The Names of Sydney: Northern Business District


George Street: named by Gov. Macquarie in 1810 after George IV (right), the reigning monarch. George Street developed from a rough track alongside the Tank stream beaten out by the feet of water carriers taking water from the stream to the hospital in what is now The Rocks. Was known as Sgt. Majors Row and High Street before its present name was established. Since 1788 it has been Sydney's main thoroughfare. In the 1800s it became and still remains Sydney's premier shopping street, extending south from the Commissariat Stores at the King's Wharf, past the Gaol (Cnr Essex Street), the New Market and Post Office (Cnr Market Street), the Old Burial Ground and the new Town Hall (Cnr Druitt Street) to the old Tollhouse at the beginning of Parramatta Road at the bottom of Brickfield Hill. In Macquarie's time, Brickfield Hill (beyond today's "Cinema Row") was very steep and hazardous to vehicular traffic. In 1839 the ascent was lengthened by cutting and paring off the higher part of the road and placing the excess rock and soil at the bottom of the hill. This greatly improved access to the newly constructed corn and cattle markets of Haymarket.

Pitt Street: named by Governor Macquarie after William Pitt (right), the Prime Minister of England. Another suggestion is that it was originally named Pits Row because of the pits or tanks dug into the banks of Tank Stream which were accessed by the street. Until Circular Quay was created, Pitt Street extended only as far north as Hunter Street. The 1830s saw the construction of many two storey buildings between Hunter and Market Streets, with shops occupying the ground floor and residences upstairs. South of Market street, Before then, Pitt Street was lined with cottages, complete with shaded verandahs and small gardens which were described at the time as recalling "the rustic beauties of Old England". In the 1880s, there was a shift away from retail premises at the northern end of Pitt Street which became one of the major business addresses of Sydney, with banks, insurance companies and major hotels trading from it.

Castlereagh Street: named after the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Castlereagh (right). For many years it was lined with small timber cottages, which began to give way to more substantial residences and business houses in the 1830s. Like George Street, its steep incline beyond Liverpool Street made passage to the cattle market at its southern end rather difficult until major modifications were made to lessen the grade.

Kent Street: named after Edward, the Duke of Kent (right), the younger brother of King George. The northern end, being elevated, offered extensive harbour views which led to many wealthy colonists building their homes there. A Catholic School was opened in this area in 1836. At that time humble timber huts were plentiful though they were quickly being replaced by more substantial, larger stone and brick cottages. The hill between Grosvenor Place and Margaret Street was originally much steeper than it is today. In the 1820s, the tops of the hills were cut down and the dips filled in to make a more gentle grade. Richmond Villa and Glover Cottage are today elevated above the present road as they were built at the original ground level before the grade was altered.

Elizabeth Street: named after the wife of the Governor, Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie. Elizabeth Street in the 1820s became a desirable residential address, the newly built courthouse attracting members of the legal profession to the area. Houses overlooking Hyde Park were particularly envied and most reflected the wealth of their owners.

York Street: named in 1810 by Gov. Macquarie after the Duke of York (right), brother of King William IV. It was originally known as Barracks Row as it began at the old Barracks parade ground. The southern end became home to many import and export companies that were attracted to York Street by the markets established there in Macquarie's time and the many wharves being built on Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour).

Clarence Street: named by Macquarie in 1810 after the Duke of Clarence who became King William IV. Like Kent Street, it was subject to numerous levelling operations to reduce its original steep grades. A major feature was the high stone wall of the Military Barracks on the eastern side at its northern end. Opposite the wall was a row of ramshackle wooden cabins which were replaced by more substantial shops and dwellings in the 1840s. The southern end was a well-to-do residential street lined with substantial brick and freestone homes.

Essex Street: named by Macquarie in 1810 after Robert Devereux the 3rd Earl of Essex (right). In the early days, the grade of the hills it traversed was so steep, it was impassable by carriages. The street was originally lined by many fine houses alternated by empty blocks which were not built on until the grade of the road was lessened and access was improved.

