One of the Australia’s most important provincial newspapers, the Illawarra Mercury has been defined by parochialism and localism since its foundation in October 1855 by Thomas Garrett (1830–91).
Initially a weekly, the Mercury cost sixpence, and had a print run of 200. Garrett had pooled his resources with W.F. Cahill, who left after three months, to be replaced in 1856 by Thomas’s father, John, a Primitive Methodist. By 1856 the Mercury had become a six-column broadsheet and was distributed to Dapto, Jamberoo, Kiama and Shoalhaven by express coach.
Involvement in community affairs and politics has characterised Mercury proprietors. John Garrett was elected Wollongong’s first mayor in 1859 and the editor, John Curr, was elected Wollongong’s first town clerk. Garret’s son, Thomas, was also a politician.
Thomas took over the paper in 1862, and soon formed a partnership with Archibald Campbell, before selling out to Joseph Hart in 1867. Campbell was the sole owner from 1883 until his death in 1903; he was elected Member for Illawarra in 1891.
In 1888 the Mercury was a tri-weekly of four pages, which featured a weekly serial. By 1901, it was published twice weekly. On Campbell’s death in 1903, his wife, Margaret, assumed control until Shellharbour local Edward Allen purchased the paper in 1905 and improved the news content. He was elected the Member for Illawarra in 1904, continuing a trend.
An Irishman, Standish R. Musgrave, bought the Mercury from Allen in 1911 and ran it until his death in 1943. He assumed the editorship, increased sports coverage and published an edition each Friday. Soon after becoming managing director of the newly formed Illawarra Newspapers Co. Ltd in 1919, Musgrave also purchased the Bulli Times and established the Port Kembla Pilot. By 1932 the Mercury had competition from 2WL, established in 1931. Wilfrid S. Musgrave succeeded his father as managing director and editor. In 1950 he converted the Mercury to a daily, a mark of modernity for a provincial centre, and changed the masthead to the Illawarra Daily Mercury.
The Musgraves were active members of the New South Wales Country Press Association for over 40 years. They mixed with the barons of the country press who sought to restrict competition, and had sympathies with the New England New State Movement and the Old Guard.
However, the Mercury was making substantial losses when it was purchased by R.A.G. Henderson, the managing director of John Fairfax & Sons, in 1959. During the next decade, circulation doubled to over 25,000. In 1968, the Henderson family merged the Mercury with its main opposition, the South Coast Times, and appointed John Richardson executive editor. The following year Fairfax became the major shareholder for a cost of $2.4 million. Under David Lonsdale’s editorship, the newspaper became less parochial and more inclined to take on major community issues.
Peter Newell became editor in 1976, then executive editor in 1978 and finally general manager in 1985. Illawarra Newspapers Holdings Pty Ltd launched a new weekly, the Wollongong-Shellharbour Advertiser, in 1982. The Mercury introduced computer-based story-composition, and in 1986 pioneered the use of colour in daily newspapers in Australia.
Journalists Bill Simpson and Carol Johnstone won Walkley Awards in 1986–87. However, the Mercury was labelled a ‘screaming red-top tabloid’ by James Hooke, Fairfax’s managing director of NSW operations, and in the early 1990s was regularly pilloried by ABC television’s Media Watch.
Innovation continued, with the Mercury producing its first electronically assembled editorial page composed by computer in 1994, and being printed on state-of-the-art printing presses alongside the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review at Chullora from 1999. The Mercury was awarded PANPA Newspaper of the Year in 2006 and Walkley Awards were won by Mercury journalists in 2003, 2008 and 2010 and photographers in in 2008–09. The Mercury’s circulation in 2013 was 18,229.
Souter, Company of Heralds (1981);
Illawarra Mercury, 15–16 October 2005;
Kirkpatrick, ‘Guts-and-glory, murder and more during the Mercury’s 150 years’, PANPA Bulletin (September 2005).
Local historian Dr Ian Willis wrote a review of a new regional masthead that appeared in the Camden Local Government Area in 2016. The review appeared in the Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 90, December, 2016, p.11.
Launch of a new regional newspaper The Independent South-West
From Ian Willis at Camden: This week a new masthead appeared in the Camden Local Government Area called The Independent South-West published by King Media Regional based in Bowral NSW. It was launched at Camden’s annual Light Up Festival. Editor Jane King and other staff handed out copies of the free monthly to families and friends who had come to see Santa, watch the fireworks and see the Christmas lights on the town’s Christmas tree.
