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Darling St. Balmain c1888.
State Library of NSW

Balmain is a suburb in the inner-west of Sydneymarker, in the state of New South Walesmarker, Australia. Balmain is located slightly west of the Sydney central business districtmarker, in the local government area of the Municipality of Leichhardtmarker.

Balmain is located on the Balmain peninsula surrounded by Port Jacksonmarker, adjacent to the suburbs of Rozellemarker to the south-west, Birchgrovemarker to the north-west, and Balmain Eastmarker to the east. Iron Covemarker sits on the western side of the peninsula, with White Baymarker on the south-east side and Mort Bay on the north-east side.


Prior to European settlement, the area was inhabited by the Indigenous Eora peoples. Stories from early settlers in the area tell of how the local indigenous people used to hunt kangaroo by driving them through the bushy peninsula, down the hill to Peacock Point at the East end, where they were killed.

The area now known as Balmain was part of a 550 acre (2.2 km²) grant to colonial surgeon Dr William Balmain (1762-1803) made in 1800 by Governor John Hunter. A year later, Balmain transferred his entire holding to settle a debt to John Bothwick Gilchrist before returning to Scotland. The legality of the land transfer from Balmain to Gilchrist for only 5 shillings was challenged by Balmain's descendents and further development of the area was blocked. The area subsequently became known as Gilchrist’s place, though court documents refer to the area as the Balmain Estate.

During the many years of legal challenges, the land was leased for farming and cattle purposes. In 1814 the adjacent homestead of Birchgrovemarker was sold to Roland Warpole Loane, a merchant and settler descended from a family of English landlords. One hundred acres on the adjoining Balmain estate were leased to Loane.

In 1833, Gilchrist transferred power of attorney to Frederick Parbury. When Loane's lease finally expired in 1836 and the land retrieved from his possession, Parbury commissioned surveyor John Armstrong to sub-divide the land into six parcels. Three parcels were sold to Thomas Hynde in 1837. The area was rapidly sub-divided and developed during the 1840s and by 1861 had been divided into the well populated eastern suburb of Balmain and the sparsely populated western area, extending to the gates of Callan Park, known as Balmain West.

The peninsula changed rapidly during the 1800s and became one of the premier industrial centres of Sydney. Industries clustered around Mort Bay included shipbuilding, a metal foundry, engineering, boilermaking and the Mort's Dock and Engineering Company works which opened in 1855.

In the 1920s the manufacture of railway and mining equipment completed the heavy industrialisation of Balmain. Balmain also boasted its own coal mine - a deep, gassy and watery affair that struggled to survive, supported mainly by its long-suffering, English shareholders, from its opening in 1897 to its final closure in 1931. The mine's shaft was located beside what is now Birchgrove Primary School. From the bottom of the shaft a decline led down to a block of coal situated under the harbour between Ballast Point and Goat Islandmarker.

Balmain had a reputation as a rough working-class area of Sydney. The industrialisation of Balmain created a demand for cheap housing. This was satisfied by the dock owners selling small blocks of land to entrepreneurs who then built tiny cottages and rented them to the workers. It was in this suburb in 1891, in the meeting hall of the Unity Hall Hotel, that the Australian Labor Party was formed and first met. Numerous phrases have been used to describe the suburb and its inhabitants, including "Balmain boys don't cry" (former NSW Premier Neville Wran at the Street Royal Commission; "You can take the boy out of Balmain, but you can't take Balmain out of the boy" (Unknown); "There are only two types of man in this world: those who were born in Balmain and those who wish they were" (a Police Commissioner of New South Wales). Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating commented on the suburb's gentrification by using the term "Basket weavers of Balmain".

As an old suburb, Balmain has many heritage buildings. The following buildings are listed on the Register of the National Estate:

  • Exchange Hotelmarker, Beattie Street (circa 1885)
  • Presbyterian Church, Campbell Street (1867-78)
  • Presbyterian Church Hall, Campbell Street (late 19th century)
  • Two-storey house, 9 Campbell Street (late 19th century)
  • Presbyterian Manse, Campbell Street (late 1890s)
  • St Andrew's Congregational Church and Hall, Darling Street (1885)
  • Fire Station Darling Street (1894)
  • Post Office, Court House and Police Station, Darling Street (1886)
  • Watch House, Darling Street (1854)
  • St Augustine's Catholic Church, Eaton Street (old church 1848-51, extensions 1860, new church 1906)
  • Public School, Eaton Street (1876, extensions 1892)
  • Public School, Nicholson Street (1877)
  • Balmain Volunteer, Queens Place (1850)
  • Terraces, 5-9 Queens Place (circa 1850)
  • Thames Street Ferry Wharf and Shelter, Thames Street (circa 1895)
Image:Balmain Court House Post Office.JPG|Post Office and Court House, Darling StreetImage:Balmain Working Mens Institute.JPG|Balmain Working Men's InstituteImage:Balmain Chelmsford Hall.JPG|Chelmsford Hall, Montague StreetImage:Balmain Bank.JPG|Historic Bank Building, Darling Street

