It is hard to imagine now but in days gone by the township of Camden was the centre of a large district. The Camden district became the centre of people’s daily lives for well over a century and the basis of their sense of place and community identity.
The district grew to about 1200 square kilometre with a population of more than 5000 by the 1930s with farming and mining. Farming started out with cereal cropping and sheep, which by the end of the 19th century had turned to dairying and mixed farming. Silver mining started in the late 1890s in the Burragorang Valley and coalmining from the 1930s.
The district was centred on Camden and there were a number of villages including Cobbitty, Narellan, The Oaks, Oakdale, Yerranderie, Mt Hunter, Orangeville and Bringelly. The region was made up of four local government areas – Camden Municipal Council, Wollondilly Shire Council, the southern end of Nepean Shire and the south-western edge of Campbelltown Municipality.
Cows and more
Before the Camden district was even an idea the area was the home for ancient Aboriginal culture based on dreamtime stories. The land of the Dharawal, Gundangara and the Dharug.
The Europeans turned up in their sailing ships. They brought new technologies, new ideas and new ways of doing things. The First Fleet cows did not think much of their new home in Sydney. They escaped and found heaven on the Indigenous managed pastures of the Nepean River floodplain.
The Nepean River was at the centre of the Cowpastures and the gatekeeper for the wild cattle. The Nepean River, which has Aboriginal name of Yandha, was named by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1789 in honour of Evan Nepean, a British politician.
The Nepean River rises in the ancient sandstone country west of the Illawarra Escarpment and Mittagong Range around Robertson. The shallow V-shaped valleys were ideal locations for the dams of the Upper Nepean Scheme that were built on the tributaries to the Nepean, the Cordeaux, Avon, and Cataract.
The rivers catchment drains in a northerly direction and cuts through deep gorges in the Douglas Park area. It then emerges out of sandstone country and onto the floodplain around the village of Menangle. The river continues in a northerly direction downstream to Camden then Cobbitty before re-entering sandstone gorge country around Bents Basin, west of Bringelly.
The river floodplain and the surrounding hills provided ideal conditions for the woodland of ironbarks, grey box, wattles and a groundcover of native grasses and herbs. The woodland ecology loved the clays of Wianamatta shales that are generally away from the floodplain.
The ever changing mood of the river has shaped the local landscape. People forget that the river could be an angry raging flooded torrent, set on a destructive course. Flooding shaped the settlement pattern in the eastern part of the district.
A village is born
The river ford at the Nepean River crossing provided the location of the new village of Camden established by the Macarthur brothers, James and William. They planned the settlement on their estate of Camden Park in the 1830s and sold the first township lots in 1840. The village became the transport node for the district and developed into the main commercial and financial centre in the area.
Rural activity was concentrated on the new village of Camden. There were weekly livestock auctions, the annual agricultural show and the provision of a wide range of services. The town was the centre of law enforcement, health, education, communications and other services.
The community voluntary sector started under the direction of mentor James Macarthur. His family also determined the moral tone of the village by sponsoring local churches and endowing the villagers with parkland.
Manufacturing had a presence with a milk factory, a timber mill and a tweed mill in Edward Street that burnt down. Bakers and general merchants had customers as far away as the Burragorang Valley, Picton and Leppington and the town was the publishing centre for weekly newspapers.
The Hume Highway, formerly the Great South Road, ran through the town from the 1920s and brought the outside forces of modernism, consumerism, motoring, movies and the new-fangled-flying machines at the airfield. This re-enforced the centrality of the market town as the commercial capital of the district.
In the western extremities of the district there were the rugged mountains that made up the picturesque Burragorang Valley. Its deep gorges carried the Coxes, Wollondilly and Warragamba Rivers.
Access was always difficult from the time that the Europeans discovered its majestic beauty. The Jump Up at Nattai was infamous from the time of Macquarie’s visit in 1815. The valley became an economic driver of the district supplying silver and coal that was hidden the dark recesses of the gorges. The Gothic landscape attracted tourists to sup the valley’s hypnotic beauty who stayed in one of the many guesthouses.
The outside world was linked to the valley through the Camden railhead and the daily Camden mail coach from the 1890s. Later replaced by a mail car and bus.
The valley was popular with writers. In the 1950s one old timer, an original Burragoranger, Claude N Lee wrote about the valley in ‘An Old-Timer at Burragorang Look-out’. He wrote:
Yes. this is a good lookout. mate,
What memories it recalls …
For all those miles of water.
Sure he doesn’t care a damn;
He sees the same old valley still,
Through eyes now moist and dim
The lovely fertile valley
That, for years, was home to him.
By the 1980s the Sydney urban octopus had started to strangle the country town and some yearned for the old days. They created a country town idyll. In 2007 local singer song-writer Jessie Fairweather penned ‘Still My Country Home’. She wrote:
When I wake up,
I find myself at ease,
As I walk outside I hear the birds,
They’re singing in the trees.
