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.

 

 

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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

Colonial Camden · Cowpastures · Elderslie

John Hawdon of Elderslie in a settler society

John Hawdon
John Hawdon

In 1929 Mrs Madeline Buck the grand-daughter of an Elderslie pioneer James Hawdon published a series of his letters written in 1828 to friends in England. Hawdon had lived in the Elderslie area for five years from 1828.

Hawdon’s letters surfaced in England in 1929 amongst old family papers and have many interesting insights into life in the early days of the colony.

At Elderslie Hawdon leased the Elderslie estate and supported four convicts, his wife Margaret and baby son. Alan Atkinson maintains that ‘Hawdon apparently tried to keep up an English tone, with the slave-driving Botany Bay element at a minimum. He was a good master and even admired his convicts’. He did not take any convicts for punishment at the Cawdor Bench between 1825 and 1830. (Atkinson, p20)

Hawdon was concerned about freight costs between Sydney and the Cowpastures and according to Atkinson ‘could make a good profit only because his carriers were his own convicts, who cost him next to nothing. The journey to market and back took a week’ using a bullock team. Hawdon grew hay for the Sydney market which was used to fatten cattle for market, and by the 1830s hay was more important than grain for the property owners in the Cowpastures. Hawdon’s convicts took the hay to the Sydney market and sold it for 6s8½d a hundredweight in 1832. He also grew a small amount of tobacco, which according to Atkinson, was ‘very profitable’ for those who knew how to grow it.

Hawdon wrote to England of the Elderslie estate convicts that

‘he had a good many of what he almost always calls “Government men,” and said he always had great satisfaction from them.’

He continued that

‘I allow my men to have as much new milk as they can use. I feed them well, and work ttipm well, by which means I have very little trouble managing them.” (SMH, 26 Oct 1929)

Hawdon was one of many colonists who moved into southern New South Wales after living in the Cowpastures for a period. He was one of the colonists who was at the frontier of the settler society where clashes between Europeans and Aborigines were more common than not.
In 1879 a journalist for the Australian Town and Country Journal described Hawdon as

‘I am only doing justice to a good old colonist, and but expressing the general opinion by stating that Mr. Hawdon is about one of the finest representatives of the true British gentleman in the colony. Honour, hospitality, and generosity are the’ characteristics which have marked his long life’ of usefulness in working and opening out with a few other pioneers this rapidly peopling district.’

‘The gentleman whose portrait we present to our readers this week is one of our oldest colonists, and the record of his career is a typical one of the prosperity that in this country attends upon energy and perseverance.’

In his obituary in 1881 the writer maintained that:

‘With his we believe, passes away that last of the brave men who did so much, to open-up the-pastoral interest of Australia and to give her the name of the finest grazing country in the world.’

At Elderslie he ran dairying and cheese making and later his property at Bodalla. He contracted to supply provisions to the road gangs making the Great South Road.

Hawdon wrote about his journey out to New South Wales and writing on October 26, 1828, he stated

“Our passage was tedious, but not unpleasant.In the cabin we carried ten people, and in the steerage I believe there were about 32. My cabin was a very comfortable one on deck. We carried on board eight dogs, about 40 sheep, pigs, and poultry In abundance, a cow, a goat with two kids, and a famous noise, I assure you, they made!”

He wrote in his diary

On the arrival of the small family In Sydney, he found the expenses about double what they would be in London, so “I thought it advisable to take a station, till I could get my affairs arranged, and our grant of land fixed upon.” Then follows what would surprise even a hustling American. He rode up to Camden on the 16th September (three days after landing), took Mr. Harrington’s place, Elderslie, rode back to Sydney on the 17th, and within a week they were established In their new home and working away as though they were old settlers.

He wrote further

“The Governor has been pleased at two dinner parties to express his sentiments of approbation on me, saying I had begun like one who is determined to do well, for I had not been eight days in the Colony before I had my ploughs going.”

Hawdon describes Elderslie as being

“a very good and very cheap place, 38 miles from Sydney, consisting of about 1700 acres of land, all fenced and divided Into paddocks, 400 acres being cleared and stumped. The cultivated land is capital, better than any I have seen in any part of the world. It is on the Nepean River. For about three or four miles the river parts Mr MacArthur’s land and mine. His house is on the opposite side of the river to mine. We have an excellent house and garden, and the conveniences of stables, arns, etc., are equal to almost any in England.”

