Attachment to place · British colonialism · Colonial Camden · Colonialism · community identity · Convicts · Cowpastures · Elderslie · England · Farming · Governor Macquarie · Heritage · Historical consciousness · history · Landscape aesthetics · Local History · Place making · sense of place · Settler colonialism · Victorian

The Cowpastures Project

The Cowpastures project is a community based collaborative research enterprise which is co-ordinated by UOW historian Dr Ian Willis.

 

Presentation The Cowpastures 2017Oct3

 

It is a long term venture which aims to reveal the intricacies of the Cowpastures district from 1795 to 1850.

The Dharawal people occupied the area for centuries.

 

Sydney1790_Aborgines in Port Jackson
Sydney 1790 Aborigines in Port Jackson (SLNSW)

 

The district was part of the Australian colonial settler society project driven by British colonialism.

There was the creation of the government reserve for the wild cattle between 1795 and 1823. After this period the Cowpastures became a regional locality that was in common usage well into the 19th century.

 

1824-view-of-cowpastures-joseph-lycett
View upon the Nepean River, at the Cow Pastures New South Wales 1824-1825 Joseph Lycett (SLNSW)

 

The British aimed the create an English-style landscape from their arrival in the area from 1790s. The earliest written acknowledgement of this by Englishman John Hawdon in 1828.

 

1932_SMH_CowpastureCattle_map
Map of the Cowpastures government reserve (SMH 13 August 1932)

 

I have published some material and there are a number of blog posts related to the project.

Learn more 

Camden Cowpastures Bicentenary Celebrations  (Blog)

‘Just like England’, a colonial settler landscape  (Peer-reviewed article)

Cowpastures and Beyond: Conference 2016  (Camden Area Family History Society)

Convicts in the Cowpastures (B;pg)

Governor Macquarie in the Cowpastures 1810 (Blog)

Governor Macquarie returns to the Cowpastures 1820 (Blog)

Mummel and a Cowpastures Patriarch (Blog)

The Cowpastures, just like a English landscape (Presentation)

The Cowpasture, just like an English landscape (Slideshare)

Viewing the landscape of the Cowpastures (Blog)

John Hawdon of Elderslie (Blog)

John Hawdon of Elderslie English Origins (Blog)

The Cowpastures at the Campbelltown Arts Centre (2017) (Exhibition)

The Came by Boat Exhibition Campbelltown Arts Centre (Exhibition Review, 2017)

John Macarthur the legend (Blog)

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Colonialism · Governor Macquarie · Sydney

An overlooked city space of monumental importance

One of Sydney city’s hidden places is Macquarie Place, just off Bridge Street.  Tucked in between Loftus Street and Pitt Streets It is a little bit of green. Rather dull hidden from direct sunlight. A little bit tired, a little bit at heel amongst the skyscrapers and traffic congestion. A space in the city for todays world of financial gurus, hotshots and lawyers.

 

Macq Place c1926 SLNSW
Macquarie Place with Obelisk c1926 (SLNSW)

 

Macquarie Place Park is triangular shaped space that has seen the city change around over the 200 years. Once upon a time it was an open space in the elegant part of town for the colonial elite next to the Governor’s House precinct, on the high ground above the Tanks Stream.

The New South Wales State Heritage Inventory states

 Macquarie Place was the first formally laid out public space in Sydney and thus in Australia. Governor Macquarie was responsible for its formal layout, befitting its important situation at the centre of the colony. The park and the memorials standing in this park outline the development of Sydney since its foundation.

On the harbour side of the park The City of Sydney states that some of Sydney’s prominent early colonial businessmen held leases. They included  Simeon Lord, Thomas Randall, William Chapman, Andrew Thompson and Thomas and Mary Reibey.

The park was formalised when the sandstone obelisk designed by Francis Greenway was erected in 1818.  It was to mark Sydney’s first public square and the place from which all roads in New South Wales were to be measured.

The construction of Circular Quay between 1839 and 1847 saw an extension of a number of streets and took up a portion of the park. The reserve was enlarged in the 1970s when Macquarie Place (street) was closed and incorporated into the park.

Over the years its position at the centre of its world change. Government House was moved up to Macquarie Street and by the end of the Victorian period Macquarie Place was surrounded by the world of government administration and commercial offices of shipping merchants and shipping agents.

In the eyes of many the fate of Macquarie Place is representative of the changing faces of the city, from a working maritime harbour to part of the 24/7 global financial network which never turns off. The wheeling and dealing of today’s financial houses are reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century which shaped the future imperial London and the British Empire and appeared around the park in the late 19th century.

Macquarie Place has always had a global feel from those who passed through in the past in the Victorian and early colonial period and the international financial hotshots and hipsters of the present. It has been a transient place for those who occupied it and the current batch of latte sipping dealmakers are no different. The space is a site of both continuity and change.

