning Visionary

Richard Stanton’s housing development involved providing infrastructure, such as sandstone kerbs and gutters, brush box street trees, buffalo grass nature strips, sewerage, gas and electricity services. He also included controls that laid the foundations for local government statutes pertaining to suburban subdivisions, including side setbacks allowing space between two houses so both dwellings could enjoy natural light and ensure privacy, minimum lot sizes, front building lines, separation of land uses and specification of materials.


Haberfield doesn’t lack for things to see as it is filled with buildings of architectural and historical significance. There’s St David’s church hall (1862) and church (1868)  its foundation stone laid by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh; St Oswald’s church (1927 – designed by Walter Burley Griffin’s Sydney partner, architect John Burcham Clamp). Take a look at Richard Stanton’s own house The Bunyas (1906 – designed by John Spencer-Stansfield). Then there is the Ramsays’ colonial Georgian residence Yasmar (1856), with its equally important 19th-century garden.

Local Personalities

Over the years Haberfield has been home to some famous names including composer Peter Dodds McCormick (who wrote Advance Australia Fair); Joseph Neal Grace, who founded the Grace Bros department stores with his brother. More recently, Jennie George, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1990s and later a federal MP; and John Brogden, the former state Liberal Party leader; and sculptor Bronwyn Oliver have all called Haberfield home.

Italian influence

Haberfield has a strong Italian influence, which is most evident in the local shops along Ramsay Street, thanks to the influx of post-war immigrants. Walk or drive down this street and take in the authentic Italian sights and smells. The primary supermarket in Haberfield is IGA Lamonica, which has a well-stocked deli inside that would make any Nonna proud.

Enjoyed reading about Haberfield? Now learn about the near-by suburb of Russell Lea on our blog.

Image Source: Alamy


Canada Bay Club in Sydney's Inner West has been a meeting place for the local community for more than 50 years. Since opening in 1966, the culturally diverse club has grown froma small social sports centre to a club with state-of-the-art function rooms, two restaurants, live entertainment, kids' arcade, and health and fitness classes for its 20,000+ members.


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