Queens Square: originally named Kings Square by Gov. Macquarie who envisaged it as Sydney's town square. It was re-named Queens Square in honour of the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria. A statue of her and one of her beloved Consort Prince Albert overlook the square.

Macquarie Street: commemorates Governor Lachlan Macquarie (right). Up until Macquarie's arrival in Sydney, Macquarie Street was just a ridge top bush track which served no other purpose than as the eastern boundary of Sydney town. The street was brought to life by Macquarie who built the Government House stables at one end of it, the Rum Hospital in the middle and the Hyde Park barracks at the other. Many stately homes were built by members of the medical profession on the east side of the street near the hospital, whilst the courthouse at the southern end attracted lawyers and judges, both of whom built luxury homes and turned this end of town into a high class area.

Macquarie Place: one block back from Circular Quay and nestled in the shadow of Victorian and contemporary office buildings is Macquarie Place. The street flanks a small park which is a leafy lunchtime haven for the office workers of Sydney's commercial heart. The short roadway which forms the triangle of Macquarie Place Park with Loftus and Bridge Streets marks the line where the waters of Sydney Cove once lapped. Though the road in its present form was not constructed until 1866, a track which continued in a north-easterly direction along its line straight to Bennelong Point is shown on early maps. The triangle of garden, which was adjacent to the Governor's Wharf at the end of Pitt Row (now Pitt Street), is shown on maps as early as 1793 and was thrown open as a public park by Governor Macquarie in 1810. Macquarie erected an obelisk in the park "from which all roads leading to the interior of the colony are measured". The obelisk, along with a restored anchor from HMS Sirius, a vessel of the First Fleet, are two of the most important objects from Sydney's past. As the latter is the only remaining anchor from all those that were cast out in Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788, and the only surviving relic from the First Fleet, it is appropriate that its final resting place should be one of the most historically significant pieces of ground in the country. Macquarie Place had become the hub of Sydney's governmental and commercial community. The houses and residences of the colony's pioneer merchants were built along Bridge Street. In 1817, the first bank in Australia, the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac), opened for business in a cottage on Macquarie Place. Today, surrounding streets, with their fine Victorian buildings made of sandstone hewn from the cliffs of nearby Pyrmont, are still home to many a bank, shipping company and insurance office.

King Street: whilst George Street has always had the distinction of being Sydney's "High Street" (it was even called that by the early colonials), King Street has always been its cosmopolitan heart. Ever since Gov. Macquarie established the Supreme Court next to his new church (St. James) in Queens Square, the top end has been home to the legal profession. During the Victorian era, the strip between Elizabeth and George became a happy mix of shops, taverns and offices. To the journalist, it was Sydney's Fleet Street. To the theatre goer, King Street was Sydney's "Piccadilly", the heart of a section of Sydney which came to life after dark with pubs, clubs and theatres doing a roaring trade. It is named after an early governor, Phillip Gidley King.

Bridge Street: one of Sydney's earliest streets, it began as a path from the Governor's house to the Military Barracks. So called because of the first bridge built over Tank Stream, constructed in February 1788 at the spot where the path crossed the stream. Gov. Phillip established governmental offices and stores on the high side, and the area has remained a centre for government administration ever since. Originally terminating at the original Government House, the street was extended to Macquarie Street when the building was replaced. Many fine houses were built at the lower end of the street, but these were gradually replaced by commercial buildings which, due to their close proximity to the harbour, attracted shipping and trading companies to establish their head offices there.

Tank Stream Way: recalls the Tank Stream, the colony of Sydney's first water supply, a small stream which rose near present day Hyde Park and entered Sydney Cove where the Ship Inn on Alfred Street now stands. Tank Stream Way follows the course of the stream between Hunter and Bridge Streets. Once a part of Hamilton Street which connected Bridge Street to Hunter Street and Bond Street. Hamilton Street does not appear until the late Victorian period on Sydney maps. This section was recently renamed Tank Stream Way. In the 1960's a portion of Hamilton Street was exchanged for land required for the widening of Bond Street adjacent to the Australia Square Site.

