Great Moustaches of Camden

It is Movember, a time for men to grow their best moustaches and encourage everyone to help change the face of men’s health. But this is not some new fad in Camden, with many past citizens having noteworthy face fittings. Take a look at the these two pictures, one a collection of men from 1903 and another from a 1890 regiment of the Camden Mounted Rifles:

Group of men possibly at Camden Show. All names on back of photo, including donor, far right. 1903.

Group of men possibly at Camden Show. 1903.

Camden Mounted Rifles Camden. 1890s

Camden Mounted Rifles Camden. 1890s

A tea strainer on almost every man jack of them! In some instances the lure of the fur was so great they complemented the flavour saver with a full, manly beard.

But this trend did not continue, and even by 1910 the prevalence of the face lace was diminishing to about half, indicated by this photograph of men at the Camden Show:

Group of men posing for a photo at Camden Showgrounds. All names typed on reverse of original. c.1910

Group of men posing for a photo at Camden Showgrounds. All names typed on reverse of original. c.1910

But these are just a few examples of the mouth brows, the snot mops, and the lipholstery that men in Camden have so often used to embroider their faces. Over the next month we will be showing you some of those magnificent men, in all their moustachioed glory. Let us know who has the best stache and we will crown them the crumb catcher king of Camden!

In accordance with the rules of Movember, these must all be moustaches. This means no joining of the fur on their lips with their chin (that is a goatee) and it cannot join with their side burns (that is a beard). Cads need not apply, as all bearers of  the bristles must conduct themselves like true gentlemen.

Keep an eye on this blog, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook to vote for your favourite Camden nose neighbour.

Camden Home Front: Social Life

The Great War, although oceans away in Europe, impacted Australia. Not only were there the changes to everyday life and the obvious change that saw many young men enlist and go overseas for the duration of the War, but the social preoccupations of those at home changed as well. As Sue Johnston reported, the absorption of the war meant that all aspects of life, including social, economic, and political, were focused towards the war.

Australian society’s enthusiasm for the war was generated through heavily patriotic schooling developed to encourage a sense of loyalty for Britain and the Empire (McLean, 1995). Johnston confirms that learning history “was mostly the history of Britain and her Empire”, and Ian Willis provides a detailed description of the process of education that resulted in support for the war effort (Willis, 1994). But, despite this, it was at times difficult to encourage support for the war.

As a result, many activities to support the war effort revolved around social events. Musical events were organised to raise money for support of the troops. One of these reported in The Camden News reveals that proceeds from a concert at The Oaks School of Arts went to the Patriotic Fund (Willis, 2007). The entertainment was provided by men, women, and school children from the area. These were by no means dreary affairs for a sombre war effort, but were long, celebratory events, starting at 8pm and continuing with dancing until the early hours of the following morning.

French troops being entertained in Camden. Held in garden behind CBC Bank (now NAB)

French troops being entertained in Camden. Held in garden behind CBC Bank (now NAB).

Other social events included hosting visits to the area by servicemen. A 1917 visit of French troops to Camden was recorded in a series of photographs, with a lunch held  behind what is now the National Bank of Australia. This was also a large social event with many people from the area participating (Willis, 2013).

Christmas in particular was very different during the war. As Johnston remembers, the absence of family members who had gone overseas to fight created a “more subdued atmosphere.” As the war continued and casualty lists grew the reason for celebration became less clear, with Christmas too having “a shadow of war weariness” (Johnston, 1984).

A possibly a Peace Procession after World War I, 1919.

Possibly a Peace Procession after World War I, 1919.

Joy returned with the largest celebration that came on 11 November, 1918, when the armistice was declared. “City streets were jammed with enthusiastic crowds and celebrations continued late into the night” (Johnston, 1984). The war was over, and the celebrations that came were glimpses of the joy and enthusiasm originally expressed towards the prospect of war, with peace processions occurring in Camden in the years following the war.

As a way of commemorating the terrible years of the war and the sacrifices of many Australians, Anzac Day celebrations became a tradition following the war. Willis tells us that the celebration of Anzac Day as a national holiday was not whole heartily supported by all individuals, as many felt that it should be a private, sacred observance (1994). When the day was commemorated, McArthur recalls that these were the ‘less pleasant celebrations’ during the decade following the war, with men re-fighting the war, women weeping over a lost relative, and all round little celebration (1981).

The Great War was over, but it left great changes in the world, great changes in society and great changes in the people.


Johnston, Sue. (1984). Australia will be there : growing up in the First World War. Kenthurst: Kangaroo Press.

Maclean, Pam. (1995). War and Australian Society. Australia’s War: 1914-18. St Leonards, N.S.W : Allen & Unwin.

McArthur,Kathleen. (1981). Bread and dripping days: an Australian growing up in the ’20’s. Kenthurst: Kangaroo Press.

Willis, Ian. (1994). Patriotism and Education in New South Wales. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. June 1994. Vol. 80.

Willis, Ian. (2007). Camden’s Rich Musical Heritage. The District Reporter.

Willis, Ian. (2013). French Troops welcomed in Camden. The District Reporter.

Camden Home Front: Everyday Life

World War One, the Great War, was given its name because it engulfed so many countries in direct conflict. This not only resulted in conflict and death on a scale not yet seen in the modern world, but it also resulted in a great redirecting of resources, with the results being felt in the lives of individuals at home. It was a total war, with everyone from the front lines to the home front being affected. The term home front refers broadly to the domestic, economic, social and political history of the countries involved in World War One.

