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‘Remaking Cities’, a conference with a heady mix of urban delights

Melbourne’s RMIT University Centre for Urban Research and its bluestone campus proved a thought provoking site when it hosted the 14th Urban History Planning History Biennial Conference ‘Remaking Cities’ in 2018.

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Magistrates Court RMIT
A view of the Magistrate Court building at the UHPH Conference 2018 RMIT University at the corner of La Trobe and Russell Streets Melbourne. The city watch-house, used for holding alleged offenders until they were officially remanded or released on bail, operated on the site next to the Magistrates’ Court from 1892.  (I Willis, 2018)

 

The eclectic mix of architecture at the RMIT La Trobe Street Campus ranged from venues that were located in magnificent Victorian colonial building used for the administration of justice to those that were examples of ultra-modern late 20th century style of architecture.

The venues were an inspiring setting for the discussion of the lofty ideas surrounding an array of urban issues. From the former Melbourne Magistrates’ Court (1842) and City Watch-house Russell Street (1892), Melbourne,  and the Francis Ormond Building which was formerly the Working Men’s College (1886) and the adjoining Supreme Court building (1890).

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Magistrates Court Room RMIT
A view of one of the court rooms at the Magistrates Court Building RMIT University where some of the conference sessions were held during the conference. These court rooms provided a dramatic backdrop to the host of papers presented by conference delegates across the three day conference. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The Storey Meeting Hall of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society (1887) has been remade in modern form reliving its iconography as an important symbol of Melbourne’s social and political protest movement.

Morning and afternoon teas were taken in the alumni courtyard, which was previously the car park of the Russell Street Police Headquarters. The venue provided food for thought located next door to the Old Melbourne Gaol (1842).  If these bluestone walls could speak they would tell harrowing tales from the the colourful past of the site.

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Alumni Courtyard RMIT
A view of the Alumni Courtyard at RMIT University where the conference catering for morning and afternoon tea were held. The view of Melbourne city in the distance provides a contrast of urban development and growth for delegates. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The conference theme of ‘Remaking Cities’ was inspired by Melbourne as an exemplar of cities that are continually remade. Melbourne was a manufacturing centre, a site of land speculation and a place re-made on the land management practices of the Kulin nation.

The process of re-making Melbourne is underpinned by the processes of settler colonialism, speculation and taking of territory. These factors cast a long shadow of how a shared future might be achieved and the role of the planning processes within these processes.

Industrial growth and development are themes that have been central to the Australia’s nineteenth-century cities, including Melbourne, and their subsequent decline by the late 20th century. The post-manufacturing period provides a whole new set of challenges for cities like Melbourne as the financial, service and cultural sectors drive urban growth.

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Courtyard Francis Ormond Bldy RMIT
A view of the courtyard in the Francis Ormond Building at the RMIT University. The Francis Ormond Building is on the Register of the National Estate, classified by the National Trust, and designated a ‘notable building’ in the Melbourne City Council planning scheme.  (I Willis, 2018)

 

The three day conference provided a forum where keynote speakers and delegates struck a workable balance between the scholarly and the practitioner. The keynote speakers were: Kate Torney, CEO State Library of Victoria; Cathie Oats, Trove director of digital services; Jefa Greenaway, director of Greenaway Architects; Chris Gibson, Professor of Human Geography at UOW; Ben Shrader, author and historian from Wellington, NZ; John Masanauskas, City Editor of Herald Sun.

This was a heady mix that was matched by the mix of 72 presentations from scholars, practitioners and community members  across three separate streams. Delegates came from interstate and overseas (New Zealand) with a strong contingent of local Melbournites.

 

UHPH Conf 2018 330 Swanton St Bldg RMIT
A view of some of the post-modern artwork at 330 Swanston Street, RMIT University, Building 22. The campus has much to offer the enthusiast for this style of architecture in the university setting. (I Willis, 2018)

 

There were sessions ranging from: planning histories; postwar campus; heritage; land speculation; music; maps; housing; rivers and wetlands; parks and gardens; museums; governance; transport; commerce; streetscapes; quarries; urban agriculture and food systems; placemaking; to Indigenous planning and policy.

Camden historian and CHN blogger Ian Willis presented a paper called ‘Utopia or dystopia, a contested space on Sydney’s urban frontier’.

The conference organising committee put out a book of abstracts and will publish the conference proceedings later this year.

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Francis Ormond Bldg RMIT
A view of the Francis Ormond Building with the Pearson and Murphy’s Cafe in the foreground where patrons can take in the atmospherics offered by the Victorian style architecture while enjoying their coffee. The cafe was named after Charles Henry Pearson and William Emmett Murphy, who were key players in the original foundation of RMIT as the Working Men’s College back in 1887. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The conference reception and dinner were held at The Old Melbourne Gaol in Russell Street. The bluestone walls are rich in meaning from the 133 hangings on the site and the execution in 1842 of two Palawa brought to Victoria from Van Dieman’s Land by GA Robinson: Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener.  

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Melbourne Gaol Signage
The entrance of The Old Melbourne Gaol in Russell Street Melbourne. Daily tours of the museum are well worth the effort where the visitor can view the cells and take in the atmospherics and witness Ned Kelly’s gallows. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Delegates were invited to dine beneath the gallows that famously ended the life of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly on 11 November 1880. Kelly is certainly one of the icons of Australian history and has inspired poetry, song, film, art and literature. He has variously been called a bushranger, larrikin, bushman, underdog and arguably an anarchist. The venue was heavy with the atmospherics of its history and delegates could wander in and out of the cells where they could walk the ground from the past.

 

UHPH Conf 2018 Melbourne Gaol Dinner
The venue for the conference reception and dinner was The Old Melbourne Gaol. The venue reeks of atmosphere and for the ghoulish it is a ready site for investigating ghosts of the 133 who were hanged on the site from 1842. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The bluestone walls provided a ghoulish backdrop to the sounds of Melbourne trio The Orbweavers.

The conference organising committee are to be complemented on doing a grand job.

Colonialism · Heritage · history · Monuments · Uncategorized · Urban growth

Out and about in Singapore

The CHN blogger has recently been out and about in the Far East and took in some of the historic treasures and heritage gems of Singapore

Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles in Singapore sculptured the original by Thomas Woolner 2005 (Wkp Comms)

The origins of Singapore are based on British imperial interests with the  East India Company in 1819 when British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles negotiated a treaty with the Johor Sultanate which allowed the British to found a trading port on the island.

