Greenwich is located within the municipality of Lane Cove and occupies a peninsula on the northern side of Sydney Harbour, at the opening of the Lane Cove River.
Prior to European occupation, the area of land stretching from south of Newcastle through to the northern shore of Sydney Harbour was home to Guringai people. The Cammeraygal clan of the Guringai nation inhabited the Greenwich area, a people who were noted by the first Europeans as both numerous and powerful.
Around Sydney, the original Indigenous inhabitants lived primarily along the foreshores of the harbour and its tributaries. With resources in the area abundant, they fished from the harbour, hunted in the hinterlands and harvested food from the surrounding bushland, with little need to travel far from their lands. They moved throughout their country in accordance with the seasons and had a well-established trade system with other clans. The Guringai people had a rich and complex ritual life, language, spirituality and system of law, which was embedded in the land.
The arrival of Europeans in the late eighteenth century brought a serious lack of cross-cultural understanding, unsustainable use of resources, conflict and disease that resulted in the demise of the Guringai nation. Access to country and its resources was increasingly denied, resources were depleted and waters were polluted.
While there is evidence of Cammeraygal people still living in the north shore area in the 1820s, disease, displacement and massacres meant that by the 1860s Aboriginal people were only occasional visitors to the region. Today few, if any, of the Aboriginal people living in the area can trace their ancestry to either Cammeraygal or Wallumedegal clans.
First European contacts
The first European contact with the Greenwich area occurred early in February 1788, when a survey party under the charge of John Hunter, second captain of HMS Sirius (guard ship of the First Fleet), explored the lower reaches of the Lane Cove River.  In April 1788, Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball (commander of HMS Supply), two seamen and a marine private made the first recorded land exploration of the Greenwich area. After partaking in one of Governor Phillip's expeditions into the wilderness north of the harbour, Lieutenant Ball and party then made their return to Sydney Cove. The track they made through the 'jumble of rocks and thick woods' back to the waterside opposite Sydney Cove brought them through Greenwich Point, then called Supply Head. 
Due to the rough terrain, settlement on the north shore was relatively slow in comparison to the southern shore of Sydney Harbour, and access to the area was arduous before roads were cleared and wharves and bridges built. In an attempt to increase the supply of food and goods through private enterprise, land grants commenced in 1794 under the direction of Major Francis Grose, with the first grant made to Samuel Lightfoot, a convict, on 20 February. 
An early land grant significant to the later development of the suburb of Greenwich was that made to William Gore. Provost Marshal of New South Wales from 1806 to 1819, Gore immigrated to New South Wales with his wife and two children in 1806. In 1813, Gore received his grant of 150 acres (60.7 hectares) in the Lane Cove District, in what is now Artarmon. Dismissed from his official post by Governor Macquarie in 1819 following a charge of using court revenues for personal purposes, Gore employed his time farming his Artarmon land. Four years later, Gore was exiled to the north shore following an incident involving the shooting of a soldier.  In the 1820s and 1830s, Gore cut a rough bush track from his home at Gore Hill down to the waters of Gore Cove, where in 1838 he had a wharf built to enable him to send his produce to the Sydney markets.  This rough track was the beginnings of Greenwich Road.
George Green and other early landholders
George Green arrived in New South Wales as a 12-year-old in 1822, sponsored by his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Charlotte Hyndes. Green married Maria Bates in 1830 at St Philip's Church and established his own boatbuilding yard in Darling Harbour, living in Kent Street. Sydney in 1834 had a population of 30,000 and land was plentiful, presenting a great opportunity to enterprising individuals with the capital to acquire it cheaply from the Crown. In the 1830s, Green applied for a number of different blocks of land on the north shore. A letter written by George Green dated 30 January 1834 is the first documentary evidence of intention to purchase land at Balls Head Bay (now Greenwich). However, the final application for land was made under the name of Amaziah Green, George Green's father, who had arrived in Australia on 19 June 1834. On 26 November 1834 Amaziah Green acquired the first freehold block of land in Greenwich for 28 pounds and 15 shillings, consisting of five acres (two hectares) bounded on the south by the present George Street. The land had easy access on the east to the water of Gore Cove, was sufficiently arable to support an orchard and light agriculture, and the western end of the block commanded views of the Lane Cove and Parramatta rivers.
