Friday, 11 February 2022

Brookfield House, Camden. NSW

Brookfield House

30-32 Hill Street

Lot 90, DP 1077100; Lot 10, DP 731597

-34.055520080386096; 150.6981116045414

Brookfield House, 30-32 Hill Street, Camden. NSW. (I Willis, 2022)

History and Description

Brookfield House is part of a group of substantial Victorian buildings at the end of Hill Street. A good house of its time.

Brookfield House was built between 1897-1898 for J. W. Macarthur-Onslow for officers of NSW Mounted Rifles. In name of Captain Antill.

The building is a large two-storey semi-detached brick house with Victorian detailing. This house has ornate cast-iron gates and palisade fences on a brick base and has brick entry columns. It also has cast-iron verandah posts and filigree balcony rails to the first floor and valances to the ground and first floors. The verandah wall to the ground floor is brick. The windows are arched with lead lights to the front facade. The upper verandah roof is metal skillion.

At some stage, the balcony has been enclosed; the rear has been extended beyond the line of the original two-storey house (the line of the original skillions roof is still visible), and a garage has been built with timber and metal gates at the line of the house along the driveway.

Part of a group of substantial Victorian Buildings at this end of Hill Street and form a symmetrical pair – 30-32 Hill Street. (NSWSHI)

Condition and Use

The house retains good integrity and intactness. (NSWSHI)

Heritage Significance

Brookfield House is part of a group of substantial Victorian buildings at the end of Hill Street. The house is a good house of its time forming a symmetrical pair – 30-32 Hill Street.

Heritage Listing

Local Environment Plan Items 138-139
New South Wales State Heritage Listing

Read more

Camden Heritage Walking Tour Brochure

Friday, 5 November 2021

Mitchell House, Camden NSW

Mitchell House

29–31 Mitchell Street
Lots 1 and 2, DP 782058
-34.052223, 150.695232

Mitchell House. 29-31 Mitchell Street, Camden. (I Willis, 2021)

History and Description

Mitchell House is a substantial double Victorian terrace building in the brown brick style that is characteristic of the Camden town centre. It has a stone verandah on the ground floor but the cast-iron balustrading on the upstairs verandah.

The house has a shingled hip roof and brick chimneys. The ground floor verandah has sandstone arches between the two entrance doors. The entrance doors are timber with a stained glass panel and stained glass highlight windows.

The windows are four-pane double-hung timber-framed windows with the top two panes being arched. There are timber shutters to the first-floor windows, and the windows and doors on both floors have sandstone flat arches. The first-floor verandah has a corrugated metal bullnose roof. (NSWSHI)

The house was built by the Furner family of builders in the 1860's possibly for their two sons. (Wrigley 1983)

Condition and Use

The privately-owned house is in good condition. (NSWSHI)

Heritage Significance

Mitchell House is an example of an early building in the Camden townscape, close to John Street, within the Camden Town Centre Conservation Area. The house retains its historic integrity and intactness. (NSWSHI)

Heritage Listing

Local Environment Plan 2010 LEP Item 174
NSW State Heritage Inventory 1280069

Read more

Camden Heritage Walk Tour
Wrigley, J. (1983). Historic Buildings of Camden. Camden NSW, Camden Historical Society

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Nepean House, Camden.

Nepean House

1–3 Mitchell Street
Lot 1, DP 782848  

Figure 1 Nepean House Mitchell Street Camden. The house is item 22 on Camden Heritage Walking Tour. (I Willis, 2021)

History and Description

The site of Nepean House was originally part of Camden Park Estate, then an allotment in the sub-division of the town area in 1840. The allotment (83 feet x 83 feet) was purchased in 1855 by storekeeper James Bensley and sold in 1859 to carpenter Thomas Jones.

Construction of the house commenced around 1855 for Camden surgeon John Bleeck, who purchased the property in 1862. Bleeck practised as a medical practitioner in Camden from 1855 to 1865 and sold the house to The Oaks builder William Packenham in 1884.

Packenham built the verandah, installed the iron lacework at the front of the house and replaced the wooden shingled roof with corrugated iron. The Packenham family lived in Nepean House until the death of William Packenham's daughter, Emma Cranfield, in 1944 when the house was sold to Camden engineer Howard Southwell.

