Camden Park

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.

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.

Camden Park: Home of Australian Agriculture

If Camden is the “Birthplace of Australian Agriculture” then Camden Park Estate, the 4,046 hectare estate of John and Elizabeth Macarthur, was its home. And the centrepiece is one of Australia’s oldest colonial homes.

The central two storey section of the palladian style.

The central two storey section of the Palladian style.

Designed in 1831 by architect John Verge, Camden Park House follows the Palladian principles popular in England at the time. This featured a middle double storey, with two single storey wings. The strict proportions of the exterior are contrasted on the inside, where the rooms are informally laid out. Although having a European design, the house has proved itself quite adept at coping with the Australian climate. The only major change to occur has been the addition of a second storey on the north west wing in 1880.

Early architectural drawings revealing the pallidan proportions.

Early architectural drawings revealing the Palladian proportions. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

As with Camelot and Macaria, the person who commissioned the house would not enjoy residence in the building, it being completed in 1835, the year after John Macathur passed away. During construction the Macarthurs resided in Belgenny Cottage, another notable building of Camden’s past that would go on to house many of its own stories.

Camden Park House with single storey wings

Camden Park House with pavilions on either side of the central double storey. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

After John Macathur’s passing, Elizabeth lived at Elizabeth Farm in Parramatta, while James and William Macarthur stayed on the estate, continuing its agricultural enterprises and establishing the impressive gardens. The first task was selectively removing the eucalyptus woodland in which the house was set, providing views of Camden village, Mt Annan, and Mt Gilead. It also gave the house an “Arcadian setting”.

Label used on wine production from Camden Park Estate

Label used on wine production from Camden Park Estate

This was only the clearing of the canvas. From their travels in Europe they brought back various seedlings, cuttings, and vines. What started with vegetables, fruit, and ornamental tress in 1824 would lead, in combination with the skills in viticulture they learned overseas, to Australia’s first large scale commercial vineyard. For William this was only the beginning of the estates horticultural potential, and he would establish a rich, diverse garden, equally as famed as the house.

Rotolactor and cattle yards on Camden Park Estate at Menangle

Rotolactor and cattle yards on Camden Park Estate at Menangle. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The next 200 years saw many changes to the estate. Moving through the three Ws of Camden’s agricultural development it would eventually become the home of some of Camden’s famous dairy cows. This was thanks to the efforts by Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow in the 1890s. A further development came in the 1950s with the Rotolactor, a large automatic milking building. Its round, glazed design added a modernist contrast to the classical geometry of the original house, while testifying to its pioneering agricultural heritage.

The glazed walls and discs of the Rotolactor.

The glazed walls and discs of the Rotolactor. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The bulk of the estate moved into third party ownership in the 1970s, but the house that formed the grand centre piece of the estate still accommodates the descendants of John and Elizabeth Macarthur. John and Edwina Macarthur-Stanham, the current residents, regularly open the house to the public, and actively undertake steps to ensure the lasting heritage of the building, the original home of Australian agriculture.

Camden Mos: Charles Dawson

CHS1903

Charles Dawson, son of Thomas Dawson, Camden Park Estate Manager and Land Agent. 

Simple but effective, a straight lampshade style. However, exquisitely dapper, particularly with the cropped hair, likewise neatly maintained and trimmed, with clear volume standing out. Add a simple black suit and pristine white shirt, and we have a fine contender.