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Queen Street historic precinct

Campbelltown (including Airds, Leumeah, Menangle Park, Menangle, Kentlyn, Macquarie Fields, Ingleburn, Minto)
Historic town now part of Sydney's southwestern suburban sprawl
Although Campbelltown, 53 km south-west of the GPO, is essentially a rather unattractive urban centre on the periphery of Sydney's suburban sprawl, the bushland to the south and the older buildings in town and around the district indicate that it was the first district to be settled outside of Sydney and was, at one time, dramatically different to the Campbelltown of today. The current population of the city is about 150 000 and it is located 70 m above sea-level.

Prior to colonisation the area was inhabited by the Tharawal Aborigines. The first Europeans in the vicinity were an exploratory party who noted a stray herd of cattle in 1795 by the Nepean River at a time when there was very little livestock in the colony. This discovery generated another expedition led by Governor Hunter that same year. He called the area the Cow Pastures.

Francis Barallier investigated the district in 1802. Despite the objections of the governor John Macarthur was granted 5000 acres on the banks of the Nepean in 1805. When Governor Macquarie visited the area in 1810, sentries were posted for fear of Aboriginal attack. He chose the site of Liverpool and named the district around present-day Campbelltown 'Airds' after the family estate of his wife Elizabeth (an estate situated in the village of Appin in Scotland where Elizabeth was born).

By the following year there were 107 settlers in the district. Continuing expansion and development suggested the need for centralised services and for a staging post to accommodate through-traffic. Campbelltown became the central thoroughfare for those headed on to the south-west grazing plains and south along the road that went through Appin to the Illawarra. Hence Macquarie returned in 1820 marking out a townsite which he named after his wife, Elizabeth Campbell.

A daily mail service was established from Sydney to Campbelltown in 1826. That same year witnessed the murder that generated the legend of Fisher's Ghost. An ex-convict named Frederick Fisher settled on a farm on the western side of town after his pardon. He disappeared in 1826. The following year another ex-convict named George Worrall was arrested, tried and convicted of his murder. It is said he confessed just before he was hanged.


The Fisher's Ghost Restaurant

Worrall was either living on or near Fisher's farm (some accounts suggest they lived in the same hut). He apparently claimed that Fisher had fled the district and had left him in charge of the farm and property. Some suggest Worrall claimed Fisher was fleeing to avoid prosecution for forgery. Others assert that Fisher had in fact stabbed a man and that he had given the power-of-attorney to Worrall as he expected a long gaol term. One source claims that Fisher served six months and disappeared soon after he returned and attempted to resume control of his property. Some say Worrall then sold some of Fisher's property and 'generously' offered to clear a debt of Fisher's in return for the deeds to the farm.

How Worrall was discovered is also a cause of disagreement. It has been said that it was Worrall's activities regarding Fisher's property that aroused curiosity. One story has it that Worrall was then arrested but released due to lack of evidence. Apparently two boys later found bloodstains, a tooth and some hair on Worrall's fence. An Aboriginal tracker was employed and the battered body was located in or near what has since been called Fisher's Creek, at the southern end of town.

According to folklore a respectable local named John Farley claimed to have seen Fisher's ghost sitting on a fencing rail when he was returning home after a few drinks at a nearby inn. He apparently said that the ghost pointed to the location of the body. Others stories say the spectre merely sat on the fence and that this was the rail whereon the scraps of Fisher were found. It has been claimed that this 'sighting' initiated the police search.

The first published account of the apparition did not emerge until 1832. Fisher was buried somewhere within the Anglican cemetery at the corner of Broughton and Howe Streets though his exact whereabouts is unknown. The legend has become the focal point of an annual celebration - the Festival of Fisher's Ghost, held each November.

Another infamous local was bushranger Mad Dog Morgan who was born at Campbelltown in 1830, the son of convict parents.

