The Names of Sydney: The Rocks

MILLERS POINT - there is no written record of exactly why the point was thus named. Early in the 19th century, it was known as Jack the Miller's Point, after Jack Leighton who was transported to Sydney in 1804. He bought several acres of land here in 1814 and therefore it is widely believed this is how the point received its name. However, since the name has appeared on maps drawn before 1795, it was probably named after Andrew Miller, the first colonial Commissary and Governor's Phillip's secretary. Alternatively, its name could refer to Sydney's first windmill, the harbour landing from which grain was unloaded was at Millers Point.
Early in 1796, the first windmill in New South Wales was built on what became known as Windmill Hill which is adjacent to Millers Point. It was used to grind grain into flour and was one of the colony's first steps towards self sufficiency. The mill tower was built of stone and the machinery and grindstone were imported from England. But they did not work for long. The canvas sails were stolen, the machinery was damaged in a storm, and by 1800 the foundations were giving way. Before it was ten years old, the mill was useless.

Hickson Road: the name honours RP Hickson, who was Chairman of the Sydney Harbour Trust between 1901-12. During Hickson's term of office the whole Millers Point wharf area was redeveloped. The roads and bridges of the area, including Hickson Road itself which was created in 1909, came into being at that time.

Rodens Lane: formerly known as Moore's Lane, the name was changed in 1906. It is believed to be named after Benjamin Roden who owned land in Moore's Lane, Millers Point. Over the years it has appeared on maps as Rhodes Lane.

Dibbs Street: George Richard Dibbs KCMG was Premier of New South Wales on three occasions, 1885, 1889 and 1891. He was a robust Australian-born patriot, whose robustness upset many people; equally his "boots and all" approach, when times were tough and firm leadership and decisions were needed, regardless of the niceties, gained wide but grudging admiration.

Merriman Street: the name honours Sydney City Council Alderman James Merriman (1816-1883), a well known Rocks identity and Mayor of Sydney in 1873, who owned a number of coastal ships and a pub in the area. Prior to 1875, it was known as Crown Road.

Bettington Street: remembers John Bettington, a wharf owner on Millers Point in the early 1800s.

Munn Street: once a U-shaped crescent, it was reduced to a short stub of a street when Millers Point and Walsh Bay were redeveloped in the early years of the 20th century. The name honours Scotsman, Matthew Munn who in 1857, established pastoralist activities in the Merimbula area with William Manning and Thomas Mort. The latter ran his trading business from premises nearby at Millers Point.

High Street / High Lane: this street was created during the redevelopment of the Millers Point wharf area prior to World War 1. On the line of Agar Street, it was thus named because it follows the top of the excavated cliff face and not because it was a major thoroughfare.

Gas Lane: one of the few surviving reminders of the large gas works which used to exist at Darling Harbour of which parts of an office and store are all that now remain. Merchants and professional people fostered the foundation and development of the public subscription company. Gas lighting in the streets was inaugurated on 24 May, 1841, Queen Victoria's birthday.

Parbury Lane: believed to be named after Frederick Parbury, co-owner of the merchant business Lamb & Parbury which traded in Fort Street.

Lance Lane: one of the new streets created during the area's development in the early 1900s. Its name, bestowed in 1923, honours Charles Lance, the second Chairman of the Sydney Harbour Trust between 1912 and 1924.

Watson Road: origin of the name is unknown. Could be named after Robert Watson (1756-1819), who was appointed Sydney's Harbour Pilot and Harbourmaster by Gov. Macquarie in 1811 and Superintendent of the Macquarie Lighthouse on South Head in 1816. Signals to the Watsons Bay signal station which was operated by Watson were sent from Flagstaff Hill, where Watson Road is located.

Towns Place: wealthy merchant Robert Towns (1794-1873), operated a whaling and shipping business from this street. Towns was the founder of the Queensland city of Townsville. Was part of Moore's Road (see Dalgety Road) until the 1870s as it led to the storehouse of merchant Captain Joseph Moore, built in 1840 to conduct his import and export business. Moore and his son established an agency for the P&O shipping line. Its mail steamer, the SS Chusan, berthed at Moore's Wharf in 1852, commencing a service that began a tradition of carriage of the Royal Mail by P&O which continued for over a century. Towns built a warehouse of his own over the road from Moore's in the 1870s.

Dalgety Road: earlier known as Wharf Road when it was a track leading down to Long's Wharf. Capt. Joseph Moore arrived in Sydney in 1812 and established a whaling business near Long's Wharf. When, in 1837, he took over Long's Wharf, it was renamed Moores Wharf, and the road became known as Moore's Road, It was renamed Dalgety Road in 1905 when the Dalgety pastoral company established wharves and stores nearby.

Downshire Street/ Place: known as Davis Street until 1905. Being named after local landowner Billy Davis. The origin of its present name is not known.

Windmill Street: led to the windmill on Millers Point. The street was a major sandstone quarry site in Gov. Macquarie's time.

Ferry Lane: this otherwise insignificant corner of The Rocks had its 5 minutes of fame on Australia Day (26 January) 1900, when the sewerage system of the home of one Arthur Payne of No. 10 Ferry Lane was isolated as the source of the Bubonic Plague sweeping through The Rocks. Payne, his family and neighbours were rushed to the Quarantine Station and most of the buildings in the vicinity were burned to the ground. Its name refers to the fact that it was once the accessway from The Rocks to a wharf on Walsh Bay at its western end used by the Milsons Point Ferry.

Cahill Expressway: the name recalls John Joseph Cahill, Premier of NSW between April 1952 and October 1959, the time in which the expressway was built.