Mrs Buck stated

‘The little railway siding of Elderslie shows the locality in which this old homestead once stood. I understand that the foundations and an underground room of the homestead remain, and that a cottage has been built upon the site, with the materials from the old house.’

Hawdon wrote of the social life at Elderslie and Mrs Buck stated that the social life on the Cowpastures a hundred years ago was not as dull as one might think.

“This is the very country for a young man,” he writes “Take the people as a body, they are pleasant, hospitable, and uncommonly gay. Where we live (about 40 miles from Sydney). It is as populous a neighbourhood as any country place in England. We have a great many neighbours. This part is thought to be the most respectable part of the country and we have been called upon by the gentry. Altogether it is very pleasant. This country has more the appearance of England than any foreign country. They are all English people, have English customs, and everything when I look around is almost the same as at home. Our sitting-room has the same furniture, the same servants wait on us that we have been accustomed to see, and even the climate is much like very fine weather in England. We see quite as much company as we like. A visitor here thinks very little of staying two or three days, which is very agreeable. The gentlemen are all well-bred men; indeed, a great many of the larger settlers have been officers either in the army or navy. We ore a long way from a church. I believe our church is eight or 10 miles off (Cobbitty), but we have not yet been there, as our gig has not come from Sydney. But I make a point of reading the church service and a sermon to my people, who all appear, clean and well dressed, on Sunday forenoons.”

Hawdon’s views on Aborigines in the Elderslie area:

‘As for the natives, they are a most peaceable set of beings, They come to beg sugar and tobacco, of which they are fond. They sometimes come to borrow a gun, and I find powder and shot they give me half of what they kill. They are strictly honest and have excellent memories, for if they see a person once they never fail to remember him again, though many years have elapsed. But they are excessively idle.’

Hawdon was extremely energetic and

‘While still holding Elderslie he took a place called Burra Burn (in Northumberland), or 6500 acres, from Archdeacon Scott for seven years. He says that though it was taken for seven years it was rent free.’

John Hawdon
John Hawdon

Biography
John Hawdon, who was born June 29 1801 Wakefield, Durham and came out to New South Wales in 1828 on the Caroline with his wife and two children. His wife was Margaret Katherine Hawdon (born Potts) and married her in 1827. One child John was born in 1827 and conceived out of wedlock and the second Gilbert was born at sea on the journey to New South Wales. There were two more children while they lived at Elderslie and their 5th child Ernest was born at Narellan. John Hawdon died June 12 1881 at Moruya, New South Wales, Australia.

Mrs Buck reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that Hawdon’s youngest daughter, Mrs Annie Wilson, was still living at Mt Colah north of Sydney in 1929. Hawdon had seven sons.

Hawdon took up a grant of 2560 acres at Kiora in the Moruya area in 1831 and later formed a cattle station at Howlong near Albury. He marketed cattle in Melbourne and sold some of the first cattle in Adelaide from New South Wales. He encouraged his brother Joseph to emigrate and together they took up squatting interest in Victoria and south-western New South Wales, contracted the overland mail run between Yass and Melbourne.
Hawdon was one of the young squatters who founded one of Melbourne’s oldest organisations, the old Melbourne Club, a private social club, in 1838. The club is considered an enduring symbol of Australia’s British heritage and was founded by 23 British ‘gentlemen’. The club is located in a London-style clubhouse designed by Leonard Terry in 1858.
Hawdon owned the station of Kiora, Bergalia, Bodalla, Howlong, and one at Mildura, in New South Wales; and similar properties at Mt. Greenock and Dandenong Creek, in Victoria, besides several smaller places.

Further reading

Image and Text:
Australian Town and Country Journal 18 Jan 1879 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/printArticlePdf/70934477
Letters
The Sydney Morning Herald 26 October 1929 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16596386
The Sydney Morning Herald 2 November 1929 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16598472
The Sydney Morning Herald 9 November 1929 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16600463
Obituary
The Sydney Morning Herald 16 June 1881 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13488341

Camden · Colonial Camden · Cowpastures · Governor Macquarie · Heritage · Local History · Uncategorized

Viewing the landscape of the Cowpastures

Nepean River Cowpastures

The early colonists of the Sydney area viewed the landscape from a number of different perspectives according to historian Grace Karskins in her book The Colony a History of Early Sydney (2009) . This also applied to the Cowpastures.

