Aesthetics · Attachment to place · Australia · British colonialism · Cawdor · Colonial Camden · Colonialism · community identity · Cowpastures · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · Governor Macquarie · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Landscape aesthetics · Local History · Local newspapers · myths · Nepean River · Newspapers · Place making · sense of place · Settler colonialism

The Cowpastures Region 1795-1840

The Cowpastures emerged as a regional concept in the late 18th century starting with the story of the cattle of the First Fleet that escaped their captivity at the Sydney settlement. The region was a culturally constructed landscape that ebbed and flowed with European activity. It  grew around the government reserve established by Governors Hunter and King. It then developed into a generally used locality name centred on the gentry estates in the area.

 Regionalism in the Cowpastures

The geographers call this type of area a functional region. A functional region is based on horizontal linkages within a particular area that are to an extent self-contained.  The region was relatively self-cohesive when compared with linkages between regions.  The key concept is self-containment with respect to the activities of those within the particular area.

 

A useful way into a regional study like the Cowpastures is an environmental history, which is a multi-disciplinary approach. This would cover the physical and cultural landscapes. The boundaries of the Cowpastures region were both culturally derived and natural, where the landforms restricted and constrained European activity. The story of the Cowpastures regions has many layers of history that can be peeled back to unravel its bits and pieces.

 

The story of the wild cows and more, a cultural landscape

The story of the Cowpastures begins with the wild cows.  The First Fleet leaves England in 1787  and HMS Sirius which collected 4 cows and 2 bulls  at the Cape of Good Hope on the way out to New South Wales. They were Cape cattle.

 

The cattle did not think much of their new home and after their arrival they took off within 5 months of being landed and disappeared. The cattle  escaped and found heaven on the Indigenous managed pastures of the Nepean River floodplain.  The cattle occupied and seized the territory of the Indigenous people who were wary of these horned beasts.

 

Before the Cowpastures district was even an idea the area was the home for ancient Aboriginal culture based on Dreamtime stories.  The land of the Dharawal,  Gundangara and the Dharug.

After European occupation the Dharawal people became known as the Cowpastures tribe by 1805.

Map Aboriginal Groups Sydney 2005 Belgenny Farm lowres
Map showing Aboriginal Groups of the Sydney area including the Dharawal of the Cowpastures (2005, Belgenny Farm)

 

In 1795 the story of the cattle is told to a convict hunter by an Aboriginal, who then tells an officer and informs Governor Hunter. Hunter sends Henry Hacking, an old seaman, to check out the story. After confirmation Governor John Hunter and Captain Waterhouse, George Bass and David Collins head off from Parramatta, cross the Nepean River on 17 November 1795.   After climbing a hill (Mt Taurus) they spotted the cattle and named the area the Cowpastures. Governor John Hunter marked area on maps ‘Cow Pasture Plains’ in the region of Menangle  and elsewhere on maps south of Nepean.  By 1806 the herd had grown to 3,000.

Cowpastures cattle here Grafton 1875 SARNSW
Cattle similar to the horned wild cattle of the Cowpastures at Grafton in 1875 (State Archives and Records NSW)

 

The Europeans seized the territory occupied by the wild cattle,  allocated land grants for themselves and displaced the Indigenous occupants.  On their occupation they created a new land in their own vision of the world.  A countryside made up of large pseudo-English-style-estates, an English-style common called The Cowpasture Reserve and  government men to work it called convicts.  The route that Governor Hunter took became the track to the area became known as the Cowpastures Road, starting at Prospect Hill and progressing to the crossing of the Nepean River.

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

 

In 1803 Governor King issued a proclamation in July 1803 banning any unauthorised entry south of the Nepean River to stop poaching of the wild cattle. (The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Sunday 10 July 1803 page 1) Governor King ordered that a constable be placed at the Cowpasture crossing of the Nepean River and that a small hut be built to house them. (Historic Records NSW Vol 5, pp. 719-720)  The government reserve for the wild cattle was strengthened under the Macquarie administration.

Government Cowpastures Reserve

Bigge Report 1822-1823

The government reserve was never really defined and was just a vague area occupied by the Wild Cattle.  The 1823 Bigge report described the Cowpastures this way:

The county of Camden contains the extensive tracts known by the name of the Cow Pasture, which which five of the cattle that were landed from His Majesty’s ship Sirius, soon after the first arrival of Governor Phillip, had strayed from their place of confinement. They were discovered in these tracts in the year 1795 by a convict, and appear to have been attracted to the spot, and to have continued there, from the superior quality of the herbage. Since that period their numbers have greatly increased: and they have latterly occupied the hilly ranges by which the Cow Pastures are backed on the south, and have been found in the deeper ravines of the hills of Nattai, and on the banks of the Bargo River. It does not appear, however, that they have penetrated beyond the Blue Mountains, or the barren tract that is called the Bargo Brush. The Cow Pastures extend northwards from the river Bargo to the junction of the river Warragumba and the Nepean. To the west they are bounded by some of the branches of the latter river and the hills of Nattai. They contain by computation about sixty thousand acres; and the soil, through varying in fertility, but always deepening  and improving on the banks and margin of the Nepean, consists of  a light sandy loam, resting upon a substratum of clay.

(JT Bigge, Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the state of agriculture and trade in the colony of NSW, 1823, Vol 3)

Public Buildings 1822 Bigge Report

At the centre of the government reserve

AT “CAWDOR”.

  1. A Brick Built House for the residence and accommodation of the Superintendant and principal Overseer of Government Stock in the Cow Pastures, reserving two rooms for the occasional accommodation of the Governor, with Kitchen and other necessary Out Offices, together with a good Kitchen Garden, well enclosed.
  2. A Weather-boarded House for the accommodation of the Subordinate Overseers and Stockmen.
  3. Four large paddock of 100 acres each enclosed with a strong Fence for the grazing of the Tame Cattle and Taming of the Wild Cattle, and cleared of the standing and dead Timber.
  4. A Tanning House and Tan Yard for Tanning the Hides of the Wild Bulls for the use of Government.
  5. Several other Paddocks and Stock-Yards enclosed for the Government Horses, Homed Cattle, and Sheep, grazing in other parts of the Government Grounds in the Cow Pastures. N.B.—Cawdor is the principal Run or Grazing Ground for the Government Horned Cattle and Sheep in the Cow Pastures on the western side of the Nepean River, consisting of about Fifteen thousand acresof land, and ought never to be alienated as long as it may be deemed expedient and advisable for the Government to possess and maintain Herds and Flocks.

(JT Bigge, Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the state of agriculture and trade in the colony of NSW, 1822, Vol 1)

 

End of Government Reserve

A regional identity had emerged by the time the government reserve was dissolved in the early 1820s and the land sold off.  The usage of the identity of the Cowpastures extended into the second half of the 19th century.

