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Movie making Camden style

Smilie Gets A Gun Movie Cover
Smilie Gets A Gun Movie Cover

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. They wrote stories of quaint English style villages with a church on the hill, charming gentry estates down hedge-lined lanes, where the patriarch kept contented cows in ordered fields and virile stallions in magnificent stables.  This did not go un-noticed in the film industry.

Camden Park Publicity

One of the first was the 1921 silent film Silks and Saddles shot at Arthur Macarthur Onslow’s Macquarie Grove by American director John K Wells about the world of horse racing. The film was set on the race track on Macquarie Grove. The script called for a race between and aeroplane and race horse. The movie showed a host good looking racing blood-stock. There was much excitement, according to Annette Onslow, when an airplane piloted by Edgar Percival his Avro landed on the race course used in the film and flew the heroine to Randwick to win the day. Arthur’s son Edward swung a flight in Percival’s plane and was hooked on flying for life, and later developed Camden Airfield at Macquarie Grove.

Camden film locations were sought in 1931 for director Ken G Hall’s 1932 Dad and Dave film On Our Selection based on the characters and writings of Steele Rudd. It stars Bert Bailey as Dan Rudd and was release in the UK as Down on the Farm. It was one the most popular Australian movies of all time but it was eventually shot at Castlereagh near Penrith. The movie is based of Dan’s selection in south-west Queensland and is about a murder mystery. Ken G Hall notes that of the 18 feature films he made between 1932 and 1946 his film company used the Camden area and the Nepean River valley and its beauty for location shooting. The films included On Our Selection (1936), Squatter’s Daughter (1933), Grandad Rudd (1934), Thoroughbred (1935), Orphan of the Wilderness (1936), It Isn’t Done (1936), Broken Melody (1938), Dad and Dave Come to Town (1938), Mr Chedworth Steps Out (1938), Gone to the Dogs (1939), Come Up Smiling (1939), Dad Rudd MP (1940), and Smith, The Story of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1946).

Camden Airfield 1930s Camden Images
Camden Airfield 1930s Camden Images

The Camden district was the location of two wartime action movies, The Power and The Glory (1941) and The Rats of Tobruk (1944). The Rats of Tobruk was directored by Charles Chauvel and starred actors Chips Rafferty, Peter Finch and Pauline Garrick. The story is about three men from a variety of backgrounds who become mates during the siege at Tobruk during the Second World War. The movie was run at Camden’s Paramount movie palace in February 1945. The location for parts of the movie were the bare paddocks of Narellan Vale and Currans Hill where they were turned into a battleground to recreated the setting at Tobruk in November 1943. There were concerns at the time that the exploding ammunitions used in the movie would disturb the cows. Soldiers were supplied from the Narellan Military Camp and tanks were modified to make them look like German panzers and RAAF Camden supplied six Vultee Vengeance aircraft from Camden Airfield which were painted up to look like German Stuka bombers. The film location was later used for the Gayline Drive In. Charles Chauvel’s daughter Susanne Carlsson who was 13 years old at the time reported that it was a ‘dramatic and interesting time’.

The second wartime movie was director Noel Monkman’s The Power and The Glory starring Peter Finch and Katrin Rosselle. The movie was made at RAAF Camden with co-operation of the RAAF. It is a spy drama about a Czech scientist who discovers a new poison gas and escapes to Australia rather than divulge the secret to the Nazis. Part of the plot was enemy infiltration of the coast near Bulli where an enemy aircraft was sighted and 5 Avro-Anson aircraft were directed to seek and bombed the submarine. The Wirraway aircraft from the RAAF Central Flying School acted as fighters and it was reported that the pilots were ‘good looking’ airmen from the base mess. There was a private screening at Camden’s Paramount movie theatre for the RAAF Central Flying School personnel.

Camden Park was used as a set for the internationally series of Smiley films, Smiley made in 1956 and in 1958 Smiley Gets a Gun in cinemascope. The story is about a nine-year old boy who is a bit of rascal who grows up in a country town. They were based on books by Australian author Moore Raymond and filmed by Twentieth Century Fox and London Films. Raymond set his stories in a Queensland country town in the early 20th century and there are horse and buggies and motor cars. The town settings were constructed from scratch and shot at Camden Park, under the management of Edward Macarthur Onslow. The movies stars included Australian Chips Rafferty and English actors John McCallum and Ralph Richardson.  Many old time locals have fond memories of being extras in the movies. Smiley was released in the United Kingdom and United States.

In 1999 Camden airfield was used as a set for the television documentary  The Last Plane Out of Berlin which was the story of Sidney Cotton. Actor Geoff Morrell played the role of Cotton, who went to England in 1916 and became a pilot and served with the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War. He is regarded as the ‘father of aerial photography’ and in 1939 was requested to make flights over Nazi Germany in 1939. Camden Airfield was ‘perfect location’ according to producer Jeff Watson because of its ‘historic’ 1930s atmosphere.

In 2009 scenes from X-Men Origins: Wolverine were filmed at Camden and near Brownlow Hill.

In 2010 filmmaker Sandra Pyres of Why Documentaries produced a number of short films in association for the With The Best of Intentions exhibition at The Oaks Historical Society. The films were a montage of contemporary photographs, archival footage and re-enactments by drama students of the stories of child migrants. The only voices were those of the child migrants and there were many tears spilt as the films were screened at the launch of the exhibition.

In 2011 scenes from director Wayne Blair’s Vietnam wartime true story of The Sapphires were filmed at Brownlow Hill starring Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Chris O’Dowd. This is the true story of four young Aboriginal sisters who are discovered by a talent scout who organises a tour of American bases in Vietnam. On Brownlow Hill a large stage was placed in the middle of cow paddock and draped with a sign that read ‘USC Show Committee presents the Sapphires’ and filming began around midnight. The cows were herded out of sight and the crew had to be careful that they did not stand of any cowpats. Apparently Sudanese refugees played the role of African American servicemen of the 19th Infantry Division.

Camelot House early 1900s Camden Images
Camelot House early 1900s Camden Images

The romantic house of Camelot with its turrets, chimney stacks and gables, was built by racing identity James White and designed by Horbury Hunt was the scene of activity in 2006 and 2007 for the filming of scenes of Baz Luhrman’s Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. The location shots were interior and exterior scenes which involved  horse riding by Kidman and Jackman. The film is about an aristocratic woman who leaves England and follows her husband to Australia during the 1930s, and live through the Darwin bombing by the Japanese in the Second World War.

Camelot was a hive activity for the filming of the 1950s romantic television drama A Place to Call Home produced by Channel 7 in 2012. Set in rural Australia it is the story of a woman’s journey ‘to heal her soul’ and of a wealthy family facing changes in the fictional country town of Inverness in the Bligh family estate of Ash Park. Starring Marta Dusseldorp as the mysterious Sarah and Noni Hazlehurst  as the family matriarch Elizabeth, who has a number of powerful independently wealthy women who paralleled her role in Camden in time past on their gentry estates.  The sweeping melodrama about hope and loss is set against the social changes in the 1950s and has close parallels to 1950s Camden. The ‘sumptuous’ 13 part drama series screened on television in 2013 and according to its creator Bevin Lee had a ‘large-scale narrative’ that had a ‘feature-film feel’. He maintained that is was ‘rural gothic’, set in a big house that had comparisons with British television drama Downton Abbey.

The 55-room fairytale like mansion and its formal gardens were a ‘captivating’ setting for A Place to Call Home, according to the Property Observer in 2013. Its initial screening was watched by 1.7 million viewers in April 2013. The show used a host of local spots for film sets and one of the favourite points of conversation ‘around the water-cooler’ for locals was the game ‘pick-the-place’. By mid-2014 Channel 7 had decided to axe the series at the end of the second series. There was a strong local reaction and a petition was circulating which attracted 6000 signatures to keep the show on air. In the end Foxtel television produced a third series with the original caste which screened in 2015.

Camden airfield was in action again and used as a set for the Australian version of the British motoring television show Top Gear Australian in 2010.  Part of the show are power laps in a ‘Bog Standard Car’ were recorded on parts of the runways and taxiways used as a test track.

Camden Showground became the set for Angelina Jolie’s Second World War drama Unbroken in 2013. The main character Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner, and Onslow Park was used as part of the story of his early life as a member of Torrance High School track team. The movie is about Zamperini’s story of survival after his plane was shot down during the Pacific campaign. The filming caused much excitement in the area and the local press gave the story extensive coverage, with the showground was chosen for its historic atmosphere. Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak hoped that the movie would boost local tourism and the council was supportive of the area being used as a film set. The council had appointed a film contact officer to encourage greater use of the area for film locations.

