Turning Back The Clock: The Real History Of Forestville... - Shields Gillman

Turning Back The Clock: The Real History Of Forestville…

Do you like a good story?

Regardless of whether we’re the ones telling it or we’re listening to it for the tenth time, a great story is like a piece of classic art or a great song- time only ads to its’ appeal.

You might not have known it, but Forestville itself also has a great story behind it. Combining real estate with development, like the best stories, this one also happens to be true…

When first zoned, Forestville was known as ‘Frenchs Forest Soldiers Settlement, Forestville’.

Try saying that one 10 times over in a hurry!

The back-story goes that in 1916, a joint State & Federal Government initiative gave wounded & disabled returning WW1 soldiers access to land on what they deemed “affordable” terms. But as is often the case with government departments, at £400 and given the conditions, the “affordability” of this land was questionable…

The Frenchs Forest Soldiers Settlement was comprised of 38, 5-acre farms.

At this time, the only access to the area was via Charlie & Joe Smith’s four-person boat service. Once you alighted, there was a further two and a half to four-mile, uphill bush walk to get there. Can you imagine a walk, arms full with building materials, from the bottom of the bush (off what is today Drumcliff Avenue, Killarney Heights) up the hill, then along what is now Starkey Street- to the present-day site of Warringah Road? Of course there was no road back then, either!

Returned soldiers – wounded and disabled – established homes on what was quickly realised to be infertile land, battling the hills, the bush, heat, snakes and spiders to found what later became known in it’s shortened and current name- Forestville.

Over the New Year Holiday period of 1916, the wider Sydney Community rallied to help these Forest Founders, with a group of 300 volunteers assisting to clear the land, and in April 1916 the first cottage was completed on what is now known as Starkey Street, close to the corner of Warringah Road (think the Coles Supermarket).

It wasn’t until 1924 that both the Spit and the Roseville Bridges’ were completed and by this time, given the hardships, most of the original residents had begun to leave. In fact, only 8 settlers and just a few farms remained by the completion of World War 2.  However, in the post-war boom common sense prevailed, and the area was finally recognised as much better suited to residential development.

The Old Soldiers Settlement became subdivisions for residential homes in the 1950’s, with the remaining settlers making sizeable profits, selling quarter acre blocks at £150 per lot. From there, the rest (as they say) is history.

And should you ever find yourself cursing a traffic jam on your commute home of an afternoon, just think of the 2 1/2 to 4 mile up-hill bush-walk you’re thankfully spared!

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