Balmain, our beautiful suburb on the Balmain Peninsula in the Inner West of Sydney, is known for having been one of the city’s premier industrial centres of early Sydney.

If you’re a Balmain native, you probably know much of its history.

However, if you’re still curious about Balmain, below are five things you might not know.

1. Balmain was named after Dr William Balmain, a Scottish physician.

Ever wondered how Balmain got its name? The Balmain we know today was once part of the grant made by Governor John Hunter in 1800 to Dr William Balmain, a Scottish surgeon and civil administrator who was appointed as principal surgeon of the colony in 1796. The original land grant (over 220 hectares) of the area (known as Gilchrist Place) located on the peninsula now comprises the suburbs of Balmain and Rozelle. Dr Balmain returned to England in 1801 to settle his affairs and never returned to New South Wales, dying in 1803.

2. The Australian Labor Party was formed in Balmain.

The Australian Labor Party traces its origins to the different labour parties of the 1890s. However, of all these previously scattered parties, it has been claimed that the Balmain, New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party is the oldest in the country. This claim remains undisputed.

3. There was once a coal mine next to Birchgrove Public School.

One of our earliest coal mines in the colony, the Balmain Colliery, was located next to the area where the Birchgrove Public School stands today. This coal mine produced coal from 1897 until 1931. It also remained a source of natural gas until 1945. With its approximately 800-metre (2,600 feet) depth, Balmain Colliery holds the record of being ‘the deepest coal mine ever to have been sunk in Australia’ (according to Wikipedia). The coal was not good quality but our forebears certainly tried. It is believed that the area is still riddled with tunnels.

4. Balmain has been featured in several films and TV shows.

Over the years, Balmain has been the location for several films and TV shows, including:

The Sum of Us: This film is a 1994 LGBT-themed comedy-drama starring Russell Crowe and Jack Thompson.

E Street: Although the setting of this Australian soap opera is a fictional Sydney inner-city district called ‘Westside’, it was filmed in Balmain, Rozelle and Newtown.

The Great Gatsby: Balmain was used for what in the film is known as the ‘valley of the ashes’.

Water Rats: This Australian police procedural series featured a lead character named Det. Snr. Constable Rachel Goldstein (played by Catherine McClements). Various inner-West areas including Balmain were used for external shots of her residence.

My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours?: This black-and-white sitcom that aired from 1966 to 1968 is known as Australia’s first successful home-grown commercial TV situation comedy series. The storyline focused on a family residing in Balmain.

5. The first Balmain library was a children’s library at the Watch House.

The Balmain Watch House on Darling Street – already popularly known as an art gallery today – used to house a children’s library that was established in April 1970. The children’s library was Balmain’s first library ever and was superseded only when the local council formed the Balmain Library. The Balmain Library as we know it is located along the same street but at a different address. Recently, we’ve seen attempts to reinstate the children’s library at the Watch House.

Want to sell with people who know the Balmain Peninsula?

We’ve had decades of experience in selling and managing property on the Balmain Peninsula. We love this area, understand our sellers and buyers, and aim to make your property journey rewarding.
Looking for help selling your home or renting your investment property? Our team at Belle Property Balmain support homeowners across Balmain, Balmain East, Birchgrove, Rozelle and Lilyfield. Feel free to get in touch for a no-obligation discussion or property appraisal.

Reach out for real estate advice

Specific to Balmain, Birchgrove, Rozelle, Lilyfield and surrounds.

  • Hidden

Subscribe for property news and insights for Balmain, Birchgrove, Rozelle, Lilyfield and surrounds.

You have Successfully Subscribed!