A survey of the town was made in 1826 and it was laid out over the next few years according to a plan by Robert Hoddle who later laid out Melbourne. Buildings began to appear in 1827 but their occupation did not go ahead until 1831. Wheat-growing and flour-milling proved vital to the economy in the early days. The town's growth was hampered by the lack of a reliable water supply. Consequently a reservoir was built by a convict chain-gang in 1838-39. It operated until 1888.

A migrant depot was established at Campbelltown by Caroline Chisholm in 1841. That year the population was recorded as being 446. A district council covering Campbelltown, Camden , Narellan and Picton was set up in 1843 and the railway opened in 1858. In the 1860s when wheat production was wiped out by wheat rust and a drought. The focus then shifted to dairying, stock-raising and orchards.

A post office was built in 1881 and the town became a municipality in 1882, the year a tramway connected Camden and Campbelltown. It operated until 1963 transporting silver ore from Yerranderie and milk from the local dairy farms. A courthouse was erected in 1888.

In the 1880s suburban development commenced. Subdivisions occurred to the north at Minto, Ingleburn, Macquarie Fields and Glenfield. Campbelltown became the first country town to have piped water - supplied by the Upper Nepean scheme which commenced in 1888.

In 1907 work was completed on Cataract Dam, the first of the Upper Nepean Valley dams.

By 1911 the population had slowly climbed to 1429. After World War II the population increased as workers were increasingly able to afford their own homes. Campbelltown was early identified as a means of accommodating these rising expectations. It was envisaged as a satellite city of Sydney, providing housing, work and proximity for those who had to commute. The population increased from 9690 in 1954 to 16 374 in 1961. After much decentralisation planning in the late 1960s and early 1970s housing estates supplanted the remaining farmland and Campbelltown experienced some of the fastest growth rates in Australia's history. By 1986 there were 120 000 residents. It was declared a city in 1968.

Things to see:   

Quondong Visitors' Centre
Quite a number of historic buildings remain in the town and surrounding district. There are walking and driving heritage-tour pamphlets available and heritage coach tours are organised twice yearly by the Quondong Visitors' Centre in Art Gallery Rd at the southern end of town. To get there situate yourself at the intersection of the Camden and Appin Roads, head south along the latter and take the first right. This is Art Gallery Rd. Park your car at the visitors' centre which is located in the old St Patrick's schoolhouse. Erected in 1840 it was the first Catholic school in Australia to be built from private subscription. The building was designed 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. The building has been thoughtfully renovated and now contains a replica schoolroom and small historical display.


Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery and Japanese Gardens
Across the road is the Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery and Japanese Gardens. The gardens and tea house - based on a 16th-century design - were set up by Campbelltown's sister city of Koshigaya in Japan to mark the bicentenary. The landscaping is exquisite and meticulous and there are a number of koi in the stream. The gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m., and 12.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m.on Sundays.


Emily Cottage
Adjacent is a quaint and attractive old building (c.1840) on the corner named Emily Cottage, a small stone house with a dormer window and gabled roof thought to have originally operated as a toll house.

Across Camden Rd is the southernmost end of Queen St and what remains of Fisher's Ghost Creek, its historical qualities eradicated by recent development of the water course.



The Old Coach House (now the Women's Health Centre)

Historic Precinct
Opposite Big Rooster, at 320 Queen St, is the Campbelltown Art and Craft Society. This building was licensed as the Farrier's Arms Inn in 1843 and was owned by blacksmith Edward Fitzgerald. Some sources claim the building was originally a grog shop dating back to 1826. It is certain that it was in existence by 1840.

Next door is Kendall's Millhouse, now Fisher's Ghost Restaurant. It was erected adjacent Campbelltown's first steam-driven flour mill in 1844. Both were built by the uncle of noted 19th-century poet Henry Kendall. The mill closed in the 1880s.

Virtually opposite is the Campbelltown Community Centre, originally a produce store and bakery dating back to 1853.