Bligh Street: commemorates Captain William Bligh (right), Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of NSW and its dependencies, 28 September, 1806 to 25 January, 1808. In 1808, he was unlawfully removed from office by officers of the NSW Corps in what became known as the Rum Rebellion. Blight Street was formerly known as Spring Row, Bell Row and Little Chapel Row, the later two because it was at Richard Johnson Square at the street's southern end that first fleet colonial chaplain Rev Richard Johnson erected Sydney's first church. Bligh Street was one of a number of streets re-named by Gov. Macquarie in 1810.

O'Connell Street: commemorates Sir Maurice O'Connell, son-in-law of Gov. Bligh and Commander of the military garrisons stationed in Sydney. O'Connell's wife, Mary, was very influential in the colony of NSW in the early decades of the 19th century. Both sides of O'Connell Street were graced by excellent high quality homes, all with decorative "English" gardens and neatly railed frontages. It was described in the 1830s by a visitor to Sydney as "Very picturesque, with lots of trees ... and of rustic grandeur". The corner of O'Connell and Phillip Streets was the site of the Pulteney Hotel, in its day the most prestigious hotel in town. Its magnificent ballroom was used for state functions and public meetings until the town hall was built.

Bent Street: Judge-Advocate Ellis Bent, a prominent figure in early 19th century Sydney who became an enemy of Gov. Macquarie. Bent's gravestone stands in the Pioneer Park, Bunnerong Cemetery, Botany. By the 1830s, the southern side was occupied by a row of large well-to-do houses, tastefully laid out in gardened grounds. The northern side still fronted onto the Government garden and remained that way until the original Government house built by Gov. Arthur Phillip in 1788 was demolished. In 1845, Government House was vacated for its replacement in the Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Council requested the rear of the site fronting Bent Street for a Town Hall. The site is now occupied by Gov. Macquarie Square. A grant was made to finance the building, a young architect named James Barnet who later would be appointed as Colonial architect drew up the plans, but the council's commissioners allowed the grant to lapse and the building was never erected.

Alfred Street: Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (right), the son of Queen Victoria, who was the victim of an unsuccessful assassination attempt at a picnic on Clontarf beach in March 1868. On 6 April 1868, after he fully recovered from the attack before leaving Sydney, the Duke laid the foundation stone for the Sydney Town Hall, a rather unusual thing to do since not only had the land on which the stone was laid yet to be officially granted to the City Council for that purpose, no plans for the building had been finalised, only the concept that one day such a building would be built here. Over 2,000 people witnessed the event. The building was finally completed in 1889.

Spring Street: one of Sydney's first streets, it was thus named because it followed the eastern bank of the Tank Stream. Before the 1850s when the Tank Stream was channelled underground and the original Government House was demolished, there were no buildings on Spring Street as its west side fronted the Tank Stream, and the eastern side was the boundary of the Governor's gardens.

Young Street: named in honour of Sir John Young (right), Baron Lisgar (1807-1876), Gov. of NSW (1861-67). As the second Governor-General of Canada (1869-72), he calmed US-Canadian relations during the Fenian raids and helped in the sale of Rupert's Land to Canada and the creation of the province of Manitoba. Up until its creation, Young Street was envisaged as being an extension of Elizabeth Street and was to be have been called Elizabeth Street North.

Loftus Street: honours Baron Loftus (Augustus William Frederick Spencer), Governor-in-Chief of NSW and its dependencies, 4 August, 1870 to 9 November, 1885. Planned originally as an extension of Castlereagh Street, Loftus Street was known as Castlereagh Street North until 1881.

Phillip Street: Captain Arthur Phillip (left), Governor-in-Chief of NSW, 26 January, 1788 to 10 December, 1792. High on the ridge between Sydney town and the Botanical Gardens, Phillip Street originally ran in a straight line from Hyde Park to Bent Street at a point where the original Government House blocked its path. When Govt. House was demolished, Phillip Street was extended to Circular Quay through what was once the Governor's garden. In the 1860s, the section between Bent and Hunter Street was modified to become the top end of Elizabeth Street. Phillip Street was a jumble of poorly designed and built residences until the 1850s when the Gold Rush brought such prosperity to Sydney, the business district began to engulf what previously had been residential streets, at which time offices and warehouses took over.