In October 1834, CH Jenkins made the second application for land in Greenwich. The name on this application was changed however, with James Chisholm acquiring the 20-acre (8-hectare) block on 20 April 1835. Chisholm's grant was described as Lot 184, located on Balls Head Bay, to the north of Green's allotment and Gore's wharf.
In 1836, Amaziah Green sold his original grant to his son George.  In 1837 George Green purchased from the government six acres (2.4 hectares) on the opposite side of George Street to his father's original five acres. That year, George Green also acquired nearly four acres (1.6 hectares) on the neck of the peninsula, north of his other holdings. 
Other land sales quickly followed in the wake of Chisholm and Green's original grants, and by 9 March 1837, when a major auction was held, most of the land on the Greenwich peninsula was snapped up.
Boatbuilders and shipowners formed a close-knit community on Greenwich Point, with nearly every purchaser of land in the area belonging to that fraternity.  Early landholders included Alexander Berry and Thomas Hyndes (Green's uncle), each owners of several small coastal vessels; William Dalton, who owned several small ships individually and in partnerships; Andrew Summerbell, a shipwright; Beenke, a boatbuilder; and John Stewart, brother-in-law to George Green who was also involved in shipbuilding, as well as George and Amaziah Green, James Chisholm, George Green, Edward Lee, John Allingham, John Ford, WP Burne, William Roberts, Captain John Jenkins Peacock (coal merchant) and William Henry Chapman. 
In September 1840 George Green placed an advertisement in the Sydney Herald, offering for sale his Greenwich estate of 20 acres in 80 building allotments.  As a part of this subdivision Green named the surrounding streets after his sons: George, Henry, Richard, Robert and James. The allotments did not sell well however, and four months later only 22 blocks had been sold. This advertisement was the first mention of the name 'Greenwich'. 
In July 1841 Green borrowed a large sum of money from William Wright and George Cooper of Lane Cove, giving part of the unsold portions of his Greenwich estate as collateral security. The mortgage deed contained no reference to any buildings on the property, and there is no indication in the records as to why this large sum of money was needed. However, it was most likely for the construction of Greenwich House.  While the exact date of construction of the house, originally known as Willoughby House, is unknown, it was some time before 1853 when Green's mortgage holders sold the house and property to Gother Kerr Mann for £1250.  Mann was the colonial engineer and became Chief Commissioner for Railways in July 1855, as well as working as the designer and Engineer-in-Chief of the Fitzroy Dock on Cockatoo Island.  In 1859 Mann's duties on Cockatoo Island were altered. In addition to being Engineer-in-Chief of the dry dock, Mann also became Superintendent of the Cockatoo Island Penal Establishment, requiring him to reside on the island. His family stayed on in Greenwich House however, as it was only a short row from the island.  The oldest surviving home in the municipality of Lane Cove, Greenwich House remained in the Mann family until 1949. 
From village to suburb
Greenwich Point, referred to as the Village of St Lawrence in early days, developed much earlier than the upper part of Greenwich. With a sizable population, school, general store, post office and butcher, the village was already beginning to adopt the trappings of a suburb by the 1880s. In contrast, upper Greenwich was only just beginning to see signs of development, with most of the area still virgin bushland. While in upper Greenwich there was only a very rudimentary road layout by the 1880s, there was, on paper at least, a network of roads and streets laid out on the point as early as the 1840s.  By 1884 the settlement on the Point was clustered near the junction of George and St Leonards (now St Lawrence) streets in a relatively compact village of around 16 houses.  In upper Greenwich however, there were only around eight or nine houses on Greenwich Road, stretched out between River Road and Evelyn Street, and a cluster of 13 or 14 houses situated on either side of the road near Bay Street.
From the 1870s, the nature of Greenwich began to change, as transport facilities improved and the construction of large houses marked the beginning of the development of Greenwich as a suburb. Increasing subdivision in upper Greenwich from the 1880s created a shift away from the suburb's maritime heritage towards a commuter suburb.
