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John Hawdon of Elderslie and his English origins

James Pearson of Staindrop History of County Durham in England has recently written to the CHN blogger and brought to his attention information about the English origins and connections of John Hawdon of Elderslie.

John Hawdon arrived in New South Wales with his family and servants in 1828. He took a six year lease on John Oxley’s former grant of Elderslie and became a colonial identity. He later took up a grant in the Moruya area of the New South Wales South Coast and built Kiora homestead in 1836

John Hawdon image
John Hawdon [Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney), Saturday 18 January 1879, page 17]

The village of Wackerfield in County Durham, England

England Wackerfield hamlet signage ODixon 2009
The signage on the approaches to the hamlet of Wackerfield County Durham England  (ODixon 2009)

John Hawdon of Elderslie was born in the village of Wackerfield. The village is also known as Wakefield or Walkerfield in Country Durham. According to James Pearson the accent  in the north-east reduces this pronunciation to ‘Wackerfield’ and it appears on maps under either spelling.

James Pearson writes that Wackerfield sits on the slope of Keverstone bank just above Raby Castle and the ground begins to descend, though not steeply, towards the river Tees.  It looks flat area in places and is located  on the ‘spine’ of England.  The area is on the eastern side of the north Pennine range so areas of moorland.

The hamlet of Wackerfield is about half a mile from Raby Castle in County Durham.

Raby Castle websites states:

Built for the mighty dynasty of the Nevills, this great fortress stands proud and defiant, its history rolling back almost a thousand years. King Cnut (also known as Canute II the Great) owned the Estate, then known as ‘Rabi’ (derived from ‘Ra’, Danish for a boundary, and ‘Bi’, a settlement or dwelling) in the early 11th Century. The Viking King and self appointed ‘Emperor of the North’ may well have built a manor house here, but it was the Nevills who built the 14th century castle which still stands today.

England Raby Castle Co Durham 2017 RCastle
Raby Castle Co Durham England. The Raby estate includes the hamlet of Wackerfield (2017 RCastle)

Raby Castle was the property of the Nevill family and royal connections until 1569 when they led a rebellion against Elizabeth I  for which hundreds were executed in the north,  a number from every village and town.  It then became the property of the Vane family who were prominent in the English Civil War.

Raby Castle websites states that:

Raby Castle, the private home of Lord Barnard, sits at the heart of the Raby Estate, which spreads across TeesdaleCounty Durham and Northumbria. Agriculture is an important source of income for the Estate. As well as the Estate’s own Home Farm in Raby Park, there are many tenanted farms and a large number of houses and cottages in villages around Teesdale, many are whitewashed farmsteads and houses where families have been tenants for several generations.

Raby Estates have several residential properties and agricultural holdings which become available from time to time. Houses owned by Raby can be found in many Teesdale villages near Barnard Castle and Darlington such as Staindrop, Piercebridge, Wackerfield and Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Wackerield Hall in the main building in the village and there are a number of outbuildings.

England Wackerfield John Hawdon 2017 JPearson
The hamlet of Wackerfield County Durham where John Hawdon of Elderslie grew up. The hamlet is part of the estate linked to Raby Castle. (JPearson, 2017)

Next to the Hall is a row of 4 cottages and, according to James Pearson, this is about the extent of the village. There are only one or two other isolated cottages

Today they produce a lot of hay in this area, and during harvest period tractor and trailer loads of baled hay come through the village.

 

The Hawdon family of Wackerfield

John Hawdon, the father of John of Elderslie, was a yeoman farm.    A yeoman farmer between the 14th and 18th century as a farmer who owned land. The social rank of the yeoman was between the land owning gentry and labourer

John Hawdon of Wackerfield was born in 1770, son of John Hawdon and Mary Watson.  He married Elizabeth Hunt of Gainford, a village about three miles away, in 1798.  John’s children included sons John (b.1801), Joseph and William (b.1812), who stayed on the family farm.

John was a ‘Cornet’ (2nd Lieutenant) in Staindrop Gentlemen and Yeomanry (1798—1815), raised by John Ingram which was renamed as the Staindrop Troop of Volunteer Cavalry, disbanded in 1815.  The was cavalry raised in 1798 in the face of a threatened Napoleonic invasion.  John was promoted to a lieutenant and eventually served as captain of the troop.

