Here we have sales notices from the late 1850s for land in the northern part of Erskineville, bound on the South by Erskineville Road, on the North by Albert Street, and encompassing Burren Street; Charles Street (called George Street prior to 1912); and John Street. Here is a sales notice from 1858 promoting the sale of ‘DEVINE’S LAND, AT NEWTOWN’ -these advertisements ran in March and April 1858:
The term ‘Title – Unquestionable’ is prominent, appearing in the heading, and the notice concludes with:
‘The litigation which has been pending for the last ten years has been concluded as far as regards the property now advertised, and a perfectly satisfactory and legal title will be guaranteed by the seller, Mr. John Devine.’
Today the prospect of a dodgy land title in Erskineville would not stop a stampede of buyers, but in the 1850s in the district that would become Erskineville it was a real and much publicised concern. Mr John Devine was a very active participant in the Newtown Ejectment Case, laying claim to 210 acres covering present-day Erskineville and parts of Newtown. Many high profile landowners faced losing their land on an unfavourable outcome of the case (there is vastly more information available in the extremely well researched book Weight of Evidence by Matt Murphy).
A little over a year later the 12 acres was for sale again. This time there were no references to John Devine or the litigation, but the subdivision was given the name ‘The Burren Estate,’ drawing from the name originally given to the 210 acre grant to Nicholas Devine (Burrin Farm). Preliminary advertisements ran almost daily for the first two weeks of June 1859, in the Sydney Morning Herald and Empire newspapers:
For the duration of the second half of June 1859 up until the day of the sale on 29 June 1859 both the Sydney Morning Herald and Empire newspapers contained the following lengthy notices, again on an almost daily basis, proving that even in 1859 Real Estate agents were masters of hyperbole:
Here is the lithograph of the Burren Estate showing the streets. Note the single dwelling described in the notice is depicted at the northern end of John Street. This is the site of John Devine’s House, later numbered 29 Albert Street, (it was demolished in the 1980s).
As for the advertisement’s claim of the soil being of the very best for gardens, orchards, and vineyards, subsequent notices for the sale of allotments of land in 1867 and 1870 refer to ‘Sweetman’s Orchard,’ showing some of the land was used for horticultural production in the period following its subdivision. Here is a notice appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald in November 1870:
The best place to give consideration today to the claim that ‘the views are very beautiful from all parts of the property, extending from Paddington, on the north-east, round by Randwick and Coogee, to the waters of Botany Bay and Cook’s River‘ is the platform of Macdonaldtown Station. Even from this elevated vantage point you have to wonder just how much the Mort and Co. copywriter could see from the ground over 150 years ago.
For a bit of context within wider Macdonaldtown/Erskineville, here is an extract of a map of the Municipalities of The Glebe, Camperdown, Newtown, Macdonaldtown & Darlington, Parishes of Petersham and Alexandria published in 1891 by Higinbotham and Robinson showing the Burren Estate and many of the other subdivisions of Erskineville:
So, with the passing of over 150 years it might be fair to say given the skip bins and tradies’ vehicles lining the streets that capital continues to be expended ‘with a liberal hand’ but what we have, unquestionably, is one of the most delightful suburbs of this great metropolis.