Initially Singapore was administered from Bengal by the East India Company. Singapore gained its independence after the Second World War in the 1960s, initially as part of Malaysia 1963, then as the Republic of Singapore in 1965.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Early in his Singapore visit the CHN blogger took in a visit to Singapore’s first  UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It is the first botanic garden to be recognised in this fashion.  The 74 hectare gardens contain a remnant of rainforest that is listed as the country’s most valuable historic asset, along with a surrounding buffer zone.

The gates of the Singapore Botanic Gardens 2017 (I Willis)

The gardens have a rich past connected the commercialisation of nutmeg, cloves, gambier, pepper, and  sago. One of the first buildings on the site was a parade ground and bandstand in 1860, with current bandstand built in 1930.

The orchards in the Singapore Botanic Gardens 2017 (I Willis)

National Museum of Singapore

The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in Singapore. Its history dates back to 1849, when it was started as a section of a library at Singapore Institution and called the Raffles Library and Museum. After re-furbishment it was re-opened in 2006.

National Museum of Singapore located next to the Singapore River 2017 (I Willis)

National Gallery of Singapore

National Gallery Singapore occupies two national monuments: former Supreme Court (1937)and City Hall (1929).  Restoration works on the Supreme Court’s tympanum commenced and opened in 2015.

National Gallery of Singapore is located in the government precinct 2017 (I Willis)

Old Parliament Building

The parliament building was originally constructed in 1827 as a merchant’s home on the administrative side of the Singapore River and is the oldest surviving public building in Singapore. It served as the seat of the Legislative Assembly from 1955 and 1963 and was representative of the life and struggles of the people of Singapore on the road to their independence. From 1963 to 1965 Singapore was only a state assembly. After independence in 1965 the building was renamed Parliament House.

The Arts House (formerly Old Parliament House) is located in the government precinct adjacent to the Singapore River 2017 (I Willis)

The Little India precinct

Singapore has a number of precincts based on their ethnic origins and Little India is one of these. The precinct is 13 hectares and has 900 colonial buildings and its main arterial street Serangoon Road is one of the earliest streets in Singapore. Indian immigrants started to live in the area from the 1820s.

Little India precinct in the Serangoon Road on the eastern side of the Singapore River 2017 (I Willis)

Indian Heritage Centre

The Indian Heritage Centre (IHC), under the management of the National Heritage Board and with support from the Indian community, traces the history of the Indian and South Asian communities in the Southeast Asian region. The building was opened in 2015.

Displays at the Indian Cultural Heritage Centre tells the stories of the Indian community. 2017 (I Willis)

Little India Arcade

This is an arcade of a cluster of conserved neoclassical shopfronts built in 1913. The building is currently owned by the Hindu Endowments Board. The current building was re-opened in 1995 to preserve the spirit of commerce of the district’s early Indian traders. The building contains the five-foot-way typical of Malaya’s colonial era shophouses.

 

The Chinatown precinct

The street architecture of Chinatown’s buildings, the shophouses especially, combine different elements of baroque architecture and Victorian architecture and do not have a single classification. Chinese started living in the area from 1819.   Trengganu Street, Pagoda Street and Temple Street are such examples of this architecture, as well as development in Upper Cross Street and the houses in Club Street. Boat Quay was once a slave market along the Singapore River, Boat Quay has the most mixed-style shophouses on the island.

Boat Quay is part of the China Town precinct located on the Singapore River 2017 (I Willis)

Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer market)

The original Telok Ayer market was one of the oldest markets in Singapore and built on the original waterfront. Originall built in 1833 and was a prominent landmark on the Singapore waterfront. The market had to be moved from its original waterfront location and rebuilt in 1894, and a clock tower and a new cast-iron supporting structure.  The most recent restoration and renovation occured in 2014.

 

Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer market) is a rebuilt Victorian market 2017 (I Willis)

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

This 163-ha reserve includes Singapore’s highest hill, Bukit Timah Hill, which stands at 163 m and retains one of the few areas of primary rainforest in the country.  Bukit Timah Forest Reserve was retained for the protection of its flora and fauna under the management of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve information and ranger centre near the reserve entrance. 2017 (I Willis)

Raffles Hotel

The hotel opened in 1887, named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. The hotel started in the 1830s as a beach house and new hotel was built on the site in the 1890s. In 1987 the hotel was declared a national monument by the Singapore Government and has since become a five star hotel. The hotel has been the setting for a number of movies and has is a icon in popular culture.

The Raffles Hotel is a colonial Victorian Singapore icon and is built on the former site of a beach house. 2017 (I Willis)
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Beulah and Sydney’s Urban Sprawl

Beulah is an historic farm property on Sydney south-west rural-urban fringe. Beulah has a frontage to Sydney’s notorious Appin Road and is an area of Sydney’s ever increasing urban sprawl. The property is caught in a pincer movement between two new land releases at Appin and Mount Gilead. These developments  threaten to strangle the life out of Beulah is a vast sea of homogenised suburbia by swallowing up local farmland.

 

beulah-cdfhs
Beulah Appin Road Campbelltown CDFHS

In 2015 NSW Planning Minister Stokes declared that Sydney’s  ‘urban sprawl is over’ with the land release for 35,000 new homes at Mount Gilead, Wilton and Menangle Park.  On the other hand planning Professor Peter Phibbs, from the University of Sydney, stated that the land release meant that there was ‘urban sprawl plus’. [1] Needless to say these sentiments are not new and were expressed in the Macarthur region in 1973, meanwhile urban sprawl continues.

Beulah

Beulah is a heritage gem and possesses stories about local identities and events that add to a sense of place and construction of a local identity. Beulah was purchased by the Sydney Living Museums in 2010 as part of its endangered houses fund project.

The Beulah estate is located on the eastern edge of the clay soils of the Cumberland Plain abutting the Sydney sandstone of the Georges River catchment.  The property contains an 1830s stone farm cottage with a number of out-buildings, a stone bridge and 60 hectares of critically endangered woodland.