 

Extent of the Cowpastures region by the 1840s

The extent and boundaries of the Cowpastures by the 1840s were:

  • North – Bringelly Road – taking in the upper South Creek Catchment – west to Bents Basin and Warragamba River
  • East – Wilton Road north through Appin – ridge dividing Nepean and Georges River catchments – generally the Appin Road – following ridge line north dividing Bow Bowing Creek and South Creek.
  • South – Stonequarry Creek catchment – bordering Bargo Brush – line following Wilton Road in east – through Thirlmere – ridge line between Stonequarry Creek and Bargo River – west to Burragorang Valley
  • West – Burragorang Valley

 

Cowpastures Map 1840
The extent of the Cowpastures region in the 1840s (I Willis, 2018)

 

Usage of the Cowpastures name as a regional identity

The graph below is the usage of the locality name Cowpastures in newspapers listed on the National Library of Australia Trove Database in 2017 using QueryPic.

Graph of  usage of the name of Cowpastures

Cowpasture_QueryPic_Trove_Graph
Graph of the usage of the local names of Cowpastures in newspaper articles on the National Library of Australia Trove Database between 1795 and 1950 using QueryPic (I Willis, 2017)

The usage of the Cowpastures regional identity persisted into the late 19th century as these following newspaper extracts illustrated.

 

In 1836 Glendiver Estate at The Oaks was advertised for sale with the given address as The Cowpastures. The sale notice boasted that the estate was one of the finest dairy farms in the colony of New South Wales with ‘the finest soil’ and ‘abundance of water’. It was claimed that the owner could run ‘double the stock’ of any other part of the colony because of the ‘beautiful district’. The estate for sale came to 2390 acres. The estate had 70 acres under wheat the property suited a ‘wealthy grazier, horse or cattle-dealer’. (Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 5 August 1836, page 4 (4))

 

In 1838 the estate of Narellan in the Cowpastures was advertised for sale on behalf of Francis Mowatt consisting of a desirable homestead and 800 acres of ‘rich productive’ land.  The property was fenced with 12 miles of fencing and watered by Narellan Creek. The property fronted the Cowpastures Road for ¾ of a mile. The ‘commodious and comfortable’ cottage has ‘out-offices’, ‘excellent stables in good repair’. The garden has extensive fruit trees and ‘grapery’. The sale also include household furniture, harnesses, saddlery, and ten horses. (Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 3 February 1838, page 3)

 

Cowpasture Estates of 1840

In 1840 MD Hunter released the Cowpasture Estates on former properties owned by Sydney businessman John Dickson in the Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser for auction by The Australian Auction Company.  The properties offered were Orielton, Nonorrah, Moorfield, Eastwood and Netherbyres with a total of 7000 acres. The properties were offered in lots ranging from 300 to 30 acres. The sale notice stated that Orielton had a ‘substantial Stone Barn, Threshing Mill and Offices’, Nonorrah boasted a ‘spacious and elegant Cottage with Gardens, Stables and Offices’. (Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser (NSW : 1838 – 1841), Friday 5 June 1840, page 4 (4))

 

The northern extremity of the Cowpasture Estates was the Bringelly Road.  (Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, 16 July 1840)

Map Bringelly Cowpasture Estate Map 1847 Land of MD Hunter NLA
Map of the Cowpasture Estates at Bringelly on the land MD Hunter in 1847. ( National Library of Australia)

 

In 1843 the Sydney Morning Herald announced the presence of Charles Cowper in the Cowpasture district. Mr Cowper arrived at Mr James Chisholm’s  Gledswood and joined a procession of horses followed by carriages and gigs of around 150 men and women. Mr Cowper took a seat in Mr Hassall’s carriage. The procession headed for by Mr Hovel of Macquarie Grove. with Mr John Wild of Picton bringing up the rear of the carriages. The procession then moved  to Mr Chisholm’s house on his property Wivenhoe.  (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Tuesday 11 July 1843, page 2)

 

In 1843 auctioneer Mr Stubbs announced the sale of the household effects, stock and farming implements for the insolvent estate of GCP Living of Raby in the Cowpastures. The stock included heifers, bullocks, calves, dairy cows, steers totalling 165 beasts and five horses. The farm equipment included dairy utensils, and transport equipment including carts, drays and wagons. (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Monday 6 November 1843, page 4 (3))

 

In 1843 Mr Beck advertised the sale of furniture of the late Mr SR Swaine of Narellan of the Cowpastures. (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 15 December 1843, page 3)

 

The Camden District Council meeting in 1845 reported on the state of repair of the bridge across the Cowpasture River. (Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature (Sydney, NSW : 1843 – 1845), Saturday 14 June 1845)

 

In 1847 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the population growth of the Cowpastures district which nearly reached 3000 people. The press reports described the schools in the villages of Narellan, Cobbitty and Camden, with the reporter visiting The Razorback and the properties of Raby, Gledswood and Harrington Park. The beauty of other properties mentioned in the story included Orielton, Wivenhoe, Denbigh, Matavai and Brownlow Hill. (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 23 September 1847, page 2)

 

In 1870 the Australian Town and Country Journal reported a claim for compensation on the colonial government by a shepherd Hugh McGuire for services for supervising a team of men in the Cowpastures district. (Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 2 April 1870, page 10 (4))

 

In 1870 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a flood in Camden which was located in the Cowpasture district. There was a heavy downpour with a violent gale continued through the Wednesday night on the 26 April. The lowlands presented ‘uniform sheet of flood water’ and were just below the ‘tow great floods of 1860’. (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Wednesday 18 May 1870, page 7)

 

In 1877 the Sydney Morning Herald one letter writer that as  late 1870s the Nepean River was still known as the Cowpastures River.  (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 24 March 1877, page 8)

 

In 1878 the Australian Town and Country Journal reported on the state of the town of Campbelltown and the surrounding area which was adjacent to the ‘fertile flats and alluvials’ of the Cowpastures. (Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 16 March 1878, page 20)

 

The Australian Town and Country Journal reported on the state of the wheat growing in the colony in 1882. The story stated that wheat for bread making used to be grown in the ‘Camden, the Cowpastures, Hawkesbury, Hunter, etc’. In these area hay production had replaced former wheat growing. (Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 2 September 1882, page 20)

Presentation The Cowpastures 2017Oct3

The end of Cowpastures region and a village is born

The beginning of the end of the Cowpastures region was the development of the Camden village  from 1840 by the Macarthur family on their estate of Camden Park   The Camden district eventually replaced the Cowpastures regional identity.

 

Revival of the Cowpastures during the Interwar period

The Sesqui-centenary of the colonial settlement of New South Wales sparked a revival of the story of the Cowpastures during the early 1930s.