In 1971, Camden solicitor Paul Bowring purchased the house, who added a single-storey pavilion in 1973 designed by Sydney architects Fisher Lucas.

At the rear of the house are the 19th-century timber-slab stables with loft.

The house is described as a two-storey brick and stucco early Victorian Gothic style house with picturesque and colonial characteristics. These features are the gabled windows, carved barge boards and high pitched roof, four-panel doors and shuttered French casement windows. (NSWSHI)

Condition and Use

The split timber shingled roof was replaced with corrugated iron in the late 19th century.

The house is in good condition and privately owned. (NSWHI)

Heritage Significance

The house is an excellent example of a Victorian gentleman’s townhouse and residence.

Heritage Listing

Camden Local Environmental Plan 2010 Item 169

Macarthur Region Heritage Study Heritage Item ID 1280064

Read more

Camden Historic Places (Camden Historical Society)

Camden Heritage Walking Tour   - Stop No 22  (Camden Visitor Information Centre)

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Camden dreamtime

Camden Dreamtime

The Camden Progress Association and a search for a utopia

Camden is like many country towns across Australia. The civic fathers from the town's foundation in 1840 sought progress and development for the community. There was a desire for constant improvement.

The Camden News had numerous references to the town's progress, and the civic fathers founded the Camden Progress Association.  The association held the first meeting in November 1896 with the aim of town improvements. The association was still active in the early 20th century.

The notion of progress assumes that you are going somewhere or working towards some type of endpoint, a goal. What were the Camden's civic fathers working towards in the 1890s? 

One view of the Camden Progress Association was that they searched for a desired or perfect state of their world. It could be argued that they were in search of mythical utopia where everything was in a perfect or desired state.

Nepean River at Camden at a spot called Little Sandy. (CIPP)

This view of the world dates from the time of the Enlightenment and assumes that time is linear and irreversible. Ancients thought differently about the world. The Ancient Greeks and others thought the time was cyclical based around decay and rebirth.

The Camden civic fathers were from a British cultural tradition that viewed time as a linear progression. In what became known as the Whig interpretation of history, especially in the Victorian and Edwardian times,  human history was seen as the progress from savagery and ignorance toward peace, prosperity, and science.

Wikipedia states:
Whig history (or Whig historiography) is an approach to historiography that presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasize the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms and scientific progress.

Underpinning these notions was an accompanying cultural tradition that that world was constructed in terms of binary oppositions, for example, good/evil, black/white, big/small, dark/light, on/off, hot/cold, ugly/beautiful, right/wrong, chaos/order, life/death, love/hate, male/female, hero/coward, young/old, confinement/freedom, and others. 

One of the first to argue over life in this fashion was ancient Greek philosopher Plato and much later in the 19th-century German philosopher GWF Hegel. Here is the concept was called dialectics.

All cultures have some version of binary opposition and in Chinese philosophy and religion yin is represented by negative, dark, feminine and yang by positive, bright, masculine. 

American historian Christopher Lasch that the ideological twin of progress was nostalgia. Nostalgia involves 'the pastoral' is an idea dating from the Ancient Greeks and in literature is relates to the idyll of rural life and usually involves shepherds herding flocks of sheep in open paddocks.

In his book Hunters and Collectors, Australian historian Tom Griffiths argues there have been nostalgia wave in Australia in the 1850s, 1890s, 1930s, 1970s prompted by 'loss, depression or disruption'. In each of these waves of nostalgia, people were searching for a past.

characterised by popular yearnings for the intimate world of early colonial beginnings for lost rural places.  (Griffiths: p.197

In the 1930s the Camden community searched for the Englishness of their past, as they were in the 1840s and 1890s. Nostalgia re-appeared in Camden in the 1980s when increased urbanisation sent the Camden community in search of their own lost rural Arcadia. 

 'A Country Town Idyll' at Camden

Sydney’s urban expansion into the local area has challenged the community’s identity and threatened to suffocate Camden’s sense of place. In the face of this onslaught, many in Camden yearn for a lost past when Sydney was further away, times were simpler, and life was slower. A type of rural Arcadia, which I have called ‘a country town idyll’.