Beulah’s sense of place is constructed around stories associated with the Campbelltown’s pioneering Hume family best known for Hamilton Hume and his overland journey to the Port Phillip area in 1824-1825 with William Hovell. Hamilton Hume was granted 300 acres at Appin for this work, which he named ‘Brookdale’, and in 1824 the Hume and Hovell expedition to Port Phillip left from this property on the Appin Road north of the village, near where the Hume and Hovell Monument now stands. The Hume Monument was erected in 1924 by the Royal Australian Historical Society to commemorate Hume’s 1824 expedition.

 

hume-mon-appin-rd-2016
Hume Monument Appin Road Appin 2016 (I Willis)

The earliest European occupation of the Beulah site, according to Megan Martin from Sydney Living Museums, were emancipated Irish convict Connor Bland who constructed the farm cottage around 1835-1836.

Boland put the property up for sale in 1836 and called it Summerhill. The Hume family purchased the property in 1846 and then leased it out. In 1884 the property was renamed Beulah and members of the Hume family lived there until 1936 when it was left to the RSPCA while Hume family associates were given  occupancy rights and  lived in the house until the 1960s.

According to the State Heritage Inventory

Ellen Hume and Beulah were featured in “The Australian Home Beautiful” in 1934 in an article by Nora Cooper, photographs by Harold Cazneaux and descriptions of Hume family furniture. The forest which Miss Hume treated as a private sanctuary The Hume Sanctuary received special attention. It was Ellen’s wish that her trees be left to the nation….

 

beulah-cottage-2016
Beulah Cottage 2016 (I Willis)

The Beulah estate was purchased by developers in the 1970s who anticipated land re-zoning  linked with the 1973 New Cities Structure Plan for Campbelltown, Appin and Camden. The state government released  the New Cities Plan as part of the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan. The plan was based on the utopian dream of British New Towns like Milton Keynes and plans for the development of Canberra.

Some of the new Campbelltown suburbs that appeared in the 1970s followed the Radburn model developed in the United States, which had houses facing a shared green space with no back fences. They turned out to be a disaster and the state government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars reversing these houses so they face the street in suburbs like Macquarie Fields, Minto and Ambarvale.

The original New Cities Plan turned into a developers dream and created the notion of ‘Ugly Campbelltown’ in the Sydney press by the end of the 1970s around public housing . Camden and Appin escaped the worst of the housing releases of the 1970s. Sydney’s urban sprawl reached the Camden LGA in the 1980s at Mount Annan and Currans Hill, while Appin has only seen extensive land releases in recent years.  The 1973 Macarthur Growth Centre failed to materialise in its planned form and in the process cannibalised Campbelltown’s main street and left it a shell of its former country town self.

 

Beulah Appin 2016 (I Willis)
Beulah Appin 2016 (I Willis)

In 1973 the State Planning Authority, according to the State Heritage Inventory, conducted a survey of significant 19th buildings in 1973 and identified Beulah and Humewood as significant. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) did a study on the property and classified it in 1980.

In 1983 Campbelltown City Council proposed an interim conservation order and a permanent conservation order was placed on the 19th century cottage in 1987. The owners were ordered to make repairs to the property in the early 2000s, and the in 2010 the NSW Office of Heritage and Environment acquired the property as part of the state government’s Biodiversity Offset program.

 

biobank-signage-beulah

The  State Heritage Inventory considers the estate to an important example of early conservation planning that resulted in the retention of an ‘entire cultural landscape’ containing a homestead group, stone bridge and garden layout.  Sydney Living Museums have undertaken considerable conservation and restoration work on the farmhouse and the stone bridge on the access road to the farm house.

 

beulah-convict-bridge-2016
Convict constructed bridge at Beulah Farm Estate 2016 (I Willis)

New land releases around Beulah

Beulah and its heritage curtilage is potentially threatened by Sydney’s urban sprawl with new land releases in 2013 at Appin to the south along the Appin Road, while to the north there is the Mount Gilead land release adjacent to Campbelltown’s southern suburbs. Both of these land releases are a repeat of the 1973 housing releases. They are low density horizontal developments that add to urban sprawl. They are problematic and fail to add to the existing identity of the area and take decades to develop their own sense of place.

 

mount-gilead-farmland-2016
Mount Gilead Farmland at Campbelltown 2016 (I Willis)

 

The urban sprawl that is encroaching on Beulah from the south is part of the NSW State Governments 2013 The  Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031.  A structure plan developed for the Appin area states that there will 18,300 housing lots release over a 25 year period from around 17,000 hectares. Walker Corporation stated that there is a strong demand for new housing releases in the Appin area and in 2013 26 lots were sold within 2 days of the June land release.[2] There low density houses were similar to in nature to the planned housing developments of 1973 that failed to eventuate.

 

appin-walker-dev-2016
Land Release Walker Corporation Appin 2015 (I Willis)

On the northern approaches to Beulah are the Mount Gilead land releases on a property formerly owned by Lady Dorothy Macarthur Onslow who died in 2013.  Mount Gilead is proposed to have  1700 housing lots from 210 hectares which Campbelltown City Council endorsed in 2012.[3] The property contains the historic tower-mill believed the last one in New South Wales along with a homestead, stone stable, and granary dating from the early 19th century.

Appin Road a deadly lifeline

The issue of urban sprawl is complicated by the inadequate road access. Beulah and the Appin and Mount Gilead land releases all front the Appin Road one of Sydney’s most dangerous stretches of road. A major unresolved issue in the area around Beulah and land releases at Appin and Mount Gilead is the upgrading of the Appin Road.

The Sydney Morning Herald stated in early 2016 that the Appin Road was Sydney’s deadliest road. Between 2015 and 2000 23 people were killed on the Appin Road with the latest fatality in January 2016. While the state government has plans for road improvements this will take a number of years meanwhile there is increased traffic generated by new land releases and general population growth of the Campbelltown area.

The Appin Road has always been an important access route between the Illawarra and the Campbelltown area. Before the  South Coast railway was extended to Wollongong in 1887 the Appin Road was used as the main access route  to the Main Southern Railway at Campbelltown, which opened in 1858. There was a daily coaching service running between Campbelltown Railway Station and Wollongong. There is still is daily coach service between Campbelltown and the Illawarra via Appin, although tese days it mainly caters to university students.