Any then maybe
Just another day
But to me I can’t have it any other way,
Cause no matter when I roam
I know that Camden’s still my country home.
The end of a district and the birth of a region
The seeds of the destruction of the Camden district were laid as early as the 1940s with the decision to flood the valley with the construction of the Warragamba Dam. The Camden railhead was closed in the early 1960s and the Hume Highway moved out of the town centre in the early 1970s.
Today Macarthur regionalism is entrenched with government and business branding in a area defined as by the Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Local Government Areas. The Camden district has become a distant memory with remnants dotting the landscape and reminding us of the past.
Oran Park Raceway was doomed in 2008 to be part of history when it was covered with houses in a new suburb with the same name. It was also the name of a former pastoral property that was part of the story of the settler society within the Cowpastures. The locality is the site of hope and loss for both locals and new arrivals.
The suburb of Oran Park is on Sydney’s south-western urban fringe just east of the history and picturesque village of Cobbitty and the relatively new suburb Harrington Park is to the south.
Oran Park Raceway was a glorious thing
The Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit was located in the south-western and western part of the original Oran Park pastoral estate. The main grand prix circuit was 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners as well as changes in elevation around the track.
The main circuit was broken into two parts: the south circuit, which was the original track built in 1962 by the Singer Car Club and consisted of the main straight, pit lane garages and a constant radius 180 turn at the end.
The north circuit was added in 1973 and was an 800 metre figure-8. Apart from the main racing circuit there were a number of subsidiary activities and they have included a two dirt circuits, two four wheel training venues, a skid pan and a go-kart circuit.
The racing circuit has been used for a variety of motorsport including club motorkhanas, touring cars, sports sedans, production cars, open-wheelers, motocross and truck racing. In 2008 a number of organisations used the circuit for driver training including advanced driving, defensive driving, high performance and off-road driving.
The track hosted its first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1971, which was a battle between racing legends Bob Jane and Allan Moffat. The December 2008 V8 Supercar event was the 38th time a championship was held at the track. Sadly for some the track will go the way of other suburban raceways of the past. It turned into just be a passing memory when it closed in 2010.
The Daily Telegraph noted that a number of other Sydney tracks that have been silenced. They have included Amaroo Park, Warwick Farm, Mt Druitt, Sydney Showground, Liverpool and Westmead speedways. The public relations spokesman for Oran Park, Fred Tsioras, has said that there have been a few notable drivers who have raced at the circuit including Kevin Bartlett, Fred Gibson, Ian Luff, Alan Moffat, Peter Brock, Mark Weber and others.
Innovations that were introduced at the Oran Park Raceway included night racing, truck racing and NASCAR racing. Tsioras claims that the track was a crowd favourite because they could see the entire circuit.
In the early days the facilities at the circuit were pretty basic, and this included the control tower. The circuit was a glorified paddock and race organisers held mainly basic club events. The track surface was pretty rough and there was a make-do attitude amongst racing enthusiasts.
The control facilities in the early days at the track was very rudimentary. The first control tower used in 1962 by the members of the Singer Car Club, who established the track, was a double decker bus. Race officials and time keepers sat out in the open air under a canvas awning on the top of the bus at club race meetings.
A new control tower, built around 1980, was funded by the Rothmans tobacco company. The Rothmans company was a major sponsor of motor sports in Australia at the time. Tobacco sponsorship of motor sports was seen as an efficient marketing strategy to reach boys and young men.
Tobacco & cigarette advertisements were banned on TV and radio in September 1976. While other tobacco advertising was banned from all locally produced print media — this left only cinema, billboard and sponsorship advertising as the only forms of direct tobacco advertising was banned inv December 1989.
Motor sport projected an image of style, excitement, thrills and spills that drew men and boys to the sport. Motor sport has been symbolized by bravery, strength, competitiveness and masculinity. This imagery in still portrayed in motor sport like Formula One racing.
The influence for the design of the tower, according to Will Hagan, was the El Caballo Blanco Complex at Narellan, which opened in the 1979 and was a major tourist attraction. The control tower, like El Caballo Blanco, was constructed in a Spanish Mission architectural style (or Hollywood Spanish Mission) like the Paramount cinema in Elizabeth Street (1933) or Cooks Garage in Argyle Street (1935) Camden.
The Spanish Mission building style emerged during in the Inter-war period (1919-1939). It was characterised by terracotta roof tiles, a front loggia, rendering of brickwork and shaped parapets.
The Spanish Mission building style was inspired by the American west coast influences, and the relationship between the automobile, rampant consumerism and the romance promoted by the motion pictures from Hollywood.
The Spanish Mission building style, according to Ian Kirk and Megan Martin from their survey of interwar service stations, was popular with service stations in the late 1920s and early 1930s, particularly in the Sydney area. In their survey they discovered more than 120 original service stations surviving in New South Wales from the interwar years.