Walk up Queen St to the mall. At number 315 is the old town hall, located on the site of George Worrall's farm. The building was constructed around the old Temperance Hall (built either in 1862 or 1882 depending on which source one accepts) which the newly-formed municipal council bought, adding the facade and front offices in 1892, the year they also took over the newly-built fire station next door, now incorporated into the structure. These buildings are now used by the Campbelltown Theatre Group.

The buildings from 284-298 form an 'historic precinct' within the city mall.These two-storey colonial houses of brick or sandstone make a major contribution to the streetscape. They all date from the mid-19th century and all feature some fine work on the balustrades, columns, windows and doors, though some are falling into disrepair. That at 298 Queen St (c.1858) is said to have been a staging post for Cobb and Co. 294 was Bursill's shop (c.1842); 292 was Legacy House (c.1844); 288-90 is the Old Railway Hotel (c.1840), converted to a music hall in the 1850s. 284-86 was McGuanne's Cottage (1850s).

At the end of the mall, at 282, is the former CBC Bank (early 1880s), now the Macarthur Advertiser. Just beyond it is the former post office. Erected 1881-83 it was one of the first seven country post be built. The mail was delivered by horseback twice daily. Designed by James Barnet it is valued as a good example of a Victorian Classical Revival country post office.

Further north at the intersection of Queen St and Railway St is the courthouse. The central block, facing out to Queen St, was also designed by Barnet and dates back to 1888.

Over the road from the courthouse is Mawson Park, once known as 'the green', where cricket and other sports were played and where the gallows and stocks associated with law and order formerly stood.


Civic Precinct
Just north of the courthouse, to your left, is the civic precinct wherein lies the civic centre, the council chambers and the library. There is a cast bronze mural inside which portrays the history of the city in nine sections. The swan adjacent the mural is the crest of Elizabeth Campbell's family. In the gardens is a sandstone water trough erected in 1890. Opposite is an 1870s gas lamp donated by the town of Campbelltown in Scotland in 1966.


St Peters Church
Return to Mawson Park which contains one of the many milestones placed along the Liverpool-Campbelltown Rd in 1854. A plaque at the eastern edge of the park marks the approximate spot where Governor Macquarie stood when he declared the town in 1820. It is situated next to St Peter's Church. Designed by Francis Lawless and built between 1821 and 1823 it is the oldest building in Campbelltown. The clock was installed in 1838 and other additions were made in the 1870s. Inspections can be arranged by phoning (02) 4625 1041. Next door is the rectory, built in 1887. Now in need of some attention its features include a bay window, cast-iron balustrades and an iron colonnade added at a later date.


St Johns Roman Catholic Church
Also of significant historic interest is the old and disused St John's Roman Catholic Church, considered the first Catholic church built in Australia. It is situated on a hillside overlooking the town. The rectory is on the corner of Cordeaux and Lindesay St. Turn left into the latter and take the immediate right into Sturt St. At the top of the hill turn left down George St. The entry gates to the property are near the end of the street.

This Georgian church is made of stuccoed brick with stone quoins. It was built between 1825 and 1841 under the direction of Father John Therry. The mezzanine floor and wooden wall decorations were added c.1886. The grounds are also attractive. If you wish to have a look at the interior ring the presbytery on (02) 4625 8044.



The graves of James Ruse and his wife

Graves of James and Elizabeth Ruse and the Cemetery
The historic graves of James and Elizabeth Ruse are located in the north-western corner of the church graveyard. However in 1994 descendants of the family removed the headstones due to the extensive vandalism which was occurring in the cemetery and placed them in the Stables Museum.

An unusual diamond-shaped headstone marks the grave of Matthew Healey, a pioneer of the Goulburn district who built the historic Riversdale Inn. Another occupant is Harry Manns, a member of John Gilbert's bushranging gang who pulled off one of Australia's most infamous robberies when they made off with 14 000 pounds worth of material after holding up a gold escort at Eugowra Rocks near Forbes. He was caught, tried and hanged in 1863. His body was displayed at a local inn for a short time as an example to the citizenry. Its whereabouts within the cemetery is unknown as such disreputable types were buried in unmarked graves and the cemetery records have been destroyed.