The poor state of the Appin Road is just one of the issues created by Sydney’s urban sprawl.   Other issues include fire risks, urban runoff and food security, public transport, waste, water supply, loss of prime farm land, community facilities, pollution, energy, social cohesion, and equity challenges. Beulah is part of story of the Sydney’s rural urban fringe which has been a landscape of hope and loss for new arrivals and local alike. It will be interesting to see the part this important heritage asset plays in this narrative and how the construction of sense will effect new residents surrounding it.

In 2019 Sydney historian Stephen Gapps has written about the defensive structures in buildings in the Appin area including Beulah. These buildings were part of the colonial frontier of New South Wales where there were violent clashes between Europeans and Indigenous people. There is evidence that rifle slits and gun loops were were of the colonial architecture at Beulah and the Vines near Appin.

Further reading

Alan Gilpin, An Inquiry pursuant to Section 41 of the Heritage Act 1977 into objections to the making of a permanent conservation order in respect of the buildings and site known as “Beulah”, Appin Road, Appin. Sydney : Office of the Commissioners of Inquiry for Environment and Planning, 1987.

Notes

[1] Melanie Kembrey, ‘Planning Minister Rob Stokes unveils plans to create three new communities south of Campbelltown’. The Sydney Morning Herald 22 September 2015. Online @ http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/planning-minister-rob-stokes-unveils-plans-to-create-three-new-communities-south-of-campbelltown-20150922-gjs8ev.html (accessed 28 November 2016)

[2] Walker Corporation, Submission to the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney 2031, An Appin Urban Release Area (Sydney: Walker Corporation, 2013), p22

[3] Kimberley Kaines, ‘Call for more details on Mt Gilead development’, Macarthur Chronicle, 19 February 2015.

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Lost Campbelltown heritage

Lost Campbelltown heritage

Campbelltown and surrounding areas have lost much in the way of their local heritage. Does anyone care and more to the point does anyone notice?

Heritage is what the community considers of value at present and is worthy of handing on to the next generation. It is a moveable feast and changes over time. What is important to one section of the community is of no value to another. And so it is with different generations of the one community.  Many regret the loss of building from the past yet there were others who did not miss any of these buildings. This story clearly illustrates this trend.

The loss of Campbelltown’s  heritage is part of the story of the urban growth of the town and surrounding area. Starting with the 1948 Cumberland Plan then the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan of which 1973 New Cities Structure Plan was a part. These plans set a path for a growing community and generated hope for some and loss for others. Campbelltown like other communities has gone through loss and renewal, and some are only interested in the new. Yet the need and yearning for a clear view of the past is part of the human condition where people need to honor and respect their ancestors and what did and did not achieve.

Andrew Allen has started to detail the loss of Campbelltown heritage buildings that coincided with a period of incredible urban growth the Campbelltown LGA in his history blog The History Buff. This blog post details just some of the buildings that have been lost. There have been many others as well.

Lost Buildings of Campbelltown

Marlows Drapery Store, Campbelltown

Retailing in Campbelltown has changed over the decades. There has been a transition from the family store to the mega-malls of today. One family store was Marlow’s Drapery Store.

Andrew Allen writes:

The demolition one quiet Sunday morning in 1981 of an old curiosity shop divided Campbelltown. The shop was built in 1840 and was once owned by former mayor C.J. Marlow who used it as a drapery. It stood between Dredge’s Cottage and the old fire station and Town Hall Theatre.The last owner of the building was Gladys Taylor.

Marlows Drapery Store Campbelltown (History Buff)
Marlows Drapery Store Campbelltown (History Buff)

 

Bradbury Park House, Campbelltown

Andrew Allen writes:

In 1816 Governor Macquarie gave a grant of 140 acres to Joseph Phelps who sold it to William Bradbury the following year. Bradbury Park House was built on this land in 1822.The house was located about 140 metres opposite where the town hall is located in Queen Street.  Unfortunately Bradbury Park House was demolished in 1954.

Bradbury Park House c1918 (History Buff)
Bradbury Park House c1918 (History Buff)

 

 

Leameah House, Leameah

Leumeah House at 2 Queen St, Campbelltown (cnr Queen Street and Campbelltown Road) was constructed in 1826. The house was owned by the Fowler family for many years and Eliza Fowler lived there in the 1880s after marrying Joseph Rudd. John Warby was given a 260 acre land grant in 1816 which he called Leumeah. His house was demolished in 1963, but his old stable and barn still exist.  Part of the site is now known as Leumeah Stables also known as Warby’s Barn and Stable which were constructed around 1816.

Leumeah House originally built by John Warby on his grant of Leumeah in 1820s. (Campbelltown Library)
Leumeah House originally built by John Warby on his grant of Leumeah in 1820s. (Campbelltown Library)

 

Keighran’s Mill.

Andrew Allen writes:

Just south of the original Woodbine homestead, and adjacent to the old Sydney Road (since renamed Hollylea Road) there once stood an imposing landmark, Keighran’s Mill. John Keighran purchased the site in 1844 and in 1855 built the mill on the banks of Bow Bowing Creek. Percy Payten was the last member of the Payten family to own the mill. In 1954 he offered the mill to the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society. The historical society also didn’t have enough funds at the time for its restoration. In 1962 the mill was dismantled and the stone was used in the building of the RAE Memorial Chapel at the School of Military Engineering at Moorebank, which opened in 1968.

Keighran's Mill, Campbelltown. 1959 S Roach (History Buff)
Keighran’s Mill, Campbelltown. 1959 S Roach (History Buff)

 

Woodbine Homestead, Woodbine

While James Payten was living at Leppington Hall in 1873, he bought Woodbine – the remains of John Scarr’s early farmhouse – as a new family home.The homestead stood on Campbelltown Road (Sydney Road), just north of the bridge, which crosses the railway line.

James Payten and his wife, Sarah (nee) Rose, shared their home with her brother, Alfred Rose and his family. Rose died in 1951 and her aging Woodbine cottage was demolished in the 1960’s.

Woodbine Homestead with Rose Payten standing at gate c1920s (Campbelltown Library)
Woodbine Homestead with Rose Payten standing at gate c1920s (Campbelltown Library)

 

Ivy Cottage, 31 Allman St, Campbelltown

Some of the buildings that have been lost in Campbelltown have religious connections. One those is Ivy Cottage.