Camden John Street with a view of St John Church in the 1890s. This view was taken by Charles Kerry (CIPP)

 The ‘country town idyll’ is an idealised version of a country town from an imagined past that uses history to construct imagery based on Camden’s heritage buildings and other material fabric.

At the heart of the idyll is the view that Camden should retain its iconic imagery of a picturesque country town with the church on the hill, surrounded by a rustic rural landscape made up of the landed estates of the colonial gentry.

Its supporters created the idyll to isolate Camden, like an island, in the sea of urbanisation and development that has enveloped the town.

Curran's Hill housing development in the 1990s (Camden Images)
 These are the values that the supporters of Camden’s ‘country town idyll’ have encouraged and then expressed in the language they used to describe it.

They talk about retaining Camden’s ‘country town atmosphere’, or retaining ‘Camden’s country charm’, or ‘country town character’. They describe the town as being ‘picturesque’, or having ‘charming cottages’.

Camden is a working country town’, or is simply ‘my country town’. These elements evoke an emotional attachment to a place that existed in the past when Camden was a small quiet country town that relied on farming for its existence.

Argyle Street Camden 1938 (Camden Images)

The origins of the country town idyll’ are to be found in the rural ethos that is drawn from within the nineteenth-century rural traditions brought from Great Britain, where there was a romantic view of the country, that had an ordered, stable, comfortable organic small community in harmony with the natural surroundings.

Elements of this rural culture have been variously described as 'countrymindedness', 'rural ideology', 'rural ethos', 'ruralism', and a 'rural idyll'. They have been a preoccupation of many scholars, including contemporary writers, like the Australian poet Les Murray.

Within this tradition, there is an Arcadian notion of a romantic view of rural life. There is a distinction drawn between the metropolis and the village, commonly known as the town/country divide.

This was the essence of pre-war Camden (a town of around 2000) where rural culture provided the stability of a closed community that was suspicious of outsiders, especially those from the city, with life ordered by social rank, personal contacts familial links. It was confined by conservatism, patriarchy and an Anglo-centric view of the world.

Updated 17 January 2021. Originally posted 18 November 2013.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Nepean River

Nepean River Cobbitty c. 1900-1910 (Camden Images)

The Nepean River

The Nepean River is one of the most essential waterways in the Sydney basin and has particular significance for Sydney's southwestern rural-urban fringe. Its catchment extends south and east of the Sydney Basin to take in areas near Robertson and Goulburn. West of Wollongong the tributaries including Cataract Creek, Avon River, Cordeaux River that flow north-west and then into the deep gorges of Pheasants Nest and Douglas Park.

The river opens up into a floodplain and flows past  Menangle and crosses the Cowpastures and southern Cumberland Plain past Camden and Cobbitty. The river then flows north through the gorge adjacent to Wallacia and enters Bents Basin before it is joined by the Warragamba River and changes its name to the Hawkesbury River.

The Nepean River is economically vital to the Sydney Basin and is used for mining, irrigation, recreation and other activities. It is ecologically significant to the area and has several rare and endangered species of plants.

Cultural importance

The river has a significant meaning in terms of its intangible cultural heritage to the local landscape. It defines the landscape and the construction of place in the localities along the river, including Menangle, Camden, and Cobbitty.

Learn more

There is the  Little Sandy at Camden, which was a favourite swimming spot for the local community.

The river floodplain is partly covered in Cumberland Woodland an endangered species in the Sydney Basin. Another endangered species in the local area is the Elderslie Banksia Scrub and the  Camden White Gum.

The river catchment is the most important in the Sydney basin and has significant cultural significance in the area.  One example is the 1925 Nepean River flood at Camden.

The Macarthur Bridge across the Nepean River is one of the most critical pieces of economic and social infrastructure in the Macarthur area.

In times of high rainfall, the river has particular characteristics which make flooding a problematic event for the local population. 

In 2006 Camden Council designated the historic Camden town centre in the Nepean River floodplain as a Heritage Conservation Area, and later incorporated it in the 2010 Local Environment Plan.
There is a local walkway located on the river floodplain called the Miss Lewella Davies Memorial Walkway.

