People

Memories of Your Suburb: Oran Park

Oran Park is on the traditional land of the Dharawal people. The area has a rural character with open pastures and rolling hills. The area was originally made up of two principal land grants, one of 2,000 acres, Harrington Park, granted to William Campbell in 1815 and another to George Molle in 1817, Netherbyes, of 1600 acres. Oran Park appears on the pre-1827 map as part of Harrington Park. The Oran Park portion was sub-divided from the Harrrington Park estate in 1829 and acquired by Henry William Johnston in 1852. The Oran Park estate is representative of the layout of a country manor estate with views afforded to and from the manor over the landscape and to the important access points of the estate.

Front facade of Oran Park House, 1991. Cpyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Front facade of Oran Park House, 1991. Cpyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The two-storey Georgian-style house was built in c.1857. The house was acquired by Thomas C Barker (of Maryland and Orielton), who sold it to Campbelltown grazier Edward Lomas Moore (of Badgally) in 1871. The property was later owned by Atwill George Kendrick and then the Moore family who sold the house and land to B Robbins and a Mr Smith operated a golf course with trotting facilities. It was sold in 1945 for £28,000, and in 1963, 361 acres was purchased by ER Smith and J Hyland, farmers. The homestead and stables were sold in 1969 by John and Peggy Cole and purchased by the Dawson-Damers, members of the English aristocracy. John ‘DD’ Dawson-Damer was an Old Etonian and car collector. He was a prominent motor racing identity and was killed in an accident in West Sussex in 2000. After her husband’s death his wife sold the house, with its historic gardens and 107 hectares of pasture, in 2006 for $19 million to Valad Property Group.

Old Silo at Oran Park, 1991. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Old Silo at Oran Park, 1991. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

During World War II Narellan Army Camp was based at Oran Park. Part of the original estate is the location of the Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit. The main grand prix circuit is 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners as well as changes in elevation around the track. Apart from the main racing circuit there area has had a number of subsidiary activities including a two dirt circuits, two four wheel training venues, a skid pan and a go-kart circuit. The racing circuit has been used for a variety of motorsport including club motorkhanas, touring cars, sports sedans, production cars, open-wheelers, motocross and truck racing The track closed in 2010 to become a housing estate. Oran Park Town opened for land sales on March 2010. The suburb is being developed by

The main building at the Oran Park Raceway, 1997. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The main building at the Oran Park Raceway, 1997. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Leppington Pastoral Company (owned by the Perich family) in a joint-venture with Landcom with an estimated 11,500 dwellings and 33,00 people to reside in Oran Park and Turner Road. Oran Park is part of the South West Growth Area which is eventually planned to accommodate 295,000 people by 2031.

Oran Park Town has seen numerous community facilities emerge, from schools, churches, a retirement home, and the Podium retail complex and business hub. Camden Council’s new Administration Building is now open and a new library and community centre are in the final stages of planning.

 

Memories of Your Suburb: Rossmore

The area was originally called Cabramatta an aboriginal word for place of the cobra grub. It was later named Rossmore, a Scottish name refering to high ground by John Dickson a Scottish engineer who was granted 3,000 acres of land here by Governor Macquarie. A number of other settlers received land grants in the area including Barker, Riley, Moore and Bell.
The area was initially used for wheat and sheep farming and later for dairying, poultry farming and orchards. The bushranger Jack Donahoe was shot by an ex soldier, Mugglestone on Robert Lowe’s property just south of Bringelly Rd in 1830.

Holy Innocents' Anglican Church, Rossmore, 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Holy Innocents’ Anglican Church, Rossmore, 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

After World War 1 Ashley McCann bought 1,400 acres at Rossmore for dairy farming and named the property Allenby after General Allenby the hero of the 4th Light Horse.

Until 1948 Rossmore was part of Nepean Shire. This local government area no longer exists and was divided between Camden Liverpool and Penrith Councils. The southern third of the suburb of Rossmore is now in Camden Local Government Area.

From 1950s the area was settled by immigrants from Europe who established small farms and market gardens providing food for Sydney markets. The area continues to perform this function although large scale development is planned as part of the South West Sydney Growth Area.

Memories of Your Suburb: Spring Farm

Spring Farm covers the southern section of John Oxley’s land grant of 1816 and the south-western section of William Howe’s grant of 1818.There were also nine land grants to smallholders along the floodplain in the western part of the suburb. Spring Farm has had a long history of industrial, mining and agriculture activity. From 1930s-1970s there were extensive orchards and vineyards along Springs Road with a mixture of stone fruit, apples and grapes. Another land use has been the production of poultry: chickens for eggs, and both chicken and turkeys for meat. The Tegal family were one of the major operators from the 1950s.

