Saturday, 26 December 2015

Maryland, Bringelly, NSW


773 The Northern Road, Bringelly, NSW. 2556
Lot 1, DP 218779; Lot 29, DP 872135

Maryland House c.1990s (

History and Description

“Maryland” including the homestead, grounds, outbuildings, stone cottage, former winery, stone store and gate keepers cottage. Also known as Nonorrah.

Part of 1815 grant to John Dickson. He named the 1215 hectare (3000 acres) property "Nonorrah". By 1828 it was just one of a number of large pastoral holdings which he began selling in 1833. "Nonorrah" was purchased by his former apprentice, Thomas Barker, then resident at Darlinghurst. He remarried in 1857 and moved to the property after his first wife, Dickson's niece, died. He renamed the property "Maryland". Most of the buildings of interest were built during his occupancy. His son Thomas Charles took over the property after his death in 1875, and extended the planting. After he died in 1940 it was purchased by N A Thompson whose daughters, Annette and Elizabeth. . (State Heritage Inventory)

The main house building was built by Thomas Barker when he moved to the property. Completed in 1859 and connected to a pre-existing house (1840's) still standing. It is believed that an earlier 1820's dwelling was demolished to make way for this building. Apart from minor alterations and rear additions the building has been maintained in original condition. (State Heritage Inventory)

The main building is a large early colonial style house laid out on a rectangular plan. Despite gothic chimneys and classical verandah posts, overall styling is more traditional (Australian Georgian). Stone rubble construction with stuccoed, ashlar finish and stone quoining (now painted). Hipped, galvanised iron roof with sandstone chimneys. Skillion verandah on eastern and northern frontages with return to southern side. (State Heritage Inventory)

Condition and Use

The buildings are still in use and intact.

It is understood that some of the outbuildings are in a state of disrepair. However, this does not alter the significance of the item. (State Heritage Inventory)

Heritage Significance

Maryland is an outstanding complex of early homestead and farm buildings, especially significant for its completeness as a group, its excellent state of preservation, and the intergration of the buildings, garden and magnificant setting. Includes many early buildings in good repair as well as buildings of special architectural interest. The winery and store may be the oldest winery buildings in Australia. Property has been in continuous occupation by only two families for over 130 years. Long associations with the surrounding district.

The Main Building is an important historic grouping, set in magnificant garden and landscape and retaining most original fabric. The outbuildings form a substantial group which are of state significance because they are an important historic grouping and some of the earliest on the buildings on site. They illustrate the diversity of functions associated with early agricultural activity in this area. All are virtually intact. (State Heritage Inventory)

Heritage Listing

Camden LEP I1
State Heritage Inventory - NSW Heritage
National Estate Database - Australian Heritage Commission

Read more about Maryland and its farming complex on the State Heritage Inventory Click here
Camden Heritage List Click here

Friday, 25 December 2015

Macaria, a Camden heritage icon.


37 John Street, Camden, NSW 2570  Lot 1 DP 216189

Macaria. 37 John Street, Camden. c.1990 (Camden Images/John Kooyman)ca

History and Description

Macaria was built by Henry Thompson, a notable Camden identity, who took up residence in the mid 1840's. He founded the first water-driven mill at the corner of Argyle and Edward Streets and later built brick steam mills which eventually became the Camden Tweed Mills. It was for many years the home of Dr F.W. West and later of other medical doctors. Now it is owned by Camden Council and retained as part of their Civic Centre complex. The stable and barn, a small building of similar style on the southern side of the house, were demolished to allow an entranceway to the new Council building behind.  (NSW Heritage)

Macaria is an excellent example of a Picturesque Tudor-Gothic residence of brick with stone dressings, wooden fretwork on the verandahs, and high brick chimneys and gable windows. Its high pitched gable roof, which was probably once shingled, is now covered with corrugated iron. It has two single panelled timber entrance doors with a highlight window, double hung windows, ornate timber barge-boards, quoining stones and finials and pendants on the gables. (NSW Heritage)

Condition and Use

The building is in good condition.  Macaria retains good integrity and intactness.
Its current use is for the Camden Council Chambers

