Kensington, New South Wales

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SydneyNew South Wales
Main Walkway, Lower campus UNSW.jpg
University of NSW
Population15,004 (2016 census)[1]
Location4 km (2 mi) south-east of Sydney CBD
LGA(s)City of Randwick
State electorate(s)Heffron
Federal division(s)Kingsford Smith
Suburbs around Kensington:
Waterloo Moore Park Centennial Park
Zetland Kensington Randwick
Rosebery Eastlakes Kingsford

Kensington is a suburb in Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is located 4 kilometres south-east of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area (LGA) of the City of Randwick, in the Eastern Suburbs region. Colloquially, Kensington is referred to as "Kenso", "Ensington" or "Enso".[citation needed]

Kensington lies to the immediate south of Moore Park and west of Randwick Racecourse. The principal landmarks of the suburb are the main campus of the University of New South Wales, National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), and the exclusive Australian Golf Club. Kensington is also a residential suburb close to the Sydney CBD.


Indigenous inhabitants[edit]

Prior to European settlement, the area was inhabited by the Cadigal people, one of the salt-water clans of the Darug language group. The Cadigal people were known for their fishing skills and often travelled in canoes. The 1828 census showed some 50–60 clans of Cadigal people living by the Lachlan swamps of Kensington and surrounding areas. Swamps provided fruit, nectar, roots and tubers. Very few Aboriginals live in Kensington today.[2]

European settlement[edit]

The suburb now known as Kensington was once called the "Lachlan Mills Estate", "Stannumville" and then "Epsom". It became Kensington in the late 1880s, starting life as an industrial suburb. Samuel Terry, the convict who became Australia's first millionaire, received a land grant in 1819.[citation needed] Daniel Cooper (1785–1853), also an ex-convict acquired land here in 1825 with his partner Solomon Levey, whom he later bought out. Cooper's nephew Daniel (1821–1902) planned to subdivide but in 1865 all developments was forbidden.[citation needed] Residential land was issued in the late 1880s and Kensington was to be the equivalent of London's distinguished suburb, Kensington.

Kensington Racecourse opened in 1893 on the site of the current University of New South Wales. It did not compete with nearby Randwick Racecourse because it held midweek meetings, pony racing and related sports like polo. The course was also used to house troops and horses during the Boer War, World War I and World War II.[3] Many of the first Anzacs trained at Kensington Racecourse in 1914 before leaving for Egypt and Gallipoli.[4] It was a migrant hostel during the late 1940s. The land was resumed in 1950 to construct Sydney's second university.[5]

Sacred Heart Monastery
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent
NIDA, Anzac Parade

The W.D. & H.O. Wills tobacco factory opened in Todman Avenue in 1902.[6] The factory site also featured the Raleigh Park Social Club, an extensive sporting complex named after Sir Walter Raleigh who first introduced tobacco from North America to Europe. The factory closed in 1989 and was slowly converted into a high density residential neighbourhood by the Mirvac Group and Westfield in a joint venture known as Raleigh Park.[7] The building used by the company is a two-storey brick building in the Georgian Revival style. It was designed by Joseland and Gilling and built c.1930. It was used by the Menzies Group of Companies as of 2013. It is heritage-listed.[8]

Kensington's streets are named after local people, places in London and local flora. Some examples are:

  • Balfour Lane – Arthur James Balfour, the first earl of Balfour, a British statesman and Prime Minister (1902–1905)
  • Doncaster Avenue – Named after the racecourse in England
  • Boronia Street – A flowering shrub grown extensively in the area.[9]

Sacred Heart Monastery[edit]

The hill that dominates West Kensington is occupied by the Sacred Heart Monastery, the Australian headquarters of the Catholic Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.[10] The monastery was designed by Sheerin & Hennessy and built in 1895. It is a large stone building in the Gothic style and features an attic storey and a prominent central tower. It also includes a brick chapel in a Romanesque-Byzantine style which was designed by Mullane and built in 1939, and which is joined to the monastery by a matching brick cloister. The monastery is a prominent landmark which can be seen from various parts of Kensington and is now listed on the Register of the National Estate.[11] In the mid-twentieth century, the monastery was the home of the anti-Communist organiser Dr P.J. ('Paddy') Ryan, the popular Catholic controversialist Dr Leslie Rumble,[12] the former athlete Jim Carlton, the retired missionary Francis Xavier Gsell and the editor Fr Paul Stenhouse. The monastery published the long-running magazine Annals Australasia.