Some examples of Interwar garages included the Broadway Garage and Service Station in Bellevue Hill, the former Seymour’s Service Station in Roseville, Malcolm Motors in King Street, Newtown and the Pyrmont Bridge Service Station in Pyrmont. Kirk and Martin have maintained that unlike the United States, early service stations in Australia were privately owned and did not have to be designed according to an oil company’s in-house style.
Motor sports became popular in the Interwar period and was associated with glamour and excitement of the cars of the period. The Interwar period (1918-1939) is an interesting period in the history of Australia. It was a time which contrasted the imperial loyalties of the British Empire with the rampant consumerism and industrialisation of American culture and influence.
The Interwar period was one in which country towns and the city were increasingly dominated by motor vehicles. It was a time when the fast and new, the exotic and sensual came to shape the style of a new age of modernism, and competed with the traditional and conservative, the old and slow, and changes to social and cultural traditions.
There were many brands of motor car competing for the attention of consumers, and the aspirations and desires of a new generation were wrapped up in youth, glamour, fantasy and fun.
This was reflected in the growth of elegant and glamorous car showrooms and the appearance of service stations and garages to serve the increasing number of motor car owners.
In Camden this period modernism generated Cooks Garage at the corner of Argyle and Elizabeth Street not far away from the new slick and exciting movie palace, the Paramount Movie Theatre. In central Camden the Dunk commercial building at 58-60 Argyle Street was a shiny new car showroom displaying Chevrolet motor cars from the USA. Advertisement boasted that the cars were:
Beautiful new Chevrolet is completely new. New arresting beauty of style; new riding comfort and seating; …with more comfort.
The buyer had the choice of car models from commercial roadster to sports roader, tourer, coupe and sedan which sold for the value price of £345.
In New South Wales the number of motor vehicles increased from around 22,000 in 1920 to over 200,000 in 1938. There was an increasing interest in motor sports in the Sydney area by enthusiasts of all kinds.
Dreams and development on the raceway site
In 1983 the Oran Park Raceway track was owned by Bill Cleary, and he stated to the Macarthur Advertiser that his family had owned the property for 38 years. In 1976 he put together a proposal to create a sports and recreation centre for the area of the raceway. The proposal was raised again in 1981 and was to include a themed entertainment park, an equestrian centre, dude ranch, motel, health and fitness centre, model farm and cycling, hiking and bridle trials. But it all came to nothing.
The current track was purchased in the mid-1980s by Leppington Pastoral Company (owned by the Perich family) and in 2004 was rezoned for housing. It was estimated at the time that there would be 21,000 houses. Tony Perich stated in 2007 to the Sydney Morning Herald that he planned to build almost one-fifth of the 11,500 dwellings in Oran Park and Turner Road in a joint-venture with Landcom. A spokesman for Mr Perich’s company, Greenfields Development Corporation, stated that the first houses would be on the larger lots.
Oran Park 2008 planned housing development
In 2008 Oran Park is part of the South West Growth Centre area which is responsibility of the New South Wales Government’s Growth Centres Commission, which was eventually planned to accommodate 295,000 people by 2031. The Oran Park and Turner Road Development were expected in 2008 to house 33,000 people.
In an area east of the raceway it is planned that there will be the development of an aged care facility for elderly and retired citizens with work starting in 2011. The project will consist of independent living villas and apartments, assisted living units, a day care centre and a high and low care aged facility with a dementia unit.
In 2008 the raceway made way for 8000 homes to house 35,000 people complete with town centre, commercial precinct and entertainment facilities. It was planned to include primary schools, two high schools, a court, police station and a community centre. The suburb, Raceway Hill, was planned to have streets named after the old track.
The colonial history of Oran Park
In the colonial days of early New South Wales Oran Park was originally made up of two principal land grants, one of 2,000 acres, Harrington Park, granted to William Campbell in 1815 and another to George Molle in 1817, Netherbyes, of 1600 acres which ran between South Creek and the Northern Road. According to John Wrigley the name Oran Park appears on the pre-1827 map as part of Harrington Park, Campbell’s grant. Campbell arrived on the brig, Harrington, in 1803 as a master.
The New South Wales State Heritage Register states that the Oran Park portion was sub-divided from the Harrrington Park estate in 1829 and acquired by Henry William Johnston in 1852. The Oran Park estate is representative of the layout of a country manor estate with views afforded to and from the manor over the landscape and to the important access points of the estate. These were representative of the design philosophies of the time.
Oran Park House was located in a picturesque Arcadian pastoral scene by using the best of European farming practices and produced an English-style landscape of a park, pleasure grounds and gardens. The house was located in a ‘sublime landscape’ with the integration of aspect, orientation and design, drawing on influences of Scotsman JC Loudon, Englishman Capability Brown and Sydney nurseryman Thomas Shepherd.
