Burwood derived its name from a grant of 250 acres made by Governor Hunter on 3 August 1799, to Captain Thomas Rowley of the New South Wales Corps, who named the land after the Burwood Farm on which he had lived in his native Cornwell, England.
Along with John MacArthur and Reverend Samuel Marsden, Rowley was one of the men who purchased merinos from the original flock brought to Australia by Captain Waterhouse in 1797. Although Rowley had another farm at Newtown, where he lived, he undoubtedly would have pastured some of his sheep at Burwood. His name is remembered at Rowley Street. Captain Rowley's tomb was originally laid at Kingston Farm but has since been re-erected in Waverley Cemetery.
In 1812, the land was bought by a well-known Sydney businessman, Alexander Riley, who built the first house in the district, 'Burwood Villa' in 1814. The house stood on a site approximately 400 metres west of the Coronation Club and a small granite obelisk was erected on the western side of Burwood Park to permanently mark the position of the original villa when it was demolished in 1937. The villa is embodied in the official crest of Burwood.
Mr Riley cleared and cultivated 500 acres of this land and he successfully introduced into the colony the orange, lemon, pomegranate, loquat, grape, peach, nectarine, apricot, apple, pear, cherry, plum, fig, chestnut, almond, mediar, quince, raspberry, strawberry and melon.
Enfield was granted to William Faithful who arrived in Australia in 1792 as a Private in the New South Wales Corps. The land was later owned by the farmer/convict, Simeon Lord, who became one of Sydney's wealthiest merchants. In 1824, it was bought by W.H. Moore, who cleared much of the heavily timbered area for farming. The name Enfield clearly came from the Middlesex market near London, but we do not know when or why it was adopted. Its earliest known use was in 1853 when the first Enfield Post Office opened in Richard Fulljames' store near St Thomas' Church.
The Longbottom Government Farm was another early establishment in the Burwood area. In 1821, 110 convicts were working on the farm. They were housed in wooden barracks with shingle roofs, near the present pavilion in Concord Oval. The farm consisted of the barracks, the mess room and a house for the Overseer (also a convict).
The Longbottom Government Farm eventually grew into a considerable establishment covering more than 700 acres of heavily timbered flat land, sloping down to the extensive mangrove swamps along the foreshores of Hen and Chicken Bay. Timber was cut and sawn on the spot and conveyed to Sydney in boats via the Parramatta River.
A stagecoach began running to Parramatta in 1814 and during the 1820s inns were built at staging posts where the coaches changed horses at 10 kilometre intervals along the road. The journey from Sydney took a good two hours and in bad weather, coaches were often bogged or overturned on the muddy road. The most famous and long-lived coaching inn on Parramatta Road was the Bath Arms at the corner of Burwood Road.
This was the era when bushrangers became the scourge of Parramatta and Liverpool Roads, hiding out in the undeveloped lands around Cooks River and Liverpool Road and making roads and highways unsafe. Justice was swift and punishment, death by hanging, was handed out quickly to those guilty of highway robbery. In 1826, Burwood House was robbed and later that year the men responsible were hanged at Burwood Farm in front of assembled convicts, as a deterrent to any future misdeeds.
In about 1833, the owners of a number of grants commenced to subdivide and sell their lands and thus commenced the growth of the suburb of Burwood.
The earliest commercial activity in the area was the Enfield lumber trade. Thomas Hyndes, a young Londoner who arrived in Sydney in 1803, received an early grant in Enfield which was not recognised by Governor Macquarie. Hyndes returned to Enfield in 1823. By this time he had become a prosperous timber merchant with a mill and a house in Sussex Street and properties on the North Shore and in the Illawarra district. In 1842, he set up his country home on the Punchbowl Road, naming it Adelaide Park after his daughter. By the mid 1840s, wood cutters, gardeners, innkeepers, storekeepers and blacksmiths were forming the nucleus of a village along Parramatta Road, and Hyndes was something of a village squire.
Hyndes built a substantial stone schoolhouse which opened in 1847 as the Adelaide Park Free School. This was used as a church before the opening of St Thomas' in 1848.
Hyndes is said to have commissioned a prominent Sydney architect, John Frederick Hilly, to design a typical English village church, such as he had known as a boy. The portrait of Thomas Hyndes and his wife are preserved in St Thomas' Church porch.