Agriculture

Memories of Your Suburb: Catherine Field

Catherine Field is located on what was once the Cowpasture Road, leading to Camden, on the lands of the Dharug people. The land was colonised from about 1807 onwards when land grants were awarded. George Molle was given 500 acres in 1817, along South Creek, which he named ‘Catherine Field’. James Chisholm built the property ‘Gledswood’ around 1817 and it remained in the family until 1940.

Gledswood Catherine Fields. 1997 Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Gledswood Catherine Fields. 1997 Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The Catherine Field area is located on the Cumberland Plain, however, only remnants of the original woodland remain. The area contains mixed agriculture and rural residential holdings. As the NSW State Government has designated the Catherine Field area as part of the South West Metropolitan Development Strategy, increased urbanisation will occur.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Memories of Your Suburb: Bringelly

The township of Bringelly was established on land granted in 1818 to William Hutchinson, originally a convict, who later became one of the directors of the Bank of NSW. The area had been earlier settled by Robert Lowe, who built a house called Birling in 1812 on his land grant of 1000 acres. Many other settlers were given land grants in this area throughout the early 19th century, among them D’arcy Wentworth, John Piper and Ellis Bent. A notorious visitor to the Bringelly locale was the bushranger Jack Donohoe, who is believed to have established a number of hide-outs in the surrounds.

The township was first formally named in 1863. The establishment of a school occurred in 1870’s and was rebuilt before the present school building was erected in 1897.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Original school building. 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Original school building. 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Bringelly is situated in an area of open grasslands set within areas of larger bushland, which is a remnant of the once flourishing Cumberland Plain Woodland. It at present contains a mix of agricultural and rural residential land use. Market gardens, dairy farms and other agricultural industries which have acted as a greenbelt and provided Sydney with produce, will soon give way to large housing estates, as part of the NSW State Government’s Metropolitan Strategy.

Memories of Your Suburb: Elderslie

Elderslie lies on the land of the Dharawal people. Governor Macquarie made land grants along the Nepean River including one to the surveyor John Oxley, and was named ‘Ellerslie’ in grant records of 1816. The name had changed to its present form by 1828.

It is believed that the first building in the Camden area was constructed in Elderslie, at the river crossing, sometime in 1803. A number of properties, including ‘Elderslie’ were eventually owned by Charles Campbell, who subdivided his land in 1841 to create a village.

St Mark's Church, Elderslie. Luker Street Elderslie. Sunday School gathering, perhaps prize giving. Some names on back of photo. 1955. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

St Mark’s Church, Elderslie. Luker Street Elderslie. Sunday School gathering, perhaps prize giving. Some names on back of photo. 1955. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Agriculture was the main industry, in particular grape growing and market gardening. Grapes for wine were grown by Martin Thurn, a vinedresser from Germany who was brought out by the Macarthur family to Camden Park in 1852. More recent industries include sand mining of the flood plain.

The expansion of the coal industry in the 1950s- 1970s lead to a population increase, with more housing being built in Elderslie, and the construction of a primary school (Mawarra) and a high school. This growth is continuing with new residential subdivisions being created on surrounding remnant agricultural land.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Memories of Your Suburb: Currans Hill

Currans Hill is a residential area developed in the 1990s, on land previously devoted to agriculture. It is named after Michael Curran, a resident of the area in the 1880s.
Prior to development, the area was also once used by noted Australian film director Charles Chauvel as the location for the movie ‘Rats of Tobruk’ in the mid 1940s.

From Currans Hill Park looking north. 1998. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

From Currans Hill Park looking north. 1998. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The population stands at just below 5,000 (2006 census figures), with further expansion of the residential area planned.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Memories of Your Suburb: Grasmere & Bickley Vale

Grasmere was the name of William Henry Palings property of about 450 acres which he gave in 1888 to form the Carrington Hospital. Grasmere is being developed as an exclusive rural residential estate. The area retains its rural air in spite of the development which is restricted to larger acreage allotments and residential areas with large blocks of land and prestige homes.
Bickley Vale was the name of the property owned by the Sidman family.

Grasmere to right, Werombi Road with Carrington Retirement Village to left. 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Grasmere to right, Werombi Road with Carrington Retirement Village to left. 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The population density of this area (2006 census) is 1.28 people per hectare.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Memories of Your Suburb: Ellis Lane

Cobbitty Paddocks was the original name for Ellis Lane, which lies within a loop of the Nepean River. The later name recognises a teamster, Solomon Ellis, whose son farmed the property “Fernleigh”. Dairy farming became the prime industry however, farms gradually disappeared following recent difficulties in the dairy industry and land becoming more valuable for housing development.