 

1932_SMH_CowpastureCattle_map
Map of Cowpastures (SMH 13 August 1932)

  

There was also the revival of national pioneering heroes that it was felt provide a sound basis of the story of a new nation and one of those was John Macarthur of the Cowpastures. He was the ultimate Cowpastures Oligarch. He had many colleagues who also fitted this description.

640px-Macarthur_stamp_sheep_1934 (1)
1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp (Australia Post)

Learn more

The Cowpastures Project

 

Cover  Pictorial History Camden District Ian Willis 2015
Front Cover of Ian Willis’s Pictorial History of Camden and District (Kingsclear, 2015)
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Attachment to place · Colonialism · Communications · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Local History · Local newspapers · Newspapers · Place making · sense of place

A short history of a major provincial daily newspaper

UOW historian Dr Ian Willis contributed a short article on the history of Wollongong’s  Illawarra Mercury to the compendium A Companion to the Australian Media in 2014. The Companion was edited by Professor Bridget Foley and assisted by an eminent Editorial Advisory Board.

Newspaper Illawarra Mercury 1856Jan7

 

 

The history article written by Dr Willis follows:

Illawarra Mercury

One of the Australia’s most important provincial newspapers, the Illawarra Mercury has been defined by parochialism and localism since its foundation in October 1855 by Thomas Garrett (1830–91).

Initially a weekly, the Mercury cost sixpence, and had a print run of 200. Garrett had pooled his resources with W.F. Cahill, who left after three months, to be replaced in 1856 by Thomas’s father, John, a Primitive Methodist. By 1856 the Mercury had become a six-column broadsheet and was distributed to Dapto, Jamberoo, Kiama and Shoalhaven by express coach.

Involvement in community affairs and politics has characterised Mercury proprietors. John Garrett was elected Wollongong’s first mayor in 1859 and the editor, John Curr, was elected Wollongong’s first town clerk. Garret’s son, Thomas, was also a politician.

Thomas took over the paper in 1862, and soon formed a partnership with Archibald Campbell, before selling out to Joseph Hart in 1867. Campbell was the sole owner from 1883 until his death in 1903; he was elected Member for Illawarra in 1891.

In 1888 the Mercury was a tri-weekly of four pages, which featured a weekly serial. By 1901, it was published twice weekly. On Campbell’s death in 1903, his wife, Margaret, assumed control until Shellharbour local Edward Allen purchased the paper in 1905 and improved the news content. He was elected the Member for Illawarra in 1904, continuing a trend.

An Irishman, Standish R. Musgrave, bought the Mercury from Allen in 1911 and ran it until his death in 1943. He assumed the editorship, increased sports coverage and published an edition each Friday. Soon after becoming managing director of the newly formed Illawarra Newspapers Co. Ltd in 1919, Musgrave also purchased the Bulli Times and established the Port Kembla Pilot. By 1932 the Mercury had competition from 2WL, established in 1931. Wilfrid S. Musgrave succeeded his father as managing director and editor. In 1950 he converted the Mercury to a daily, a mark of modernity for a provincial centre, and changed the masthead to the Illawarra Daily Mercury.

The Musgraves were active members of the New South Wales Country Press Association for over 40 years. They mixed with the barons of the country press who sought to restrict competition, and had sympathies with the New England New State Movement and the Old Guard.

However, the Mercury was making substantial losses when it was purchased by R.A.G. Henderson, the managing director of John Fairfax & Sons, in 1959. During the next decade, circulation doubled to over 25,000. In 1968, the Henderson family merged the Mercury with its main opposition, the South Coast Times, and appointed John Richardson executive editor. The following year Fairfax became the major shareholder for a cost of $2.4 million. Under David Lonsdale’s editorship, the newspaper became less parochial and more inclined to take on major community issues.

Peter Newell became editor in 1976, then executive editor in 1978 and finally general manager in 1985. Illawarra Newspapers Holdings Pty Ltd launched a new weekly, the Wollongong-Shellharbour Advertiser, in 1982. The Mercury introduced computer-based story-composition, and in 1986 pioneered the use of colour in daily newspapers in Australia.

Journalists Bill Simpson and Carol Johnstone won Walkley Awards in 1986–87. However, the Mercury was labelled a ‘screaming red-top tabloid’ by James Hooke, Fairfax’s managing director of NSW operations, and in the early 1990s was regularly pilloried by ABC television’s Media Watch.

Innovation continued, with the Mercury producing its first electronically assembled editorial page composed by computer in 1994, and being printed on state-of-the-art printing presses alongside the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review at Chullora from 1999. The Mercury was awarded PANPA Newspaper of the Year in 2006 and Walkley Awards were won by Mercury  journalists in 2003, 2008 and 2010 and photographers in in 2008–09. The Mercury’s circulation in 2013 was 18,229.

References:

  1. Souter, Company of Heralds (1981);

  2. Illawarra Mercury, 15–16 October 2005;

  3. Kirkpatrick, ‘Guts-and-glory, murder and more during the Mercury’s 150 years’, PANPA Bulletin (September 2005).

 

Newspaper Illawarra Mercury 1955Nov16
The front page of the centenary edition supplement of the Illawarra Mercury 16 November 1955.
Attachment to place · Camden · Communications · community identity · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Local History · Local newspapers · Newspapers · Place making · sense of place

A new regional newspaper, a review

Local historian Dr Ian Willis wrote a review of a new regional masthead that appeared in the Camden Local Government Area in 2016. The review appeared in the Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 90, December, 2016, p.11.

Newspaper Image IndepSW 2016 Iss1

The review

Launch of a new regional newspaper The Independent South-West

From Ian Willis at Camden: This week a new masthead appeared in the Camden Local Government Area called The Independent South-West published by King Media Regional based in Bowral NSW. It was launched at Camden’s annual Light Up Festival. Editor Jane King and other staff handed out copies of the free monthly to families and friends who had come to see Santa, watch the fireworks and see the Christmas lights on the town’s Christmas tree.

The 20pp tabloid is printed in colour on glossy paper and is sure to give the other three free Camden weeklies,  the Macarthur Chronicle, Camden Narellan Advertiser and  The District Reporter,  a run for their money. King states in Issue 1 that it ‘is an exciting new title…family owned and managed business’. She states that the paper will serve the local community and employ local people.

The first issue certainly lives up to these promises by reporting the proceedings of the Moss Vale Local Court. Two matters dealt with involved Camden identities. Local court matters are now heard in Moss Vale since the closure of Camden and Picton court houses. The robust reporting of local court proceedings has largely disappeared from the other three Camden weeklies.

