Newtown is one of the most ethnically diverse and colourful areas of Sydney. Due in no small degree to it being on the doorstep of the University of Sydney, it is an enclave of alternative art, an ethnic eatery paradise and a hub of commercial activity. It is all a far cry from the small village settled nearby two centuries ago to service the many farms in the area. Newtown s ethnic diversity was birthed in the early years of the 19th century when a number of German and Italian shopkeepers set up business along King Street. Newtown railway station is on the Inner West line of the Sydney Trains network.
The main shopping strip of Newtown is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia. King Street is often referred to as "Eat Street" in the media due to the large number of cafes, pubs and restaurants of various cultures. Cafes, restaurants and galleries can also be found in the streets surrounding King Street.
After World War I a significant Eastern European Jewish community developed here and significantly influenced the cosmopolitan and Bohemian direction the area would take. Today Newtown boasts a huge range of specialty corner shops selling novelty gifts, souvenirs, hard-to-find music and clothing, interspersed by eateries as diverse as Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Middle Eastern, African, Serbian, Polish and Nepalese cuisines, not to mention Sydney's highest concentration of Thai eateries.
This area isn't seen as touristy, but popular with students from the nearby Sydney University. Newtown has been a hub for live entertainment since the late 19th century. During the 1980s the many pubs in the area housed a thriving live music scene, and its surrounding areas have the highest concentration of independent theatres and live performance spaces in Sydney.
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Newtown Community Markets
King St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Trading: Every Saturday 10am 4pm
Type: General Phone: 02 9564 7333
The Newtown Festival is a community festival of free live music, events, workshops and stalls that has been held annually since 1981. Held in Camperdown Memorial Park next to St. Stephen s Church. The purpose of the festival is to raise funds for the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, an association that provides services to non-English speakers, the aged, disabled or poor. Controversially, in 2006 for the first time the festival was held within a fenced confine.
Feastability, Newtown's Food and Wine Festival, showcases the eclectic international cuisines of the suburb along with Australian wine, local pubs and brewers, bakers and confectioners. The festival, which is held on the last Sunday of each September, started in the mid-1990s as six stalls outside the Hub. It now takes place in the grounds of Newtown School of Performing Arts, has more than 40 stalls and features all-day entertainment from musicians and artists, as well as kids activities. The festival is organised by Marrickville Council.
Under the Blue Moon Festival is an alternative community festival also held in September. The event has a variety of entertainment; live music, discussions, street performances, fashion shows and other subculture presentations, especially those of the Goth community. Local business and special interest groups provide a diverse variety of entertainment, including a local alternative hairdresser and even the local mortuary with a display of coffins.
The Sydney Fringe Festival is a three-week alternative arts festival that was held for the first time in September 2010 at venues in Newtown, Enmore and Marrickville. It is a project of the Newtown Entertainment Precinct Association.
King Street is the main street of Newtown and centre of commercial and entertainment activity. The street follows the spine of a long ridge that rises up near Sydney University and extends to the south, becoming the Princes Highway at its southern end. King street reputedly follows an ancient Aboriginal track that branched out from the main western track, now beneath Broadway and Parramatta Road, and which continued all the way to the coastal plains around Botany Bay.
Enmore Road branches off King Street towards the suburb of Enmore at Newtown Bridge, where the road passes over the railway line at Newtown Station. Enmore Road and King Street together comprise a 9.1-kilometre round-trip of some 600 shopfronts. The main shopping strip of Newtown is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia. King Street is often referred to as Eat Street in the media due to the large number of cafÈs, pubs and restaurants of various cultures. Cafes, restaurants and galleries can also be found in the streets surrounding King Street.
The Newtown area was part of the land of the Cadigal band of the Eora people, who ranged across the entire area from the southern shores of Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay in the south-east and Petersham in the west. It was through the land management methods of the aboriginal people that the extensive grasslands of predominantly kangaroo grass, commented upon by Watkin Tench proved ideal breeding grounds for kangaroos. The first Aborigine to receive a Christian burial was Tommy, an 11-year-old boy who died of bronchitis in the Sydney Infirmary. He was buried in Camperdown Cemetery, in a section now located outside the wall.
The cemetery also contains a sandstone obelisk erected in 1944 by the Rangers League of NSW, in memory of Tommy and three other Aborigines buried there - Mogo, William Perry and Wandelina Cabrorigirel, although their graves are no longer identifiable. When the names were transcribed from the records onto the monument, there was an error in deciphering the flowing hand in which many of the original burial dockets were written. It is now known that the fourth name was not Wandelina Cabrorigirel, but Mandelina (Aboriginal).