Andrew Allen writes:

Local storekeeper William Gilchrist purchased land in Allman Street and built Ivy Cottage on it for his brother, Rev. Hugh Gilchrist, a Presbyterian minister appointed in 1838 to take charge of Campbelltown and many other surrounding towns. The cottage became the Presbyterian Manse and served as such until about 1882. The cottage was demolished in the 1960s.

Ivy Cottage Campbelltown in 1920s (The History Buff)
Ivy Cottage Campbelltown in 1920s (The History Buff)

 

The Engadine, cnr Broughton & Lindsay Streets, Campbelltown

The Engadine was built in 1924 by Minto grazier Kelvin Cuthell and designed by local architect A.W.M. Mowle.

Mowle lived at the family farm of Mount Drummond at Minto. He enlisted in the Australian Flying Corps in 1915  with the rank of Lieutenant and returned in 1918. In the 1920s he lived in 44 Wentworth Road, Burwood. In 1926 he supervised renovations, additions and painting of a weatherboard cottage in Campbelltown and in 1929 supervised the construction of shop and residence (SMH).

Kelvin Cuthell married Daphne Woodhouse in 1924 and moved into The Engadine. Kelvin Cuthel died in 1930 and after Daphne died in 1945, her sister Iris moved into the house, remaining there until her death in the 1970s. The house was demolished in 2012.

Verandah of The Engadine Mrs D Cuthell (The History Buff)
Verandah of The Engadine Mrs D Cuthell 1920s (The History Buff)

 

Milton Park, Ingleburn

Built in 1882 by hotelier David Warby.  By 1909 it was owned by Thomas Hilder, manager of the silver mines at Yerranderie in the Burragorang Valley. Later this century it fell into disrepair and the owner, Campbelltown Council, demolished it in 1992 after being unable to secure a financial offer for the building.

Milton Park in disrepair in 1981. (The History Buff)
Milton Park in disrepair in 1981. (The History Buff)

 

Rosslyn House, Badgally Road, Claymore

Marie Holmes writes that she believed the house to be built in the 1860s. Samuel Humphreys purchased two lots of land from William Fowler in 1882 which included the land and house. The house was in the hands of the Bursill family for much of the 20th century.

Andrew Allen writes:

In 1970 the property was sold to the State Planning Authority who in turn transferred it to the Housing Commission for the development of Claymore suburb. The house was left vacant, fell into disrepair and was damaged by fire in the mid 1970s. It was demolished in the late 1970s.

Rosslyn was left vacant, became derelict and damage by fire in mid-1970s. c1977. (The History Buff)
Rosslyn was left vacant, became derelict and damaged by fire in mid-1970s. c1977. (The History Buff)

 

Silver Star Garage, Queen Street, Campbelltown

Charles Tripp operatted the Silver Star Garage on the corner of Queen and Dumaresq Streets, Campbelltown. The Tripp family operated a variety of businesses on the site. In the 1880s there was a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, hired horses and sulkies and operated a mail coach. After the First World War the business changed to sell and service motorbikes, and later serviced motor cars and sold petrol.  In the 1920s he sold radios and broadcast radio programmes from the store. The garage was still operating commercially in the 1940s. The premises were demolished in 1966.

Silver Star Garage operated by Charles Tripp in Queens Street Campbelltown c.1940s (The History Buff)
Silver Star Garage operated by Charles Tripp in Queens Street Campbelltown c.1940s (The History Buff)

 

Campbelltown Hotels

Hotels are an ancient institution offering hospitality for the traveller. They provided comfort and shelter, a place to do business, a place to create wealth, a meeting place and a place to rest. In the past they have provided warmth, safety and a good meal from the elements. Hotels in Campbelltown did all of this and their loss has been a tragedy to many from the local community. Some of the hotels that are no longer with us include these listed here.

Royal Hotel, Cnr Railway and Hurley Streets, Campbelltown

The Royal Hotel was originally known as the Cumberland Hotel in the 1880s and became the Royal Hotel in the 1890s. Between 1899 and 1905 the licencee was Thomas F Hogan. Between the 1920s and the 1970s the premises were owned by Tooth & Co. The Royal Hotel was demolished in 1986 and suffered the fate of many heritage icons in Campbelltown and elsewhere.

Andrew Allen writes

The hotel was demolished in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning July 6, 1986. Newspaper reports described how at 5.30am council workmen first set up safety barriers around the hotel. By 6am a massive Hitachi caterpillar-tracked back hoe commenced clawing the building down and by evening most of the remains had been removed from the site. Council needed to widen Hurley Street and unfortunately the Royal Hotel was in the way of this.

Royal Hotel, Campbelltown before demolition. 1986. (The History Buff)
Royal Hotel, Campbelltown before demolition. 1986. (The History Buff)

 

Lacks Hotel, Cnr Queen and Railway Streets, Campbelltown

Lacks Hotel was located on the corner of Queen and Railway Streets and over the years was part of the complete re-development of Railway Street.

Andrew Allen writes:

Built by Daniel Cooper in 1830 as the Forbes Hotel, in 1901 it was refurbished and renamed the Federal Hotel. The license was transferred to Herb Lack in 1929 and it became Lack’s Hotel. After Herb’s death in 1956, his son-in-law and daughter Guy and Tib Marsden took over. Lack’s Hotel was demolished in 1984. A modern commercial building including a modern tavern now take its place.

Lacks Hotel Campbelltown about to be demolished in 1984. (The History Buff)
Lacks Hotel Campbelltown about to be demolished in 1984. (The History Buff)

 

Jolly Miller Hotel, Queen Street, Campbelltown

Hotels continued to disappear from the Campbelltown town centre. The buildings might still exist but they changed to other uses for other purposes. One of those was the Jolly Miller Hotel.

Andrew Allen writes:

The Jolly Miller Hotel was built in the late 1840s at the southern end of Queen Street opposite Kendall’s Mill. The hotel was opened by George Fieldhouse who had followed his convict father to New South Wales in 1828. George’s two sons William and Edwin Hallett opened a general store next to the hotel in 1853. This building, which later became the offices for the Campbelltown and Ingleburn News, is still standing opposite McDonald’s restaurant in Queen Street.