Landscape has a variety of meanings. The two most common are when landscape refers to all the visible features of an area of land; usually referring to the rural features and its aesthetic appeal of neat paddocks and fields. The other meaning is one applied in an artistic sense and is its pictorial representation of an area of countryside usually in a painting.

There can be different types of landscape, for example, cultural landscapes and physical landscape. Landscape has different meanings in different scholarly disciplines, for example, art (English landscapes of Turner and Constanble), photography (American Ansel Adams) literature (the idealised pastoral scene or bucolic in art, music and literature for example  English poet Milton, William Wordsworth; an early form is the Aboriginal dreamtime stories; William Gilpin’s Observations on the River Wye was published in 1770, the idea of the picturesque began to influence artists and viewers and British romanticism), architecture (The term landscape architecture was invented by Gilbert Laing Meason in 1828 and was first used as a professional title by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1863) , and gardening (Italian influences of an arcadia – The English garden (and later French landscape garden) presented an idealized view of nature.- The work of Lancelot “Capability” Brown and Humphry Repton and in the Cowpastures, JC Laudon)  These views of landscape are culturally derived and depend of the interpretation of the viewer, which is the essence of landscape and its contribution to the sense of place.

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

Karskins (Karskins:242)  has presented seven principles of interpretation that she maintains were used by the early colonists of Sydney towards to new environment they took possession of the land in 1788. All are evident in the diaries and accounted of the Cowpastures by a host of Europeans who travelled through the area. They are:

  1. Utilitarian – the economic benefit – the protection of the cows and the herd
  2. Picturesque – the presentation of the Cowpastures as a result of the burning of the environment by the Aborigines –fire stick farming – the reports of the area being a little England from the 1820s – Hawdon
  3. Regulatory – banning of movement into the Cowpastures to protect the cows
  4. Political and philosophical – evils of the governors and transportation were the true corruptors of the countryside
  5. Natural history – collecting specimens and describing fauna and flora – Darwin’s visit to Sydney – the curiosity of the early officers
  6. ‘New natures’ – the environmental impact of flooding along the Nepean River and clear felling of trees across the countryside
  7. Emotional response – how the Europeans visor ally  experienced the countryside – sights, smells, hearing, – and its expression in words and pictures

How these were used in reports and diaries depended often on the audience in England or France for the written work. Often the reports were used to promote a book and sometimes a set of paintings or sketches. Sometimes there were just personal comments in a diary, or reports were the basis of a book to published in England on the persons return home from Sydney.

The reports of the Cowpastures in the colonial period by a host of naval officers, military personal and surveyors have elements of the all these views of the landscape.

Anyone interested in exploring some of the aspects of these types of interpretation see other posts on this blog that mention:

1. the Cowpastures declaration  in  1795

2 the journeys of Governor Lachlan Macquarie  in 1810 , 1815, or 1820

3. the views of immigrant John Hawdon in 1828

Read some of the stories in the Pictorial History of Camden and District (2015)

Read more @

Towns, urbanites and aesthetics

Yearning Longing and the Remaking of Camden’s Identity

Camden · Cowpastures · Macarthur · Sydney's rural-urban fringe

Making Camden History

View of the farm of J. Hassel [Hassall] Esqr. Cow Pastures, New South Wales by Augustus Earle, c. 1825. State Library of NSW PXD 265, f. 2
View of the farm of J. Hassel [Hassall] Esqr. Cow Pastures, New South Wales by Augustus Earle, c. 1825. State Library of NSW PXD 265, f. 2

Making Camden History

A brief historiography of the local area

The story of the construction of the history of the Camden area.
There are many versions and they are all correct. They all put their own spin on the way they want to tell the Camden story. Some good, some indifferent, some just plain awful

(Facebook, 23 November 2015. https://www.facebook.com/Camden-History-Notes-1433284970226274/)

Tourist history of Camden

The official story of the township as told to tourists is shared in the brochure for an historic walk around the Camden town centre published by Camden Council.  It is reflective of the pioneer legend that has pervaded the Camden story and the legitimising narrative that is part of the nation building story of a settler society.  In many ways it hides as much as it reveals. It states:

The historic town of Camden, less than an hours drive south-west of Sydney, is the cultural heart of a region that enjoys a unique place in our nation’s history.