The 20pp tabloid is printed in colour on glossy paper and is sure to give the other three free Camden weeklies, the Macarthur Chronicle, Camden Narellan Advertiser and The District Reporter, a run for their money. King states in Issue 1 that it ‘is an exciting new title…family owned and managed business’. She states that the paper will serve the local community and employ local people.
The first issue certainly lives up to these promises by reporting the proceedings of the Moss Vale Local Court. Two matters dealt with involved Camden identities. Local court matters are now heard in Moss Vale since the closure of Camden and Picton court houses. The robust reporting of local court proceedings has largely disappeared from the other three Camden weeklies.
A feature page, ‘Ark’ Up, is written by journalist Juliet Arkwright who in another life was a councillor on Wollondilly Shire Council. This edition profiles the Acting President of the Camden Chamber of Commerce Maryann Strickling. The chamber states ‘we look forward to working with a truly independent newspaper’.
The first edition also has copy provided by the local federal member, a photo feature of a fashion launch at Campbelltown, and content shared from the newspaper’s stablemate LatteLife Wingecarribee, which claims to be the ‘Heartbeat of the Southern Highlands’.
King Media also publishes City Circular which, according to Miranda Ward at Mumbrella, replaced a void left by the closure of News Corps mX in 2015 and is distributed at railway stations. The first newspaper published by King Media group was the masthead LatteLife Sydney which started life in the Eastern Suburbs in 2010. King Media then expanded to publishing The Southern Highlands edition in 2014.
The Independent’s print run of 10,000 will be distributed across localities from Cawdor to Leppington through local retailers, surgeries, real estate officers and other outlets. The print run is modest by comparison to its competitors in the Camden LGA and the publisher’s promises seem ambitious. King Media will support the print edition by managing a Facebook page.
The conservative reporting of local matters by The Independent’s three Camden competitors certainly leaves a niche in the market place if controversies surrounding Camden Council continue as they have done in recent months. King has promised to ‘hold the Council to task’ and take it up to other local papers. If she sticks to her promises The Independent South-West will fit in well with Camden’s fierce parochialism and localism.
Historian Dr Ian Willis is presenting a conference paper on the role local newspapers of the Picton, Camden and Campbelltown area during the First World War. He will show how these small provincial newspapers acted as an archive for the stories from the First World War on the homefront. Community wartime activities will be placed in the context of the international setting of the war.
Small rural communities are an often overlooked part of the wartime landscape of the First World War at home. Local newspapers, or community newspapers, recorded ‘the doings’ of their communities in inordinate detail. Their reportage extended from the local to the provincial and the international by owner/editors who were local identities.
Country newspapers provide an archive record of the First World War that is identifiably different from the large metropolitan daily newspapers of the war period. The local newspaper has a number of differences that are related to their localness and parochialism, their relationship to their readership, their promotion of the community and their approach to the news of the war.
The local newspaper recorded the subtleties of local patriotism and wartime voluntarism and fundraising, the personal in soldier’s letters, the progress of the war and a host of other issues. For the astute researcher country newspapers provide glimpses into wartime issues around gender, class, sectarianism, and other aspects of rural life. All coloured by local sensibilities and personalities. The local newspaper was a mirror to its community and central to the construction of place making and community identity in small towns, villages and hamlets.
These characteristics are not unique to rural Australia and are shared by rural and regional newspapers of other English speaking countries. Recent developments in archival research like Trove provide invaluable access to these resources across Australia. Country newspapers provide a different story of the war at home from an often forgotten sector of society.
The local newspapers that will be used as a case study for this conference paper include:
The Camden News
The Picton Post
The Campbelltown Herald
Local and provincial newspapers are an understudied area of the First World War and this conference paper will address this gap in the historical literature.
Learn moreabout local newspapers in the Macarthur region and elsewhere:
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.
Local historian and author Dr Ian Willis has had a proposal accepted for an article in Media History, an international media journal published in the UK.
The article outlines the history of local newspapers in the Macarthur region and covers the towns of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton.
Local newspapers were rationalised, corporatised and consolidated from the 1950s as Sydney’s urban growth moved into the region.
