This week on Scratching Sydney’s Surface, we take a look at the 1930s economic depression, and one man’s response to overcoming some of the hardships of Sydney’s most marginalised people.

Rev Robert Hammond at Hammondville (State Library of NSW, hood_12739)
Rev Robert Hammond at Hammondville (State Library of NSW, hood_12739)

Rev Robert Hammond (1870-1946) was the Anglican minister at St Baranabas Church on Broadway from the 1920s. He as a ‘practical Christian’, and his focus was on providing practical support and pastoral care for down and outs, especially for working men. In 1908, he set up the first ‘Hammond Hotel’ at Newtown – it was a refuge for homeless, unemployed single men. By the 1930s, another seven ‘Hammond Hotels’ had been set up, most of them in converted factories and warehouses in and near Chippendale.

Rev Hammond held regular Wednesday evening meetings at St Baranabas, known as the ‘Brotherhood of Christian Men’, encouraging men to give up the grog and gambling. Pavement scribe Arthur Stace visited one of these meetings in 1930 and came out converted to Christianity.

The Great Depression caused hardship not only for single unemployed men, but for families. In response to this, in 1932, Rev Hammond set up a ‘pioneer homes scheme’ on a patch of virgin bushland 31kms south-west of Sydney, near Liverpool. Hammond didn’t wait for the government to step in to help Sydney’s indigent people – he bankrolled the scheme after cashing in his life insurance.

Gardens at Hammondville, 1939 (State Library of NSW, hood_19732)
Gardens at Hammondville, 1939 (State Library of NSW, hood_19732)
One of the homes at Hammondville, 1939 (State library of NSW, hood_19734)

Named eponymously, Hammondville was a ‘rent-purchase’ home-ownership scheme. Conditions of purchase were that the (usually male) breadwinner of the family unit had to be unemployed, that there had to be at least three children, and that the family had to either have been evicted or in threat of eviction.

In 1932, the first 13 families at Hammondville received an acre of land with a simple cottage upon it. The scheme expanded and by the 1950s, there were 110 homes. Hammond visited weekly until his death in 1946. By the 1950s, most of the families had paid off their homes. Hammondville is now a suburb of Liverpool.

Find out more about the Rev Hammond, his innovative housing scheme and his legacy through providing aged care, in the book Faith in Action: Hammondcare, written by Meredith Lake.