Officers Jacket Staindrop Cavalry 1798-1815 DLI
This is an Officer’s Full Dress Light Cavalry Jacket, Staindrop Cavalry, 1798-1815. This scarlet wool jacket has black velvet facings (collar and cuffs), white cord ‘frogging’, and plain silver domed buttons.(Durham Light Infantry Collection)

The Durham Light Infantry Museum Collection website states:

The Staindrop Gentlemen and Yeomanry was raised in 1798 by John Ingram of Staindrop, with a strength of 54 officers and men. In 1803, the Regiment changed its name to the Staindrop Volunteer Cavalry. It survived until 1815, when it became part of the Durham Yeomanry. This is a rare surviving example of Napoleonic Volunteer cavalry uniform from County Durham.

Officers Helmut Staindrop Cavalry 1798-1815 DLI
Officers Helmut Staindrop Cavalry 1798-1815 (Durham Light Infantry Collection)

 

John Hawdon of Wackerfield died in 1845.

John of Elderslie’s parents are buried in the churchyard in Wackerfield and there is a gravestone.

John Hawdon, grandfather of John of Elderslie, was born in the parish in 1742 son of Christopher and Ann Hawdon.  Christopher was born in 1710 in the same parish.

 

The Hawdon farm in County Durham

John Hawdon’s farm was 520 acres and is still a working farm with the original farmhouse. It was primarily concerned with breeding and growing sheep.

John Hawdon, (b.1770) was a member of the Staindrop Farmer’s Club where they discussed the latest developments in farming and other issues. In 1862 John felt that the steam plough and threshing machine would be a great improvement for farming.  John was quite an expert on raising sheep and presented a paper at the Club on the issue in 1863. In 1865 John spoke the Club on the subject of fattening sheep during the summer months.

On the death of John Hawdon (1770-1845) in 1845 his third  son William Watson Hawdon was in possession of the farm.

Brother William (1812-1879) stayed and farmed at Wackerfield.    William married and had several sons, one was an engineer, another  was a director of ironworks, and one died young aged 16yrs.

England Wackerfield Moorland looking to the Hal 2017 JPearson
A country lane on the Moorland looking east from the hamlet of Wackerfield (JPearson, 2017)

When William Watson Hawdon died in 1879 aged 67yrs, he had no son in the farming business to follow him.

William’s widow left the farm  and moved into Ormuz house on the village green and died there in 1891.

James Pearson came across a speech their father John Hawdon (1770-1845) gave to the Staindrop Farmers Club in 1844 and he was discussing the breeds of sheep and what is best for the local area.

Today the farm has some sheep, dairy farming and some cropping.

 

John of Elderslie

John Hawdon of Elderslie did duties in the Staindrop Volunteer Cavalry before coming out to New South Wales.

Elderslie2
The scene at Elderslie New South Wales on an autumn day showing the site in 2014 of the original Elderslie lease that John Hawdon took out in 1828 (IWillis)

John’s younger brother Joseph Hawdon followed his elder brother, John, out to Australia. He too had an eventful life eventually moving to New Zealand where he became famous as an outlander.

Brother Joseph had died in 1871 in New Zealand, and brother John of Elderslie was the surviving brother.  John of Eldersle returned to England in the late 1870s.

James Pearson located an interesting newspaper article about John of Elderslie’s return to England. The local newspaper reported the visit and John’s return to New South Wales in 1880.

In the course of a few days Mr John Hawdon, of Wackerfield, will sail for the antipodes, and the last link of a family long associated with agricultural pursuits in this neighbourhood will be severed. Mr Hawdon’s family for centuries have farmed at Walkerfield, and the name is familiar in most market towns in the north.  At a period contemporaneous with the reign of Queen Elisabeth the farm at Wackerfield belonged to the Hawdons, the property subsequently having been purchased by one of the lords of Raby, and the farm being now held by the Duke of Cleveland. The lot of the farmer has been beset with difficulties during the past few years. The English agriculturist has had to cope with foreign competition. Bad trade has long depressed all industries, and, what is even more significant to the farmer, bad crops for a succession of years have been reaped. There is every prospect, however, this season, that good crops will uniformly be gathered. Let us venture a hope that in his new home Mr Hawdon may prosper, and that he may soon be surrounded by as many friends as now regret his departure from these shores.

[The Teesdale Mercury—Wednesday  July 14, 1880 at Barnard Castle]

 

 

Read more:

S G P Ward (1962), ‘Faithful: The Story of The Durham Light Infantry’ provides an overview of the Napoleonic Volunteers in County Durham.

 

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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.

 

 

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.