La Perouse, 1878 (nla.pic-an4335722)

La Perouse, 1878 (Thomas George Glover, National Library of Australia nla.pic-an4335722)

Our chat last week on 2SER about the French in Sydney led to some great discussion on our facebook page about French suburb names and connections in Sydney. So this week on breakfast with Tim Higgins we started to explore the origins of Sydney suburb names – starting with French connections.

Naming is a powerful thing. Place names can often be signposts to historical connections, people and places in our past. So it’s worthwhile being curious about place names and street names.

Hunters Hill has a strong French connection through the Joubert brothers, and there is even a street named after them. But the origin of the suburb name is not French.

Hunters Hill Regatta, 1863 (nla.aus-vn2594796-1)

Hunters Hill Amateur Regatta, 1 January 1863, admission ticket (National Library of Australia, nla.aus-vn2594796-1)

Our entry on Hunters Hill says the suburb derives its name from naval officer John Hunter, captain of the Sirius in the First Fleet, who charted Sydney Harbour in January and February of 1788. An alternative suggestion that is sometimes bandied about is that it derives from the farm name of one of the Scottish Martyrs, Thomas Muir. But this myth derives from an 1831 pamphlet biography of the Scottish Martyr. Hunters Hill was named on maps prior to this.  You can read all about that in Beverley Sherry’s entry on Thomas Muir.

The suburb of La Perouse is named after the ill-fated French navigator and explorer La Perouse, whose ships the Astrolabe and the Boussole arrived  in Botany Bay just a few days after the British First Fleet in 1788. The beach on which they landed was later named Frenchmans Beach. The French stayed for 6 weeks on the north shore of Botany Bay, recouperating and taking on fresh supplies. While they were here Father Receveur, a Franciscan chaplain, died and was buried at La Perouse.  The expedition departed for home on 10 March 1788, but was never heard of again.

Canada Bay, together with the adjacent Exile and France Bays, recalls the 1837 rebellion against British rule in Canada. In 1840, 58 French Canadians were exiled to NSW. They worked quarrying the sandstone around some of the bays. The were pardoned and most returned to Canada.

Vaucluse in the eastern suburbs was named after Vaucluse in the south of France. Its particularly associated with the historic Vaucluse House and estate.

Sans Souci ( nla.pic-an6452981)

Sans Souci, 1870 (George Penkivil Slade, National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an6452981)

Sans Souci is in southern Sydney. The suburb derives its name from the grand home “Sans Souci” built there by politician Thomas Holt. According to France Pollon’s The Book of Sydney Suburbs the home was named after the palace of Prussian Frederick the Great at Potsdam and meant “without care”. We have a genteel drawing of the house in the Dictionary of Sydney.


Of course, you can discover more about suburbs and localities in the Dictionary of Sydney. Do a keyword search or browse our list of places.


Other useful references are:
Brian & Barbara Kennedy, Sydney and Suburbs: A history and description, A.H & A.W. Reed, Frenchs Forest, 1982.
Frances Pollon (ed.), The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Angus & Robertson, North Ryde, 1988.
NSW Geographic Names Board

If you missed us, look for the podcast of today’s segment on Tim Higgins’ blog.
And don’t forget to tune in next week on 2SER 107.3FM for another chapter from the Dictionary of Sydney.

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