One of the largest tourist attractions to the local area in the mid-20th century was a local milking marvel known at the Rotolactor.
The Rotolactor was truly a scientific wonder that captured the imagination of people at a time when scientific marvels instilled excitement in the general public.
In these days of post-modernism and fake news this excitement seems hard to understand.
What was the Rotolactor?
The Rotolactor was an automated circular milking machine with a rotating platform introduced into the Camden Park operation in 1952 by Edward Macarthur Onslow from the USA.
The Rotolactor was part of the process of agricultural modernism that the Macarthur family had implemented on their colonial property of Camden Park Estate to improve their dairying operations in the mid-20th century.
The idea of a rotating milking platform was American and first introduced in New Jersey in the mid-1920s.
The 1940s manager of Camden Park Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Macarthur Onslow inspected an American Rotolactor while overseas on a business trip and returned to Australia full of enthusiasm to build one at Camden Park.
The Menangle Rotolactor was the first in Australia and only the third of its kind in the world.
The rotating dairy had a capacity to milk of 1,000 cows twice a day. It held 50 cows a time and were fed at as they were milked. The platform rotated about every 12 minutes.
The Rotolactor was a huge tourist attraction for the Menangle village and provided a large number of local jobs.
In 1953 it was attracting 600 visitors on a weekend in with up to 2000 visitors a week at its peak. (The Land, 1953Mar27)
Town planning disruption
In 1968 town planning disrupted things. The Askin state government released the Sydney Regional Outline Plan, followed by the 1973 the New Cities of Campbelltown, Camden and Appin Structure Plan, which later became the Macarthur Growth Centre in 1975.
The structure plan did recognise the importance of the Rotolactor and the cultural heritage of the Menangle village. (The State Planning Authority of New South Wales, 1973, p. 84)
These events combined with declining farming profits encouraged the Macarthur family to sell out of Camden Park including the Rotolactor and the private village of Menangle.
The Rotolactor continued operations until 1977 and then remained unused for several years. It was then purchased by Halfpenny dairy interests from Menangle who operated the facility until it finally closed in 1983. (Walsh 2016, pp.91-94)
Community festival celebrates the Rotolactor
In 2017 the Menangle Community Association organised a festival to celebrate the history of the Rotolactor. It was called the Menangle Milk-Shake Up and was a huge success.
The Festival exceeded all their expectations of the organisers from the Menangle Community Association when it attracted over 5000 of people to the village from all over Australia. (Wollondilly Advertiser, 18 Sept 2017)
The Menangle Community Association Facebook page described it this way:
‘A true country event like in the old days. So many visitors came dressed up in their original 50s clothes, and all those wonderful well selected stall holders. It was pure joy.’
Despite these sentiments the event just covered costs (Wollondilly Advertiser 5 April 2018)
The festival’s success was a double-edged sword for the organisers from the Menangle Community Association.
The festival’s success demonstrated to local development interests that Rotolactor nostalgia could be marketized and had considerable commercial potential.
The Menangle Community Association attempted to lift the memory of the Rotolator and use it as a weapon to protect the village from the forces of urban development and neo-liberalism
The success of the festival was also used by Menangle land developers to further their interests.
Developer Halfpenny made numerous public statements supporting the restoration of the Rotolactor as a function centre and celebrating its past. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 2017).
The newspaper article announced that the owner of the site, local developer Ernest Dupre of Souwest Developments, has pledged to build a micro brewery, distillery, two restaurants, a farmers market, children’s farm, vegetable garden, and a hotel with 30 rooms.
In 2017 the state government planning panel approved the re-zoning of the site for 350 houses and a tourist precinct. Housing construction will be completed by Mirvac.
Mr Dupre stated that he wanted to turned the derelict Rotolactor into a function with the adjoining Creamery building as a brewery, which is next to the Menangle Railway Station.
He expected the development to cost $15 million and take two years. The plan also includes an outdoor concert theatre for 8000 people and a lemon grove.