By the late 20th century changes in technology and innovations set in as the local newspapers were re-shaped by the growth and arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe.
The article will show that is recent times digital disruption has taken a toll, but there are green shoots with new mastheads appearing in some of the new suburbs in the region.
Media History is an international academic journal published in the UK. Its website states that:
Media Historyis an interdisciplinary journal which welcomes contributions addressing media and society from the fifteenth century to the present. Its perspective is both historical and international. It explores all forms of serial publication in manuscript, print and electronic media and encourages work which crosses the boundaries of politics, culture and communications.
Abstract for journal article in Media History (UK)
Provincial and regional newspapers have been defined by parochialism and localism. They have pandered to local sensibilities and a need to serve their community. Some have argued that local newspapers are a subset of their cultural environment, a form of structural functionalism. For others regional newspapers play a part in placemaking and community identity. The stories they carry are critical to the memory making. They act as a mirror to the values and attitudes of the local community.
This article will test these propositions and others by an examination of a number of regional newspapers that have been published in the Macarthur region of New South Wales. The discussion will analyse the historical continuity and change in the landscape of the area’s regional press and the actors who were part of it.
Colonial newspapers appeared in the late 19th century in the three market towns within the region at Campbelltown, Camden and Picton. The local press reflected the nature of the settler society and mirrored the British provincial press in these small rural outposts of the British Empire. By the early-20th century the Campbelltown News, the Camden News and the Picton Post, were the face of these thriving communities. During the Interwar period this trio were joined by the Camden Advertiser.
The forces of war and depression influenced the regional press as it did local communities. Nostalgia, the doings of local politicians, and the tension between profit making and journalism have all played a part in this story, while the inverted pyramid arrived mid-century.
Corporatisation, consolidation and rationalisation re-shaped the regional press with the arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe in the 1950s. Competition from radio, new technology and innovations brought more changes and by the 21st century digital disruption was in full swing.
The owners of the Macarthur regional press were local identities and opinion leaders. Their editorial positions reflected their political allegiances. They encouraged patriotic loyalty in wartime and the war at home. Editor owners practiced a type of censorship and their silence around a number of social issues was deafening. Their publications re-enforced the status quo, and existing social divisions, cultural norms, while acting as a form of regional voice.
As technology and local demographics have changed so have the nature of Macarthur regional press. Where once black and white newspaper were sold for pennies there are now colourful free publications, and circulations which are still a guide to the sphere of influence of the local newspaper. While in recent times some of the highest rates urban growth in Australia have encouraged green shoots with the appearance of new mastheads in the form of newsletter newspapers.
In the Oran Park Gazette Lisa Finn-Powell maintains that the community newspaper does have a future. She argues that it provides a way for members of the community to support each other by celebrating local events, anniversaries and traditions. Local newspapers make people feel good about their neighbourhood.
…this post introduces PHA NSW and ACT member, Ian Willis’ blog, Camden History Notes. Camden is a town southwest of Sydney, situated on land belonging to the Dharawal (Tharawal) people.
Ian’s blog presents stories about the district’s people, its history, heritage and traditions. He draws on the memories and experiences of local families, local identities, community organisations and local institutions.
Modernism is partially revealed in the architectural style of railway buildings and other infrastructure across Australia. The now closed Civic Railway Station on the Hamilton-Newcastle branch line is just one example of how this happens in the regional city of Newcastle.
Modernism is a form architecture which emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II. It was based upon new technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; and upon a rejection of the traditional neoclassical architecture and Beaux-Arts styles that were popular in the 19th century. (Wikipedia)
The station building is the first Interwar Functionalist railway building in NSW to employ domestic architectural features, demonstrating the NSW Railways experimentation with new styles during the Interwar period. The footbridge is unique as the only known example of this structure constructed on brickpiers. The signal box is unique as the smallest elevated box constructed on the NSW rail system.
The Civic Railway Station and surrounding buildings were built in 1935 in the Interwar Functionalist style using dichromatic and polychromatic brickwork as a simple decorative effect.
The railway station is located between Wickham and Newcastle railway stations.
Originally the station was part of the railway line built between ‘East Maitland’ railway station and ‘Newcastle’.
The line was originally built in 1857-1858 as a link between the government town of East Maitland and the river port at Newcastle.
The Newcastle station was re-named Honeysuckle and Honeysuckle Point near the river port and has a number of locations.