The earliest developments of the Australian wool, wheat and wine industries are associated with the town following the original land grant from Lord Camden to John Macarthur in 1805.

The town is home to a large number of heritage listed attractions that reflect its strong links with the history of colonial settlement in Australia. Camden is rich in rural heritage with live stock sale yards, vineyards, Equestrian Park and dairy facilities.

The township reveals in its built heritage an interesting and varied range of architectural styles that reflect the town’s evolution from the earliest days of European settlement through to the modern era.

The walking tour brochure portrays Camden’s rich historical and cultural legacy and affords a valuable opportunity to both visitors and the local community to experience the town’s unique character and charm and appreciate some of its history first hand.

(Camden Heritage Walking Tour Brochure)

A similar heritage walking brochure exists for Narellan area, which tells the story of European settlement of a planned government village that pre-dates Camden. Here there is also a silence on many aspects of the past that are yet to be revealed to readers.

This short historiography  is one of the few that has been attempted to illustrate the construction of the history of a rural community. One that has been recently published is included in the history of the gold-mining community of Linton in Victoria  (2015). The author, Jill Wheeler, examines the broad range of influences that shaped the writing of that community’s history.

Camden Walking Brochure

This paper should be read in conjunction with the Camden Bibliography, which is list of published and other sources on the Camden District. It was my first attempt at compiling an authoritative list of sources on the local area and it has been pleasing to note that a host of researchers have found it to be a useful start.

This construction of the story of Camden history can be divided into a number of identifiable stages. Each stage reflects the values and attitudes of those who created the writing of the period, and the social and cultural filters that shaped their version of the story.

The Cowpastures frontier

From the beginning of European settlement in Australia curiosity drew those with an interest in wider issues to the local area. The first expeditionaries were naval and military officers who were trained to observe the landform and surroundings and record the detail in their logs and diaries.  While providing a detailed account of their journeys they also recorded their observations and contact with Indigenous people. They recorded their observations of a managed landscape that was regularly burnt by the local Indigenous people. Prominent amongst these were Englishmen Watkin Tench (1790), Governor John Hunter (1795), David Collins (1795), George Bass (1796) and Lachlan Macquarie (1810, 1815, 1820), and Frenchmen Francis Louis Barrallier (1802) and Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1826).

Then there are the letters of settlers like John Hawdon of Elderslie in the 1820s who wrote back to England of his experiences in the Cowpastures and dealing with ‘the government men’. [convicts]

Amongst other writings of there are the reminiscences of Barron Field (1825), Thomas Mitchell (1836) and William Pridden (1843), while there are the journals of colonial women such as those of Annabella Boswell (1848).

Naming landform features gave the new arrivals a legitimacy of possession. For example on Governor King’s excursion to the area he named the locality the Cowpastures because of the escaped cattle.

Central Camden c1930s (Camden Images)
Central Camden c1930s (Camden Images)

Villages and beyond

The earliest records of settlement in the Cowpastures describe the conditions in the villages that were scattered across the area – Cawdor, Cobbitty, Elderslie, Narellan and then later Camden (1840)

The earliest accounts of Camden village its planning, its establishment and development are carried in the Sydney newspapers – particularly The Sydney Morning Herald. During the 1840s the Camden Clerk of Petty Sessions Charles Tompson was a regular correspondent to the newspaper.

Even by the 1880s the changing nature of the Camden village and the district prompted a nostalgia for the pioneering days of the early colonial period. The Camden Times and Camden News printed reminiscences of the town and district of JB Martin in the early 1880s and 1890s and RH Antill in the late 1890s, Richard Todd (1895 and 1896) as well as the stories from Obed West  in the 1884 and 1885 in The Sydney Morning Herald.  These stressed the progress and development of the town. Martin, the Camden Clerk of Petty Sessions for a period,  made the point in his 1883 (Camden Times) reminiscences that the history of several English counties had been written by local history associations and he felt that a similar venture was worthwhile in the Camden district.

Further reminiscences were  Thomas Herbert (1909) in the  Town and Country Journal and Samuel Hassall’s  (1902) In Old Australia and there are the unpublished reminiscences of Camden businessman Samuel Thompson (1905).