One of the early houses constructed in upper Greenwich marking the beginning of this shift was Airlie. Built in 1878 by William Tulloch, a wine and spirit merchant, Airlie was later called Chipchase, and is now the Glenwood Nursing Home.  Coolabah was another of the large homes built just below River Road in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Constructed by Jeremiah Roberts, the first Mayor of Lane Cove, the house still stands on the corner of the avenue that bears its name, at 45 Greenwich Road. Roberts, who lived at Coolabah until his death in 1934, was instrumental in the building of St Giles's church in Greendale Street. The church, the first Anglican church in the municipality of Lane Cove, was built in 1908 on land donated by William Wilson of Wilona. A church school operated there for many years from 1908.
In 1882 John St Vincent Welch, another prominent early resident of Greenwich, built a large house he called Y-Berth at the corner of Greenwich Road and Fleming Street, now River Road.  A former alderman on Lane Cove Council, St Vincent Welch was responsible for renaming Fleming Street River Road. Due to the noise from traffic going to and from the wharf however, St Vincent Welch soon built another house, named Standish (now Pallister, part of the Greenwich Hospital) further west along Fleming Street, near St Vincent's Road, selling Y-Berth to the Society of Jesus in 1890. Shortly after its completion, St Vincent Welch built a church organ in Standish for his wife. This organ was later replaced with a three-manual pipe organ of 1200 pipes, which was eventually installed in the Merewether Memorial Church, in the Hunter region. An observatory was also built in the grounds of Standish. St Vincent Welch remained at the house until his death in 1918. His son, Kenyon, became Australia's first Flying Doctor in 1928. 
In the late nineteenth century, development in upper Greenwich had only really happened along a narrow frontage along Greenwich Road, with the land west of Carlotta Street and east of Chisholm Street largely still honeysuckle scrub and virgin bushland, but as the turn of the century approached subdivision rapidly increased and development intensified.  One of the earliest subdivisions in upper Greenwich was that of Seldon Estate, in 1882. On the western side of Greenwich Road from Coolabah to Evelyn streets lay 60 acres (24.2 hectares) originally granted to John Ford. At its lower end it overlapped the new Greenwich Road roughly to the Old Government Road (the first 'Greenwich Road'; now the southern end of Chisholm Street) with its western boundary marked by the Lane Cove River and Gore Creek. In 1872 an alderman with North Willoughby Council, JHOGHP ('Alphabetical') Ffrench, bought a large block from this bushland estate. After Ffrench's death in 1875, his widow sold the eastern and western Greenwich Road frontages, with sufficient depth on the western side for a frontage to the present Carlotta Street. Richard Seldon, also an alderman on the council, purchased the land. By February 1882, advertisements were appearing for the sale of the Seldon Estate, comprising over 80 blocks measuring about 40 feet by 100 feet (12 by 30.5 metres). Although more than half the allotments on his estate had been sold by the end of 1884, no more than two houses had been built. Seldon died in April 1885. Mrs Ffrench did not subdivide the remainder of the estate until the 1890s. 
Another early subdivision in upper Greenwich was the Greendale Park Estate, which went up for sale in 1885. The Greendale Estate was to the south of William Tulloch's grant where he built Airlie. The estate encompassed one row of blocks to the north of Greendale Street, southward to one row of blocks south of Glenview Street and was bounded by today's Greenwich Road on the west and the parklands and creek above Gore Cove to the east. The Anglo-Australian Investment Finance and Land Company, which purchased the land in 1884 from Francis Adams, subdivided the estate.  While the land offered in these subdivisions was purchased relatively quickly, building on the estate was slower than developers had anticipated.  After the turn of the century though, the centre of gravity of Greenwich had moved sufficiently northward, thanks to these subdivisions and developments, that the authorities were persuaded to move the school and post office upwards from the point.  This marked the turning point of Greenwich's move away from its beginnings as a maritime village towards its new life as a commuter suburb.
