St Marys & District Historical Society Inc - Quarterly Newsletter

For Anzac week in April, our Society mounted a display in the St Marys Library, along with the help of Colin Payne who lent us his vintage motor bike - the same bike that featured in the 2005 Spring Festival parade. With the help of members, Carol Volkiene, who supplied her "NES" uniform for our "lady bike rider" and Lyn Forde who supplied the "lady dummy" to ride the bike, and Joan O'Brien and Marion McLeod, who helped with photos and research on local identity Daphne Veness and the ladies of rhe National Emergency Services (NES) during World War Two. The display was well received by the public.

Daphne, a sprightly 90 year old who was born in England, enlisted in Australia as a dispatch rider with the NES during the Second World War. Daphne's only regret is the the NES were never acknowledged after the war ended, even though the girls had to maintain and ride their bikes in all weathers from the Sydney area to as far as Katoomba. The girls also had to provide their own bikes and made their own uniforms.

L to R: Marion McLeod, Joan O'Brien, Lyn Forde, Carol Volkiene, Colin Payne Photos courtesy of Lyn Forde

Society members Lyn Forde, Ernie Evans and Norma and Tom Thorburn attended the Anzac Day march and service in Victoria Park and also the Dawn Service at the RSL at St Marys. Lyn Forde's new book "Timeless Heroes - Duty Called", was donated on behalf of the Society at the "wreath laying" ceremony. The books that are donated are distributed to the schools in the area by the RSL.


Members Marion McLeod and Lyn Forde attended the annual commemorative lecture at Randwick Barracks on behalf of the Society on the 13th May, 2006. Dr Bruce Scates, a Professor of History at the University of NSW spoke on "Remembering the Somme" which was well attended and thoroughly enjoyed. Our members have been in attendance of these lectures for many years, thanks to the ongoing invitation of the NSW Military Historical Society Inc.


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On the 27th May,2006, our members Tom & Norma Thorburn, Carol Volkiene, Joan O'Brien, Marion McLeod and Lyn Forde attended a "Fashion of Yesteryear" night at the Wallacia Progress Hall, which was very well attended and enjoyed immensely. Marion, who is the society's expert on heritage clothing and a member of the Encore Heritage Sewing Group at St Marys, enjoyed being among all the original fashions dating from the 1800's to the 1930's. We must congratulate the members of the Wallacia Progress Association for making a very cold night a roaring success, with a very "old world" feeling - wonderful country hospitality and refreshments thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Photos courtesy of Carol Volkiene

Our Society has been asked by the "Naming of Wallacia - 100 years" Committee to participate in their Celebration Fair to be held on the 23rd July, 2006. Our members have been asked to come in 1906 costumes and have a stall to sell our publications. We hope you will all come along and say hello.


The St Marys & District Historical Society meets every 4th Saturday at 1 pm - at the St Marys Arts & Craft Centre 2 - 6 Mamre Road, St Marys.


Website -

This Newsletter is a free publication. Articles in this Newsletter may be republished if permission is given by the Society.

Please contact:-



Norma Thorburn 9623-2307

Lyn Forde 9673-3506

(While care is taken to ensure that all articles are accurate, the opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society) Any comments on this Newsletter are encouraged

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The ladies of the Encore Historic Costume Group - Lyn Forde, Marion McLeod, Joan O'Brien, Lisa Foster (in dress), Jane Holmes, Mary Gruevski & Carol Volkiene & Barbara Porter in green skirt in the photo on the right.

Lisa is modelling a "mock up" of Ann Hassall's ball gown. Ann was the daughter of Reverend & Mrs Samuel Marsden and the dress is being hand sewn from patterns and material closely associated with the original gown worn by Ann in 1822. The original gown is on display at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and, once created by the group, will be housed in a glass case at Mamre Homestead, the Marsden farmhouse now run by the Sisters of Mercy at St Marys.

Two years ago, member Marion McLeod and some members now in the group, were having a discussion on the history of dresses worn in the Penrith district and realised that there was very little on display, hence the commencement of the "Encore Historic Costume Group". The aim of the group is to reproduce by hand, as close as possible, clothing that would have been worn at any time within the recorded history of the City of Penrith. This group meets every 2nd Friday at the CWA Hall in St Marys from 10 am to 12 pm and is always open to new members. Membership is free (just turn up) and there is no monetary outlay necessary as the group is funded by a grant from the Department of Community Services.

New members are always welcome - try your hand sewing skills (you don't have to be an expert). The CWA Hall on Mamre Road is currently used as the venue.

Photo on the left is courtesy of Penrith Press - other photo taken by Lyn Forde


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Did you know?

Back in January 1950, one of the biggest joint town planning efforts in Australian history was underway, with the creation of Sydney's first satellite city. The site chosen was the present town of Penrith, St Marys and a number of smaller settlements - the capacity of the new city was to be 40,000 people, equal to the combined population of Goulburn, Bathurst and Tamworth (1950). The satellite town was the English planner's solution to oversized cities. Around 1910, the first garden city was founded on the outskirts of London - close enough to take advantage of the park and other central features, but far enough from the city to retain it's own countryside and it's own resident population.

Penrith-St Marys had the most of the national advantages for a perfect satellite. Closely tied to the Blue Mountains and the Nepean River, and in 1950 was being linked by electric railway and express motorway to Sydney. The site already had, at that time, a huge industrial estate at St Marys and a considerable agricultural industry. The planning was a result of the Commonwealth decision to develop the St Marys munitions factory for private enterprise and had made available a grant of 10,000 pounds for further town planning and it's implementation. A special committee, with representatives of the Commonwealth, the Cumberland County Council and Penrith Municipal Council was set up to formulate a policy. Major planning work was being carried out by experts of the Cumberland County Council in consultation with the special committee.

In 1950, the munitions factory site covered 3,500 acres with 900 buildings and was served by internal passenger and goods railways, first class roads, sewerage, air conditioning, automatic fire sprinklers, cafeterias and hostel accommodation. The Housing Commission was building new homes to provide for the labour force and the tourist and recreation value of the district was also being developed. Already established tourism such as the Nepean River and Blue Mountains was under consideration to expand and extend, taking in the Nepean Valley between Wallacia and Castlereagh and eastwards towards Blacktown. The Blue Mountains area was to get a new National Park on the Nepean Gorge near Mulgoa, and development was being planned for the Nepean rowing course to be made into an aquatic sports centre.

Technical officers were carrying out intensive civic surveys of Penrith and St Marys and working drawings were being prepared as a prelude to the outline plan, which was submitted to all the authorities concerned. The Planning Committee had adopted a vigorous public relations policy so that the public would be constantly informed of each stage of planning and given every opportunity to share the problems and solutions while turning a sleepy town into a thriving city.

Source: Extract from "Planning Australia's First Satellite City, January 1950" - by John O'Brien Penrith City Library, Local collection.

Thanks goes to our Research Officer, Carol Volkiene for finding the article.

Editor & Publisher: Lyn Forde

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