Snapshots of history along Hawkesbury Road

Springwood's Hawkesbury Road extends from Macquarie Road to the Nepean, re-named Springwood Road at Hawkesbury Lookout.

Pre-dating European settlement, it was, for the Oryang-Ora people of the Darug tribe, a trade-route from the river to the ridge for 40,000 years. Indigenous artefacts, including a tool-making site, rock shelters, axe-grinding grooves, and rock-art sites, still exist.

European settlement developed after William Lawson's 1831 land grant on the corner of the Hawkesbury and Western Roads. There he rested his travelling livestock.

Country estates for wealthy Sydneysiders, dairies, an abattoir, schools, local shops, boarding houses and hospitals grew along the road. Orchards and nurseries flourished in the excellent soil, part of the Wianamatta Shale overlaying the Hawkesbury Sandstone. New suburbs appeared, too.

John Frazer, Sydney businessman, built "Silva Plana", a weatherboard villa designed by Varney Parkes, in 1881. After demolition in 1941, some of its stones were used in the Christ Church extensions.

In 1884, Dr James Norton erected "Euchora" on fertile land. Local and exotic flora flourished. It was Mrs Breen's boarding house before, in 1934, Thomas Buckland established his hospital for women there. It eventually became the Buckland Retirement Village.

"Hartlands", a boarding school for girls established by Miss Hooper, operated from 1890-97.

William Rayner rented in 1893 near Kable's Spring, establishing an abattoir, tallow-making operations and holding paddock. It was "out of town" as he was "a public nuisance" in his central shop, boiling-down stock. By 1899 the abattoir had closed, Rayner and his two sons heading for the WA goldfields.

William Ipkendanz purchased land in 1894, building 'Elmhurst'. Although the family established a small orchard, they returned to Marrickville in 1908, selling their land to the Catholic Church.

This church bought most of Lawson's grant, establishing St Columba's Seminary in 1910, closing it in 1977. St Columba's High School opened on-site in 1979.

Because bus services were timetabled to meet Sydney trains, local stores developed. One of these was the Heatherwood Village Store complex, originally opened as holiday cottages with a communal laundry prior to World War II.

Much of North Springwood became Winmalee on April 28, 1972, because the Geographical Names Board decided to eliminate cardinal compass points from place-names.

Other suburbs along the road today are Yellow Rock and Hawkesbury Heights.

They all suffered in the 2013 fires, although the volunteer bushfire brigade has been a feature of life along the road since 1962.

The road endures, in spite of exceptional rain that causes rock slides and road closures, as happened over 1989-90, when the road closed for six months for repairs along the Hawkesbury Lookout zigzag. Hawkesbury Road is vital, linking Springwood and the Nepean.

Robyne Ridge is publicity officer for Blue Mountains Historical Society.