Birchgrove is a suburb in Sydney, it is located about 5km away from the main central business district of Sydney on the Balmain peninsula.
This suburb has a population of roughly 3,110 people.
Birchgrove has a rich history to get where it is today, but I have to say, who would of thought the history would include a mine in the middle of Sydney, so you have a mixed history of mining and land history with various owners intertwined throughout.
In the writings below there is a mixture of mining information and land information, so when you see the land referred to as the estate, which generally means the area of Birchgrove.
Birchgrove was originally named after Birchgrove House which was built by Lieutenant John Birch who was the paymaster of the 73rd regiment around 1812.
He added the word “Grove” to his surname when he was naming the house because of the large amount of orange trees which were growing on the original site, also this original house was built from stone which was said to have been quarried from the area.
1814 the estate was purchased by merchant trader Roland Walpole Loane.
In 1818 Loane returned to Tasmania and the estate was then leased for many years.
Then in 1833 Loane tried to sub divide the estate into four and was unsuccessful.
Jon McLean then purchased the estate as well as other land in Balmain too in 1838, he later, in 1844 lost it all due to mortgaging of the estate and also the Supreme Court foreclosing on his loans.
The estate was briefly owned by Henry Watson Parker (Later on Henry Watson Parker became the third New South Wales Premier) in 1850, following this ownership the estate changed hands again (Didier Numa Joubert) and then was leased until 1856 by William Salmon Deliotte.
Joubert then, in the years from 1856 to 1860, had the estate surveyed and subdivided into the first subdivision of 10 lots, all the streets were named after the Joubert family.
Sales of the above subdivision fell well short of expectations for Joubert and three lots still remained unsold by
Birchgrove House was sold to Jacob Levi Montefiore, this was during the subdivision of the estate.
Late in 1862 Joubert was forced to give up his remaining interest in the estate to the Bank of New South Wales as the sales fell very short of expectations, with lots still remaining unsold until 1866.
In the end a syndicate of businessmen purchased all the remaining lots of the estate and then had new plans drawn for a second subdivision, all the lots sold in this second subdivision within a couple of years.
In the late 1870’s, diamond drills were bought into Australia and were used in Sydney to drill bores to search for coal.
In 1891, coal was confirmed in the Birchgrove area and the Balmain Colliery coal mine started trying to produce coal from 1897.
This coal mine was on north side of the Balmian Peninsula.
In 1897 the Birthday shaft was sunk and following this the Jubilee shaft in 1902 followed, these were mining coal from a about a kilometre below the Harbour floor, these shafts were about 5.5m in diameter and lined with bricks.
Early 1900, six miners were being lowered through the Birthday shaft when their bucket tipped and five fell to their death 400m down.
The Birchgrove house was demolished in 1967 to make way for units in the area.
In the coal mine, the company who owned the shafts never managed to get enough coal maintain the running of the mines so it simply ran out of cash and work ceased in the mines and shafts in 1915.
Following this, the mine reopened again in 1924 and again ran into financial trouble in 1928.
In early 1931 after continuing financial and industrial trouble the company that owned the mine went into liquidation and that was the end of coal mining in the area.
1932 came around and the Natural Gas & Oil Corporation Ltd said that it expected to find oil or gas if they continued to drill below the mine shafts and so a bore was sunk below the Birthday shaft to pipe gas to the surface.
During this sinking of the bore two men were killed in a gas explosion in 1933, they were burnt severely burnt and died in Balmain Hospital.
By 1937 no gas reservoir was found and the gas flow was weak.
In 1944, during and after the war, the gas was compressed and used as motor fuel, during this time over 11 million cubic feet of gas was produced from the mine.
1945 natural gas ceased to be mined, during this seal of the Birthday shaft there was another explosion which killed three men and injured two.
The property was sold again in 1955 and the shafts filled in and sealed off two years later in 1957.
Birchgrove house was demolished in 1967 and the land used was used for units.
Currently a thriving community in the heart of Sydney suburbs, Birchgrove continues to write more history about itself, I’m guessing a lot of the residents wouldn’t even know they are in the area of a coal and gas mine that used to be and still is the deepest coal mine ever in Australian history.