Infrastructure in Greenwich
The availability of essential public utilities such as water, roads, sanitation and gas was a restraining factor in the suburbanisation of Greenwich in the early days. The supply of water to the northern side of the harbour came in the early 1890s, with a scheme designed by the Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board. Constructed by the Public Works Department, the scheme involved the laying of a wrought iron main across the Lane Cove River, taking water from the Ryde Pumping Station to the proposed Chatswood Reservoirs. The Chatswood Reservoirs were installed in the early 1890s and consisted of two wrought-iron tanks of 1.5 million gallons (6.8 megalitres) capacity each. They served Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman. The scheme was completed and handed over to the Board in 1892. Sewer reticulation only came belatedly to Greenwich in 1937.
Greenwich Road began its existence as a rough track leading from William Gore's property in Artarmon to his wharf in Gore Cove. The lower end of the route lay slightly to the east of the present road, roughly where Chisholm Street now runs. The present route and link with Greenwich Point and its wharf was established, at least in general, before 1884, with the Old Government Road (as the original track had been known), largely out of usage. 
The journey to the city in 1860s and 1870s involved either a trip to Greenwich wharf, and a ride on the regular ferry service from the Quay along the Lane Cove River to Hunters Hill, which had commenced in the 1850s, or a much longer journey along the largely unmade Lane Cove Road (now Pacific Highway) to Milsons Point in North Sydney, followed by a ferry ride across to Balmain or Dawes Point. The Lane Cove Road prior to the 1880s was largely unmade, and especially near Gore Hill the ascent became virtually impassable in wet weather because of its red clay soil.
Public transport on land was slow in coming to the north shore. The first cable tram from Milsons Point extended to Gore Hill in 1900 and through to Lane Cove and Longueville Road in 1909. The train line ran from Hornsby to St Leonards in the 1890s and was extended south to Milsons Point afterwards.
The first Sydney Harbour tunnel was a tunnel built between Manns Point, Greenwich, and Long Nose Point, Birchgrove, between 1913 and 1924. It carried the power cables for the electric tramway and railway services on the north shore. When other power sources replaced the tunnel in 1969, the electricity supply was disconnected and the cables cut.
Commerce in Greenwich
Richard Gross's butcher shop was the first shop in Greenwich. It opened in 1883 at 26 George Street, and made daily deliveries with a cutting cart, which had a removable roof and a tailboard that doubled as a butcher's block. Gross bought his meat daily from the freezing works in Darling Harbour, having no refrigerator at the shop. In 1894 the shop moved to Crows Nest.  Donald McLean built the second shop in Greenwich, a general store and post office, at 2 Wallace Street. 
Other early retailers in Greenwich included John Beencke, the local newsagent who built the first pedestrian bridge across Smoothey Park in 1900, replacing the 'log' that originally linked Greenwich with Wollstonecraft railway station.  When Beencke's bridge was replaced by a steel and concrete construction in 1964, it retained his name.
There were a number of successful local dairies that operated in Greenwich from the 1880s, until milk zoning was introduced in the 1940s. The Anderson, Hogan, Mather and Clarke families operated the largest dairies.
Anderson's Dairy in Serpentine Road, Greenwich, was one of the pioneer dairies from the 1880s. Mary Anderson took up dairying to supplement the family income from their goats and poultry. Every morning Anderson delivered milk on the Lane Cove River to moored boats as well as residents of Cockatoo Island, before doing a round of customers on land.  By 1887 Anderson's Dairy had acquired seven cows, and had moved to Charles Street. By 1906 there were 14 cows at Anderson's Dairy; however as the population increased the dairy became surrounded by houses, resulting in the pollution of the natural watercourse from which the cows drank. Consequently, the dairy was moved in 1915 to the northern side of Gore Street, where an ice-room and cooling system were built. In 1925, Anderson's Dairy moved further westwards to Osborne Park, where they rented Clarke's old dairy, continuing there until closure in 1940. 
Another pioneer dairy in Greenwich was Hogan's Dairy, located at the southern end of Carlotta Street (then Charles Street). Hogan's Dairy, with its seven cows, moved to Chisholm Street in 1896 and by 1901 had 22 cows. After the death of Hogan in 1919, his sons Bob, John and James kept the dairy going. In 1928, at which time it boasted 300 cows, Hogan's Dairy was closed and the Hogan sons began to subdivide the land. 
