Narellan

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.

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.

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