Masters of Male Orphan School


Published in: on October 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Westacott Cottage


Westacott Victorian Cottage

Westacott Cottage is a fine example of a late Victorian period, rendered masonry cottage that is rare in the Fairfield area. It has an unusual combination of parapet and verandah form in the one building. It is still in good condition and with much interesting original timber and rendered detail. It has a historical and local significance for its association with William Westacott and the close by railway station at Canley Vale.

Physical descriptions of Westacott Coattage:

westacott-plan-1A Victorian period cottage with rendered brick walls. It has a corrugated iron roof and gable at the north end and a hip at the south end with close eaves. It also has a wing walled verandah to street façade, rendered brick chimneys with cornices and an original tile decoration to the faces of the wing wall at the ends. The verandah has two chamfered verandah posts and three pairs of French doors, with highlights.

The parapet wall to the southern half of the street façade with a shop-front has a panelled entry door with highlight, there is also projecting architrave and segmental arched on the top frame to the shop-front. There are two matching four-pane sash windows with raised rendered architraves (triangular at top) to the north façade and four pane double-hung window with segmental arch to the south façade. A picketed balustrade and side fence skirts the property.

westacott-stable-planModifications and dates:

The southern or parapeted part of the building is possibly a later addition to the northern half of the building, with the verandah. In any case, both parts of the building were constructed in the late nineteenth century. A recent major modification is the skillion roofed addition at the rear. The picket fence is also new.


The Cottage was built by William Westacott in 1886, eight years after the creation of the nearby railway station. It was the home of Williams Westacott, his wife Ellen Mary and their children. Bill Westacott conducted a wood , coal and coke business for many years (on the site of the present car park). The two daughters also turned the front of the house into a thriving little sweet shop. Bill Denton then used the premise as a hairdressing salon and then it became a general store. In 1979, the cottage was purchased by Fairfield City Council. It was later renovated and transformed,with the assistance of a grant from the Cultural Division of the Premier’s Department, into the permanent home for the Fairfield City Arts and Crafts Group, at a cost of $30,000.

The Westacott Cottage provided a venue for the Cabramatta and Districts Art Society, the Cottage China Painting Group, the Westacott Potters Group and the Hand Spinners Weavers and Dyers Guild to meet and create art works and handicrafts. It also enable the public to purchase some of these finished handcrafted goods from the cottage.

Visit the Westacott Cottage Arts & Crafts Centre and discover programs and classes that are on offer!

[Source: Office of Environment and Heritage – Westacott Cottage ]

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Westacott Family


William Westacott

William Westacott, the son of James and Elizabeth Westacott, was born in about 1855. He married Ellen Mercy Smith at Glebe in 1881. There were six children registered to William and Ellen M. , three registered at Waterloo, between 1881 and 1885, of which only Victoria was mentioned as being alive in 1920, and three registered at Liverpool between 1887 and 1893, with William J and Bessie mentioned in 1920.

In 1886, William Westacott built a house in Railway Parade directly opposite Canley Vale railway station. Several generations of the Westcotts resided in this property and the house became a distinctive landmark. William Westacott was a timber merchant who owned and operated a sawmill in Canley Vale, opposite the railway station.

William Westacott was elected to council in February 1893 and took his place in council in March. He was absent in October and November 1893. He served on the finance and works commitees from 1894 to 1897, being chairman in 1984. When works was separated from finance in 1898 he continued on the works committee from 1891 to 1900 and served on the parks committee in 1899.

westacottHe contacted influenza during the epidemic of 1919 and never recovered completely. He was confined to bed for the last seven months of his life and died on 19th November 1920 at the age of 65. The funeral moved from his home in Railway Parade, Canley Vale for the new Methodist cemetery at Liverpool, where the rev. CE Godbehear conducted the service. Ellen Mercy Westacott stayed at the family home and died there on 8 March 1923 at the age  of 62.

Three generations of the Westacott Family



[Source: Shaping Fairfield: the aldermen of Fairfield and Cabra-Vale Council 1889-1948 / Beverley Donald]



Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

National History Week 2016


3-11 September 2016  |  #HistoryWeek16

The theme of neighbours is crucial to our understanding of the past’s impact on the present. It includes stories of individuals, families and communities living near one another and links between adjoining suburbs, regions and countries. As the success of the Australian television program Neighbours shows, the theme has long been a significant component of popular culture. It shaped imagination and memories, created identities and was a source of both conflict and friendship.

How important were class, the economy, gender, governments, the media, race, religion and sport in the formation of ideas regarding neighbours? How have attitudes regarding a nation’s geographic neighbours determined defence, foreign, immigration, refugee and trade policies? Did new types of communication and transport from the nineteenth century onwards radically alter how neighbours and neighbourhoods were perceived? In 2016 History Week focuses on these and other related questions.

To discover events held across New South Wales during History Week, please visit History Council of NSW 


Published in: on September 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who’s been living in my house ?