Commercial area

Darling Street, Balmain's main thoroughfare, features boutique shops, quality restaurants and cafes alongside old drinking establishments. Landmarks on this street include the Post Office and Court House, alongside Balmain Town Hall, the historic Westpac Bank, Balmain Fire Station and Balmain Working Men's Institute. Other commercial developments are scattered throughout the suburb. The headquarters of the NSW Water Police moved to Cameron Cove in Balmain in late 2007.
  • Balmain Power Stationmarker - A private power station which once serviced the electricity needs of the local area. Demolished in 1994 to make way for apartments.
  • Balmain Reservoirmarker - An underground reservoir located beneath Gladstone Park.
  • Lever Brothers Factorymarker - A large soap factory that was much a part of the Balmain landscape from 1895 until it was demolished for apartments in 1996.
Image:Exchange Hotel Balmain 1.JPG|Exchange Hotel, Beattie StreetImage:Balmain Fire Station 1.JPG|Balmain Fire Station, Darling StreetImage:Balmaincornerstore.JPG|Corner shop, Darling StreetImage:Balmain Water Police Station - Cameron's Cove, Balmain.jpg|NSW Water Police HQ, Cameron Cove, Balmain

Parks and Reserves

Illoura Reserve (Peacock Point), Thornton Park (at Darling Street Wharf), The Zig Zag, Cameron Cove (Home to Clontarf Cottage), Yurrulbin Point Park (Long Nose Point), Gladstone Park, Birrung Park, Elkington Park (Dawn Fraser Pool), White Bay Park, Issy Wyner Reserve, Nick Origlass Park, Simmons Point Reserve, Birchgrove Park, Callan Park (Home of the Callan Park Lunatic Asylum for the Mentally and Criminally Insane, NSW Writers Centre and Sydney College of the Arts)
Balmain, New South Wales


Trams once ran all the way down Darling Street to the Wharf at Balmain East. Due to the very steep incline at the bottom of the street, the trams used a complex 'dummy' counterweight system constructed under the road surface. The trams were pushed up the steep hill by the dummy, and rode the dummy on the way down to safely descend the hill. Sydney Buses have now replaced these tram services. The Bus services that service Balmain are: 441 - Birchgrove to NSW Art Gallery via Rozelle, 442 - Balmain to QVBmarker via Rozelle, 445 - Balmain to Canterbury, 432 - Birchgrove to Millers Point, 433 - Balmain to Millers Point.

Balmain has several ferry wharves that are serviced by the Inner Harbour ferry services. These wharves are located at Thames Street, Elliot Street and in Darling Street, Balmain Eastmarker. Services run to Circular Quaymarker.
Image:Elkington Park Balmain 5.JPG|Elkington ParkImage:BalmainThamesStWharf.JPG|Balmain Thames Street Wharf


The post-industrial gentrification of Balmain has resulted in a suburb of considerable charm and interest where the modest, pretty houses command prices that would not have been dreamt of by their original tenants. However, Balmain still retains a diverse mix of residents due to the Housing Commission unit blocks in the suburb.

Image:West0027.jpg|Terraces, childhood home of Neville WranImage:Balmain_fullbay.jpg|Terrace homes with faceted bay windows on the endImage:Historical house balmain.JPG|Historic sandstone worker's cottage, Darling StreetImage:2007 0830klklk0044.JPG|Historic sandstone building


Pubs and Clubs

Pop culture

Sport and recreation

Balmain is home to the Wests Tigers rugby league club. The club was formed in mid-1999 by a merger between Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies in preparation for the 2000 season. In 2005 the Tigers defeated the North Queensland Cowboys in the Grand Final to win the premiership.

The Balmain Rugby Union Football Club, founded in 1873, took part in the very first competition structure and in fact winning their first premiership in 1875. Players lost fighting in World War 1 forced the club to merge with the Glebe "Dirty Reds" RUFC in 1919, to form the Glebe-Balmain RFC. As a merged club they had enormous success during the Twenties, winning four premierships. In 1931, as a depression project, Drummoyne Oval as we now know it was constructed on the site of a small oval which Glebe and Balmain had used for junior matches since 1892. To ensure longevity of tenure, because there were just not enough sporting grounds in Sydney, but with some reluctance, the Glebe-Balmain Club decided to change its name to the Drummoyne Rugby Football Club [61099].It did so without giving up its long held traditions, the scarlet jumpers of Glebe and its world famous tag, "The Dirty Reds" and the black and gold of Balmain, colours still worn proudly by today's players in their socks. Drummoyne Rugby Club [61100]is still in existence and still upholds it proud history and traditions.

The suburb is also home to the Balmain Australian Football Club, a founding member in 1903 of the Sydney Football League.

Balmain is also home to Balmain SC, who are a semi-professional football club, playing in the NSW Super League, the league below the NSW Premier League.

Notable residents

Notable past and present residents include:


  1. Postcode 2041 covers the suburbs of Balmain, Balmain East and Birchgrove.
  2. Combined population for all residents of postcode 2041.
  3. Median house price for all properties of postcode 2041.


  1. The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Compiled by Frances Pollon, Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1990, ISBN 0-207-14495-8, p.14
  2. Lawrence, J; Warne, C; A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe, Kingsclear Books, 1995, ISBN 0-908272-40-5.
  3. The Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Company, 1981, pp.2/35-2/37
  4. Solling, M; Reynolds, P; Leichhardt: On the margins of the city, Allen & Unwin, 1997, ISBN 1-86448-408-X.

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