Princes Street: one of the most prestigious streets of The Rocks, it followed the highest point of the ridge of what became known as Bunker's Hill. The northern end featured some of The Rocks' most prestigious homes, the southern end was occupied by maritime workers' houses. The whole of Princes Street was resumed and demolished in 1928 to make way for the Harbour Bridge approach roads. The origin of the name is not known.

Fort Street: the road which led from the lookout on Observatory Hill to the Dawes Point fortifications. It became one of the high class streets of The Rocks area, its large houses boasting harbour views in all directions. Since being divided by a quarry in the 1820s, its sections have been known as Upper and Lower Fort Street.

Argyle Street: named by Gov. Macquarie after the place where he grew up - County Argyll, Scotland . In the early years of Sydney, The Rocks was a divided community separated by a rugged and steep rocky outcrop which forms the ridge of the peninsular to the east of Sydney Cove. Building had taken place on either side of the ridge, but people wishing to travel from one side to the other had to either go the long way around Dawes Point or climb a series of rickety stairs. One of the streets at the Sydney end was Argyle Street. It began as a track from near the hospital to the convict dwellings on the hill behind it.
In 1816, Governor Macquarie floated the idea of cutting a passage through the rock face to join the east and west sides of The Rocks community. As complaints were being voiced both in England and Sydney that Macquarie was wasting precious funds on unnecessary public utilities, Macquarie attempted to raise finance from local business but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
The program languished until 1843 when convict chain gangs began their assault on the rock face with whatever hand tool could be found. 21 years later, the cut was completed and opened to traffic. The rubble from the cut was used to construct many of The Rock's stone buildings of the era including the Hero of Waterloo Hotel (1844), and in the reclamation and construction of the walls of Circular Quay.

Argyle Place: at its Millers Point end, Argyle Place runs parallel to Argyle Street and contains a row of classic 19th century terraces. Fronted a village green, at the head of which stands the Garrison church, it is as close to a British village as one could get.

Clyde Street: Believed to have been named by Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang, after the property he built here to house a group of immigrants he brought out from Glasgow, Scotland.

Playfair Street/Place: Mayor of Sydney in 1885, John Playfair, who ran a butchery in The Rocks in the 1880s.

Pottinger Street: originally a street which ran steeply down to a ferry wharf, it was reshaped to the east in 1922 to take a different path. The origin of its present name is not known.

Trinity Avenue: originally Upper Fort Street. Its name was changed in 1899 as a result of popular usage as it runs alongside Holy Trinity Church, also known as the Garrison Church.

THE ROCKS - a descriptive title of the peninsula to the west of Sydney Cove, which came into common usage as its name. The peninsula's tip - Dawes point - honours Edward Dawes, the colony's first astronomer.

Harrington Street: one of the streets created and named by Gov. Macquarie in 1910 when he did a major reorganisation of street and lane names upon coming into office. The name honours British MP Lord Harrington, Earl of Stanhope. Harrington Lane once ran parallel to Harrington Street on the line of present day Harrington Lane, Nurses Walk and Kendall Lane. It was named on early maps as Anvil Place (a blacksmith operated from premises here) and Queen Street.

Gloucester Street: created and named by Gov. Macquarie in 1910, it honours the Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester Street originally ran from Charlotte Place (Grosvenor Place) to George Street and was bent, but was shortened to its present length when the Bradfield Highway was built in the 1930s. Gloucester Walk follows the line of the northern section of the street.

Cumberland Street: named by Gov. Macquarie in 1910 after the Duke of Cumberland . Up until that time it was known as Church Row. In the 1830s it was treated as a extension of York Street and began to be known by that name. In 1912, it was officially gazetted as York Street North. In 1919, its former name was re-adopted. Sections of Cumberland Street were modified to reduce the steep grade by taking the tops off the hills and filling in the dips with the residue. A row of houses on the east side of Cumberland Street opposite the King George V Memorial Park were built on the original street level and show the degree of levelling needed to flatten the street.

Bakehouse Place: presumably refers to a bake house which would have existed here.

Surgeons Court: named by the Sydney Cove Authority in the 1970s due to the close proximity of the site of Sydney's first hospital.

Mill Lane: was an extension of Kendall's Lane until 1905, when the area was cleared, re-built and the new street was named Playfair Lane. Re-aligned and given its present name by the Sydney Cove Authority in the 1970s. The name recalls the steam flour mill of Lawrence Kendall which operated here in the early 1800s.

Atherden Place: known as Union Street until 1875 and then for a time as Artherton Street or Atherton Place. It was formed from the subdivision of Robert Campbell's land in the 1840s. Its name recalls one of the first landowners after the subdivision, George Atherden. It is Sydney's and possibly Australia's shortest street.

Globe Street: named Essex Lane by Gov. Macquarie in 1810. In 1900 its level was altered to link directly with Harrington Street (it is now linked with steps). The origin of the present name is not known though it was probably named after a hotel or other business located in the vicinity.

Suez Canal: a name in general usage from the early 1800s. One of the few lanes from the Rocks which survived the clean-up and mass demolitions after the Bubonic Plague of 1901. Believed to be thus named because of its narrowness and it being a thoroughfare between two separate sections of The Rocks.

Nurses Walk: named by the Sydney Cove Authority in the 1970s due to the close proximity of the site of Sydney's first hospital.

Greenway Lane: commemorates Francis Greenway, Colonial Architect under Gov. Macquarie whose office was in a George Street building nearby.

Kendall Lane: the name recalls the steam flour mill and biscuit factory of Lawrence Kendall which operated here in the early 1800s.

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