Hunters Hill’s Past
Once home to the colony’s first bush-rangers and later a French Village, today’s Hunters Hill is a quiet link with a past of garden-blessed houses and tree-shaded streets.
Hunters Hill forms a peninsula between two rivers flowing into Sydney Harbour, and was probably named after Captain John Hunter who came here with the First Fleet in 1788.
One of the peninsula’s first residents was the redoubtable Mary Reiby, transported for stealing a horse, who arrived in the colony in chains in 1792 at the age of 15. Reiby, whose likeness appears on the Australian $20 note, settled in Hunters Hill in the 1830s in a home she shuttered with sheet iron for protection from bushrangers. In widowhood she amassed a fortune from commercial shipping and land interests.
The French wine and spirit merchant Didier Joubert purchased her farm in 1847 and built a large number of stylish houses with his brother Jules and son Numa. The villas built by the Jouberts and the Frenchman Count Gabriel de Milhau, and Leonard Bordier were the foundation for what became known as the French Village. A house was built in 1855 for the French Consul called ‘Passy’, named after a precinct in Paris. Members of the Marist order established a base to serve their Pacific missions and built St Joseph’s College for Boys in 1882.
Charles Jeanneret, born in Sydney in 1834 and brought up on Flinders Island, began house building in Hunters Hill in 1858. He also ran the ferry service on the Parramatta River.
The houses built by the early pioneers are among over 1200 items of heritage significance painstakingly preserved in and around the Hunters Hill conservation areas.
A delightful, harbour peninsular suburb isolated by the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers, Hunters Hill is an island of gracious homes set on large blocks to take the best advantage of superb water views. Visitors can share these views from strategically placed riverside parks and reserves. There’s no finer way, of course, to experience the magnificence of Sydney Harbour than from the water and this suburban peninsula is on the public ferry network. Local wharves connect Hunters Hill to the City and selective river and harbour locations.
The Hunters Hill Historical Society runs the Museum in the Hunter’s Hill Town Hall, Alexandra Street, Hunter’s Hill. The Museum is open on Wednesdays 10am – 12 noon and for¬†special events. As a resource centre it is also open by arrangement – click¬†here¬†for more information.