Heritage Significance

For a house of this scale, Macaria is among the best picturesque Gothic houses in Australia. This, when combined with its importance to Camden, makes it a building of great significance. (National Estate Database) 
The building is part of the John Street group. 
Macaria is a  fine early townhouse of distinctive and interesting architectural quality, associated with an important figure of the town's early years. (NSW Heritage)

Heritage Listing  

Camden LEP No 145

Read more about Macaria on the 

Register of the National Estate Click here
NSW State Heritage Inventory  Click here
Camden Heritage List Click here

Camden Volunteers and the War Workers’ Gazette from the First World War

The cover of the War Workers' Gazette published in Sydney in 1918 as a wartime fundraiser for the War Chest Fund

1918 War Workers' Gazette

Camden volunteers in a variety of organisations were listed in  1918 when a Sydney publisher compiled the War Workers’ Gazette as a fundraiser for the Citizens’ War Chest Patriotic Fund. It was an important publication for the time and its importance has not declined over the years. Publications of this type are rare and despite some shortcomings it is a valuable addition to the historiography of contemporary wartime publications.

The full title of the gazette was The War Workers’ Gazette, A Record of the Organised Civilian War Effort in New South Wales and published by Winn & Co. It records thousands of names of volunteers across New South Wales for a host of wartime voluntary organisations.
It is a great resources for anyone researching war time history, family history or local studies. The lists of names provide a  rare and /invaluable asset to search names and voluntary organisations. There is no other equivalent elsewhere in Australia.

Example of information in War Workers’ Gazette 1918 p.67. There are individual names and organisational descriptions.
For more information on the story of the Gazette, who put it together and its success or not click here

View the War Workers’ Gazette on the National Library Website  Click here

Monday, 23 November 2015

A Camden Heritage Icon and the Campbelltown Heritage List

Local heritage icons


Commercial Bank of Sydney

125 Argyle Street, Camden. Lot 1 DP 986203

Commercial Bank c.1982 (Camden Images) 

History and Description
It was built in 1877-78 to the design of G.A. Mansfield, who did much of the CBC's architectural work at that time. The contractor was C. Furner of Camden. A one storey extension added 1972-73 by Architects Laurie and Heath, sympathetically following the style and detail of the original building. (State Heritage Inventory)

A fine example of the late Victorian Bank buildings to be found in country towns of New South Wales. It is in an Italianate style with a fine stone entrance porch to the main elevation and a cast iron balustraded verandah and balcony to its two storeys. The wisteria vine which climbs over the verandah is considered part of the Bank's aesthetic contribution. (SHI)

The building has a hipped shingle roof with a tiled ridgecap and painted chimneys. The entrance door is a timber framed glass sliding door with a highlight window. The building has arched two pane double hung windows. There are french doors to the first floor verandah. (State Heritage Inventory)

The entrance doors have been converted to automatic sliding doors. Airconditioners have been installed. Single storey extension. National Estate Database)

Condition and Use

The building is in good condition. The building is currently occupied by the NAB, and other small businesses. (SHI)

Heritage Significance

An important and noticeable building in a key position on the corner of Camden's two main streets. It continues to be used for its original purpose and well kept over the years. The building is representative of a Victorian Italianate building. It is part of the John Street Group. (SHI) The bank retains good integrity and intactness. (SHI)

Heritage Listing

LEP 2010 item no 112.
State Heritage Inventory (NSW). Built Heritage.
National Estate Database Australian Heritage Commission

Campbelltown LGA

In the Campbelltown LGA the council has created a central page with a listing of all the important heritage items for the area. The central page below has links to individual pages for items on its heritage list.

Each heritage item has a title, images, history and description, condition and use, heritage significance, and heritage listing (see below for an example).

The advantage of this Campbelltown Council webpage is that it is easy to find, easy to navigate, concise and all in the one place. While it is true that most of the information is available on the State Heritage Inventory. The SHI website is not as easy to use and navigate and it takes a little persistence to find the information that you are after.