Who's been living in my house_Join Marilyn Gallo [ Heritage Services Librarian] at Smithfield Community Library and discover the various resources to use in researching the history of your house in our informative session. These resources include:

  • Maps (Parish maps)
  • Rate books
  • Waterboard plans
  • Sydney Sands directory
  • Phone directories
  • Council Minutes books
  • Street directories
  • Building inspectors reports
  • Surveyors field books
  • Electoral rolls
  • Census records
  • BAs & DAs
  • Trove
  • LPI Torrens Titles information
  • Valuation rolls/books
  • Photographic Database (Achivalware)
  • Probates

Here is a research guide produced by the Victorian Archives Centre that provides a simple and clear explanation  to the process of researching one’s home. Click here to access this publication.

The NSW State Records has also produced a guide for residents from NSW researching their house history. Click here to access the guide.

Published in: on August 26, 2016 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

National Family History Month







National Family History Month (NFHM) is held in Australia every August, an initiative of AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations).

Family history and genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies around the world. There are over 250,000 Australians who are members of family history related organisations and the month has broad appeal across Australia. Libraries, archives and other organisations also participate in National Family History Month.

During August, events will focus on genealogy, family history, heraldry and related subjects. Visit NFHM website to discover the various events and programs that are held around Australia!

Published in: on August 5, 2016 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chinese Australians in WWI

Chinese Australian in WW1 new“If Australia is good enough to live in, it is good enough to fight for. I hope to live in it again after the war.” 

In the month of August, in our new Heritage and History Program, we invite Historian Dr Kathleen Blunt to examine the forgotten history and legacy of Chinese Australians in World War I.

In her seminar, she delves into the causes of their enlistments into the Great War. She also investigates their rights as citizens and ask these vital questions – How did their react when their rights were being denied and their loyalty to Australia were questioned, based purely on racial grounds? How did they perceive themselves in terms of national identity? And how did they cope once they returned to civilian life?

These and other aspects of the “forgotten ingredients” in the Anzac mixture – the “Chinese-Australians” – whose valiant contributions have largely been ignored in Australian history, will be examined. Subsequently, the little known, but vital role played by the Chinese Labour Corps, and the participation of China itself in WWI will also be explored in her lecture.

To learn furthermore about the contributions, achievements and sacrifices of the Chinese Australian soldiers, visit Culture Victoria  .

Chinese Anzacs_CoverDownload a copy of Chinese Anzacs, a researched publication by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Chinese Museum to learn about the history of Chinese Australian families in Australia.


Published in: on July 27, 2016 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Buddhism in the Fairfield LGA

In this month’s post, we feature the work of historian Stephen Gapps, who in 2011 won the NSW Premier’s History Award for Regional and Community history with his publication ” Cabrogal To Fairfield: A History of a Multicultural City“. The following chapter is taken directly from his research as he delves into the rich and multicultural heritage of Fairfield City :

‘Around here you have a lot of Buddhist temples’

Of importance to migrant groups when settling in any area has been finding sites—or building them—to practise their religions.

The increasing number of churches and places of worship that expanded in the 1970s continued through the 1980s and ’90s. The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, the Chaldean Catholic Church of St Thomas the Apostle, the Spanish Gospel Church, Chinese Presbyterian Church, Arabic Baptist Church, Australian Indian Christian Fellowship, ‘Ekklesia’ Spanish Church and Chung Chen Chinese Christian Church, among many others, all developed, built, converted or re-used buildings as places of worship during this period.

From the 1980s, the Vietnamese and Khmer communities very quickly established temporary Buddhist temples in Fairfield. A Vietnamese temple was built at Canley Vale and a Khmer Buddhist Temple at Bonnyrigg in 1990. With the leadership of the Buddhist monk, the Most Venerable Tich Phuoc Hue, who escaped Vietnam by boat in 1980, the Phuoc Hue Temple was built in 1991 at Wetherill Park and became a centre for migrant settlement and welfare assistance.

In fact, the Phuoc Hue Temple had existed from around 1980 in a rented residence on Hamilton Road in Fairfield. In 1982, with rapidly growing numbers, the congregation purchased premises in Landon Street. However, these temporary quarters were never satisfactory. As congregation member Chuc Tanh recalled, members were constantly aware that their temple was in an urban area and that on significant occasions such as Vesak Day or the Lunar New Year, their congregation often numbered in the thousands. Thanh noted that members were aware that ‘this number of cars parking in the streets … would soon invite the protest from the neighbourhood and eventually the local council’.