The space was fill with monuments to the commercial pioneers (Mort) and relics from the seafaring age (Sirius anchor) and the symbols of power of colonial administrators. Macquarie Place monuments represent the changing period of the usage of the city and the world.

In 1907 the anchor and canon from the HMS Sirius (1780-1790) were place in Macquarie Place. HMS Sirius was one of the naval escorts of the First Fleet out to the founding of the New South Wales colony in 1788. The anchor was brought to Sydney after HMS Sirius was wrecked at Norfolk Island in 1790. The HMS Sirius was built in 1780-1781 as an Eastern Indian trader and named Berwick of 510 tons. It was purchased by the British Admiralty as a store ship in 1781 and renamed HMS Sirius in 1786. It was armed with 10 canons, carried 160 men and could do 10 knots with a strong wind.

There is the bronze statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. The dedication on the  plinth:

 A pioneer of Australian resources, a founder of Australian industries, one who established our wool market.

Mort (1816-1878) arrived in Sydney in 1838 with his parents. He was a successful and flamboyant Sydney businessman, auctioneer, mine owner, pastoralist, manufacturer, horticulturalist and churchman. He lived at Darling Point where he was a keen gardener.

 

Unveiling Thomas Mort Statue 1887 (Wikimedia)
Unveiling Thomas Mort Statue 1887 (Wikimedia)

 

There is also the 1908 domed toilet building with Edwardian Art Nouveau ironwork, and an 1857 cast iron drinking fountain.

The beginning of the Remembrance Driveway from Sydney to Canberra is marked by two plane trees planted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.

The New South Wales State Heritage Inventory states:

Macquarie Place is now the oldest town square in Australia. Together with Hyde Park, it is also the oldest urban park in Australia and has been in continuous operation as a public space for at least 195 years.

 

What the park does do is provide a breath of fresh air between the city towers that now enclose it. Today Macquarie Place  is a world of cafes which are frequented by Sydney’s financial gurus who determine the future of Australia. The Victorian edifices to colonial administration are silent awaiting the wishes of latest rent seeking developers.

Read more about Macquarie Place at

City of Sydney

NSW State Heritage Inventory

Anne Marie Whitaker, ‘Macquarie Place’, Dictionary of Sydney

Attachment to place · cafes · Campbelltown · Colonialism · community identity · Farming · festivals · First World War · Governor Macquarie · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Interwar · Local History · Macarthur · Monuments · myths · Newspapers · Place making · Second World War · sense of place · Theatre · war

Local historian takes a fresh look at the Campbelltown story

Review: Pictorial History Campbelltown & District. By Jeff McGill. Sydney: Kingsclear Books, 2017. Pp. iv + 139. Illustrations, index, select bibliography, paper. 978-0-99444456-2-9.

Pictorial History Campbelltown and District sets out to break the stereotypes that have plagued Campbelltown for decades. Local author and photographer Jeff McGill illustrates in his new publication how the city is mulit-dimensional and has many facets to its character.

The book is a fresh look at a community through local eyes and shows the community’s vibrancy, enthusiasm and strength. It illustrates how the community has endured many challenges from the dreamtime to the present.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History McGill 2017 Cover

 

McGill’s use of images peels back the layers of meaning and reveals the heart of the city. Photographs demonstrate the dynamic nature of the community and how it has changed over time.

Historical photographs are a window into the past and provide a form of expression materially different from the written or oral record. Photographs are accessible and immediate to the viewer. They are unfiltered and provide a meaning to the setting of the subject.

Historical photographs show an immense amount of detail and are an archive of meaning about the past. Quite often the viewer feels that they are intruding on a private event or function.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[2] McGill Launch 2017
Author Jeff McGill signing copies of his book standing next to the publisher Catherine Warne from Kingsclear Books at the Glenalvon launch of Pictorial History Campbelltown & District on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

While photographic images capture a moment in time they also have deeper meanings. Just like the writer the photographer is trying to say something in their formatting, structure and composition of the image.  What is the message that the photographer is trying to the tell the viewer?

Sometimes the photograph poses a host of other questions. Why is the street not paved? Why is the women’s dress that long? Why are people wearing those funny clothes? Why are there cows in the paddock? Why are their no electricity poles?  These are all part of the composition of the photographs in this pictorial history.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[2] McGill 2017
Campbelltown Railway Station which opened in 1858. What is little understood is the  importance of the rail link to people living in the Illawarra until the opening of Wollongong Railway Station in 1887. There was a daily coach service running between the station and Wollongong which still persists today. (CAHS)

Jeff McGill provides a  perspective of the lived local experience of Campbelltonian and a journalist’s nose for a good story. McGill has published a number of local histories that show the hand of someone who understands the nuances of small communities.

After growing up in Campbelltown, going to school in the city McGill worked for the large metropolitan dailies. He then returned to Campbelltown so he could write stories about interesting people rather than those based on hard bitten sensationalist attitude to journalism in the big smoke.