Also in the cemetery are James Tyson, who owned 3.8 million ha, and James Waterworth, an early coachman who covered the area between Cambelltown and Wollongong and who was held up by highwaymen on several occasions.


Hurley Park
Return down Sturt St and take the first left into Stewart St. On the corner of Stewart and Lithgow St is Hurley Park where you will find the remains of the convict-built reservoir of 1838. This was the first public water conservation scheme in Australia and the last major convict-built structure. The site includes a large cattle watering tank of fine ashlar masonry with a stone-paved access ramp and spillway, as well as two deep silt traps, also of stone. Allman St, which runs along the southern side of the park, is named after the captain of the convict work-gang.


Historic Buildings in the Area
Turn into Lithgow St. After you cross Lindesay St, St David's Church and manse (1882) is on your right, just past the school. Built in the Gothic style with pointed arches and small obelisks on the roof it has been renovated.

On the corner of Lithgow and Oxley Sts is a lovely two-storey Victorian house with some well-established trees in the yard. Built in the 1860s the balcony, verandah and supporting columns are of especial note. Next door, at 26 Oxley St, is 'Caversham' which has a brick cornice, a wide verandah and attractive wooden lattice work. It dates from the 1830s with a facade added in the 1850s.

Return to Lithgow St and continue westwards. On your right, at number 12, is 'Richmond Villa' (c.1840, though the separate rubblestone kitchen is thought to date back to 1830). Although it has been altered it is still a good representative of a principal building type from the town's early days.

At number 8 is one of Campbelltown's most attractive, but most incongruously situated buildings, 'Glenalvon' (c.1842) - a well-preserved and sensitively renovated two-storey Georgian sandstone townhouse built by publican Michael Byrne. Its highlights include a stone-flagged verandah, Doric columns, carefully detailed stonework, original cedar joinery and staircase, eight-panelled doors and the marble and stone fireplaces. A valuable array of colonial furniture and English items lend an air of elegance to the interior.


The Stables Museum
At the rear of the building (but visible from the roadway) is a large well, a kitchen wing, a coach house and the large sandstone Gothic stables building with elegant gables, which has been converted into The Stables Museum, run by the local historical society. It contains a number of heritage items including the headstones of James and Elizabeth Ruse. James Ruse was a convict transportee on the First Fleet who, after completing his sentence in 1789, had some success as a subsistence farmer at a time when the colony was in desperate need of such successes. Consequently Governor Phillip made Australia's first ever land grant in 1792; that being Experiment Farm. He began working as an overseer near Campbelltown in 1828 and died in 1837. Elizabeth was the first emancipated female convict in Australia.

The headstones were removed from the churchyard of St John's Catholic Church in 1994 due to the vandalism of headstones occurring in the graveyard. The museum is open on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month from 2.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m., or by appointment, tel: (02) 4628 0469.


South of Campbelltown
If you wish to investigate the area to the south start from Quondong, turn left into Camden Rd then take the first left again into Kellicar Rd. Proceed through the next set of lights to the top of the hill then turn left into Gilchrist Drive. Turn left at the second roundabout into Englorie Park Drive. Head up the hill to Parkholme Court, turn left and it is about 70 m to Englorie Park House (c.1880), a large Victorian country house which was originally part of a large farm property. Some outbuildings remain. The verandah which links the house to the ballroom block has some attractive cast-iron trim. It is currently being used as a child-care centre.



St Helen's Park, Appin Road

St Helen's Park
Return to the roundabout at the corner of Gilchrist Drive and Therry Rd. Turn right into Therry Rd and proceed through the next roundabout to the lights at the top of the hill and turn right into Appin Rd. At the second set of traffic lights turn left into Woodlands Rd then take the first right into St Helens Park Drive. To your right, about 750 m along, is St Helen's' Park House, a truly beautiful mansion with associated outbuildings. It was erected on land granted to John Wild who called it 'Egypt Farm'. The house dates from 1887 and is made of Menangle stone. It is strongly symmetrical with highly picturesque gables.