Edwina Macarthur Stanham writes that Camden Park has been the filming location for a number of movies, advertisements and fashion shoots  since the 1950s.   They have included Smiley (1956), Smiley Gets a Gun (1958), Shadow of the Boomerang (1960) starring Jimmy Little, My Brilliant Career (1978) was filmed in Camden Park and its garden and surrounds, and The Empty Beach (1985) starring Bryan Brown, House Taken Over (1997) a short film written and directed by Liz Hughes which used  lots of scenes in the house. In the 21st century there has been Preservation (2003) described a gothic horror movie starring Jacqueline Mackenzie, Jack Finsterer and Simon Bourke which used a lot of the scenes filmed in the house.

In 2005 Danny De Vito visited Camden Park scouting for a location for a movie based on the book “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle”.  In Sleeping Beauty (2010) an Australian funded film was shot at Camden Park and the short film La Finca (2012). In September 2014 Camden Park was used as a location in the film called “The Daughter” starring Geoffrey Rush. Extensive filming took place over 3 weeks and members of the family and friends and Camden locals played the role of extras.

In September 2014 Camden Park was used as a location in the film called “The Daughter” starring Geoffrey Rush. Extensive filming took place over 3 weeks and members of the family and friends and Camden locals played the role of extras.

The Daughter Movie Set Camden Park 2014 E Stanham
The Daughter Movie Set Camden Park 2014 E Stanham

In 2015 the Camden Historical Society and filmmaker Wen Denaro have combined forces to telling the story of the Chinese market gardeners who settled in Camden in the early twentieth century. The project will produce  a short documentary about the Chinese market gardeners who established vegetable gardens along the river in Camden and who supplied fresh product to  the Macarthur and Sydney markets.

In 2015 an episode of the Network Ten TV show of The Bachelor Australia was filmed at Camden Park in August 2015. They showed scenes of the Bachelor Sam Wood taking one of the bachelorette Sarah on a romantic date to the colonial mansion Camden Park. There were scenes of the pair in a two-in-hand horse drawn white carriage going up and down the driveway to the Camden Park cemetery on the hill overlook the town. There were scenes in the soft afternoon sunlight of the couple having a romantic high-tea on the verandah of Camden Park house with champagne and scones and cup cakes. In the evening there were floodlit images of the front of Camden Park house from the front lawn then scenes of the couple in the sitting room siting of the leather sofa sharing wine, cheese and biscuits in front on an open fire and candles. Sarah is gobsmacked with the house, its setting and is ‘amazed’ by the house’s colonial interior.

 

In 2018 a children’s film Peter Rabbit was been filmed in the Camden district. The movie is based on Beatrix Potter’s famous book series and her iconic characters. The special effects company Animal Logic spent two days on the shoot in Camden in January 2017. The first scene features the kidnap of the rabbit hero in a sack, throwing them off a bridge and into the river. For this scene the Macquarie Grove Bridge over the Nepean River was used for the bridge in the movie. According to a spokesman the reason the Camden area was used was because it fitted the needed criteria. The movie producers were looking for a location that screamed of its Englishness. Camden does that and a lot more dating back to the 1820s. The movie is set in modern day Windermere in the English Lakes District. The location did not have to have too many gum trees or other recognisable Australian plants. John and Elizabeth Macarthur would be proud of their legacy – African Olives and other goodies. Conveniently the airport also provided the location for a stunt scene which uses a bi-plane. The role of the animators is to make Australia look like England.

 

 

In August 2018 the colonial Cowpastures homestead of Denbigh at Cobbitty was the set for popular Australian drama series Doctor Doctor. The series is about the Knight family farm and the show star is Roger Corser who plays doctor Hugh Knight. He said, ‘

The homestead is a real star of the show. The front yard, the dam and barn brewery on the property are major sets – I don’t know what we would do without them.

The show follows the high-flying heart surgeon and is up to season three. Filming lasted three months and the cast checked out the possibilities of the Camden town centre. Actor Ryan Johnson said that Denbigh ‘made the show’.

Denbigh homestead was originally built by Charles Hook in 1818 and extended by Thomas and Samuel Hassell in the 1820s.

denbigh-2015-iwillis
Denbigh Homestead Open Day 2015 has been used as a film set in 2018 for the TV series Doctor Doctor (I Willis)

 

In late 2018 the TV series Home and Away has been using the haunted house at Narellan known as Studley Park as a set for the program. The storyline followed three young characters going into the haunted house and staying overnight. They go into a tunnel and  a young female becomes trapped. Tension rises and the local knock-about character comes to their rescue and he is a hero.  The use of the set by the TV series producers was noted by Macarthur locals on Facebook.

Studley Park at Night spooky 2017 CNA
Spooky Studley Park House is claimed to be one of the most haunted locations in the Macarthur region. The TV series Home & Away on 3 & 4 October 2018 certainly added to those stories by using the house as a set location. (CN Advert)

Studley Park has recently been written up in the Camden-Narellan Advertiser (4 August 2017) as one of the eight most haunted places in the Macarthur region. Journalist Ashleigh Tullis writes;

Studley Park House, Camden 

This impressive house was originally built by grazier William Payne in 1889. The death of two children has earned the house its haunted reputation.

In 1909, 14-year-old Ray Blackstone drowned in a dam near the residence. His body is believed to have been kept at the house until it was buried.

The son of acclaimed business man Arthur Adolphus Gregory died at the house in 1939 from appendicitis. His body was kept in the theatrette.

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Living history at a country festival

Camden’s European living history on show

An example of living history has been on display recently at the Camden Show, the annual celebration of the rural heritage of the Camden district.

The show is an immersive experience for participants and observers alike in the real smells, sounds and sights of a sample of the farm in rural Australia.

Camden Show collage 2019 IW
The 2019 Camden Show provided an immersive experience for participants and observers alike in a host of farming activities. The authentic sights, sounds and smells of the show ring and surrounds enlightened and entertained in a feast for the senses. (I Willis, 2019)

 

The show represents the authentic real life of country people. It is a performance bringing history to life by storytelling through a host of demonstrations, events and displays.

The show is historical representation of the past in the present  illustrating a host of aspects of rural heritage through experiential learning.

Living history reveals layers from the past

The show reveals itself in a multi-layered story of continuity and change on the edge of the Camden township. What was once a small isolated rural village at the Nepean River crossing and is now a thriving Sydney suburb on the city’s metropolitan fringe.

Competitive sections of the show have come and gone with changes in the farming economy. Livestock, produce, craft and cooking sections each tell a story of different aspect of rural life. What was once an integral part of the rural economy is now a craft activity and completely new sections have appeared over the decades.

Camden Show Sandra Dodds 2019 IW
Camden resident and artist Sandra D entered her creation in the Bush Cuppa Tray competition and won first prize. Her entry provided a feast for the sense with scones, cup of tea, a copy of the Bulletin magazine, a story of painting ‘en plein air’ in the 1890s, gum leaves. All this activity taking place on 21 December 1889 at Montrose in Victoria. (I Willis, 2019)

 

Where once rural artisans were part of the local economy their activities are now demonstrations of heritage and lost trades. Show patrons once used to arrive in a horse and cart today’s show-goers watch competitive driving of horse and sulkies in the show ring.

Camden Show Marily Willis 2019 IW
This excited first timer won second place for a group of zucchinis in the produce section of the 2019 Camden Show. Marilyn Judith W grew her entry on her plot at the Camden Community Garden where a number of other gardeners also entered their produce. Marilyn had an immersive experience at the show and volunteered her time at the community garden stall giving away seedlings to adults and children alike. (I Willis, 2019)

 

Sideshows and carnies continue show  traditions that have their origins in English village fairs and carnivals of the past and even a hint of the Roman Empire and their circuses.

The success of the show illustrates a yearning by those attending to experience and understand elements of the traditions of a rural festival in the face of urban growth and development.

History

The Camden Show is a rural festival that is part of the modern show movement that emerged from the Industrial Revolution.  The first series of agricultural shows in the early 19th century demonstrated modern British farming methods and technology.

The first agricultural shows in New South Wales were in the early 19th century and the first Camden Show in 1886. The 19th century agricultural show movement set out to  demonstrate the latest in British Empire know-how and innovation in farming.

The site of the show on the Nepean River floodplain is one of the first points of contact between European and Indigenous people and the cows that escaped from the Sydney settlement in 1788 former the Cowpasture Reserve in 1795. For living history it is material culture which grounds the audience in time and place.

Camden Show 2019 IW
All good farmers had a reliable truck to cart stock and hay to the market from the farm and to take trips into town. This one dates from the mid-20th century at Bringelly NSW on display at the Camden Show with a friendly passenger. (I Willis, 2019)
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Spring into a country rose festival

Spring at the 1968 Camden Rose Festival

Spring was a time of celebration and ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. Camden celebrated its ‘re-birth’ with a week-long spring festival held in the late 1960s in late October with a spring flower festival full of community events.

Camden News Rose Festival 1968 CN1968Oct30_lowres

 

Spring, the season of re-birth, was celebrated in Sydney with the Waratah Festival which ran from 1956 to 1973. Originally festivals in Melbourne and Sydney were sparked by the thousands of people who flocked to see the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1954. The optimism of the post-war years was initially celebrated in Melbourne with it Moomba Festival from March 1955 and then the following years by Sydney’s Waratah Festival in October.

The 1960s were a period of prosperity and optimism in the Camden district.  One expression of local optimism and perhaps the inspiration for the Rose Festival may have been the new rose gardens in Macarthur Park which were planned and laid out in 1964, and planted out with 80 roses the following year.

 

Founder of the Camden Rose Festival

The founder of the Camden Rose Festival was insurance salesman JW Hill as fundraiser for Camden District Hospital. Hill was a keen volunteer and a member of a number of community organisations including Lions, RSL, Masons, scouting movement and an enthusiastic bowler, golfer and swimmer. (Camden Advertiser, 11 February 2009)

Hill led the organisation of the 1968 Rose Festival celebrations and involved the whole community. Festivities opened with a street parade along Argyle Street and were a highlight of the week. Festival publicity boasted that the parade would ‘feature decorated floats, vintage motor vehicles, commercial displays and costumed marchers’. (Camden News, 23 October 1968)

 

1968 street parade

‘Several thousand people’ lined Argyle Street and watched the procession of floats in the street parade which boasted a strong local line-up starting with ‘school children and members of the Air Training Corps, Scouts and Guides’ supported by five bands. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

Camden Rose Festival 1968 Vic Boardman drive horse team CIPP
Cawdor Uniting Church Float in the 1968 Camden Rose Festival Street Parade. The driver of the horse team in local character and identity Vic Boardman. The old Commonweath Bank building is in the rear of the parade. (Camden Images)

 

Officials including the mayor, Alderman Ferguson, and local member of parliament, Max Dunbier MLA, supervised the parade from their vantage point near the post office. Parade floats included the Camden Historical Society which ‘entered a buggy and a team of horsemen in period costume’, Fossey’s store staff ‘featured girls in different national costumes’ while the fellows from Camden Apex Club provided a ‘humorous comment on National Dental Week’. The Camden Theatre Group float provided publicity for their up-coming show ‘The Pyjama Game’. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

Camden Rose Festival CBA & parade 1968 CIPP lowres
The Camden Rose Festival Street Parade with a float with a colonial farming theme. The old Commonwealth Bank building is in the rear next door to Clifton’s milk bar. (Camden Images)

 

Parade proceedings were briefly interrupted for a short time when ‘a motley crowd of roughnecks’ called the ‘Kelly Gang’ rode into town on their horses. The gang provided ‘hilarious’ entertainment when tried to hold-up the CBC Bank, but instead decided to kidnap a bank officer, Bob Green, and transported him and his ‘charlady’ to the Camden Showground. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

The western side of Argyle Street (the Hume Highway) was closed off and there were a series of entertainers: at 11:00 there was the Issues; followed at 12.00 by young dancers from the Camden Ballroom and Latin American Dancing Academy.

 

Wheelbarrow derby

A wheelbarrow derby started at 1.00pm and finished at the bowling club with hotel sponsored-teams in racing colours expecting stiff competition. The winning Crown Hotel team was made up of local identities Charlie Mulley and Eric McGrath.

The day was topped with a traditional village-style sports day at Camden showground with tug-o-war where the Apex team over-powered the local police. There were foot races for local men with rolling-pin throwing for ‘ladies’ and a ‘diaper derby for toddlers’. The winner of the ‘beard-growing contest was Don Rolfe who won an electric razor. These activities were supported by a pet-zoo and model aeroplane display. (Camden News, 23 October 1968)

 

Festival art exhibition

Local artist and school-teacher Ken Rorke organised the festival art exhibition, which attracted over 500 entries. The success of the art prize was a fore-runner of what would eventually be the Camden Art Prize which started in 1972 after the last Rose Festival was held in 1971. There were sections for adults and children (infants, primary and secondary) supplemented with handicrafts. (Camden News, 23 October 1968)

 

Festival queen

The 1968 Rose Festival Queen Marilyn Fuller was crowned by 1967 Queen Michele Chambers at the showground festivities after the parade. Other festival queen entrants were Miss Hospital Beverley Thornton and Miss Apex Ngaire Davies. (Camden News, 30 October 1968.

Camden Rose Festival Queen 1968 CN1968Oct30_lowres
Camden Rose Festival Queen for 1968 Miss Marilyn Fuller (left) receives her crown from 1967 Queen Miss Michele Chambers. On the right Miss Fuller thanked those who worked ‘so hard for her success’. Seated were Miss Hospital, Beverley Thornton and Miss Apex, Ngaire Davies. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

 

Masked ball

Festivities in 1968 peaked with the masked ball held at the AH&I Hall on Saturday night 2 November 1968 which started at 8.00pm. Tickets were $3.75 with proceeds going to ‘local charities’. This was the second ball organised by the festival committee, president J Hill, secretary H Kitching and treasurer UH Parsons.

Camden Rose Festival Ball Ticket 1968 CdmMus

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The living history movement finds new supporters

Living History at Belgenny

The CHN blogger attended an informative and interesting talk at Belgenny Farm in  the Home Farm meeting hall. The presentation was delivered by Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA.

Mr Watson, an advocate of the living history movement, was the guest of the chairman of the Belgenny Farm Trust Dr Cameron Archer. Mr Watson was on a speaking tour and had attended a living history conference while in Australia.

 Peter Watson and Howell Farm

Peter Watson presented an interesting and far ranging talk about Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey and its programs.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018May2 Peter Watson Talk
A very informative talk by Mr Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA. Mr Watson was the guest of Belgenny Farm Trust Chairman Dr Cameron Archer. The talk was held on 2 May 2018 at the Belgenny Farm community hall with an attentive crowd of local folk. (I Willis)

 

Mr Watson said, ‘The 130 acre farm was gifted to the community in 1974 by a state politician with the aim of showing how farming used to be done in New Jersey.

Howell Living History Farm is located within a one hour of around 15 million and the far has 65,000 visitors per year and 10,000 school children.

Mr Watson said,

‘We took about 10 years to get going and deal with the planning process, which was tenuous for the government authorities who own the farm.

Mr Watson said,

‘The main aim at the farm is the visitor experience. The farm represents New Jersey farming between 1890 and 1910 – a moment in time.’

Mr Watson says,

‘We do not want to allow history to get in the way of an education experience for the visitor. The farm visitors are attracted by nostalgia which is an important value for them.

Most historic farms are museums, according to Mr Watson and he said, ‘At Howell Living History Farm visitors become involved in activities.’

The farm uses original equipment using traditional methods and interpretation with living history.

 

The Living History Movement

Historian Patrick McCarthy considers that living history is concerned with (1) ‘first person’ interpretation or role play (2) adopting authentic appearance (3) re-creating the original historic site of the event.

Living historian Scott Magelssen maintains that living history museums ‘engage strategies in their performance of the past’, claiming to be ‘real history by virtue of their attention to detail’. Living history museums ‘do not merely represent the past; they make historical ‘truth’ for the visitor’.  (pp. xii-xv)

According to Magelssen living history museums ‘produce history’ like textbooks, films or a lecture. Under the influence of post-modernism history ‘is on longer to be seen as the reconstruction of the past through scientific analysis’. Living history is a research tool. (pp. xii-xv)  There are various interpretations on the way this is constructed, configured and delivered amongst the theorists.

 

Origins of living history museum movement

One of the early influencers of the living history movement in North America was Henry Ford who established his indoor and outdoor living museum experience in the Detroit suburb of Dearbourn in Michigan USA. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the USA and attracts 1.6 million visitors. Ford opened the Greenfield Village to the public in 1933 as the first outdoor living museum in the USA and has over 100 buildings moved to the site dating from the 1700s. Henry Ford said of his museum

I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used…. When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…

 

Living history @ Belgenny

Belgenny Farm is an authentic collection of colonial farm buildings that were once part of the Macarthur family’s Camden Park Estate.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018 sign
The signage at the entrance to the Belgenny Farm complex at Camden NSW. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The Belgenny Farm website states that its education program adopts the principles of the living history movement. It states:

Schools enjoy a diverse range of hands-on curriculum based programs including the new Creamery Interpretative Centre. The Creamery showcases the dairy industry over the last 200 years and is supported by a virtual tour and online resources.

And more to the point:

Belgenny Farm was established by John and Elizabeth Macarthur in 1805 and contains the earliest collection of colonial farm buildings in Australia. The property is a major educational centre with direct links to Australia’s agricultural history.

 

Sydney Living Museums

Sydney Living Museums is part of the living history museum movement and manages 12 historic properties across NSW. The stated role of SLM is to:

enrich and revitalise people’s lives with Sydney’s living history, and to hand the precious places in our care and their collections on to future generations to enjoy.

Sydney Hyde Park Barracks WHS Wikimedia lowres
Sydney Living Museums’ Hyde Park Barracks in Macquarie Street Sydney. (Wikimedia)

 

Sydney Living Museums has a philosophy which aims to be part of the living history movement by being:

authentic; bold; collaborative; passionate; and a sociable host.

Originally known as the Historic Houses Trust (HHT) the first chairman  stated that the organisation wanted to present

our properties ‘in a lively and creative way’.

When the HHT changed its name in 2013 to Sydney Living Museums:

to refresh and unify our diverse range of properties and highlight our role and relevance for current and future generations.

 

Living history is storytelling

Living history is walking the ground of an historical event or place or building. Walking the ground shows the layers of meaning in history in a place or building.

Walking the ground is an authentic real  experience.

Participants absorb the past that is located in the present of a place or a site. The past is the present and the past determines the present. It shapes, meaning and interpretation. It is the lived experience of a place.

Living history allows participants to be able to read: the layers of history of an area; the layers of meaning in a landscape; or the layers of history in a building.

It is like peeling off layers of paint from a wall when viewers peel back the layers of history of a site, building or place. Each layer has a special meaning – a special presence.

Lived experience leads to storytelling which is real  and authentic.

Storytelling creates the meaning of the past and creates the characters of the past in the present. It allows the past to speak to the present.

Experience some of these stories at the Camden Museum.

Camden Museum Macarthur Anglican School Visit6 2018Apr
Story telling by a volunteer at the Camden Museum for a school visit by Macarthur Anglican School (MAS, 2018)
Aesthetics · Art · Attachment to place · British colonialism · Camden · Camden Community Garden · Camden Park House and Garden · Camden Produce Market · Camden Town Farm · Campbelltown Art Centre · Colonial Camden · Colonialism · Community Health · community identity · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · England · Entertainment · Fashion · festivals · Heritage · Historical consciousness · history · Landscape aesthetics · Leisure · Living History · Local History · Macarthur · Memorials · Memory · Monuments · Moveable Heritage · Parks · Picton · Place making · Public art · sense of place · Settler colonialism · war

Gardens: a special place

The many faceted aspects of gardens

Gardens are practical, places of beauty, peaceful, have a pleasing aesthetic and are popular with people. Gardens across the Macarthur region certainly fulfil these elements.

Author Robert Harrison maintains that

The gardens that have graced this mortal Eden of ours are the best evidence of humanity’s reason for being on Earth. History without gardens would be a wasteland.

Humans have long turned to gardens—both real and imaginary—for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them.

Harrison maintains that people wander through many types of gardens:

Real, mythical, historical, literary.

Camden Park House 2018 Flynns LForbes
The display of spring wisteria in the gardens at Camden Park House. The gardens are open in spring every year and are a magnificent display of vibrant colours. The gardens are part of the September Open Weekend at the property which provides one of the important intact colonial Victorian gardens in Australia. This image was taken by Lyn Forbes on the 2018 Open Weekend. (L Forbes, 2018)

 

Many say that gardens and connectedness to nature contribute to wellness

 

Wellness and wellbeing

Wellness is an area of growing public interest and is one the most popular sections of bookshops. A simple Google search of wellness reveals over 700 million search results.

The Wellness Institute says that wellness is:

a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.

Why is wellness important?

The University of California Davis Student Health and Counselling Services states that wellness is important because:

it is important for everyone to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.

The UCD states that there are eight areas to wellness: emotional; environmental; financial; intellectual; occupational; physical; social; spiritual.

Gardening and horticultural therapy or ecotherapy contributes to wellness through physical, psychological and social wellbeing.

 

Studies have shown that being connected to nature is linked to well-being. Gardening is a connection with nature. Some see it as a form of biophilia.

Biophilia

The hypothesis of biophilia says that people are connected to nature. The degree that nature is part of a person’s identity is ‘nature connectedness’.

The term biophilia was introduced by Edward O Wilson in his 1984 book Biophilia where he defined it as ‘”the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.[3]

These ideas are not new and in ancient Greek mythology Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life and the personification of the Earth: the primal Mother Earth goddess.

In 1979 James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth; his Gaia hypothesis which sees the Earth as a self-supporting organism.

Gardening has many of these elements and a direct connection to the earth.

 

A selection of gardens in the Macarthur region

Camden community garden

One active gardener maintains that this garden provides

therapy time, social interaction with other like-minded people and the satisfaction of growing your own produce. It is very peaceful down there and there is something about digging in the earth. It is fulfilling and a sense of joy seeing something grow from seed. There’s nothing like being able to pick and eat your own produce. The wide variety of colours of the flowers and vegetables in the garden builds mindfulness.

Camden Community Gardens[1]

 

Macarthur Park and garden

TripAdvisor

This is a park with varied places to wander through and enjoy, roses in abundance, opportunities for parties, weddings or friends, and 2 palm trees at one of the gates planted by Elizabeth Macarthur to add to the history!! Very pleasurable. (Val S, Camden)

 

A two minute stroll from the gorgeous township of Camden and you’ll find this little hidden gem. Beautifully maintained gardens in a tranquil setting make this spot just perfect for a short retreat from the rest of the world. no bustle, no shops no noise (except the occasional church bells), just peace and tranquility. (PThommo101, Camden)

 

I just loved the park with its wonderful rose garden and beautiful arbor. I was there to do a photo shoot and this park never fails to impress with its beautiful shadows and views (CamdenNSW)

Camden Mac Park
Camden’s Macarthur Park endowed to the residents of Camden by Sibella Macarthur Onslow in the early 20th century (I Willis, 2016)

 

The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan

The Australian Plant Bank

TripAdvisor

A beautiful, restful place to take a Sunday stroll. Any time of the year there is always something on offer, but spring time is especially lovely. (Sue H, Sydney) 

It was wonderful to spend time here at the beginning of spring, (Matt H, Penang, Malaysia)

What a beautiful place for a picnic….the grounds are extensive and have an impressive display of Australian native plants….wattles, grevillea ,bottlebrush and eucalypts, to name but a few. (Lynpatch29, Sydney)

 I was very impressed it is beautiful (Camden NSW)

A tranquil space for a walk among native plants.  Your head is back in a good space. (Susie994, Canberra)

mt_annan_botanic_garden2
The Australian Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan showing a bed of paper daisies 2016 (ABG)

 

Sculpture Garden Western Sydney University Campbelltown

Maybe it is the walking around the picturesque landscape provided by the WSU grounds staff and gardeners. Maybe it is the landscape gardening and native vegetation set off by the water features. Maybe it is the quiet and solitude in the middle of a busy Campbelltown.

Whatever it is in the sculpture garden, whether provided by the permanent WSU sculpture collection or the exhibition works, the site has a positive serenity that is hard to escape. It certainly attracts the staff and students.

The exhibition makes up part of the programme linked to the WSU Art Collection.  Take yourself on a virtual tour of the WSU Art Collection.

Campbelltown WSU Sculptures 2018
The sculpture garden in the grounds of Western Sydney University Campbelltown are one of the best kept secrets of the Macarthur region. It is great to see the display of public art and there a host of display pieces to hold the interest of any art nerd. (IWillis)

 

Camden Park House & Garden

Japanese Garden at Campbelltown Arts Centre

The Japanese Gardens are a special gift from Koshigaya, Campbelltown’s Sister City in Japan, and are located in the grounds of the Campbelltown Arts Centre.

The Campbelltown Japanese Gardens celebrate the sister city relationship between Campbelltown and Koshigaya. The gardens were presented to Campbelltown by the citizens of Koshigaya on 10 April, 1988.

The Gardens symbolise the beliefs and religion of both Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, and Zen Buddhism.

The Campbelltown Japanese Gardens feature a traditional waterfall, koi pond, timber bridge, stonework pathways, lush plantings and a 16th Century designed teahouse, hand crafted by Japanese craftsmen.

The aim of the garden is to obtain quiet solitude. The design represents elegant simplicity, lending itself to contemplation and heightened awareness. (Campbelltown Arts Centre)

Campbelltown Arts Centre Japanese Garden3 2018 CAC
The Japanese Garden at the Campbelltown Arts Centre. The garden illustrates the ‘peaceful surrounds and tranquility of the traditional Japanese plants, designs and craftsmanship’. (CAC)

 

Picton Botanical Gardens

Picton Botanic Garden 2017 Pinterest
The Picton Botanical Gardens 2017.  The gardens were established in 1986 and covers 4.1 ha and has 90% native Australian plantings. (Pinterest)

Tripadvisor

The gardens are beautiful. (TamJel, North Sydney)

Well presented, peaceful park just what the doctor ordered.. (Gasmi, Sydney)

Purely by chance, I saw a signpost for the Picton Botanical Gardens. I drove down Regreme Road and discovered a beautiful, peaceful space adjacent to the oval. (Jennifer C, Belconnen, ACT)

 

Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living

Mac Centres for Sust Living 2017 Mount Annan
The Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living garden ‘The Centre  is a not-for-profit, community-driven organisation supported by local Macarthur Councils and the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust. MCSL is primarily an educational facility and model for sustainable technology’ (2017 MCSL)

 

Camden RSL Memorial Rose Garden

Camden RSL Memorial Rose Gdn 2017 CRSL
The Camden RSL Memorial Rose Garden is the site of the annual Anzac Day Dawn Service in Camden. It attracts thousands of people each year and is a site of memory and commemoration. The extensive rose garden has a memorial obelisk located in front of a columbarium.  (CRSL, 2017)

 

Rotary Cowpasture Reserve Garden

Camden Cowpasture Reserve Spring Flowers 2018
The Camden Rotary Cowpasture Reserve garden in spring 2018. The reserve wall was opened and dedicated on 19 February 1995 by Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair Governor NSW. The monument celebrates the Rotary Centenary and the service that Camden Rotary has provided to the community since 1947. (2018 I Willis)
Adaptive Re-use · Aesthetics · Architecture · Attachment to place · Burra Charter · Camden · Colonial Camden · community identity · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · Edwardian · Entertainment · First World War · Heritage · Historical consciousness · history · Interwar · Local History · Memory · Modernism · Place making · Retailing · sense of place · Streetscapes · Tourism · Victorian

Adaptive re-use and the Whiteman commercial buildings in Camden NSW

The wonderful Victorian colonial building that was once the Whiteman’s General Store has had a new lease of life through the Burra Charter principle of adaptive re-use. There are has been a continuous retail shopping presence on the same site for over 135 years.

While the building has also had new work and restoration it is a good  example of how a building can be adaptively re-used for commercial activities without destroying the integrity of the buildings historic character and charm.

Camden Whitemans Store 1923 CIPP
The Whiteman General Store in 1923 who were universal providers of all sorts of goods to town and country folk alike across the Camden district from Menangle to Burragorang Valley. The store would deliver to your door in town just like parcels purchased online today. (Camden Images)

 

Adaptive re-use maintains the historic character of the streetscape and the sense of place that is so important to community identity, resilience and sustainability.

Adaptive re-use is not new and has been going on for a long time.  In Europe buildings that are hundreds of years old continual go through the process of re-use century after century.

 

The Tower of London – a building with an amazing history of adaptive re-use

The Tower of London has been re-used over the centuries since the White Tower was constructed by William the Conqueror in 1066 as a fortress and gateway to the city.

Over the centuries the Tower of London complex has been a royal residence, military storehouse, a prison, place of royal execution, parliament, treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, storage of crown jewels, royal armoury, regimental headquarters, and most recently a centre of tourism.

 

London Tower of London 2006 PPikous-Flckr
The Tower of London has gone through many changes of usage across the centuries. (P Pikous, 2006)

 

Adaptive re-use in Australia

In Australia adaptive re-use of historic buildings comes under the Burra Charter which defines the principles and procedures followed in the conservation in Australian heritage places.

The Burra Charter accepts the principles of the ICOMOS Venice Charter (1964) and was adopted in 1979 at a meeting of ICOMOS in 1979 at the historic town of Burra, South Australia.

The Burra Charter has been adopted by heritage authorities across Australia – Heritage Council of NSW (2004).

Adaptive re-use is covered by Article 21 of the Burra Charter and states:

Article 21. Adaptation 21.1 Adaptation is acceptable only where the adaptation has minimal impact on the cultural significance of the place. 21.2 Adaptation should involve minimal change to significant fabric, achieved only after considering alternatives.

The explanatory notes says:

Adaptation may involve additions to the place, the introduction of new services, or a  new use, or changes to safeguard the place.  Adaptation of a place for a new use is often referred to as ‘adaptive re-use’ and should be  consistent with Article 7.2.

 

Other countries and adaptive re-use

In other countries there are legal enforcement of re-use of historical buildings and precincts.

In Irish planning, a conservation ensemble is known as an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA). ACA status provides statutory protection to existing building stock and urban features, and applies strict design and materials standards to new developments. Protections prohibit works with negative impacts on the character of buildings, monuments, urban design features, open spaces and views.

The architectural principles of adaptive re-use can be contested and contentious within communities.

The objectives of ensemble-scale heritage conservation can be highly political – sense of place, ownership of space and local politics come together in this process.

 

Reasons for adaptive re-use for historic buildings

Architects advance a number of reasons why historic buildings should be adaptively re-used. They include

  • Seasoned building materials are not even available in today’s world. Close-grained, first-growth lumber is naturally stronger and more rich looking than today’s timbers. Does vinyl siding have the sustainability of old brick?
  • The process of adaptive reuse is inherently green. The construction materials are already produced and transported onto the site.
  • Architecture is history. Architecture is memory.

[Craven, Jackie. “Adaptive Reuse – How to Give Old Buildings New Life.” ThoughtCo, May. 22, 2018, thoughtco.com/adaptive-reuse-repurposing-old-buildings-178242]

 

Whiteman commercial building

The Whiteman family conducted a general store in Argyle Street on the same site for over 100 years.

Camden Whitemans General Store 86-100 Argyle St. 1900s. CIPP[1]
Camden Whiteman’s General Store, 86-100 Argyle Street, Camden c1900s. The customer would go the a wide-wooden-shop-counter with their list of requisites and receive personal service from a male shop assistant who would fill their order. (Camden Images)

In 1878 CT (Charles Thomas) Whiteman, who operated a family business in Sydney, brought produce to Camden. He purchased a single storey home at the corner of Argyle and Oxley Street and ran his store from the site. (SHI) In 1878 a fire destroyed the business.

CT Whiteman was previously a storekeeper in Goulburn and Newtown and later married local Camden girl Anne Bensley in 1872. Whiteman, was a staunch Methodist, and  was an important public figure in Camden and served as the town’s first mayor from 1892 to 1894.

CT Whiteman moved to premises in Argyle Street in 1889 occupied by ironmonger J Burret.  Whiteman modified the building for a shopfront conversion.   (SHI)   The store was later leased to the Woodhill family from 1903 to 1906.

Camden Whiteman Bldg Tenant Woodhills General Store c1906
The Whiteman’s commercial building was leased by the Woodhill family as a general store for a number of years after Federation. A coach service like the one in the image plied a daily service between Camden and Yerranderie leaving at the corner of Argyle and John Street run by the Butler family. (Camden Images)

 

From 1889 to 1940 the building was known as the Cumberland Stores. The store supplied groceries, drapery, men’s wear, boots and shoes, farm machinery, hardware, produce and stationery. (Gibson, 1940)

The original Argyle Street building was an early timber verandahed Victorian period store.

The building was a two-storey rendered masonry building with hipped tile roof, projecting brick chimneys. The second storey had painted timber framed windows which were shaded by a steeply pitched tile roof awning supported on painted timber brackets.(SHI)

A two-storey addition was constructed in 1936 and the verandah posts were removed in 1939 when this policy was implemented by Camden Municipal Council.

There were later shopfront modifications to the adjacent mid-20th century façade street-frontage which included wide aluminium framed glazing and awning to the ground level of the building. (SHI)

The Whiteman’s General Store sold a variety of goods  and became one of the longest-running retail businesses  in Camden.

 

Camden Whitemans Store 1978[1] CIPP
By 1978 Whiteman’s General Store had undergone a number of extensions and provided a range of goods from mens and boys wear to haberdashery. Produce, hay and grain for local farmers could be obtained at the rear of the store from the Hill Street entrance. The mid-20th century building extension is to the left of the image. Upstairs were a number of flats that were leased out to local folk. (Camden Images)

The Whiteman’s Store was trading as Argyle Living when it closed in 2006 under the control of Fred Whiteman. On the store’s closure the Whiteman family had operated on the same site in Camden for 123 years.

On the closure of Argyle Living the store sold homewares, clothing, furniture and a range of knickknacks and was the largest retail outlet in Camden with 1200 square metres of space.

 

Current usage of the Whiteman’s commercial building

After 2007 the building was converted, through adaptive re-use, to an arcade with several retail outlets and professional rooms on the ground floor, with a restaurant and other businesses upstairs.

Camden Whitemans Going Upstairs (at Freds) 2018 IWillis
Image Going Upstairs (at Freds) to the restored rooms that were once small flats and accommodation above the men’s wear downstairs. The first restaurant was developed by David Constantine called Impassion in 2005. David said, ‘I like to think we are just caretakers for a while. I’ll treat it well and ensure it’s here for someone else’s lifetime’. (I Willis, 2018/Camden History, September 2007)

 

Camden Whiteman Bldg Upstairs (at Freds) 2018 IWillis
The old flats Upstairs [at Freds] in the Whiteman’s building has been converted into a restaurant and performance space. This conversion was originally completed in 2005 by restauranter David Constantine of Impassion. Here Lisa DeAngeles is entertaining a small and enthusiastic crowd in the room in the restaurant Upstairs at Freds. The front verandah is out through the doors to the left of the room. (I Willis, 2018)

The building has largely retained its integrity, and its historic character and delight in the town’s business centre.

The Whiteman’s commercial building adds to the mid-20th century streetscape that still largely characterises the Camden town centre and attracts hordes of day-trippers to the area.

 

Camden Whiteman's Building Upstairs (at Freds) 2018 IWillis
A quiet function room with an historic flavour in the restored area Upstairs at Freds. The scenes on the left show the Australia Light Horse Infantry on a forced from the Menangle ALH Camp in 1916 marching down Argyle Street Camden past Whiteman’s General Store. The image on right in the Whiteman’s General Store in 1923. (I Willis, 2018)

 

 

Camden Whitemans Building 2018 IWillis
The Camden Whiteman’s building shown here from the street frontage in Argyle Street. The building has undergone adaptive re-use in accordance with the Burra Charter (ICOMOS) and continues to be busy retail outlet as it has done since the Victorian days. This means that there has been a retail outlet continuously occupying this site for over 135 years. The current building usage continues to contributed the delight and charm of the Camden town centre that attracts thousands of tourist every year. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Learn more:

State Heritage Inventory

Julie Wrigley, ‘Whiteman family’. The District Reporter, 8 December 2017.

Attachment to place · Camden · Camden Show · Campbelltown · Communications · community identity · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · Entertainment · Fashion · festivals · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Living History · Local History · Local newspapers · Macarthur · Narellan · Newspapers · Place making · Ruralism · sense of place · war

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter Extracts by Ian Willis

90.3.3 Camden: Launch of a new regional newspaper

Ian Willis, of Camden, writes (19 November): This week a new masthead appeared in the Camden Local Government Area called the Independent South-West published by King Media Regional based in Bowral, NSW. It was launched at Camden’s annual Light Up Festival. Editor Jane King and other staff handed out copies of the free monthly to families and friends who had come to see Santa, watch the fireworks and see the Christmas lights on the town’s Christmas tree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 90, December 2016— 11

 

Newspaper Image IndepSW 2016 Iss1
The first edition of The Independent South-West that appeared in Camden (I Willis)

 

89.4.10 Tahmoor’s once-a-century publication

Ian Willis, of Camden, writes: On 1 September 2016 the local independent weekly, the District Reporter, published an eight-page wraparound supplement under the banner heading of the “Tahmoor Times Souvenir Edition”. It was “edition 1, volume 1” of a special edition that was “published every 100 years”. The supplement celebrated the centenary of the naming of Tahmoor NSW and the Back to Tahmoor celebrations. It was sponsored by the District Reporter and the Tahmoor Chamber of Commerce under its president Bob Clayton.

The District Reporter is a free 16-page weekly published by a family owned company, Wombaroo Publishers, of Camden. The newspaper was launched in 1998 and has a distribution of 16,900 primarily across the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas, including Tahmoor. The publication has a popular weekly local history feature on the back page called “Back Then” under the direction of newspaper editor Lee Abrahams. Volunteers read aloud the supplement to some of the residents at the local Carrington Convalescent Home.

The idea of the supplement and its promotion were the brainchild of Bob Clayton who is variously described as a team of one taking on roles from journalist and political editor. Clayton’s editorial stated that he only published the supplement “every one hundred years” with the next edition in 2116. Clayton supplied the content with layout done by the District Reporter’s sales manager Noel Lowry.

The supplement’s feature article “Bridge to Bridge – Tahmoor a History” presented an interesting collection of images with a short story of the history of the town. Past extracts from the Picton Post supported the story. For example, in 1933 local character Barney Abbot spotted a UFO from his farm paddock one night. Then there was an offer in 1934 to take a Ford V8 for a drive with a recent sighting of Elvis Presley in Tahmoor.

Mr Clayton said, “It was all to have a bit of fun and to tell tales from the past. History is a bit dry and you need to make it interesting.”

Other centenary celebrations were outlined in the supplement and are a “Back to Tahmoor Day”, a history publication, a photographic exhibition, the development of a history walk and a time capsule for Tahmoor Public School.

Storytelling occurs in all cultures and the “Tahmoor Times” supplement adds to some of the colourful yarns about the local area. Clayton said he would send a copy of the supplement to the National Library. The supplement provides an insight in to the area’s sense of place and its cultural landscape.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 89, September 2016— 15

 

Camden Show Signage 2018
The Camden Show attracts over 40,000 people to the two day festival in the country town of Camden. (I Willis)

 

67.3.4 CAMDEN: SHOW COVERAGE HIGHLY COMMENDED

Ian Willis from Camden writes (31 March): The Camden press excelled itself in recent weeks with an incredible coverage of the 2012 Camden Show. The show always gets strong support from the local weekly newspapers – Camden-Narellan Advertiser, Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition) and the District Reporter – and this year was no different.

The amount of page space devoted to the show is worthy of special examination. Between January and March over 6300 column centimetres were devoted to the show matters, peaking in the weekly editions before the show. The Advertiser had an eight- page wrap-around, the Chronicle had a 12 page wrap-around while The District Reporter had a 24-page special edition, as well as its regular weekly edition. This was supplemented with extensive photo galleries on the newspaper websites and in their print editions after the show. In addition the Macarthur Chronicle offered to print a special front page for showgoers with their image at their show stall. The show committee supported this coverage with posters, pamphlets, programs, and television (first time 2011) and radio advertising.

The Camden Show illustrates one of the key strengths of the local press, which in the case of Camden is becoming increasingly the local suburban press, its localness. The Camden community is in a period of transition located on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe and undergoing a crisis of identity. The role of the local press in the success of this annual festival cannot be understated. The annual show (23-24 March 2012) is the premier cultural festival for the community, runs over two days and in 2012 attracted over 38,000 people. The constant theme in all material related to the show was its role as ‘still a country show’. The event had all the trade mark features of the stereotypical country show from cakes to show bags to cattle and wood chopping. The relationship between the Camden press and the show juggernaut is mutually beneficial and illustrates the strength of Camden’s sense of place, community identity and local parochialism.

The 2012 press coverage of the show illustrates the dynamic vibrancy of the local newspaper. In these days when the metropolitan press are increasingly under pressure the local press goes from strength to strength. Camden’s newspapers add to the resilience of the local community in the face of constant change on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe from urbanisation.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No. 67, May 2012 — 12

 

Missingham, Di: D. 18 February, aged 63; former manager of the Macarthur Chronicle; was appointed manager of the Chronicle in 1985, not long after the newspaper was established; spent nine years at the newspaper “building relationships in the community’ and laying the foundations for the success of the newspaper”; was also a Camden councillor between 1995 and 1999 and deputy mayor in 1998; most recently she was Lifeline Macarthur’s sponsorship manager (Source: Ian Willis, Camden.)

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 57    May 2010                Page 3

 

57.2.2 DISTRICT REPORTER GOES DIGITAL

Ian Willis reports: The District Reporter had its first digital edition on 15 March. The Reporter is an independently owned 16-page free weekly published by Wombaroo Publishers. Established in 1997, it circulates in the Camden and Wollondilly local government areas. One of its most popular features is the “Back Then” history page. The website has an archive of editions from the previous 12 months. It can be viewed at http://www.tdr.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=58&Itemid=1

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 57  May 2010               Page 3

 

61.4.9 LIFE AS THE EDITOR OF A SMALL COMMUNITY PAPER Ian Willis reports from Camden: The editor/proprieter Lee Abrahams of the District Reporter addressed the Camden Historical Society on the life of an editor of a small community newspaper on 9 February at the Camden Museum. The District Reporter is owned by Lee Abrahams and Noel Lowry, of Camden. It is a 16pp free weekly published in Camden NSW each Monday. Abrahams maintains that it has a ―quirky style that concentrates on local and rural news. The most popular sections are the back page feature, ―Back Then, on local history, followed by ―The Diary, which is a summary of local community events. The paper has a print run of 17,000 which is circulated in the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas. It is printed at Marrickville.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 61 February 2011 Page 18

 

Newspaper TDR 2018July6 Cover
The front page of The District Reporter which is a local independent newspaper in the Macarthur region of NSW. (The District Reporter)

 

62.3.1 CAMDEN, NSW (1): FOOTY’S BACK Ian Willis reports from Camden: On 8 March two of Camden‘s weekly newspapers, Fairfax Media‘s Camden-Narellan Advertiser and Cumberland Newspaper Group‘s Macarthur Chronicle, both published eight-page wraparounds featuring the Wests Tigers Rugby League teams. Under the banner headline, ―NRL Glory Calls‖ player Loti Tuquiri was featured in a full-page feature in the Chronicle, complemented by a season draw. The Advertiser went further and had two popular players, Chris Lawrence and Gareth Ellis, in a double page spread, while the inside two pages featured a ―Footy Tipping Guide for the die-hard fans. All for the start of the official footy season!

62.3.2 CAMDEN, NSW (2): THE SHOW Ian Willis reports from Camden: Camden‘s three free weeklies each had a major feature on the 125th 2011 Camden Show. The show is a yearly event and is promoted as the largest regional show in Australia, with expected attendances in excess of 30,000. The District Reporter, an independent, published a 24-page special advertising feature for the event, which is ‘still a country show‘. Items ranged from the opening by the Governor-General, to entertainment, horse events, grand parade, Miss Showgirl, and a guide to community groups performances (schools, community band) and local artists.

The Cumberland Press‘s Macarthur Chronicle had a 12-page wraparound and noted that the show was still going strong‘ after 125 years, and the appearance of the ―G-G was the ―icing on the cake. It was reported that the inaugural show in 1886 was ―met with enthusiasm and approval‖ by those attending. Fairfax‘s Camden-Narellan Advertiser had an 8 page wraparound ‗souvenir edition‘ and featured a double page spread of an attractive young bloke‘ from the show organising committee, Daniel Dickenson. Daniel stated that he was ‘dedicated to making sure the country show continue[d] for many years‘, while the Advertiser assured its readers that the show was ―an age-old event that stop[ped] Camden in its tracks.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 62 May 2011 Page 9

 

Camden Show 2018 promo
The Camden Show is an annual celebration of things rural in the township of Camden for over 100 years. (Camden Show)

 

CAMDEN (NSW): AN EDITOR’S LIFE

63.4.4 Ian Willis reports from Camden: An account of life as the editor/proprietor of the District Reporter, Lee Abrahams, was published in the March journal of the Camden Historical Society, Camden History. The District Reporter is a 16pp free weekly published each Monday in Camden. Lee Abrahams and her husband Noel started the newspaper as a monthly in 1997 in the Austral area. They moved the paper to Camden to fill a vacuum left by the closure of the Camden Crier, a free weekly. The Reporter has a circulation of 17,000 and a footprint of 37,000 homes. It has been online for 12 months with around 200 weekly downloads. The most popular feature is the weekly history page, Back Then‘.  According to Abrahams the masthead colours of blue and green reflect the rural landscape of sky and grass.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 63 July 2011 Page 15

 

56.3.3 CAMPBELLTOWN AND CAMDEN: DIGITAL EDITION

Ian Willis reports: The Macarthur Chronicle announced a complete digital edition of the newspaper in its issue of 23 February. The online edition also provides access to archives of the newspaper containing issues for the last two years, an online index and a host of live hyperlinks.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 56     February 2010     Page 4

 

56.4.1.3 CAMPBELLTOWN, NSW: 25 YEARS

From Camden, Ian Willis writes: The Macarthur Chronicle (Cumberland Courier Newspapers, with Campbelltown and Camden editions) recently had a 16-page wrap-around to celebrate its 25th anniversary.  The feature reproduced a number of the front pages from over the last 25 years. These illustrated the changes to the masthead (nine all up), the introduction of colour photographs on the front page in 1991 and the changing format of the presentation with the greater emphasis on images and less on text. The foundation editor Chris Wharton (now chief Western Australian Newspapers) recalled how Greg Evans and Debbie Newsome of the top rating TV show Perfect Match launched the first edition. The cover story of the 36 page first edition was the arrival of baby Andrew James Packer, a healthy baby delivered at Camden Hospital. The current editor Mandy Perrin, who assumed control in 1993, recalled how she started as a cadet journalist nine months after the Chronicle was launched. Under her leadership the Chronicle has grown and in 2006 split into three editions for Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly and had its first online edition. The 25th commemorative edition had 128 pages and according to Bob Osburn (editor-in-chief of Cumberland Courier Newspapers) 123,000 readers. There were many tributes on the anniversary from civic leaders. Michael Knight, former Campbelltown State Labor MP, stated that “local newspapers succeed best when they become part of the fabric of their community… And that’s precisely what the Chronicle has done”.

 

Newspapers Image Pile
Newspapers provide a trove of information about events, personalities, stories, businesses, sport and a host of other matters. (Wikimedia)

 

56.4.1.4 CAMDEN, NSW: 130 YEARS

Ian Willis again: The Camden Advertiser issued on 10 February a 16 page wrap-around celebrating 130 years of newspaper publishing from 1880 to 2010. The supplement had the genealogy of the newspaper and its antecedents. In all, the newspaper family tree identified 20 different mast-heads that were related to the Camden Advertiser. These included local newspapers published in Camden, Campbelltown, Picton and Ingleburn. The birth of the newspaper group took place with the Campbelltown Herald first published on 14 February 1880 by William Webb.

The history of the newspaper group in the feature was divided into a number of sections: 1. The Great Pioneers 1880-1900, 2. The Builders 1900-1920, 3. The Sidman Supremacy 1920-1938, 4. The War Years 1938-1949, 5. Goodbye to the Sidmans, 6. The Heyday of S. Richardson Newspapers, 1952-1982, 7. The Hard Years 1982-1987, 8. From Strength to Strength, 8. Modern, But Traditional. Since 2006.

The publishers of these newspapers were colourful local identities and they all made an indelible mark on their communities. The feature provides an interesting glimpse, if brief, into the role of the local newspaper in a small community, with their parochialism, localism and parish pump politics.

The feature has 17 photographs with a number of reproductions of front pages. There are also interviews with a number of surviving staff who worked for some of the newspapers in the group.

The front cover of the feature is an interesting juxtaposition between then and now, with a reproduction of the 1880 Camden Times, with a local reporter, MIchelle Taverniti reflecting on an 1880 version of herself.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 56  February 2010         Page 5-15

 

29.61 THESIS

Ian Willis, “The Women’s Voluntary Service: A Study of War and Volunteering in Camden,  1939-1945”, PhD thesis, Department of History and Politics, University of Wollongong,  The thesis is a local study of wartime Camden through an examination of a war-specific  voluntary organisation, the Women’s Voluntary Service. The aim of the thesis was to unravel  the social processes and cultural traditions at work in the town’s female philanthropy, and, by  so doing, tease out the main threads of Camden’s wartime experience. The thesis  encompasses the involvement of Camden’s press in these processes.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 29 September 2004 Page 17

 

12.42 Research

WILLIS, Ian (Camden, NSW): Work in progress – PhD, “The Women’s Voluntary Services: a case study of war and voluntarism in Camden, 1939-1945”; principal source dfocuments, Camden News (owner George Sidman) and Camden Advertiser (owner Arthur Gibson).  Address: PO Box 304, Camden, 2570.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 12 May 2001 Page 15

 

Newspapers Local 2018Aug6
A selection of newspaper mastheads from the Macarthur region in 2018. (I Willis)

 

41.33 FOR THE HOLIDAYING AUDIENCE

Ian Willis writes from Camden, NSW: Fairfax Community Newspapers issued a special edition of their Sydney suburban newspapers on 26-27 December 2006 and 2-3 January 2007  called the Holidayer. The issue covered 14 suburban newspapers across the south, south-west  and western parts of Sydney. Titles included: Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser, Camden  Advertiser, Wollondilly Advertiser, South Western Rural Advertiser, Liverpool City  Champion, Fairfield City Champion, Parramatta Sun, St George & Sutherland Shire Leader, Penrith City Star, Hawkesbury Independent, Blacktown Sun, St Mary’s-Mt Druitt Star, Hills News, Northern News. The Camden edition carried local stories and advertisements from local businesses. There were also stories on holiday activities across western, south-western and southern Sydney under the heading “Get out, go do it”.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 41 February 2007 Page 10

 

1.2 LOCAL NEWSPAPERS – LOCAL IDENTIES CONFERENCE

A very successful Conference was held at Chiltern, North East Victoria, on the  weekend of 1-3 October 1999. About 60 participants enjoyed papers on:

  • The history of the Chiltern Federal Standard (Ross Harvey)
  • Dynasties in the NSW provincial press (Rod Kirkpatrick)
  • The Shepparton News’ recent history (John Tidey)
  • Newspaper preservation (Wendy Smith)
  • Old Journalism at Moreton Bay (Denis Cryle)
  • The Barrier Daily Truth’s women’s column in 1910 (Liz Macnamara)
  • The effect of the introduction of radio on the Dimboola Banner (Leigh Edmonds)
  • Newspaper trade directories (Dennis Bryans)
  • Circulation figures for nineteenth-century Victorian country newspapers (Tom Darragh)
  • Newsprint in nineteenth-century Australia (Carol Mills)
  • Weekly and monthly papers in the nineteenth-century (Peter Dowling)
  • Country Catholics and the Melbourne press (Victoria Emery)
  • Patriotism reflected in WWII Camden News and Camden Advertiser (Ian Willis)
  • Community, identity and the ethnic press (Sonia Mycak)

ANHG No 1  October 1999  p1

 

Newspapers Image
Newspapers are an important means of communication and have been around for centuries in print and most recently digital form. (Wikimedia)

 

10.19 COMMUNITY PAPERS (2): ALLIANCE TOWN CRIER FOR BERRY

Ian Willis, of Camden, has sent us a copy of The Berry Alliance Town Crier, a quarterfold produced by the Berry Small Towns Alliance Inc. which sets out to “provide communication to the people of Berry about community activities and to generate a small income for the Berry Alliance to cover administrative costs”. Editor is Bonnie Cassen. Issued monthly, it has a distribution of 1800. The September issue carried 24 pages.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 10 December 2000 Page 7

 

37.50 CAMDEN ADVERTISER BACK COPIES

Camden Public Library is trying to find a good home for originals of the Camden Advertiser in a broken run from the 1930s to the 1950s. Ian Willis writes: “I convinced the library to put them on microfilm when I was doing my PhD. It was one of my principal sources. Our historical society cannot house them.”

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 37 May 2006 Page 15

 

39.27 CAMDEN ADVERTISER 30 AND 20 YEARS AGO

From Ian Willis, of Camden, NSW: The Camden Advertiser (23 August 2006) had a 16-page wrap-around on the theme “Living in the 70s”. It included a series of three articles that recalled the front pages of the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, the Camden News, and the Picton Post in 1976. The stories related to local issues surrounding planning and the new Macarthur Growth Centre, parking, a new bridge over the Nepean River, and Camden retaining its “rural charm”. The Camden Advertiser (20 Sept. 2006) carried a 12 page advertising feature liftout on “Living in the 80s”. The feature carries an overview of the newspaper stories of the period, with a concentration on 1986. It features the front-page stories of that year including a “heated war of words” between the mayor of Campbelltown, Guy Thomas and Campbelltown’s Labor MP Michael Knight.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 39 October 2006 Page 10

 

51.3.1 SMALL PAPERS

Ian Willis reports from Camden, NSW: Our local newspapers treat the men and women who contributed to the Victorian Fire situation as local “heroes” in the finest tradition of the bushman and Anzac legends. The front page of the Camden Advertiser of 18 February reads “FACES OF GENEROSITY” with the story starting: “As bushfires wreaked destruction on lives in Victoria, Camden sprang into action. Our firefighters flew in to meet the flames, and thousands of dollars of donations have poured in to support relief.” The story ran through to pages 2 and 3 with photographs of RFS volunteers, school children holding fundraising events and other community fundraising events.

Our weekly independent, the District Reporter led on 16 February with a story “COMMUNITY SHOWS IT HAS A BIG HEART”, outlining the efforts of a local Catholic independent high school and its fundraising effort with photographs of the young people at the school. This was supported with a page 5 story about donations collected at a local shopping centre.

The Cumberland Newspaper Groups is represented in our local area by the Camden Edition of the Macarthur Chronicle. On 17 February it led with a story headed “OUR FINEST”. The story outlined the efforts of the Macarthur RFS unit and stated “the Macarthur region’s exhausted firefighters arrived home last week into the arms of loved ones after experiencing hell on earth”. The story outlined the efforts of efforts of our local heroes defending homes, electricity switching stations, and general fire fighting. Colin Spinks, the deputy group officer and member of the Camden West RFS brigade stated: ‘(the fire) would come down and the wind would turn back again. There was no saying where the wind was going to come from”. This was supported with extensive coverage of local fundraising events on pages 4, 5 and 6. David Campbell reported that “the heartbreaking plight of the bushfire victims in Victoria has prompted a generous response from the Macarthur region”.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 51  February  2009      Page 7

 

43.26 MACARTHUR NEWSPAPERS

Ian Willis writes: The Macarthur Chronicle, which is part of the Cumberland Newspaper Group, has launched a new website for its local Macarthur newspapers. These are Macarthur Chronicle (Campbelltown Edition), Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition), Macarthur Chronicle (Wollondilly Edition). The three newspapers are on the front page of the website then linked to local stories for each edition. The site is located at http://www.macarthurchronicle.com.au/.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 43  July 2007      Page 8

 

Newspapers WW1 Country Mastheads
Local newspapers were an important part of all country towns across Australia. (Trove/IWillis)

 

39.27 CAMDEN ADVERTISER 30 AND 20 YEARS AGO

From Ian Willis, of Camden, NSW: The Camden Advertiser (23 August 2006) had a 16-page wrap-around on the theme “Living in the 70s”. It included a series of three articles that recalled the front pages of the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, the Camden News, and the Picton Post in 1976. The stories related to local issues surrounding planning and the new Macarthur Growth Centre, parking, a new bridge over the Nepean River, and Camden retaining its “rural charm”. The Camden Advertiser (20 Sept. 2006) carried a 12 page advertising feature liftout on “Living in the 80s”. The feature carries an overview of the newspaper stories of the period, with a concentration on 1986. It features the front-page stories of that year including a “heated war of words” between the mayor of Campbelltown, Guy Thomas and Campbelltown’s Labor MP Michael Knight.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 39  October 2006       Page 8

 

Willis, Ian, presented a paper at the Australian Historical Association 2006 Biennial Conference at the Australian National University on Genres of History. The paper title was “Looking at Regional Identities on the Homefront” and concerned the role of country newspapers as an important historical source. He used the case study of the Camden News and Camden Advertiser, during World War II. The paper examined the regional identity of conservatism and its representation in the wartime reporting in Camden press as patriotism.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 39  October 2006     Page 8