The Camden story is an ongoing project that aims to tell the untold stories of the Camden, Cowpastures and Macarthur districts. There is the telling, the learning and the showing of the story.
The project is constantly evolving and changing direction. It is centred around the construction of place and the meaning of landscape. These are culturally derived concepts from both Indigenous and European experiences.
There are the natural ecologies that make up the environment as well as atmospheric and geological elements. The natural elements are just as important as the cultural.
Complexities of the Camden story
The Camden story has its own complexities. There is no one single dominant narrative. There are many voices in the story and each has a right to be heard.
There are many threads to the Camden story and when woven together make a coherent story with many voices. The weave of the cloth represents the warp and weft of the daily lives of the actors on the stage. Together they create a vibrant design that can capture the imagination of many and inspire others.
There are many actors in the constantly evolving narrative, each with their own agenda. The story is played on a stage that is located on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe, a dynamic movable frontier on the city’s edge. It is a constantly changing and evolving cultural landscape.
There are many layers to the Camden story each with its own particularities. As each layer is peeled back it reveals memories and meanings from the past that influence the present. Those who are interested can dive into the many layers and help unravel the entangled threads of the web and give some clarity to their meaning within the story.
The Camden story is a journey that is constantly evolving with many signposts along the way. There are a lot of fellow travellers who have their own stories. There are many pathways and laneways to go down, each with its own meaning and memories to the travellers who come along for the journey.
The Camden story has its own road map of sorts with signposts and markers of significant places along the journey for those who want to look. There are many opportunities for those who want embark on this journey and uncover many of the undiscovered mysteries of the Camden story.
It is in the interests of those who want to tell the story that they walk the ground in which the story is embedded. The landscape speaks to those who want to listen. The experience is enriching and fulfilling and shapes the telling of the story.
Some parts of the Camden story
The Camden story has many parts and some are listed below:
This is a short history of the town, which is situated on the floodplain of the Nepean River, on the traditional land of the Dharawal people in an area known as the Cowpastures. The Camden area’s distinctive landscape has moulded the community’s identity and sense of place. From the earliest days of European settlement class and social networks ordered daily life in the village with the local gentry at the top of the social hierarchy.
The Camden district ran from the Main Southern Railway around the estate village of Menangleinto the gorges of the Burragorang Valley in the west. It was a concept created by the links between peoples’ social, economic and cultural lives across the area. The district became the centre of people’s daily lives for well over a century and the basis of their sense of place and community identity.
This short historiography is one of the few that has been attempted to illustrate the construction of the history of a rural community. It is an attempt to examines the broad range of influences that shaped the writing of the Camden community’s history.
Movie makers have always had an eye on the Camden district’s large country houses, rustic farm buildings, quaint villages and picturesque countryside for film locations. From the 1920s the area has been used by a series of film makers as a setting for their movies. It coincided was an increasing interest in the area’s Englishness from poets, journalists and travel writers.
The Camden bibliography is an attempt to highlight some of the research that addresses the notion of Camden as a country town and the subsequent urbanisation of the local government area. The sources listed in the bibliography cover the geographic area of the Camden district.
The Cowpastures emerged as a regional concept in the late 18th century starting with the story of the cattle of the First Fleet that escaped their captivity at the Sydney settlement. The region was a culturally constructed landscape that ebbed and flowed with European activity. It grew around the government reserve established by Governors Hunter and King. It then developed into a generally used locality name centred on the gentry estates in the area.
The story of European settlement in the Cowpastures is intimately connected to the story of the convicts and their masters. This story has not been told and there is little understanding of the role of the convicts in the Cowpastures district before 1840. Who were they? What did they do? Did they stay in the district?
Kirkham is a picturesque, semi-rural locality on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe between the historic township of Camden, with its inter-war and colonial heritage and the bustling commercial centre of Narellan. The arrival of the rural-urban fringe at Kirkham in recent decades has created a contested site of tension and constant change, resulting in an ever-evolving landscape. This is an example of a short locality history within the local area published by the Dictionary of Sydney.