Oran Park House
The two-storey Georgian-style house was built in c.1857 and is described as having a roof with of a simple colonial hipped form, windows with shutters, an added portico and a bridge to the two-storey original servants wing at the rear. There is detailed cedar joinery and panelling on the interior. The house is located on a knoll creating an imposing composition set amongst landscaped grounds with a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
According to the NSW State Heritage Register the house is an example of the Summit Model of homestead sited on a hilltop with the homestead complex. The present entrance to Oran Park is on an axis with the house’s southern façade, with a carriage loop with mature plantings in front of the house.
Oran Park house was acquired by Thomas C Barker (of Maryland and Orielton) who sold it to Campbelltown grazier Edward Lomas Moore (of Badgally) in 1871. The property was leased by and then subsequently owned by Atwill George Kendrick who had a clearing sale on the site in 1900. The house had alterations possibly under the direction of Leslie Wilkinson (professor of architecture, University of Sydney) in the 1930s.
The Moore family sold the Oran Park House and land to B Robbins and a Mr Smith operated a golf course with trotting facilities. It was sold in 1945 for £28,000, and in 1963, 361 acres was purchased by ER Smith and J Hyland, farmers. The homestead and stables were sold in 1969 by John and Peggy Cole and purchased by the Dawson-Damers, members of the English aristocracy. The Dawson-Damers undertook restoration guided by architect Richard Mann. John ‘DD’ Dawson-Damer was an Old Etonian and car collector.
John Dawson-Damer was a prominent motor racing identity and was killed in an accident while driving his Lotus 63 at a race meeting at Goodwood, West Sussex in 2000. Dawson-Damer was the managing director of Austral Engineering Supplies Pty Ltd, and was involved with the International Automobile Federation and the Historic Sports Racing Car Association of New South Wales. Ashley Dawson-Damer, his wife and socialite, was a member of the council of governors of the Opera Australia Capital Fund and a board member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation.
After her husband’s death she sold the house, with its historic gardens and 107 hectares of pasture, in 2006 for $19 million to Valad Property Group. The State Heritage Register describes the house and surrounding estate an outstanding example of mid-nineteenth century cultural landscape with a largely intact homestead complex and gardens set within an intact rural setting.
Oran Park House renamed Catherine Park House
Oran Park was renamed Catherine Park House in 2013 by the developers of the new housing release Harrington Estates Pty Ltd (Mac Chronicle 10 Oct 2013). The name changed was agreed by Camden Council and celebrated Catherine Molle, the wife of George Molle.
In 1815 Molle was allocated a grant of 550 acres which he called Catherine Fields after his wife Catherine Molle on the northern bank of South Creek opposite his grant of Netherbyres.
In 1816 George Molle was granted Netherbyres, of 1,600 acres (647.5 hectares) which ran between South Creek and the Northern Road on the south bank of South Creek. In 1817 he was granted Molles Maine of 1550 acres east of the Great South Road.
George Molle was baptized in Mains, Berwickshire, Scotland on the 6th March 1773. George joined the Scots Brigade (94th Regiment) as an ensign and served in Gibraltar, The Cape of Good Hope, India, Egypt and Spain. He was promoted to Colonel and served at Gibraltar before transferring as the Colonel of the 46th Regiment of Foot when ordered to serve in the Colony of New South Wales.
On the 20th March 1814 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Colony, second in command to Governor Macquarie.
George and his wife played an active part in the public life of the colony of New South Wales, patron of the Female Orphan School and a member of the committee for the Civilization, Care and Education of Aborigines.
In early 2018 the developer Greensfields and Landcom report in their newsletter that construction of the new Camden Council Library building is progressing well. A new off-dog leash area was under construction in the new release areas around the new high school. It is the second area developed in the land release.
The newsletter detailed the road construction for Dick Johnson Drive, one of the many roads named after motor racing greats. The street will connect with The Northern Road in 2019. Works area progressing on the latest release areas around Oran Park Public School and on earthworks associated with Peter Brock Drive. The school opened in 2014 with new staff and students adjacent to Oran Park Podium shopping centre. The shopping centre was opened by New South Wales Premier Mike Baird in late 2014 with 28 specialty shops.
New parkland was opened in a recent release area in 2018 and new traffic lights were operational at Peter Brock Drive and Central Avenue.
A new free monthly 20pp A4 newspaper, the Oran Park Gazette, has appeared in the suburb in 2015. It is published by the Flynnko Group based at Glenmore Park. The Gazette started with a circulation of 3500 and is part of a stable of five mastheads which are distributed across the Western Sydney region.
Camden Council transferred is administrative function to the new office building in 2016. An open day inviting resident to inspect the new facilities was a huge success.