Newtown was established as a residential and farming area in the early 19th century. The area took its name from a grocery store opened there by John and Margaret Webster in 1832, at a site close to where the Newtown railway station stands today. They placed a sign atop their store that read New Town Stores . The name New Town was adopted, at first unofficially, with the space disappearing to form the name Newtown. The part of Newtown lying south of King Street was a portion of the two estates granted by Governor Arthur Phillip to the Superintendent of Convicts, Nicholas Devine, in 1794 and 1799.
Erskineville and much of MacDonaldtown were also once part of Devine's grant. In 1827, when Devine was aged about 90, this land was acquired from him by a convict, Bernard Rochford, who sold it to many of Sydney's wealthiest and most influential inhabitants including the mayor. Devine s heir, John Devine, a coachbuilder of Birmingham, challenged the will, which was blatantly fraudulent. The Newtown Ejectment Case was eventually settled out of court by the payment to Devine of an unknown sum of money said to have beenconsiderable . The land was further divided into the housing that is now evidenced by the rows of terrace houses and commercial and industrial premises.
Part of the area now falling within the present boundaries of Newtown, north of King Street, was originally part of Camperdown. This area was named by Governor William Bligh who received it as a land grant in 1806 and who passed it to his daughter and son-in-law on his return to England in 1810. In 1848 part of this land was acquired by the Sydney Church of England Cemetery Company to create a general cemetery beyond the boundary of the City of Sydney. Camperdown Cemetery, just one block away from King Street, Newtown, was to become significant in the life of the suburb.
From 1845, when the first Anglican church was built on the site of the present Community Centre on Stephen Street, by Edmund Blacket, a number of churches were established, including St Joseph s Roman Catholic Church in the 1850s, the Methodist Church on King Street, now Newtown Mission, and the Baptist Church in Church Street. The present St Stephen's Anglican Church, a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was designed, like its predecessor, by Blacket, and built in the grounds of cemetery between 1871 and 1880. Both it and the cemetery are on the National Trust register of buildings of National Significance. Its Mears and Stainbank carillon is unique in Australia, while its Walker and Sons organ of 1874 is regarded as one of the finest in New South Wales. This preponderance of small houses is indicative of the working-class employment of most of the Newtown residents, many of whom worked in the city or at local shops, factories, warehouses, brickyards and at the nearby Eveleigh Railway Workshops.
Retail and service trades dominated the suburb increasingly throughout this period, with tradesmen and shopkeepers together accounting for 70-75% of the working population. During the late 19th century and early 20th century, Newtown prospered, so much so that in the Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Newtown, published in 1912, it was described as one of the most wealthy suburbs around Sydney. From the late 19th century onwards, the Newtown area became a major commercial and industrial centre. King Street developed into a thriving retail precinct and the Newtown area was soon dotted with factories, workshops, warehouses and commercial and retail premises of all kinds and sizes. Several major industries were established in the greater Newtown area from the late 19th century, including the Eveleigh rail workshops, the IXL jam and preserves factory in North Newtown/Darlington, the St Peters brickworks and the Fowler Potteries in Camperdown.
From the 1970s, as the post-war population prospered, raised families and aged, many moved to outlying suburbs to build larger houses, resulting in a supply of relatively cheap terrace houses and cottages entered the rental market. Because of its proximity to the expanding Sydney University and the Sydney CBD, along with the comparatively low rents, Newtown began to attract university students in the 1960s and '70s. The area became a centre for student share-households in Sydney and the development of cafes, pubs and restaurants made it a mecca for many young people. Newtown gained a reputation as a bohemian centre and the gay and lesbian population also increased.
The neighbouring suburb of Camperdown has a close connection with William Bligh, one of Colonial NSW's early Governors. The area, granted to him in August 1806, was named by Bligh after a naval battle off the Dutch coast near Camperdown. Bligh s daughter Mary Bligh O'Connell and son-in-law Maurice O'Connell took over Bligh s property on his departure to England where an unsuccessful model farm was commenced on neighbouring Grose Farm, a grant made to Lieut. Gov. Francis Grose in 1792. It was later acquired by the Government and the Sydney University built on it.