A feature page, ‘Ark’ Up, is written by journalist Juliet Arkwright who in another life was a councillor on Wollondilly Shire Council. This edition profiles the Acting President of the Camden Chamber of Commerce Maryann Strickling. The chamber states ‘we look forward to working with a truly independent newspaper’.

The first edition also has copy provided by the local federal member, a photo feature of a fashion launch at Campbelltown, and content shared  from the newspaper’s stablemate LatteLife Wingecarribee, which claims to be the ‘Heartbeat of the Southern Highlands’.

King Media also publishes City Circular which, according to Miranda Ward at Mumbrella, replaced a void left by the closure of News Corps mX in 2015 and is distributed at railway stations. The first newspaper published by King Media group was the masthead LatteLife Sydney which started life in the Eastern Suburbs in 2010. King Media then expanded to publishing The Southern Highlands edition in 2014.

The Independent’s print run of 10,000 will be distributed across localities from Cawdor to Leppington through local retailers, surgeries, real estate officers and other outlets. The print run is modest by comparison to its competitors in the Camden LGA and the publisher’s promises seem ambitious. King Media will support the print edition by managing a Facebook page.

The conservative reporting of local matters by The Independent’s three Camden competitors certainly leaves a niche in the market place if controversies surrounding Camden Council continue as they have done in recent months.  King has promised to ‘hold the Council to task’ and take it up to other local papers. If she sticks to her promises The Independent South-West will fit in well with Camden’s fierce parochialism and localism.

Learn more on Mumbrella

 

Anzac · Attachment to place · Camden · Campbelltown · Communications · community identity · First World War · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · history · Local History · Local newspapers · Modernism · Newspapers · Picton · Place making · sense of place · war

A local newspaper view of the world in an international context

Historian Dr Ian Willis is presenting a conference paper on the role local newspapers of the Picton, Camden and Campbelltown area during the First World War. He will show  how these small provincial newspapers acted as an archive for the stories  from the First World War on the homefront. Community wartime activities will be placed in the context of the international setting of the war.

 

The conference is organised by the International Society for First World Studies and is called Recording, Narrating and Archiving the First World War.   The conference is being held in Melbourne at the Deakin Downtown Melbourne CBD University Campus between 9-11 July 2018.

 

Newspapers Image

 

The abstract for Dr Willis’s  paper is:

Small rural communities are an often overlooked part of the wartime landscape of the First World War at home. Local newspapers, or community newspapers, recorded ‘the doings’ of their communities in inordinate detail. Their reportage extended from the local to the provincial and the international by owner/editors who were local identities.

Country newspapers provide an archive record of the First World War that is identifiably different from the large metropolitan daily newspapers of the war period. The local newspaper has a number of differences that are related to their localness and parochialism, their relationship to their readership, their promotion of the community and their approach to the news of the war.

The local newspaper recorded the subtleties of local patriotism and wartime voluntarism and fundraising, the personal in soldier’s letters, the progress of the war and a host of other issues. For the astute researcher country newspapers provide glimpses into wartime issues around gender, class, sectarianism, and other aspects of rural life. All coloured by local sensibilities and personalities. The local newspaper was a mirror to its community and central to the construction of place making and community identity in small towns, villages and hamlets.

These characteristics are not unique to rural Australia and are shared by rural and regional newspapers of other English speaking countries. Recent developments in archival research like Trove provide invaluable access to these resources across Australia. Country newspapers provide a different story of the war at home from an often forgotten sector of society.

 

The local newspapers that will be used as a case study for this conference paper include:

  • The Camden News
  • The Picton Post
  • The Campbelltown Herald

Local and provincial newspapers are an understudied area of the First World War and this conference paper will address this gap in the historical literature.

 

Learn more about local newspapers in the Macarthur region and elsewhere:

 

Architecture · Attachment to place · Colonialism · Cowpastures · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Interwar · Local History · Local newspapers · Newspapers · Oran Park · Place making · sense of place · Settler colonialism

New horizons open up for the new community of Oran Park and the finishing line for the former Oran Park Raceway

Oran Park Raceway was doomed in 2008 to be part of history when it was covered with houses in a new suburb with the same name. It was also the name of a former pastoral property that was part of the story of the settler society within the Cowpastures. The locality is the site of hope and loss for both locals and new arrivals.

The suburb of Oran Park is on Sydney’s south-western urban fringe just east of the history and picturesque village of Cobbitty and the relatively new suburb Harrington Park is to the south.

Oran Park DSC_oranparktown

Oran Park Raceway was a glorious thing

The Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit was located in the south-western and western part of the original Oran Park pastoral estate. The main grand prix circuit was 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners as well as changes in elevation around the track.

The main circuit was broken into two parts: the south circuit, which was the original track  built in 1962 by the Singer Car Club and consisted of the main straight, pit lane garages and a constant radius 180 turn at the end.

The north circuit was added in 1973  and  was an 800 metre figure-8.  Apart from the main racing circuit there were a number of subsidiary activities and they have included a two dirt circuits, two four wheel training venues, a skid pan and a go-kart circuit.

Oran Park Raceway 1997 CIPP
Oran Park Raceway was a popular motor sport venue in the Sydney area. This image is from 1997 showing open-wheelers racing at the circuit. (Camden Images)

The racing circuit has been used for a variety of motorsport including club motorkhanas, touring cars, sports sedans, production cars, open-wheelers, motocross and truck racing. In 2008 a number of organisations used the circuit for driver training including advanced driving, defensive driving, high performance and off-road driving.

The track hosted its first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1971, which was a battle between racing legends Bob Jane and Allan Moffat. The December 2008 V8 Supercar event was the 38th time a championship was held at the track. Sadly for some the track will go the way of other suburban raceways of the past. It turned into just be a passing memory when it closed in 2010.

The Daily Telegraph noted that a number of other Sydney tracks that have been silenced. They have included Amaroo Park, Warwick Farm, Mt Druitt, Sydney Showground, Liverpool and Westmead speedways. The public relations spokesman for Oran Park, Fred Tsioras, has said that there have been a few notable drivers who have raced at the circuit including Kevin Bartlett, Fred Gibson, Ian Luff, Alan Moffat, Peter Brock, Mark Weber and others.

Innovations that were introduced at the Oran Park Raceway included night racing, truck racing and NASCAR racing. Tsioras claims that the track was a crowd favourite because they could see the entire circuit.

Oran Park Raceway Control Tower

An integral part of the Oran Park Raceway was the control tower. It had the offices for the Clerk of the Course, timekeepers, VIP suite, the press box and general administration.

Oran Park Raceway 1997 CIPP
Control Tower Oran Park Raceway 1997 (Camden Historical Society)

In the early days the facilities at the circuit were pretty basic, and this included the control tower. The circuit was a glorified paddock and race organisers held mainly basic club events. The track surface was pretty rough and there was a make-do attitude amongst racing enthusiasts.

