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St Bede's Church
 

Appin (including Wilton)
Quiet historic village on the edge of Sydney's south-western urban sprawl.
Appin is located 71 km south-west of Sydney on the road between Wollongong and Campbelltown and 240 m above sea-level. Its current population is 1618. It is a sad example of what can happen to a village of great historical importance when it lies in the way of modern progress. It now has the dubious distinction of being on the very outskirts of the Sydney overspill and consequently is characterised by ugly, charmless housing developments full of sad project homes. Furthermore, most of the historic buildings in the town have been tampered with in the most insensitive manner. It would be difficult to find a town claiming Œhistoric¹ status which has been more comprehensively ruined.

Appin was named in 1811 by Governor Macquarie after a small coastal village in Argyleshire in Scotland where his wife was born. It was the fifth village in the colony. The first local land grant was made that year to Deputy Commissary General William Broughton. He called his 1000 acres Lachlan Vale after Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

The following year Macquarie gave 100 acres to Andrew Hume who had journeyed to NSW in 1789 as an instructor in agriculture. His sons were John and Hamilton. The latter would become a noted explorer. With an Aboriginal guide the two boys made their first exploratory trip south in 1814, crossing the Razorback range and examining the areas now occupied by Picton, Mittagong, Bowral, Berrima and Bong Bong. Two years later they travelled to the Goulburn Plains.

Hamilton Hume was granted 300 acres at Appin. It was either he or his father that built the homestead 'Beulah', which is still standing, halfway to Campbelltown, on the Appin Road, though it is not visible from the road and not open to the public.The 1824 Hume and Hovell expedition to Port Phillip left from a point nearby on the Appin Rd which is marked by a monument erected in 1924 and made of stone taken from the Hume's house.

The area was inhabited by the Tharawal Aborigines prior to colonisation. However, fiercely contested wars between the indigenous people and the Europeans ensued, particularly between 1812 and 1816. Consequently a punitive military expedition was undertaken resulting in the deaths of 14 Aborigines at Cataract Gorge, though it is believed many more rushed to their deaths at that location. Perhaps it is a sign of the conflict that the upper reaches of the Georges River, initially known by its Tharawal name of Toggerai or Tuggerah Creek, was later changed.

Other settlers followed, establishing cattle and wheat properties. The townsite was surveyed in 1834. It is now hard to imagine that there was a time from the 1830s through to the construction of the South Coast railway in the 1880s when Appin was one of the main staging posts for people heading to the Illawarra. It was during this time that the Royal Hotel was built and people like the famous letter writer Rachel Henning lived in the area.

Things to see:   [Top of page]

Historic Buildings
1. Stone Cottage
Appin is a place where everyone concerned with architectural history should visit. It is a very good example of what can happen to an historic township when the local authorities allow insensitive development to occur.

So what is left? Coming from Sydney via Campbelltown on the Appin Road the visitor first sees the stone cottage between the hotel and the shopping complex. This building, with its distinctive half-mansard roof, probably dates from the 1830s and is typical of the dwellings which were once commonplace in the town.

 

2. Appin Primary School
Take the next right (almost opposite the cottage) into Macquariedale Rd then the first right again into Elizabeth Close where, set back somewhat from the road, you will find the original Appin Primary School building (1867), the first to be built under Henry Parkes' Public Schools Act of 1866. It now serves as the schoolmaster's residence.

 

3. St Bede's Roman Catholic Church
Return to Appin Rd and continue southwards. On the corner with King St are the grounds of St Bede¹s Roman Catholic Church. It was designed in 1837 by Father John Therry. An influential and historical figure Therry, along with a colleague, was, in 1820, the first priest to be appointed to Australia. Built in different stages by different tradesmen it was completed in 1841 and is considered the oldest Catholic church in mainland Australia to remain in continuous usage. Both the church and its cemetery have been listed by the National Trust. Its iron-roofed square tower, which once had a timber belfry, is remarkably similar to that of the Anglican Church. Both have historic graveyards.

 

Appin Inn (in ruin)
 

4. Appin Inn
On the other side of Appin Rd, and looking for all the world like the boarding house that it became in the 1940s, is the Appin Inn. The northern section of the building was constructed in 1826 and if you let your imagination blot out the additions it is possible to still see the old inn, one of the first in the district. When the hotel changed ownership in 1833 it was renamed the Union Revived Inn.

 

 

5. St Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church
Church St heads eastwards off Appin Rd to St Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church. Construction commenced in 1840 and it was opened in 1843 after the Bishop had ordered the removal of a stone altar which had been constructed by the rector.

Continue along Church St and take the first right into Kennedy St. Halfway along, to the left, is an old slab cottage (c.1870?) which provides a clear indication of a style of residence which was once common. It retains one stone wall, an external stone chimney and separate kitchen.

 

St Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church
 

Continue down Kennedy St to Toggerai St and turn right. To your left is the old stone rectory (1842) for the Anglican church. The roof line has been altered and a garage has been added but the biggest travesty is the surrounding suburban development which has made this historic building, with its neat little porch, attic, gabled roof, square stone chimney, and tiny windows, just another building on the block. Now privately owned inspections are by appointment only, contact (02) 4631 1524.