Camden LGA

Camden Council has no such equivalent at the Campbelltown LGA heritage list. Its spokesperson stated that it would duplicate  the State Heritage Inventory. This is probably true. Yet the Camden Council website is legalistic and not easy to navigate. While it does provide a link to the SHI it takes quite a deal of time to find it.

If Camden Council were to ever construct a page like the Campbelltown LGA heritage list  then a local heritage item and its listing might look like this:

Read more:
For the Campbelltown LGA Heritage List and Individual Items go to:

Thursday, 12 November 2015

A decked car park for Camden

A decked car park for Camden

Camden Council stand for Oxley Street Car Park at Camden Library

Have you say.

Do you have a view on the proposed decked car park in Oxley Street?
Do you support it?
Do you care?
Camden Council wants to know your view.
There are stands about the proposal at local libraries and other venues.

Camden Council stand at Camden Library

Have your say.
Tell Camden Council what you think.
Write a letter to the local paper.

Tell local councillors what you think. Click here

See more on the Camden Council website Click here

1990s proposals for a decked car park were rejected by council

Are you interested in proposals for a decked car park in Camden in the 1990s?
Did you know that earlier proposals were rejected to Camden Council.
 Read more to see why  click here

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Narellan Public School a local heritage icon

Narellan Public School
290 Camden Valley Way Narellan  Lot 1 DP 808100

Narellan Public School buildings (Camden Images/John Kooyman 1997)

History and Description

The school site historically important buildings comprising a small sized late 19th century former original residence and schoolroom, constructed of brick and setback from Camden Valley Way by a generous tree lined and open space.   The school is located directly adjacent to former St Thomas’ Church and School at Narellan, together forming an important long term institutional precinct in Narellan town centre. 

The most prominent tree is a landmark Bunya Pine adjacent to the earlier buildings. 

The Adminstration bulding was original constructed as a school residence, erected in 1877. Repairs and additions were made in 1891 and in1912 the shingle roof was replaced with corrugated iron. Further repairs were made in 1938, along with adaptation and cyclic maintenance undertaken in subsequent years. The building is of brick construction. 

The school building was originally constructed in 1877 and has a simple Victorian aesthetic, with a pitched roof, timber windows and decorative barge board. The building is a brick construction with corrugated roofing. In 1949 a fire destroyed the front section of the building. In 1951 the building was rebuilt as a single classroom using the original bricks and in 1957 it was renovated to provide an office, staffroom and storeroom. In 1987 it was coverted into a staffroom for the school.  (SHI)

School Grounds 
The existence of some of the trees can be attributed to plantings made in 1890 and subsequent years to mark the celebration of Arbor Day at Narellan Public School. Tree types on the site include a Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghammii), Pepper Trees (Schinus molle) and several Eucalypt varieties.  
Narellan Church of England School was in operation in January 1854, and may have existed prior to this date. In August 1875 it was recommended that a schoolroom with the accommodation for 40 children and a residence be built. 

A permanent schoolroom and residence were completed in 1877. Enrolments in 1888 numbered 73. In 1889 a new classroom was constructed and additions to the residence undertaken in 1891. In 1912 the shingle roof on the school and residence was replaced with corrugated iron. Further renovations and repairs were completed in 1938, and the buildings were affected by fire in 1949. 

Land was progressively acquired over time. In 1920, two more lots were acquired which completed the area between Coghill Street, Camden Valley Way and Richardson Road. (SHI)

Designer of school buildings: G.A. Mansfield (1877)

Condition and Use

Appears to be generally good (SHI)
Recommendation to conserve historically significant fabric and setting (pre 20th century and earlier) and maintain school use.

Heritage Significance

Narellan Public School is a historically important institution within Narellan. For some 130 years it has been the place of learning for many local children, and maintains a number of physical elements through its extant buildings and setting, which are testimony to that historical growth and association.  (SHI)

Heritage Listing

2010 Camden LEP Item No  I130

Read more about the Camden LGA Heritage Inventory Click here

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Ben Linden another heritage icon

Ben Linden

311 Camden Valley Way, Narellan. Part Lot A   DP 419829.

Ben Linden  (Camden Images/John Kooyman 1997)

 History and Description

Sister Jean Stuckey conducted a private maternity hospital in the handsome bungalow "Ben Linden". 