Originally posted 2016 Updated 30 August 2020

Friday, 21 August 2020

Forum Celebrating 40 Years of the NSW Heritage Act

Yamba Cottage on Camden Valley Way at Narellan has been at the centre of community concerns around heritage matters in the local area for many years (Camden Images)

Luke Foley Announces Heritage Policy

At State Parliament, on Tuesday 18 April 2017 Opposition Leader Luke Foley made several announcements on heritage matters that the Labor Party will take to the next state election in 2019.

Amongst the announcements from  Mr Foley were:
1. Development of a 10-year heritage strategy for New South Wales that will be a roadmap for heritage management;
2. Restrict the s32 provisions so that the state government cannot plead economic hardship on heritage matters like they have on the Sirius project;
3. Restrict the ability of the Minister for Heritage to ignore recommendations from the Heritage Council;
4. Strengthen the provision of the Heritage Council;
5. Move the Office of Premier and the Cabinet Office into the old Chief Secretary's building on the corner of Macquarie and Bridge Streets.

For those who want to read the speech click here

Heritage Forum Speakers at Parliament House

The forum was introduced by Shadow Minister for Heritage Penny Sharpe MLC and invited a number of speakers to reflect on the 40th anniversary of the Heritage Act passed into law by the Wran Government in 1977.

Speakers were:

1. Meredith Burgmann 

Meredith Burgmann is the former President of the NSW Legislative Council and co-author of the book Green Bans Red Union - the Saving of a City. She spoke about the history of the Green Bans in the 1970s in a legal environment where there were no legal protections for heritage matters.

She went on to outline: the development of resident action groups and the conditions that were conducive to the development of heritage legislation in the 1970s.

These conditions included
(a) community activism around the Vietnam War,
(b) Anti-Apartheid,
(c) environmental issues, and
(d) anti-discrimination legislation.

2. Reece McDougall 

Reece McDougall is the former CEO of GML Heritage Consultants and Executive Director of the NSW Heritage Office from 2006 to 2008. He spoke on the history of the 1977 Heritage Act introduced by the Wran Government.

He maintains that the conditions that allowed the introduction of the Heritage Act included
(a) the legislation support for the National Trust in 1960,
(b) international factors including travel by Australian witnessing overseas activities, and
(c) the green bans.

McDougall also outlined the 1998 amendments to the Heritage Act that introduced the State Heritage Register and the advantages of having a separate heritage office in the state government.

Gilbulla is the house built in the late 1890s by JW Macarthur Onslow at Menangle built in the Arts and Crafts style  (Gilbulla)

3. Shaun Carter

Shaun Carter is the immediate past president of the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects. He has organised a crowdfunding effort and taken the state government to court over the decision to demolish the Sirius building in The Rocks.

Carter spoke about the benefits to the community of retaining its built heritage. These included
(a) acting as a marker that allows stories to remember,
(b) containing cultural heritage, and 
(c) the need to know who we were and who we are.

Carter bemoaned the loss of the best of 20th-century buildings, and many are not even listed on local heritage registers.

4. Paul Connell 

Paul Connell is the organiser for the Public Sector for the CFMEU who led the campaign to save the NSW Heritage group within Public Works from privatisation, that is, keeping the Stoneyard at St Peters (Alexandria).

The Stoneyard is the home of the stonemasons who look after the maintenance of the state governments stock of sandstone buildings.  The Stoneyard also has heritage roofing plumbers and carpenters who until the Baird Government used to work with the Government Architect.

The Stoneyard is the site of
(a) apprentice training in traditional trades,
(b) stockpiles of Sydney yellow sandstone, and
(c) the centre of WHS.

Former 1940s Stuckey Bakery building in Argyle Street Camden is an example of Camden Modernism (I Willis)

Originally posted 18 April 2017. Updated 21 August 2020.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Anarchism and libertarianism is alive and kicking in Newtown with lots of great posters

Anarchism and libertarianism are alive and kicking in Newtown with lots of great posters in an around the King Street precinct.

A host of anarchist posters were spotted at various locations in the King Street precinct of Newtown on a visit by this author.

It is good to see that rebellion and revolution has not died out under the weight of neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism.

For the uninitiated anarchism is, according to Wikipedia,  a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions.

