The original landscape around Islington was the home of the Awabakal Peoples. The area was mostly sand flat with surrounding scrubby bush land interspersed with marsh and swamp. Large and small game as well as waterfowl, plants and tubers seemed to provide plentiful resources to the Aboriginal inhabitants of the area.
In early Colonial times when white invasion began, the area was part of what was known as ‘Wallaby Flat’ – so-called because this was a place for hunting game, in close proximity to the penal colony. Excellent water was found in the area. Early white settlers remember the Aboriginal people of the area digging to a depth of four-five feet to obtain fresh water. White settlers report the heat and the flies. Coorborees were held in the region of Beaumont Street near the Broadmeadow Race course.
White settlers first started development in the area around Hamilton in the mid-1800s and Islington as a suburb began in the late 1800s when James Hubbard and Edwin Chinchen purchased land from the Australian Agricultural Company. They subdivided it and offered allotments for sale to provide housing for miners working in the proximity noting: ‘Nothing can give coal proprietors greater command over their men than having them located on the spot and rooted in the soil’. Attitudes like this would have instigated much of the strong union activity associated with the area after that time. Islington was named after a suburb in London which was the birthplace of James Hubbard.
In its early days Islington was mostly populated by families of miners and railway workers. In response, Islington Public School was established in 1887. The site for the school was purchased from a block jointly owned by James Hubbard and Edwin Chinchen in 1875. By 1893 the school’s enrollment had increased from 200 to 460 as a result of increases in the suburb’s population. In 1941 Islington Public School was one of the first schools in NSW to trial giving students free milk. The photo below shows Mr Mason (1889-1977) a student in 1894 ringing the original school bell with the present day school in the background. 3,4
Before Islington was sewered, toilets were located along back lanes and ‘nightsoil’ was emptied and taken away for disposal in carts such as the one shown in the photo below of the Eureka Sanitary company. In 1889 a new depot for nightsoil was opened in Newtown or New Town or South Islington (now Clyde Street, Hamilton North) where carts could drop off sewage collected from households in the region and where it was burned in a crematory. The ‘fumes emitted from the shaft [of the crematory] were of such an unhealthy character as to produce nausea, headache and diarrhoea’. It was also claimed that particles of soot from the crematorium escaped from the chimney-stack and was distributed over nearby houses and washed into creeks. In response to ongoing public and private complaints, including from people directly affected in Islington, the company moved its depot to Woodford in 1891.1
1. Murray, P (2006). From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee – 1848 – 1932
2. Newcastle Museum
3. Tighes Hill School 100 year anniversary
4. Islington Public School Centenary Book – 1887 to 1987