Return to Appin Rd and turn right. One building from the north-eastern corner is a small house which was originally the local courthouse. There is a small gaol attached. The ugly wooden addition on the front hides the original design of the building and, given its current condition, it is hard to imagine that it was built in the early 1870s, was home to the local constable, and was the centre for justice in the area.

 

Historic Buildings in the District
Two historic buildings lie outside of the town. Drive along Appin Rd to the southern end of town and take the last right before Wilton Rd, into Brooks Point Rd. Northampton Dale Rd departs to the left and heads, unsurprisingly, to Northampton Dale, the homestead of the Broughton family, the recipients of the first land grant in the area (1811). The original name of the 1000-acre estate was Lachlan Vale, named after Governor Lachlan Macquarie who issued the grant.

William Broughton arrived as a free settler with the First Fleet in 1789. He owned a store in Parramatta and later became deputy commissioner of stores in Sydney. His daughter Betsy, one of the survivors of the Boyd massacre in New Zealand when she was but two, later married Charles Throsby. Broughton died in 1821 though his wife remained at Lachlan Vale until her death in 1843. It was the subsequent owner, John Percival, who renamed the property. His descendant still lives in the house.

It is not known for certain when Northampton Dale was built though it was the third building on the property and predates 1840. It has a half-mansard roof, stone walls, multi-paned windows, and some related slab farm buildings.

Return to Brooks Point Rd and turn left. This road will take you out to Elladale Rd where you will find Elladale Cottage, a sandstone Gothic house built in 1838 by Appin's first Anglican minister, the Reverend Hart Sparling who named the homestead after his wife Ella. It doubled as a church until the completion of St Mark's in 1842. Sparling subsequently leased the house and it was here that Rachel Henning stayed when she visited in 1855.

On the corner of the Appin Rd and Market St is Appin Park which is a pleasant picnic spot and play area. Nearby, opposite the Appin Hotel, is the Appin Curiosity Shoppe.

 

Appin Walking Track
If you wish to take a leisurely 400-m stroll along the Georges River then turn east along Market St to the Burke St intersection. Look to the left. A dirt track heads off to the right 50 m before the scout hall. This is the start of the Appin Walking Track.

Out of town is Cataract Dam. Turn off Appin Rd into Church St and follow the road as it bends to the south-east becoming the Appin-Bulli Rd. About 8 km out of town is the signpost which will direct you into Baden Powell Drive where you will find the dam. The oldest in Sydney's water supply system, it was completed in 1907. Open seven days a week it has picnic-barbecue areas, toilets, a playground and a museum which is open on weekends (you may have to ask someone to unlock it for you): contact (02) 4640 1200. There is also a 2.5-km circular track which passes two excellent lookouts - one orientated south-east over the dam to Wollongong and Mt Keira and one looking west to Razorback and the Blue Mountains.

 

Macarthur Estate Winery
If you take the Wilton Rd out of Appin then, after about 6 km is a bridge. Take the first left after the bridge into Keira Rd and, after about another 2 km, you will see the sign for Macarthur Estate Winery which has daily wine tastings, bush dances and a restaurant which is open on weekends, tel: (02) 4630 9269.

 

Wilton
Wilton is 13 km south-west of Appin. 210 m above sea-level and with a current population of 1378, Wilton's first town lots were sold in 1844. One of its most famous residents was James Tyson who ultimately owned 3.8 million ha of land. He got started selling meat to the men on the goldfields of Victoria. Known for his hatred of women he never married and left his relatives to squabble over his fortune. Coal mining later overtook agriculture as a primary focus of the local economy. Today Wilton seems little more than a truckstop. Wilton Recreation Reserve on Broughton St has the appropriate facilities for children's play, picnics and barbecues.

On the Picton Rd, south-east of Wilton, is the clearly signposted turnoff to Cordeaux Dam (completed 1926) which has picnic, barbecue and children's play facilities. There is also an easy-going 1.5-km bushwalking circuit with fine views of the dam looking south-east to Mt Kembla, tel: (02) 4640 1010.

 

Hume and Hovell Monument
About 8 km north of Appin, on Appin Rd, is a stone monument erected in 1924 to mark the centenary of the 1824 Hume and Hovell expedition to Port Phillip, which departed from a point nearby. The cairn is made of material taken from Hamilton Hume's house.

The 1824 Hume and Hovell expedition to Port Phillip left from a point nearby on the Appin Rd which is marked by a monument erected in 1924 and made of stone taken from the Hume's house.

 

Other Activities
Appin's Highland Gathering and Pioneer Festival is held each November at the sports ground on Sportsground Parade and the Appin Village Fair is held in the grounds of the primary school on the second Sunday of each month.

There are a number of tour operators who cover the area. Scenic flights are available from Curtis Aviation (02-4655 6789) and Macarthur Air Experience (02-4655 8844), 4WD tours from One Man and a Dog (018-222 149), adventure packages from Australian Extreme Team (02-4677 3133), motorbike tours from Harley Tours (02-4631 1261), transit services for bushwalkers and mountain bike riders from NSW Wilderness Transit Services (02-4681 9094), bushwalking tours from Rockreation (02-4782 6224) and tour guide services from Wollindilly Heritage Tours (02-4657 1439).

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Appin