Return to Appin Rd and head south through the roundabout to the top of the hill. The second house on the left (about 340 m from the roundabout) is 'Denfield' (c.1837), an outstanding and well-maintained example of a traditional farmhouse which was reputedly built by John Farley, the man who claimed he saw Fisher's ghost. The walls are rendered and the kitchen detached after the style of the period.


Mount Gilead
Mt Gilead is located west of the Appin Rd on a parallel spur. Upon a land grant issued in 1812 are a group of stone buildings situated about a windmill tower (now sail-less) which was built in 1835. It is located at the crest of the ridge and can be seen from the Appin Rd entrance, 6.5 km from the Quondong Centre.


Further south is 'Beulah', built by the Hume family (possibly Hamilton Hume's father). 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 Hamilton Hume's house. It can be found 9.3 km from the Quondong Centre.


South-West of Campbelltown
Starting from the intersection of the Camden and Appin Rds head along Camden Rd and again turn left into Kellicar Rd. At its end turn right then take a left at the T-intersection into Menangle Rd. 1 km south turn left into Glen Alpine Drive. Take the first right into Heritage Way then the second right into Belltrees Close.


Glen Alpine
At number 12 you will find 'Glen Alpine', dating back to 1890 or 1912, depending on your source. It has a fine pyramidal roof and verandahs with turned wooden posts, fretwork brackets and a frieze of spindles. The first 'Glen Alpine' was built in 1832 for Thomas Reddall, the incumbent of St Peter's in Campbelltown. Later used as a school it was demolished though some olive trees from the original estate remain.


Campbelltown Steam and Machinery Museum
Return to Menangle Rd. 2 km south is, to your right, the Campbelltown Steam and Machinery Museum which is open from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month. They have a number of old steam trains which run on some railway track established within the grounds. Opposite is the Sugarloaf Horse Centre which offers trail riding and lessons, tel: (02) 4625 9565.


Menangle Park
Continue south for just over 3 km to Menangle Park. On the corner of Menangle Rd and Racecourse Ave (to the right) is the former Horse and Jockey Inn. This sandstone brick structure was built either in the 1840s or 1853 (depending on who you believe). It has a particularly fine staircase. The stone building adjacent is thought to date back to 1823.

Just past it, to the right, is 'The Pines', a colonial stone house built in the Classical style (c.1870) with french doors. Next door and associatedwith it is an Alpaca stud.

Menangle Rd continues across the Nepean River and south becoming Picton Rd. Just on the northern side of the river is the Nepean River Reserve. The railway bridge over the Nepean is the oldest still in use today.

1 km south of the river Menangle Rd meets up with Woodbridge Rd, which heads off to the right, and Station St, which heads off to the left. At the junction is the Menangle Store (1904) and on the hillside behind it is the imposing presence of St James's Anglican Church.

Menangle is a lovely and quiet rural village of 570 people full of attractive old timber buildings which developed to service the operations of Camden Park Estate.

Take the left turn into Station St. Near the end of the road take the right turn. After 1.9 km is a signpost to the left indicating the driveway of the Gilbulla Memorial Conference Centre. Follow the loop road around to the old Gilbulla homestead, built in 1904 for James Macarthur-Onslow. It is a large and handsome house with extensive gardens and is used today by the Church of England.

Return to the Menangle Store. Turn left back into Menangle Rd. At the top of the hill is St James's (1876). The nave was designed by noted architect J. Horbury Hunt who built 'Camelot' at Kirkham (see entry on Camden).


North of Campbelltown
Turn into Campbelltown Rd and proceed to the second set of lights and turn right into Leumeah Rd then take the immediate left into Hollylea Rd. At its end is Hollylea House, a charming two-storey Victorian building with plenty of delicate iron lacework, and a balcony with decorative cast-iron columns.