It is this attitude that shone when the Macarthur Advertiser, under McGill’s editorship,  took out two national awards for the best local newspaper in Australia. He has been praised for being a passionate Campbelltonian and it shows in  Pictorial History Campbelltown & District.

The images that McGill has chosen for the book show the same characteristics that are part of successful journalism in the provincial press. Each image tells a story about local characters and identities and capture a snapshot of a time long past.  McGill’s deft eye for composition and impact as a photographer is clearly demonstrated in his layout work in the book.

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill 2017
A procession in Queen Street in 1910 was organised by the local Waratah and Wallaby Football Club.  (CAHS)
The images are drawn from a range of archives – Campbelltown City Library, the Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society, many private collections, individual photographers and the author. Many of these images are not accessible to the general public in any form and this publication breaks ground in this area.  The book is complemented by a select bibliography and index.

Some of the images  show important events which had repercussions on the national stage  like the election of the Whitlam government (p. 123),  and the First (pp. 54-61) and Second World Wars (pp. 81-87).

The Pictorial History Campbelltown & District provides a new perspective on the history of Campbelltown from earlier histories.  Carol Liston’s Campbelltown The Bicentennial History and William A Bayley’s History of Campbelltown New South Wales are narrative histories of the city and surrounding suburbs. Bayley’s history was published at the time of one of the greatest changes in the history of Campbelltown. In 1973 the state government the announcement of The New Cities of Campbelltown Camden Appin Structure Plan and the establishment of the Macarthur Growth Centre. Liston’s history was published during the nationalist frenzy linked to the Australian Bicentenary Celebrations of 1988.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[3] McGill Launch 2017
Author and photographer Jeff McGill showing off his latest publication at the Glenalvon launch on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

More that just a narrative Pictorial History Campbelltown & District is an entry point to the daily lives of those living in Campbelltown. The images are accompanied by a lively story about the characters and events from Campbelltown’s past.

The city has not always received a good press in the Sydney metropolitan dailies and this publication challenges these stereotypes. This collection of images provides a human side to the local story about real people with real lives who create a vibrant  community.

The Campbelltown community has many community organisations that are the basis of the city’s resilience and one of these is the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society which contributed a number of images to the book. The society also provided the venue for the book launch in the wonderful atmospherics provided by Campbelltown’s historic house Glenalvon.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill Launch Hayes 2017
Past president of the Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society introducing proceedings at the Glenalvon launch of Pictorial History Campbelltown & District on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

The gathering was introduced by past president Kay Hayes, followed by publisher Catherine Warne from Kingsclear Books. Catherine outlined the history of her firm over  30 years of publishing. She said that Campbelltown pictorial history was one of the last pieces of the jigsaw of the Sydney area for her firm. She had been trying to complete her coverage of the metropolitan area for many years and this book was the first time that she has had an author take over the design work.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill Launch Warne 2017
Publisher Catherine Warne from Kingsclear Books introducing author Jeff McGill’s Pictorial History Campbelltown & District at the Glenalvon launch on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

Jeff McGill then spoke about the gestation of the book, its development and fruition with the support of many people and organisations. Jeff outlined how there were lots of images that were considered for the book and a culling process narrowed down the selection. The chosen were those which told a story or provided the greatest meaning to the Campbelltown story.

McGill made the point that quite a number of the images came from family photograph albums that he had been given access to over many years. This was  the first time that they have been published. Jeff would visit local families be given afternoon tea and he would copy the images from the family album.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill Launch 2017
Raconteur, author and photographer Jeff McGill on the launch of his Pictorial History Campbelltown & District at Glenalvon on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

Jeff McGill’s Pictorial History Campbelltown & District  provides a human side to the local story about real people with real lives who create a vibrant and wonderful community. The city has broken free of many of its stereotypes and ghosts, yet it still continues to face many challenges with a positive outlook to the future.

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 · Entertainment · Farming · Governor Macquarie · history · Leisure · Modernism · Place making · sense of place · Sydney · Uncategorized

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens

The Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens are some of the most important open spaces and parkland in Australia’s urban places. The 29 hectares of gardens are surrounded by 51 hectares of parkland including the Sydney Domain. The gardens are traditionally divided into 4 sections the Middle Garden, the Upper Garden, the Lower Garden and the Garden Palace Grounds. They were officially recognised as a botanic gardens in 1816 and while it only became the ‘Royal’ in 1959. The site is one of the world’s oldest colonial botanic gardens and one of the most important botanical sites in the Southern Hemisphere (only Rio de Janeiro is older). The area attracts around 4 million visitors a year.

Sydney Botanic Gardens 1934 Sam Hood SLNSW
Sydney Botanic Gardens 1934 Sam Hood SLNSW

The Dictionary of Sydney states that the gardens reflects:

the changing styles of ‘public gardens’ – from the utilitarian beds that provided the necessities of life in the early years, to the emerging styles associated with new ideas about landscape gardening for visual effect, to the overwrought overkill of Victoriana, with statues, urns, terraces, ponds, plinths and obelisks at every turn, through to the contemporary acceptance of the validity of ‘native’ flora as a legitimate focus in a public garden.