One of Sydney city’s hidden places is Macquarie Place, just off Bridge Street. Tucked in between Loftus Street and Pitt Streets It is a little bit of green. Rather dull hidden from direct sunlight. A little bit tired, a little bit at heel amongst the skyscrapers and traffic congestion. A space in the city for todays world of financial gurus, hotshots and lawyers.
Macquarie Place Park is triangular shaped space that has seen the city change around over the 200 years. Once upon a time it was an open space in the elegant part of town for the colonial elite next to the Governor’s House precinct, on the high ground above the Tanks Stream.
The New South Wales State Heritage Inventory states
Macquarie Place was the first formally laid out public space in Sydney and thus in Australia. Governor Macquarie was responsible for its formal layout, befitting its important situation at the centre of the colony. The park and the memorials standing in this park outline the development of Sydney since its foundation.
On the harbour side of the park The City of Sydney states that some of Sydney’s prominent early colonial businessmen held leases. They included Simeon Lord, Thomas Randall, William Chapman, Andrew Thompson and Thomas and Mary Reibey.
The park was formalised when the sandstone obelisk designed by Francis Greenway was erected in 1818. It was to mark Sydney’s first public square and the place from which all roads in New South Wales were to be measured.
The construction of Circular Quay between 1839 and 1847 saw an extension of a number of streets and took up a portion of the park. The reserve was enlarged in the 1970s when Macquarie Place (street) was closed and incorporated into the park.
Over the years its position at the centre of its world change. Government House was moved up to Macquarie Street and by the end of the Victorian period Macquarie Place was surrounded by the world of government administration and commercial offices of shipping merchants and shipping agents.
In the eyes of many the fate of Macquarie Place is representative of the changing faces of the city, from a working maritime harbour to part of the 24/7 global financial network which never turns off. The wheeling and dealing of today’s financial houses are reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century which shaped the future imperial London and the British Empire and appeared around the park in the late 19th century.
Macquarie Place has always had a global feel from those who passed through in the past in the Victorian and early colonial period and the international financial hotshots and hipsters of the present. It has been a transient place for those who occupied it and the current batch of latte sipping dealmakers are no different. The space is a site of both continuity and change.
The space was fill with monuments to the commercial pioneers (Mort) and relics from the seafaring age (Sirius anchor) and the symbols of power of colonial administrators. Macquarie Place monuments represent the changing period of the usage of the city and the world.
In 1907 the anchor and canon from the HMS Sirius (1780-1790) were place in Macquarie Place. HMS Sirius was one of the naval escorts of the First Fleet out to the founding of the New South Wales colony in 1788. The anchor was brought to Sydney after HMS Sirius was wrecked at Norfolk Island in 1790. The HMS Sirius was built in 1780-1781 as an Eastern Indian trader and named Berwick of 510 tons. It was purchased by the British Admiralty as a store ship in 1781 and renamed HMS Sirius in 1786. It was armed with 10 canons, carried 160 men and could do 10 knots with a strong wind.
There is the bronze statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. The dedication on the plinth:
A pioneer of Australian resources, a founder of Australian industries, one who established our wool market.
Mort (1816-1878) arrived in Sydney in 1838 with his parents. He was a successful and flamboyant Sydney businessman, auctioneer, mine owner, pastoralist, manufacturer, horticulturalist and churchman. He lived at Darling Point where he was a keen gardener.
There is also the 1908 domed toilet building with Edwardian Art Nouveau ironwork, and an 1857 cast iron drinking fountain.
The beginning of the Remembrance Driveway from Sydney to Canberra is marked by two plane trees planted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.
The New South Wales State Heritage Inventory states:
Macquarie Place is now the oldest town square in Australia. Together with Hyde Park, it is also the oldest urban park in Australia and has been in continuous operation as a public space for at least 195 years.
What the park does do is provide a breath of fresh air between the city towers that now enclose it. Today Macquarie Place is a world of cafes which are frequented by Sydney’s financial gurus who determine the future of Australia. The Victorian edifices to colonial administration are silent awaiting the wishes of latest rent seeking developers.
Out at Menangle it has been brought to my attention that three First World War Honour Roll photographic montages have re-appeared after many years.
The honour rolls are framed photographs of local Menangle men who served during the First World War. Across the three framed montages there are photographs of 31 Menangle diggers.
Meaning of photographs
The Menangle photographs carry a special meaning and memory from the past. These individual portrait images are simple yet poignant reminder to today’s generations of the incredible loss of young men in the Great War.
The wartime photographs of Menangle men are a reminder of a less innocent period in Australia’s past. The men appear relaxed and without airs and graces. They look straight ahead without the weight of the world on their shoulders and carnage that lay before them.
A number of the Menangle men in the photographic montage were killed in action.
The website Camden Remembers has many photographs of local diggers from the First World War.
Menangle School of Arts
The Menangle framed photos were hanging in pride of place in the front rooms at the Menangle School of Arts for decades. The rooms were used as a library and meeting rooms.