Early European settlers were the key actors in a place-making exercise that constructed an English-style landscape aesthetic on the colonial stage in the Cowpastures district of New South Wales. The aesthetic became part of the settler colonial project and the settlers’ aim of taking possession of territory involving the construction of a cultural ideal from familiar elements of home in the ‘Old Country’. The new continent, and particulaly the bush, had the elements of the Gothic with its grotesque and the demonic, and the landscape aesthetic was one attempt to counter these forces. Settlers used the aesthetic to assist the creation of a new narrative on an apparenty blank slate and in the process dispossessed and displaced the Indigenous occupants. The new colonial landscape was characterised by English place-names, English farming methods and English settlement patterns, with only cursory acknowledgement of Indigenous occupation.
The rural-urban fringe is a dynamic frontier, an ever expanding zone of transition on the edges of Australia’s major cities and regional centres. This paper examines the proposition that Sydney’s urban growth has pushed the city’s rural-urban fringe into the countryside and unleashed the contested nature of place-making in and around the
country town of Camden. It will be maintained that the dynamic forces that characterise the rural-urban frontier have resulted a collision between the desires and aspirations of ‘locals’ and ‘outsiders’ and prompted a crisis in the identity of place. Community icons
and rituals have become metaphors for the continuity of values and traditions that are embedded in the landscapes of place. The actors have used history and heritage, assisted by geography and aesthetics, to produce a narrative that aims to preserve landscape identity, and has created a cultural myth based on a romantic notion of an idealised
country town drawn from the past, ‘a country town idyll’.
What’s in a name? Quite a lot if you live in the fringe urban communities of Campbelltown, Camden or Picton in the Macarthur district on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe. In the past these communities have been fiercely parochial country towns with clearly identifiable differences based on history, heritage, traditions, mythology, rituals, demographics, local government and a host of other factors. With the encroachment of Sydney’s urban sprawl they have been wrapped up by the tentacles of the metropolitan octopus and faced challenges on a variety of fronts. The questions that this article raises concern Macarthur regionalism. Is it authentic? How representative is it of the former country towns that are now incorporated within it?
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.
Camden is a country town whose history and development has been influenced by war. The town was part of Australia’s homefront war effort, and from the time of the Boer War the most important part of this for Camden was volunteering. The Second World War was no exception, and the most influential voluntary organisation that contributed to the town’s war effort was the Womens Voluntary Services [WVS]. The Camden WVS was part of a strong tradition of Victorian female philanthropy in the town, which attracted, and depended on, middle class women socialised in Victorian notions of service, ideals of dependence, a separatedness of spheres, patriarchy, the status quo, and by the inter-war period, modernity.
On 21 October 2004 the former Member for Camden, Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Kernohan, died after suffering a heart attack. She was sixty- five. Thousands of people lined Argyle Street in Camden to see the cortege and pay their last respects, I and compliments flowed from both sides of New South Wales politics. There were over 1850 column centimetres devoted to her death and subsequent funeral in the local press. Kernohan was a popular, larger than life figure in Camden. She held the seat of Camden for the Liberal party for over 11 years in an area that some have claimed is the key to the success of the Howard Government. How was Kernohan able to gain this type of support? This paper will try to address this question, although initially it is useful to give a brief overview of the electorate.
A notable part of Camden modernism that has disappeared is the drive-in movie theatre. The Narellan Gayline Drive-in Movie Theatre was one of the notable attractions in the local area between the 1960s and 1980s located on Morshead Road, Narellan (now Narellan Vale). Along with rock ‘n roll, transistor radios, the bikini, the mini-skirt, it marked the lifestyle of the baby boomers. Always popular with teenagers and young families. The drive-in movie theatre was a defining moment in the district for a 20th century culture that was based around the icons of the period: cars and movies.
Catherine Fields once boasted a national tourist facility which attracted thousands of visitors a year to the local area, the El Caballo Blanco entertainment complex. The El Caballo Blanco complex opened in April 1979 at Catherine Fields. The main attraction was a theatrical horse show presented with Andalusian horses, which was held daily in the large 800-seat indoor arena.
