Little Australia

Many people have asked why the estate at the west end of Stonehouse is called Little Australia.
To the best of our knowledge this is the reason why.

Vicki Walker interviewed John West (former Chair of Stonehouse Parish Council 1980 – 1984) on February 26th 2013 concerning how Little Australia housing estate (off Oldends Lane in Stonehouse ) got its name.

In the late 1960s/early 1970s developers were planning a new housing estate to be built on fields between Gloucester Road and the GWR line. Access is from Oldends Lane at one end of the estate and Gloucester Road going out of Stonehouse at the other end.

The Parish Council had been asked for ideas on a theme for street names on the estate. Keeping street names to a theme helps local services to identify the location of a street more easily.

John remembers:

“When the developers put in the plan for the estate, the Parish Council discussed a theme for it. Jack Anderson (Chairman of the Parish Council from 1955 -1959 and subsequently Clerk to the Parish Council from 1962 – 1982), said, “When I was young and we used to play there as kids, because it was open ground then, we used to call it Little Australia.” John Barlow (Chairman of the Parish Council from 1967 – 1980), who was Jack’s friend and the same age as him, said that was exactly right! So when the developers got planning permission and asked us for ideas for names the Parish Council said the theme of Little Australia would be a good idea because that’s what some people used to call it. We suggested they named the roads after cities in Australia – hence Brisbane, Perth Sydney etc.  – and that’s what happened.

Jack said that was the name the kids gave to it in the 1920s. We are not sure why. Maybe because it was far away from the centre of the village and particularly where the Andersons lived at Verney Road on the east side of Stonehouse, we don’t know. Perhaps it was a kind of adventure land for them. The west end of the town was not at all built up in the 1920s. The housing estates that are there now were built during the 1940s and 1950s. So the fields would have been natural and maybe a bit wild – like Australia to the young boys who played there.”

John asked his mother, who was of a similar era to Jack Anderson and she couldn’t recall it being called that. However we have since discovered a couple of pieces of evidence (see below)

Dave Cook. Stonehouse resident March 2013

At the commencement of Oldends Lane, Gloucester Road end, before the Catholic church was built and before The Shrubberies School on the other side of the lane, there were two fields which were owned by farmer Lionel Mayo who farmed at the top of Woodcock Lane – Glen Farm ( by Cotswold Green). These two fields both had between 12 and 16 cider pear trees in them which were harvested and then taken down the lane to farmer Price at Oldends Farm who made cider from them. I do know this is correct because I helped harvest them when I was a boy for pocket money.
Going back as far has that, I know the fields were called Australia Fields, and from them, that’s where the name came from.

Charles Lister Smith “The Manor of Stonehouse”. Published March 1935

Chapter on The Riding Fields at the bottom of the page reads:

There were originally three ridings, the first the Riding Maj or great Riding.The second, on the other side of Cann Lane, the field now for some reason known as Australia, with parts of Smallbrook and Nogain. This was Lord’s Riding and included the orchard fronting the old main road from Oldends. It is mentioned as the Lordes Rudying in a court roll of 1491. The third was the Little Riding, and was the meadow since acquired for the Recreation Ground.

 Cann Lane is now Gloucester Road. The Ridings area has become The Reddings terrace of houses. The meadow acquired for the Recreation Ground is just beyond the railway embankment and is still a Recreation Ground.

Rumours have abounded about Australian soldiers or airmen staying there but we have researched into this and there is no record of any Australians ever having stayed there.