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An article in the August 2021 Bulletin mentions a street named after Jane Harden. Who was Jane Harden and where is Harden St, I hear you ask? You won’t find it on Google Maps or in any street directory. Harden St, listed in 18591 was what is now Mitchell St between Glebe Point Rd and Catherine St (see map below).

The Bishopthorpe Estate

Harden St was one of the streets in the Bishopthorpe Estate, which is bounded by Parramatta Rd, Glebe Point Rd, Mount Vernon St and St Johns Rd (see plan above). The Bishopthorpe Estate was retained for use by the Anglican bishop when other areas of the Church lands were sold off in 1828.

‘Thorpe’ means ‘village’, so the name Bishopthorpe was applied.2 The bishop in question was Bishop Frederic Barker (1808-1882), who was the second Anglican Bishop of Sydney from 1855 until his death in 1881. In October 1840, while still in England, Bishop Barker married Jane Sophia Harden (1807-1876).3 Along with an ecclesiastical retinue, Jane and Frederic sailed to Melbourne on the Mermaid, then made their way to Sydney, arriving on 25 May 1855.4

Jane was a deeply committed and compassionate Evangelical. Despite struggling with Australian conditions (she really didn’t like the summer heat and the mosquitos5), she threw herself into her role and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of women and children in the Colony.6 Amongst her substantial achievements was the establishment of St Catherine’s School in Waverley, which is still there today. She established this school for the daughters of Anglican clergy, many of whom were living in parishes in remote locations. 7

Mary Jane Barker (née Harden) (source:
Bishop Frederic Barker (source: The Bulletin (10 Jul 1880)

Jane’s influence

Jane kept a diary covering many aspects of her life in Australia.8 From this, we know about her love of beauty and nature and her influence on the names of Bishopthorpe’s streets.

Jane had grown up around literary and artistic people because her father, John Harden, mixed in such circles.9 ‘Artists and poets visited the house … As the elder daughter, Jane imbibed many of her father’s artistic interests’.10 John Harden counted William Wordsworth as a friend.

It is no surprise then that aesthetic considerations exercised Jane’s mind when thinking about the layout and naming of the Bishopthorpe Estate. Several of the streets in the Bishopthorpe Estate refer to the Lakes District in England, which had been her home before coming to Sydney. As Max Solling has pointed out, ‘Derwent and Westmoreland recall romantic English Lakes District places from the childhood of Bishop Barker’s wife, Jane Harden’.11 And of course, ‘Harden’, recalls her family and beloved father, John.

Harden St becomes Mitchell St

But Harden St didn’t stay Harden St for very long. In 1878, not quite two decades after its listing, The Borough of Glebe Council announced that Harden St was to be renamed Mitchell St of which it was a continuation (unless anyone had any objections). This change was announced only a year or two after Jane’s death in 1876.

Newspaper notice announcing that Harden St would ‘henceforth be known as Mitchell St’ (source: NSW Government Gazette, Tue 17 Sep 1878, p. 3738)

Glebites owe a debt of gratitude to Jane Barker. The streets of Bishopthorpe are wide and tree-lined, and the estate resembles a country town rather than a crowded inner suburb.12 The notes for one of the Society’s ‘Glebe Walks’ point out that ‘the streets were wider and much longer than were common at the time, and the leases forbade wooden dwellings, so almost all have survived.’13

Understanding the rationale for choosing street names in the Bishopthorpe Estate brings to light a beautiful story of a woman’s imagination and commitment to creating a beautiful environment for her husband’s flock. It also points to the significance of the Bishopthorpe Estate, which grew from such remarkable beginnings. These are yet further reasons to preserve this unique heritage area.

Plan of the Bishopthorpe Estate. Harden St can be seen running between The Glebe Rd (ie Glebe Point Rd) and Catherine St (source: State Library of NSW)
This map shows the Bishopthorpe Estate with Mitchell St as it is today, continuing up from Blackwattle Bay, across Glebe Point Rd and ending at Catherine St. The red arrow is pointing to the upper portion of Mitchell St which is labelled ‘LATE HARDEN ST’ (source: City of Sydney)

Posted on 6 August 2021 by Virginia Simpson-Young

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