The Camden Country Women’s Association made camouflage nets during the Second World War and was the largest netting centre in the area. The Camden CWA camouflage netting centre was assisted by sub-branches at Campbelltown and Narellan, which were established after the joint CWA-WVS meeting in December 1941.
One of the most popular memories of the Camden area by locals and visitors alike is the Camden branch line and its famous locomotive Pansy. It has a truly dedicated and enthusiastic bunch of supporters who positively drool about it and overlook its foibles. Old timers tell and retell stories to anyone who wants to listen, all laced with a pinch of exaggeration and the romantic. A part of local nostalgia. The Camden branch line was operated by the New South Wales Railways from 1882 to its closure in 1963.
Oran Park Raceway was doomed in 2008 to be part of history when it was covered with houses in a new suburb with the same name. It was also the name of a former pastoral property that was part of the story of the settler society within the Cowpastures. The locality is the site of hope and loss for both locals and new arrivals. The Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit was located in the south-western and western part of the original Oran Park pastoral estate. The main grand prix circuit was 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners as well as changes in elevation around the track.
This post was prompted by an item in the Oran Park Gazette, an A4 newsletter newspaper. Gazette journalist Lisa Finn-Powell asked: What is the future of the community newspaper? The local ‘rag’ in our suburb is a free tabloid newspaper thrown onto our front driveway each week. Actually there are two of them, the Camden Narellan Advertiser and the Macarthur Chronicle. Where I live some of these newspapers stay on the neighbour’s driveway for weeks and disintegrate into a mess. Other neighbours just put them in the bin. So not everyone is a fan of the local ‘rag’ in the age of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
The members of 32 Squadron arrived in Camden Airfield in September 1942 after seven months of hazardous operational duties supporting Allied Forces in New Guinea and the surrounding area, including New Britain. The squadron had been ‘hastily formed in the field’ in February 1942 with personnel drawn from other units. The squadron’s operational duties at Camden Airfield included reconnaissance and sea patrols off the east coast of Australia.
Once the army moved into Narellan Military Camp it commenced operation and became part of the wartime scene during WW2. Men were seen marching all over the district, there were mock raids and the men practiced firing small arms. The camp is an important part of the story of Narellan during war as thousands of men, and some women, moved through the camp on their way to somewhere in the theatre that was the Second World War.
Supermarkets are one of the ultimate expressions of modernism. The township of Camden was not isolated from these global forces of consumerism that originated in the USA. The Camden community was bombarded daily with American cultural influences in the form of movies, motor cars, drive-in, motels, TV, and radio. Now consumerism was expressed by the appearance of self-service retailing and the development of the supermarket.
The local milk bar is a largely unrecognized part of Camden modernism where the latest trends in American food culture made their way into the small country town by Australian-Greek immigrants. The design, equipment and fit-out of local cafes and milk bars was at the cutting edge of Interwar fashion. The cafes were a touch of the exotic with their Art Deco style interiors, where fantasy met food without the social barriers of daily life of the Interwar period. Camden milk bars rarely just sold milk shakes unlike their counterparts in the city. To make a living and ensure that their businesses paid their way the cafes and milk bars also sold fruit and vegetables, meals, sandwiches, lollies, sweets and chocolates.
The interwar period in Camden was a time of economic development and material progress. The prosperity of the period was driven by the local dairy industry and the emerging coal industry. During the interwar period one of the most important economic arteries of the town was the Hume Highway (until 1928 the Great South Road). For a country town of its size the town had modern facilities and was up-to-date with the latest technology. The interwar years were a period of transition and increasingly the motor car replaced the horse in town, and on the farm the horse was replaced by the tractor, all of which supported the growing number of garages in the town.
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.
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.
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.
What is under your feet and totally ignored? What do you walk over everyday? What is essential in an emergency? What provides access to essential utilities? The answer lies under our feet. What is it? Give up yet?
The answer is the humble utility inspection cover.
Utilities like electricity, water, gas, sewerage, communications and others are essential in any community. Camden has acquired the utilities as time has progressed over the past 150 years to the present. Argyle Street has a number of utilities buried beneath the street and footpaths. Their histories provide a valuable insight into the town’s development and progress, particularly in the 20th century.
The arrival of electricity, gas and water were part of Camden modernism and its influence on the town. Each of these utilities has transnational origins well beyond the township and illustrate the linkages between the town and wider world.
For example the supply of clean drinking water in Camden was linked to an outbreak of scarlet fever in the later 19th century. Contagious diseases were a major health concern in the 19th century and were an ever present worry in daily life. Clean drinking water had an important influence on the development of public health.
I was walking along Camden’s Argyle Street and it struck me that utility inspection covers are a historical statement in their own right. They are an entry point for the utility service as they also provide an entry to the stories that surround the delivery of the utility.
Even the different logos for utilities illustrate the changes in the history of a telco or electricity supplier. A cover might be a statement about a utility supplier that is now defunct. The utility cover are made of different material – cast iron, concrete, and others.
These are all mysteries that are waiting to be solved for the curious mind. Or just for the bored and idle with nothing better to do.
What about the Gas Cover from Durham above?
Durham Gas Cover
This is an inspection cover for the gas pipes using a Durham fitting probably around 1912. The Durham drainage fitting is a cast-iron,threadedfitting,used on drainagepipes;has a shouldersuch as to present a smooth,continuousinterior surface. (Free Dictionary) The Durham patent system of screw-joint iron house-drainage manufactured by the Durham House Drainage Co. of York USA (1887).
The Durham cover is for the Camden gas supply which was installed in 1912 by the Camden Gas Company.The gasworks was built in Mitchell Street and made gas from coal. There were a number of gas street lights in Argyle Street which were turned on in early 1912. The Camden News reported in January 1912 that many private homes and businesses had been connected to the gas supply network and were fitted for gas lighting.
Mr Murray the gasworks manager reported that construction at the gasworks had been completed, the retort had been lit and he anticipated full supply by the end of the month. (Camden News, 4 January 1912) Throughout 1912 there an ongoing dispute between Mr Alexander, the managing director of the Camden Gas Company, and Camden Municipal Council over damage to Argyle Street while laying gas pipes and who was going to pay for it. (Camden News, 12 September 1912)
In 1946 Camden Municipal Council purchased the Camden Gas Company. The gasworks were sold to AGL in 1970. (Peter Mylrea, ‘Gas and Electricity in Camden’, Camden History March 2008.)
What is this cover for the NRCC. Does it still exist?
The simple answer is no. The NRCC does not exist anymore. The NRCC was the Nepean River County Council. It was the electricity supplier for the Campbelltown, Camden and Picton area from 1954 to 1979 when it was amalgamated with Prospect County Council. This in turn became Integral Energy. Integral Energy was formed by the New South Wales Government in 1995 from the amalgamation of Illawarra Electricity and Prospect Electricity with over 807,000 customers.
The Campbelltown office of the NRCC was located in Queen Street next to the Commonwealth Bank and in 1960 shifted to Cordeaux Street. By 1986 a new advisory office was opened in Lithgow Street. The council opened a new shop front at Glenquarie Shopping Centre at Macquarie Fields. There were shopfronts in Camden, Picton and other locations.
In October 1954 the NRCC approved a design for its official seal. Alderman P Brown suggested a logo competition and a large number of entries were received for the £25 prize. The winning design by artist Leone Rush of Lidcombe depicts electricity being extended to rural areas by a circular outline of the words ” Nepean River County Council”.
(Camden News, Thursday 4 November 1954.)
Former NRCC employee Sharon Greene stated that, ‘It was like a small family business where everyone was happy to be there’. (Camden Advertiser, 25 May 2009)
Former office manager, Kay Kyle, said that things in the office in 1959 were pretty basic when she started in the office as a junior clerk.
‘We had no cash registers or adding machines, we hand wrote receipts and added the figures in our head for daily takings. That was a good skill to have. Eventually we received an old adding machine from Picton, but one day it added incorrectly so I wouldn’t use it again.’ (http://www.nepeanrivercountycouncil.com.au/nrccstories.html)
Former linesman Joe Hanger recalls working for the NRCC. He said,
‘In 1954 we were transferred to Nepean River County Council. They wanted linesmen and I went on the line crew and eventually worked my way up and got a pole inspectors job going around creosoting the poles. Eventually I got my own crew, mainly pole dressing. There were 7-8 in the crew. I was then made a foreman in about 1978.’ (http://www.nepeanrivercountycouncil.com.au/nrccstories.html)
Working in the outdoor crews could be dangerous as Joe Hanger recalls.
‘In July 1974 I fell from a 40ft pole while doing work near The Oaks. We had to check out why a back feed to The Oaks was loosing voltage. We were looking for crook joints. The pole is still out there, near a bend just before the straight road into The Oaks. We had opened the air break switch behind us and the airbreak switch ahead, we forgot that the transformer was on the other side of the open point. I checked the pole and Neville Brown had gone along to the next pole to open the next section. I was standing on the low voltage cross arm and grabbed one of the wires and was struck by the electricity. Luckily my weight caused me to fall away. I ended up falling about 25 feet and just another pole lying on the ground. If I had the belt on it may have been a different matter. I had a broken leg, broken rib and a great big black eye. I was very lucky.’
Past organisations like the Nepean River County Council have staunch supporters. If you are one of them join the Friends of NRCC.
The telco inspection lid
This inspection lid is for the telco which was the Postmaster-General Department of the Australian Government.
The telco had a rich history related to communications in Australia starting in 1810 with the provision of the first postal service. In 1810 Governor Macquarie appointed Australia’s first postmaster Isaac Nicholls and the colonial government of New South Wales Government the first regular postal services including rates of postage. The new Sydney General Post Office was opened in George Street in 1874.
The first telephone service was established in Melbourne in 1879.
On Federation in 1901 the new Commonwealth Government took control of all colonial postal services. The Commonwealth Minister responsible for the Postmaster-General’s Department looked after telephone, telegraph and postal services across Australia. The Postmaster-General Department was responsible for international short wave services in the 1920s and the Australian Broadcast Commission in the 1930s.
The Postmaster-General Department was broken up in 1975 with the postal service moving to Australia Postal Commission (trading at Australia Post), and telecommunications became the responsibility of Australian Telecommunications Commission trading at Telecom Australia. Telecom Australia was corporatised in 1989, renamed Telstra Australia in 1993, and partially privatised in 1999.
In 1992 the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (est 1946) was merged with the Telecom Australia.
The MWS&DB is the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board, today known as Sydney Water. Originally the Board of Water Supply and Sewerage from 1888 to 1892. The MWS&BD operated under that name from 1925 to 1987, and before that it was known as Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage between 1892 and 1925. After 1987 it was known as the Water Board (1987-1994), then it became Sydney Water Corp Ltd (1995-1999) with Ltd dropped in 1999.
Deks G (Gas)
Deks was established in Australia by Mr George Cupit in 1947 and remained a family business until it became part of the Skellerup Group in 2003. Deks have a presence in 28 countries. They supply plumbing fittings including flashings, fittings or flanges for over 100 years. (http://www.deks.com.au/about/)
Malco W (Water)
Malco Industries reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1951 that the company incorporated three separate businesses involved in heavy industrial activities on its site at Marrickville. There were three divisions (1) Malleable Castings founded in 1915 and was claimed to be one of Australia’s leading producers of iron castings. (2) EW Fittings incorporated in 1925 and made cast iron pipe fittings for water, gas, steam and oil. (3) Link Belt Co Pty set up in 1949 and industrlal transmission equipment. (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 6 April 1951, page 6)