Erskineville today is very different from the orchards and gardens covering the rich alluvial flats cultivated by the early settlers. However, due to its closeness to the city, transport and shops, as well as the colourful and varied residential character, Erskineville is a great place to live!
In 1794, Acting Governor Grose granted 120 acres to Nicholas Devine, Superintendent of Convicts. Togetherwith another 90 acres gained from Governor Hunter in 1799, Devine called his land "Burran Farm". The roughly covered the suburb we now know as Erskineville.
Devine built his home and established a large orchard and rose garden near the present site of the Erskineville Railway Station. He was specially fond of rose-gardening and developed several new species suited to the Australian climate. One of these he called the "Rose of Australia". A hotel built on the site of the rose garden is called by that name.
One day after he had retired, Devine and his wife were attacked by bushrangers. Mrs Devine died, but when Devine recovered, he was assigned a convict, Bernard Rochford, to protect him. Apparently, Rochford and his wife looked after Devine well. Before Devine died at the age of 104, he gave Rochford "power of attorney". Rochford subdivided the land and sold it in large allotments to some of Sydney's most respected citizens. They reaped a rich harvest from some of Sydney's best soil. Hired labour produced oranges, wheat, sorghum, vegetables and even a little tobacco.
The Rev, George Erskine, Superintendent of the Wesleyan Mission in the colony was one of the purchasers. With convict labour, he built a large double fronted brick cottage which he named "Erskine Villa". The road which ran past became known as Erskine Villa Road and later the suburb was named Erskineville. This home was still standing until 1961.
Source: Page 26, south sydney: shaping the future