In 1841 O Connell's estate was divided into O'Connell Town on Cooks River Road (Princes Highway) and Camperdown on Parramatta Road. A racecourse operated near O'Connell Town on the ground now occupied by Prince Alfred Hospital. In 1868, Prince Alfred visited Australia and survived an assassination attempt on Clontarf Beach. To commemorate his good fortune the people of Sydney decided to build a permanent memorial to him in the form of a hospital on the university paddocks, an area of land that had been earmarked for use as a Wesleyan College. The hospital was opened in 1882 and named in honour of Prince Alfred.
St. Steven's Church was built between 1870 and 1874 to a design by Edmund Blackett, a distinguished architect who designed the buildings of the University of Sydney. The land was the gift of Mary Bligh O'Connell. The adjoining cemetery contains the grave of many early pioneers and notable citizens, including Edmund Blackett himself, members of the Chisholm, Farmer and Horden families, and explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell.
Camperdown Cemetery, just one block away from King Street, Newtown, was significant in the early life of the suburb. Between its consecration in 1849 and its closure to further sales in 1868 it saw 15,000 burials of people from all over Sydney. Of that number, approximately half were paupers buried in unmarked and often communal graves, sometimes as many as 12 in a day during a measles epidemic.
Camperdown Cemetery remains, though much reduced in size, as a rare example of mid-19th-century cemetery landscaping. It retains the Cemetery Lodge and huge fig tree dating from 1848, as well as a number of oak trees of the same date. It survived to become the main green space of Newtown. Among the notables buried in the cemetery are explorer-surveyor Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, Major Edmund Lockyer and Mary, Lady Jamison (widow of the colonial pioneer landowner, physician, constitutional reformer and knight of the realm, Sir John Jamison). The cemetery also holds the remains of many of the victims of the wreck of the Dunbar in 1857.
Camperdown Cemetery Ghosts
Camperdown Cemetery has one ghost that is viewed as a permanent resident- Bathsheba Ghost, the second matron Matron of the Sydney General Hospital. However there are those who claim that she is not simply a ghost in name alone, but has been seen attending the sick in St Stephen's Rectory. The figure of a curious old man in a brown frock coat has often said to have been sighted sitting on the grave of William Ebbetts, watching people weeding the native grasses or tending the rose bushes. Children have claimed to have talked to him. He disappears when adults approach him.
It has been claimed that on moonless nights a man in early 19th century military uniform views the stars with a telescope near the grave of Major Mitchell.
The most sensational ghost story, and one that developed rapidly in form from the time of its first telling in the mid 1990s, is the story of Hannah Watson and her lover. Hannah, the wife of Captain Thomas Watson, the Harbour Master of Port Jackson, according to the legend, was having an affair with Captain John Steane of the Royal Navy. Thomas Watson, on discovering his wife s infidelity, cursed the lovers. Hannah wrote to Steane, begging him not to return to Sydney, but it was too late. Hannah Watson died and was buried in the cemetery. John Steane outlived Hannah by only a few days.
The ship in which he was returning to the arms of his beloved was the ill-fated Dunbar. John Steane's body was one of the few that was recovered intact. It is buried in a separate grave near the Dunbar Tomb, and only a few metres from the plot where Thomas Watson had recently buried his wife. It is claimed that Hannah Watson has been seen emerging from her tomb in the form of a ghostly grey lady. She is said to drift slowly to the grave of her erstwhile lover. Although the tale has been told many times, and has been used as the basis for a work of fiction, no investigation into the possibility of a love-affair between Hannah Watson and Captain John Steane has yet been made. John Steane's descendants continue to live in the vicinity of Newtown.
Charles Dickens is believed to have used the sad story of used this sad story of Eliza Emily Donnithorne, a 19th century recluse of the Sydney suburb of Camperdown, as the inspiration for Miss Havisham of his classic novel, Great Expectations, which was published during the latter years of Eliza's life. It is speculated that Dickens heard the story of Eliza through his friendship with Caroline Chisholm, his personal friend who was a neighbour of the Donnithornes. The Donnithorne family grave, where Eliza Emily Donnithorne was laid to rest, is in Camperdown Cemetery, St Stephen's Anglican Church.
In I836 former East India Company Judge and Master of the Mint, James Donnithorne (1773-1852), retired to the Sydney township of Newtown with his ten year old daughter Eliza Emily. He purchased Camperdown Lodge, a georgian villa situated on King Street and named in honour of Lord Nelson's Napoleonic naval victory. Donnithorne was an industrious man, an empire builder who invested extensively in real estate in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales with great success.
Eliza Emily was the sole surviving female of the Donnithorne family after an outbreak of cholera in Calcutta in 1832 first claimed the lives of her two teenage sisters and then her distraught mother, Sarah, whose epitaph in Kedgeree Cemetery noted her cause of death as "a broken heart".
