Llewella Davies

Nant Gwylan and Camden Town Farm

Llewella Davies gave a great deal to the community during her near century of life in the area. From charitable works with organisations such as the Red Cross or Meals on Wheels, to sharing and creating yarns of the old town, Miss Camden, as she was affectionately known, contributed much to the community. But her most lasting contribution, and the one with which most current residents have a connection, is her bequeathing of her family’s 55 hectare dairy farm to Camden Council.

Miss Davies' dairy farm, winter 1994. Exeter Street to left, Macquarie Grove Road in foreground. Looking west. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Miss Davies’ dairy farm, winter 1994. Exeter Street to left, Macquarie Grove Road in foreground. Looking west. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The Davies property was divided into two sections. The more intimate is the brick federation style house that was the Davies family home. The Davies called it Nant Gwylan, Welsh for seagull brook (nant=brook or stream and gwylan=seagull). Built in the 1910’s it would remain the Davies family home until Llewella’s passing in 2000.

CHS0840

‘Nant Gwylan’ the home of the Davies family built in the early 1910. Photograph from 1920s. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Its gardens were extensive, and according to the Council Property Report (2002), the garden was of “greater significance than the house”, although it did mention that both were in their original form. Llewella Davies spent a great deal of time in the garden well into her senior years, always accompanied by her dog Tess. The house’s intimacy was retained, remaining in private hands while the rest of her estate, the Davies dairy farm, was bequeathed to Camden Council.

Llewella Davies In her garden, with her faithful dog Tess, at nanat Gwylan. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Llewella Davies In her garden, with her faithful dog Tess, at Nant Gwylan. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Evan Davies, Llewella’s father, started the dairy farm on the 55 hectare  property on Exeter Street opposite the house. It is located just on the outskirts of the town leading to the Nepean River, entirely within the famous Camden Flood Plains. According to the Council Property Report (2007), the land is representative of both Camden’s dairy heritage, and also of Camden’s heritage character as a town immediately surrounded by agricultural land. Some of the structures that existed on the farm were in poor condition when bequeathed, but have since gained a kind of rejuvenation.

Some of the old buildings of the Davies dairy farm, now forming part of Camden Town Farm. Copyright: Camden Council.

Some of the old buildings of the Davies dairy farm, now forming part of Camden Town Farm. Copyright: Camden Council.

As Camden Town Farm the property has gained new life within the community. Centred around gardening, the Town Farm facilitates the activities of Camden Community Garden, a hub for community learning through social inclusion and interaction. It comes alive every Saturday with the Fresh produce markets, showcasing the top quality produce from the Town Farm and local producers.

Community groups and individuals growing their own produce in allotments at the community farm. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Community groups and individuals growing their own produce in allotments at the community farm. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Of the many buildings and farms in Camden, Nant Gwylan and the Davies dairy farm are perhaps the most representative. They may not feature the grand architecture of Macaria or Camelot, or boast the agricultural innovation of Camden Park Estate, but as a symbol of the town, of what it was and what it is becoming, through its transformation from working dairy farm to community hub, it represents the best of Camden past and present.

Llewella Davies: Miss Camden

The First Lady of Camden, the Queen of Camden or simply Miss Camden. Receiving any one of these titles is no mean feat, but Llewella Davies achieved them all.

Born in 1901 and moving to Camden when she was three. Llewella stayed in the area for the rest of her life, spanning almost a century until her passing in 2000. The daughter of a dairy farmer, she was educated at SCEGGS boarding school in Darlinghurst, although her life remained in Camden. Her schooling was complemented by her experiences of the Camden cattle farm. From the herding through the main street every Tuesday to the sale yard, to the floods that would periodically plague the area. Her time after her school years was filled with activities that helped Camden grow as a community.

A young Miss Davies in 1916, shadowed, as she would throughout her life, by her pet dog.

A young Miss Davies in 1916, shadowed, as she would throughout her life, by her pet dog.

Although all the titles bestowed in honour of her contribution and commitment to the community capture some element of her involvement with Camden, one reveals the full extent of her relationship with Camden.

John Wrigley tells us that she gained the title of  ‘Queen of Camden’ from Dr. Liz Kernohan, MLA, at a civic dinner held in her honour. The title reveals the admiration and stately presence she possessed in the town. But she was more than just a  figurehead, appearing ceremonially like a mascot. Much of her involvement was on a grass-roots level. She was active in the Red Cross, the Camden Historical Society, and Meals on Wheels, to name but a few. Even in her 90s she was still a freeman of the town, an honorary ranger of the council and an honorary prefect at the high school.

In Red Cross Volunteer Aid Detachment uniform during World War II. Taken in her garden in Exeter Street.

In Red Cross Volunteer Aid Detachment uniform during World War II.

The title of First Lady was bestowed upon her, once again with great affection, by ‘This Country Life Magazine’ supplement in The Land. Also revealing the strong connection between Llewella and Camden, it reminds one of her strong activity within the community. First ladies are again traditionally seen as figureheads, supportive of their husbands, the heads of state, occupying themselves with pet projects for the duration of their partner’s office. Her interest in the community was far more substantial than that, and not being in such a secondary position allowed her more freedom but also a great deal more honesty.

Llewella made regular visits to Bruce Cunningham, the Camden Council General Manager, and would strongly express her views of the development of Camden while emphasizing the importance of and pride in its history. The frequency of these visits was so great Cunningham had a bowl permanently placed in his office specifically for her pet dog.

Her frankness was not only reserved for local authorities but extended to Federal members. Wrigley tells us that she met two NSW Premiers, Neville Wran and John Fahey, as well as NSW Govenors Peter Sinclair. She also attended a dinner in honour of  Prime Minister Maclom Fraser, when he visited Camden.

Although both the Queen and First Lady titles capture her importance to Camden, the full extent of Llewella’s connection with Camden is reveled by the third title bestowed on her. Her connection with the town was a relationship, and the relatively simple ‘Miss Camden’ is the perhaps most appropriate title. It reveals Llewella more as a faithful daughter of the town with a deep admiration for all that it is and an unwavering commitment to safeguarding and respecting its past. It also retains her youthful zeal for the town and life. The childlike excitement that saw her hijack the tardy Pansy Tram with her friends when in secondary school, or the creative shrewdness when removing a group of inebriated revelers from her garden by donning a sheet and wailing like a ghost.

Llewella, many years later, with the faithful Tess by her side.

Llewella, many years later, with the faithful Tess by her side.

It may not have the majesty of the Queen or the official stamp of the First Lady, but Llewella Davies is Miss Camden.

For more information of Llewella Davies and other people that shaped Camden visit Camden Library Service Local Studies, Camden Historical Society and Camden Images.

All sources used available through Camden Library:

Middlebrook, Todd. 14 January 1995. First Lady of Camden. This Country Life Magazine.

Wrigley, John. 17 February 2000. Obituaries: Llewella Davies. Sydney Morning Herald

Wrigley John. 19 September 2005. Brushes with Fame with Llewella Davies. District Reporter.