The Botanic Gardens were the site of the first government farm in the colony of New South Wales in 1788 (Middle Garden) and called the Governor’s Farm in 1792. Governor Phillip ordered the cultivation of 20 acres in 1788 and the area was part of Governor Phillip’s private reserve. The original farm furrows are evident in the alignment of the longitudinal beds of shrubs. The Governor’s Domain was one of the first pleasure grounds in the colony established in 1792 by Governor Phillip.

Governor Phillips Private Reserve (Domain) 1816 C Cartwright SLNSW
Governor Phillips Private Reserve (Domain) 1816 C Cartwright SLNSW

There were some private land grants on the eastern side of Farm Cove (1800-1807) which were resumed under Governor Bligh when carriage roads were built around Bennelong Point and Farm Cove in 1807. The main botanic farm function was transferred to Rose Hill at this time under Governor King. The Royal Botanic Gardens Trust states that in 1810

The new Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, terminate[d] leases and embarks on wall and fence building to re-establish the Domain as the Governor’s private parkland. His walls and rules [were] flouted.

The gardens link the oldest surviving group of Governor Macquarie period buildings in Australia along Macquarie Street (1810). There is also Governor Macquarie’s landscaping of the Domain with a gate and sandstone wall. The wall now separates the Lower and Middle Garden, was used to protect the garden from the harbour and built between 1812 and 1816. In Governor Macquarie’s time (1816) Mrs Macquarie Road was completed around the Domain to Mrs Macquarie Point.

The work of the gardens illustrates the associations with 18th century European scientific world of Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Hooker and others. The gardens are Australia’s oldest scientific institution (1816) for botany and horticulture. In 1821 Superintendent Charles Fraser, a botanist, was appointed to develop the gardens along scientific grounds for the first time. Fraser accompanied John Oxley on his inland journeys and brought back plant specimens.

In 1825 Governor Brisbane extended the garden west of Farm Cove for an experimental garden to acclimatise Australian plants for export and imported plants. Colonists were interested in ‘exotics’ and brought many of them with them and were added to the garden plant collection. In 1829 grape vines were planted that became important in the foundation of the Australian wine industry.

In 1831 Governor Bourke opened the roads and paths for general access despite conservative opposition.

 

Path through Sydney Botanic Gardens 2015 IWillis
Path through Sydney Botanic Gardens 2015 IWillis

By the 1850s military, sporting and ceremonial events became common in the Domain. The area was the home of first class cricket in New South Wales from 1857 to 1871 and the first interstate match was held in the Domain in 1851 when NSW defeats Victoria. There were the first swimming championships in 1846 and a gymnasium (public playground).

All England Cricket Match Freeman Bros 1862 SLNSW
All England Cricket Match Freeman Bros 1862 SLNSW

In 1837 construction commenced for the new government house in the northern section of the Domain. It was completed in 1845. The area was the site of the Australia’s first zoo, an aviary in 1860 which was expanded into a larger facility with a monkey house in 1880. Eventually the zoo was relocated to Moore Park in 1883.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music (former Government House Stables c1816) 2015 IWillis
Sydney Conservatorium of Music (former Government House Stables c1816) 2015 IWillis

The Domain and gardens were the site of the 1878 International Exhibition and the Garden Palace (1879) which burnt down is spectacular fire in 1882, was the first exhibition in Australia featuring arts and industrial displays. The Garden Palace was located between the Conservatorium of Music (formerly the Government House Stables) and Macquarie Street. The site is the highest point in the garden and was originally surrounded by a paling fence for grazing the governor’s stock. The Central Depot in the gardens were the kitchen gardens for government house (Bridge Street, then Macquarie Street) from 1813 to 1870 and still has a rare glasshouse.

Tarpeian Way Sydney Botanic Garden 2015 IWillis
Tarpeian Way Sydney Botanic Garden 2015 IWillis

The sandstone wall adjacent to the Opera House with stone steps and iron railing is the northern boundary of the garden. The cliff wall was built in 1880 enabled the extension of Macquarie Street and is known as the Tarpeian Way. It provides a dramatic backdrop to the Opera House forecourt and gets its name from the famous rock on Capitoline Hill in Rome where prisoners were hurled to the deaths in ancient times. What are now the Opera House iron gates, were originally the Governor’s private gates, and built in 1870.

The Lower Garden was reclaimed from Farm Cove between 1848 and 1879 when the seawall was constructed with stone from the old government house in Bridge Street. This work extended the garden’s pleasure grounds with curving pleasure walks and plantings.

Port Jackson and view of Botatical Garden 1803 JW Lancashire SLNSW
Port Jackson and view of Botatical Garden 1803 JW Lancashire SLNSW

In the Domain the Hospital Road gate lodge and gate were built around 1865 and the Victorian gate lodge house was built on the eastern side of the garden. The Victorian herbarium building was constructed in 1899 and adapted as the visitor centre in 1982.