Adjacent to the monastery is the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent, a brick building in Federation Gothic style, which was built in 1897. It was the original site for primary and secondary colleges that were established soon after the construction of the convent, but these soon outgrew the premises. It is now the base for OLSH Provincial House and St Joseph's Aged Care Facility, while Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College is situated next door. Across the road is Our Lady of the Rosary Church (built 1906), Jubilee Hall and the Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School, which complete a large religious complex. The convent and church are heritage-listed.[13]

Tram history[edit]

The line from Surry Hills to West Kensington commenced as a steam powered system in 1881. At this point the line travelled along Crown Street as far as Cleveland Street. The line was then extended to Phillip Street in 1909, Todman Avenue in 1912, and then to its final terminus down Todman Avenue, West Kensington in 1937.

The line commencing from the city branched off from the tramlines in Oxford Street and ran down Crown Street to Cleveland Street in Surry Hills, then south along Baptist Street to Phillip Street, where it swung left into Crescent Street before running south along Dowling Street, tuning left into Todman Avenue where it terminated.[14] Services operated full-time from Circular Quay, and to Railway in peak hours. The line down Crown Street closed in 1957, the remainder stayed open until 1961[15] to allow access to Dowling St Depot, (the current site of the Supa Centa Moore Park – Shopping Centre).[16]

As well as servicing West Kensington, tram services also operated on Anzac Parade, servicing the Maroubra and La Perouse line.[17][18]

Tay Park (bounded by Tay Street, Anzac Parade and Alison Road) is the site of the old Toll Bar where local maintenance revenue was collected from 1854 to 1894. The toll was 1 shilling for a four-wheeled wagon drawn by 2 horses.[19]

Transdev John Holland routes 301, 302 and 303 generally follow the route down Crown and Baptist Streets as far as Phillip Street.

Commercial area[edit]

Doncaster Hotel

Kensington is heavily influenced by the University of New South Wales and the Racing Industry. It has a handful of cafes, restaurants and shops. Kensington has a shopping strip that extends most of the length of Anzac Parade and further south into Kingsford. 'Peters of Kensington' is a well known retail store on Anzac Parade. Kensington is next to Randwick Racecourse and Centennial Park.


Anzac Parade is the main road through Kensington. Numerous buses frequently service Kensington, linking it with the city and surrounding suburbs. There are no train services since the 1976 review of the Eastern Suburbs Railway abandoned the planned extensions to Kingsford.

On 13 December 2012, the NSW Government announced a commitment to build a $1.6 billion light rail from Circular Quay down George Street to Central Station, then across to Moore Park and down Anzac Parade. South of Moore Park the line splits into two branches – one of which continues down Anzac Parade to the nine ways at Kingsford.[20] Construction commenced in 2015 and the Kensington section of the line opened to the public 3 April 2020.



Barker Street: The terrain of Kensington is naturally rugged and hilly, but has been levelled over time.

Kensington is located in the geographic zone known as the Botany Lowlands. The sands beneath Kensington act as a large water reservoir. Originally, Kensington was quite rugged, consisting of hills, deep gullies and 768 acres (3.1 km²) of swamps, crossed by the Lachlan Stream.[citation needed] Evidence of the swamps can be seen in the south-west corner of the Royal Randwick Racecourse and the ponds of Centennial Park. After long periods of heavy rain some parts of Kensington are prone to flooding. Today Kensington has been levelled with hills cut down and voids filled with the excess soil from the hills.[citation needed]

Parks, flora and fauna[edit]

Ibis in Kensington Park

In the three square kilometres that cover Kensington, there are six parks.[21] Banksia, Bottlebrush, Waratah, Wattles and Eucalypt are some of the approximately four hundred native plants found in Kensington. Randwick City Council has recorded approximately two hundred and fifty species of indigenous native vertebrates. Two hundred and six species of native birds have been identified since 1788.[citation needed] The largest park, Kensington Park, covers approximately 2.8 hectares and attracts a wide variety of birdlife, including galahs, crows, ibises and magpies.


  • Fitzpatrick Park, Day Avenue
  • Ingram Street Reserve, Ingram Street
  • Kokoda Park, Goodwood Street
  • Raleigh Park, Brompton Road
  • Wills Reserve, Duke Street
  • Kensington Park, Edward Avenue

Water supply[edit]

Kensington has two natural water sources: the Lachlan Stream and an underground reservoir.[22] Due to water restrictions and council initiatives, more residences are using bore water on their gardens. Others are installing tanks and using 'grey' water.