Clarke's Dairy originated in Chisholm Street, Greenwich, in 1905, and was owned by Laurence Clarke, who had arrived in Sydney in the 1880s as an assisted immigrant from County Mayo, Ireland.  By 1906, Clarke had 17 cows at his dairy, but got into trouble for grazing them illegally. In 1914 the dairy was closed and Clarke moved to Third Avenue, Osborne Park, where he set himself up again, this time with 100 cows. After Clarke's death in 1918 the dairy changed hands several times. Finally, in 1933 the dairy was rented by Thomas Anderson of Anderson's Dairy, which transferred across from Gore Street. In 1940 Anderson's Dairy closed down and in 1946 the Clarke family sold the dairy buildings. In 1957 the Lane Cove Council began to acquire much of the land for its golf course. 
Oliver and John Mathers set up Mathers' Dairy in 1906 at the corner of today's Edwin and Vista streets. The Mathers brothers had come to Sydney from Glasgow with their parents in 1884. The family lived initially in Charles Street (now the southern end of Carlotta Street) before moving to a house on Greenwich Road. In 1911 Mathers' Dairy stretched from today's Chisholm Street down to the waters of Gore Cove. 
Dairies suffered during World War II, when manpower was in severe shortage, and received their final blow when milk zoning was introduced in 1942, with state government policy discouraging dairies in the suburbs. 
Industry in Greenwich
Some industry has always existed in Greenwich, with the abundance of water frontage providing incentives for the establishment of light industry using wharves and water transport in the early days. Brickmaking was one of the earliest industries in operation in Greenwich, established in the area as late as the 1870s. By the 1880s, there were three quarries in Greenwich on the Lane Cove River and in Gore Cove, with a lime-kiln and wharf also in operation in the Cove. 
Between 1883 and 1908, the Patent Asphaltum Company was located on the southern part of the present Shell Gore Bay Terminal. Run by Herbert Jones and RW Mansell, the site consisted of two large sheds and a wharf. The establishment of these works in Greenwich was not popular, and was most notably opposed by prominent early resident Gother Kerr Mann.  The company refined bitumen imported from Trinidad, and manufactured asphalt blocks, tiles, sheets and rolls of damp-course, marine glue for caulking, asphalt paint and asphalt paving and flooring. While asphaltum was ideal for paving the expanding road networks, it was too expensive and its use was limited. The Patent Asphaltum Company was out of business by 1908.
The Shell Transport and Trading Company opened its terminal at Gore Bay, Greenwich in 1901. Used for the importation and distribution of petroleum products, the present area of the terminal includes the site of the former Patent Asphaltum works as well as those of William Gore's and Captain Mann's wharves. John Fell and Co, refiners, blenders and distributors, used the southern section of the current Shell site from 1903 to 1927. A pioneer firm in the Australian oil industry, John Fell and Co began shale oil refining at their Greenwich site in 1913. In 1922 shale deposits ran out and they began to use crude oil supplied by Shell.  However, overseas competition forced John Fell and Co to close down by 1927, with Shell acquiring its assets and land. 
By the late 1930s, around 500 tradesmen worked at the Shell site. Originally, the crude oil from the Shell site was transported by tug up the Parramatta River to Silverwater to the Clyde Refinery, with the Lyons family running this service. Following World War II however, the role of the terminal changed and the barges that took goods to Clyde Refinery were replaced in 1962 by an underground pipeline. After the war, a new shipping channel was also dredged from Bradleys Head to Gore Bay, to allow larger tankers to reach the Shell site and make better use of the pipeline. 
Shell Park was transferred to the Council in exchange for Allen Street in Shell's Gore Bay Terminal.
There was probably a school established at Greenwich Point before 1840, as George Green's auction advertisement, published in the Sydney Herald on 17 September 1840, mentions a schoolhouse on the estate.  Situated in a small wooden building in Mitchell Street near the corner with George Street, it began as a private school with students coming by boat from as far afield as Birchgrove, Woolwich and Cockatoo Island.
