EARLY HISTORY OF THE MOOREFIELDS DISTRICT
Moorefields, in the Municipality of Canterbury, is that small area which surrounds Moorefields Road. This road connects Kingsgrove Road, Kingsgrove, with King Georges Road, Beverly Hills.
The name may have come from the grant of land of 60 acres given to Patrick Moore in 1812, but this land was situated in what is now Kogarah district. Moorfields (the original spelling) is a place in London with associations for the early followers of John Wesley. Many Wesleyans settled in the Moorefields area and it is considered likely that they gave it the name of Moorefields.
Previous to this time, there had been other grants in the area, one being given to John Miller in 1810. This grant was for 90 acres and was known as Richland estate. In the same year a grant of 30 acres was given to William Ward. Standing on this at the present day is that landmark of the district and one of the oldest homes in the area, "The Towers."
It was not until 1823, that further grants were given. In that year Governor Brisbane saw fit to grant land to Thomas Braimson (40 acres), William Pithers (100 acres), Charles Watson (80 acres) and William Lees (100 acres). These land grants were still described as being in the district of Botany Bay. From this time the Moorefields district became a settled farming area.
As mentioned earlier, a great number of the early settlers were Wesleyans. Around 1848-49, they commenced holding services in the homes of various residents. One of the homes was that of Mr.Thomas Chard, adjoining the "Man of Kent" inn, on what is now the corner of Kingsgrove Road and Forrester Street. They also met at the Tompkin's home, near where the Bexley Salvation Army Boys' Home stood and where the Salvation Army Training College stands.
MOOREFIELDS WESLEYAN CHAPEL
Moorfields Church. Photograph courtesy of Mrs. Menzies, Lugarno. In 1850, John Chard, son of James Chard, an early settler in the district, gave an acre of ground on which to build a Wesleyan Church. This building was completed in 1852, at a cost of $200.00.
In the early days of the Church, the community was very scattered and many travelled long distances for Church services. The Parkes family came from Canterbury Heights, the Peak family from what is now Peakhurst and the Tompkin family from Bardwell Park.
To get to the church services, some of the congregation probably came by Punchbowl Road and Canary Road, as these two roads were in use as early as 1812. Where there were no roads, there were doubtless many well used tracks through the timbered countryside.
As Prout's Bridge had been built in 1839 and Unwin's Bridge in 1840, both of these routes, via Canterbury Road and William Street, could well have been used for access to the district.
With still more people coming to reside in the district, a school was a necessity, therefore in 1864, the little chapel also became a public school house, under the auspices of the Wesleyans.
Mr. William Miller was thought to have been the first teacher and was later followed by Mr.Joseph Saxty from Canterbury. There was also Miss Sophia Ridgewell and Mr. Francis Beamish.
Children came from the farther parts of the district to the school.
True, there was a school established by Mr. Thomas at Essex Hill in 1873, but it was a part time school and we have on record that the children of Mr. James Quigg, who at that time owned Belgrove Farm (now Roselands) sent his children to the Wesleyan school at Moorefields on the days that the Essex Hill school was closed.
THE CHAPEL AND THE COMMUNITY
The Wesleyan Church seemed to be the centre of the social life of the district, serving both the spiritual and educational needs of the people. The small chapel was used by the people of the district for many years. Gradually time caught up and it was found that repairs to the chapel were becoming more pressing and more uneconomic, so the old building had to go.
The last service in the 116 years old chapel was held on the 17th September, 1967.
Now a modern cream brick building stands in its place, opened in 1968 and proudly displaying side by side the foundation stone of the first little chapel with the stone of the new building.
SOCIAL LIFE IN THE DISTRICT
The church still caters for a certain amount of social life in the district, but times have changed. On the Moorefields Road of today, we now have a Bowling green, and a golf course. Land has been given for a new Scout's Hall and a Women's Bowling Club. However, for those of us who like to know the story of the past, a quiet hour spent in the little church graveyard at the rear of the new Methodist Peace Memorial Church, reading the inscriptions on some of the tombstones of the district's pioneers, will take us back into the 19th century and the beginnings of settlement of Moorefields.
Some early land grants in the Moorefields area
His wife and daughter, came to the young colony in 1815. Lees, himself arrived on the "Mary Ann" and his womenfolk on the "Northampton".
It is probable that they at first settled in the Windsor district, as a William Lees tendered to supply meat in 1817 and 1818. He was promised a grant of land near Braimson's Farm. This was supposedly to be granted in 1821, but the actual grant was not granted until 1823, given by the then Governor Brisbane. He was probably in residence and had cleared about 37 acres by 1828 and had 30 acres under cultivation.
WILLIAM PITHERS, also received a grant of land in 1823 signed by Governor Brisbane. His was for 100 acres and the grant dated 30th June, 1823. By 1828, Pithers had cleared 20 acres of his grant and was running 20 head of cattle.
There is in the"Sydney Gazette" dated November 1st, 1826, a notice stating "District of Botany Bay--to be constable, William Pithers. Appointment to bear date 1-11-1826". It would seem that this would be the same William Pithers.
We do not know long William Pithers remained in the district, but by 1869, the land was described as "vacant and unfenced said to belong to James Pithers, a sawyer, lately residing in the district of Newtown".
In the small church yard at Moorefields Methodist church can be seen the headstone of William's son James. His grandson William was also buried there.
JOHN MILLER, was given his grant of 90 acres on 24th October, 1809 and it was stated to be bounded on the N.E. side by "Mrs Laycock's Kings Grove land". This grant was called the Richland estate.
In 1828, this estate was sold to James Oatley, who was a watchmaker in Sydney. Mr.Oatley, later on by purchase and by original grants came to own considerable property in the district.
THE CHARD FAMILY
It is thought that perhaps James Chard, who arrived in the colony in 1818 on the ship "Ocean", could have been a resident in the Moorefields district from that time.
His wife Rachel (who was his first wife) arrived in N.S.W. in 1823. She had travelled with their two sons, John and Thomas, on board the "Jupiter". In February, 1827, James Chard purchased Charles Watson's grant of 80 acres of land for $2.00 an acre. This land had been given to Watson in 1823. A year later in 1828, James Chard had cleared 30 acres of this land and had about 20 acres under cultivation.
It is thought that James Chard also purchased Thomas Braimson's original grant of 40 acres, this land was received by Braimson also in 1823. It adjoined to the west, the land on which the Methodist Peace Memorial Church is now built. James Chard is said to have lived on the land that he purchased from Braimson for some years, before he died in 1855. His grave can be seen in the small cemetery at the rear of the Moorefields church.
JOHN AND THOMAS CHARD
The grave site and headstone in a small churchyard at the back of the now Moorfield;s Uniting Church, Moorefields Road, retaken 1991. The inscription reads "All ye that pass this way along O' think how sudden man is gone For God doth not always warning give Therefore be careful how you live" In 1845, James Chard transferred some of his land to his sons. John received 50 acres and Thomas 30 acres. It was one acre of this land that John subsequently gave to the Wesleyans in 1850, on which to build a church. Six years later, John Chard sold out to Charles Saxby for $6.000,00. He is thought to have gone to live in Newtown, as he had considerable amount of property there. You may wish to check the Canterbury Bell for more interesting articles on our District
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