Ben Linden

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)

Ben Linden

Although the history of Narellan predates that of Camden, it has seen a great deal more development in recent years. But one strong reminder of its past is Ben Linden, a house built in 1919 and placed prominently on Camden Valley Way.

Originally built as a private residence by George Blackmore who lived in North Sydney with his wife Mary Ann and seven children. George was a builder and purchased the land with his youngest son, George Sydney Blackmore, who was a merchant. It is believed Ben Linden was a swan song, George retiring after it was built and residing in the property until his death in 1930. George Sydney lived on the other side of Camden Valley Way in the Narellan General Store, another of the original buildings of Narellan to still stand (Hill, 2008).

Narellan Store, in a very modern setting on the Camden Valley Way. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Narellan Store, in a very modern setting on the Camden Valley Way. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

A little over a decade after being built Ben Linden began its life as a communal building. In the 1930s it was a boy’s college. In the 1940s it serviced a larger clientele after it became a guest house. It would spend the next two decades serving both the newly born and the elderly, first as a private maternity hospital in the 1950s until finally becoming a convalescent home in the 1960s (Stillitano, 2008; Meyers, 2008).

1997. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Ben Linden in 1997. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

In 1977 the property was purchased by Neidra Hill. Hill has always been very active in learning more about the building. It was through her efforts that much of its early history was discovered in 2008 when she researched and wrote “Ben Linden 1919-2008: A house with a story to tell”. Bearing in mind the property’s long history of community engagement, Ms Hill sees herself more as a custodian of the house than the owner. This drives her desire to maintain the building, seeing it as a strong “legacy for future­ generations and as a refuge for those less fortunate” (Bertola, 2015). This is particularly fitting in light of the developments in the area. It is now one of the last remaining historic residences in Narellan.

The shifting identity of Ben Linden is a testament to the changes that have always occurred in the area, and it is fitting that it is now preserved for future generations as a unique specimen of a time past.

References:

Bertola, V. (2015). Historic home holds firm in tide of change. Macarthur Chronicle.

Hill, N. (2008). Ben Linden 1919-2008: A house with a story to tell. (Available in the Library’s Local Studies Vertical File).

Meyer, J. (2008). Home’s mysterious past. Camden Advertiser.

Stillitano, I. (2008). A house with many tales to tell. Camden Advertiser.