In August 1875 the Greenwich community applied for the schoolhouse to be established as a public school.  At the time, public education was controlled by the Council of Education and required an average attendance of at least 25 children. In smaller communities, a Provisional School could be set up. However, in these cases, parents were required to provide the building and furniture, with the council paying only for the teacher's salary and books. A Provisional School required an average attendance of only 15 students. Accordingly, on 9 August 1875 an application was made on behalf of Greenwich residents by Reverend Cecil CB Cave, of St Thomas's in Lane Cove, and Gother Kerr Mann, of Greenwich. At the time the name of Rebecca Walter was submitted as teacher.  Approval was granted on 6 September 1875, but when the inspection of the school was carried out in November, it was found to have been closed for some weeks due to a conflict between the teacher and some of the parents. 
In June 1876 a second application was lodged for a Provisional School in the same location. This time Mary Ann Dunn was recommended for the job of teacher, and a forecast of 23 attendees made. As the nearest school at the time was in North Sydney, the application was recommended and approval was granted on 1 October 1876. 
While there were only 16 students on the roll when the school opened in late 1876, it soon became obvious that the original building was inadequate and that another site would have to be found. Thus, when Richardson and Wrench advertised a large land sale on Greenwich Point, the Education Council Inspector advocated for the purchase of a suitable site of land to establish a larger school. Subsequently, the Council of Education bought an allotment of one acre, one rood, 16 perches (0.55 hectare, or 5,463 square metres), with frontages to Mitchell Street, Robert Street, St Leonard's Street (now called St Lawrence Street) and Henry Street (now called Wallace Street) for £500. 
In 1880 the provisional school became a public school due to swelling numbers, and in 1881 the school premises were erected on the new Mitchell Street site at a total cost of £583.  The erection of a school on this site marked the start of a long history of criticism of its location on the Point. It was argued that the population increase of Greenwich was and would in future predominantly occur on the 'mainland' (in upper Greenwich). The school remained on the Mitchell Street site until 1909, however, and the headmaster's residence remained there until 1967. There is now a reserve at the former Mitchell Street school site, which was named after John Leemon, the longest serving head teacher at the primary school.
In 1909 the Greenwich Public School moved to the site of the current infants' school on the corner of Greenwich Road and Wardrop Street. The primary school moved to Kingslangley Road in 1950.
Greenwich today is a quiet, leafy suburb with a village-like atmosphere and population of approximately 5,000 people. The weekly household incomes of Greenwich's largely professional residents are higher than the Sydney region average.
Although it is a largely residential suburb, there is a small shopping area located on Greenwich Road that hosts such services as a general store, two cafes, a newsagent, hairdresser, post office, chemist, real estate agency and liquor store, with an antique and a gift store further down the road. There are numerous community groups active in the suburb, including the Greenwich Flying Squadron, Greenwich Sailing Club, Greenwich Sports Club and Greenwich Tennis Club, as well as the Greenwich Cubs and Scouts groups. Another community initiative is the Greenwich Village Games, held each Olympic Year since the bicentennial celebrations of 1988, which is held over a weekend and involves both sporting competitions and a revue performance.
Lane Cove Public Library and Judy Washington, 'Exploring Historic Greenwich – by Car or Foot', in Exploring Historic Lane Cove – by Car or Foot, Lane Cove Municipal Council, Lane Cove, 1993
MF Lenehan, Footprints on the Sands of Time: Lane Cove 1788–1988, Lane Cove Historical Society Inc, Lane Cove, 1987
LJ Lind, Historic Lane Cove, Lane Cove Historical Society, Lane Cove, 1983
Robert Moore, Penny Pike and Lester Tropman, Municipality of Lane Cove: heritage study prepared by Robert Moore, Penny Pike and Lester Tropman, the authors, Roseville, 1989
Reg Mu Sung, Maritime Estate of Greenwich: the establishment and development of a colonial Sydney suburb 1834–1884, the author, Greenwich, 1998
Merrilie Roberts, Roads to the River: Prelude to a Municipality, 1884, Lane Cove Public Library, Lane Cove, 1982
Eric Russell, Lane Cove 1788, 1895, 1970: A North Shore History, The Council of the Municipality of Lane Cove, Lane Cove, 1970
Eric Russell, A Century of Change. Lane Cove Municipality 1895–1995, Lane Cove Council, Lane Cove, 1995
Catherine Warne, Pictorial Memories. Lower North Shore, Atrand Pty Ltd, Crows Nest, 1984