The large goods yards east of ‘Newcastle’ railway station was constructed in 1858.
The site of Civic Railway Station is significant as it was the former 1857 site of the Newcastle (Honeysuckle) terminus of the Great Northern Railway Line.
Electrification of the Gosford-Newcastle line occurred in 1984, after the Sydney-Gosford section in 1960.
Civic Railway Station was closed in 2014 by the Baird Liberal Government when the line between Hamilton and Newcastle was finally closed after much community dissent.
The Civic Railway Station site is historically significant as the location of the Newcastle terminus station on the Great Northern Railway line (1857), one of the first railway lines in Australia. The station building represents the first attempt to adapt domestic architectural styles for railway purposes. The station buildings and footbridge, are good examples of Inter-War Railway Domestic style in regional NSW.
Civic Railway Station is largely intact and retains much of its original integrity from 1935, along with the signal box, platform shelter, footbridge and forecourt.
Beulah is an historic farm property on Sydney south-west rural-urban fringe. Beulah has a frontage to Sydney’s notorious Appin Road and is an area of Sydney’s ever increasing urban sprawl. The property is caught in a pincer movement between two new land releases at Appin and Mount Gilead. These developments threaten to strangle the life out of Beulah is a vast sea of homogenised suburbia by swallowing up local farmland.
In 2015 NSW Planning Minister Stokes declared that Sydney’s ‘urban sprawl is over’ with the land release for 35,000 new homes at Mount Gilead, Wilton and Menangle Park. On the other hand planning Professor Peter Phibbs, from the University of Sydney, stated that the land release meant that there was ‘urban sprawl plus’.  Needless to say these sentiments are not new and were expressed in the Macarthur region in 1973, meanwhile urban sprawl continues.
Beulah is a heritage gem and possesses stories about local identities and events that add to a sense of place and construction of a local identity. Beulah was purchased by the Sydney Living Museums in 2010 as part of its endangered houses fund project.
The Beulah estate is located on the eastern edge of the clay soils of the Cumberland Plain abutting the Sydney sandstone of the Georges River catchment. The property contains an 1830s stone farm cottage with a number of out-buildings, a stone bridge and 60 hectares of critically endangered woodland.
Beulah’s sense of place is constructed around stories associated with the Campbelltown’s pioneering Hume family best known for Hamilton Hume and his overland journey to the Port Phillip area in 1824-1825 with William Hovell. Hamilton Hume was granted 300 acres at Appin for this work, which he named ‘Brookdale’, and in 1824 the Hume and Hovell expedition to Port Phillip left from this property on the Appin Road north of the village, near where the Hume and Hovell Monument now stands. The Hume Monument was erected in 1924 by the Royal Australian Historical Society to commemorate Hume’s 1824 expedition.
The earliest European occupation of the Beulah site, according to Megan Martin from Sydney Living Museums, were emancipated Irish convict Connor Bland who constructed the farm cottage around 1835-1836.
Boland put the property up for sale in 1836 and called it Summerhill. The Hume family purchased the property in 1846 and then leased it out. In 1884 the property was renamed Beulah and members of the Hume family lived there until 1936 when it was left to the RSPCA while Hume family associates were given occupancy rights and lived in the house until the 1960s.
Ellen Hume and Beulah were featured in “The Australian Home Beautiful” in 1934 in an article by Nora Cooper, photographs by Harold Cazneaux and descriptions of Hume family furniture. The forest which Miss Hume treated as a private sanctuary The Hume Sanctuary received special attention. It was Ellen’s wish that her trees be left to the nation….
The Beulah estate was purchased by developers in the 1970s who anticipated land re-zoning linked with the 1973 New Cities Structure Plan for Campbelltown, Appin and Camden. The state government released the New Cities Plan as part of the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan. The plan was based on the utopian dream of British New Towns like Milton Keynes and plans for the development of Canberra.
Some of the new Campbelltown suburbs that appeared in the 1970s followed the Radburn model developed in the United States, which had houses facing a shared green space with no back fences. They turned out to be a disaster and the state government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars reversing these houses so they face the street in suburbs like Macquarie Fields, Minto and Ambarvale.
