Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

From some 17,000 years ago when Aborigines arrived in this place, they named the local plants and farmed it for the fruits and other edible plants which it yielded. When an early botanist, George Caley started in 1805 to explore the district he recorded what an Aboriginal boy, Moowattin told him were the names of trees and shrubs. Those records are still held in the National Herbarium within the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens.

Mount Tomah Nursery

The first identified nursery within the broader district did not open until the late 1880s when a German, Martin F Vollmer, opened a nursery on Marsden Road – extending back to Pennant Parade. He called it Mount Tomah Nursery. Tomah Street is named after this nursery. In the 1890s he relocated his nursery to land bounded now by Epping Road, Forest Park, Blaxland Road and Essex Street. The nursery originally specialised in fruit trees to supply the local orchards but introduced roses in the latter 1890s when Mr Vollmer appointed C E Vessey as his second nursery manager. Following the death of Vollmer, Mr Vessey bought the nursery and continued to run it until 1919 when he retired and his son Fred took it over. At this stage the nursery was subdivided. Men who had worked in the nursery then established their own nurseries in the locality. These included Walter Beck who established a rose nursery in Norfolk Road; Heber Catt who established Catt’s Nursery on Marsden Road (continuing as Swanes) also supplying roses, and Harry Hazlewood also worked for a short time with Mr Vessey [1].

The first nursery manager for Mr Vollmer was Lars “Archie” Rosen who was a Swede arriving in Sydney in 1891. He left Vollmer’s in 1901 and established his own citrus nurseries at various locations before purchasing 8 acres in Ray Road where he built his cottage on the corner of what is now Rosen Street. Family continued in the nursery business into the 1930s [2].

Waratah Nursery

This nursery was on 34 acres in Malton Road, on the opposite side of the road to the Herring home, Sheen. The nursery was jointly owned by Messrs Herring and Moran, with Mr Moran managing it. Mr Moran also conducted a nursery at his home in Pennant Hills. The nursery is referred to as early as February 1892 and as late as 1895 [3].

It specialised in trees for orchards (peach, citrus, persimmons, cherries, grapes) but also had Norfolk Island pines and trees from San Francisco and Japan. For the garden it had a range of plants including daphnes, bouvardias, Philadellinias, hibiaci and hydrangeas [4].

Hazlewood

The Epping Rose Show commenced in 1903 with the committee comprising Messrs Vessey, Vollmer, Rosen and George and Harry Hazlewood together with, as the paper reported, “a number of ladies” [5].

This Hazlewood family started in Australia with David Hazlewood: who was killed while on missionary service in Fiji in 1855. Each of his sons David, George and Harry eventually worked in the family nursery in Epping. Of passing curiosity David Senior, the missionary, started life in Norfolk, England as a gardener and one of his daughters, Dorothy married Professor W L Waterhouse an agricultural scientist at Sydney University [6].

Harry Hazlewood, grew up on the family orchard in Epping and when he left school in 1898 he went to work for Arthur Yates Seed Store in Sussex Street Sydney. He left there in 1905 when he went to Melbourne to work in the nursery business. After that he returned and worked for Mr Vessey in the Mount Tomah Nursery until he opened his own nursery on a small corner of the family orchard in 1909. He grew a little of everything – but this included roses. A significant commercial contract was then won to supply roses in particular and this was sufficiently lucrative for Harry and his brother Walter to buy the entire 16 acre orchard and convert it into a nursery. By 1911 they issued their first catalogue with some 50,000 roses and shrubs included. By 1922 this had grown to 100,000 roses alone. The nursery moved its location around the district until they purchased the Tunks orchard comprising 50 acres on the corner of Pennant Parade and Ray Road for 50 pounds. After a number of years on this site the land was sold and the business relocated to Dural [7].

Rex Hazlewood, son of David and grandson of the original David, was a notable photographer as well as being a nurseryman and garden designer. Apart from designing the Boronia Gardens in Epping he designed the rose garden named after him which adjoins old Parliament House in Canberra. Commenced by Rex in 1931 this garden shows the international development of roses as demonstrated by the 40,000 plus varieties growing there [8]. The innovation shown by Rex in his garden designs can be seen when he incorporated native plants, as well as avoiding straight lines and equal spacing between beds. These indicators of his work can be seen in his work at Willoughby Park which was undertaken during the early 1950s and which pre-dates the work of the Sydney Bush School of architects (of Harry Howard, Bruce Rickard, Bruce McKenzie and Allan Correy) and the publications of Thistle Harris.

Levy nursery

The Misses Levy conducted a nursery for rare trees and plants in Hannah Street.

Mt Ayres

Located next to the Bowling Club on the western side of the creek was Mt Ayres nursery conducted by Mr Ayres.

The Gerbera Farm

This was owned and conducted by John Backhouse and was located at 36 Beecroft Road. It specialised in gerbera with Mr Backhouse having developed the Backhouse hybrid in 1926. The earliest references to the nursery in Beecroft that have so far been found have been in 1932 and the most recent in 1955 when his daughter Pam was also involved [9].

Seale Nursery

Mr Seale sold azaleas and camellias in Boronia, Malton Road at the turn of the last century – near where Seale Close currently exists.

Hincliffe’s nursery

This was established in Beecroft in the 1930s by John Hinchcliffe (who died in 1940) on land leased from the Byrne family between Hannah Street and Cardinal Avenue. It specialised in trees, shrubs and roses.

Garden Gate

This nursery was located in Hannah Street next to (and forming part of the land) of the former Post Office. It was a well loved nursery conveniently located near the main shopping area. In 1992 it was managed by Albina Todorovitch [10]. It closed in 2003 in anticipation of the development of the Post Office site and the building of residential and retail premises on the site.

Garden Clinic Nursery

Graham and Linda Ross had a nursery at Mandalay on Beecroft Road. Concurrently, and subsequent to the nursery closure, they ran their business Garden Clinic and a garden tour company from the site.

[1]          W G Hazlewood History of Epping (privately printed nd 1966?) pp39-40

[2]          W G Hazlewood History of Epping (privately printed nd 1966?) pp40-41

[3]          Daily Telegraph, 4 February 1892 p.3; Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 2 January 1897; Cumberland Mercury, 9 December 1893;

[4]          Cumberland Mercury, 14 January 1893

[5]          Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 31 October 1903, 5 November 1904 p10.

[6]          Cumberland Argus, 6 August 1932 p 2; N Gunson Messengers of Grace (Oxford University Press, 1978) p 352; K O Campbell “Walter Lawry Waterhouse (1887-1969)” Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1990) Vol 12 p 391

[7]          W G Hazlewood History of Epping (privately printed nd 1966?) pp 41-42.

[8]          Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 March 1938 p2

[9]          Labor Daily, 19 March 1932 p.7 and 31 March 1937; The Sun, 13 September 1953 p. 52; Farmer and Settler, 7 April 1955 p.2;

[10]        Beecroft Briefly, September 1992.

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