Such a pretty tree-lined streetscape, full of old-world charm. I’ve often stood at that green paddock next to the church, with its views across the valley… locals are up in arms as online rumours swirl about moves by the church to sell the land…Right next to Camden’s most famous heritage landmark, an 1840s gem described by one government website as “a major edifice in the history of Australian architecture”.
Cr Banasik said this development opposed the shire’s ethos of rural living. The heritage of the area is amazing – there is Camden Park, Gilbulla, Menangle Store and the rotolactor site,” he said. This development just ain’t rural living.
Journalist Kayla Osborne reported the views of town planning consultant Graham Pascoe on heritage and the Vella family’s new commercial horticulture venture at Elderslie in the Camden Narellan Advertiser in May.
Mr Pascoe said the heritage nature of the site and its proximity to Camden had been well-considered by the Vella family…the land was ideal for farm use…the land has been farmed in the past…We believe we will provide a model…farm at the entrance to the Camden town centre.
The views on heritage expressed in these stories do not actually define heritage.
There is an assumption or a presumption that the reader understands the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these contexts.
So what was the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these articles?
To answer that question another must be asked: What is Camden’s heritage?
What is heritage?
The term heritage is not that straight forward. There are a range of definitions and interpretations. The term is not well understood and can raise more issues than it addresses. Jana Vytrhlik, Manager, Education and Visitor Services, Powerhouse Museum (Teaching Heritage, 2010) agrees and says:
To start with it is a useful exercise to say what heritage is not. Heritage is not history. Historian David Lowenthal says that
Heritage should not be confused with history. History seeks to convince by truth… Heritage exaggerates and omits, candidly invents and frankly forgets, and thrives on ignorance and error… Prejudiced pride in the past… is its essential aim. Heritage attests our identity and affirms our worth.
The word ‘history’ comes from the Latin word ‘historia’, which means ‘inquiry’, or ‘knowledge gained by investigation’.
History tells the stories of the past about people, places and events. History is about what has changed and what has stayed the same. History provides the context for those people, places and events.
History is about understanding, analysing and interpreting the past based on evidence. As new evidence is produced there is a re-examination and re-interpreting of the past. History is about understanding the why about the past.
Meaning of heritage
The meaning of heritage is not fixed and historian Graeme Davison maintains that the history of the word heritage has changed over the decades.
Initially heritage referred to what was handed down from one generation to the next and could include property, traditions, celebrations, commemorations, myths and stories, and memories. These were linked to familial and kinship groups, particularly in traditional societies, through folkways and folklore.
In the 19th century the creation of the nation-state, capitalism and modernism led to the creation of national myths, national stories and national heritage.
ln the 1970s, the new usage was officially recognised. A UNESCO Committee for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted the term ‘heritage’ as a shorthand for both the ‘built and natural remnants of the past’.
(in Davison, G. & McConville C. (eds) ‘A Heritage Handbook’, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards NSW,1991)
Heritage can be categorized in a binary fashion: cultural heritage/natural heritage; tangible heritage/intangible heritage; my heritage/your heritage; my heritage/our heritage.
What is significant about Camden’s heritage?
In 2016 the Camden Resident Action Group attempted to have the Camden town centre listed on the state heritage register. The group obtained statements of support which outlined the significance Camden’s heritage. Statements of support were from Dr Ian Willis (UOW), Associate Professor Grace Karskens (UNSW) and Emeritus Professor Alan Atkinson.
Modernism was a transnational force that embraced the Camden community.
The lands releases in the Camden suburb of Elderslie in 1960s have produced a number of houses that have expressed mid-20th century modernism. The house designs were taken from the book of project homes of the day and were quite progressive.
Australian architects including Robin Boyd were expressing Australian modernism. These architects were commissioned by housing developers like Lend Lease to design their housing estates. One such development was the Lend Lease Appletree Estate at Glen Waverley in Melbourne. Another Lend Lease land release and group of show homes were at their 1962 Kingsdene Estate in Carlingford,
The Elderslie homes were built by the miners who worked in the Burragorang Valley and they wanted new modern houses. They generated the wealth that funded the urban growth of the Camden suburbs of Elderslie and South Camden.
Elderslie was one of the original land grants to John Oxley in 1816. The area has been dominated by farming, particularly orchards and vineyards.
Elderslie examples of 1960s modernism include houses in Luker Street characterised by low-pitched rooves, open planned but restrained design, with lots of natural light streaming in full length glass panels adjacent to natural timbers and stone. There are also ranch style houses in River Road with open planning and wide frontages to the street, some architect designed.
These houses are all located in and amongst Federations style farming houses of the Edwardian period. The Federation style houses were on large blocks of land that were sub-divided during the 1960s.
The now demolished Henning’s house in Macarthur Road (image) is an example of open planned ranch style. Other modernist designs are the blocks of flats in Purcell Street, with use of decorative wrought iron railings.
Sunset Avenue in Elderslie was a new land release with a mix of 1960s modern low-pitched roof open planned houses interspersed with New South Wales Housing Commission fibro construction homes.
Other land releases of the 1960s were the New South Wales Housing Commission 1960s fibro houses some of which are located in Burrawong Road and Somerset Street.
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.
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’.  Needless to say these sentiments are not new and were expressed in the Macarthur region in 1973, meanwhile urban sprawl continues.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. There low density houses were similar to in nature to the planned housing developments of 1973 that failed to eventuate.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The book is available from Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society and Campbelltown Library.
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.
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.
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 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.
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)
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
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’.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.