Simeon Pearce is known as the Father of Randwick. He was instrumental in the formation of the Randwick Municipality and was Mayor for the first ten years of it's life from 1859-1968, returning a second time in 1882.
Simeon Pearce was born in the little village of Randwick, Gloucester on 27 January 1821. In 1841 he immigrated to the colony of New South Wales with his cousin Samuel and in 1844 made his first visit to an area then known as the Coogee Hills. In 1847 he purchased a 4-acre lot in the Coogee Hills from George Hooper intending to go into business as a market gardener. He called his small estate "Randwick".
In 1848, soon after marrying Alice Isabella Thompson, Simeon borrowed money from George Hooper to build a substantial residence on his property. It was the first stone house in the area. He named the house Blenheim House and it is still standing today.
From this time on Simeon dreamed of creating a village on the model of Randwick in Gloucestershire. In 1849 he was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands, an influential position that gave him the power to control the sale of land in the district. Whilst in this position Simeon began to purchase the best parcels of land in the area. These were later re-sold, earning him immense profits. With his brother James who immigrated to Australia in 1848, and access to his wife's inheritance, he was able to finance further purchases of land in Randwick. At one time the brothers owned nearly all the land in Randwick including all of Struggletown.
As Commissioner of Crown Lands, Simeon was in a position to promote the district to prominent members of Colonial Society, and was instrumental in developing the suburb of Randwick. The formation of the Old Botany, Randwick and Coogee Road Trust led to the improvement of roads into Randwick, and people began to move into the area. To further promote the area to leading members of colonial society, Simeon and his wife hosted fox hunts in the Randwick and Maroubra districts.
Simeon Pearce played a principal role in the formation of the Society for Destitute Children, securing the land for the Children's Asylum building in 1854. The Society was the fashionable charity of the day and attracted rich and influential patrons.
Towards the end of the 1880s Simeon Pearce embarked on the struggle to have Randwick incorporated as a municipality. A petition was raised and despite protests by neighbouring Waverley residents, the incorporation of the municipality of Randwick was gazetted. This was due in part to the influence of Simeon's highly placed contacts. On 22 February 1859 he was elected as the first Mayor of Randwick. He continued as Mayor until 1868, holding the office once again in 1882.
Simeon Pearce was the driving force behind the building of St Jude's Church, which was modelled on the church in his home village. The building of the church was funded by a bequest. The controversial location of the church was decided in a court case, Randwick being chosen due to Simeon's influence. The foundation stone was laid on 25 May 1861, the church being completed in and officially opened in 1865.
The Stuggletown settlement was established on land owned by Simeon and his brother James. Originally developed as market gardens, stone cottages were later built for employees and their families. The cottages guaranteed the employees accommodation, whilst assuring Simeon steady rental income.
During the 1870s to 1880s, Simeon pressed for improved services to Randwick. He lobbied for land for Randwick Cemetery and campaigned to have the Eastern Suburbs railway line extended to Randwick.
Simeon Pearce died in 1886 after suffering his second stroke. He was survived by his wife and six children.
List of References
- Brendan O'Keefe, Simeon Pearce's Randwick: Dream & Reality, New South Wales University Press, 1990.