Wartime writing

The Boer War, then the First and later the Second World Wars provide a period of reflection for local folk who are away soldiering in foreign lands. They are amongst the first to write about the Camden District as home in nostalgic terms from far away places where they are under traumatic conditions.

These letters were published in the Camden News and during the Second World War the Camden Advertiser. Some have found their way into recent publications particularly on the centenary of the First World War.

John Kerry's view of St Johns Church in 1890s (Camden Images)
John Kerry’s view of St Johns Church in 1890s (Camden Images)

Camden Aesthetic

An important theme in the Camden story is the development of a Camden aesthetic based on romantic notions surrounding the colonial properties of the landed gentry and the landscapes that were created by the Cowpasture patriarchs.

 

This first appeared in Andrew Garran’s highly successful Picturesque Atlas of Australasia  (1886) and portrayed an idyllic English village at Camden surrounded by an ordered farming landscape. The engraving was accompanied by GB Barton’s account of the exploits of John Macarthur and the foundation of the colonial wool industry. This was a narrative that evolved into a local and national mythology and was further advanced by Sibella Macarthur Onslow’s Some Early Records of The Macarthurs of Camden (1914), a collection of family papers.

1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp
1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp

The legend of John Macarthur gained further momentum in the 1930s on the centenary of John Macarthur’s death in 1934 when Australia was in search of national heroes. He was the subject of stories in Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (1929) and biographies. His image appeared on a series of postage stamps and later on the new decimal currency in the 1960s. His character was the subject of a novel (1941) and a new Federal electorate of Macarthur (1949) was named after him.  In 1960 the Camden community held a four-day celebration of the legend of the John Macarthur and 150th anniversary of wool production in Australia called the Festival of the Golden Fleece (22-30 October).

 

The early 20th century also witnessed  a shift in history writing identified by Graeme Davison from ‘pioneer’ to ‘patriarchal’ history writing and the development of the Camden aesthetic was part of that agenda.

 

There was William Hardy Wilson’s The Cow Pasture Road (1920) and Ure Smith’s water colours and etchings in his Old Colonial By Ways (1928). Whimsical descriptions of Camden’s Englishness were published in Eldrid Dyer’s  ‘Camden, The Charm of an Old Town’ (1926) and articles in The Sydney Morning Herald like ‘The Beauty of Age’ (1934).

 

The journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society published articles on the Camden District.  The  first appeared and in  1928 on the Cowpastures, Cawdor and Cobbitty, which were followed by the Burragorang Valley (1934), Camden (1935), Narellan (1936), and the Cowpastures again in 1939.

 

Newcastle based journalist JJ Moloney, a former Menangle resident, published his reminiscences of Early Menangle in 1929.   In Camden two local journalists, George Sidman and Arthur Gibson, each separately marked the golden jubilee of the foundation of the Municipality of Camden (1889). Sidman, owner of the Camden News, published the memoirs of J. B. Martin in a series of newspaper columns. While Gibson, owner of the Camden Advertiser, commissioned James Jervis from the RAHS to write The Story of Camden.

 

The end of the Second World War created an air of confidence in the Camden District, which by this stage was prospering from the wealth created by the Burragorang Valley coalfields. In 1948 the  newly formed Rotary Club and Camden Community Centre commissioned the University of Sydney to conduct a sociological survey of the town to provide a foundation for ‘future development’. This was followed up in 1952 by an American sociologist from the University of Kansas  City, ML ‘Jack’ Mason and his wife Elizabeth ‘Beth’. They surveyed the town and established that there was a five-tier social structure, which had its origins in the colonial period and the Cowpasture patriarchs. Both studies were suppressed from public gaze by vested interests until recent times.

Memorials of loss

As historians Graeme Davison and Gail Griffiths have noted loss of local icons and ‘loved places’ creates a deep sense of insecurity and a desire by some for the ‘good old days’.  The grieving process was triggered in the Camden District community from the loss of Burragorang Valley, after the state government decided to build a dam in the 1930s. In the early 1960s the New South Wales Government closed the Campbelltown to Camden rail link as part of a state-wide rationalisation process.