Historical sources consider that the building was the residence of G S Blackmoor in the late 1920-30's. The building was used as a private school before Miss Stuckey. This is a residence of note include Colonel and Mrs Shaw, the Colonel ran the private school at Studley Park. (SHI)

Built by Blackmoor who ran Jack Cross's former shop. Mr & Mrs Halkett who ran it as a private hospital after the Stuckeys sold it.  
Ben Linden also known as Miss Stuckey’s House is a bungalow and is part of a residential group of buildings.

The house is located within an commercial/industrial area on the Camden Valley Way. The single storey house has a tiled hip and valley roof. The eaves extend to form a verandah over the entry way. The walls appear to be roughcast brick work. The verandah is supported by plain timber posts.(SHI)

Condition and Use

The bungalow and grounds appear generally in good condition.
The building is currently used a residence.

Heritage Significance

An excellent example of Federation dwelling with a prominent position and landscaped surrounds, and extraordinary history of use within the Narellan Town Centre and Camden LGA. It is a now rare, tangible remnant of Narellan Town's development during the Federation period, and along with the former Burton Arms Inn, Public School, St Thomas' Church and grounds, Narellan Hotel, former butcher's shop and cottage, and milk depot, are the historically most important remaining built elements of Narellan Township's history. Its former role as a maternity hospital is likely to embrace social significance within the local community. (SHI)

The recommended management of the building is to conserve and maintain 6 fabric, landscape, setting and property boundary curtilage.  (SHI)

Heritage Listing

Camden LEP  2010  Item No I131

Consult the Camden Heritage List at the Camden LEP 2010 Click here

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

First traffic lights in central Camden

First traffic lights in central Camden

Installation of traffic lights at the intersection of Argyle Street and Oxley on 21 October 2015 along with the new pavers

The latest part of the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy by Camden Council has been constructed - the installation of traffic lights in central Camden along with the new paving for the footpath.

New paving in Argyle Street Camden with new traffic lights in the background on 21 October 2015.

Read more about the Town Centre Strategy in a Camden Council press release July 2015 click here

Read more about the Town Centre Vision Statement prepared by Camden Council click here

Friday, 16 October 2015

Men and Machines 2015

Men & Machines 2015

Monster Trucks

Men, muscle cars and mayhem as the Christian cowboys did circle work in the back paddock.
Lots of noise, dirt and dust - good work eh!  Nice circles too. With smooth edges. Not bad either if I do say so myself.

Circle Work

The event attracted a large crowd at site held at Macarthur Anglican School at Cobbitty.
There were a set of wheels to suit every interest and age. From monster trucks to shiny cars to unshiny cars. Monster boats and flying machines - without wheels.

From two wheels to 12 wheel, from flying objects the size of shoe box to the real deal - you could take a ride in a helicopter if you wanted.
Glorious weather let the chrome shine and dazzle the fans.
So much shine on  display that it  blinded you as you inspected the muscle under the bonnet.
Of particular interest was the jet propelled van - yep you got it - a van (actually two) with a jet engine on board - crazy eh!  Fasten you seat belts and get ready for take-off.

Jet Van ready for take-off

For the slower types there were a number of horse drawn wagons that had been lovingly restored - no horses - that was restricted to the metal machines which had hundreds of horses - pretty too!

Lots of horses

To fill you up there was a sizzling sausage sizzle and to cool you down there was the wet water stand.
There was sponsors alley where local businesses displayed their wares - and chatted up potential customers.
Men and women were dazzled by the sizzling entertainment provided at the centrally located stage area - great sound system.
The Crowd

Read more about the event and the sponsors.  click here

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Kangaroo March Re-enactment

War horses lead Kangaroo March Re-enactment at Camden Park

Kangaroo March Re-enactment approaching Camden Park House led by wagon with a 2-in-hand Percheron heavy horses.

The war horse

Percheron is a breed of heavy horse or draft horse that were used extensively during the First World War in France and were originally bred as a war horse. They were used on Camden Park in late 19th and early 20th century as a valuable farm work horse.

