Collingwood Paper Mills

Lost Sydney: village of Collingwood

The village of Collingwood, which once existed alongside the Georges River to the south of Liverpool, was the vision of wool merchant James Atkinson. He was the owner of the large Collingwood estate and had a dream to turn his land into a model English industrial age model town - which he escribed as "the depot for the agricultural and pastoral produce of the southern districts". His Collingwood estate was well positioned next to the Georges River and the great southern road, now the Hume Highway, a mile from the town of Liverpool.

Map of Collingwood, 1856

All that was missing was a railway to ship goods in and out of his town, and so he used his considerable influence to make sure a railway passed by his property. In 1855, he turned the first sod of the railway line which opened the following year in 1856. He soon opened an abattoir and ran cattle on his paddocks at Collingwood. He paid for a rail spur to his own property so he could transport his meat and produce to Sydney. Atkinson also had a large piggery and acres of orchards with a state of the art steam pump irrigation system at his adjoining Sophienberg estate.

A large woolwash operation was soon built and in 1868, one of the first and certainly the largest paper mill in Australia - The Collingwood Paper Works - opened by the river. The old flour mill was converted into a rag pickers factory. To house his growing workforce, Atkinson had four blocks of five terrace houses built that were modelled on the British terraces houses being built at the time in the industrial cities of Britain. Single storey worker cottages were built on the 'high street' (now the Hume Highway), along with general stores, a blacksmith and numerous other shops. Collingwood had three pubs, of which only one, the Collingwood, remains today. The village even had its very own racecourse with weekly races. A school was planned but never built.

Collingwood Hotel

Despite the departure of Atkinson in the late 1860's the Collingwood industial site continued to prosper. A tannery and a wool scourer opened in the 1890's, along with a gas works to provide lighting for the town of Liverpool. The paper mill closed and was replaced by the Challenge Woollen Mill in 1910. It remained operational until 1975. The abattoir closed in 1929 with the centralisation of butchery at Homebush.

The closure of the mill marked the end of an era. By that time, Collingwood had been swallowed up by a fast growing Liverpool, and had lost its identity. Shops on the highway had long stopped calling themselves Collingwood, but only the pub has retained the name Collingwood. Today, there are only a few ruins and empty buildings from the Woollen Mill that have survived, as well as some stone and wooden workers cottages, and the grand old homestead Collingwood. The latter is the oldest surviving building in Liverpool; from James Atkinson had controlled his empire.

Collingwood House

Collingwood House Estate
Originally known as Bunker's Farm, Collingwood House Estate (built 1811-57) was one of the earliest and largest land grants in the region, and played an important role in the development of agriculture and early industries in the colony. The house complex is a rare example of modified colonial Georgian residence. It is one of only a small number of houses that remain from the Macquarie period, and one of the earliest examples conforming to the strict building code relating to materials, form, dimensions and siting decreed by Governor Macquarie on 26 December, 1810. The evolution of the house in terms of its fabric, dimensions and layout, is also illustrative of the social and economic standing of its various owners within the colony, their resources, and the genteel lifestyle to which they aspired.
Location: Birkdale Crescent, Liverpool, NSW 2170

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