Anarchists believe that the state is undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful. There are a few capitalist entrepreneurs who would agree with this position.

Another term to describe an anarchist is libertarian, and there are some self-styled libertarians. 

The birth of anarchism appears around the French Revolution and the first 19th-century philosopher to label themselves anarchist was Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

The Newtown anarchists want to smash capitalism and re-invent the world.

The birth of anarchism can be traced to the 6th century BC and the influence of Taoism. Modern anarchism emerges from the time of the Enlightenment.

The want-a-be nationalists, neo-liberalism and neo-cons would have you believe that they rule the world.

It is refreshing to see that pluralism is alive and well in Australian democracy. The other side still gets a go.

It is a wonder the neo-cons haven't spat-their-collective-dummies and chucked a wobbly and declared war on Newtown.

Maybe all the Newtown anarchists are just blow-ins in sheep's clothing.

What-ever the situation Australia, it is good to see that there still free speech and it is being practised loud and clear.

Originally posted 1 May 2017. Updated 16 August 2020.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Pansy Old Right-of-Way at Elderslie

Vellas Fresh Produce Market Gardens

25-85 Camden Valley Way, 

DA  010.2016.00001366.001 

Old Right-of-Way for Camden-Campbelltown Railway

The Old Right-of-Way for Camden-Campbelltown Railway viewed from Kirkham Lane looking towards Camden at the proposed Vella Market Gardens site. 2017 (I Willis)

Camden-Campbelltown  Railway Locomotive at Camden Railway Station

Pansy Locomotive on the Camden-Campbelltown Railway Branch Line in 1950s  seen here at Camden Railway Station (Camden Images)

There is a re-development of a rural property adjacent to the Cowpastures Bridge at Elderslie on the Camden Valley Way (formerly the Hume Highway) with the old right-of-way for the Camden-Campbelltown Light Railway.

The Camden-Campbelltown Railway was an essential part of local transport infrastructure from 1881 to 1963 when the New South Wales Government closed the branch line.

The Vella Markets Garden development site not only has the old right-of-way. Some culverts still exist from the 1950s.

Old Right-Of-Way for Camden-Campbelltown Railway view from Camden Valley Way looking towards Kirkham Lane. The horse's location indicates the line of trees that marks the ROW on site for proposed Vella Market Gardens. 2017 (I Willis)

The old right-of-way is clearly identifiable by the line trees that follow it to Kirkham Lane.

Unfortunately, the developer does not mention this old right-of-way in any of the development documents.

View of Old Right-of-Way for Camden-Campbelltown Railway view from Kirkham Lane looking towards Camden. Camden Valley Way is visible on left of the image. The presence of the embankment for tracks are clearly seen in this image in the proposed site for Vella Market Gardens .2017 (I Willis)

Read more

Read more about Camden-Campbelltown Railway here and here.

Read more in Camden History the Journal of the Camden Historical Society and visit the
Camden Museum to view several artefacts from the railway days.

The Camden-Campbelltown Railway has been the subject of the recently published Pictorial History of Camden & District seen here on the book's back cover.

The back cover of  Pictorial History of Camden & District which tells some of the stories of Pansy the Campbelltown-Camden train.

Updated 10 January 2021, 15 August 2020. Originally posted 27 January 2017. 

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Studley Park Narellan. NSW

Studley Park

Payne's Folly, St. Helen's School, Campbelltown-Camden Grammar School
Camden Valley Way, Narellan, NSW 2567
Part Lot 1 & 5, DP 859872
Studley Park House - Camden Grammar School, Narellan c1909 (Camden Images)

History and Description 

On 2 October 1888 businessman William Charles Payne bought the combined property of 200 acres from Thompson for 1400 pounds. He authorised AL & G. McCredie of Sydney to construct the house, stables and a granary/engine house. The engine house reportedly contained a steam traction engine and a dynamo which provided electricity to the house.