Further west is the Wat Pa Monastery, opened in 1988 as a retreat for buddhists. There is also a Thai pagoda, built in 1991.

Return to the intersection of Leumeah Rd and Campbelltown Rd and turn right. Turn left into Raby Rd then take the first left after the roundabout into Eschol Park Drive. At the top of the small hill is Eschol Park House (c.1860 with additions c.1890). This substantial two-storey house with stone quoins is now a restaurant. The property was the site of vineyards which won a gold medal at the Paris Wine Exhibition of 1885. There is a large stone wine cellar built into the hillside south of the house. The latter was used as a detention centre for German embassy staff during World War II. A Victorian fountain stands in the garden.

Return to Campbelltown Rd and continue north. The first left, at the turntable, is St Andrews Rd. 1.9 km along here, to your right, is the driveway to Varro Ville which can be seen perched on the top of the hill. This attractive and substantial house was built c.1859 though there have been later additions. The outbuildings probably date back to the 1820s. The house can be seen a little more clearly if you continue a short distance along St Andrews Rd to the Mt Carmel Retreat and look from this vantage point.

Varro Ville was a 1000-acre land grant issued by Governor Macquarie in 1810 to Robert Townson, a friend of Joseph Banks. Governor Macquarie and his wife visited the estate twice in 1810. The property and buildings have been placed under a permanent conservation order.

Townson ran cattle and sheep and established an impressive vineyard and orchard. Explorer Charles Sturt purchased it in 1837. During the drought of 1838 he generously sank dams in every paddock to ensure the water supply for his neighbours. It is said his generosity was even recognised by then-bushranger Jack Donohoe who declared the Sturt family off-bounds. In 1839 Varro Ville was purchased by the first postmaster-general James Raymond who bred and trained racehorses.

Scenic Hills Riding Ranch is located a little further north along Campbelltown Rd, tel: (02) 9605 7410. It is situated on a part of the Varro Ville estate.

Continue north to Denham Court Rd. On the corner, to the right, is the Denham Court Homestead belonging to a Captain Brooks, the former master of convict transport ships. It has been described as "one of the most interesting and historically significant early country houses in NSW". The house was designed by John Verge in 1832 though the buildings to the rear may predate Brooks' possession of the property in 1820. There is an attractive portico and entrance hall.

If you turn into Denham Court Rd then take the first right into Church Rd you will find St Mary the Virgin Chapel (1838), built as a memorial to Captain Richard Brooks and designed by John Verge. It is a rare surviving example of an early Regency Gothic Revival church in a pleasant rural setting with an historic graveyard.

Return to Campbelltown Rd. 6 km north of Denham Court Rd Campbelltown Rd and Camden Valley Rd intersect to form the Hume Highway. Turn right at the next set of lights into Leacocks Lane. 900 m from the highway you can see, to your left, the Glenfield farmhouse and barn, built by Dr Charles Throsby in 1817 on land he was granted in 1810. The house is named after his English birthplace.



The Sundial at Mt Annan Botanic Garden

Mt Annan Botanic Garden
Mt Annan Botanic Garden is Australia's largest botanic garden. Within its 400 ha you will find 20 km of walking trails, a loop road, two ornamental lakes with lakeside picnic areas, an education centre, nursery and arboretum, an abundance of birdlife, most of Australia's known native plant species and some introduced species. The flora is featured in a variety of settings - a terrace garden, a bottlebrush garden, a wattle garden, a banksia garden and a western garden. There are also woodland and lakeside plant communitites. From the hill it is possible to see Campbelltown, the Sydney skyline to the north-east, and, to the south-west, the Menangle district and the Razorback Range. There are picnic facilities, bike tracks and bicycles for hire. The entry fee is currently $5 a car.

Guided walks and mini-bus tours are available for free on a daily basis depending on staff availability, tel: (02) 4648 2477. Don't miss the human sundial, a sculptural feat made of basalt columns which allows you to tell the time by raising your hands in the air (just follow the instructions on the brass plate).



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