Spring Farm, 2008. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Spring Farm, 2008. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

There has also been industrial land use in the area including treatment of nightsoil, sand mining, gas extraction, coal washing and waste facilities.
The first urban development in Spring Farm in an otherwise rural setting was in the Ettlesdale Road area in the 1960s. The most recent urban development in Spring Farm comprises a series of urban villages. The area is planned to have around 3900 housing lots.In 2006 the population of the Spring Farm was 287 predominantly made up of young families with 44 per cent of the population under 25 years of age. The suburb will be subject to an increasing number of new arrivals.

Memories of Your Suburb: Harrington Park

Captain William Campbell was granted land in 1815 and built Harrington Park homestead in 1827 named after the supply brig Harrington of which he was commander. The property was bought by Sir Warwick Fairfax in 1944 and an extensive garden created.

Gatehouse at Harrington Park, 1880s. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Gatehouse at Harrington Park, 1880s. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

In 1990s a residential estate centred around a 15 hectare lake was developed and further stages of development continue.

Memories of Your Suburb: Kirkham

John Oxley the surveyor general of the colony was granted land in 1815 on the eastern bank of the Nepean which he called Kirkham after his home in Yorkshire. Only Kirkham Stables 1816 remain from this period. Oxley’s son built a flour mill on the estate which operated until rust destroyed wheat crops in 1863. In 1885 James White a later owner of the property built a Gothic Revival styled mansion named ‘Camelot’ by the subsequent owners, the Faithful-Anderson family.
In 1811 Rowland Hassall was granted 400 acres in a loop of the Nepean river, west of Kirkham which he named Macquarie Grove. Camden Airport now occupies much of this property and was used in the Second World War as a flight training centre.

Camelot, 1983. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Camelot, 1983. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Charles Cowpers’s residence Wivenhoe was built in 1838 and was sold in 1910 to the Catholic Church. It is now the site of Mater Dei School.
Kirkham railway station at the bottom of Kirkham lane was a stop on the Camden to Campbelltown tramway to pick up passengers and milk. Remnants of the embankments for the line can still be seen.

Interior view of stables at Camelot, Kirkham. c.1995. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Interior view of stables at Camelot, Kirkham. c.1995. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

From the 1990s there has been large block residential development of some parts of Kirkham with a preservation of hilltops and flood prone low lying land.

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.

They had to keep the country fed: Australian Women’s Land Army

The Second World War was an active time for Camden. Numerous sons, brothers, and husbands were once again sent to fight in overseas conflicts, and many who stayed participated in organizations that had formed during World War One, such as the Camden Red Cross, that again sent aid to those overseas. But WWII left an even greater strain on the developing country. There were serious concerns about who would help feed the country. The answer was the Australian Women’s Land Army.

Group of Land Army Girls who were working on Camden Park during World War II. Some names available on back of photo at the Camden Museum. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Group of Land Army Girls who were working on Camden Park during World War II. Some names available on back of photo at the Camden Museum. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

It was no small feat to join the Land Army. The 4,000 who joined would be sent all over the country, from the cotton fields of Queensland, to the sheep sheds of Goulburn and the potato fields of Batlow. Accommodation included sheep sheds and hostels, with only a few having the luxury of bedding down in guest houses or Scout halls. Additonally, they received for their efforts £3 per week for a 48 hour week; half the pay of the men who would have done the same work. (Lutton-Midson, 2008).

Working on Camden Park during World War II. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Working on Camden Park during World War II. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

One of the areas where the Army worked was Camden Park. The volunteers came from all around Australia and many went on to marry local men from the Camden area and would stay. Although they contributed a vital service to the war effort, for a very long time the Women’s Land Army went largely unrecognised. It has only been in the last few years that efforts have been made to recognise the significant contribution that the Women’s Land Army provided. The 70th Anniversary saw a reunion of those who served and provided them a chance to reflect and reminisce. It also saw many public figures, including Macarthur MP Russell Matheson and Camden MP Chris Patterson, show the appreciation of a nation for their efforts and tireless work during a time of need (Armstrong, 2012).

Despite the difficulties and delay of recognition, it is inspiring to remember that all those who served in the Australian Women’s Land Army were volunteers, united by a single, powerful, selfless notion: “they had to keep the country fed” (Abrahams, 2012).

References:

Abrahams, L. (2012). The Women’s Land Army. The District Reporter.

Armstrong, K. (2012). Ladies of the Land Army Reunite. Camden Advertiser.

Lutton-Midson, B. (2008). Women’s work still unrecognised. The District Reporter.

Hotels and Inns

The centre of a country town is often the local pub, and Camden has had many such establishments. They may conjure the image of farmers and labourers quenching the thirst of a day’s labour with a beer, but in country towns the pub is more than a watering hole.

In the early days of the colony when the land was still wild and undeveloped, many of these establishments would have been sly grog shops, unlicensed premises that catered to travellers. As land grants and townships developed, many of these became licensed, but to a large extent still served a similar function as accommodation and a spot for some recuperation before continuing a long and hard journey. As they became licensed and towns developed around them they began to serve as meeting places for community groups and locals as well as travellers. During the first two years of the town, one of the rooms in The Camden Inn even held court petty sessions, until the then licensee, Joseph Goodlucke, complained that it got in the way of the business (Wrigely, 2007).

The Plough and Harrow (at one point the Argyle Inn). Drivers taking part in a Rally (note the numbers on the cars). Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The Plough and Harrow (at one point the Argyle Inn). Drivers taking part in a Rally (note the numbers on the cars). Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

They were, as would be expected, the site of some drama as well. The Camden Inn provides one of the best documented dramas of tavern history in the area. The second licensee, John Lakeman, was ‘a bloody big-headed bugger’ as described by one of his contemporaries. He had a clear disdain for any authority that wasn’t his own, having little respect for magistrates and police, choosing instead to administer his own ideals of ‘justice’. This lead to many quarrels with both customers and employees. He once nearly strangled a man for a ‘nobbler’ of whiskey, and immediately fired one of his employees, Margaret Little, after finding her under her bed with a half-dressed man (Atkinson, 1999). In 1855 the full extent of his nature was displayed, when he was involved in a notorious rape case and sentenced to serve his term in Cockatoo Island Prison in Sydney Harbour (Wrigley, 2007).

The Camden Inn, later renamed the Royal Hotel as pictured. 1940. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The Camden Inn, later renamed the Royal Hotel as pictured. 1940. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Many of the establishments that serviced Camden are still operational. But some have not survived the changing times. The Woolpack Inn, built in 1853, was located on the corner of Argyle and John Street. It was by all accounts a handsome building, and was only used as a Hotel and Inn  until 1868, when it was re-purposed as the Camden branch of the Bank of NSW (Oliveri, 2009). Like many pubs it hosted meetings for community groups, and one of the regular meetings was for The Southern Cross Masonic Centre. The building received a make over in 1882, the most notable feature being its striking entrance way. Unfortunately the building was demolished in 1936, with the only remaining part of the building being two pillars from the main entrance that were used as a gate at Camelot.

The Woolpack Inn after it had been converted to the Bank of NSW. c.1900. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The Woolpack Inn after it had been converted to the Bank of NSW. c.1900. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Of the inns that have survived many are now receiving make overs. Some of these include the Camden Valley Inn’s motel extension, the Plough and Harrow being renovated and returning to its original name from the Argyle Inn, as well as the Crown Hotel. With as many tales to tell as there are visitors, the hotels and inns of Camden will remain a centre for story telling and community for a very long time.

References:

Atkinson, A. ( 1999). Inns of the West. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Oliveri, R. (2009). The Woolpack Inn-a handsome building. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Wrigley, J. (2007). Inns and hotels-from rest spots to petty session courts. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Thompson, S. (2012). Watering hole’s revival. The Macarthur Chronicle.

Camden Park Gardens

Camden Park Estate is famous for the fine colonial house and the agricultural innovations that spread from the estate across Australia. But the diverse and impressive garden is also of historic significance. The youngest son of John and Elizabeth Macarthur, William Macarthur, was a keen botanist and horticulturalist and established an impressive formal garden around the house. Far from the pedigree of a merino flock or the homogeny of a wheat field, Macarthur’s garden abounded in rich botanical wonders.

Baron Charles von Hügel, amateur botanist and close friend of William, was perhaps the first to praise the garden in 1834. He claimed that he had “not seen its equal since I left my own garden” (Mills, 2006). He went on to claim that William was the only person in the colony with an interest in horticulture. Another early admirer was Ludwig Leichhardt, a German born explorer and botanist. He visited Camden Park in 1846 and complemented the Macarthurs on many aspects of the estate including praises for the garden. He asserted that “there is…no establishment equal to it in this colony” (Wrigley, 2009).

Portrait of Dr. Leichhardt, 1846, by William Romaine Govett. National Library of Australia. nla.pic-an4699386-s41

Portrait of Dr. Leichhardt, 1846, by William Romaine Govett. National Library of Australia. nla.pic-an4699386-s41

Unfortunately, the hard economic times of the 1840s meant that William was placed in the uncomfortable position to “either make the garden pay for itself or give it up” (Mills, 2006). However, this was only a small hurdle to greater botanic and economic prosperity. With word of his expertise and impressive collection spreading through the colony, William started receiving many requests for plants. He published a Catalogue of plants grown at Camden Park, which in its popularity would see four editions. The first edition went out in 1843 and in 1845 he made £150 profit just from this horticultural enterprise, which was a considerable sum in those times.

Sir William Macarthur. State Library of NSW. gpo1_12256

Sir William Macarthur. State Library of NSW. gpo1_12256

He acquired Leichhardt’s own collection, which added richly to the already impressive garden. Mills tells us that 2 specimens from that collection, a native bauhinia and a Queensland Bottle Tree, are still features of the garden. William’s interest did not just extend to breeding a variety of species, but also to hybrids, one of his most famous examples being Erythrina × bidwillii ‘Camdeni’ , a hybrid of Erythrina species. It was his botanical knowledge as displayed with his hybrids as well as the success of his nursery, that helped establish William Macarthur as one of the most active and influential horticulturalists of 19th century Australia.

A testament of skill. William Macarthur's hybrid. Erythrina × bidwillii 'Camdeni'

A testament of skill. William Macarthur’s hybrid. Erythrina × bidwillii ‘Camdeni’. Image in Public Domain.

The garden has experienced considerable interest in recent years. The tradition of growing has continued with Camden Park Nursery Group, who have taken strong measures to ensure the preservation of this historic garden. Their efforts have been recognised by NSW Government Heritage Volunteer Awards (Goldsworthy, 2012). For those whose interest in history and horticulture require less dirt under the fingernails, Hortus Camdenensis, established by Colin Mills, is a must see. The website catalogues over 3200 plants that would have been grown by William at Camden Park.

The garden at Camden Park Estate strongly establishes Camden as not only the birth place of agriculture in Australia, but as a place of horticultural and botanical influence. It reveals an eye to the beauty of the land that was held in conjunction with the agricultural progress for which it has become famous.

References:

Goldsworthy, T. (2012). Gardening Heroes. Macarthur Chronicle.

Mill, C. (2006). Macarthur’s botanical treasures. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Wrigley, J. (2009). Ludwig Leichhardt stayed at Camden Park. Back Then. The District Reporter.

No Kiss Hello: The Influenza Epidemic of 1919

1919 was a time of both great joy and sombre reflection. The Great War had ended the previous year, and with it people in Camden were confronted with the final confirmation of brothers, sons, fathers, husbands, and lovers never to return. It also greeted many with the bittersweet reuniting with loved ones forever changed by the experiences of the battlefields.

The warm welcome home to tropps returning from World War I quickly became a greeting of illness. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The warm welcome home to troops returning from World War I quickly became a greeting of illness. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

During 1919 many were still coming home. But the warm welcome of the large number of troops brought with it something altogether more sinister. The Influenza Pandemic that started in Europe in January 1918 hit Australia in 1919. The large number of troops returning carried it home to Australia (Nixon, 2005).

Numerous measures were undertaken by officials to curtail the spread of the disease. At one point schools, cinemas, libraries, theatres, and churches were closed for a period of 3 months across NSW. In Camden one of the first measures suggested to help deal with the spread was from Council’s Nuisance Officer (who was in charge of things like sanitation). His suggestion was for people to cease kissing when they greeted others in public areas like train platforms. Council deemed it an absurd action and sought more practical solutions (Sidman, 2014).

CHS0337

The Old Camden Fire Station, was an inoculation centre during the epidemic. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The first was to set up an inoculation centre in the Camden Fire Station on John Street (now part of the Library) in February 1919. The first case appeared in April, and to deal with the outbreak an Emergency Hospital was established within Camden Public School. This first wave was contained quickly and relatively easily, and it seemed that Camden would be spared the worst to the pandemic that continued to rage in the outside world (Sidman, 2014).

Camden Public School, which became the Emergency Hospital to deal with the 50 patients. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Camden Public School, which became the Emergency Hospital to deal with the 52 patients during the epidemic. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

But after 10 days of heavy rainfall in May a second wave of infections came. This time it was more virulent and was not so easily contained. It now called for great efforts from many people. In the end the virus would claim around 6000 people in NSW (The Influenza Epidemic of 1919). In Camden 52 patients were hospitalised with the disease and spent an average of 21 days fighting the disease. The two doctors to treat patients during this emergency were Dr. F.W. West and Dr. R.M. Crookston. West fell ill, leaving a double load for Crookston (Sidman, 2014).

Although impacting the entire area, of those hospitalised only 4 would succumb to the disease. It was a show of great unity and strength in Camden, during a time that was already heavily charged with joy,  sorrow, and reflection.

References:

N.A. (N.D.) Influenza Epidemic of 1919. Sydney Medical School.

Nixon, R. (2005). Influenza Outbreak of 1919. The District Reporter.

Sidman, G.V. (2014). Inspector Warned Against Kissing. The District Reporter.