Thomas Hassell

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.

Denbigh

Denbigh is something of an unsung landmark. Where Camden Park is linked with the history of Australian agriculture, and Camelot is the current star of A Place to Call Home, Denbigh has had a very intimate relationship with Camden’s history and is considered “one of the finest early colonial farmhouses in Australia, with important historical associations and an evocative atmosphere.”

Part of the Cobbity land grant between 1812 and 1819, Denbigh was allotted to Charles Hook. He, like all the grantees, had to clear and cultivate the land within 5 years. Between 1812 and 1819 Hook had between 3 and 9 convicts working the land. This was not necessarily an easy period with the 1814-1816 Cowpasture War in full effect and the land being well within the battlefields. But by 1819 Hook started building some form of residence, living first in Sydney and then in Macquarie Grove with Samuel Hassall, finally moving onto the property in 1820. The first buildings were defensive “siege-style” structures due to the Cowpasture Wars, but later he began constructing the main bungalow that still stands on the property. Like Camden Park House, it was based on a Georogian style, but ‘Denbigh’ was set lower with a simplified version of this English style, which suited it well to the Australian climate.

The front section was built by Charles Hook before 1826 and the two storey section by Thomas Hassall after he purchased Denbigh about 1826. Since renovated. Mrs Lesley McIntosh ( owner) standing on verandah. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The main bungalow. The front section was built by Charles Hook before 1826 and the two storey section by Thomas Hassall after he purchased Denbigh about 1826. Since renovated. Mrs Lesley McIntosh (owner) standing on verandah. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The property began to see considerable success and become self-sufficient. Livestock  increased with the notable addition of sheep, 400 of the 1,100 aces was cleared, and 60 acres was dedicated to growing the famous Camden wheat. Hook passed away in 1826, and the property was sold to Thomas Hassell the following year.

Hassell came from a family of churchmen, and his move to the area was due to his appointment as chaplain in the Cowpastures. Although already owning land in the area, ‘Denbigh’ offered many advancements over these other properties, both in agricultural terms and in its suitability as a parsonage. While Hook lived on the property only with his wife, never having children, and a handful of convicts, Hassell and his wife Anne had a growing family and undertook works to develop the property. These increased works called for more hands on the property, and Denbigh expanded from a self-sufficient farm to a scattered village, having everything from a blacksmith and carpenter to a shoemaker and schoolmaster.

From northern side showing the Hassall additions and the nineteenth century garden. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

From the northern side showing the Hassall additions and the nineteenth century garden. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Hassell was considered a generous and benevolent landowner by many who came to work for him. Testament to this is that some would continue working on the property even after gaining their tickets of leave, some for as long as fifty years. The prosperity came to an end in the 1840s, largely due to factors within the colony as a whole. The end of transportation and the economic depression resulted in Thomas reducing his holdings, selling some of his properties and leasing considerable amounts of ‘Denbigh’. A further hit to the property came in the 1860s, when rust brought an end to the Camden wheat industry.

In 1868 Thomas Hassell passed away, and his wife Anne found a suitable lessee in Charles McIntosh, who would own the property eighteen years later, when Anne Hassell passed away in 1886. The McIntoshes continue to farm the land to the present day. The first generation with Charles saw the property develop from crop based agriculture to a greater reliance on livestock, in particular dairy cattle and breeding draught horses. It was a leading dairy farm for much of the 20th century, and also witnessed the mechanization of agriculture in Australia.

Jim at 2-3 years of age in a yard with cows at Denbigh, 1925. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Jim  McIntosh at 2-3 years of age in a yard with cows at Denbigh, 1925. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Denbigh is a unique property in the Camden Area, still maintaining many of its period features. Like the more famous Camden Park, it witnessed the changes and developments of the area. And with the current residents actively undertaking steps to conserve the property it remains a perfect, “intact example of a continuously functioning early farm complex.”