One Man’s Dream Now a Community Treasure


Ever wondered how these Gardens came to be here?



The railway was the prime mover of people to Hornsby but it was the function of developers to provide the land. To this end 3 developers acquired 314 hectares east and west of the station. The land consisted of ridge land with orchards and Crown land. In 1897 they registered land in Rosemead and Lisgar Roads although the lots were first offered for sale on the 12th December 1896. The developers were aware that working class housing was generally near to railway stations so they aimed to provide professional classes with quality housing on top of the ridge with scenic views across the valley.

The first purchasers of land in the area were Rebecca Garrard, wife of the Hon. Jacob Garrard, trade union leader and politician and Annie Roberts, the wife of Oscar Garibaldi Roberts who was to become one of the inaugural Hornsby Shire Councillors. They built the house “Mt. Errington”.

The Roberts family eventually purchased 12 blocks which were resurveyed into 23 blocks. He attempted to sell them in 1913, calling the area “The Roberts Mt. Errington Sub-division”.

Another long time resident of the area was Frank Cotton who lived at number 45 William Street and was the father of Max Cotton.

In 1920 Max Cotton purchased land from his brother Leo specifically to create a garden for his own

pleasure and interests. He wanted to create a garden in a natural setting where he could display his shrubs, trees, orchids and indulge his interest in genetics by breeding goldfish and chickens. Max called this parcel of land “the block” but we know it as Lisgar Gardens.

Max lived in Lisgar Road and together with his family and friends worked for many years creating garden beds and fish ponds. In order to protect the goldfish from birds Max began growing water lilies and they soon became a feature of the gardens and also a source of income. The picked blooms would be rolled in separate pieces of paper, packed in boxes and sent by train to Searles Florists, Sydney’s largest florist at that time.

Max formed a friendship with Professor Waterhouse, founder of Eryldene, and the two spent many hours together indulging their interest in camellias. By the early 1950s, Max had planted 72 varieties.


Sydney's best gardens.
Sydney’s best gardens.


Compiled by the Friends of Lisgar Gardens & Hornsby Shire Council – March 2003.

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Sydney's best terraced gardens and rare camellias

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