The control facilities in the early days at the track was very rudimentary. The first control tower used in 1962 by the members of the Singer Car Club, who established the track, was a double decker bus. Race officials and time keepers sat out in the open air under a canvas awning on the top of the bus at club race meetings.

A new control tower, built around 1980, was funded by the Rothmans tobacco company. The Rothmans company was a major sponsor of motor sports in Australia at the time. Tobacco sponsorship of motor sports was seen as an efficient marketing strategy to reach boys and young men.

Tobacco & cigarette advertisements were banned on TV and radio in September 1976. While other tobacco advertising was banned from all locally produced print media — this left only cinema, billboard and sponsorship  advertising as the only forms of direct tobacco advertising was banned inv December 1989.

Motor sport projected an image of style, excitement, thrills and spills that drew men and boys to the sport. Motor sport has been symbolized by bravery, strength, competitiveness and masculinity. This imagery in still portrayed in motor sport like Formula One racing.

The influence for the design of the tower, according to Will Hagan, was the El Caballo Blanco Complex at Narellan, which opened in the 1979 and was a major tourist attraction. The control tower, like El Caballo Blanco, was constructed in a Spanish Mission architectural style (or Hollywood Spanish Mission) like the Paramount cinema in Elizabeth Street (1933) or Cooks Garage in Argyle Street (1935) Camden.

Cooks Garage 1936
Cooks Service Station and Garage at the corner of Argyle and Elizabeth Streets Camden in the mid-1930s. This establishment was an expression of Camden’s Interwar modernism. (Camden Images)

The Spanish Mission building style emerged during in the Inter-war period (1919-1939). It was characterised by terracotta roof tiles, a front loggia, rendering of brickwork and shaped parapets.

The Spanish Mission building style was inspired by the American west coast influences, and the relationship between the automobile, rampant consumerism and the romance  promoted by the motion pictures from Hollywood.

The Spanish Mission building style, according to Ian Kirk and Megan Martin from their survey of interwar service stations, was popular with service stations in the late 1920s and early 1930s, particularly in the Sydney area. In their survey they discovered more than 120 original service stations surviving in New South Wales from the interwar years.

Some examples of Interwar garages included the Broadway Garage and Service Station in Bellevue Hill, the former Seymour’s Service Station in Roseville, Malcolm Motors in King Street, Newtown and the Pyrmont Bridge Service Station in Pyrmont. Kirk and Martin have maintained that unlike the United States, early service stations in Australia were privately owned and did not have to be designed according to an oil company’s in-house style.

Motor sports became popular in the Interwar period and was associated with glamour and excitement of the cars of the period. The Interwar period (1918-1939) is an interesting period in the history of Australia. It was a time which contrasted the imperial loyalties of the British Empire with the rampant consumerism and industrialisation of American culture and influence.

The Interwar period was one in which country towns and the city were increasingly dominated by motor vehicles. It was a time when the fast and new, the exotic and sensual came to shape the style of a new age of modernism, and competed with the traditional and conservative, the old and slow, and changes to social and cultural traditions.

There were many brands of motor car competing for the attention of consumers, and the aspirations and desires of a new generation were wrapped up in youth, glamour, fantasy and fun.

This was reflected in the growth of elegant and glamorous car showrooms and the appearance of service stations and garages to serve the increasing number of motor car owners.

In Camden this period modernism generated Cooks Garage at the corner of Argyle and Elizabeth Street not far away from the new slick and exciting movie palace, the Paramount Movie Theatre. In central Camden the Dunk commercial building at 58-60 Argyle Street was a shiny new car showroom displaying Chevrolet motor cars from the USA. Advertisement boasted that the cars were:

Beautiful new Chevrolet is completely new. New arresting beauty of style; new riding comfort and seating; …with more comfort.

The buyer had the choice of car models from commercial roadster to sports roader, tourer, coupe and sedan which sold for the value price of £345.

In New South Wales the number of motor vehicles increased from around 22,000 in 1920 to over 200,000 in 1938.  There was an increasing interest in motor sports in the Sydney area by enthusiasts of all kinds.

 Dreams and development on the raceway site

In 1983 the Oran Park Raceway track was owned by Bill Cleary, and he stated to the Macarthur Advertiser that his family had owned the property for 38 years.  In 1976 he put together a proposal to create a sports and recreation centre for the area of the raceway. The proposal was raised again in 1981 and was to include a themed entertainment park, an equestrian centre, dude ranch, motel, health and fitness centre, model farm and cycling, hiking and bridle trials. But it all came to nothing.

Oran Park Raceway 2008 PMylrea CIPP
An aerial view of the former Oran Park Raceway in 2008 showing the track and its surrounds. Now all covered by housing. (P Mylrea/Camden Images)

The current track was purchased in the mid-1980s by Leppington Pastoral Company (owned by the Perich family) and in 2004 was rezoned for housing.  It was estimated at the time that there would be 21,000 houses. Tony Perich stated in 2007 to the Sydney Morning Herald that he planned to build almost one-fifth of the 11,500 dwellings in Oran Park and Turner Road in a joint-venture with Landcom. A spokesman for Mr Perich’s company, Greenfields Development Corporation, stated that the first houses would be on the larger lots.

Oran Park 2008 planned housing development

In 2008 Oran Park is part of the  South West Growth Centre area which is responsibility of the New South Wales Government’s Growth Centres Commission, which was eventually planned to accommodate 295,000 people by 2031. The Oran Park and Turner Road Development were expected in 2008 to house 33,000 people.

In an area east of the raceway it is planned that there will be the development of an aged care facility for elderly and retired citizens with work starting in 2011. The project will consist of independent living villas and apartments, assisted living units, a day care centre and a high and low care aged facility with a dementia unit.

Oran Park DSC_opdisplayhomes
Oran Park display homes near the town centre in 2012. (OPTC)

In 2008 the raceway made way for 8000 homes to house 35,000 people complete with town centre, commercial precinct and entertainment facilities. It was planned to include primary schools, two high schools, a court, police station and a community centre. The suburb, Raceway Hill, was planned to have streets named after the old track.

The colonial history of Oran Park

In the colonial days of early New South Wales Oran Park was originally  made up of two principal land grants, one of 2,000 acres, Harrington Park,  granted to William Campbell in 1815 and another to George Molle in 1817, Netherbyes, of 1600 acres which ran between South Creek and the Northern Road. According to John Wrigley the name Oran Park appears on the pre-1827 map as part of Harrington Park,  Campbell’s grant. Campbell arrived on the brig, Harrington, in 1803 as a master.