Historical population

In the 2016 Census, there were 15,004 people in Kensington. 41.6% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were China 13.8%, Hong Kong 2.9%, Indonesia 2.9%, Malaysia 2.6% and England 2.5%. 47.3% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Mandarin 14.6%, Cantonese 5.5%, Greek 3.0%, Indonesian 2.5% and Spanish 1.9%. The most common responses for religion in Kensington were No Religion 36.9% and Catholic 20.4%.[1]

Of occupied private dwellings in Kensington, 72.9% were flats or apartments, 19.2% were separate houses and 6.5% were semi-detached, row or terrace houses, townhouses etc.[1]


In local government, Kensington is in the West Ward of Randwick City Council. It is in the electorates of Coogee and Heffron for the State parliament; and the Kingsford-Smith electorate represented by Matt Thistlethwaite (Labor) for the Federal parliament.

Schools and churches[edit]

Our Lady of the Rosary Church
Kensington Public School, Doncaster Avenue

Heritage listings[edit]

Kensington has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:

Other heritage-listed buildings include:[citation needed]

  • Sacred Heart Monastery, Roma Avenue
  • Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent, Kensington Road
  • Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, Kensington Road
  • Former W.D. and H.O. Wills Building, Todman Avenue
  • Kensington Public School, Doncaster Avenue



  1. ^ a b c Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Kensington (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 22 July 2017. Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ Turbet. P. (2001). The Aboriginies of the Sydney District before 1788. Roseville, N.S.W: Kangaroo Press.
  3. ^ "Campus Development Exhibition | Records & Archives - UNSW Sydney".
  4. ^ Bradley, Alice (2015). "100 years on: WWI army camps". Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  5. ^ Waugh, J. W. (1997). Kensington Racecourse – 1890 – 1942. Randwick, N.S.W: Randwick and District Historical Society Inc.
  6. ^ Randwick City Council. Industry & Innovation in Randwick Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 5 February 2008.
  7. ^ Lang, J. Urban Design: A Typology of Procedures and Products.Accessed 5 February 2008.
  8. ^ State Heritage Register
  9. ^ "Origins of Street and Place names in Randwick". Anonymous.
  10. ^ Caruana, Anthony (1997). Monastery on the Hill: A History of the Sacred Heart Monastery, Kensington, 1897-1997. Kensington NSW: Nelen Yubu Missiological Unit. ISBN 0958786925.
  11. ^ "Sacred Heart Monastry [sic] & Chapel excluding 1921 & c1960 additions". Australian Heritage Database. Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  12. ^ E. Campion, Leslie Audoen Rumble (1892-1975), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 16 (2002).
  13. ^ State Heritage Register
  14. ^ Gregory's Street directory, circa 1945, map 11, ref K6
  15. ^ Last tram on Anzac Parade 1961 (video)
  16. ^ Gregory's Street directory, circa 1945, map 11, ref J/3
  17. ^ "Bring back trams: mayor makes a pitch for Anzac Parade". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 September 2009.
  18. ^ "Sydney 1958".
  19. ^ Keenan, D. (1982). The South-Eastern lines of the Sydney tramway system. Sans Souci, N.S.W: Transit Press.
  20. ^ "Sydney's Light Rail Future". Transport for New South Wales. 13 December 2012. pp. 15, 24. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  21. ^ Randwick Council Website
  22. ^ Waugh, J. W. (1997). Kensington – Land use, Development, Ownership and Control on the Lachlan Stream 1810–1890. Randwick, N.S.W: Randwick and District Historical Society Inc.
  23. ^ "OLSH Welcome". Archived from the original on 4 October 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  24. ^ Indonesian Focus Church
  25. ^ "Carthona". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Department of Planning and Environment. H00555. Retrieved 18 May 2018. CC BY icon.svg Text is licensed by State of New South Wales (Department of Planning and Environment) under CC-BY 4.0 licence.

Coordinates: 33°54′27″S 151°13′32″E / 33.90750°S 151.22556°E / -33.90750; 151.22556


  • Destitute Children's Asylum Cemetery. South Eastern Sydney Health Service, 1996, p. 2.
  • Fitzgibbon, W. (2003, June, 3). Doncaster Plaza Development Approved. Southern Courier, p. 6.
  • Lawrence, J. (2001). Pictorial History, Randwick. Alexandria, N.S.W: Kingsclear Books.
  • McMahon, J. F. (1986). Kensington – A Model Suburb. Randwick, N.S.W: Randwick and District Historical Society.
  • Quick, D. (1985). Randwick- A social History. Kensington, N.S.W: New South Wales University Press.
  • Randwick Historical Society. (1986). A Randwick Ramble Part 2 – Randwick and Kensington. Randwick, N.S.W: Randwick Historical Society.

External links[edit]