The Fenwick Estate, 1800 (Lakemba, now Roselands)
When it was built in 1964 Roselands was probably the first, and was certainly the largest, shopping centre in the southern hemisphere. What has since come to be termed a 'mall' was a new phenomenon back then, an attempt to create a 'city in the suburbs', enabling south west Sydney residents, by a short drive or bus ride, to reach a retail precinct that offered more delights than they could have previously imagined. The original Roselands contained hundreds of variety shops and was dominated by a Grace Brothers department store. It had the country's first food court (Papa Guiseppe had his genesis there), a ladies rest room - the Rendezous Room - where one could relax and shower and even iron a frock before seeing a film at the Roselands Cinema Beautiful or dining & dancing at The Viking licensed restaurant. And of course, Roselands had the famed Raindrop Fountain (below left) a series of nylon wires down which a mixture of water and glycerin trickled into a faux rock pool at its base!
When the Premier of NSW, Robin Askin, opened Roselands in late 1965 (a view of opening day appears below), he declared that Roselands was a ‘million dollar spread of merchandise… bring(ing) the city to the suburbs in a glittering way that must rival even the fabled Persian Bazaars’. He also referred to it as the essence of 'the motor age' - a quaint description to use just 4 years before we landed on the moon! But however you looked at it, Roselands was the stuff of dreams! A quaint blending of nostalgic and futuristic vision*. It had contemporary art, CCTV coverage of the childminding centre, illuminated signage (mermaids & pirate ships that lit up on the seafood outlet), held massive trade promotions and civic functions and offered live entertainment as well as having its unique boutique cinema.
People flocked to its opening - cars were bumper to bumper along the approach roads. Their interest was maintained and many developed an abiding loyalty and affection for the centre.
There were dozens of variations on it's signature tune the 'Roselands we love you/need you' jingle. The one I particularly recall from 1970s 2SM is - 'Roselands we love you - we think you're Christmas'. At about the same time Edna Everage (yet to be made a dame) went one step further and said she imagined heaven as 'one big Roselands'. Even if heaven was/is more delightful than Roselands in its heyday, Roselands could not have been much more heavenly! Apart from all the attractions I've mentioned, I remember the amazing animal sculptures for kiddies to climb on up in the Leopard Spot play area on the roof. My archive trawling reveals that the ground level boasted a wishing well/water wheel as well as the so 60s chunky copper the Rose Fountain (pictured below).
Roseland's funky Rose Fountain - the height of hip in south west Sydney in the era of Graham Kennedy, Charmian Clift and Bandstand.
Roselands had the most extensive and convenient parking lot a shopping centre had ever had (no customer need walk further than 100 metres from their vehicle to retail bliss) - it pioneered the colour coding of levels. And although praised for its compact 3 tier car park, Roselands had more than enough land around it for the additional parking lots that have appeared since the 1980s.
Roselands was built over (and named after) a 9 hole golf course (that was a sub-divided 18 whole golf course) owned by local mayor and business man Stanley Parry. Before that the area was known as Fenwick's Paddock recalling the Fenwick Estate (see top picture) established in the 1880s by a tug business operator. It's homestead Belmore House became the golf clubhouse and stood on the site until the 1940s. Before all that the region was the traditional land of the Daruk (or Darug) people.
Roselands was first refurbished only 5 years into its life when it was damaged by a spectacular fire allegedly caused by fireworks Grace Brothers had in stock for the Queen's Birthday weekend. It has since been remodelled and 'made over' out of recognition with each passing decade. Most of the innovative features, including the fountains and the cinema, that made it remarkable when new have now vanished. I think the remnants of the Viking Restaurant remained until the 1990s as I vaguely recall eating schnitzel there when my kids were little.
Ironically Roselands has gone from being the biggest mall in the country to being one of the most human in scale. The extensive spread of land around it (which contains several houses, a bowling club, a memorial rose garden and an aquatic centre) contrasts pleasantly with complexes like Miranda Fair and Chatswood which loom too large, dominate their locations and where queues of cars can build up at the entry points. Entry to Roselands is via one of three leisurely stretches of road and I have never known it to run out of parking spaces (even at Christmas time).
Back in the 60s, as a newly arrived pommy immigrant, Roselands enticed me with its scale and modernity. Now it has won me over anew with its proximity, manageable size, variety of goods and services (I went to Weight Watchers there and now I go to aquarobics at the Roselands pool) and its rambling setting that, with a little imagination, can still evoke Fenwicks Paddock (below) .
* chronicled in Michaela Perske's meticulous 1998 broadcast on the ABC radio program Hindsight, an MP2 of which the staff at the ABC very generously created and provided to me.
Right is a lovely sharp focus picture (particularly for a mobile phone image) my daughter took of the ugly rusted sculptural evocation of a rose (?) that dominates the memorial garden in the grounds of Roselands adjacent to the pool and opposite the auto service centre. Circa 1960s I'd say.
It is in the centre of what must have been a pool of reflection but which is now an empty litter collector. Does anyone know anything about its history/origin? Will do a little more research.