Hunter Street: Captain John Hunter, Second Captain First Fleet vessel HMS Sirius, and Governor of NSW, 11 September, 1795 to 27 September, 1800. In Macquarie's time, Hunter Street was a hive of building activity, with homes of a variety of shapes and sizes under construction. Like other streets in the area, it remained predominantly residential until the gold rush of the 1850s when most of Sydney's inner streets were turned over to business houses and mercantile stores.

Arbitration Place: origin of name is unknown though it was probably named thus because the Arbitration Court was located nearby.

Reiby Place: known as Reiby Lane until 1920, the name recalls Mary Reiby (also spelt Reibey), an emancipist who became a prominent businesswoman and owner of land in the street. Her image appears on the Australia $20 bill. After the death of her husband, Reiby moved to Sydney from the Hawkesbury River district and lived in a townhouse in Pitt Street. An adjacent property on the corner of Reiby Place and Macquarie Place which she owned was used by the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac) as its first offices. Reiby was one of its founding shareholders.

Dalley Street: first known as Queens Place, it lined up with Charlotte Place (named after George III's Queen), which is now called Grosvenor Place. Dalley Street recalls William Bede Dalley (1831-88), a convict's son who was an influential lawyer, orator and politician. He was Australia's first Privy Councillor, and acted as Premier of NSW in the 1880s.

Underwood Street: recalls the site of Sydney's first shipbuilding facility. It was operated by James Underwood who arrived in New South Wales on the First Fleet having been transported for 14 years for killing five sheep. His shipbuilding business was part of a larger trading enterprise and his ships were engaged in sealing, whaling and carrying coal. He imported goods from India and Europe and later engaged in building a distillery on the South Head Road.

Lang Street: the top of the ridge above George Street was known for many years as Church Hill because it was here that Sydney's first churches were built. Lang Street was known throughout most of the 19th century as Church Street because of its proximity to the Catholic and Presbyterian Churches in the area. In 1894 it was renamed Wentworth Street after an early colonial family who lived here. Its present name honours Rev. John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878), an influential Presbyterian Minister who assisted many Scottish families to migrate to Sydney (right). A statue of Lang is located in the gardens of nearby Wynyard Square. Lang Street has the distinction of being the only street laid down on Arthur Phillip's first plan for Sydney in 1788 to have survived, giving it the distinction of being Sydney's - and Australia's - oldest street.

Jamison Street: remembers Sir John Jamison (1786-1884), Knight of Regentville, a wealthy colonist who owned a large portion of land here. It was subdivided in 1831 and the street was created and named in 1841 as a result of the subdivision. A number of high class residences were built near Scots Kirk and the buildings of the Australian College. Jamison's father Thomas was a surgeon on the First Fleet vessel Sirius.

Margaret Street: the section between George and York streets was known as Wynyard Square North until 1887. It extended west of Kent Street to Darling Harbour and was known as Margaret Place. This section disappeared when Hickson Road was constructed. The origin of the name is not known.

Bond Street: known as Hutchison Street from the time of its creation in the 1860s. Its present name, bestowed in 1872, recalls William Bond, an early colonist who owned land here.

Deanes Lane: originally called Robin Hood Lane until 1882. It was named for the Robin Hood Tavern, and after its demolition for Alexander Dean, Alderman, 1879-90, building contractor. The name Robin Hood Lane remained in common use and appeared on maps well into the 20th century. The street disappeared in 1964 when it was amalgamated into the site of the Australia Square development.

Curtin Place: known as Little George Street until 1966 when it was renamed in honour of John Curtin (right), Prime Minister of Australia, 1941-45.

Wynyard Street: known as Wynyard Square South until 1877 and named in honour of Major General Edward Buckley Wynyard, Commander of the NSW Troops stationed at the George Street Barracks from 1848 to 1853. They were moved to Victoria Barracks, Paddington, in 1848. The street was created as part of the redevelopment of the area following the closure of the barracks.