The New South Wales State Heritage Register states that the Oran Park portion was sub-divided from the Harrrington Park estate in 1829 and acquired by Henry William Johnston in 1852.  The Oran Park estate is representative of the layout of a country manor estate with views afforded to and from the manor over the landscape and to the important access points of the estate. These were representative of the design philosophies of the time.

Oran Park House CHS 3090 early 20thc donor JHiggs gddhtr FLMoore
The image clearly shows the hilltop locality of Oran Park House typical of gentry estate houses across the Cowpastures. This landscape drew on the influence of the philosophy of Scot JC Loudon and Englishman Capability Brown (early 20thc, Camden Images)

Oran Park House was located in  a picturesque Arcadian pastoral scene by using the best of European farming practices and produced an English-style landscape of a park, pleasure grounds and gardens. The house was located in a ‘sublime landscape’ with the integration of aspect, orientation and design, drawing on influences of Scotsman JC Loudon, Englishman Capability Brown and Sydney nurseryman Thomas Shepherd.

Oran Park House

The two-storey Georgian-style house was built in c.1857 and is described as having a roof with of a simple colonial hipped form, windows with shutters, an added portico and a bridge to the two-storey original servants wing at the rear. There is detailed cedar joinery and panelling on the interior. The house is located on a knoll creating an imposing composition set amongst landscaped grounds with a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

ORan Park House CL0218
Oran Park House in 1995 in a photograph taken by John Kooyman (Camden Images)

According to the NSW State Heritage Register the house is an example of the Summit Model of homestead sited on a hilltop with the homestead complex.  The present entrance to Oran Park is on an axis with the house’s southern façade, with a carriage loop with mature plantings in front of the house.

Oran Park house was acquired by Thomas  Barker (of Maryland and Orielton) who sold it to Campbelltown grazier Edward Lomas Moore (of Badgally) in 1871. The property was leased by and then subsequently owned by Atwill George Kendrick who had a clearing sale on the site in 1900. The house had alterations possibly under the direction of Leslie Wilkinson (professor of architecture, University of Sydney) in the 1930s.

The Moore family sold the Oran Park House and land to B Robbins and a Mr Smith operated a golf course with trotting facilities. It was sold in 1945 for £28,000, and in 1963, 361 acres was purchased by ER Smith and J Hyland, farmers. The homestead and stables were sold in 1969 by John and Peggy Cole and purchased by the Dawson-Damers, members of the English aristocracy. The Dawson-Damers undertook restoration guided by architect Richard Mann. John ‘DD’ Dawson-Damer was an Old Etonian and car collector.

John Dawson-Damer was a prominent motor racing identity and was killed in an accident while driving his Lotus 63 at a race meeting at Goodwood, West Sussex in 2000. Dawson-Damer was the managing director of Austral Engineering Supplies Pty Ltd, and was involved with the International Automobile Federation and the Historic Sports Racing Car Association of New South Wales. Ashley Dawson-Damer, his wife and socialite, was a member of the council of governors of the Opera Australia Capital Fund and a board member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation.

After her husband’s death she sold the house, with its historic gardens and 107 hectares of pasture, in 2006 for $19 million to Valad Property Group.  The State Heritage Register describes the house and surrounding estate an outstanding example of mid-nineteenth century cultural landscape with a largely intact homestead complex and gardens set within an intact rural setting.

Oran Park House renamed Catherine Park House

Oran Park was renamed Catherine Park House in 2013 by the developers of the new housing release Harrington Estates Pty Ltd (Mac Chronicle 10 Oct 2013). The name changed was agreed by Camden Council and celebrated Catherine Molle, the wife of George Molle.

In 1815 Molle was allocated a grant of 550 acres which he called Catherine Fields after his wife Catherine Molle on the northern bank of South Creek opposite his grant of Netherbyres.

In 1816 George Molle  was granted Netherbyres, of 1,600 acres (647.5 hectares) which ran between South Creek and the Northern Road on the south bank of South Creek. In 1817 he was granted Molles Maine of 1550 acres east of the Great South Road.

George Molle was baptized in Mains, Berwickshire, Scotland on the 6th March 1773. George joined the Scots Brigade (94th Regiment) as an ensign and served in Gibraltar, The Cape of  Good Hope, India, Egypt and Spain. He was promoted to Colonel and served at Gibraltar before transferring as the Colonel of the 46th Regiment of Foot when ordered to serve in the Colony of New South Wales.

On the 20th March 1814 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Colony, second in command to Governor Macquarie.

George and his wife played an active part in the public life of the colony of New South Wales, patron of the Female Orphan School and a member of the committee for the Civilization, Care and Education of Aborigines.

The suburb of Catherine Park was planned in 2013 to contain 3100 with 9500 residents. (Mac Chronicle 15 Oct 2013)

Oran Park in recent times

In early 2018 the developer Greensfields and Landcom report in their newsletter that construction of  the new Camden Council Library building is progressing well. A new off-dog leash area was under construction in the new release areas around the new high school. It is the second area developed in the land release.

Oran Park Public School 2014 [2] (OPPS)
Oran Park Public School at the opening in 2014 (OPPS)
The newsletter detailed the road construction for Dick Johnson Drive, one of the many roads named after motor racing greats. The street will connect with The Northern Road in 2019. Works area progressing on the latest release areas around Oran Park Public School and on earthworks associated with Peter Brock Drive. The school opened in 2014 with new staff and students adjacent to Oran Park Podium shopping centre.  The shopping centre was opened by New South Wales Premier Mike Baird in late 2014 with 28 specialty shops.

OranParkTownCentre
Oran Park Town Centre which has been used as the land sales office since the first land release in 2013 (OPTC)

New parkland was opened in a recent release area in 2018  and new traffic lights were operational at Peter Brock Drive and Central Avenue.

A new free monthly 20pp A4 newspaper, the Oran Park Gazette,  has appeared in the suburb in 2015. It is published by the Flynnko Group based at Glenmore Park. The Gazette started with a circulation of 3500 and is part of a stable of five mastheads which are distributed across the Western Sydney region.

Camden Council transferred is administrative function to the new office building in 2016. An open day inviting resident to inspect the new facilities was a huge success.

The Macarthur Chronicle has developed a time lapse to illustrate some of the changes at Oran Park.
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Modernism and a country newspaper office

There is nothing quite like experiencing history in the field to gather a feel for a place. Walking the ground provides a perspective for historians that cannot be gained by staying in the archive. Such is my experience of Goulburn. The inland city Goulburn was one of the most important rural centres in 19th century New South Wales.