The individual who originally organised the framed Menangle photographs certainly went to a large amount of effort and expense to put the photographic montages together.
The framed photographs were taken away for restoration when the hall was renovated and toilets added to the hall in the late 1970s.
The framed honour rolls montages recently re-appeared after many years.
The aim is to have the honour rolls restored and replaced in the School of Arts after the hall has had conservation work completed.
Menangle Honour Roll Photographic Montage No 1
Menangle Honour Roll Photographic Montage No 1
Hawkey MC, Major JM
Macarthur Onslow, Captain AW
Macarthur Onslow, Lieut JA
Menangle Honour Roll Photographic Montage No 2
Menangle Honour Roll Photographic Montage No 2
Onslow Thompson, Lieut Colonel AJ
Menangle Honour Roll Photographic Montage No 3
Menangle Honour Roll Photographic Montage No 3
Macarthur Onslow, Brigadier General GM
List of Menangle diggers from honour roll photographic montages (alphabetic order)
Hawkey, Major JM
Macarthur Onslow, Brigadier General GM
Macarthur Onslow, Captain AW
Macarthur Onslow, Lieut JA
Onslow Thompson, Lieut Colonel AJ
Menangle War Memorial Wall Plaque at St James Anglican Church Menangle
Inscription on memorial plaque:
CAPT A W MACARTHUR ONSLOW 16TH LANCERS YPRES
Lt COL A J ONSLOW THOMPSON 4TH BN AIF GALLIPOLI
CORPORAL R J HAWKEY 6TH AIF PALESTINE
SIGNALLER B GALF 3RD BATTALION AIF FRANCE
PRIVATE J E WILLIAMS 56TH BATTN AIF FRANCE
1914 – 1918
1939 – 45
Flt. Sgt J.D. PRATT R.A.A.F
Memorial Plaque, St James Anglican Church Menangle, Wall of Remembrance (B Peacock, 2018)
There is nothing quite like experiencing history in the field to gather a feel for a place. Walking the ground provides a perspective for historians that cannot be gained by staying in the archive. Such is my experience of Goulburn. The inland city Goulburn was one of the most important rural centres in 19th century New South Wales.
The world seems to have passed the town by with its eclectic collection of building style – Victorian, Edwardian, Interwar and post-war. Tucked around every corner there is a new surprise – Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals, the imposing railway station, a grand Victorian post-office and an imposing courthouse that would have certainly made a statement about law and order in 19th century Goulburn. Another world away from the present.
Hidden in plain sight in Auburn Street, Goulburn’s main street, amongst this imposing Victorian grandeur are a number of Interwar buildings. Modernism in the 20th century is represented by the CML building and the small office of the local newspaper. The Goulburn Evening Penny Post building at 199 Auburn Street Goulburn was built in 1935. The newspaper office reflected a confidence in the future of Goulburn. A statement about the town.
The Daniels family, who owned the Penny Post, were part of the country press barons who ruled their rural media empires with an iron fist. Families liked the Sommerlads of the New England, the Sidmans of the Macarthur region, the Shakespeare family of the mid-west, the Robinsons in the Hunter, the Parkers of the mid-west, the Musgraves of Wollongong, the Motts of Albury and a host of others.
The newspaper landscape in Goulburn
Goulburn was a vibrant colonial newspaper landscape reflecting a prosperous colonial pastoral economy. While the Goulburn had a literate population it was still a frontier town. Publishers were self-made men, editors as well. Colonial New South Wales was a rugged and robust publishing environment – a boom and bust cycle.
The first newspaper in the town was the Goulburn Herald in 1848. By the 1920s 21 separate newspaper mastheads had come and gone in Goulburn. The Interwar period appears to have been a prosperous time for the New South Wales country press. According to Rod Kirkpatrick’s Country Conscience, there were 238 titles published in 1920, which was only slightly reduced to 221 in 1930.
The first issue of the Penny Post in 1870 was produced under the cumbersome masthead of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post and Southern Counties General Advertiser as a short tabloid (11 x 14 inches) of 4pp. By 1930 the Goulburn Evening Penny Post was the last standing.
Goulburn society was driven by its religious zeal and the city even had 3 religious publications. They were: The Goulburn Banner (1848 – Presbyterian), the Monthly Paper (1893 – Church of England) and Our Cathedral Chimes (1920s – Roman Catholic).
A special edition celebrates the new office building
The December 1935 edition of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post that celebrated the opening of the new office building. The edition was 36pp with most of the editorial space taken over by recounting the history of the Goulburn township and area. At the time the Post was a daily, Monday to Friday, which incorporated The Goulburn Daily Herald with a cover price of one penny.
Architect LP Burns
The anniversary edition of the ran an article with headline ‘Inside A Modern Country Newspaper Office’. The Sydney architect LP Burns designed an office building which was described as a ‘fine, modern building’ of ‘distinction’ in a ‘modern’ style.
