Before European settlers arrived, the Burwood area was occupied by an Aboriginal clan called Wangal. The land on Parramatta Rivers southern bank was home to the Wangal tribe. As a result of the European invasion as well as the small pox epidemic of 1788, tragically, this tribe became extinct.
In 1791, the first settler, Sarah Nelson, came to the Burwood area and set up a small farm in the place now called Malvern Hill. She was a free settler, and, somewhat romantically, moved her whole life over from the UK to be closer to her convict husband whod been sent to the Sydney colony. Another early settler in the Burwood district was the former convict Denis Connor who was given a grant of land at York Place in 1796.
Captain Rowley received his land grant in 1799. Though he lived on another farm elsewhere, in Newtown, he pastured his flock at Burwood. These merinos were purchased from original flock brought to Australia in 1797. Burwoods Rowley Street is named after Captain Rowley.
Farming was more rigorously introduced into the area by Alexander Riley, who bought Rowleys farm in 1812. This Sydney businessman cultivated 500 acres of Rowleys land and planted fruit and nuts, including oranges, pomegranates, lemons, apples, pears, apricots, chestnuts and raspberries. Mr Riley built the first grand house in the district, the Burwood Villa, in 1814.
Other major farms in the area were Enfield and Longbottom Government Farm. Enfield got its name from the Middlesex market near London. The Enfield lumber trade contributed to the earliest commercial activity in the Burwood area.
Things progressed when, in 1814, a stagecoach began running along the Parramatta Road to the place now called Parramatta. As a result, a lot of inns were set up along the road, the most famous and long-lived one being Bath Arms, at the corner of Burwood Road.
A decision, taken in 1833 by a number of grant owners, to subdivide and sell their lands led to the growth of the suburb.
The major figure in Enfield lumber trade was Thomas Hyndes, a Londoner. The lumber trade led to wood cutters, gardeners, inn keepers, store keepers and blacksmiths coming to Burwood and forming a small village. The local church, St Thomas Church, was commissioned by Hyndes who wanted a typical English village church resembling the ones he used to know in his childhood.
Burwood grew exponentially when a railway line was opened in 1855 from Sydney to Parramatta. Burwood was one of the four stations. At time there were six trains to and fro. Once the suburb became easily accessible, more and more settlers came, including wealthy merchants and industrialists who built country houses in the area. One of them, Richard Wynne, along with a few others, petitioned the Governor in 1873 requesting him to convert Burwood into a municipality. This occurred in 1874. Richard Wynne became the first Mayor of Burwood. Wynns Avenue is named after Richard Wynne. Official records show that at that time the number of local inhabitants was about 1200 people.
Transport became easier again when a steam tram running from Ashfield to Enfield was extended to Burwood in 1899. In 1912, steam trams were replaced by the electric tram, and in 1948 trams were replaced by Burwood Buses.
Burwood is now a bustling suburb town just outside the centre of Sydney, and has a population of approximately 30,927 people. The Burwood parks and reserves enhance the beauty of the town. The Burwood Council is working on a new library, hall, and new civic and cultural centre. Burwood has an excellent transport infrastructure and is set to grow exponentially in the next 25 years. It already has a huge shopping centre and many thousands of homes and units. It has been identified as Major Centre by the New South Wales Government.