The Domain was quite extensive at one stage and successive governments have taken bits of it for various cultural institutions – Art Gallery of New South Wales (1885+), the State Library of NSW (1910+), Government House (1836+), Opera House (1966+), and Conservatorium of Music (formerly Government House Stables, 1816 and CoM, 1916+) – and oil tanks for the Navy in WW2.

The Domain has been a site of decent by the Sydney populace and the Dictionary of Sydney states:

The Domain has also had an important history as a ‘soap box’ arena, like London’s Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. ‘Soapbox Sunday’ may well go back into the late nineteenth century: in 1878, Baptist pastor Allen is reported to have gone there to speak on Irish Home Rule, after a riot in nearby Hyde Park.
The Domain has been the site of free opera events as part of the Sydney Festival since 1982.

The gardens and domain have suffered under the influence of modernism. In the 1920s the site was dug up using a cut and cover construction method to build the City Loop of the underground railway on the western side of the Domain. In 1956 the City of Sydney took the western side of the Domain and constructed a car park with the loss of 47 rare trees. The influence of the car again played out with the construction of the Cahill Expressway between 1958 and the 1960s and resulted in the loss of the Fig Tree Avenue planted in 1847, and the division of the gardens and the domain areas.

In 1978 the administration of the gardens and Domain were transferred from the Department of Agriculture (from 1908) to the Premier’s Department. In 1980 the state government passed the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust Act to secure the extent of the grounds and administration of Centennial Park administration became autonomous. The Friends of the Botanic Garden were established in 1982.

The Calyx Signage 2016 IWillis
The Calyx Signage 2016 IWillis

Development of the gardens and Domain occurred in 1970 and 1971 with the construction of The Pyramid as a tropical glasshouse, two annexes were established in 1988 at Mount Annan (native plantings) and Mount Tomah (cool-climate plantings), and in 2016 in the Upper Garden the new Calyx replaced the demolished Pyramid as the tropical plant centre.

The Calyx 2016 IWillis
The Calyx 2016 IWillis

To read more go to the website of the The Royal Botanic Gardens and read about the history and heritage of the gardens at the State Heritage Inventory. The Dictionary of Sydney has some interesting stories about the Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain is one of the most popular spots for the Sydney Festival.

Appin · Campbelltown · Colonial Camden · Governor Macquarie · Heritage · Local History · Settler colonialism · Sydney's rural-urban fringe

On the edge, settler colonialism on the Cumberland Plain

Baragil Lagoon Menangle (I Willis)
Baragil Lagoon Menangle (I Willis)

Walking the Cowpastures and beyond

A personal reflection of a visit to Baragil Lagoon at Menangle and the  ground that Governor Macquarie walked on in 1810.

The historian is advised to walk the ground of their studies and subject matter. When it happens it can be a real eye-opener. It challenged my view of these colonial stories and myths when I visited Baragil Lagoon in 2015 (see Blog post).

The visit to the locality was organised by John and Edwina Stanham to EMAI and Baragil Lagoon for the Camden Park Nursery Group.

I was touched in 2015 by visiting the spot where Governor Macquarie camped above Baragil Lagoon. The camp site is very similar to 1810 on Macquarie’s visit and how he would have found the site.

Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)
Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)

The site is quite scenic. It is open Cumberland Woodland with broken dappled light coming through the tree canopy and bird calls in the background. The site is largely undisturbed and is as described in Macquarie’s journal (see blog). If you shut your eyes you could imagine the scene in 1810 with similar sounds, smells and sensations.

As a I visitor was ‘walking on hallowed ground’ where the mighty and famous had gone before. There was ‘a spiritual experience and awakening’ to what others have written about before on these matters. The experience could be best described with words like ‘challenging’, ‘interesting’, and ‘enlightening’.

So what is the point of this pontificating?

It set me off of on a journey involving my curiosity. It prompted me to ask questions about the colonial period on the Cowpastures and its meaning.

But how to enter the colonial world of the settlers and re-examine the stories and narratives that I had been brought up with.

One attempt at this has been Stokes work. She has attempted to examine the historical and archaeological evidence and looked at the pre-colonial movements of the Dharawal people in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions. She maintains that:

Spatial mapping of these historical observations is informative in its own right. Spatially formatted incorporation of tangible and intangible evidence of associations and connections within Aboriginal communities has been demonstrated to be a particularly valuable and meaningful approach (p4)[1]

Stokes looks further at the concept of cultural landscape, a fundamental concept in the use of heritage in Australia. She states:

Country, for Aboriginal people, is organised and understood by people’s various and particular relationships with, and connections to it. Knowledge of the interrelationship of everything binds environmental, spiritual, aesthetic and economic categories of information and life (Wesson 2005:6). In contrast, European culture, at the time of colonisation at least, divided people, land and activities into discretely bordered classes and categories, organised hierarchically. European knowledge structures also involved separation of information into smaller and smaller parts (Wesson 2005:6) (p12)

She then states that a cultural exchange has shifted this binary view of the world. The

Understanding of plurality of meaning of things underpins both theory and practice in archaeology today (e.g. Hodder above and multivariate methods used later in this thesis). This shift in western thinking, as with all cultural change, is an outcome of exchange. (p12)

Nepean River Cowpastures[1]

Questions and their validity?

