Kensington lies to the immediate south of Moore Park and west of Randwick Racecourse. The principal landmarks of the suburb are the main campus of the University of New South Wales, National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and the exclusive Australian Golf Club. Kensington is also a residential suburb with the advantage of being very close to the Sydney CBD. There is a mixture of high and medium density housing, and freestanding homes for its 11,000 residents. This has led to Kensington being one of the most prestigious Sydney suburbs, due a large part to Mirvac owned Raleigh Park.
The original inhabitants of the area were tribes of Aboriginal. The Cadigal people were part of the salt-water clans, in the Darug language group and their land. The Cadigal people were known for their fishing skills and often travelled in canoes. The 1828 census showed some 50-60 clans of Cadigal people living by the Lachlan swamps of Kensington and surrounding areas. Swamps provided fruit, nectar, roots and tubers. Very few Aboriginals live in Kensington today.
The suburb now known as Kensington was once called the "Lachlan Mills Estate", "Stannumville" and then "Epsom". It became Kensington in the late 1880s, starting life as an industrial suburb. Samuel Terry, the convict who became Australia?s first millionaire, received a land grant in 1819. Daniel Cooper (1785?1853), also an ex-convict acquired land here in 1825 with his partner Solomon Levey, whom he later bought out. Cooper's nephew Daniel (1821?1902) planned to subdivide but in 1865 all developments was forbidden. Residential land was issued in the late 1880s and Kensington was to be the equivalent of London?s distinguished suburb, Kensington.
Kensington Racecourse opened in 1893 on the site of the current University of New South Wales. It did not compete with nearby Randwick Racecourse because it held midweek meetings, pony racing and related sports like polo. The course was also used to house troops and horses during the Boer War and World War I. The land was resumed in 1950 to construct Sydney's second university.
The W.D. & H.O. Wills tobacco factory opened in the northern part of the suburb in 1902. The factory site also featured the Raleigh Park Social Club, an extensive sporting complex named after Sir Walter Raleigh who first introduced tobacco from North America to Europe. The factory closed in 1989 and was slowly converted into a high density residential neighbourhood.
The hill that dominates West Kensington is occupied by the Sacred Heart Monastery, the Australian headquarters of the Catholic Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
The monastery was designed by Hennessy and Sheerin and built in 1895. It is a large stone building in the Gothic style and features an attic storey and a prominent central tower. It also includes a brick chapel in a Romanesque-Byzantine style which was designed by Mullane and built in 1939, and which is joined to the monastery by a matching brick cloister. The monastery is a prominent landmark which can be seen from various parts of Kensington and is now listed on the Register of the National Estate.
Adjacent to the monastery is the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent, a brick building in Federation Free Gothic style, which was built in 1897. It was the original site for primary and secondary colleges that were established soon after the construction of the convent, but these soon outgrew the premises. It is now the base for OLSH Provincial House and St Joseph's Aged Care Facility, while Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College is situated next door. Across the road is Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Jubilee Hall and the Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School, which complete a large religious complex.
In the mid-twentieth century, the monastery was the home of the anti-Communist organiser Dr P.J. ('Paddy') Ryan and the popular Catholic controversialist Dr Leslie Rumble.
Kensington?s streets are named after local people, places in London and local flora. Some examples are:
Balfour Lane ? Arthur James Balfour, the first earl of Balfour, a British statesman and Prime Minister (1902?1905)
Doncaster Avenue ? Named after the racecourse in England
Boronia Street ? A flowering shrub grown extensively in the area
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