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Named after the rocky terrain and cliffs found in the area, Arncliffe is a located in the inner south-eastern suburbs of Sydney. The first land grants on the western banks of the Cooks River were made in the 1820s, including one to David Hannam, son of prominent Sydney Brick maker Reuben Hannam, who was given a substantial piece of land which extended along the River and today comprises both Arncliffe and the adjacent suburb of Wolli Creek.
The well irrigated land known locally as Cobbler's Hill would be used primarily for market gardens providing the colony with much needed vegetables. In the 1840s Hannam's property would be subdivided, with the new allotments advertised at the time promoting the similarities of the land to the English countryside, with the forested acreages appealing to timber getters, yet the isolation of the area made settlement scarce. The area instead became a popular suburban outcrop for wealthy Sydney merchants and their families looking to escape the overcrowding of Sydney city and its surrounding suburbs. With subdivisions and residential redevelopment in the mid 1900s, many of these original mansions were demolished or had their characteristic architectural flourishes decimated. Recent efforts to preserve the suburbs heritage have seen some of the grander buildings restored to their former glory, many of which can be found on Forest and Wollongong Roads.
With the advent of the railway line through Arncliffe in 1884, further subdivision of the land saw small pockets of residential development emerge to house the workers at the newly erected nearby factories. Primarily 'dirty' industries such as tanneries and a boiling down works combined with a lack of laws governing the disposal of industrial waste saw these factories contribute much to the pollution of the Cooks River resulting in a noxious smell which would emanate from the waterways at low tide.
As its early market gardens were mostly tended by Chinese and German migrants, Arncliffe has always enjoyed a distinctly multicultural profile, and the real estate boom of the 1950s and 1960s saw Arncliffe attract substantial Italian and Greek communities who were moving out of Sydney's inner suburbs. With the addition of southern European migrants following a devastating earthquake in Macedonia in 1963 and Lebanese refugees fleeing civil unrest in the Middle East, the suburbs multicultural profile would be complete. The legacy of these early migration patterns remains in Arncliffe today with the Al-Zahra Mosque built in 1980 and an olive grove established in the newly named neighbouring suburb of Bardwell Valley commemorating the input Greek migrants have had to the community of Arncliffe.