WW1 Memorial Gates at Macarthur Park (Camden Remembers)
WW1 Memorial Gates at Macarthur Park (Camden Remembers)

There were five seminal events during this period, firstly, in 1957 the number of teachers from the newly established Camden High School formed the Camden Historical Society and held lectures, conducted field trips and outings.

 

Secondly there was the erection of civic monuments celebrating the Burragorang Valley. The first monument, erected in 1962, was the Camden Rotary mural at the southern entrance to the town. The mural has designs celebrating Indigenous culture as well as the area’s farming and mining heritage. The stone for the wall came from the St Paulinos Catholic Church in ‘the Valley’.

 

Thirdly, a wagon wheel was erected by the Camden Historical Society outside the council chambers in 1977 to celebrate the teamsters who brought silver ore from Yerranderie through ‘the Valley’ to the Camden railhead. A heavy horse-drawn farm wagon was located outside the council chambers in 1978 to  memorialise  farmer workers and the horse. Each of these monuments recalled the values of the frontier; tenacity, stoicism, ruggedness, individualism, adaptability and Britishness. An 1899 water trough was added to these civic monuments in 1979 celebrating the town’s modernity when the town was connected to reticulated water; a sign of progress and development.

Camden Library Museum in John Street Camden
Camden Library Museum in John Street Camden

In 1970 the Camden Historical Society opened a folk museum in a room in the old council chambers encouraged by the RAHS. The museum used  simple displays of local ephemera, artefacts and other collectables supplemented with rudimentary signage to tell the Camden story.

 

The memorials of loss across the district extended to the numerous war memorials scattered throughout the Camden District that mourned the loss of men who never came home after the Great War. These monuments were added to after the Second World War and in recent times with the centenary of the First World War, and have shaped and re-shaped the Camden story in ways that are still hard to identify. Their meaning is a statement of collective memory that is expressed in April and November every year by local communities.

 

Elsewhere in the district The Oaks Historical Society was formed up in 1979. It has contributed much material to the story telling of the western part of the Camden District, particularly the Burragorang Valley and the silver mining fields of Yerranderie.

The rural-urban fringe and other threats

The role of loss in the Camden story acquired new meaning after 1973 when there was an identifiable shift in the interpretation and representation of ruralness in Camden. The release in 1973 of the ‘Three Cities Plan’ as part of the 1968 Sydney Regional Outline Plan triggered a wave of invaders from the city. Urban planners envisaged three regional centres on Sydney’s outskirts at Camden, Campbelltown and Appin with the ambitious idea of stopping the city’s urban sprawl.

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These events strengthened the role of the Camden aesthetic. There was the re-making of place centred on the  decline of the country town of Camden as the hub of a thriving rural economy to an idealised country town, a country town of the imagination.

 

Romantic representations of Camden’s rurality, especially St John’s church, became an important part of the contemporary consciousness. They found their way into official council policy, and been used in literature, publications, tourist and business promotions, websites, artwork, music, museum displays  and a host of other places. In 1999  Camden Council’s strategic plan Camden 2025 adopted the language and imagery of Camden’s rurality when it outlined ‘the traditional qualities of a rural lifestyle’, ‘the historic nature’ of the area and  the ‘unique rural landscapes and vistas’ in a country town atmosphere.

 

There was also the influence of the  national bicentennial celebrations in 1988 and the publication in the same year of  Alan Atkinson’s Camden, Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales (1988) which examined the early decades of the township. The dust jacket used a romantic watercolour (1850s) attributed to Emily Macarthur which looks ‘across Camden Park to the north-west, with St John’s Church  and the distant Blue Mountains closing the view’, with the Nepean River flowing across the vista, similar to the 1886 Garran engraving.

 

This period also the emergence of the local histories of the area written by keen amateurs with the most notable example being John Wrigley, who has put together several publications the first published in 1980 called A History of Camden.  The Camden Historical Society started a small journal in 2001 called Camden History, which the society continues to successfully published specialist local histories for a local audience.

 

The 21st century saw the evolution in the Camden story to a new generation of writers, most notable amongst them was this author. My work started with a local wartime study of a women’s voluntary organisation and has extended across a range of local themes  including the rural-urban fringe, urban history, place, identity, philanthropy, the wartime homefront and local government. Most recently I have told the Camden story in a publication of a pictorial history of the district.

Read more @ Camden Bibliography