Jollly Miller Hotel at the southern end of Queen Street (The History Buff)
Jolly Miller Hotel at the southern end of Queen Street (The History Buff)

 

Campbelltown continues to grow and renew. Some of that renewal is high quality and other parts of it will disappear with time and be completely forgotten. A clear view of the past is necessary to understand the present. It provides a perspective to life and the human condition. People have a yearning for their story to be told by those who come after them. They want to be remembered and want to leave a legacy. This blog post is part of the Campbelltown story and is attempting to tell Campbelltown’s past.

 

New Book on Lost Campbelltown

The Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society has published a book of Lost Campbelltown (2018). The author of this great read is The History Buff blogger Andrew Allen who gives an excellent account of the built heritage that has been lost in the Campbelltown area. The book is 99 pages in full colour in an A4 format. The author outlines the stories of 61 buildings that have been demolished in the local area over the past 100 years. The buildings were a mixture of grand Victorians to humble slab and timber workman’s cottages. They range across the Europeans presence in Campbelltown and cover the Victorian, Edwardian, Interwar and Mid 20th Century periods. Modernism has much to answer for around their destruction along with the  planning decisions linked the 1948 Cumberland Plan and the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan and the Three Cities Structure Plan that went with it.

Campbelltown Lost Buildings Book Cover Andrew Allen 2018
A book by Andrew Allen called More Than Bricks and Mortar Remembering Campbelltown’s Lost Buildings. Published by Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society in 2018. 99 pages. Full colour in A4 format. ISBN 978-0-9578277-7-6

The book is available from Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society and Campbelltown Library.

 

Read more @ The History Buff,  Campbelltown Library’s History of our suburbs and Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.

Camden · Colonial Camden · community identity · Convicts · Cowpastures · Edwardian · Elderslie · Farming · First World War · Floods · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · history · Interwar · Local History · Macarthur · Modernism · Place making · Red Cross · Second World War · sense of place · Settler colonialism · Urban growth · Volunteering · war

Pictorial History of Camden and District

Front Cover
Front Cover This image was taken by Charles Kerry a Sydney photographer c. 1890 in John Street looking towards St Johns Church on the hill. Kerry toured NSW taking photographs of country towns. (Camden Museum/John Kerry)

Sydney publisher Kingsclear Books recently released a new title about the Camden area. It was called Pictorial History Camden and District, written by local author Ian Willis. This is one of one of series of pictorial histories produced by Catherine Warne of Kingsclear Books over the last 32 years.

The history of the area is told in pictures and text. The images are another way to look into the past. They are a snapshot of a moment in time. They are full of meaning on a number of levels and provide a different perspective than just text. Pictorial histories satisfy a curiosity about local history and the way places and things change over time.

The book has the honour of a number of firsts. The book is the first time a complete of the local history of the Camden area has been attempted by any author. The book is the first time a collection of images like this has been put together on the local area.

Back Cover
Back Cover shows Pansy’s last run from Campbelltown to Camden in 1963. Hundreds of passengers were let off the train on Maryfields to walk up to the top of Kenny Hill and record Pansy’s last assault of the 1 in 19 grade. (Australian Railway Historical Society)

The images are primarily taken from the collection of the Camden Museum which is managed by the Camden Historical Society. Other images are drawn from the Camden Library, The Oaks Historical Society, State Library of NSW, Royal Australian Historical Society, National Library, Australian Railway Historical Society and elsewhere. A host of people assisted with the publication and they are listed in the acknowledgements.

The book has been received well locally and has met a need and a thirst by the community for a collection and story of the past of this type. The publisher has had trouble keeping up with sales during the run-up to Christmas and there is still strong demand. Congratulations of been coming in from a variety of quarters. The author have been told stories of a number of people walking away from sales outlets with up to five copies of the book.

The text of the Camden story starts with the First Australians then moves on the Cowpastures, the establishment of local villages and gentry properties, particularly the Macarthurs and Camden Park. The description follows the founding of Camden from estate village to market town, and the dairy revolution of the 1890s then into the 20th century when the story was rudely interrupted by the First World War. Modernism catches up with district in the Interwar period which is book ended with the Second World War. In the post war era coal is king, and the country town is eventually over-run by Sydney’s urban growth. All the while there has been the constancy of the river and its moods, particularly regularly its flooding.

The books is available from a number of local outlets including the Camden Museum.The good folk at the Camden Museum will supply a copy by post $24.95 plus $7 handling and postage. Contact the Camden Historical Society: secretary@camdenhistory.org.au or contact the publisher.

Art · Attachment to place · Belonging · Camden · Colonial Camden · Colonial frontier · Colonialism · Convicts · Cowpastures · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · England · Farming · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Interwar · Landscape aesthetics · Lifestyle · Living History · Local History · Local newspapers · Local Studies · Macarthur · Memorials · Memory · Modernism · Monuments · myths · Newspapers · Place making · Ruralism · sense of place · Settler colonialism · Stereotypes · Streetscapes · Sydney's rural-urban fringe · Tourism · Urban growth · urban sprawl · Urbanism · war · Women's history

Making Camden History

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

Making Camden History

A brief historiography of the local area

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

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

Tourist history of Camden

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Camden Heritage Walking Tour Brochure)

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

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

Camden Walking Brochure

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

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

The Cowpastures frontier

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

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

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

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

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

Villages and beyond

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

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

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

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

Wartime writing

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

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

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

Camden Aesthetic

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

 

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

1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp
1934 Australian Commemorative Postage Stamp

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Memorials of loss

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

The rural-urban fringe and other threats

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

MtAnnan2002CHS2005

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Read more @ Camden Bibliography

Aesthetics · Attachment to place · British colonialism · Camden · Cobbitty · Colonial Camden · community identity · Cowpastures · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · Entertainment · Floods · Heritage · Historical consciousness · history · Landscape aesthetics · Leisure · Local History · Macarthur · Memory · Menangle · myths · Nepean River · Place making · Ruralism · Second World War · sense of place · Settler colonialism · Sydney's rural-urban fringe · Town planning · Urban growth · Urban Planning · urban sprawl · war · War at home · Water

Nepean River, more than a water view

The Nepean River is one of the most important waterways in the Sydney basin and has particular significance for Sydney’s southwestern rural-urban fringe.