Burns also designed Goulburn’s Elmslea Chambers at 17 Montague Street in 1934. It is described as one of the first buildings in Australia to use coloured polychrome terracotta in its façade which features a fine relief of birds, flowers, leaves and typical Art Deco sunbursts under the windows. The building was designed for wealthy pastoralist FG Leahy.
The front of Goulburn’s Elmslea Chambers was Wunderlich terra cotta polychrome panels and the Building Magazine claimed that ‘Goulburn [had] never before seen a block of offices of such a lavish and commodious nature’. The building interior had Silky Oak panelling with Tasmanian Oak inlay, with chromium light fittings with frosted green glass. The builders were Armstrong and Stidwell.
The newspaper building design
The new building of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post was an example of sleek Art-Deco styling. A stripped back minimalism of the realities of the commercial world – a no-nonsense, business-like, functional and matter of fact. Just like the owners and editors.
Art-deco styling was expression of modernism – sleek, fast, stripped back, not frilly like the Victorian frippery, not tizzy – reminiscent of the world of the railways, movies, motor cars, ocean liners, aeroplanes, consumerism, fashions, wireless. The influences coming down the Hume Highway to Goulburn. The building conveys a powerful statement about the Interwar period in Goulburn.
The Penny Post article on the newspaper office made special mention of the beacon with the lamp on top which made it different from other commercial buildings and with the shopfront Carrara glass. The journalist writing the story was keen to assure the readers that the Carrara glass front was ‘pleasing and harmonious’ and emphasised to the readers that using this type of glass could give a ‘creeping appearance of extravagance’.
Carrara glass was developed in the USA. It was a high-strength coloured glass and used globally in Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings. Carrara glass was usually white or blue-gray which resembled the high quality Carrara marble from Tuscany in Italy. The pigmented glass was an acceptable low-cost alternative building material.
The building frontage according to the 1935 press reports was marked by its ‘judicious display’ and ‘would attract attention in any of Sydney’s busiest streets’. The first floor of the building contained the newspaper’s editorial offices and a large strong room where the newspaper archives were kept. The report continued stating that the building was centrally heated by steam including the composing and machinery rooms. This would, it was maintained, be greatly appreciated by the newspapers employees.
The printing presses were at the rear of the building and the newsroom in the centre while the retail shopfront area dealt with advertisers and local folk buying the newspaper. There was a staff of over 20 journalists, compositors, printers, editors, clerical and retail support. These staff were witness to the daily life of the town as it passed through the doors of the newspaper office.
History in plain sight
Today the Goulburn Post building is evocative of a time when print media was king. Walking into the 1935 Penny Post office is like stepping back into the past. Into a world that has disappeared, best illustrated currently by the US movie The Post. The movie explores the buzz of the newsroom at the Washington Post and the publishing of the Pentagon Papers during the heyday of the Vietnam War. When print was king.
While the Goulburn Evening Penny Post was not a large metro daily it is easy to visualize the hive of activity in the newsroom and printing shop. The approaching print deadlines and the smoke-filled rooms amongst the evocative timber paneled rooms throughout the building.
The fabric of the building is still largely intact and retains its integrity, charm and character. The building reveals the layers of history to those who care to take a look. The building has escaped any major renovations and the building structure is as it was in 1935. If these walls could talk they would tell many great yarns of hard-bitten country press barons, editors and journos.
It is easy to image the smell of the printers’ ink; the whir of the printing presses; the buzz of the newsroom; the clacking of typewriters; and babble of conversations at the front desk with advertisers, stock and station agents, and wool merchants. The newspaper was the heartbeat of the town and the ink and newsprint flowed through arteries and veins of the community.
The current Goulburn Post, the offspring of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post, is still is located in the 1935 building. It is the hub for 10 mastheads within the Fairfax Media. Goulburn Post editor Ainsleigh Sheridan says that the newspaper is about creating community history. She would concur with the former president and publisher of the Washington Post, Phillip Graham, who is credited with saying that ‘journalism is the first rough draft of history’ in 1997.
The Goulburn Post is a tri-weekly masthead and is just one of the Fairfax Media group that is produced in the building. The Post is co-ordinated in the Auburn Street office and then sent online to Canberra for printing. In the past printing was done on-site in the back of the Auburn Street building. The current building has issues with fire regulations that did not exist in 1935 and the upstairs area is not currently in use.
The eclectic mix of architecture at the RMIT La Trobe Street Campus ranged from venues that were located in magnificent Victorian colonial building used for the administration of justice to those that were examples of ultra-modern late 20th century style of architecture.
The Storey Meeting Hall of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society (1887) has been remade in modern form reliving its iconography as an important symbol of Melbourne’s social and political protest movement.
