The Names of Sydney: Central Business District


Goulburn Street: named after the first official Colonial Secretary, Frederick Goulburn, who arrived in Sydney in 1820. His brother Henry was an official in the British Government and held various senior positions including secretary to Lord Bathurst. In the years preceding the gold rush, Goulburn Street was occupied by roughly made workers cottages. During the Victorian era, businesses sprang up, forcing the working class into nearby suburbs like Paddington and Balmain.

Cunningham Street: formerly known as Durand's Alley and Sydney Place. Changed to Robertson Street in 1875 after Robertson's Coach Factory which conducted business here; then called Cunningham Lane from 1905 to 1913. There is no record as to who Cunningham was. Historic photo and information

Dixon Street: said to be named after John Dickson who established Sydney's first steam mill at the foot of Goulburn Street on Darling Harbour. Because of the different spelling, it has also been suggested that the name in fact may honour Robert Dixon (1800 - 1858), a surveyor who lived in the Haymarket area. He would have been practising his craft when the street was created, though it seems unlikely it was named after him as contemporary maps, which in all probability Dixon created, show it as Dickson.

Factory Street: the descriptive name refers to Dickson's Mill, established nearby in 1815, to which it was adjacent.

Harbour Street: it originally followed the eastern shoreline of Darling Harbour at its head. Before the construction of Darling Harbour, Harbour Street ran from the junction of Day, Dixon and Liverpool Streets south to Hay Street only. Day Street carried traffic north to the Harbour Bridge and Millers Point. The area of Darling Harbour in the vicinity of Tumbalong Park was originally swampland at the head of Cockle Bay. In the 1860s a dam was built where Pier Street borders Darling Harbour. The land behind it was reclaimed and used by the Darling Harbour Goods Railway Yard. It became the ground on which the Entertainment Centre and Paddy's Markets now stand. This area contained Burns Street and Engine Street as well as extensions of Factory Street and Little Hay Street which disappeared when the area was redeveloped in the 1980s. Beyond Harbour Street, north of the Chinese Gardens, were a number of small streets which housed many factories clustered around John Dickson's steam mill. These included Barker Road and Barker Lane (after Thomas Barker, who took over John Dickson's steam mill here and expanded it in the 1940s), Steam Mill Street, Russell Street (after P.N. Russell, who established Sydney Foundry & Engineering Company here in 1842), Darcy Street, Washington Street, Washington Place, Washington Lane, Harbour Place and Jesse Place.

Darling Drive: its proximity to Darling Harbour.

Kimber Lane: a laneway created in the 1880s and named after Pritchard Kimber, an oyster merchant whose business operated from here.

Douglass Lane / Street: known as Victoria Place until 1905. It is thought that Douglass was a local shopkeeper.

Eager Lane: known as Victoria Lane until the resumption and redevelopment of the area in 1905. Some sources indicate its present name honours Geoffrey Eager (1818-91), a banker, MLA and Head of Treasury 1872-91.

Clarke Street: the name was gazetted in 1978. It is believed it recalls the name of Alderman George Thomas Clarke who served a term as Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1912.

Nithsdale Street / Lane: name taken from Nithsdale House, which fronted Liverpool Street.

Alberta Street: known as Little Macquarie Street until 1896. Origin of present name is unknown.

Wentworth Avenue: named in 1905 during the area's redevelopment in honour of explorer and statesman William Charles Wentworth (right).

Foy Lane: back lane to the store of retailer Foys.

Commonwealth Street: one of a number of streets created as a result of slum resumption and redevelopment at the turn of the 20th century. This street name, like others in the area, celebrates the Federation of the Australian States which took place at the time. It follows the rough alignment of what was Macquarie Street South, which once dissected Hyde Park.

Lyons Lane: refers to famous Sydney Auctioneer Samuel Lyons, whose Lyons Terrace (erected 1841) was a feature of Liverpool Street facing Hyde Park. The lane backed onto these prestigious terrace houses.

Campbell Street: named by Gov. Ralph Darling after Robert Campbell (1769-1846), a leading Sydney merchant who helped establish the cattle markets (1828) and hay markets (1833) that once existed nearby, the latter giving the local area its name. Campbell arrived in Sydney in the late 1790s and established a highly successful import/export business. He also built the storehouses bearing his name in The Rocks.

Hay Street: the name honours Sir John Hay MP, rather than the fact that it passes through the site of the old Haymarket as is often thought. Hay Street followed a stream which started in Surry Hills near the corner of Riley and Albion Streets and flowed into the head of Cockle Bay where Hay Street meets Harbour Street. The settlement of Brickfield where bricks were first made for the colony in 1788 was on the banks of the stream in the vicinity of Hay Street. In all probability it was the first street or road in Australia of European origin outside of the Sydney Cove settlement.

Parker Street: the name honours Henry W. Parker, Colonial Secretary, 3 October 1856 to 7 September 1857.

Barlow Street: originally named Gipps Street after Sir George Gipps (right), Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of NSW, 24 February, 1838 to 11 July, 1846. It remained Gipps Street until 1875 when its present name was gazetted. It honours Thomas Hughes Barlow, an alderman between 1898 and 1918.

Eddy Avenue: built through the middle of Belmore Gardens in 1905 when Central Railway Station was being constructed. It honours Edward M.G. Eddy, Commissioner of Railways 1887-97, under whose authority the station was built.

Rawson Place: known as Keig Street until 1907, when its current name was bestowed. It honours Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (right), Governor of New South Wales, 1 May 1902 to 27 May 1909.

Valentine Street: known as Valentine's Lane until 1897, its name probably recalls Benjamin Valentine, a baker in the area.

Thomas Street: Henry Thomas, undertaker and City Council Alderman, 1842-53.

Ultimo Street: leads to the nearby suburb of Ultimo (see entry under the suburb of Ultimo for origin of name).

Bijou Lane: named in 1917, believed to be after the theatre which originally stood on the site occupied by His Majestys Theatre today.

Oxford Street: originally known as South Head Road, it was one of Sydney's first "out-of-town" thoroughfares, being the land link between Sydney and South Head. The first 4 km are believed to follow an Aboriginal bush track linking a swamp in the vicinity of present day Hyde Park to Lachlan Swamps, which in modified form are the lakes of Centennial Park. The road then followed another Aboriginal bush track which traversed the peninsula ridge in a north-easterly direction and led to a sacred site near where the Macquarie lighthouse stands. The name was changed from South Head Road to Oxford street in the 1880s at the request of local traders who wanted the street to emulate its famous London namesake, a major shopping precinct.
The original road, the first of a series of rural roads out of Sydney to outlying districts that were instigated by Gov. Macquarie, was built by soldiers of the 73rd Regiment and financed by merchants and private citizens who lived in the area. Its construction allowed passengers, freight and mail to disembark from ships at Watsons Bay when tides and and winds delayed their passage through Port Jackson to Sydney Cove. The land on either side of Oxford Street was originally lightly wooded with Blackbutts and Bloodwoods. These were extensively cleared in the early decades of the 19th century, denuding the upper slopes of Surry Hills and Moore Park and turning them into unstable sandhills. Drifts from these sandhills encroached on the Brickfields / Haymarket area and at times completely buried homes in the Strawberry Hills area with only their chimneys left showing. A barren sandy stretch on the south side of South Head Road (Oxford Street) was chosen as the site for Victoria Barracks, which replaced the George Street Barracks, the first home of the colony's military regiment.

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