Derwent Street, named after the river in the Lake District, England, is in the area known as the Glebe Estate, because it was retained by the Church of England after other parts of the Church lands were sold in 1828.
Corner Mitchell St and Derwent St
LOOKING AROUND: The Glebe Estate
The southern end of Glebe, between St Johns and Parramatta Roads, is often called the Glebe Estate, because much of it was retained by the Church of England after other parts of the Church lands were sold to various Sydney magnates in 1828. (In fact, there are several “estates” in Glebe.)
The remaining Church lands were divided into two parts: the area on the city or eastern side of Glebe Point Road was handed over to the trustees of St Phillips Church Hill, in York Street, Sydney. Consequently it is known as St Phillips. The area to the west, as far as Mount Vernon Street, was given to the Archdeacon, and later the Bishop. Hence it became known as Bishopthorpe (thorpe = village).
Bishopthorpe and St Phillips were sold by the Church of England to the Commonwealth Government under Whitlam in 1974, for a cost of $17.5 million, and later, in 1985, were transferred to the NSW Department of Housing. In this way many of the families who had lived here for generations were able to stay in the area, but the houses could be repaired and provided with modern conveniences. In addition, vacant sites or large blocks could be built on to extend the amount and variety of accommodation, using sympathetic designs and materials.
Together with large sections of the Lyndhurst Estate, this rebuilding was the largest and most important urban renewal project undertaken in Australia, and also the oldest as it was begun before Woolloomooloo. A major part of old Sydney’s heritage has been preserved and enhanced, and the project is of international interest. The new building using polychrome brickwork and transitional style is similar in concept to urban renewal projects in Europe and America. By these means also the rich social mixture of the inner city is being preserved.
Bishop Frederick Barker, 2nd Anglican Bishop of Sydney, from 1855 until his death in 1881.
Derwent Street was named in honour of Bishop Barker’s association with the Lake District of England. Barker married Jane Harden, whose artist father was a close friend of the English romantic poet, William Wordsworth, who with other artists lived in the wildly picturesque Lake District of Westmoreland in the northwest of England. Derwent and Westmoreland Streets are named in honour of this association, and indeed, the streets of Bishopthorpe retain the layout and forms of a country town in the very heart of Australia’s largest city. The streets were wider and much longer than were common at the time, and the leases forbade wooden dwellings, so almost all have survived.
Prior to subdivision in 1856, the area was part of Catherine Farm, commemorated by Catherine Street. The buildings are of special interest because they were built between 1856 and 1880, and thus form an architectural record of the post-gold rush period in Sydney, a period not well recorded or understood.