Nepean River near Cobbitty 1900 (Camden Images)
Nepean River near Cobbitty 1900 (Camden Images)

 

The Nepean River catchment extends south and east of the Sydney Basin to take in areas near Robertson and Goulburn.

West of Wollongong the tributaries includng Cataract Creek, Avon River, Cordeaux River that flow north-west and then into the deep gorges of Pheasants Nest and Douglas Park.

The river opens up into a floodplain and flows past  Menangle and crosses the Cowpastures and southern Cumberland Plain past Camden and Cobbitty.

The river then flows north through the gorge adjacent to Wallacia  and enters Bents Basin before it is joined by the Warragamba River and changes its name to the Hawkesbury River.

The Nepean River is economically important to the Sydney Basin and is used for mining, irrigation, recreation and other activities. It is ecologically significant to the area and has a number of rare and endangered species of plants.

Cultural importance

The river  has an important meaning in terms of its intangible cultural heritage to the local landscape. The river and its surroundings had special meaning to the Indigenous Dharawal people of the Cowpastures area.

The river defines the landscape and the construction of place in the localities along the river including Menangle, Camden, and Cobbitty.

One locality of special significance is Little Sandy at Camden.

Little Sandy

Little Sandy on the Nepean River at Camden has been a popular spot with local Europeans for many decades for swimming, picnicking, boating and fishing. It is rich in the memories of local folk played out their childhoods, experienced the pangs of  youth and enjoyed time with their families.

Little Sandy has been an important part of Camden cultural heritage for generations. It is a locality with a strong sense of place and identity with people’s memories.

The site has layers of meaning that can be peeled back and reveal a landscape of diverse dimensions. Its story has meaning across the generations.

The site and the pondage was created on the Nepean River with the construction of the Camden Weir in 1907. It is a culturally created landscape.

Today thousands of local residents enjoy the same rituals at Little Sandy on their jaunts along the Nepean River bike path with the friends and family.

Little Sandy with footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950. Diving board in foreground. (Camden Images)
Little Sandy with footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950. Diving board in foreground. (Camden Images)

 

Swimming carnivals

Nepean River swimming carnival 1917 Little Sandy (Camden Images)
Nepean River swimming carnival 1917 Little Sandy (Camden Images)

 

In the early 20th century Little Sandy was a favourite swimming spot. In the 1920s the Camden Swimming Club built galvanised iron dressing sheds painted green in an area now known at Kings Bush Reserve.

Swimming became one of Elderslie’s earliest organised sporting activities, after the Nepean River was dammed in 1907 with the construction of the Camden Weir.

Water backed up behind the weir for four kilometres through the Elderslie area, and provided relatively deep water suitable for swimming.

The Camden Aquatic Sports carnival was organised in 1909 and attracted over 1000 spectators, and was the location of the Camden Swimming Club in the 1920s.

The area was divided into Big Sandy, which was a deep hole, near Kings Bush Reserve. About 100 metres upstream was Little Sandy where the water was shallower. Learn to swim classes where held for a short time and Boy Scouts would go swimming there, according to Milton Ray.

Len English says

“In the 1950s the area was used for swimming by pupils from Camden Public School’,  ‘The girls went with the female teachers to Little Sandy, while the male teachers and boys went downstream to Camden Weir.’

Olive McAleer says

‘Little Sandy was a popular spot for family picnics between the 1920s and 1940s’.

The river stopped being a swimming spot when it was condemned because of pollution by medical authorities in the early 1960s. It was replaced by Camden Memorial Swimming Pool in 1964. (P Mylrea, ‘Swimming in the Nepean River at Camden’, Camden History, March 2006)

Learn more @ Ian Willis, ‘Elderslie’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2008

 

Footbridge built 1943

Little Sandy footbridge over Nepean River at Camden in 1943 (Camden Images)
Little Sandy footbridge over Nepean River at Camden in 1943 (Camden Images)

 

In  1943 military authorities from the Narellan Military Camp were anxious to undertake a practical training exercise for engineers. In September they sought the view of Camden Municipal Council on erecting a footbridge and the council immediately agreed with the proposal.

The council  covered the cost of some of the timber so that the bridge remained the property of council. The  Australian Military Forces Engineers supplied the labour, supervision, transport vehicles and operators for the transport of stores and construction material.

The site at the bottom Chellaston Street connected two reserves on either side of the Nepean River. One on the Chellaston Street side and the other at River Road Elderslie.

In late September 1943 40 troops started building a wooden footbridge 120 feet long and 4 feet wide. Construction took around four weeks and was finished by 28 October.

Observers commented on a

‘fine piece of workmanship…that would be much appreciated’ by the local community.

(Camden News, 16 September 1943, 23 September 1943, 28 October 1943).

Nepean River 1900

Nepean River near Cowpasture Bridge 1900
Nepean River below Cowpasture Bridge 1900 (Camden Images/CA Poole)

 

This image of the Nepean River is taken in the vicinity of  the Camden Weir. It gives an indication of the degraded state of the river around 1900. There is evidence of  sedimentation and streambank erosion caused by hard-hoofed animals trampling river banks.

These issues were typical of Australia’s inland waterways in the late 19th century after extensive clearing of the catchments for forestry, farming and other activities.

Sue Rosen quotes from James Atkinson’s 1826  An Account of the State of Agriculture and Grazing in New South Wales  in her book on the environmental history of the Nepean River

Atkinson states that even by the mid-1820s the river banks were undermined and collapsing into the stream. There were deposits of sand in the river channel and clearing practices had caused increased run-off,  accelerated the degradation of the river channel and increased obstruction in the river bed. All evident in the 1900  photograph of the river channel at Camden.

Atkinson felt that the original European settlers had failed to ‘improve’ the land for farming and that its farming potential had been compromised. The settlers had in Atkinson’s terms failed to fulfil the original objectives of opening up the land and favoured, according to Rosen, ‘the cultivation of a landscape reminiscent of British romantic pastoral scenes’.

The earliest reports of the Nepean River date from 1795. David Collins wrote about his impression after a wet spring in his An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (London, 1798). These impressions have been quoted in Alan Atkinson’s Camden where it states there were

large ponds, covered with ducks and the black swan, the margins of which were fringed with shrubs of the most delightful tints.

After a dry spell the river at Menangle was  reported by George Caley in his ‘Report of a Journey to the Cowpastures’ (1804, ML) to be ‘reduced to a small compass’ and the water having ‘the foul appearance of a pond in a farmyard’.