The original New Cities Plan turned into a developers dream and created the notion of ‘Ugly Campbelltown’ in the Sydney press by the end of the 1970s around public housing . Camden and Appin escaped the worst of the housing releases of the 1970s. Sydney’s urban sprawl reached the Camden LGA in the 1980s at Mount Annan and Currans Hill, while Appin has only seen extensive land releases in recent years. The 1973 Macarthur Growth Centre failed to materialise in its planned form and in the process cannibalised Campbelltown’s main street and left it a shell of its former country town self.
In 1973 the State Planning Authority, according to the State Heritage Inventory, conducted a survey of significant 19th buildings in 1973 and identified Beulah and Humewood as significant. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) did a study on the property and classified it in 1980.
In 1983 Campbelltown City Council proposed an interim conservation order and a permanent conservation order was placed on the 19th century cottage in 1987. The owners were ordered to make repairs to the property in the early 2000s, and the in 2010 the NSW Office of Heritage and Environment acquired the property as part of the state government’s Biodiversity Offset program.
The State Heritage Inventory considers the estate to an important example of early conservation planning that resulted in the retention of an ‘entire cultural landscape’ containing a homestead group, stone bridge and garden layout. Sydney Living Museums have undertaken considerable conservation and restoration work on the farmhouse and the stone bridge on the access road to the farm house.
New land releases around Beulah
Beulah and its heritage curtilage is potentially threatened by Sydney’s urban sprawl with new land releases in 2013 at Appin to the south along the Appin Road, while to the north there is the Mount Gilead land release adjacent to Campbelltown’s southern suburbs. Both of these land releases are a repeat of the 1973 housing releases. They are low density horizontal developments that add to urban sprawl. They are problematic and fail to add to the existing identity of the area and take decades to develop their own sense of place.
The urban sprawl that is encroaching on Beulah from the south is part of the NSW State Governments 2013 The Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031. A structure plan developed for the Appin area states that there will 18,300 housing lots release over a 25 year period from around 17,000 hectares. Walker Corporation stated that there is a strong demand for new housing releases in the Appin area and in 2013 26 lots were sold within 2 days of the June land release. There low density houses were similar to in nature to the planned housing developments of 1973 that failed to eventuate.
On the northern approaches to Beulah are the Mount Gilead land releases on a property formerly owned by Lady Dorothy Macarthur Onslow who died in 2013. Mount Gilead is proposed to have 1700 housing lots from 210 hectares which Campbelltown City Council endorsed in 2012. The property contains the historic tower-mill believed the last one in New South Wales along with a homestead, stone stable, and granary dating from the early 19th century.
Appin Road a deadly lifeline
The issue of urban sprawl is complicated by the inadequate road access. Beulah and the Appin and Mount Gilead land releases all front the Appin Road one of Sydney’s most dangerous stretches of road. A major unresolved issue in the area around Beulah and land releases at Appin and Mount Gilead is the upgrading of the Appin Road.
The Sydney Morning Herald stated in early 2016 that the Appin Road was Sydney’s deadliest road. Between 2015 and 2000 23 people were killed on the Appin Road with the latest fatality in January 2016. While the state government has plans for road improvements this will take a number of years meanwhile there is increased traffic generated by new land releases and general population growth of the Campbelltown area.
The Appin Road has always been an important access route between the Illawarra and the Campbelltown area. Before the South Coast railway was extended to Wollongong in 1887 the Appin Road was used as the main access route to the Main Southern Railway at Campbelltown, which opened in 1858. There was a daily coaching service running between Campbelltown Railway Station and Wollongong. There is still is daily coach service between Campbelltown and the Illawarra via Appin, although tese days it mainly caters to university students.
The poor state of the Appin Road is just one of the issues created by Sydney’s urban sprawl. Other issues include fire risks, urban runoff and food security, public transport, waste, water supply, loss of prime farm land, community facilities, pollution, energy, social cohesion, and equity challenges. Beulah is part of story of the Sydney’s rural urban fringe which has been a landscape of hope and loss for new arrivals and local alike. It will be interesting to see the part this important heritage asset plays in this narrative and how the construction of sense will effect new residents surrounding it.
Alan Gilpin, An Inquiry pursuant to Section 41 of the Heritage Act 1977 into objections to the making of a permanent conservation order in respect of the buildings and site known as “Beulah”, Appin Road, Appin. Sydney : Office of the Commissioners of Inquiry for Environment and Planning, 1987.