Location: Inner Western Suburbs
Like the surrounding Inner West suburbs of Summer Hill and Stanmore, Petersham is predominantly terrace houses, a far cry from the early colomial days of the late 18th century when Kangaroo hunting was also popular in the area. It was here that the notorious Wild Colonial Boy bushranger Jack Donohue terrorised the local residents and travellers on the road between Sydney and Parramatta.
The suburb today has a high number of persons born in Southern Europe, mainly from Portugal and also Italy and Greece. Petersham is known for its large Portuguese community which is reflected in the many Portuguese businesses and restaurants. A small row of shops line New Canterbury Road, that extends down Audley Street towards the railway station, is home to numerous Portuguese businesses, including several Portuguese restaurants, some of which are renowned for selling traditional styled flame-grilled chicken and cod dishes. The portuguese cake shops and delicatessans attract patrons from across Sydney.
The Portuguese community began moving into the area from Paddington and Darlinghurst in the 1970s, followed by a number of Portuguese community organisations and businesses. The area s 10,000 Portuguese residents represent around 40% of the total Portuguese population of Sydney.
Petersham is located 6 kilometres south-west of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of Marrickville Council. Local landmarks include the Petersham Town Hall, the water tower and Petersham Park. The Great Western Avenue or Parramatta Road passes through Petersham, where shops line the street.
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Petersham station opened in 1857. The heritage listed Victorian Italianate station built in 1885 in Terminus Street, with platform at rear, is the only major First Class station building known to have been built in Sydney in the 19th century. The Main Suburban Railway Linethrough Petersham was quadrupled in 1892, and an island platform was built to serve both fast and slow pairs of tracks. The line was sextupled through Petersham in 1927 in association with electrification works and the island platform serving the old fast pair of tracks (to become the Up and Down Suburban tracks) was demolished. An ornate station building stands to the north of the tracks, but is no longer used as part of the station.
An important piece of Sydney's railway history has been preserved at the site of the Lewisham railway viaduct. The site is a showcase for different types of bridges representing most of the eras. On the down or south side are a pair of pin-jointed Whipple Trusses dating from 1880s on display. Next to them and carrying the local trains are three pairs of welded plate web girders and three pairs of Warren Trusses, completing this on-site working museum which recalls over a century of railway bridge construction technology.
The first bridge to carry the railway across Long Cove Creek (known today as Hawthorne Canal) at the site was a tall sandstone viaduct, constructed as part of the original Sydney to Parramatta Railway, which opened to traffic opened in 1855. One of a series of 27 bridges and 50 culverts built by the biggest single free labour force the colony has seen comprising of 650 men, its stone came from a nearby quarry. The Long Cove Creek Railway Viaduct was by far the largest construction work on the line and was in its day was a major engineering achievement.
By the 1880s, the cement which bound the sandstone blocks of the viaduct together was starting to crumble and a replacement bridge had to be built to carry the line which was duplicated at that time. Designed by R. Kendall, who retired as State Rail s Engineer-in-Chief in 1922. An additional 3-span Whipple Truss bridge came into service in 1886 when the line was quadruplicated. These were subsequently added to in 1926 with two more Warren Trusses when sextruplication occurred. A steel girder structure was constructed in the 1950s. Engineers Australia designated the Viaduct in 1994 as an historic engineering site. UBD Map 254 Ref L 4
Major Francis Grose (Lieutenant-Governor) sent workmen into the area in 1793 to clear the bush and plant corn and wheat. He named the area Peters Ham or Petersham after his native village in Surrey, England. Petersham remained an agricultural area, winning awards for some of the best crops and stock in the colony in 1803. The name was also used for the surrounding parish. Dr Robert Wardell (1793 1834) purchased land from many grantees in the district and in 1831 his estate eventually stretched 8.1 km2 from Petersham to the Cooks River. Following his murder by escaped convicts in 1834, the estate was subdivided. The train line from Sydney to Parramatta opened in 1855 and trains stopped here from 1857. A platform was built in 1863.
Petersham was the scene of a plane crash during the latter days of World war II. A Mosquito HR576 RAF (UK) disintegrated over Leichhardt and Petersham on 2 May 1945 during an air test flight. The Daily Telegraph of 3 May 1945 reported that two civilians were injured and a total of 18 properties were damaged. Five houses were set on fire by the falling debris. The aircraft s two crew members tried to eject but they were not high enough for their parachutes to open. Flight Lieutenant David Rochford of Oxford, England and LAC Charles Boydell from Mosman were both killed. Flight Lieutenant Rochford s body was found in the playground of Petersham Public School while LAC Boydell s body was found on the roof of a railway building about 100 metres away. It was suspected that a violent pull out from a power dive, with its associated high g-forces may have led to the structural failure of the aircraft.
Driving through the neighbouring suburb of Lewisham, it is hard to picture it as the little village on the banks of Long Cove Creek that sprang up around the termination point of the first train journey in the NSW colony in 1855. The present railway station and viaduct over the creek were not built until 1885.
Lewisham took its name in 1834 from the estate of Joshua Frey Josephson, a German-born businessman who would later become mayor of Sydney. The estate was named it after the London borough of Lewisham, which means Leofsa's village or manor.