Sandwiched between Five Dock and Drummoyne, the hidden suburb of Russell Lea is our featured local suburb. It hugs the western shores of Iron Cove and is filled with magnificent Federation-era homes and charming post-war cottages.
Russell Lea has a population of just over 5000 people, with a median age of 41. It is particularly popular with families, and there are 1321 families in the suburb, with an average of 1.8 children each household. The suburb takes its name from one of the area’s earliest settlers, Russell Barton, a successful miner and politician in the NSW state parliament. During his time in parliament (1880-1886), Barton built a grand residence, also known as Russell Lea, in the centre of where the suburb now lies. When the house was demolished, the area was subdivided and the suburb was established. At the time of subdivision, the auctioneers Hardie & Gorman promoted Russell Lea as a convenient location ‘between two trams’ – ‘The Five Dock-Abbotsford tram is one minute from the estate; the Drummoyne tram within easy walking distance’. Nestled on both sides of the busy Lyons Road, Russell Lea is just 8km from the centre of Sydney and located in the City of Canada Bay.
Russell Lea House
Russell Lea Manor, also known as Russell Lea House, was the home of Russell Barton (1830-1916), and was situated on the north side of Lyons Road between Sibbick Street and Lyons Road. The house was built between 1878 and 1882. In 1918 the Department of Defence purchased Russell Lea House for a convalescent home for soldiers returning from World War I who suffered from shell-shock and other nervous conditions. The Red Cross operated the hospital and donations were made from Red Cross branches to create a modern facility for up to 60 patients. The hospital closed in 1923 and the building was demolished in 1925. The suburb of Russell Lea takes its name from this grand home.
Russell Lea Public School
This school was established in 1931 and until recently was known as Russell Lea Infants School. It was reclassified as Russell Lea Public School in 2016 to help cope with the expanding population of the Drummoyne area. The school now welcomes students in Years 4 and 5 with Year 6 students able to enrol from 2019. Enjoying a high reputation because of its community atmosphere, it draws students from a large area within Drummoyne and has many out-of-area students. The old two-storeyed main building has been demolished to make way for an ultra-modern three-storey main building, library, cantern and communal hall – all set in a secure, beautiful, native bush garden environment.
On the border between Russell Lea and Rodd Point, this popular sporting facility is on the water’s edge, ensuring great views and a peaceful location. With four playing fields, including a full-sized soccer pitch, the park also includes a small café and children’s playground. It is also a common starting and end point of The Bay Run, a popular walking and running track around Iron Cove.
With many homes in the area boasting water views, Russell Lea has become a sought-after enclave, often out-performing its close neighbours, Drummoyne and Five Dock, in terms of capital growth. Heritage homes are in demand, as are homes within the catchment of Russell Lea Infants School.
Like neighbouring Five Dock, Russell Lea has a strong Italian community, with 17% of the population of the area citing Italian heritage and 7% born in Italy. This has resulted in a reputation for friendly, authentic Italian culture. So if you’re planning a visit to Italy and need to practice a few basic Italian phases, take a stroll around the local area to experience your very own slice of Italy.
A wide variety of bus routes travel along Lyons Road, giving the suburb great access to the city, north and west. The 504 bus is particularly popular with city commuters as it has an express service and can drop locals off in the heart of the CBD in about 30 minutes, taking advantage of the bus lane on busy Victoria Road. Route 530 connects Russell Lea with Chatswood on the north side, another busy transport hub and shopping precinct. Using the same bus to head west, it connects with Burwood via Five Dock.