 

Goulburn Auburn St 2018[2] lowres
A street view of the central business of Goulburn in Auburn Street showing the Victorian grandeur of the Goulburn Post Office built 1880-1881 (I Willis, 2018)
 The world seems to have passed the town by with its eclectic collection of building style – Victorian, Edwardian, Interwar and post-war.    Tucked around every corner there is a new surprise – Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals, the imposing railway station, a grand Victorian post-office and an imposing courthouse that would have certainly made a statement about law and order in 19th century Goulburn.   Another world away from the present.

Goulburn Modernism

Hidden in plain sight in Auburn Street, Goulburn’s main street, amongst this imposing Victorian grandeur are a number of Interwar buildings.   Modernism in the 20th century is represented by the CML building and the small office of the local newspaper. The Goulburn Evening Penny Post building at 199 Auburn Street Goulburn was built in 1935.  The newspaper office reflected a confidence in the future of Goulburn. A statement about the town.

 

Goulburn Post newspaper Office 1935 lowres
The new 1935 newspaper office of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post in Art-Deco styling showing the beacon with the lamp on top above the newspaper signage (I Willis, 2018)

The Daniels family, who owned the Penny Post, were part of the country press barons who ruled  their rural media empires with an iron fist. Families liked the Sommerlads of the New England, the Sidmans of the Macarthur region, the Shakespeare family of the mid-west, the Robinsons in the Hunter, the Parkers of the mid-west, the Musgraves of Wollongong, the Motts of Albury and a host of others.

The newspaper landscape in Goulburn

Goulburn was a vibrant colonial newspaper landscape reflecting a prosperous colonial pastoral economy. While the Goulburn had a literate population it was still a frontier town. Publishers were self-made men, editors as well.  Colonial New South Wales was a rugged and robust publishing environment  – a boom and bust cycle.

The first newspaper in the town was the Goulburn Herald in 1848. By the 1920s 21 separate newspaper mastheads had come and gone in Goulburn.  The Interwar period appears to have been a prosperous time for the New South Wales country press. According to Rod Kirkpatrick’s Country Conscience, there were 238 titles published in 1920, which was only slightly reduced to 221 in 1930.

 

 

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The front entrance of the Art-Deco style 1935 newspaper building showing the chromium and Carrara glass of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post (I Willis, 2018)

The first issue of the Penny Post in 1870 was produced under the cumbersome masthead of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post and Southern Counties General Advertiser as a short tabloid (11 x 14 inches) of 4pp. By 1930 the Goulburn Evening Penny Post was the last standing.

Goulburn society was driven by its religious zeal and the city even had 3 religious publications. They  were: The Goulburn Banner (1848 – Presbyterian), the Monthly Paper (1893 – Church of England) and Our Cathedral Chimes (1920s – Roman Catholic).

A special edition celebrates the new office building

The December 1935 edition of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post that celebrated the opening of the new office building. The edition was 36pp with most of the editorial space taken over by recounting the history of the Goulburn township and area. At the time the Post was a daily, Monday to Friday, which incorporated The Goulburn Daily Herald with a cover price of one penny.

 

Goulburn Penny Post 1935 Dec128
A special edition of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post for 18 December 1935 celebrating the opening of the new Art-Deco style newspaper office. (NLA)

 

Staff photographs

Goulburn Evening Post Staff 1935 GEP[2]
Goulburn Evening Post Staff 1935 (GEP, 1935) (Image supplied by Paul Titheradge )

 

Goulburn Evening Post Staff 2016 Evening Post Staff Paul Titheradge
Goulburn Evening Post 1965 Staff Photo of Management, Editorial and Production Staff. Amongst the staff are Reg Martin, Mark Collier (Linotype Operators), Paul Titheradge (supplied image), Vern Daniel, Col Daniel. (GEP, 1965)

 

Architect LP Burns

The anniversary edition of the  ran an article with headline ‘Inside A Modern Country Newspaper Office’. The Sydney architect LP Burns designed an office building which was described as a ‘fine, modern building’  of ‘distinction’ in a ‘modern’ style.

Burns also designed Goulburn’s Elmslea Chambers at 17 Montague Street in 1934. It is described  as one of the first buildings in Australia to use coloured polychrome terracotta in its façade which features a fine relief of birds, flowers, leaves and typical Art Deco sunbursts under the windows. The building was designed for wealthy pastoralist FG Leahy.

Goulburn Elmslea Chambers 17 Montague St des. LP Burns 1934
Goulburn’s Elmslea Chambers at 17 Montague Street Goulburn designed by Sydney architect LP Burns in 1934 (Pinterest)

The front of Goulburn’s Elmslea Chambers was Wunderlich terra cotta polychrome panels and the Building Magazine claimed that ‘Goulburn [had] never before seen a block of offices of such a lavish and commodious nature’. The building interior had Silky Oak panelling  with Tasmanian Oak inlay, with chromium light fittings with frosted green glass. The builders were Armstrong and Stidwell.

The newspaper building design

The new building of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post was an example of sleek Art-Deco styling. A stripped back minimalism of the realities of the commercial world – a no-nonsense, business-like, functional and matter of fact. Just like the owners and editors.

 

Goulburn Post newspaper Office 1935 shopfront lowres
The shopfront of the 1935 newspaper office building for the Goulburn Evening Penny Post showing the Art-Deco styling of chromium and Carrara glass windows (I Willis, 2018)

Art-deco styling was expression of modernism – sleek, fast, stripped back, not frilly like the Victorian frippery, not tizzy – reminiscent of the world of the railways, movies, motor cars, ocean liners, aeroplanes, consumerism, fashions, wireless. The influences coming down the Hume Highway to Goulburn. The building conveys a powerful statement about the Interwar period in Goulburn.

The Penny Post article on the newspaper office made special mention of the beacon with the lamp on top which made it different from other commercial buildings and with the shopfront Carrara glass. The journalist writing the story was keen to assure the readers that the Carrara glass front was ‘pleasing and harmonious’ and emphasised to the readers that using this type of glass could give a ‘creeping appearance of extravagance’.

Carrara glass was developed in the USA. It was a high-strength coloured glass and used globally in Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings. Carrara glass was usually white or blue-gray which resembled the high quality Carrara marble from Tuscany in Italy. The pigmented glass was an acceptable low-cost alternative building material.

 

Goulburn Post newspaper Office 1935 shopinterior lowres[3]
The interior public foyer area of the 1935 newspaper office of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post with timber paneling probably Silky Oak which was popular at the time (I Willis, 2018)
 The building frontage according to the 1935 press reports was marked by its ‘judicious display’ and ‘would attract attention in any of Sydney’s busiest streets’. The first floor of the building contained the newspaper’s editorial offices and a large strong room where the newspaper archives were kept. The report continued stating that the building was centrally heated by steam including the composing and machinery rooms. This would, it was maintained, be greatly appreciated by the newspapers employees.

