Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ryde Historic Walk Sydney Australia

Is there anything better than having the time to be a tourist in your own city? It's a very cost effective way to travel and can be as enlightening and interesting as visiting some of the great attractions of Europe.

It was with this in mind that I attended the launch of the #RydeHistoricWalk last week.  Developers and road widening schemes have all but decimated what was once the historical village of Ryde, but with this little booklet, available at the Ryde Civic Centre (Hey Ryde Council, you should have a downloadable mobile friendly version) you will know where to look and be able to discover some of the stories behind the buildings.

The interior of Wesleyan Church

Ryde was actually the third settlement established in Australia, after Sydney and Parramatta, so there are some early names that come up time and again like the Blaxlands of Blue Mountains crossing fame.  There are also the Glades of Gladesville and various other interesting settlers like Granny Smith, whose retrieval of seeds from a French crab apple and her sons' subsequent grafting of the tree, once it grew from the seeds she planted.  This happy event led to the development of the Granny Smith apple, which is now famous all over the world.  Granny Smith is buried in the cemetery at St Anne's church.

There are also personal stories of great loss, experienced by ordinary Australians.

The Parsonage is the Manse for the Wesleyan Church

And stories of how colonial architecture, was often saved at the eleventh hour.  Even if it is now perched high above the current road alignment and overlooks a 6 lane highway, rather then a one lane dirt track, as it originally would have.

The Parsonage (centre shot) had its entrance changed to it's original rear elevation and now directly over looks the extended road.

Blaxland House is next door to The Parsonage and no one knows definitively, why it is called Blaxland House.  I googled it and had no joy, so if you know anything, please let me know.  Charlie Louie????

And then there is the beautiful Willandra House.

Built on the rise at Top Ryde, originally with panoramic views over the farmland down to the Parramatta River. Guess how that vista looks now.

See those sandstone stairs there?  Well the shot below is the the view to the Parramatta River, if you stand on the top of the stairs. now in 2015,  

The tiny green street sign (centre left) is where Willandra's stables once stood and where the driveway to the property began.  The lesson here is death duty laws instigated by short sighted politicians, led to the demise of these grand colonial properties and along with them, so much of this nation's history.  The second lesson is, never stand between a developer and a bucket of money, if you want to stay on your feet.  

Anyway, that horse has well and truly bolted and luckily, at least the house has survived, possibly because after being a private girls day and boarding school in the late 19th century and passing through several owners thereafter, it then became a service station between the 1930's and 1970's, due to its great location, right on the main road.

Here is an old shot of Willandra House, when it was known as Howard's Brake and Clutch.  Ironically this disrespect for the building probably saved it.

The back of the house today, where Howard's Brake and Clutch once stood.

The historical significance of Willandra was finally realised with the acquisition of the house by the council and restoration c 1980.  Phew!!!!

She has just been painted on the outside and she looks fabulous.

And now for the inside, as it awaits its turn to be a painted.

The foyer and infact the whole house, is trimmed in beautifully crafted cedar.

The stair case is rather grand with its beautiful joinery.

Willandra has sporadic open days and you can find out if they come up here or here.

The now over grown view to the Parramatta River.

Willandra House 2015

Another beautiful building along the #RydeHistoricWalk is St Annes Anglican Church.

This church was instrumental in moving the settlement of Ryde up the hill from the river.

The cemetery at St Annes has some incredibly interesting people at rest here, including the first Premier of NSW, the oldest surviving male convict on the First Fleet,  Banjo Patterson's Grandmother, whom he used to visit in her Ryde cottage, the two sons of Gregory Blaxland, who crossed the Blue Mountains and as I already mentioned Granny Smith and many more early settlers.

The Glades of Gladesvilles graves

StAnnes and the surrounding village of Ryde in 1863
Granny Smith's Grave

Westward Cottage (named for its view to the west, towards the Blue Mountains) is the last remaining cottage from the original village, and was actually dismantled and moved next to the Parsonage. It was saved as it shows how ordinary Australians lived in Ryde and the colony generally.  This house was once inhabited by a tailor.

The original court house

Much of the history and architecture of Ryde has been lost because of road widening and a reckless disregard for beauty and culture, over the almighty dollar. 

There are all in all, 28 buildings, structures, or monuments of historical significance in Ryde.  It takes about 4 hours to see them all, so several trips to the area may be required.  There is a brand new shopping centre, known as Top Ryde City Shopping Centre........how ironical....... as apparently the Ryde Historical Society thought the old shopping centre was historically significant, as it was the first of its kind in Sydney, but sadly that was not to be. You can park and lunch there and take the walk and make a day of it.

I hope you enjoyed a small part of the tour.

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  1. Hi Caro, I don't know why that house is called 'Blaxland House' but I do know that after the crossing of the Blue Mountains, Gregory Blaxland was granted a lot of land in Ryde and the Blaxlands then built a lot of grand colonial buildings in the area. One of the most significant of these homes was Cleaves, a home very similar to Vaucluse House. In the past, the Council of Ryde has done absolutely shocking things to the area it was supposed to look after and in the 1960's a decision was made to bulldoze the house and turn it into a park! Bye, bye significant history. With all the other historic homes you will see they have been poorly protected by development with main roads cutting through land that originally came with the houses etc. There has been an attempt in recent years to try and protect the significant history of the City of Ryde however it's almost too little too late. If I find out anything about why that home is called 'Blaxland House' I'll let you know xx

    1. Thanks Charlie, What a shame about Cleaves. The 60's were such a terrible time of destruction for the nation. Yes I would love to know about the cottage. It looks late 19th century and is lovely, but in much need of some love. It looks to be privately occupied currently.

  2. I have fond memories of Ryde as my Nana used to live there and I'd stay with her every school holidays. Some of the buildings you've featured however I'm not familiar with. I'm very tempted to do this tour over the Christmas holidays.

  3. Oh that looks wonderful! I love learning about local history, and especially tours of historic houses. #TeamIBOT

  4. What a lovely tour in your home city. I love gong on these little tours and discovering the history of the gorgeous old buildings. A bit like an episode of ABC's "Who's been sleeping in My House" but you get to physically see it.

  5. Those places are just gorgeous, and the history! Just beautiful.

  6. Hello, Carolyn, the original Top Ryde shopping centre was the first in NSW and second in Aistralia afer Chermside in Brisbane. I live in the area, so must make time to do the walk!

  7. Wow, beautiful architecture. I go over to Ryde often for work but would never have thought such beautiful buildings existed. I should make a little detour next time I'm out that way.


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