This post is interested in the questions around settler colonialism and the opportunity it provides to reflect on the colonialism of the southern Cumberland Plain.

This post is just asking:

Is this an opportunity to pose a number of questions?

Examples might be:

  • Is settler colonialism an appropriate lens to the view the events, myths and perceptions of the colonialism of the Cumberland Plain?
  • Are there new types of colonialism at work on the Cumberland Plain?
  • What has the Appin Massacre got to do with any of this?
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

Colonialism and the popular imagination

So what are we talking about?

There are numerous myths and stories surrounding the colonial period on the southern Cumberland Plain. Some of these are part of the foundational story of the nation.

  1. The cows of the Cowpastures
  2. The Appin Massacre and Governor Macquarie – the Father of Australia
  3. The legend of John Macarthur – the pioneering hero – the great founder of the Australian wool industry
  4. Governor Macquarie and the Cowpastures
  5. John Oxley and Kirkham (later Camelot)
  6. Denbigh and the Galloping Parson Thomas Hassall
  7. John Hawdon of Elderslie
  8. Glenlee
  9. Wivenhoe and Charles Cowper
  10. Studley Park and Payne’s Folly
  11. The legend of Hume and Hovell
  12. The stories of Thomas Mitchell
  13. And many others

Each of these in their own way are worthy of re-examination in the light of the debate around settler colonialism and its methodology.

An even more recent set of events might fit the mould created by settler colonialism with a new form of colonialism with its own stories and myths

1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp
1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp

Global nature of frontiers and settler colonialism

The Cumberland Plain has been subjected to many new frontiers that are global in nature. These frontiers have been based on ideas, culture, social, technology, political, and a host of other areas.

A new idea is born and it creates a new concept. This then spreads out across the globe in a wave like formation.

The wave process challenges the status quo. The new idea might become the dominant narrative or story.

There is the process of making and re-making places, societies, cultures, lifestyles and other activities.

One of these new frontiers has been the movement of people across the globe. Waves of people at various times in the past. They came to colonies of New South Wales to make a new life in a new land.

They came the colonies with the intention of staying  in their new locality. They invaded and took possession of territory. One way of interpreting this is settler colonialism.

Settler colonialism is an area of study looking at the occupation of space and the occupation of land, particularly indigenous territory.

The concept of settler colonialism has been particularly applied to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Canada, while more recently Israel, Algeria and other localities.

Patrick Wolf expressed settler colonialism in terms of race with the binary notion of blackness and whiteness. This certainly applied to the southern Cumberland Plain.

 

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

Sydney’s Cumberland Plain has been the site of place making from late 18th century.

The landform has shaped the human response to the land, and humans have shaped the landform to suit their purposes.

From the later 18th century there have been a number of successive waves of invasion, succession, dispossession and displacement.

Each time a culture has attempted to create the dominant narrative, that is, form their own stories around the landscape.

There has been peace and conflict, hope and loss – all expressed in a binary context – good and evil, moral and immoral, black and white, outsider and insider.

When the colonial frontier arrived it was a movable locality where violence was part of the existence.

From the practice of naming landforms to taking ownership to outright conflict. The aim of the invaders was the possession of territory. They all intended to stay.

On the Cumberland Plain 18th century settlement of New South Wales can be expressed in these terms.

The new European arrivals were here to stay and took possession of the territory displacing and eventually dispossessing the indigenous people.

The New South Wales colonial authorities started making land grants and pushing Aborigines off their country. The Europeans named landform features and took ownership. They were re-making the existing landscape in their own vision of the world.

Granting land to Europeans by Europeans was structured dispossession of indigenous territory. This created conflict and violence, which has been well told by Grace Karskins’ The Colony.

Grace Karskins The Colony Cover
Grace Karskins The Colony Cover

The British came with a form of capitalism that created a market structure or market economy, where there was none and forced the indigenous inhabitants to take part in it.

The act of dispossession removed the agency of the indigenous people and removed and diminished their sovereignty.

The new arrivals came with new hopes and aspirations for themselves, while the act of dispossession created a loss of hope for indigenous people.

These acts were all played out on the Cumberland Plain ending up in the violent conflict that took place in the Appin region in 1816 and the loss of life. It was not the first conflict on the Cumberland Plain. There  were clashes between new white arrivals in the Hawkesbury and Aborigines before 1816.

The wave of new settlers onto the Cumberland Plain had parallels in other parts of the world. The new frontiers of settlement across North America – the Western Frontier of 19th century America.