A lengthy article in the "Australasian Building and Contractors News" 20/7/1889 described the project. It called the house a 'picturesque looking villa-residence, in a light Italian style'. A rendered drawing view of the house from the west incorporated the two-floor plans produced by the McCredie's at the time of construction (SHI)

Payne named the property 'Studley Park'. Ray Herbert writes that Payne named it after a property near where his father-in-law lived at Ripon in England. There is no evidence Payne intended Studley Park to be a self-supporting farm. What is more likely is that it was established as a country retreat. Many such estates were built around the outskirts of Sydney during the latter half of the 19th century. The opulent mansion bankrupted Payne: he sold it in 1902, and it became Camden Grammar School. (SHI)

A few decades later it was transformed into an art deco playground for the sales manager of 20th Century Fox. The period of ownership of Studley Park House by AA (Arthur) Gregory in the 1930s is represented by its remaining 'Hollywood' style internal finishes and is supported by high-quality, contemporary photographs. Gregory was the representative of the US film company Twentieth Century Fox in Australia. (SHI)

During World War 2, it was resumed as the Eastern Command Training School for the army (Richardson, 2010).

Condition and Use

In 2009 the house was sold to a private owner and the golf course land was transferred to the care, control and management of Camden Council (Lisa Howard, Camden Council pers.comm., 14 December 2010).

Heritage Significance

Studley Park House is an excellent example of Victorian Italianate architecture, enhanced by its prominent location and open landscape setting. It is one of the last 'country estate' dwellings to be built in the Camden/Campbelltown area and is representative of the work of the Sydney firm of architects AL & G McCredie.

Studley Park is a place of State significance for its aesthetic and visual qualities associated with a beautiful nineteenth-century country house and its setting and for its historical associations with important uses and historical themes of twentieth-century development around Sydney. (SHI)

The site has natural heritage value in retaining two areas of regenerating remnant (endangered ecological community) Cumberland Plain Woodland including a population of the nationally endangered shrub species, Pimelea spicata. (Read, S., 2005)

Heritage Listing 

Camden LEP   I133
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 00389
Register of the National Estate 3240
National Trust of Australia register 10045

Read more 

State Heritage Inventory Click here

Thursday, 12 March 2020

New Art Exhibition Opens at Camden Art Gallery

'Portraits of Camden' Exhibition Opening

A new art exhibition, 'Portraits of Camden', was opened in Camden at the Alan Baker Art Gallery in John Street on Thursday 12 March 2020 by Camden Mayor Theresa Fedeli.

The cover of the exhibition catalogue 'Portraits of Camden' that is open between March and August 2020.. 

The exhibition 'Portraits of Camden' celebrates the second anniversary of the opening of the gallery.

Camden Mayor Theresa Fedeli opens the 'Portraits of Camden' exhibition on Thursday 12 March 2020. (I Willis) 

The exhibition celebrates the contribution of Alan Baker to the Camden art scene in the early 1970s  through the Camden Art Group.

The Camden Art Group met in the classroom of Ken Rorke at Camden Public School in John Street Camden.

The assembled audience at the exhibition opening was addressed by an original member of the Camden Art Group Nola Tegel.

Original member of the Camden Art Group Nola Tegel tells the audience stories about how Alan Baker guided the budding artists in the art works. (I Willis)

The artworks hung at the exhibition are a variety of subjects in charcoal drawn by Alan Baker at the Camden Art Group sessions.

A keen art enthusiast admires the artwork of Alan Baker at the 'Portraits of Camden' exhibition opening. (I Willis)

A guest at the exhibition opening writing their thoughts on Mr Rorke's classroom blackboard in the gallery. Ken Rorke initiated the Camden Art Group in the 1970s. Workshops and lessons were held in his classroom at Camden Public School. (I Willis)

The 'Portraits of Camden' exhibition runs from March to August 2020 at the Alan Baker Art Gallery. The gallery in located in the 19th century gentleman's town house Macaria in John Street Camden.

The assembled have dispersed for refreshments and eats after the formalities have finished at the exhibition opening in the Macaria forecourt in John Street Camden. Macaria is a wonderful 19th century gentleman's townhouse. It is one of the few 19th colonial buildings open to the public in Sydney's south western suburbs. (I Willis)
The Alan Baker Gallery is located at 37 John Street, Camden. 

Read more about Alan Baker and the Camden Art Group in Camden History from those budding young artists who participated in the lessons and workshops in the 1970s. 

The signage the fronts the Alan Baker Art Gallery in the 19th century gentleman's town house of Macaria in John Street Camden. (I Willis)