Between 1845 to 1848 Mr Donnithorne attempted to arrange marriages between his daughter and the sons of former East India Company colleagues in India, however Eliza showed the same stubbornness he was renowned for by rejecting any suggestion of an arranged marriage, proudly stating she would only marry someone she loved and no one else. Her refusal to submit to the demands of her father led to intense friction between them, often going for days without speaking. She sought refuge at St Stephen's Anglican Church in Newtown and it was here Eliza met a young Englishman, George Cuthbertson, a shipping company clerk who pursued her and quickly captured her affections. The class divide forced their relationship to be carried out in secret, with clandestine meetings and stolen moments in the pastures of Camperdown Cemetery.
As Eliza continued spending more time away from home her father became concerned and on becoming aware of the relationship between the young couple irrupted, infuriated he forbade his daughter to ever see her unworthy suitor again. But his ultimatum fell upon deaf ears and whenever he departed on business Eliza would send one of the trusted servants with a message to Mr Cuthbertson, announcing their opportunity for a romantic rendezvous. George would then ride out on horseback to Camperdown Lodge, was seen riding into Newtown like an American cowboy, where the couple would spend as much time as possible together.
Mr Donnithorne was known in business circles for his quick temper, the fuse of which drew shorter with each passing year and declining health. One day when he was making his way from the stables to Camperdown Lodge he spotted George peering through a window looking for his daughter. George soon fled, hotly pursued by the father who was in a violent rage. A direct result of this encounter was that more restrictions were placed on Eliza who had to resort to climbing out her bedroom window to exchange a kiss or two with George.
Perhaps realising his attempts to stop the pair from seeing each other were futile, or maybe with another more sinister notion in mind, Mr Donnithorne surprisingly gave his consent for them to court freely. He told friends that the elimination of romantic intrigue would make Eliza see how unsuited George was for her. It had the opposite effect and led to a proposal of marriage, an outcome he had not expected. Donnithorne demanded George resign his job and live off an allowance with Eliza at Camperdown Lodge after the wedding.
On the wedding day, a steady stream of onlookers crowded King Street, Newtown, eager to catch a glimpse of the wedding party in what was very much a high society wedding. The appointed hour of George's arrival came and went; time passed, but still no sign of the groom. The guests dispersed and Eliza remained in an emotional state for several weeks, demanding that the wedding finery be left untouched including the wedding feast on the table.
To make matters worse, she was found to be bearing George's child. The child, a daughter named Anna, was taken from her and placed with the family of a servant (Mrs Anna Kelly) to avoid the inevitable scandal illegitimacy would cause at Eliza's level of society. She was later told the child had died at birth, which would only have exacerbated her emotional distress after a particularly difficult pregnancy that had kept her bedridden.
Eliza eventually regained her health but she never left the confines of Camperdown Lodge again and refused to see all callers and friends. She insisted that the front door be left permanently ajar so that her husband-to-be could announce his presence when he returned to her, but kept a mastiff tied up by the door to deter would-be burglars. George was rumoured to have surfaced in India some years later before dying in Delhi in 1858 from wounds inflicted during the Sepoy rebellion. Whether he was paid off by the Judge or met with a more sinister fate is not known.
Judge Donnithorne died and was laid to rest in Camperdown Cemetery on 25th May 1852, survived by two sons, who lived in England and India, and Eliza Emily, who inherited the bulk of his estate. Now 26 and alone, Eliza became an eccentric recluse. The curtains of Camperdown Lodge were drawn and shutters nailed shut. The garden was not tended and became overgrown with weeds. Her brother, Edward, begged her to sell up and take up residence with his family at Colne Lodge near London, but she refused all invitations.
Locals then and now were convinced Charles Dickens used this sad story as the inspiration for Miss Havisham of his classic novel, Great Expectations, which was published during the latter years of Eliza's life. It is believed that Dickens heard the story of Eliza through his friendship with Caroline Chisholm, his personal friend, who was a neighbour of the Donnithornes and spent much time with Eliza before the fateful wedding day.
Eliza died on 20th May l886 aged 60 of heart disease, many believing it more a case of a broken heart like her mother before her. She was laid to rest beside her father in Camperdown Cemetery, not far from where George probably stole his first kiss from her so many years earlier. A family gravestone marks her final resting place. Camperdown Lodge was placed on the market and what remained of the wedding feast in the dining room was finally removed, 30 years after it had been prepared and presented.