On the Cowpasture Road / Chrisr: Bunbury’s. from Views of Sydney and Surrounding District by Edward Mason, ca. 1821-1823; 1892. State Library of NSW PXC 459
On the Cowpasture Road / Chrisr: Bunbury’s. from Views of Sydney and Surrounding District by Edward Mason, ca. 1821-1823; 1892. State Library of NSW PXC 459

 

New Colonialism on the Cumberland Plain

Expansion of the urban frontier

There is a 20th  and 21st century parallel to the dispossession suffered by the Dharak,  Dharawal and Gundungurrra. That process is the movement of the  urban frontier of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe across the Cumberland Plain from the 18th century.

The 18th century expansion of the British Empire and  the settlement of New South Wales was an expansion of the urban frontier of metropolitan London and part of the British colonial enterprise.

The act of creating the urban settlement of Sydney was an in effect an act of expanding the urban frontier from the home country.  One way to view the Great Britain in the late 18th century was as an urban market based economy.

As the British metropolitan project arrived from England in Sydney Cove it moved inland to Parramatta  – Parramatta indigenous name, vs Sydney England name – and by 1810 into the Hawkesbury and the Nepean River.

This continued with new waves of arrivals.

The urban expansion of the 20th century was about taking possession of territory from settler farmers by new urban dwellers.

The new urban dwellers and the structured expansion of urban Sydney forcibly took possession of land. There was the resumption of land for roads and other infrastructure.

Sydney’s rural-urban fringe is the site of dispossession and displacement, hope and loss and parallels the early narrative of 19th century settler colonialism.

CHS2436
The rural urban fringe in the Camden area (Camden Images)

Sovereignty and the rural-urban fringe

The rural-urban frontier is a moving frontier that removes the sovereignty of existing land users and displaces them.

These processes have been studied by geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, urban historians, urban planners, architects and others interested in the construction of place.

The rural-urban frontier is a zone of conflict where there are winners and losers that creates conflict. There is the dispossession of territory of existing landholders.

The loss of European dreaming about a lost Arcadian view of a bucolic picturesque rural landscape and sites that have spiritual importance to those Europeans that inhabit those sites.

These sites have immense importance to those who have occupied these rural landscapes. Nostalgia is the primary process involved in the lost memories and stories of their lives.

Lost traditions. Lost memories. Lost landscape. Lost sacred sites. These people go through a grieving process that creates strong emotions of anger and frustration.

The new arrivals come with aspirations and hopes of a new beginning by taking possession of new territory. They have their own dreaming about the new urban landscape that they are about to create.

These processes and human reactions were experienced by the Indigenous people that were displaced in the late 18th and 19th century on the Cumberland Plain.

Settler colonialism creates a re-imaging of the landscape and the themes of hope and loss are embedded in the narrative and stories that are created in the re-imagined landscape.

There are winners and losers and they each have their own stories of hope and loss. The Cumberland Plain has been the stage that these actors played out their roles in this story.

Mount Annan around 2002 CHS2005
Mount Annan around 2002 CHS2005  (Camden Images)

Appin and the urban frontier

Appin is currently undergoing a type of new colonialism. A new process of invasion and succession by a new set of invaders.

These new arrivals are dispossessing the existing landholders and removing their sovereignty. The new arrivals are taking possession of the territory. Sydney’s urban expansion is taking place in the new suburbs and estates that are appearing in and around Appin.

There are parallels between the conflict on the urban frontier and the colonial frontier of the 19th century and the bicentenary of the 1816 Appin Massacre and the creation of a new landscape by the new urban settlers.

It is an interesting question to ask: Has this process heightened the sense of interest in the commemoration of the massacre in the popular imagination? There has been extensive coverage of the bicentenary of the massacre in the media – Channel 7, Daily Telegraph, SMH, ABC Radio and others.

Amongst current generations there is a strong a view and feeling about the site of the massacre at Broughton Pass.

Some claim that there is a bad spirit as you drive through the area. Local Aboriginal people will not go to the area. While others have commemorated the massacre at the  Campbelltown Arts Centre, and in song writing.

The massacre has been an act of forgetting for nearly 200 years. Broughton Pass is a beautiful location with a dark past.

The question is: What has caught the popular imagination on the bicentenary of the massacre?

Broughton Pass is largely undisturbed woodland. As you approach from Appin you pass through farmland much as you would have in the 1810s and abruptly come upon the gorge. Just as the military would have confronted the local Aboriginal people 200 years ago. This is brought out the art exhibition at Campbelltown Art Centre ‘With Secrecy and Despatch’.

What is the basis of the current interest?

Is it the possible acknowledgement of the past events and the violence of the colonial frontier on the Cumberland Plain?

There is a paradox in the act of remembering the massacre at Broughton Pass and the act of the forgetting and loss experienced in the resumption of rural farmland for housing.

On the edge, the making and re-making of place

To sum up.

