Transport

Memories of Your Suburb: Narellan

Narellan is on the traditional land of the Dharawal and Gundungurra people. Narellan lies in the central part of the Camden Local Government Area, although it was originally part of Nepean Shire Council until it was abolished in 1948.

The name Narellan is used for the village, the district and the parish and was probably derived from William Hovell’s 1816 grant of ‘Narralling’ of 700 acres. Most of the parish of Narellan was granted to settlers by Governer Macquarie between 1810 and 1818.

Coal loader, Narellan, c.1960. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Coal loader, Narellan, c.1960. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Farming in the local area consisted of vineyards, orchards and dairying. Narellan Railway Station was the hub of activity in the village on the branch-line between Camden and Campbelltown. The tramway operated from 1882 until 1963. Coal loading operations were centred here from 1940s until 1980s. St Thomas’s Church, Narellan Public School, Ben Linden and Narellan Hotel are examples of historic buildings remaining in Narellan.

Narellan grew as a residential suburb from the 1960s and by the 1990s commercial development in Narellan had usurped the dominance of Camden and become the commercial centre of the local district.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

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)

History of Narellan

Narellan has a long history of over 200 years of white settlement starting before that of Camden. In the 1810s there were numerous land grants in the area by Governor Macquarie. Of particular significance was the grant to William Hovell in 1816, who named it “Narelling”, after which the town would be called. However, it was only in 1827  after much indecision from authorities that the township was established. John Macarthur of Camden Park was having similar disputes with the town of Camden, but his disputes would only be resolved after his death in 1834. Although starting development much earlier, by the time of Macarthur’s death, the Narellan “village had been laid out, but (was) not yet inhabited” (Marsh).

The Queen's Arms Hotel. One of the first public houses built in the 1840s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The Queen’s Arms Hotel. One of the first public houses built in the 1840s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Narellan was located on the Great South Road (now Camden Valley Way and Razorback Rd) and saw success as a trading area for those passing through what was an arterial road between Sydney and Melbourne. Numerous inns and sly grog shops (unlicensed hotels) opened near, but not in, the township, and these proved quite successful, the nearest competition being 21km away in Liverpool (Mylrea, 2008). As the area grew and became established many of these were refashioned into licensed establishments.

St Thomas Church.On of the churches built during the 1800s development of the Narellan area. Copright: Camden Historical Society.

St Thomas Church. On of the churches built during the 1800s development of the Narellan area. Copyright  Camden Historical Society.

It was in the 1840s that the town started growing, with houses built that eventually connected the townships of Camden and Narellan. A school was also established in 1839. It was overseen by Rev. Robert Forrest, and was used for church services on Sunday by Thomas Hassell of Denbigh. Land of the town was gradually sold off. An advertisement from May 1843 of 11 allotments only started seeing sales in December of that year (Mylrea, 2008). Numerous sites were established, including churches, schools, a cemetery as well as hotels and inns (Marsh).

Narellan Railway Station. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Narellan Railway Station. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Residential land gradually sold over the next few decades and into the 1900s. But after the intial development of the 1840s through 1870s, sales slowed again. When the railway line went through in 1882 Narellan station was built on the Pansy Tram line, that connected the many suburbs and townships of the Camden area.

Narellan Town Centre, before much of the development and growth that has occurred during the 2000s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Narellan Town Centre, before much of the development and growth that has occurred during the 2000s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

In recent years the growth and development has been extensive, with Narellan becoming a centre for much retail and leisure activity in the area, including Narellan Town Centre shopping precinct, food outlets, a cinema and library. With the many new suburbs rising and developing, it is always worth remembering that many of these places have been here for a long time.

References:

Marsh, B. (N.D.). The Centenary of St Thomas. Anglican Church In Australia.

Mylrea, P.J. (2008). The Village of Narellan. The District Reporter.

Mylrea, P.J. (2011). Narellan–Two Centuries of Growth. The District Reporter.

Hazards of Travel

Traffic jams and accidents are the plague of the modern commuter. But travel was not necessarily safer in bygone times. Existing as a rural town for much of its existence, Camden has been plagued by many hazardous routes and methods of travel.

A Butler four-horse coach on a road in Burragorang Valley. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

A Butler four-horse coach on a road in Burragorang Valley. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The Great South Road over Razorback was one of the most treacherous. Although formally completed in 1835, those who used the road would argue that it was never finished (Villy, 2011). Many people, from William Macarthur to John Macquarie Antill, complained about the roads constant disrepair, and undertook many efforts to get it fixed. The difficulties were so great and the fatalities so numerous that the gruesome history of the road is recorded in Elizabeth Villy’s The Old Razorback Road. Of the fatalities, Villy reports of one woman who was killed after her carriage overturned after hitting a rut in the road surface. Her 12 year old son and the baby she was holding survived, but there was no doubt that the accident was caused by the bad state of the road.