Morning and afternoon teas were taken in the alumni courtyard, which was previously the car park of the Russell Street Police Headquarters. The venue provided food for thought located next door to the Old Melbourne Gaol (1842). If these bluestone walls could speak they would tell harrowing tales from the the colourful past of the site.
The conference theme of ‘Remaking Cities’ was inspired by Melbourne as an exemplar of cities that are continually remade. Melbourne was a manufacturing centre, a site of land speculation and a place re-made on the land management practices of the Kulin nation.
The process of re-making Melbourne is underpinned by the processes of settler colonialism, speculation and taking of territory. These factors cast a long shadow of how a shared future might be achieved and the role of the planning processes within these processes.
Industrial growth and development are themes that have been central to the Australia’s nineteenth-century cities, including Melbourne, and their subsequent decline by the late 20th century. The post-manufacturing period provides a whole new set of challenges for cities like Melbourne as the financial, service and cultural sectors drive urban growth.
This was a heady mix that was matched by the mix of 72 presentations from scholars, practitioners and community members across three separate streams. Delegates came from interstate and overseas (New Zealand) with a strong contingent of local Melbournites.
There were sessions ranging from: planning histories; postwar campus; heritage; land speculation; music; maps; housing; rivers and wetlands; parks and gardens; museums; governance; transport; commerce; streetscapes; quarries; urban agriculture and food systems; placemaking; to Indigenous planning and policy.
Delegates were invited to dine beneath the gallows that famously ended the life of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly on 11 November 1880. Kelly is certainly one of the icons of Australian history and has inspired poetry, song, film, art and literature. He has variously been called a bushranger, larrikin, bushman, underdog and arguably an anarchist. The venue was heavy with the atmospherics of its history and delegates could wander in and out of the cells where they could walk the ground from the past.
The bluestone walls provided a ghoulish backdrop to the sounds of Melbourne trio The Orbweavers.
The conference organising committee are to be complemented on doing a grand job.
The Camden Australia Day celebrations opened with the awards at the Camden Civic Centre where the winners of the Camden Citizen of the Year were announced for 2018. At a national level there has been a debate about the date and the day. What does it mean? When should it be celebrated? Should it be celebrated at all?
The day, the 26th January, is the foundation of the military penal settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the anniversary of the coup d’etat against the Bligh colonial administration popularly known as the Rum Rebellion. By 1804, according to the National Australia Day Council, the day was being referred to as Foundation Day or First Landing Day in the Sydney Gazette. On the 30th anniversary in 1818 Governor Macquarie declared a public holiday. In 1838 the 26th January was celebrated as the Jubilee of the British occupation of New South Wales and the 2nd year of the Sydney Regatta that was held on the day. The annual Sydney Anniversary Regattas started in 1837.
On the centenary of the First Fleet’s arrival at Sydney Cove in 1888 the day was known as Anniversary Day or Foundation Day and festivities were joined by Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New Zealand. In 1915 Australia Day was shifted to the 30th July to assist fundraising for the Red Cross and other patriotic funds after the commencement of the Gallipoli campaign.
It was not until the Australian Bicentennial that all states agreed to celebrate the 26th as Australia Day rather than as a long weekend. At the time Aboriginal Australians renamed Australia Day ‘Invasion Day’ and there has been debate about it ever since.
In 2018 the Camden town centre there was the annual street parade for the Australia Day celebrations with lots of keen participants. The town crier, Steve Wisby, led the enthusiastic crowd in a rendition of the national anthem and then a rejoinder of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, OOyy, OOyy, OOyy. The parade included historical groups, school groups, community groups, a number of local bands, and emergency services.
A large crowd lined Argyle Street to watch the parade organised by the Camden Lions Club and the many community groups and businesses that took part in it.
Early in the day celebrations began with the Camden Australia Day Citizen of the Year. The 2018 Camden Australia Day Citizen of the Year was David Funnell. David has been a local businessman for many years and he is a descendant from one of the original European colonial settler families in the Cowpastures area. He was a councillor on Camden Council (1977-1980, 2004-2012) and a member of a number of community organisations.
The other Camden Australia Day Award winners were:
Community Group of the Year — Everyone Can Dance Charity and Camden Lioness
Community Event of the Year — The Macarthur Lions Australia Day Parade
Young Sportsperson of the Year — Amy and Natalie Sligar
Sportsperson of the Year — Maddison Lewis
Young Citizen of the Year — Lubna Sherieff.
These people are true local identities who all have stories to tell that become part of Camden’s sense of place and contribute to the the development of community identity.
The Camden Museum was open for Australia Day and by the end of the day hundreds of visitors had inspected the museum and its wonderful collection of local artefacts and memoriabilia.
The Camden Historical Society volunteer coordinator reports that there were 644 visitors to the museum on the day made up of adults and children. The visitors were looked after by 10 society volunteers who roamed around the museum making sure that the day went smoothly and did a sterling job answering their many questions.