The printing presses were at the rear of the building and the newsroom in the centre while the retail shopfront area dealt with advertisers and local folk buying the newspaper.   There was a staff of over 20 journalists, compositors, printers, editors, clerical and retail support. These staff were witness to the daily life of the town as it passed through the doors of the newspaper office.

History in plain sight

Today the Goulburn Post building is evocative of a time when print media was king. Walking into the 1935 Penny Post  office is like stepping back into the past. Into a world that has disappeared, best illustrated currently by the US movie The Post. The movie explores the buzz of the newsroom at the Washington Post and the publishing of the Pentagon Papers during the heyday of the Vietnam War. When print was king.

While the Goulburn Evening Penny Post was not a large metro daily it is easy to visualize the hive of activity in the newsroom and printing shop. The approaching print deadlines and the smoke-filled rooms amongst the evocative timber paneled rooms throughout the building.

 

 

Goulburn Post newspaper Office 1935 shopinterior lowres
The interior public foyer area of the 1935 newspaper office of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post showing the Art-Deco style light fittings and timber paneling which is throughout the building (I Willis, 2018)

The fabric of the building is still largely intact and retains its integrity, charm and character. The building reveals the layers of history to those who care to take a look. The building has escaped any major renovations and the building structure is as it was in 1935. If these walls could talk they would tell many great yarns of hard-bitten country press barons, editors and journos.

It is easy to image the smell of the printers’ ink; the whir of the printing presses; the buzz of the newsroom; the clacking of typewriters; and babble of conversations at the front desk with advertisers, stock and station agents, and wool merchants. The newspaper was the heartbeat of the town and the ink and newsprint flowed through arteries and veins of the community.

 

Goulburn Post newspaper Office 1935 plaque lowres
The 1993 commemorative plaque on the front of the 1935 newspaper office of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post opened by the local member of parliament. (I Willis, 2018)

Today’s newspaper

The current Goulburn Post, the offspring of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post, is still is located in the 1935 building. It is the hub for 10 mastheads within the Fairfax Media. Goulburn Post editor Ainsleigh Sheridan says that the newspaper is about creating community history. She would concur with the former president and publisher of the Washington Post, Phillip Graham, who is credited with saying that ‘journalism is the first rough draft of history’ in 1997.

The Goulburn Post is a tri-weekly masthead and is just one of the Fairfax Media group that is produced in the building. The Post is co-ordinated in the Auburn Street office and then sent online to Canberra for printing. In the past printing was done on-site in the back of the Auburn Street building. The current building has issues with fire regulations that did not exist in 1935 and the upstairs area is not currently in use.

community identity · Elizabeth Farm · Historical consciousness · Historical thinking · history · Local History · Local newspapers · Macarthur · Newspapers · Place making

Nepean News at Camden Produce Market

Out and about this morning at the Camden Produce Market I spotted something new. It was on a table of free local tourist and lifestyle magazines.

So what caught my eye. A pile of glossy newspapers for the Nepean News.

 

Nepean News 7 Dec 2017 Cover
Cover of the Nepean News Issue 7 December 2017 collected by author from the Camden Produce Market (I&M Willis)

 

I have never seen them before in this area. More to the point I had never heard of it. But in itself that did not mean much.

So what about the Nepean News. Its presence was remarked on by those milling around the table.

The Macarthur region has several free weekly newspapers that circulate in the area. In 2017 one appeared with two editions and then disappeared.

The Macarthur region local newspapers are subject to digital disruption just like their metro daily competitors. So what is special about the appearance of another local masthead in the area.

Local newspapers are defying the digital onslaught felt by newspaper all over the English speaking world. Hordes of city based metro-dailies have completely disappeared.

Yet local newspaper keep appearing. I did a blog piece recently on the number of titles in the Macarthur region. The blog post received international attention. That did surprise me. It ended up with an invitation to write an article for Media History an English academic journal. Local and provincial newspapers seem to be defying the odds.

This week I visited Goulburn and spoke to the editor of the Goulburn Post and how the tri-weekly masthead is surviving and doing well. Her office is the regional hub for around 10 different regional and local newspapers. The Post is part of the Fairfax Media group.

The appearance of the Nepean News is an interesting addition to the story of local newspapers in the Macarthur area. It is free fortnightly masthead stapled 32 pages of glossy colour in a tabloid format published on Thursdays. The edition at the Camden Produce Market was Issue 215 dated Thursday 7 December 2017.

The Nepean News is an independent published by the Western Sydney News Group which has a stable of three mastheads: Nepean News; Western News; and St Clair and Erskine Park News. The group of newspapers has a considerable footprint across Western Sydney.

The Nepean News is centred on Penrith and is distributed from Luddenham in the south, west to Emu Plains, east to Mt Druitt and north to Castlereagh. The footprint of the Western News is east of the Nepean News and stretches from Vineyard in the north, to Rouse Hill and Seven Hill in the east, in the south to Eastern Creek and in the west to St Marys.  The third masthead has a smaller circulation and is centred on St Clair.

The Nepean News boasts that it ‘is not tossed onto your front lawn’. ‘Crisp’ free copies can be obtained from ‘local newsagents, service stations, libraries, council and shopping centres’. The newspaper is supported by a bright and lively website.

 

Nepean News Screenshot 2018-01-13 08.39.13
Screenshot of Nepean News website with distribution details and staff based at Penrith in the production office (2018)

 

Nepean News editor Kerrie Davies states on the newspaper’s website that initially she launched the newspaper after being made redundant from another newspaper.  That was eight years ago. She is in partnership with Bart Bassett, general manager, and sales manager, Korena Hale.

The Western News is free, was launched about two years ago and published fortnightly on a Friday of 16 pages. The latest edition is Issue 50 for 22 December 2017. The St Clair and Erskine Park News is a free monthly of 16 pages and the latest edition is Issue 28 for December 2017.

The format across all three mastheads is similar with a number of sections: local news; entertainment; history; and sport. Editorial content is shared as is advertising.  Advertising is a mix of display full page to small quarter, half page and smaller, with a trades and services section.

The newspapers are community focused with a lively mix of local newsy stories and photos, an entertainment and a history page compiled by the local historical society and a strong presence of local sporting stories.

 

Nepean News Screenshot [2] 2018-01-13 08.39.47
Screenshot of Nepean News website with history page showing article on Elizabeth Macarthur of Elizabeth Farm at Harris Park (2018)

There are strong connections between the Camden LGA and Penrith going back decades. Many local families have relatives and friends in the Penrith area and some like taking in the shopping and other facilities.

The appearance of the Nepean News makes an interesting addition to the story of local newspapers in the Macarthur region. It will be even more interesting to see if makes another appearance. Keep your eyes open.