Rydalmere (formerly "Field of Mars") is a suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia.
- Area:3.8 km2
- Elevation:24 m
- Local Government Area:City of Parramatta Council
Rydalmere (formerly "Field of Mars") is a suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Rydalmere is approximately 21 kilometres west of the Sydney central business district in the local government area of the City of Parramatta. Rydalmere is part of the Greater Western Sydney region.
The earliest grant in the area was to Phillip Schaeffer who settled in 1791. The district comprising modern day Rydalmere, Ermington and Dundas was initially called "The Ponds" because of such natural features occurring above Subiaco Creek. Shortly after Schaeffer's, further grants were given to several emancipists, eight marines and two crew of HMS Sirius, on the northern bank of the Parramatta River at Rydalmere and Ermington. By about 1800 "The Ponds" became known as "Field of Mars", presumably because of Mars being the god of war, and the military men that received land grants there. The parish of Field of Mars spread more or less from Parramatta to West Ryde and up to Carlingford and Eastwood. Later on to the north of this area along the Lane Cove River, a Field of Mars Common of 5,000 acres was established. Today's Field of Mars reserve and cemetery are remnants of this common
## Aboriginal culture
The Darug is the clan name for the indigenous people of the area. The Darug fashioned tools and spears for hunting native animals and collected wild berries and flora as a valuable source of vitamins. The Darug had a close relationship with the river, from which they caught fish, eels, and other food. Their stable bark canoes often carried a small fire in the middle – built on a mound of soil to allow them to cook their catch fresh. 'Firebrand farming' was also practised in the region.
Soon after Governor Phillip's arrival with the First Fleet of convicts from England in 1788, Parramatta was developed as a farming settlement to feed the new English colony. This led to the immediate and tragic displacement of local Aborigines from the land they had lived off for thousands of years.
The introduction of foreign diseases was the most debilitating trend – and many of the Barramatagal clan disappeared in the smallpox epidemic during early European settlement. However against the odds others survived and their descendants live in the region to this day. In the early 19th century, more positive developments occurred and the region became a meeting place for tribes from surrounding regions. An annual feast was held by Governor Macquarie to encourage Aboriginal people to leave their children at a local school, but this focus later shifted to Blacktown area.
## European settlement
Phillip Shaeffers 'Vineyard' grant of 140 acres was followed in 1792 with grants adjoining on the north bank of Parramatta River. These were to ex soldiers and the settlement was called 'Field of Mars'. The grants at modern day Rydalmere were to James Manning, John Carver, John Seymour, William Reid and a second to Phillip Schaeffer. These lots were all 80 acres except for Alexander Mcdonald whose grant at modern Ermington was 130 acres because he was a married man.
## Subiaco Monastery
The first Roman Catholic archbishop of Sydney in Australia, John Bede Polding, had been taught by the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey in England as a little boy. In 1849, he appealed to the abbey to provide nuns for a Benedictine monastery that he was founding on the 600 acres of Hannibal Macarthur's old Vineyard Estate which he had purchased. This was to be named Subiaco after the Italian location where St Benedict, the founder of the Benedictines, had begun monastic life. In response, Dame Magdalen le Clerc was sent to join Sister Scholastica Gregory from Princethorpe Priory, and the two founded what is now Jamberoo Abbey. This left Subiaco in 1957, after the urban development of the locality had become oppressive to the nuns.
## Thomas O'Neill
Rydalmere was named by Thomas O'Neill when he purchased much of the acreage of the Vineyard Estate not occupied by the nunnery, after it was put up for sale through the trustees by the Sydney Roman Catholic diocese in 1877. Despite the myth surrounding O’Neill coming from England’s Cumbrian Lake District, he was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1830, and accompanied his parents to Australia as a young lad, where he finished his education.
He left for the Californian goldfields in 1849 and returned in 1851, the venture being quite profitable for him. He entered business with much energy and a strong drive which along with sound commercial instincts allowed him to retire a very wealthy man in 1877. Another myth is that O'Neill purchased the Vineyard estate as a speculator in order to quickly sell it and make a healthy profit. The facts don't tend to support this view. After the purchase, he established his "Fairmount Estate" which covered a considerable portion of Rydalmere, the boundaries more or less extending from Park Road (formerly Wharf St) to Spurway Street, the southern boundary being the Parramatta river, and the northern boundary being Subiaco Creek (formerly Bishop’s Creek). It was an orchard and pasture property.
"Fairmount" the family home he built, was said to be a very beautiful residence, and splendid views were to be had from its tower. It has long since disappeared and was thought to have been located near Victoria Road and Gammell Street. The property sales and sub-divisions only occurred slowly, and appear to be a result of either being required for the advancement of the suburb, or the estate being divided over time by roads being established i.e. Victoria Road in 1886, rather than being sold off for a profit.
Thomas O'Neill died on 13 March 1890 at Fairmount aged 59. His funeral service was held in St Mary's Cathedral, and he was buried in Waverley cemetery. He was said to have been a most amiable man, held in high regard by all that knew him. His was deeply involved in not only Irish and Catholic affairs, but public affairs in general. His charity spanned many years with his support of St Vincent's Hospital, The Good Samaritan Refuge and The Benevolent Asylum being on-going. His purse was never closed to charity. His final act before his illness was to donate the land and money to help the establishment of the Catholic church and school at Rydalmere.
He still owned most of his Rydalmere property at the time of his death. Fairmount was later sold by the family and remained an orchard with a few building lots sold. It was not until after World War II, when the Housing Commission acquired it for public housing, that it was fully developed.
O'Neill had owned an estate named Rydalmere, which he had sold years before buying the vineyard estate and must have liked the name which he reused. Exactly where his first Rydalmere property was located is not known.
Rydal Water is a lake in The English Lake District which gains its name from the nearby village of Rydal, and “Mere” is an Old English word meaning "lake", or "body of water".
# Things to do
Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church
Female Orphan School
Waterpipe and Pedestrian Bridge over Parramatta River
Rydalmere Bowling Club