The Cowpasture and Cumberland Plain are sites where there has been the making and re-making of place.

Place is constructed on stories, memories, ceremonies, traditions, celebrations around the dominant narrative.

The Cowpastures is part of the southern Cumberland Plain where there have been waves of new ideas.

One of these new ideas could be a re-interpretation of the dominant narrative using the methodology of settler colonialism.

It could ask more questions?

Notes

[1] Karen Stokes, Stone, Sources and Social Networks Tracing Movement and Exchange Across Dharawal Country, Southeastern Australia. BA (Hons) Thesis, UoSyd, 2015.

Read more

Grace Karskins, Appin Massacre, Dictionary of Sydney Click here

Grace Karskins, The Colony, Click here

Ian Willis writes about localities on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe @ Dictionary of Sydney Click here

Appin · Colonialism · Governor Macquarie

Was Governor Lachlan Macquarie a terrorist?

Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)
Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)

In The Guardian Australia online this week there has appeared an article that asks the question: ‘Was Governor Lachlan Macquarie a terrorist?

Paul Daley writes:

Macquarie is the Australian leader who used terrorism and slaughter to quell hostile Indigenous resistance to invasion and dispossession.

The colonial frontier was a violent location and many people suffered and died. Colonialism wreaked havoc on many cultures around the globe.

Was Governor Macquarie any better or worse than any other colonial administrator?

Over next 150 years it is estimated that over 20,000 Aboriginal Australians were massacred in frontier wars.

Is it fair to pick on Macquarie?

Macquarie orders that surrounded what is called the Appin Massacre in 1816 were quite brutal:

On any occasion of seeing or falling in with the Natives, either in Bodies or Singly, they are to be called upon, by your friendly Native Guides, to surrender themselves to you as Prisoners of War. If they refuse to do so, make the least show of resistance, or attempt to run away from you, you will fire upon and compel them to surrender, breaking and destroying the Spears, Clubs and Waddies of all those you take Prisoners. Such natives as happen to be killed on such occasions, if grown up men, are to be hanged up on Trees in Conspicuous Situations, to Strike the Survivors with the greater terror

ABC Radio National has recently broadcast a discussion on Life Matters called:

Was ‘The Father of Australia” , Lachlan Macquarie, complicit in a mass murder?

The programme asks the question:

When Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered his soldiers to inflict ‘terror’ a group of aboriginal people at Appin, south of Sydney in 1816, did he then try to cover up what happened next?

The programme notes state:

In this program, we ask whether Macquarie tried to cover up an 1816 massacre of 14 aboriginal men, women and children at Appin, south of Sydney, by soldiers acting on his orders to “strike terror” into the indigenous population.

The participants in the RN programme were historians Grace Karskens and John Connor, journalist Paul Daley, Deputy Chair of the Tharawal Land Council Glenda Chalker.

The Appin Massacre is explored in a new exhibition at the Campbelltown Arts Centre called With Secrecy and Dispatch.    The bicentenary of the Appin Massacre is 16 April 2016 when ‘Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered the Aboriginal people within the region of Appin, NSW, be captured and or shot if they try to escape, as well as the displacement of their communities’.

Using the Appin Massacre as a catalyst, six Aboriginal Australian artists and four First Nation Canadian artists have been commissioned to create new works that either deal directly with the Massacre or draw from the shared brutalities across both nations.

New South Wales Colonial Frontier and Transportation

Govenor Macquarie was one of many actors on the colonial frontier in New South Wales. The colony was a military garrison and a penal settlement. Life was brutal. Life as a transported convict was brutal. Transportation as it was practised in the British Empire was close to slavery. Some in England in the Ant-Transportation League thought it so. A League was established in Sydney in 1849 to opposed landing convicts in Sydney.

The colonial frontier wars in North America and elsewhere

The colonial frontier wars in North America resulted in the deaths of thousands of Indians. There were frontier wars in Africa. The Spanish incursions into South and Central American could be called frontier wars.

North American Frontier Wars history.com
North American Frontier Wars (history.com)

‘Sugar slaves’ of Queensland

Were the actions of Macquarie as military administrator any worse than what civil administrators did in to so called ‘sugar slaves’ of Queensland?

According to the Queensland Historical Atlas states:

Australian South Sea Islanders today consider our ancestors to have been the Sugar Slaves. South Sea Islanders, transported to Australia as a cheap source of labour, worked in the development and establishment of the new Queensland sugar industry.

Read more on colonial frontier violence around the world

Read Paul Daley’s full article in the Guardian Australia click here

Radio National programme Click here

Dictionary of Sydney blog Click here

Read about the North American-Indian Wars Click here

Read about the Australian Frontier Wars Click here

Read about the New Zealand Maori Wars Click here

Read about ‘slavery’ in the Queensland sugar industry Click here

The exhibition With Secrecy and Dispatch at Campbelltown Arts Centre Click here

Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Journals in project Journeys in Time 1809-1822 Click here

Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive Click here