St Leonards was named after the English statesman Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney of St Leonards and the name originally applied to the whole area from North Sydney to Gore Hill. To-day’s suburb is divided between the local government areas of Willoughby (east from the Pacific Highway to the railway line, with a small portion east of the line), Lane Cove (west of the Highway to the railway) and North Sydney.
St Leonards Railway Station (located within Willoughby City) was the original terminus of the North Shore Railway when it opened on 1 January 1890 and the town developed as an important commercial centre in the early 20th century. Today it complements Chatswood, North Sydney and Lane Cove as a major business centre on the North Shore. The station was redeveloped in the 1990s’ as a component of The Forum development, which comprises three commercial buildings and two residential towers containing 782 apartments, a supermarket and 34 retail shops. The Forum 1 tower (34 stories/118m) is a commanding presence that offers panoramic views over the city.
Gore Hill was the centre of the brick-making industry on the North Shore. This area is now part of the Artarmon Industrial Area.
Valetta (formerly Artarmon House)
William Gore constructed of a cottage in 1818 which he named Artarmon House, and he lived there from 1829 until his death in 1845. Richard Harnett subsequently lived in the house until around 1869, when he built a more substantial residence — also named Artarmon House — and the old cottage was demolished. Substantial brick stables and a staff residence were also constructed at this time. The prominent Artarmon resident Richard Seldon lived at Artarmon House from 1876 until 1880.
George Robert Whiting purchased 100 acres of land, including Artarmon House from Richard Seldon in 1880. He renovated the house as a grand Victorian residence, which he renamed Valetta, and established extensive gardens, including a tennis court and bowling green. The grand residence with its fine furnishings and well-kept gardens is remembered as ‘the Big House’ by residents of the time. The North Sydney Brick & Tile Company purchased the land and demolished Valetta in 1939, but the stables remain (in the grounds of North Sydney TAFE) and have been heritage listed.
Parks and Reserves
Gore Hill Park
This area is located on the southern portion of the original Reserve. There was a sporting oval there by 1928, which was upgraded as a work relief project in 1934. The oval is the home ground of the Australian Rules football club, the North Shore Bombers.
Gore Hill Cemetery
Abutting the park to the north is the 6ha Gore Hill Cemetery, which was dedicated in 1868 and functioned as a public cemetery until 1974. The Friends of Gore Hill Cemetery petitioned the Lands Department and Willoughby Council to preserve the cemetery and the Gore Hill Cemetery Act 1975 declared the area as a Historic Cemetery. It contains the gravestones of many prominent Willoughby families.