The area and the name Castle Hill date back to the establishment of a government farm in 1801. In its early years, the Hills District area was home to New South Wales’ first school, first lunatic asylum as well as being a site of an early convict rebellion.
Nowadays, the suburb is one of Sydney’s more affluent areas, with buyers heading to the area to raise families and enjoy the benefits of living within easy reach of Sydney city, in a locale that still has somewhat of a ‘country’ feel.
If history interests you then read a previous article we wrote called Do you know the history of your Hills Shire suburb?
Today, we look at Castle Hill and its surround in terms of the residential development and discuss how, in some cases, history is now repeating itself.
The early farming days of Castle Hill
Like much of Sydney and its surrounds, Castle Hill was primarily a farming area. Castle Hill Government Farm took up a huge amount of space – it was roughly 14,000 hectares in size – and provided food for much of the colony. Early settlers introduced sheep, cattle, wheat and corn to the area, but the success of citrus trees saw farmers switch their focus to orchards and orange groves. Although much of this has gone today, it is celebrated in the annual Orange Blossom Festival.
In the early 20th century, attention turned more towards stone fruits and poultry farms, while the immigrants of World War II preferred to grow vegetables and flowers for market.
The end of the farming life was signalled in the 1950s, as urban development moved quickly, out from Sydney and up to the north. Nowadays, only a few hobby farms remain. Larger properties were subdivided as landowners looked to make a profit from their holdings and, again today, we are seeing the popularity of subdividing larger blocks.
Transport and facilities around Castle Hill
The development of a road network around Castle Hill kicked off in 1826. Using convict labour, the construction of the Great North Road, which went to Baulkham Hills in the south and up to the Hawkesbury River in the north, was a major thoroughfare and led to the clamour for land grants nearby. Today, this is known as the Old Northern Road.
Public transport was also available. In 1910, the Parramatta tramline was extended to Castle Hill, which made the area more accessible for everyday people. This led to the subdivision of many farming estates adjacent to the tramline, and residential homes began to pop up.
Auctioneers and real estate agents in Castle Hill encouraged large farms to undertake subdivision plans to create smaller farm lots. Many of these plans still survive today in the state library, such as the 1922 auction of the Darcey Hey Estate.
The Darcy Hey Estate – which was surrounded by Castle Hill Road, Edward Street and Francis Street – was subdivided into 26 blocks. The advertisement for the auction boasted of ‘water laid on’ and a ‘frequent tram service past the estate’, as well as the ability to pay off the asking price within three years!
The tramline was short-lived, however, and replaced by heavy rail in 1924, preceding the arrival of electricity to the homes in Castle Hill by two years. Sewerage, however, wouldn’t arrive until 1977. And then, meeting the same fate as the tram, the train line lasted just shy of a decade and was closed in 1932. At which point cars and buses became more commonplace.
Then, in 2011, the need for public transport in such a built-up area was evident and planning for the North West Rail Link got underway. Access to the new station, which is due to open in 2019, will be available from the (heavily upgraded) Old Northern Road, originally built by convicts almost 200 years prior.
Once again, this new public transport link is fuelling a boom in property interest in the Castle Hill area. Making a perfect time to live, sell or buy into the new opportunities afforded in The Hills District.
Main image attributed to JW Lewin, courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW
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