Carrington Street: formerly Wynyard Square East, it was renamed in 1887 in honour of Baron Carrington (Charles Robert Wynn-Carrington), Gov. of NSW, 12 December, 1885 to 2 November, 1890.

Napoleon Street: a map dated 1865 is the first to show this street but it was on a different alignment than today. Why it was thus named is not known.

Erskine Street: possibly honours Rev. George Erskine, a Wesleyan Minister in the 1830s, though it has been suggested it may recall his contemporary, Colonel Erskine of the 48th Regiment. The suburb of Erskineville is named after Rev. George Erskine. Erskine Street follows the line of a path established in the early days of the colony which led to a Military Bathing House located on the shores of Cockle Bay at what was called Soldiers Point. The Cruise Ship Passenger Terminal is located where Soldiers Point and the Bathing House used to be.

De Mestre Place: the name recalls Prosper De Mestre, a shopkeeper in the mid 1880s whose store was on the corner of De Mestre Place and George Street.

Barrack Street: originated as a track on the southern boundary of Sydney's first military barracks, which led to Cockle Bay where soldiers used to bathe. Originally called Barrack Lane, it was the side gate of the George Street military barracks. It was also the location of Sydney's first purpose-built savings bank, which opened just in time for the Gold Rush of the 1850s. The upper floors of the bank, which still stands today, were once occupied by the Imperial Service Club, where rumour has it the "unofficial" opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was planned. Captain De Groot of the New Guard cut the ribbon before NSW Premier Jack Lang could perform the ceremonial opening. A large section of Barrack Street now forms part of Sesquicentenary Square - named to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Sydney.

Martin Place: the name honours Sir James Martin (1820-86), Attorney-General from 16 October 1863 to 2 February 1865, 22 January 1866 to 26 October 1868, 16 December 1870 to 13 May 1872; 4th Chief Justice of New South Wales, 19 November 1873 to 4 November 1886. Originally designed as an open area space in front of the GPO, Martin Place was extended to Macquarie Street in the 1870s after a fire burnt down many buildings in the area and it had to be totally re-developed. Colloquially known as Post Office Street until 1921, it was extended to its present width in 1892 and the extension from Pitt Street to Macquarie Place created in 1935.

Angel Place: until the end of the 19th century, the section off George Street was known as Terry Place and the Pitt Street section was called Morts Passage, being the rear entranceway to the business house of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-78). The present name, adopted in 1926, refers to Angel House which once stood on the corner of Angel Place and Ash Street.

Ash Street: previously known as Chisholm Lane, the origin of its present name is not known.

Jenkins Street: came into being as a boundary road between properties created by the subdivision of surrounding land in 1842. The name honours ex-convict James Jenkins, who owned the land prior to subdivision.

Gresham Place: part of Spring Street until around 1865. The origin of its name is not known.

Abercrombie Lane: it was created as a dividing road when the area was first subdivided in 1842. The name was in common use for decades but was only gazetted in 1975. Believed to be named after a British military officer of the Napoleonic Wars, though why it was named thus and by whom is not known.

Empire Lane: privately owned, the origin of its name is not known though it is thought to have been derived from the name of a business which once traded in the area.

Hamilton Street: created in the 1860s as a side entrance to Hamilton's biscuit factory in Hunter Street.

Lees Court: honours Samuel Lees (1843-1916), a printer who operated his business from premises in George Street. Lees, one of the city's longest serving Aldermen, was elected Mayor of Sydney in 1895, Lord Mayor in 1904 and was an MLA at various times.

Rowe Street: known as Brougham Place until 1875, a name which recalls the Brougham Hotel which stood on the corner of Pitt Street. Its present name honours architect Thomas Rowe (1829-99), who designed the Great Synagogue (1879) in Elizabeth Street and the new wing of the Sydney Hospital (1868).

Palings Lane: derived from the name of a musical instrument business which traded nearby.

Penfold Place: a private lane, the name of which is derived from the stationers WC Penfold & Co. whose first store was located here.

Hosking Place: Honours John Hosking (1806-82), the first elected Mayor of Sydney (1842-43). He was a merchant and government contractor.

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