Learn more  

Sue Rosen Losing Ground An Environmental History of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995.

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

 Camden Weir 1907

Camden Weir 1917
Picturesque scene at the Camden Weir on the Nepean River c.1917 (Camden Images)

 

The Camden Weir pondage created an aesthetic water feature that runs through the Camden township and took in the Little Sandy. The aesthetic has moral, experiential, spiritual and well-being aspects to it.

The Camden Weir was constructed by New South Wales Public Works Department after the completion of the Cataract Dam from 1907.

The compensation weir was one of number constructed along the Nepean River to safeguard the ‘riparian rights’ of landowners affected by the interruption of flow to the river, according to John Wrigley.

A riparian right is the ability to take water from the river. The water supply dams of the Upper Nepean  Scheme reduced the flow of the tributaries of the Nepean River, and the weirs were to ‘compensate’ for the loss of water flow.

The other weirs near Camden were at Menangle, Bergins, Thurns, Camden Sharpes and Cobbitty. The weirs were eventually transferred to the management to the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board as part of the Sydney Water Supply systerm.

Learn more @ John Wrigley,’ Nepean River Weirs’, The District Reporter 3 August 2001

 

Water has a calming effect on the mind and takes the mind to a quiet, tranquil and peaceful place.

Some say it has the ability to dim our internal chatter and calm some people.

Water provides a degree of serenity and the purifying effect it can have on the soul. Water can have a soothing meditative effect on some people.

People need to re-charge and re-vitalise in the tranquility of the environment provided by the tranquility and serenity of the pool provided by the weir.

For others, a visually pleasant water feature can also be a source of healing and relaxing in a man-mad environment.

Those that went swimming at Little Sandy had an experiential relationship the water. Water is used to nourish and replenish man after exertion.

Swimming carnivals were a time of community celebration and strengthening community resilience.

The pondage at Little Sandy also has a scientific value for the marine ecosystem it supports. It supports a range of life from eels, to perch, birds, reptiles and other life.

The Little Sandy pondage creates a pleasant water feature that circles the township. The beauty of the scene with the trees along the water’s edge framing the quiet of the pond.

People doing simple tasks like fishing, picnicking, walking and re-engaging with nature on the water’s edge.    The surface of the water is a mirror that reflects the images of the trees and bushes on the water’s edge.

At dawn on a cold frosty morning the vapours of steam rise of the water’s surface as the walkers feet crackle under the frozen grass on the water’s edge.  There is a splash as a kingfisher dives into the water after a fish, that breaks the silence of the space.

The world disappears momentarily as you sit on the water’s edge taking in the serine quiet surroundings of the pond.

A new footbridge

Little Sandy Footbridge after completion of work 2014 (I Willis)
Little Sandy Footbridge after completion of work 2014 (I Willis)

 

The Little Sandy footbridge was officially opened on 4 May 2014 with another community event.

The weather gods were kind, and while there was a cool breeze and an overcast start the sun came out and the crowd turned up with families of mums and dads and the kids.

Camden Council organised a family fun day in Chellaston Reserve where there were stalls, a free train ride along the bike track and information stands.

The day opened at 11.00am and wound up in the afternoon at 3.00pm. Camden Rotary provided a sausage sizzle which sold out early in the day.

An information stand was provided by Camden Historical Society which was staffed by volunteers John and Julie Wrigley, Bob Lester and Rene Rem, while others turned up later.

This was another community event that has been typical of the popularity of the site for the Camden community.

 Pre-cast concrete

The new pre-cast concrete 43 metre footbridge at Little Sandy on the Nepean River was completed in April 2014. Camden Council let contracts for the completion of  a new footbridge in September 2013.

The new structure replaced a wooden footbridge that was damaged in the a flood in 2012. The new footbridge was jointly funded by council and the state government.

The finished footbridge is part of the Nepean River cycleway that joins Camden with Elderslie, South Camden and Narellan. Local resident Kevin Browne stated in  2012 (Camden Narellan Advertiser 31 July) that:

the bridge was part of the unique attraction of living in a rural area [and] the availability of serene, natural beauty.

After the 2012 damage to the footbridge and its closure local residents started to campaign for its replacement.

This culminated in  a community meeting in the mayor’s office in August 2013 when 19 local residents attended an information session with the mayor, the Member for Camden,  and the council’s general manager and engineering staff.

The original footbridge was constructed in 1943 as a military training exercise by the AMF Engineering Corps stationed at Narellan Military Camp.

Camden Council agreed to fund the cost of the materials while the engineers provided the labour (40 men), supervision and vehicles. The original footbridge was 120 feet long and 4 feet wide.

Learn more @ The District Reporter 17 August 2012.

 

Kings Bush

King’s Bush is the reserve adjacent the river’s edge at Little Sandy and  is named after Cecil J King, the rector of St John’s Church between 1893 and 1927.

According to John Wrigley, King kept his horse in the paddock next to the river and swam at the same spot in the river.

Reverend King was a keen sports fan and played for the Camden Cricket Club and was the teams wicket keeper for a number of years. In 1927 he was the patron of the Camden Golf Club  and president of the Union and St John’s tennis club.

King was ordained at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney in 1887 by the Bishop Barry of the Sydney Archdiocese. (Camden Advertiser 2 June 1949)

Learn more  @ John Wrigley, Place Names on the Camden Area, Camden, CHS, 2005.

 

Chellaston Street

Chellaston Street ends at the Nepean River in Chellaston Reserve in the vicinity of Little Sandy. Chellaston was a single storey brick residence at 38 Menangle Road built by Camden builder John Peat and used as his family home.

Chellaston Street was part of land releases on the south side of the township in the 1920s. There were a number of land releases in the area during the Inter-war period including Victory Ave and Gilbulla Ave that run off Menangle Road.

Learn more  @ John Wrigley, Place Names on the Camden Area, Camden, CHS, 2005.

 

Learn more

Many people have fond memories of Little Sandy at Camden
The Nepean River at Little Sandy is part of the Cumberland Woodland 
Not far from Little Sandy there are stands of the rare Elderslie Banksia Scrub
Read about the Camden White Gum which can be found on the banks of the Nepean River at Little Sandy