Soldiers marching in a procession along Argyle Street with band playing.

Soldiers marching in a procession along Argyle Street with band playing, 1916.

Understanding life during the war is difficult to grasp for many people today because life and Australian society was so different even before the war. The Australian population was only 5 million, with most being of English, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh descent. Sue Johnston records that, “in 1910, with the outbreak of the First World War four years in the future, life for most Australians was slower, more isolated and simpler.” (Johnston, 1984). Although the occasional car could be seen in the street, most transportation in Camden was either with the Pansy tram or with horse drawn carriages.


Wagon transporting

Food was for sustenance with the foodie culture as we know it today unimaginable. Kathleen McArthur tells us that even in the 1920s, “stew was a stew and into it went anything lying around the kitchen or the kitchen garden or the ice-chest.” (McArthur, 1981). Breakfast dishes as simple as porridge required a great deal more diligence than tearing open a bag and adding milk. The oat flakes needing to be soaked overnight before being added to water and boiled in a saucepan the following morning.

Street stall with group of Camden ladies to raise funds for troops overseas, 1917.

Street stall with group of Camden ladies to raise funds for troops overseas, 1917.

Perhaps the most notable change was the combined focus the war gave people on the home front. The focus on the war is perhaps best illustrated by The Camden News, a weekly newspaper that was distributed in Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly, which began every issue during the war with a section called “The War Cables”. The segment provided residents with news of movements and offensives that had occurred the previous week. But this was not simply a preoccupation of the press. J0hnston recalls that children were “absorbed by the war: the parades, the songs, the uniforms, the battles, the heroes, the casualties.”  (Johnston, 1984). She recalls the enthusiasm with which even school girls such as herself were involved in the war. Eagerly knitting socks for soldiers or insisting that money ordinarily set aside for prizes be sent to the Patriotic Fund. People from Camden held market stalls to raise funds, and soldiers parades down the main streets were a common although infrequent sight.

The next instalment will talk about social changes that occurred as a result of the war.


Johnston, Sue. (1984). Australia will be there : growing up in the First World War. Kenthurst: Kangaroo Press.

McArthur,Kathleen. (1981). Bread and dripping days: an Australian growing up in the ’20’s. Kenthurst: Kangaroo Press.

n.a. (n.d.) Australia During World War I: The Home Front. Department of Veteran Affairs.

The Camden Advertiser 1939 to 1945; Camden News, 1914 to 1918. [Sydney] W&F Pascoe 2012.

Camden’s Anzacs

When people talk about World War One, people think global, nations banding together and pitting against others. Closer to home we think of the ill fated Gallipoli campaign which brought Australia to the attention of the world. What often falls to the wayside of this are the individuals who participated in the efforts, who made up that legendary group that is the Anzacs.

Like many Australian towns, Camden gave its share of enlistments. From high ranking leaders, to born and bred heroes who responded to the call to arms, Camden’s contribution was as diverse as its people.

The Leader

The highest ranking Camden man to serve was Major George Macarthur-Onslow. A descendant of John Macarthur, Macarthur-Onslow was a career soldier. He enlisted in the New South Wales Mounted Rifles in 1895, and was promoted to lieutenant the following year. During the war he was appointed second-in-command of the 7th Light Horse Regiment (LHR) under Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Arnott.

A game of cricket on Shell Green. Major George Macarthur Onslow batting and being caught out. Shells were passing overhead all the time the game was in progress.

A game of cricket on Shell Green in 1915. Major George Macarthur-Onslow batting and being caught out.

He saw service as a dismounted unit at Gallipoli between May and December. After a brief illness, he took command of the 7th LHR in October. After recovering from serious injury at Romani, he and his regiment were in operations in Gaza, Beersheba, and Jordan. He was given charge of various brigades, the most notable as a temporary brigadier general commanding the 5th Light Horse Brigade in September 1918, capturing Damascus. His time overseas ended in January, 1919 when he contracted typhoid and was invalided back to Australia. He was commemorated numerous times, including being awarded the Order of the Nile (3rd Class).

Perhaps the most memorable incident of his career during the war was on 17 December, 1915, with his participation in the Shell Green cricket match in an attempt to distract Turkish forces from the imminent departure of allied troops from Anzac Cove. Although a lively and spirited game, shells were passing overhead for the duration of the game.

The Reverend

Reverend Thomas Giles Paul was born in Surrey, England and came to Australia in 1913 to study for the ministry. When the war broke out he paused his studies and enlisted, serving in Gallipoli and France. He rose to the rank of Captain, was nominated for DSO, an OBE, and awarded a Military Cross.

Continuing his theological studies after the war, he moved to Camden in 1927. He would eventually become rector of St. John’s Anglican Church, Camden. Two years before settling in Camden, Rev. Paul became involved with Toc-H, a Christian movement that started as a soldier’s club in Poperinge, Belgium during the war. The organisation is a service based charity, where its members work either together or individually to alleviate burdens people experience. Rev. Paul brought it to Camden, and it would prove beneficial during the 1920s and 1930s, especially with the social and economic stresses created by the Depression.

The Born and Bred

Cecil Herbert Clark, who joined the war effort at the age of 31 in 1916, was born at Cliff Farm on Old Razorback Road, Picton. Clark was unique among soldiers. He was significantly older than the average enlistee. He also performed some intelligence work during the war. But his most unique characteristic is the large number of letters he wrote to three members of his family. The letters reveal a great deal about the experiences of the men that went to war.

Cecil Herbert Clark

Cecil Herbert Clark

The letters also give us a reminder of the large number of people who went to the war. Clark, in several letters, mentions other people from the area who he encountered. Some of those named include Pierce Doust, Fred Boardman, and Bob Sidman.

What makes Clark unique in this article was sadly all too common for the men that joined the war effort. Whereas Macarthur-Onslow would return to Camden and serve as an alderman and four times as Mayor, and Rev. Paul would become the sixth rector of St. John’s Anglican Church, Clark, like so many during the 4 year conflict, would not return home. He was killed on 15 August, 1918, when a shell hit the dugout he was stationed in, causing the timber to fall on him and the other occupants. A full list of those from the Macarthur region who would not see the end of  the war can be found at Camden Remembers.

These were three different men, with different lives. But they share two bonds: their love of the town of Camden, and their conviction to join the Anzacs to protect it.


Bou, Jean. (2010). Brigadier-General George Macarthur-Onslow. Australia’s Palestine Campaign. Australian Army Campaign Series. Army History Unit, Canberra.

Clark, Cecil Herbert. (2009). Letter’s from the Western Front, 1916-1918. Camden NSW, Camden Historical Society.

Johnson, Janice. (26.04.10). A solider’s letters home. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Johnson, Janice. (20.04.09). Toc H- Caring for People. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Walsh, G.P. (n.d.) Macarthur-Onslow, George Macleay (1875-1931). Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Before Camden: Settlement and Conflict

This section may contain the names and images of deceased people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when reading this section. 

The early 1800s saw an increase in contact between the Aboriginal people of the Cowpasture area and the Europeans. Agricultural development of the area aggravated the deteriorating relations between these two groups. Governor Hunter, King, and  Bligh were all opposed to land grants within the Cowpasture area, wishing instead to preserve it. However, Macarthur and Davidson pressured Earl Camden, Secretary for War and the Colonies in London, to provide large land grants in 1805.

Aboriginal people defended their access to traditional lands. Initially, these were the acts of a handful of individuals against an administration that was set up to remove them from the land. Conflict increased from 1814 onward, when Governor Macquarie gave more land to the settlers and responded with extreme violence against any Aboriginal people who took actions against Europeans.

Despite pleads with settlers, Governor Macquarie was unable to stop the violence that would lead to the Frontiers War.

Despite pleads with settlers, Governor Macquarie was unable to stop the violence that would lead to the Frontier War.

As more land was being developed for agriculture, the single greatest reason for conflict between the Aboriginal people and the Europeans emerged. It is explained by Bruce Elder in ‘Blood on the Wattle’ (2003). The pattern of the Aboriginal people’s relationship with the land was clearly one of foraging. They used what the land offered. When European agriculture was introduced they approached the produce, the livestock, vegetables, and maize, with the same understanding. They approached this food as a communal source rather than restricted to the ownership of the landowner. The fences erected also alienated the Aboriginal people from their traditional hunting areas and sacred sites, and a prolonged flood brought the Gundungurra people to the area, placing even greater pressures on what was a traditional hunting ground.

The farmers saw the foraging by Aboriginal people as theft and responded with force. The retaliation was often severe, with both sides engaging in tit-for-tat killings. Governor Macquarie recognised that many of the killings by Aboriginal people were reciprocal for not only having their clansman killed, but also for sexual violation against women. Macquarie encouraged farmers to allow the Aboriginal people to take some crops and livestock as a small price to ensure peace.

Unfortunately his moderate approach was not followed by those in the area, with killings becoming more regular. With increasing pressure from white settlers, Macquarie relented, and on 9 April 1816 Macquaire issued orders to three detachments of the 46th Regiment to seek out ‘Hostile Natives’ and take others they encountered as ‘Prisoners of War’. The conflict had escalated into a war, now known as the Frontier War. This may seem a strong indictment, but as Michael Organ reveals, it was the British, such as Macquarie and his men, who viewed and fought it as a war (Organ, 1990).

In most cases the Aboriginal people were able to escape due to their great knowledge of the land, although about 30 indigenous people had been killed by May 1816. The local culmination of this period was the Appin Massacre, on April 17, 1816, where 14 Tharawal people, mainly women and children, were killed. Those of the original inhabitants that were not killed were scattered into the mountains to the west and south. The lands were now available for colonial agriculture.

There were some who supported the Aboriginal people even during the darkest period. The most vocal supporter was the explorer Charles Throsby. Throsby wrote to numerous officials and local administrators in defence of the Aboriginal people, revealing the brutal treatment of the settlers against the Indigenous owners and pointing out the exaggerations of the crimes claimed to be committed against the settlers. Unfortunately his pleas had little success (Organ, 1990).

Life after the massacre. Some Aboriginal residence adopted European practices, such as 'Nellie' liked to dress in European clothes.

Some Aboriginal people who stayed in the area adopted European practices, such as ‘Nellie’ liked to dress in European clothes.

As a result of conflict and reduction in accessible lands, most Aboriginal people scattered out of the region. Some stayed mixing work on settler’s properties with a traditional lifestyle.  Thomas Hassall, an Anglican Clergyman and owner of the property ‘Denbigh’, supported the Aboriginal people who came to him. He was something at odds with other landowners and his father-in-law Samuel Marsden, who viewed Aboriginal people with contempt. Hassell hosted the Aboriginal people who occasionally worked on his property in exchange for food. His son, James Hassall, also recalled witnessing a corroboree on the property attended by around 200 Aboriginal people (Hassell, 1902), the vast majority of which would most likely have been from other areas.

By 1858, the magistrate in Campbelltown stated that the last of the Aboriginal people in that area had died from natural causes and the magistrate in Picton mentioned that only 67 of the original population remained. Those that survived to the beginning of the twentieth century were placed on reserves such as La Perouse, on the north shores of Botany Bay that was established in 1878.

Recent NAIDOC Week celebrations in Camden.

Recent NAIDOC Week celebrations in Camden.

The number of Aboriginal people in the area has increased considerably since 1970, with the 2011 Census indicating 1118 people identifying as Aboriginal in the Camden LGA. A keen interest in the culture has also begun to thrive. A person of particular impact is Frances ‘Aunty Fran’ Bodkin, a Tharawal Elder who was named as one of the 100 most influential Aboriginal women in the last 100 years by the National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Women’s Alliance (Armstrong, 2011). She has been particularly active in recent years with workshops to inform residents of the first people of the area. In 2011, the Mygunyah Camden Aboriginal Residents Group was formed, the aim of the group being to raise the profile and awareness of Aboriginal people and culture in the Camden area.


Kerrie, Armstrong. (23.3.2011) Honour a Surpise for Aunty Fran. Camden Narellan Advertiser.

Elder, Bruce. (2003) Blood on the Wattle: Massacres and Mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W. : New

Holland. Hassell, James Samuel. (1902). In old Australia : records and reminiscences from 1794. Brisbane: R.S. Hews & Co.

n.a. (2010). The Appin Massacre of 1816.

Organ, Michael, ed. (1990). A documentary history of the Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines 1770-1850 : including a chronological bibliography 1770-1990. Wollongong:Aboriginal Education Unit, University of Wollongong.

Before Camden: The Macarthur Region’s Aboriginal Heritage

This section may contain the names and images of deceased people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when reading this section. 

Dating Aboriginal history is difficult, particularly as it deals with tens-of-thousands of years. Estimates vary from 40,000 to as much as 75,000 years of Aboriginal habitation on the continent. Trying to establish figures for a single area, such as the Camden area, is even more difficult.

What is known is that the area was not home to a single language group. This is evidenced by the different names for the region, it being called Baragil (or Baragal) in one language, and Benkennie, meaning the dry land, in another. The region was the intersection of three language groups: the Dharug, the Tharawal, and the Gundungurra. The regions these groups occupied were vast.

The Dharug inhabited as far east as Sydney Harbour to Penrith and the Blue Mountains in the west, and south towards the Macarthur region. They were known as the ‘Climbers of Trees’ due to their hunting technique that involved hollowing out toeholds allowing them to catch possums, birds and collect eggs.

The Tharawal occupied from Botany Bay to Jervis Bay in the south, and westward to Camden. The Tharawal were also divided into two groups. One was the ‘Salt Water People’ who were along the coast from Botany Bay to Jervis Bay. The other, the “Sweet (or Fresh) Water People’, lived inland towards Camden.

The Gundungurra could be found from Windsor in the north across to Lithgow and south towards Goulburn, with what is now the town of Camden being within their territory. The Gundungurra group were known as the ‘Mountain People’.

Corroboree around a camp fire by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). Used with permission from the National Library of Australia.

Corroboree around a camp fire by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). National Library of Australia, an2962715.

Language groups consisted from a few hundred to several thousand people. These were spread across clans or bands of around 200 people that controlled a particular region. For example, the Dharug group had two clans in the Macarthur region, the Mundingong people of Narellan and the Cubbitch Barta who used a distinct dialect called Gur Gur. These clans comprised what were called hearth or foraging groups, made up of one or two families.

Family groups roamed throughout the various regions and sharing of food and resources was an accepted custom. This made it possible for them to travel without fear of starvation. Inter-tribal conflicts are debated, with some claiming that tribes were hostile to their immediate neighbours but friendly to those further afield. There are others who believe that conflicts tended to be based on individual confrontations, rather than being continuous, deep seated animosities (Organ, 1990).

Baragil was a meeting and hunting ground. One resident tells of numerous sites that had importance, such as Crocodile Creek as it was once called, which is now part of the Stonequarry area in Wollondilly. It was a meeting place between the Dharug and Tharawal people. The interaction between the tribes was not only in terms of goods but also to arrange marriages. Thirlmere Lakes was the meeting place between the Tharawal and the Gundungurra people.  One of the impacts that European settlement had was taking the land that was the traditional meeting place between the Tharawal and the Dharug people, resulting in the the Tharawal trading more with the Dharug people (Learning from the Past, 2007).

Contact between the Aboriginal people of the area and Europeans was gradual. The first traces of the Europeans were supplies, livestock and disease. European goods were traded amongst the Tharawal people of coastal and inland areas. In particular, glass and iron was traded between the Gweagal clan of the Tharawal people who lived on the southern shores of Botany Bay who traded with their inland kin. This clan witnessed the arrival of the First Fleet of 1770 and the 1778 arrival.

Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). Used with permission by the National library of Australia.

Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). National library of Australia, an2962715.

The Tharawal people also witnessed the cattle that escaped from the Sydney camp and wandered into the “Cowpastures“. This is evidenced by the paintings that clearly depict the hoofed animals with horns removed in sandstone shelters along the Georges River, with one even being called Bull Cave, located near Campbelltown. The cattle, when discovered by the Europeans, gained a reputation for being quite aggressive. The Tharawal people also observed this aggressive behaviour. According to Governor King, the Tharawal people would climb trees and wait for the animals to pass rather than engage or hunt them. It is also very likely that the cattle caused the direct contact between the Tharawal and the European settlers to increase, as it was on the search for the cattle that led the settlers further inland (Liston, 1988).

Contact between the Aboriginal people of what had become known as the Cowpastures and the European settlers became more regular in the early 1800s. Many comments reveal a degree of admiration of the Aboriginal people. An often quoted remark by Lieutenant Collins describes them as “short, stocky, strong and superbly built” (Wrigley, 2008.). Governor Macquarie too expressed respect for the Aboriginal people of the area, recording during his 1810 tour of the area, a visit of around 15 Aboriginal people who “honoured us (Macqaurie and his companions) with their company and attendance during our stay” (Atkinson, 2008). Macquarie and his party also witnessed the hunting of a goanna and a performance of a corroboree, an event in which Aboriginal people interact with the Dreamtime through music, dance and costume (Mylrea, 2002).

You can read about the next stage of Aboriginal history here.


Atkinson, Alan. (2008). Camden: Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales.

Liston, Carol. (1988). Campbelltown: The Bicentennial History. North Syd. : Allen & Unwin.

Lycett, John. (ca. 1817). Corroboree around a camp fire. National Library of Australia, an2962715.

Lycett, John. (ca. 1817) Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos. National library of Australia, an2962715.

Mylrea. P.J. (2002). Camden District: A History to the 1840s.

n.a. (14.9.2007). Learning from the Past. The District Reporter.

Wrigley, John. (21.3.2008). The First Australians. The District Reporter. 

From Kirkham to Camelot and “A Place to Call Home”

A few weeks ago we told the story of the Faithful-Andersons, the second and longest residents of the property known as Camelot. The property is best known today as the fictional Ash Park, the home of  matriarch Elizabeth Bligh in the hit television series A Place to call home. In our post on the Faithful-Andersons, we highlighted the fairy-tale like story that befell Frances, William and Clarice Vivian. But the story of the property extends beyond that.

Camelot, 1983. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Camelot, 1983. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The land on which the property exists was part of the land given to the explorer and surveyor John Oxley in 1818. It was named Kirkham Estate, and the only part of his residence that still stands are the white stone stables. When Oxley passed away in 1828, the property was acquired by Oxley’s former business partner Captain John Coghill.

The white stone stables believed to have been constructed for John Oxley in 1816

The white stone stables believed to have been constructed for John Oxley in 1816

The person who transformed the property was the Hon. James White. A member of the NSW Legislative Assembly and later the Legislative Council, White had a penchant for horse breeding and racing. His equestrian interests provided him sizable winnings in 1877 when Chester, one of the 19th Century’s most successful thoroughbred racehorses and leading sires, won both the Victoria Derby and the Melbourne Cup. This provided White with the resources to purchase the property.

The finances not only allowed White to purchase the land but to employ one of the truly extraordinary architects of the day. The building was designed by John Horbury Hunt. Hunt was born in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1838. He began training as an architect in 1856 in Boston. Around the outbreak of the American Civil War, Hunt decided to travel to India, landing in Sydney in 1863. He was convinced to stay by James Barnet, the acting colonial architect, and started working for Edmund Blacket, the colony’s leading architect. Within seven years he made such an impact upon the practice that he became the chief assistant, and his ideas so influenced the practice that these seven years became known as Blacket’s ‘queer period’, due to the striking quality of the buildings. In 1869 Hunt started his own practice.

Befitting his bold architectural style, Hunt was a noted eccentric. He was prone to outburst of temper, was incredibly energetic and was often in public and private feuds. His skill meant that he often attracted wealthy clients who wanted quality with no worry about cost, and allowed the bold architect to create extraordinary buildings. Two of these were in the Macarthur region. The most well known is Camelot, but Hunt also designed St James’ Anglican Church located in Menangle.

St James Anglican Church, Menangle.

St James Anglican Church, Menangle.

It took five years to build Camelot and according to a folktale, saw one builder serve his entire apprenticeship on the building (Legend lives On, 1991).  The building was finished in 1888. White was destined to enjoy his dream home for only two years, passing away in 1890. His widow remained in the property until 1897 when she too passed away. In 1901 it was purchased by the Andersons.

Although White’s finances and Hunt’s ambition created the property, it was the Andersons, later the Faithful-Andersons, that gave the property its humanity, with a love that defied the class structures of colonial Australia and the tragic suicide of William. It was also Frances Anderson who, upon seeing the property, renamed it Camelot. After William’s suicide in 1912 and Frances’ death in 1948, their daughter, Clarice Vivian, never marrying or having children, remained in the property until her passing in 1979.

Tales of the property began to grow. An undated news report exists in the Local Studies Collection that reveals that tales had spread through Western Sydney of the location being haunted. The report indicates that 7 youths had come from Fairfield wanting to see the supposedly haunted Camelot (7 Ghost-hunters spirited off– to court). When this occurred is difficult to determine. However, it would have been after Frances’ death, the report referring to the owner of the property as the ‘elderly spinster Miss Faithful Anderson’ no doubt referring to Clarice Vivian.

After will disputes and one withdrawn settlement that lasted over 6 years, the property was purchased by Michael Hawthrone for $2 million. A New Zealand born businessman, Hawthrone sold the property in 1991 (Chancellor, 1991).

In 1999 the property was purchased by Brendan Powers as a wedding gift to his wife, Rachel (Stillitano, 2009). It was the under the Power’s patronage that the property began its new life of fame. It was first used in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, where the house, with its pastoral setting, was used as the location of  Nicole Kidman’s house in England at the beginning of the film. It has since become far more recognizable through Channel Seven’s A Place to call home.

Although the house is best known for its brushes with fame, this unique and striking property has gained fame in its own right. It is heritage listed and has received coverage in several publications from In Macarthur- Your Home Annual to Highlife. The Powers have made strong attempts to keep the property original, with antique Victorian furniture throughout. The kitchen is of particular note, being one of the few Victorian kitchens still in original condition in Sydney (McIntosh, The family that saved Camelot).

From horse race winnings, to love and tragedy, to ghosts, the tales from Camelot are as unique and striking as the building itself. But the current story, the story of admiration, dedication and restoration undertaken by the Powers is one that will ensure its longevity and guarantee that the stories continue for many decades to come.


Chancellor, Jonathan. (25.5.1991). Title Deeds. Sydney Morning Herlad.

n.a. (29.5.1991). Legend lives on. Macarhtur Advertiser.

n.a. (n.d.) 7 Ghost-hunters spirited off–to court.

Stillitano, Iliana. (7.10.2009). Stylish soiree set to welcome race trophy.  Camden Advertiser.

McIntosh, Deborah. (n.d.) The family that saved Camelot. Highlife.

Camden Agriculture-Dairy and Beyond

The three Ws that established Camden as an agricultural centre only lasted for a few decades. What made that period of agriculture so bizarre is that it established agricultural industries within Australia but the viability of the crops and livestock in the Camden area were short lived.

It would be in the 1880s, when dairy became the primary industry, that agricultural longevity came to the region. Although the surrounding areas have undergone and continue to experience urban development, the centre of Camden is still a testament to the dairy heritage of Camden.

In a way it was a return to the original agricultural inhabitants of the land, with the wild cattle that led to the discovery of “the Cowpastures” returning as domestic livestock to bring the area to agricultural fruition.

Apart from the fields that still surround the town of Camden, there are other indicators of Camden’s dairy history. The strongest is the old Milk Depot. It was constructed by James Downie Rankin in 1896 and designed by Sydney consulting engineer W.W. Crawford, who also supplied the machinery.

Camden Milk Depot 1923-1926.

Camden Milk Depot 1923-1926.

A separate, although no less significant, structure was the Camden Refrigerating, Butter Making and Bacon Curing Works. As the name suggests, this is where the dairy was churned into butter and the pork cured into bacon for the Sydney markets. Before this building was constructed, farmers went to the Menangle Creamery located at Camden Park. The Menangle Creamery, although smaller, was considered one of the “most compact and best designed structures of its time” (Johnson, 2011).  Sadly there are no photos of the Refrigerating, Butter Making and Bacon Curing Works remaining. The building suffered extensive flood damage in February 1898 and was not reopened (Back Then, 2011).

The Menangle Creamery located at Camden Park.

The Menangle Creamery located at Camden Park.

The Camden Refrigerating, Butter Making and Bacon Curing Works is a strong reminder that although dairy is so linked to the modern agricultural  image of Camden, it was not all smooth sailing. Flooding was a particularly hazardous and regular occurrence, with the area immediately surrounding the main town of Camden being called the flood plain. A prime example of this style of land is the Camden Town Farm, which was originally a 52 hectare dairy farm owned and run by the Davies family from 1915-2000, with Miss Llewella Davies, the daughter of the dairy farmer, bequeathing the land to Camden Council in 1999. Although an issue for the farmers, the floods never destroyed the dairy industry in the way the 1840 drought brought the Macarthur wool industry in Camden to an end.

 Flood water inundating Drill Hall and Crown Hotel, at corner of Argyle and Murray Streets in the centre of Camden. 1898.

Flood water inundating Drill Hall and Crown Hotel, at corner of Argyle and Murray Streets in the centre of Camden. 1898.

In addition to flooding, disease caused its fair share of problems. These bouts of disease and pests were never as severe as the rust that demolished the wheat industry in the Macarthur region. It has however continued to create distress in modern times, with viruses such as bovine ephemeral “three-day sickness” (Priest, 2013) and akabane virus (Ward, 2007) surfacing as recently as the last decade.

Viruses and climate were not the only threats to livestock. There were bushrangers in the area, and cattle theft was a particular specialty (Sidman, 2007). More recently, the supermarket price wars for dollar milk created economic problems with many farmers like Tony Boffin and John Farley encouraging a stand in support of local produce (Stillitano, 2011). Despite all these hardships, success for Macarthur dairy continues, with companies such as A2 Milk opening up a $8.4 million processing plant in 2012 (Dougherty, 2012).

Dairy may be the cornerstone of Camden’s agricultural prosperity but other crops and livestock were farmed and contributed to the area’s wealth. Even in the early days producers as varied as orchardists, poultry and pig farmers,  and market gardeners all supplied produce for the Sydney Markets (Villy, 2013). After the mid-twentieth century, the industry of the area began to diversify further. One of the more unexpected additions was angora, with local farmers seeing the new possibilities of expanding this industry (Golden Goats of Narellan).

The most striking change in this millennium is the rapid urbanisation of the Camden area. And although agriculture’s place as the primary industry of the Camden area is being shifted to new industries, it is a testament to the area’s fertility that it created agricultural industries that not only brought the area to prosperity, but contributed significantly to the birth of Australian agriculture.


Dougherty, Scott. (12.9.12) Cheers to Milk Factory. Camden Narellan Advertiser. 

Johnson, Janice. (19.9.11) Camden’s Butter Making and Bacon Curing Enterprise. Back Then. District Reporter.

n.a. (26.9.11). Correction. Back Then. District Reporter.

n.a. (n.d.). Golden Goats of Narellan. Macarthur Leader Magazine.

Priest, Evin. (22.1.13). Help Beat the Fever. Macarthur Chronicle.

Sidman, G.V. (26.10.07) Bushman and Cattle Theft. Back Then. District Reporter.

Stillitano, Iliana. (16.3.11). Supermarket Games Milk Dairy Farmers of a Viable Livelihood. Camden Narellan Advertiser. 

Villy, Elizabeth. (1.2.2013). Farming in Picton in the Old Days. Back Then. District Reporter.

Ward, Matthew. (12.6.07). Beware of Deadly Bite. Macarthur Chronicle. 

Camden Agriculture-Wool, Wheat and Wine

What is most striking about the development  currently occurring in the Camden area is the change of large expanses of open land to urbanized dwellings and town centres. It leads many to wonder what other changes occurred with land use in the area.  Numerous enterprises were attempted, and although some are considered the start of the Nation’s wealth, many have not continued in the Camden area.

Camden is known today primarily as a dairy producer, and although it was in the 1880s that dairy became the primary industry of Camden, it was about a century before that when cattle first came to the region. Cattle were brought in the early days of the settlement, but many escaped due to the lack of fencing, creating a population of wild cattle that would eventually wonder beyond the settlement. It was Governor John Hunter, after hearing reports of wild cattle around the Nepean, who decided to explore further in 1795. The area in which the cattle were found became known as “Cowpasture”.

The cattle became almost sacred, deemed the property of the Governor and protected. But this status did not last. The land grants to John Macarthur in Camden in 1803 and Major Henry Colden Antill in Picton in 1822 required the cattle to be rounded up and slaughtered, becoming the sacrificial calves of Australian agriculture. Part of the reason for the slaughter was the need for the land, but also because the wild cattle were not only uncontrollable, but, as Governor King described in 1801, “so vicious as to be not easily approachable”. Additionally, the meat and dairy they produced was deemed unsuitable.

Now clear of the wild cattle, the Macarthurs transformed Camden with the three enterprises that spelled the “Birthplace of the Nation’s Wealth”: wool, wheat and wine.

Copy of portrait in the library at Camden Park House.

Copy of portrait of John Macarthur in the library at Camden Park House.

Wool is the most famous of the three and was a significant success. By 1830 they  produced over 18,000 kg of wool that they shipped to England. This was not merely a bulk enterprise, with the wool being of a consistent high quality that encouraged “contemporary envy and grudging admiration” (Kerr, 1960). This came from Macarthur’s breeding of two stocks. His original flock was of Benghal sheep that he farmed on the small land grant of Elizabeth Farm in 1793. In 1797 he gained a flock of “Gordon” merinos and successfully bred the two. The flock produced the famed wool of high quality. It was at this point that Macarthur decided to breed sheep for wool rather than the meat the colony so desperately needed.

This gamble paid off when, in 1802, Macarthur went to London to face court martial charges.  The charges were dropped, but Macarthur utilized the trip to show samples of the wool produced by the flock and the industry had a booming start. Macarthur then secured the Cowpasture land to expand his enterprise. However, the land was not always welcoming to industry, and in 1840 a severe drought required the animals to be transported to greener pastures. The stock’s purity was retained by William Campbell in Victoria, with some of the sheep finding their way back to Camden in the 1880s. Although they returned, wool would never again be the primary industry of the area.

Descendants of the original Macarthur flock, now at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. 1980.

Descendants of the original Macarthur flock, now at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. 1980.

With large, empty portions of land available, Macarthur turned his attention to wheat. He divided the land into “clearing leases”. These required the lessee to clear and fence the land, build a dwelling and grow their won crops. Macarthur wheat had a strong reputation with one of Macarthur’s lessees, Thomas Dunk of Cawdor, winning the gold medal for “the best wheat in the world” at the Great London Exhibition of 1851 (Nixon, 2005). A similar medal was won by Henry Gumbleton at the Paris Exhibition in 1855 using the same strain.

The wheat was not only produced in Camden but also milled into flour. Henry Thompson operated a water powered mill in the 1840s, and the expansion of the industry required him to change to steam power to cope with the demand. His confidence in the industry’s longevity is evidenced by his building a brand new mill in 1858. The flour, like the wheat, had a strong reputation and was used extensively. Seemingly establishing the primary industry in the area, this, like the wool enterprise, was not to last. It was plagued by rust, with the first outbreak occurring as early as 1803. However, this did not halt the industry, but two severe outbreaks in 1861 and 1863 devastated the crops causing many farmers to seek ends meat elsewhere (Nixon, 1998; Robinson). The industry collapsed.

Thompson's Mill, inundated by flood of 1898.

Thompson’s Mill, inundated by flood of 1898.

The last of the Ws was wine. This did not have the runaway success of the wool or wheat industries, but it was considerably more stable. It was John Macarthur’s sons, James and William, who established the enterprise. The first successful wine maker in Australia was Gregory Blaxland, who made silver and gold medal winning wine from his Brush Farm near Eastwood in the early 1800s. It was around the time of his success that James and William made their first unsuccessful attempts. This changed when they gained a 20 acre property on the slopes of the Nepean River. The venture was a success in numerous fields. By 1827 they produced 100,000 litres per year and it was highly regarded both in Australia and abroad. What made their enterprise unique was the scale, with it being recognized as the first commercial vineyard in Australia and the Hawkesbury/Nepean region being considered the ‘cradle’ of the Australian wine industry (Penfold, 1989). The wine industry, unlike wool and wheat, has remained within the Macarthur region, although never becoming its primary industry.

The later part of the 19th century saw another industry establish itself in Camden, one that would remain well into the 21st century despite the changes. This was the dairy industry.


Kerr, Jill. (1960). Merchants and Merinos. R.A.H.S. Journal.

Nixon, R.E. (26.11.98). Camden’s Wheat Industry Blighted. Back Then. District Reporter.

Nixon, R.E. (4.3.05). When the Local Wheat was World Renowned. Back Then. District Reporter.

Penfold, Barry J. (1989). Wine Regions of New South Wales. Secret Wines of New South Wales. Kenthurst Kangaroo Press.

Robinson, Steve. (n.d.) Camden West.

Camelot-The Real “A Place to Call Home”

With the television drama series “A Place to Call Home” entering into its second season viewers are being treated to the latest clashes between Sarah Adams and the matriarch Elizabeth Bligh.

The fictional Bligh’s Ash Park is the real life building known as Camelot. Located on the outskirts of Camden it has many of its own stories to tell. The one that is filled with the greatest drama is that of its second and longest running residents, the Andersons, who occupied the property from 1890 to 1979.

Last year Ian Willis revealed the power play of the real life matriarchs in Camden that mirror much of the drama on the TV show. While the show focuses heavily on the stories of the two strong female leads, the story of the Andersons is far more heart wrenching. It’s a story filled with forbidden love, suicide and mourning, striking the fairy tale notes to which the architecture alludes. What makes the Anderson’s story so compelling is that this fairy tale drama was real.

Camelot, 1983. Copyright:  Camden Historical Society.

Camelot, 1983. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Originally known as Kirkham, the building was created in 1888 for Hon. James White, great-uncle of author Patrick White. It was designed by Canadian John Horbury Hunt, an architect known for his unique buildings, with Camelot considered one of his greatest. Although it has a fairy tale feel and a grandeur not associated with domesticity it has been described as a very ‘human house’.

The fairy tale proportions and aesthetics began to make real life impacts with the second owners. James White passed away from heart disease in July 1890. It was then purchased by William Hugh Anderson and his wife Frances Lillian Faithfull. In something of a reversal of the Cinderella story, William was the coachman of the Faithfull family of Springfield Estate in Goulburn. Frances was their daughter and greatly upset her family by marrying ‘below her status’. Despite attempts to appease the family they rejected him and refused to accept the marriage. The family did however provide a generous dowry, which would prove necessary to finance the purchase of Kirkham. It was the Anderson’s that renamed the estate Camelot, Frances being reminded of the Lord Alfred Tennyson poem “The Lady of Shalott”:

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.

“Who is this? And what is here?”
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;

Tragedy struck the Andersons in 1912 when William committed suicide. William was a considerable horseman and also community minded. He began to suffer from depression, declining mental health and alcoholism. The forerunners to his suicide are revealed by his retirement as town Alderman in 1903, with things getting gradually worse. His suicide was dramatic. He set the large hayshed behind the main house alight and then shot himself. The fire grew and every attempt made to extinguish it failed.

Despite the nature of his death, William was heralded in the local papers after his passing. Sharon Greene reveals that there were no negative words written about him at the time and that he was actually praised for his role as an Alderman and described as a “useful citizen who had won the esteem of the residents”.

Frances approached Camden Council in 1913 to erect a drinking fountain as a memorial to her husband. The memorial erected in memory of William was in the middle of the intersection of John and Argyle Streets Camden. It was eventually moved to Camden Showground and is now part of the  rose garden in Macarthur Park. Local stories reveal that this was not the only memorial for William. After his death, Frances maintained their bedroom in original condition as a shrine to William.

The W.H.Anderson Memorial in its original location at the intersection of John and Argyle Street, Camden

Frances Anderson and her daughter, Clarice Vivian, remained in the house.  The garden, as reported by Nora Cooper for ‘The Australian Home Beautiful’  in 1929, was a great horticultural feat. Cooper reports how Frances described the large variety of trees that she grew in the yard to create a rich variety of green. She knew the different varieties by heart and spoke of them with great pleasure.

They were not isolated from the town and were socially minded. During the depression, Frances commissioned work to be done on the property as a way of helping those who needed work. It was also around this time in 1932 that they changed their name from Anderson to Faithfull-Anderson, incorporating her maiden name.

When Frances passed away in 1948  her will requested that the property be used as a convalescence hospital. Clarice continued to reside in the property until 1979. Never marrying or having any children, Clarice Vivian was the last of the Faithfull-Anderson line. They are all buried together in Springfarm, Goulburn.

What remains of them is Camelot, and although “A Place  to Call Home” may be the more famous story, it is the tale of the Faithfull-Andersons that echoes through its rooms and corridors.

More stories of Camelot can be found in Camden Library and  Camden Images.


From the Local Studies Collection on Camelot.

Cooper, Nora. (1929) “Camelot”-A house of dreams. The Australian Home Beautiful.

Greene, Sharon. (2013) The tale of Camelot. Back Then. District Reporter.

Willis, Ian. (2013) Camelot’s country matriarchs. Back Then. The District Reporter.