Aerial photo of cultivated area in loop of Nepean River. Known as'Cobbitty Paddocks' at northern end of Ellis Lane. c. 1990s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Aerial photo of cultivated area in loop of Nepean River. Known as’Cobbitty Paddocks’ at northern end of Ellis Lane. c. 1990s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Some turf growing and market gardening still conducted. The creation of additional new housing subdivisions continues to increase the population density and gradually transform the rural nature of Ellis Lane.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Denbigh

Denbigh is something of an unsung landmark. Where Camden Park is linked with the history of Australian agriculture, and Camelot is the current star of A Place to Call Home, Denbigh has had a very intimate relationship with Camden’s history and is considered “one of the finest early colonial farmhouses in Australia, with important historical associations and an evocative atmosphere.”

Part of the Cobbity land grant between 1812 and 1819, Denbigh was allotted to Charles Hook. He, like all the grantees, had to clear and cultivate the land within 5 years. Between 1812 and 1819 Hook had between 3 and 9 convicts working the land. This was not necessarily an easy period with the 1814-1816 Cowpasture War in full effect and the land being well within the battlefields. But by 1819 Hook started building some form of residence, living first in Sydney and then in Macquarie Grove with Samuel Hassall, finally moving onto the property in 1820. The first buildings were defensive “siege-style” structures due to the Cowpasture Wars, but later he began constructing the main bungalow that still stands on the property. Like Camden Park House, it was based on a Georogian style, but ‘Denbigh’ was set lower with a simplified version of this English style, which suited it well to the Australian climate.

The front section was built by Charles Hook before 1826 and the two storey section by Thomas Hassall after he purchased Denbigh about 1826. Since renovated. Mrs Lesley McIntosh ( owner) standing on verandah. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The main bungalow. The front section was built by Charles Hook before 1826 and the two storey section by Thomas Hassall after he purchased Denbigh about 1826. Since renovated. Mrs Lesley McIntosh (owner) standing on verandah. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The property began to see considerable success and become self-sufficient. Livestock  increased with the notable addition of sheep, 400 of the 1,100 aces was cleared, and 60 acres was dedicated to growing the famous Camden wheat. Hook passed away in 1826, and the property was sold to Thomas Hassell the following year.

Hassell came from a family of churchmen, and his move to the area was due to his appointment as chaplain in the Cowpastures. Although already owning land in the area, ‘Denbigh’ offered many advancements over these other properties, both in agricultural terms and in its suitability as a parsonage. While Hook lived on the property only with his wife, never having children, and a handful of convicts, Hassell and his wife Anne had a growing family and undertook works to develop the property. These increased works called for more hands on the property, and Denbigh expanded from a self-sufficient farm to a scattered village, having everything from a blacksmith and carpenter to a shoemaker and schoolmaster.

From northern side showing the Hassall additions and the nineteenth century garden. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

From the northern side showing the Hassall additions and the nineteenth century garden. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Hassell was considered a generous and benevolent landowner by many who came to work for him. Testament to this is that some would continue working on the property even after gaining their tickets of leave, some for as long as fifty years. The prosperity came to an end in the 1840s, largely due to factors within the colony as a whole. The end of transportation and the economic depression resulted in Thomas reducing his holdings, selling some of his properties and leasing considerable amounts of ‘Denbigh’. A further hit to the property came in the 1860s, when rust brought an end to the Camden wheat industry.

In 1868 Thomas Hassell passed away, and his wife Anne found a suitable lessee in Charles McIntosh, who would own the property eighteen years later, when Anne Hassell passed away in 1886. The McIntoshes continue to farm the land to the present day. The first generation with Charles saw the property develop from crop based agriculture to a greater reliance on livestock, in particular dairy cattle and breeding draught horses. It was a leading dairy farm for much of the 20th century, and also witnessed the mechanization of agriculture in Australia.

Jim at 2-3 years of age in a yard with cows at Denbigh, 1925. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Jim  McIntosh at 2-3 years of age in a yard with cows at Denbigh, 1925. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Denbigh is a unique property in the Camden Area, still maintaining many of its period features. Like the more famous Camden Park, it witnessed the changes and developments of the area. And with the current residents actively undertaking steps to conserve the property it remains a perfect, “intact example of a continuously functioning early farm complex.”