Stranded passangers near Elderslie

Stranded passengers near Elderslie. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Travelling by rail is often a much safer option, but clear passage is not guaranteed. With flooding common in Camden, the Pansy Tram line, the train that went from Campbelltown to Camden, quite frequently became flooded. The floods sometimes left passengers stranded near the playing fields at Elderslie where they had to be rescued by boat.

Cowpasture Bridge damaged in 1975 flood. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Cowpasture Bridge damaged in 1975 flood. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Another transport structure that was subject to flooding was Cowpasture Bridge. Built in 1826, it replaced numerous fords that were used to cross the Nepean River between Camden and Liverpool. As with the Great South Road, the road leading to the bridge was constantly mentioned as being in disrepair. But the flooding made it impossible to cross, with the actual bridge covered in water (at one time it was sixteen feet underwater). The surrounding area would be inundated, delaying mail and other vital supplies (Starr, 2007). Repairs were undertaken in 1852, with a new bridge constructed in 1861 after one section was washed away. In 1975 there was a severe flood, which extensively damaged the bridge, requiring another rebuild.

From Edward street corner looking uphill. Unpaved. 1920s cars. Telephone? pole, gaslight street lamp, railway line in bottom right corner. Perhaps taken from upper floor of Milk Depot. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

From Edward street corner looking uphill. Unpaved, 1920s cars, telephone pole, gaslight street lamp, railway line in bottom right corner. Perhaps taken from upper floor of Milk Depot. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Even Argyle Street in the centre of town has been subjected to many traffic issues. For a long time the main road between Sydney and Melbourne, numerous accidents occurred along the stretch of road, particularly around the sharp right turn at Murray Street. Wrigley tells of many who became victims of the corner, including a lady who’s accelerator became jammed, sending her straight into a building entrance (2001). This was only one of many accidents, and safety on Argyle Street remains a concern for many in the area.

It may not help alleviate the traffic fury of today or stop the traffic jams during peak hour, but knowing the travel hazards of the past may help put it all into perspective and remind us that difficulty journeys are as old as travel itself.

References:

Starr, M. (12.01.2007). A Governor and flash floods on Cowpasture Bridge. Back Then. The District Reporter.

Villy, E. (2011). The Old Razorback Road: Life on the Great South Road between Camden and Picton 1830-1930. (Kenthurst, N.S.W. : Rosenberg Publishing).

Wrigley, J. (9/11/2001). A step down Argyle Street of old. Back Then. The District Reporter.

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.

References:

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.

CHS0836

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.

References:

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.

The Pansy Tram Journey

A popular memory of the Camden area is the Camden tram, affectionately called Pansy, which used to travel along a narrow gauge line beside the road from Campbelltown to Camden. The line began in 1882 and carried its last train just over 50 years ago on 1st January 1963.
The Pansy Train

The Pansy Train

There were seven stations along the thirteen kilometre track between Campbelltown and Camden. First was Maryfields where huge crowds travelled each Easter for Stations of the Cross commemorations. Next was Kenny Hill near the water supply channel where sometimes passengers had to get off and walk to lighten the load and enable the train the reach the top of the hill. Then came Curran’s Hill near the present day Australian Botanical Garden at Mt Annan.

Narellan Station was next on the corner of the Northern Rd to Penrith where coal was loaded. Not far on was Graham Hill for an easy lift for those spending time at the Narellan Hotel. Kirkam was at the bottom of the hill where milk cans were loaded each morning bound for Sydney then the little Elderslie Station with just a small weather hut on the north side of the Nepean River. Camden had goods yards and a siding into the Camden Vale Milk factory at the entrance to the town.

Elderslie Station

Elderslie Station

Locals would listen for the whistle to know the morning papers had arrived from Sydney and engine drivers were known to hold the train for pretty girls running late for their train to work. Floods sometimes left passengers standed near the playing fields at Elderslie where they had to be rescued by boat.

Stranded passangers near Elderslie

Stranded passangers near Elderslie

Poems and a song about the tramline were written and can be found in the Camden Library collection as well as books, DVDs and memorabilia from the line.

Some oral histories conducted by Camden Library interviewed the last of those still alive who worked on the tram as engine drivers and firemen. At a few places along Narellan Road and Camden Valley Way traces of the line can still be seen. Many car drivers on Narellan Road wish Pansy was still with us as they make their slow journey to the University of Western Sydney or the electric rail at Campbelltown.For more images and stories visit Camden Images and Camden Voices. To see a video of the last service go to Railway video