For several years the Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia struggled to negotiate a different location for their temple. Eventually, with a state government repayment assistance scheme and after a visitto the Land and Environment Court, a block of land was purchased— albeit in an industrial area.

cambodian temple 2Many other temples and places of worship began to appear in the area’s industrial or commercial districts. The Khmer community had been renting a ‘run-down cottage’ in Fairfield until a tract of Housing Commission land at Bonnyrigg was offered to them to construct a temple. Bonnyrigg resident and Khmer migrant Thin Em recalled the ‘big celebration’ that accompanied the Wat Khemarangsaram opening. Built on a prominent ridge adjacent to the Bonnyrigg Plaza, the ‘temple’ is part of a ‘cultural centre’ including management offices, monks’ residences and a community hall.

As Thin Em noted, in the 1980s the ‘neighbourhood’ of Bonnyrigg and wider Fairfield was not quite used to seeing pagoda-style temple buildings, but with the construction of so many other diverse religious buildings in the area, it has become ‘more understanding and accepting’. Bonnyrigg is also home to the Australian Chinese Buddhist Society’s Mingyue Temple. Land for the temple was first purchased in 1982, the foundations were laid in 1987 and the temple opened in 1990. With rich decorations and traditional Chinese Buddhist artwork, several smaller temples and other rooms now contrast with the original ‘small fibro building’.

The once-rare sight of a temple in the Bonnyrigg and Edensor Parkareas—in which there is also a Lao Buddhist temple and a Turkish mosque—had become quite common. Within a decade, at the opening of the Minh Quang Buddhist Monastery at Canley Vale in 2005, the Venerable Thich Minh Hieu was to note that ‘around here you have a lot of Buddhist temples’.

In many ways, just like the early Baptist, Catholic and other churches in the Smithfield, Fairfield and Cabramatta areas in the 19th century, temples were largely created from fundraising activities. The Laotian community held banquets during the 1980s to raise funds for their temple. Their Lao banquets also had ‘displays of handicrafts’, dinner, drinks and entertainment. Not a great deal had changed from the fundraising functions of the district’s early churches—although the ‘traditional Lao food, served with sticky rice in a bamboo basket’would have raised some of the early Baptists’ bushy eyebrows.

By the 1990s the Laotian community in the Fairfield area had grown to number over 3,000. Another Indo-Chinese community to settle in the area during the 1980s were the Cambodians. The Cambodian migration and settlement in Fairfield was similar to the Vietnamese: many first went to Villawood Migrant Hostel and then took up flats or houses in and around Cabramatta. So too the Khmer community settled in large numbers and also built Buddhist temples at Bonnyrigg and Cabramatta. All these Indo-Chinese migrants describe the close-knit nature of their communities. Family and community were very much linked; as one Cambodian woman described it, ‘Cambodian people always moved in with each other’.

[Source: Cabrogal To Fairfield: A History of a Multicultural City/Stephen Gapps, pp. 413-415]


Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Queen’s Birthday

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor)

queen in ozDid you know that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth celebrates two birthdays each year? Her actual birthday is on 21st April and her official birthday is on a Saturday in June. In Australia, the Queen’s Birthday is a public holiday celebrated in most states and territories on the second Monday in June, making for a much-looked-forward-to June long weekend.

Official celebrations to mark Sovereigns’ birthday have often been held on a day other than the actual birthday, particularly when the actual birthday has not been in the summer. King Edward VII, for example, was born on 9   November, but his official birthday was marked throughout his reign in May or June when there was a greater likelihood of good weather for the Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour.

The Queen usually spends her actual birthday privately, but the occasion is marked publicly by gun salutes in central London at midday: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62 gun salute at the Tower  of  London. In 2006, Her Majesty celebrated her 80th Birthday in 2006 with a walkabout in the streets outside of  Windsor  Castle to meet well-wishers.

On her official birthday, Her Majesty is joined by other members of the Royal Family at the spectacular Trooping the Colour parade which moves between Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Horse guards’ Parade.

The Queen during her first visit to Australia in 1954


The Queen in Australia is a rare archival gem from Film Australia that documents the two-month official visit, in February and March 1954, of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. This was her first visit to Australia and the first by a reigning monarch. The film was shot by a total of 16 cameramen, documenting her  visits to each state capital and many regional areas. Reminisce the royal tour by watching video clips at:  and Australia Women’s Weekly’s featured article – A royal visit: Queen Elizabeth in Australia

[Source: The official website of the British Monarchy and AWW]

Published in: on June 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Temple Tour

TempleTour_Chinese temple

Are you interested in the Buddhist cultural heritage or history of the Fairfield area? Why not join our guided temple tour in July and discover the splendor of  Fairfield’s temples.

Our guided tour will starts from Whitlam Library, followed by visits to the Phuoc Hue Monastery in Wetherill Park, the Mingyue Lay Temple in Bonnyrigg and Watt Khemarangsaran in Bonnyrigg.

Visitor will be given the opportunity to discover wondrous buildings, statues, shrines and gardens which provides further insights into SE Asian culture and the practice of Buddhism in Australia.

Booking can be made either online via our website  or contacting the library on 9725 0333.

Published in: on June 8, 2016 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment