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2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award

2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award

The CHN blogger was out and about at Campbelltown Arts Centre recently on a Friday night at the opening of the 2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award.

A packed Campbelltown Arts Centre was filled with keen supporters of the award. They walked around and viewed the art works that had survived the culling process and made it onto the walls and displays.

Campbelltown Arts Centre Fisher Ghost Art Award 2017
There was quite a crowd the Campbelltown Arts Centre for the opening night of the 2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award on Friday 4 November.

55 Years of History

2017 is the 55th year of the prize and the finalists had some pretty stiff competition.

There were a diverse range of works. The categories include Open, Contemporary, Traditional, Sculpture, Photography, Primary Students, Secondary Students, Surrealism, Macarthur award for a local artist, Aboriginal, Mentorship Macability award for a work by an artist with a disability.

The Award has a total prize pool of $38000 supported by a range of local sponsors.

Campbelltown Arts Centre is well regarded art institution in the Sydney area under the leadership of director Michael Dagostino.

Camden artist survives cull at the Award

One entrant at this year’s award was Camden artist Sandra Dodds. She survived the cull with her sculpture work Eclipse.

Camden artist Sandra Dodds with her entry Eclipse in the sculpture category of the 2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award on the opening night of Friday 4 November. (I Willis)

Bringelly artist Brian Stratton had his work Shoalhaven Tapestry hung in the Traditional category.

Campbelltown Arts CentreFishers GhostArt BrianStratton Shoalhaven Tapestry 2017
Brian Stratton and his watercolour ‘Shoalhaven Tapestry’ hung at the 2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award at Campbelltown Arts Centre (L Stratton)

Brian said about his painting:

‘One of my watercolour paintings of Crookhaven Heads on the south coast of NSW.  Over the past three decades I would have painted more than 200 paintings of the north face of this headland.  To me this work has more of a feeling of a tapestry, as opposed to a watercolour; hence its title.’

Award proceedings

The proceedings on the opening night got under way just after 6.00pm with the official announcements around 7.30pm. The announcement of the winners was introduced by a welcome to country by a local Dharawal elder.

The 2017 judges were curator Tess Allas, artist Dr Daniel Mudie Cunningham and artist Ben Quilty.

The full list of prize winners in all categories can be found here.

Campbelltown 2017 FishGhstArt Awd Signage

The Fisher’s Ghost Festival

The art award is part of the Fisher’s Ghost Festival which is held in November each year and started in 1956. The festival is named after the local 19th century legend of Fisher’s ghost.

The festival website states that celebrations are held over 10 days (4-12 November). The major features of the festival are a street parade,  a fun run, a street fair, craft exhibition, foodie festival in Mawson Park, open days and a giant carnival with fireworks.

In 2017 the carnival was held on Bradbury Oval and was in full swing as the art award winners were announced at the art centre.

The street parade moves along Queen Street and has a variety of community, sporting and business groups with floats and novelties.

Each year the festival has a theme and in the past they have included  The Ghost with the Most, The Spirit of Campbelltown, the International Year of the Volunteers, the Centenary of Federation, the National Year of Reading and most recently, the 30th anniversary of the Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister City relationship.

The Miss Festival Quest, which ran up until the early 90s, was adapted to form The Miss Princess Quest, which has now been running for more than two decades.

Campbelltown Art Centre forecourt on the opening night of the 2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award (I Willis)

The story of the ghost of Fred Fisher

The festival is based around the story of the ghost of Fred Fisher.

The story of Fred Fisher is one full of mystery, murder and mayhem. It really shows the dark gothic influences in Australian history around the former convict turned farmer who was murdered in Campbelltown. The Dictionary of Sydney website tells this story and the grizzly demise of Fred.

The ghost story of Fred Fisher is part of Australian gothic literature and the country’s colonial past.   These stories make a statement about the white Australian psyche and the monster within. The landscape is portrayed as a monster in the genry of  Australian gothic now and in the past when the early colonials viewed the bush as evil and threatening.

The National Library of Australia outlines the story of Fred Fisher and the songs, stories and legends that flow from it. They claim that it is the most forgotten ghost story in Australia..

The Fred Fisher ghost story is an apt ghost story to tell around the time of Halloween. Some even go looking for the Fred ghost today.

There are many who swear that there is a presence around the area of Fishers Ghost Creek in Campbelltown. Is this just a lot of rot or is there something to the story?

The story receives the official sanction of Campbelltown Council and its public library where it is told in all its detail.

The Campbelltown History Buff has many interesting stories about Fred and his ghost. One of the best is about the ghost post from the road bridge and the curse that is linked to it. Or maybe not.

The dark stories of colonial times about Aborigines and convicts fit neatly into  the Australian gothic genre, as does Fred Fisher, a former convict.

2017 Fishers Ghost Festival runs from 4 November to 12 November.

The festival website tells the story from the colonial days of Campbelltown and the festival is fitting to remember the ghostly and ghastly past.

The festival celebrates and embraces the Australian gothic.

 

 

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Architecture · Cobbitty · Colonialism · community identity · Cowpastures · Heritage · history · Local History · Macarthur · Place making · sense of place · St Paul's Church Cobbitty · Victorian

A little bit of England celebrates 190 years at Cobbitty

The Anglican Church at Cobbitty recently held an open day for the community to  celebrate 190 years of the Anglican community in the village.  Those who attended could listen to local experts give talks on the history of the Anglican church in Cobbitty, the stain glass windows in St Pauls, and its fixtures, furnishings and artefacts.

Cobbitty Ch 190 Anniv 2017

The Anglican Church has been the heart and soul of the village since the Hassall’s established themselves in the Cowpastures district in the early days of the colony of New South Wales. The church has taken a central part in place making and the development of community identity in the village.

Cobbitty Ch 190 Anniv Activites 2017

The presence of the church is the reason the village exists and is closely reminiscent of a pre-industrial English style rural village. The village even had its own blacksmith, who was an essential traditional trade in all rural villages. Working over their hearth with hammer and anvil making and crafting the tools of the farmers to making decorative work for the church graveyard.

The Hassall’s were the de-facto lords of the manor. The development of the village was their fiefdom. Long term local identity and font of knowledge of all things Cobbitty John Burge recalled in his talk on the ‘History of the Cobbitty Anglican Church’ that the Hassall family owned pretty much all of the farms up and down the Nepean River in the vicinity of Cobbitty.

The Reverend Thomas Hassall, the son of missionaries Rowland and Elizabeth Hassall who arrived in New South Wales in 1798, was appointed the minister of the Cowpastures district in 1827.

The Heber Chapel

The first chapel was built in the area by Thomas Hassall, called Heber Chapel and opened in 1827, with Thomas as rector. It was named after the Bishop Heber of the Calcutta Diocese, in which Cobbitty was located at the time.

Cobbitty Heber Chapel J Kooyman 1997 CIPP
This image is of Thomas Hassall’s 1827 Heber Chapel Cobbitty taken by John Kooyman in 1997 who was commissioned by Camden Library to document important heritage sites across the Camden District (CIPP)

Heber Chapel became the centre of  village life as its first school and church. The chapel was used as a school building during the week and religious purposes on the weekend. Schooling at the chapel continued until 1920.

The Heber Chapel was constructed of hand-made bricks with a shingle roof. It is a simple design perhaps reflected the rustic frontier nature of Cobbitty of the 1820s when Pomari Grove, the site of the church and chapel, was owned by Thomas Hassall.

Recent renovations and restoration was carried out in 1993.

St Paul’s Anglican Church

There was the  opening of St Paul’s Church in 1840, with consecration by Bishop William Broughton. The community supported the construction of a Rectory in 1870 and a church hall in 1886.

Cobbitty St Pauls 1890s CKerry 'EnglishChurch' PHM
This Charles Kerry image of St Paul’s Anglican Church at Cobbitty is labelled ‘English Church Cobbitty’. The image is likely to be around the 1890s and re-enforces the notion of Cobbitty as an English-style pre-industriral village in the Cowpastures (PHM)

St Paul’s Anglican Church was consecrated in 1842, designed by Sydney architect John Bibb in a neo-Gothic style with simple lancet shaped windows, typical of the design. These windows originally had plain glass and over the decades were changed for stained-glass

The church was built with plain glass windows. Stained glass became popular again in the mid-19th century as part of the Gothic-revival movement in England and New South Wales. Stained glass was originally installed in medieval churches and cathedrals, and then fell out of popularity. (Dictionary of Sydney)

There are 10 memorial windows in St Pauls with the oldest dated to 1857 and made by English glass artist William Warrington. It was donated by the Perry family in memory of their daughter Carolyn.  There is one original window dating from 1842 with small panes of glass, in the style of the period.

Well-to-do members of the church community preferred to donate a window as a memorial rather than a wall plaque or other church object to commemorate their loved ones.

Cobbitty St Pauls Window 2011 JLumas
This image of one of the memorial stained glass windows in St Paul’s Anglican Church Cobbitty taken by J Lomas of Camden and donated to the Dictionary of Sydney in 2011 (DoS)

The current presentation of the church is different from the 1840 St Pauls. Today’s church represents the many changes that have occurred over the years.  The changes in the building reflect changes in style, technology, tastes and support  as well as periods of neglect.

A presentation by John Burge on ‘The History of the Cobbitty Anglican Church’ illustrated the many lives of the church from periods of strong support by the local community to relative neglect. During the 1980s the graveyard became overgrown and graves hidden under bushes.  John’s images showed numbers of past symbolic trees, mainly cypress, that were planted grew into large trees. Sometimes these were planted  too close to the church building  endangered its safety and stability.  They were removed.

When you look at the church you see a slate roof and automatically assume that this was original. It  is not. The slate roof is a recent addition in 2014 and installed as part of the church restoration when work was done to roof trusses, bargeboards, and guttering. The church originally had a shingle roof with a plastered interior vaulted ceiling. Now it has a slate roof with a maple timber lined interior ceiling. The walls are quarried sandstone from Denbigh.

Electricity was installed in 1938, after originally being lit by candles then kerosene lamps.

The pews and pulpit are unchanged and are Australian red cedar timberwork.

Music is provided by an 1876 Davidson organ from Sydney, after music was originally provided by  violin then harmonium.

The Anglican story of Cobbitty continues to evolve around the Heber Chapel, St Pauls, the Rectory and church hall. The village continues to grow as does the life of the church community with a host of activities under the current church leadership.

Australia · British colonialism · Camden · Colonialism · Cowpastures · Governor Macquarie · history · Landscape aesthetics · Local History · Settler colonialism

The Cowpastures, just like an English landscape

Presentation

On Tuesday 3 October 2017 Dr Ian Willis presented a talk to Narellan Rotary Club at Harrington Park Country Club, Harrington Park, NSW. The title of the presentation was ‘The Cowpastures, just like an English landscape’.

Presentation The Cowpastures 2017Oct3

Summary of the presentation

The early colonial European settlers in the Cowpastures were the key players in the story of creating  an English-style landscape along the Nepean River. The settlers took possession of the countryside from the Dharawal Aboriginal people and re-made it in their own vision of the world.

They constructed a cultural landscape made up of an idealised vision of what they had left behind in the ‘Old Country’. For the European settlers the new continent, and particularly the bush, had the elements of the Gothic with its grotesque and the demonic, and the English-style landscape aesthetic they created was one attempt to counter these forces.

Settlers used the aesthetic to assist the creation of a new story on an apparently blank slate and in the process dispossessed and displaced the Indigenous occupants. The new landscape was characterised by English placenames, English farming methods and English settlement patterns, with only cursory acknowledgement of Indigenous occupation.

The early settlers had such a profound impact on the countryside that their legacy is still clearly identifiable today even after 200 years.

Read more about this topic click here

 

Colonialism · Convicts · Cowpastures · Farming · Heritage · Local History · Macarthur · Place making · Settler colonialism · Tourism

Richlands, an outpost of a colonial farming empire

Richlands Georgian style homestead built in the 1840s  on the 2016 open day (I Willis)

The Richlands estate, north of Goulburn in the NSW Southern Tablelands, was an important part of the Macarthur family pastoral empire for nearly 100 years.  The Richlands estate acted as an outstation about one days ride west of Camden Park estate. The property  reached its hiatus in the 1840s when its extent reached around 38,000 acres including the private village of Taralga.

James Macarthur managed the Richlands estate with his brother William Macarthur from Camden Park. (Belgenny Farm)

James and William Macarthur initially took up adjacent land grants of around 2000 acres between Taralga Creek and Burra Lake in 1822.  The area had been traversed by a party led by Charles Throsby in 1819 looking for an alternative route to Bathurst other than the arduous route across the Blue Mountains. Throsby and company journeyed from the Moss Vale area, crossing the Wollondilly River then the Cookbundoon Ranges near Tarlo, turning north are eventually arriving at Bathurst.

Opening up the Southern Tablelands

Reports of these areas encouraged pastoralists to take up land, one of the first was Hannibal Macarthur, John Macartur’s nephew, at Arthursleigh on the Wollondilly. In a speculative venture in 1822 James Macarthur and partners Lachlan MacAlister and John Hillas, overseer with William Macarthur, moved a mob of cattle over the Cookbundoons and left them in charge an assigned convict Thomas Taylor at Tarlo. Hillas and MacAlister also took up a grants adjacent to the Macarthur holdings.

On the death of John Macarthur in 1834 the Richlands estate passed to Edward Macarthur, a career British soldier, while managed by James and William Macarthur on his behalf.

Governed by absentee landlords

While the Richlands estate was governed by absentee landlords the real story is of those who formed the microcosm of society on the estate. They  included convicts, managers, tenant farmers, servants and the Burra Burra people, who were dispossessed and displaced from their country.

Fledgling settlement of Taralga

For the twenty years of the Richlands estate it was managed from the fledgling settlement of Taralga on the southern edge of the property. There was a central store and a number of skilled tradesmen,  convicts and their overseers were based in the village from the 1820s.

Taralga village main street 2000s. The initial management of the Richlands estate was conducted from the village in the 1820s until it was shifted to the new hilltop homestead built in the 1840s. The village is one of number of private towns that the Macarthur family established in colonial NSW. ULSC

Rural empire of 38,000 acres

James and William Macarthur acquired land by grant and purchase north and south of the hamlet of Taralga including 600 acres from Thomas Howe of Glenlee in the Cowpastures in 1837. The diary of Emily Macarthur’s, James’ wife, showed that William made six-monthly visits to Richlands from 1840. Lieutenant Colonel Edward Macarthur visited Richlands in 1851 after being posted to Sydney as deputy adjutant general.

Edward Macarthur (1789-1872), who inherited the Richlands estate on the death of his father John Macarthur in 1834. ( Richard Daintree and Antoine Fauchery, c1858)

Strategic hilltop

Work began to move the management of the estate from the village to the hilltop overlooking Burra Lake and Guineacor to the east. Hilltop locations for homesteads were common throughout the Cowpastures and were of other Macarthur properties. It followed Laudon principles and provided a defendable strategic location on the estate.

Richlands Georgian style homestead on hilltop location built in the 1840s on 2016 open day (I Willis)

William Campbell was appointed superintendent in 1839 and work began on stone offices on the farm hilltop site, along with underground grain silos, convict accommodation and outbuildings. Work was completed by 1844 when Thomas and Martha Denning occupied the house forming a small quadrangle.  Denning was appointed overseer (farm manager).

Georgian-style residence

Work on a new on a Georgian-style residence began in 1845 for new English estate manager George Martyr, who took up the position after his arrival in the colony in 1848 after marrying Alicia in Sydney.

Martyr took an active interest in community affairs serving on Goulburn Council and supervising construction of the Catholic Church in the village. A qualified surveyor from Greenwich Martyr surveyed the village of Taralga and the Macarthurs offered village lots for sale from 1847. George and Alicia raised six children on Richlands.

Richlands Georgian style homestead built for estate manager George Martr and his family in the 1840s on the 2016 open day (I Willis)

The property was eventually resumed by the New South Wales Government in 1908, broken up for closer settlement and sold in 30 smaller lots in 1910.

Notes

Peter Freeman Pty Ltd, Richlands-Taralga, Conservation Management Plan, Richlands Conservation Management Plan, 1997.

 

 

Colonialism · Convicts · Cowpastures · Elderslie · Heritage · history · Settler colonialism · Uncategorized

Convicts in the Cowpastures, an untold story

 

The story of European settlement in the Cowpastures is intimately connected to the story of the convicts and their masters. This story has not been told and there is little understanding of the role of the convicts in the Cowpastures district before 1840.  Who were they? What did they do? Did they stay in the district?

View near Woolwich in Kent shewing [sic] the employment of the convicts from the hulks, c. 1800 (State Library of NSW)
View near Woolwich in Kent shewing [sic] the employment of the convicts from the hulks, c. 1800 (State Library of NSW)

Part of a global story

The convicts were a form of forced labour, with a global history that goes back to Roman times. Amongst those who were landed were human souls who were part of the dark story of banishment and exile. The story of convicts and banishment is an integral part of the European colonialism from the 16th century and the rise of labour camps. The story parallels that of slavery. Convicts came to New South Wales after the British lost the American colonies in the revolutionary wars in the 1780s.

Convicts in the Australian colonies

The convicts that ended up the in Cowpastures district were part of the 160,000 who were transported to the Australian colonies from England, Wales, Ireland and the British colonies. Convicts were usually employed in a number of ways by the colonial authorities: assignment; government work gangs; Tickets of Leave; Conditional Pardon; and an Absolute Pardon with complete freedom to do as they wished including returning to Britain.

Generally speaking most convict women could be classified as domestic servants, while male convicts had a host of skills with town trades dominating over rural workers.  The literacy rates and skills of convicts were the same or better than the English and Irish working classes.

Map of Cowpastures SMH 13 August 1932
Map of Cowpastures SMH 13 August 1932

The Cowpastures district

The Cowpastures district was an ill-defined area that included Governor Hunter’s government reserve from 1795.   The reserve covered an area that generally south of the Nepean River between Stonequarry Creek (Picton), The Oaks and Menangle to the east. By 1840 the Cowpastures district had become a general locality name that extended north of the Nepean River to include Narellan and Bringelly.

View upon the Nepean River, at the Cow Pastures New South Wales 1824-1825 Joseph Lycett
View upon the Nepean River, at the Cow Pastures New South Wales 1824-1825 Joseph Lycett

Stories of Convicts

The best short reference of the convicts in the Cowpastures is Ken Williams’ 1824 Cawdor Bench of Magistrates Population, Land and Stock Book (2011), where he lists the names and masters. Williams indicates that in the Cowpasture in 1824 there were 430 convicts and of them 15 were women, who were listed as domestic servants.[1]  Elizabeth Villy indicates that the stock books indicates 29 landholders, who were mostly absentee landlords.[2]

The best account to date of the activities of the convicts in the Cowpastures is Elizabeth Villy’s The Old Razorback Road (2011). She states that in the 1820s in the last days of the Cowpastures Government Reserve there were around 550 convicts assigned to settlers including around 100 at Camden Park estate. These men were employed as shepherds and labourers, who were clearing land, and preparing ground for ploughing and growing pasture.[3]

Convicts and civil works in the Cowpastures

The Great South Road was one of the major civil engineering projects in the Cowpastures district that employed convicts. A major bridge (Cowpasture Bridge) was constructed by convicts across the Nepean River mid-way between the river crossings at the Home Farm at Belgenny and  the Hassalls at Macquarie Grove.  Villy details how the bridge was built by a team of convicts between 1824 and 1826. The construction was supervised by convict Samuel Wainwright, a Cheshire carpenter, who arrived on the Neptune in 1818. Villy lists 24 convicts who worked on the bridge construction between 1827 and 1829.[4]

The other major project was The Great South Road itself and in the Cowpastures section Villy estimates that around 400 men worked on the road. Her research indicates that they left no surviving records and many just ‘melted into society at the conclusion of their sentences’ (p.67).  The ethnography of the convicts up to 1828 were mainly English, with smaller numbers of Welsh and Scots. From this time as more Irish were sent out the ratio English to Irish was around half and half. If the convicts misbehaved they were punished by whipping and the Cawdor Bench imposed punishments up to 50 lashes. Mostly they involved insolence, absconding, drunkenness and laziness. On the Camden-Stonequarry road section there were no portable stockades or vans. Villy provides interesting accounts of the activities of individual convicts, their punishments and the convict lifestyle of the road gangs. [5]

John Hawdon Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), Saturday 18 January 1879, page 17
John Hawdon Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 18 January 1879, page 17

Elderslie

Convicts were part of the John Oxley’s Elderslie enterprise and when John Hawdon leased it in 1828 off Francis Irvine he was impressed the range of trades amongst the 30 ‘government men’ who worked on Elderslie. He was not deterred by dark Gothic notions of the penal settlement and expressed his frustration with the attitude of his countrymen in a letter home.[6] Hawdon felt that the dark stories and fear about the colony were over-rated. He wrote:

‘I am aware of the feeling you all have at home about us having so many convicts around us. Your fears, I can assure you are most unfounded’.[7]

Elderslie according to Alan Atkinson supported 9 convicts when Oxley sold the grant to Francis Irvine in 1827.[8] At Macquarie Grove under Samual Hassall there were 30 convicts with 3 families of children.[9]

Denbigh

Reverend Thomas Hassall who purchased Denbigh in 1826 on the death of Charles Hook had 20 convicts, according to his son James Hassall in his In Old Australia, Records and Reminiscences from 1794. The worked from six in the morning in summer and from eight in winter until sundown. The convicts were managed by a Scottish overseer and they carried out the farming activities on the property. The rations included tea, sugar, meat, flour or when which they ground for themselves on a small steel mill.[10]

Denbigh Homestead Open Day 2015 IWillis
Denbigh Homestead Open Day 2015 IWillis

Kirkham

At the time of the 1828 Census at ‘Kirkham’, which had 54 people including 44 convicts. (SRNSW NRS 1273 1828 Census).

Birling

Birling’ was a 1000 acre granted to Robert Lowe in 1812. According to the 1814 muster, Robert Lowe employed seven assigned convicts which had increased to 21 by the 1822 muster, while by 1828 this had dropped to 12 convicts.(SRNSW)

The Cowpastures Convict and Settler Database

A number of members of the Camden Historical Society drew together a database of names of convicts and settlers in the Cowpastures in the early part of the 19th century in the 1990s. The data was  drawn from a variety of sources including convict musters. On extracting the names of convicts the following information is now available for a number of gentry properties in the Cowpastures District prior to 1840 and include: Brownlow Hill  – 44 convicts between 1823 and 1828. In 1823 there were 11 convicts assigned to Peter Murdoch who had the Glendaural grant, which later became part of Brownlow Hill; Denbigh – 8 convicts in 1828; Kirkham – 103 convicts between 1814 and 1830 with a mix of skill including ploughman, shepherds, millers, and general labourers; Macquarie Grove – 28 convicts in 1828 with skills including ploughman, wheelwright, labourer and house servants; Matavai (Cobbitty) – 14 convicts in 1828 who included blacksmith, sawyer, labourers and house servants; Wivenhoe – 6 convicts in 1828 who included a cooper and shoemaker. The database is located at the Camden Museum.

Notes

[1] Ken Williams, 1824 Cawdor Bench of Magistrates Population, Land and Stock Book, A Biographical Register of the Inhabitants residing in the Cowpastures, Picton & District Historical and Family History Society, Picton, 2011.

[2] Elizabeth Villy, The Old Razorback Road, Life on the Great South Road between Camden and Picton 1830-1930, Rosenberg, Dural, 2011. p. 35.

[3] Villy, The Old Razorback Road, pp. 34-35.

[4] Villy, The Old Razorback Road.pp. 62-65

[5] Villy, The Old Razorback Road.pp. 66-90.

[6] The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 26 October 1929, p 13.

[7] The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 26 October 1929, p 13.

[8] Alan Atkinson, Camden, Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, OUP, Melb, 1988, p.20. Peter Mylrea, Camden District, A History to the 1840s, Camden Historical Society, 2002, p.34.

[9]  Atkinson, Camden,  p.20

[10] James S Hassall, In Old Australia Records and Reminiscences from 1794, RS Hews,  Brisbane, 1902 (BiblioBazaar, 2015), pp. 4-5

Camden · community identity · Cowpastures · Elderslie · Farming · Heritage · Local History · sense of place · Settler colonialism · Sydney's rural-urban fringe

Elderslie, a suburb on Sydney’s fringe

Elderslie Autumn Scene Camden Valley Way 2014 (IWillis)
Elderslie Autumn Scene Camden Valley Way 2014 (IWillis)

Elderslie is a suburb of Camden, the traditional land of the Dharawal people.  It lies on the southern end of the Camden Municipality, 62 km southwest of Sydney, on the rural-urban fringe. It is bordered by the Nepean River to the west, Narellan Creek to the north, Camden By-Pass to the south, and Studley Park Golf Course to the east. The population at the 2001 census was 2,638.

Under Governor Macquarie’s stewardship, the area now known as Elderslie was the site of a number of smallholder land grants along the Nepean River, made between 1812 and 1815. There was also one large grant given to John Oxley, a member of the colonial gentry, in 1816. He called it ‘Elerslie’, although by 1828 he had changed it to ‘Elderslie’. Oxley’s grant was one of the five large estates in the Camden area that used convict labour.

Elderslie can lay claim to the first building in the Camden area. This was a small hut erected at the Nepean River crossing, after the 1803 visit of Governor King, for the government man who looked after the cattle in the Cowpastures.  It is reported that the hut was still in existence in 1822.

View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1
View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1

he village of Elderslie was planned along the Great Northern Road (now Camden Valley Way) with a subdivision and sites for a church, parsonage and market place. A post office was opened in 1839 – and closed in 1841, when it was moved to Camden. A number of village blocks were sold by auction in 1841, but three months after the Elderslie land sales the village was effectively overwhelmed by land sales across the river in Camden.

The first church in Elderslie was St Mark’s Anglican Church, built in 1902 of plain timber construction. The church is framed by a huge 150 year old camphor laurel tree, and has only ceased functioning in recent years.

Hilsyde is one of the more significant homes in the Elderslie area, and was built in 1888 by Walter Furner, a local builder. A number of important cottages were owned by the Bruchhauser family, who were viticulturalists and orchardists in the Elderslie area, as were the Fuchs, Thurns, and most recently the Carmagnolas.

Viticulture has been re-established at Camden Estate Vineyards on the deep alluvial soils of the Nepean floodplain. There were plantings of mixed varieties in 1975 by Norman Hanckel, and in the 1990s these had been converted completely to Chardonnay, which best suits the soil and climate of the area. Grapes for wine had previously been grown in this location by Martin Thurn, one of the six German vinedressers brought out by the Macarthurs of Camden Park in 1852. Table grapes were grown throughout the Elderslie area and sold in the Sydney markets. Vegetables were grown on the floodplain adjacent to Narellan Creek by Sun Chong Key, who was one of a number of Chinese market gardeners in the Camden area in the first half of the 20th century. Apart from farming, the floodplain and surrounding areas have been subject to extensive sand-mining for the Sydney building industry.

Elderslie was the first stop after Camden on the tramway that ran between Camden and Campbelltown, which began operations in 1882. The locomotive (affectionately known as Pansy) had 24 services each week-day, which were a mixture of passenger and goods services. Observant travellers to the area can still make out the earth works of the tramway on the northern side of Camden Valley Way along the floodplain. The tramway operated until 1963, when a number of branch lines in the Sydney area were shut. The tramway, which ran beside the Hume Highway between Elderslie and Camden, was often closed due to flooding.

Little Sandy with footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950. This area on the Nepean River was always a popular swimming spot. Diving board in foreground. (Camden Images)
Little Sandy with footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950. This area on the Nepean River was always a popular swimming spot. Diving board in foreground. (Camden Images)

Swimming became one of Elderslie earliest organized sporting activities, after the Nepean River was dammed in 1908 with the construction of the Camden Weir. Water backed up behind the weir for four kilometres through the Elderslie area, and provided relatively deep water suitable for swimming. The ‘Camden Aquatic Sports’ carnival  was organized in 1909 and attracted over 1000 spectators, and this was the location of the Camden Swimming Club in the 1920s. There were two popular swimming holes at Kings Bush Reserve and Little Sandy, where the Australian Army built a footbridge during World War II (and there is still one in that location today). By the 1950s, increasing pollution of the river put pressure on authorities for a town swimming pool, which was eventually opened in Camden in 1964.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the growth of coal mining contributed to local population growth and demand for residential land releases on farmland adjacent to the floodplain.  This created a need for education facilities and led to establishment of Mawarra Primary School (1972) and Elderslie High School (1976). Elderslie was also identified as part of the growth area for Greater Sydney, initially as part of the Macarthur Growth Centre Plan (1973), then the Metropolitan Strategy (1988) and most recently in the Cities for the 21st Century plan (1995). Some of these land releases caused concerns over air quality issues and deteriorating water quality in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River, and consequently they were deferred until 2005. In the most recent Elderslie land releases, developers have commodified the rural mythology and imagery of ‘the country town’ and associated rural vistas, with names like ‘Camden Acres’, ‘The Ridges’ and ‘Vantage Point’. These values have attracted ‘outsiders’ to the area in the hope of finding places where ‘the country still looks like the country’. Part of this imagery is found in Elderslie’s older residential streets, which are a picture in November when the Jacarandas provide a colourful show of purple and mauve.

One of Elderslie’s most notable resident was possibly the Australian poet and actor, Hugh McCrae (1876-1958). He lived in River Road in the 1930s and occasionally after that. He was a member of the Sydney Bohemian set, and a friend of Norman Lindsay and members of the Camden elite: for example, local surgeon Dr RM Crookston and his wife, Zoe. McCrae wrote about the local area in works like ‘October in Camden’, and ‘Camden Magpie’. He was awarded an OBE (1953) for services to Australian Literature. {link to ADB}

References

A useful summary of secondary sources on Elderslie can be found at http://www.camdenhistory.org.au and follow the links to Camden Bibliography

Atkinson, Alan, Camden, Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Mylrea, PJ, Camden District, A History to the 1840s, Camden: Camden Historical Society, 2002.

Camden History, Journal of the Camden Historical Society.

Appin · Campbelltown · Cawdor · Colonial Camden · Cowpastures · Governor Macquarie

Macquarie tours Cow Pastures and Illawarra 1822

Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)
Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)

Governor Lachlan Macquarie, accompanies by Mrs Macquarie,  made his final visit to the Cowpastures and the Campbelltown area in January 1822.He inspected the area around Cawdor, Camden Park, Brownlow Hill, and Macquarie Grove.

Maquarie also descended into the Illawarra and travelled through the area around Tom Thumb Lagoon and Lake Illawarra (Allowrie)

Read his diary entries:

Wednesday 9. January 1822.
I set out from Sydney this morning in the Carriage, accompanied by Mrs. Macquarie and Lachlan, at 7 o’clock, on a short Excursion to visit the Revd. Mr. Reddall & Family at Macquarie Field, and the Cow Pastures; having made an appointment with Sir Thomas Brisbane to meet us at the latter Place. —We arrived at Liverpool at 1/2 past 9, Breakfasted at Dillon’s Inn, and staid afterwards at Mr. Moore’s till 12 o’clock. We then pursued our Journey to Macquarie Field — where we arrived at 1 p.m. — and were most kindly & hospitably received by the Host & Hostess.

I found Mr. Meehan here, who had arrived from Bathurst on the day preceding.— My Servants & Baggage for my Tour to Illawarra had also arrived here last Night. —We sat down to Dinner at 5 o’clock, and went early to Bed.—

Thursday 10. January 1822
We got up early, and Mrs. M. and Lachlan set out with me in the Carriage a quarter before 7, o’clock this morning for the Cow Pastures, intending to spend a couple of days at Cawdor the Government Principal Station there.—

We found the Cow Pasture Road, generally, very rough and bad for Travelling and it took us two Hours and a quarter from Mr. Reddall’s to the Ford over the River Nepean at the old Government Hut, which is only a distance of 14 miles.

The Ford itself, and both Banks being very steep, we found much difficulty in passing; but we accomplished it without sustaining any accident. —From the Ford it is near 4 miles to the Government Cottage at Cawdor — where we arrived at a quarter before 10. a.m. the weather being extremely hot at that time. —Mr. David Johnston met us on the Road on the Eastern side of the River Nepean, and conducted us at Cawdor. Here we found Mr. De Arrietta a Spanish Gentleman who has lately obtained a grant at the Cow Pastures.—

This is the first time of Mrs. Macquarie’s visiting Cawdor, which she admires very much.

Nancy Moore followed us in the Curricle from Mr. Reddall’s, with Edmund Sorell — whom Lachlan had asked to accompany him to Cawdor. —We had our Breakfast soon after our arrival.—

At 2. p.m. Sir Thomas Brisbane, attended by Major Ovens, Mr. Oxley, Capt. Antill, and Mr. Murdoch joined us at Cawdor. —The Day being excessively hot, we did not dine till 6, o’clock when we sat down Eight Persons to Dinner.—

The Govt. Cottage at Cawdor has lately been very much improved, and enlarged since I was last here — and is quite sufficient to accommodate us all. —We went early to Bed, intending to ride out very early in the morning.

View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1
View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1

Friday 11. January 1822
I got up at 5, o’clock this morning — and soon afterwards Sir Thos. Brisbane, Mr. D. Johnston, & Mr. Murdoch set out from Cawdor to Brownlow-Hill to inspect the Govt. stock at that Station. —We had a very pleasant Ride along that rich Tract of Pasture Land extending from Cawdor along Mount Hunter Creek to Brownlow Hill, distant 8 miles from the former. —We inspected the Govt. stock there accordingly — and returned Home to Breakfast at 1/2 past 8 o’clock.—

After Breakfast, we mounted our Horses again and rode to Mr. McArthur’s Farm of Camden — where we inspected all his Improvements and Stock and returned Home again at 2, o’clock; having been this day 7 1/2 Hours on Horse-back.—Mrs. M. Lachlan, Teddy, and Nancy Moore went all in a Cart, on our return Home, to view at a distance Mr. McArthur’s Improvements — and returned Home by 5, o’clock.—We dined at 6 p.m. and went early to Bed, intending to rise very early tomorrow morning.
Saturday 12. January 1822.
We all got up this morning at Half past 4 o’clock — and set out from Cawdor at Half past 5, o’clock; Sir Thomas Brisbane travelling with Mrs. M. me and Lachlan in our Carriage. —We crossed the Nepean at the Ford of Macquarie Grove, a Farm belonging to Mr. Hassall, and thence we travelled by the Cow Pasture Road to Mr. Meehan’s Farm of Macquarie-Field — where we arrived at 8, o’clock. —We had Breakfast soon afterwards. —After Breakfast, I accompanied Sir Thomas Brisbane to Liverpool to inspect the Public Buildings there, and remained with him till his departure for Parramatta — when I returned to Macquarie Field. The Revd. Mr. Reddall had Mr. Moore, Mr. Throsby, Dr. Hill, and Mr. Meehan to Dine with us, besides his own Family today.—

Sunday 13. January 1822 —
Mrs. Macquarie, Lachlan, and myself, accompanied by Mr. Meehan — and John and Nancy Moore — went this morning before Breakfast to see John Moore’s Farm in Minto District, adjoining that of Mr. Brooks. —We viewed and examined different parts of it — and Selected the fittest Place for building the House & offices on, which John Moore marked out accordingly. —This Farm is distant about 3 miles from Macquarie-field — and Eight miles from the Town of Liverpool.

In honor of their young Master, John & Nancy Moore have named their farm “Lachlan-Valley”. We returned to Meehan Castle at 9, o’clock to Breakfast.—The Revd. Mr. Reddall went to perform Divine Service at Campbell-Town — but returned Home to Dinner.—We dined at 1/2 past 5 — and went early to Bed.—
Monday 14. January 1822
Got up at 1/2 past 5. a.m. At 1/4 past 6. Mrs. M. Lachn. Edmund Sorell & Nancy Moore, set out in the Carriage for Sydney — whilst I, accompanied by Mr. Meehan, set out at the same time on my intended Tour of Inspection to Illawarra, through the Districts of Airds and Appin; the Revd. Mr. Reddall accompanying us to Campbell-Town. —On our arrival there, we ordered Breakfast at Bradbury’s and whilst it was getting ready, I accompanied Mr. Reddall to see his Glebe and the Site he had selected for Building his Parsonage House on. —The Glebe is about 2 miles distant from Town, and very pleasantly situated commanding a fine extensive [view?] of the rich and beautiful District of Aids. —We were absent about an Hour and a Half absent [sic] — and then returned to Brad bury’s where we took a good and hearty Breakfast at Ten o’clock.

After Breakfast we proceeded to take a survey of the Township and the New Church — and which is a very pretty Building. The walls are up to their full Height and fit to receive the Roof, which is preparing and will be put on in the course of the ensuing week. We fixed on the Site of the Burying Ground, within a convenient distance of the Church — and which is to consist of 3 acres of Ground. —The principal Inhabitants assembled to meet us, and expressed themselves highly pleased at the arrangements made on this occasion.— The Revd. Mr. Reddall took his leave of us at 1/4 before 12 at Noon — and returned Home, whilst I and Mr. Meehan pursued our Journey for Illawarra.—

Mr. Bradbury is now building a very good two story Brick-House on his own Farm, and on a very pretty Eminence immediately adjoining Campbell-Town, as an Inn for the accommodation of the Public, and having asked me to give his Farm a name, I have called it “Bradbury Park”.—

Campbell-Town is 13 miles from Liverpool — and 8 miles from Mr. Meehan’s Farm of Macquarie-Field –; it is a very beautiful and centrical situation, surrounded by a rich, Populous Neighbourhood, and making a good stage for Persons travelling to the Southern and Western Districts.–

St Peters Anglican Church Campbelltown 1823 (Campbtn Lib)
St Peters Anglican Church Campbelltown 1823 (Campbtn Lib)

The Road through Aids and Appin for the first 20 miles from Campbell-Town is tolerably good — but from Mr. Broughton’s Farm all the rest of the way to the Mountain Pass of Illawarra is most execrably bad for any sort of wheel-carriage. —This very bad Road commences at King’s Falls, where we crossed the Head of George’s River very near its source, and from thence nothing can be worse — it being almost impassable for a Cart or Gig — and I confess I wondered at my Baggage Dray and Gig getting on at all without breaking down.

After scrambling over about 8 miles of this horrid rough Road we arrived at 4. p.m. at a Stream of Water in a Deep Valley about 9 miles from Mr. Broughton’s Farm, which I have named “David’s Valley” in honor of Mr. David Johnston who joined us here just as we were about sitting down to Dinner at 6, o’clock; and in this Valley we Pitched our Camp for the Night.—

Tuesday 15. January 1822
We got up at Day-break and had our Baggage Packed up and arranged, sending back the Curricle, and Dray with the heavy Baggage, to Mr. O’Brien’s Farm in Appin; the Road being too rough and bad to admit of their proceeding farther on the Journey to Illawarra. —We therefore put all the Baggage and Provisions required for our Journey on three Pack Horses.—

Mr. Cornelius O’Brien joined us at this station just as we were ready to set out. —

At 10 mins. past 6. a.m. we set forward on our Journey; and after passing over some very bad Road, and crossing the Cataract River near it’s [sic] source, we arrived at the summit of the great mountain that contains the Pass to the Low Country of Illawarra — the Top of this mountain being three miles from our last station. —On our arrival on the summit of the mountain, we were gratified with a very grand magnificent Bird’s Eye view of the Ocean, the 5 Islands, and of the greater part of the low country of Illawarra as far as Red Point. —After feasting our Eyes with this grand Prospect, we commenced descending the mountain at 20 mins. after 8, o’clock. The Descent was very rugged, rocky, and slippery, and so many obstacles opposed themselves to our progress, that it was with great difficulty that the Pack-Horses could get down this horrid steep descent. —At length we effected it, but it took us an Hour to descend altho’ the Descent is only one mile & a Half long. —The whole face of this mountain is clothed with the largest and finest Forest Trees I have ever seen in the Colony. —They consist chicfly of the Black-Butted Gum, Stringy Bark, Turpentine, Mountain Ash, Fig, Pepperment [sic], Box-Wood, Sassafrass, and Red Cedar; but the latter is now very scarce, most of it having been already cut down and carried away to Sydney. —There are also vast Quantities of the Cabbage, Palm, and Fern Trees, growing in the face of the Mountain, the former being very beautiful and of great Height. —

Finding that this mountain has never yet received any particular name, I have christened it the “Regent Mountain”, as it was first descended by Mr. Throsby in the year 1815, when our present King was Regent of the United Kingdom.

We arrived at a Creek containing a very pretty Stream of Fresh running Water about 1 1/2 miles from the foot of the mountain at a qr. past 9, o’clock, and here we halted to Breakfast and to refresh our men and Cattle. —I have named this stream of Fresh Water “Throsby’s Creek”, in honor of Mr. Throsby who first crossed it on his descending the Regent Mountain.

Governor Macquarie then inspected the area around Tom Thumb Lagoon, and Lake Illawarra (or Allowrie) 

 

Wednesday 16. January 1822
We set out from Mr. Brown’s at 1/2 past 8 o’clock to explore the Country to the Southward and Westward; having first sent off our Servants and Baggage towards the Mountain over which the new Road from Illawarra to Appin has recently been made by Mr. O’Brien.

We proceeded through a very rich Country in a southerly direction for two miles, till we arrived on the left Bank of the Macquarie-River, a very pretty Stream of Fresh Water about 20 yards in Breadth, which falls into the Lake — and is full of Fish — with Cedar and other good Timber growing on its Banks. From the Macquarie River we travelled on in a westerly direction to Col. Johnston’s Farm near the foot of the mountains. This Farm is a very fine one, well watered, and contains some very extensive beautiful Meadows bordering on the Lake and River. We continued our Journey still in a westerly direction to Mount Throsby — which we ascended for the purpose of having a view of those parts of Illawarra which I had not time to visit. On our arrival on the summit of this Hill. we had a most extensive fine view of all the low Country to the Southward and Eastward of us — including the Sea, the Lake, and the River. —At 12 at Noon we descended Mount Throsby — and then directed our course backwards, through a fine open Forest, towards Mr O’Brien’s new Road, which we arrived at 2. p.m. —Having rested ourselves & Horses at a fresh water creek, at the foot of the Mountain we were to ascend, for half an Hour, we commenced ascending the first Range at 1/2 past 2; — and at 4. p.m. we arrived on the Top of the Mountain; which having obtained no particular name before, I have christened it “Mount Brisbane” in honor of the new Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane. I rode up the whole of the mountain, which is about two miles long, exclusive of the Ranges leading to the foot of it — which are at least two miles more in length. —The Road is perfectly safe and passable for Cattle, and is what may be termed a good Bridle Road; — and it might he made a good Cart Road with very little more trouble. —In ascending a very steep part of the mountain through some carelessness in the Driver, one of our Pack Horses with his Load, slipped and tumbled over three [text missing?] several times till he was stopped by a large Tree. —We all concluded he was killed, but the Load preserved him, and after being disengaged from it, he got upon his Legs again without being in the least hurt, or wounded. —We came up with, or rather overtook the Baggage about Half way up the Pass, which was fortunate, as we were thus enabled to afford the People in charge of it our assistance. With exception of this accident we all got up Mount Brisbane perfectly safe, and with great ease to ourselves.—

The face of this mountain is also studded with very large fine Timber of the same description as that on the Regent Mountain, but there are more Cedar Trees on the former than on the latter. —I had one noble Cedar (Red) Tree measured on this mountain which measured 21 feet in Diameter and 120 feet in Height; the size of it being greater, and the Tree itself a finer one than I had ever seen before. —The part of it which measured 21 feet in circumference was Ten feet from the Root of it, and continued to be of the same size for 60 feet above the ground. —I also saw here the largest and finest Box Trees I had ever seen in the Colony.

We had a noble extensive view of the Ocean and part of Illawarra from the Summit of Mount Brisbane. —We rested a few minutes on the Top of the Mountain, and then pursued our Journey towards Appin at 20 minutes past 4, o’clock, over a very good Bridle Road, tho’ a little rough and stony. —At 10 minutes past 7 p.m. arrived at a very pretty thick Forest, with good grazing for cattle, distant about Ten miles from the Top of Mount Brisbane. Here we took up our Ground for the Night, our men and cattle being rather tired. This day’s Journey is about 32 miles. —Mr. O’Brien has named this Place Lachlan Forest in honor of my beloved Boy.—

Thursday 17. January 1822
We got up early and Breakfasted — then had our Baggage packed up and sent off, and set out ourselves from Lachlan-Forest at 1/2 past 8, o’clock a.m. After riding Five miles over a tolerable good Road, through an open Forest Country, we arrived at the Cataract River at 1/2 past 9 a.m. the Banks of which are immensely high and rocky — and almost perpendicular. Here Mr. O’Brien succeeded in cutting out and forming a tolerable good Pass on either side of the River, and altho’ very steep he has brought over a Cart & Team of Bullocks through the Passes thus made on each side of the River. It is frightful to look at — but perfectly safe for Cattle and Persons on Horseback. I rode down the Pass on the Right Bank of the River, and up that on the Left Bank without once dismounting.

St Bede's Roman Catholic Church (1841) - the oldest Catholic church on mainland Australia.
St Bede’s Roman Catholic Church (1841) – the oldest Catholic church on mainland Australia.

It appearing to me that Mr. O’Brien has great merit in constructing this Road (which was by subscription) with such few Hands and slender means, I have christened the Pass of the Cataract River after him, namely — “O’Brien’s Pass”. —He had only six men employed on this Line of Road (about 21 miles from Appin to Illawarra) with Sixty Pounds subscribed by the Principal Gentlemen who had large stocks of Cattle at Illawarra. Having crossed to the Appin side of O’Brien’s Pass, we pursued our Journey. —I called on Mrs. Broughton at “Lachlan Vale” 3 miles from the Cataract River, and remained an Hour with her & her Family. I afterwards proceeded on my Journey, calling at Mr. O’Brien’s Farm, where the Baggage was ordered to Halt — and wait our arrival. —Here I quitted my Horse for the Tandem and set out in it for Sydney at 1/2 past 12, o’clock, leaving my Servants & Baggage to follow next day at their leisure. —

I stopt [sic] at Liverpool to change Horses for Half an Hour, then set out again, and arrived at Government House Sydney at Ten minutes past six o’clock; finding my dear Mrs. M. and our Darling Boy in good Health, and sitting down at Dinner, with a few friends, namely Major Antill, Dr. Ramsay, and the Revd. Mr. Reddall.

I had almost forgot to mention that I left my Travelling companions Mr. Meehan, Mr. David Johnston, and Mr. O’Brien at the House of the latter, where they were engaged to dine previous to their proceeding to their respective Homes.

L.M

Read more from the diary of Governor Macquarie

http://www.mq.edu.au/macquarie-archive/journeys/1822/1822b.html