Percherons originated in Huisne river valley in France in the 17th century as part of the province of Perche.

Percherons are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. They are an agile draft horse mostly grey or black and described as clean limbed, strong and have a good disposition. 

Originally bred as a war horse they were used to pull carriages and coaches, and then started to be used in farming as a work horse. In the 19th century they reportedly could travel up to 60 km at a trot in a day.

At the outbreak of the First World War the French embargoed their export to the United States after many years of successful sales.

During the fighting of the First World War their docile temperament made them useful for pulling guns carriages in forward positions. They were reportedly more useful than motorised transports on paved roads at a quick trot and they coped well in the mud.

Read more about the war horse, the Percheron click here
Read about the Percheron breed of horses click here
Read about the role of Percheron horses in the TV show Gallipoli click here
Reada about the role of the heavy horses in the First World War click here

Kangaroo Recruitment March Re-enactment 2015

Kangaroo Recruitment March Re-enactment - Menangle to Camden Section - 9 October 2015

Read more @ Kangaroo Re-enactment

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Historic Denbigh at Cobbitty

Historic Denbigh at Cobbitty Open Day 10 October 2015.

Open Day

The Denbigh Open Day is a rare opportunity to view one of the area's premier historic colonial properties. Denbigh was part of land grant to Sydney merchant Charles Hook in 1812. The property was then sold in 1827 to 'The Galloping Parson" Rev Thomas Hassall.

The earliest part of the house was constructed by Hook  in 1817, and added to by Thomas Hassall in 1838.

The State Heritage Inventory states:
The homestead is sited in contrast with the surrounding open agricultural land and is complimented by the half circle of hills which define Denbigh's landscape character. In terms of elevation and character, the buildings and trees have been sited in a manner influenced by John Claudius Loudon, the Scottish writer on landscape taste. 

Read more on the State Heritage Inventory. Click here
View more images from the State Heritage Inventory. Click here

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Fires, floods and fury

Wet and woolly in a Camden flood 1925

Nepean River

The Perkins family from Cawdor on their way to town in 1925 met the floodwaters of the Nepean River on the Great South Road  (Camden Images/E Perkins)
Floods have always been part of the landscape of the Camden area and this view in 1925 of the Great South Road (Cawdor Road) is no different. Here the Perkins family have travelled from their dairy farm at Cawdor to town. Everyone is dressed up in their finest, women with hats and gloves, while the men are in their Sunday best. The Nepean River is on the far horizon, while the flooded area in the foreground is the Matahil Creek valley on the southern entry to Camden on the old Great South Road. Flooding was a just part of daily life and people just got on with it. The spire of St John's Church is visible on top of the hill, with storm clouds still threatening to bring more rain.
View along Great South Road towards Elderslie from Argyle Street Camden at the Sydney entry to the town. The Camden Railway is on the left and the Cowpasture Bridge and Chinese market gardens are under water in the distance. (Camden Images/Perkins)

To see more of the Perkins photograph collection of Cawdor and surrounds click  here

Regeneration and New Life after the fires

New shoots of life on trees after fires along Picton Road, December 2013 (I Willis)
Areas that have been burnt by bushfires eventually regenerate and their is new life. Such has happened on the Picton Road area where the trees are now sprouting green shoots. There are dormant buds under bark of eucalypts called epicormic buds. These burst into new growth in the weeks following the fire and trees are covered with new leaves. Fire is a very cleansing process and a fire does not mean all is lost. After the disaster passes there is new life and new hope. New growth on the trees is symbolic of a fresh start and a new beginning.

Along Picton Road near Cordeaux Dam (I Willis, 22 Oct, 9.00am)

Day 12 Balmoral (Hall Road) Bushfire 28 October

The bushfire emergency has passed and most crews have been stood down. This fire has been downgraded to 'alert' status and is contained 3 km south of Bargo.
The Blue Mountains fire effected areas are now in the recovery stage and are appealing for visitors  not to abandon the area. Fire fighters are still working on the area where over 200 homes were destroyed by blazes last week. Crown Prince Frederik and Princes Mary lifted the spirits of residents as they visited the area yesterday according to reports.

Day 6 Balmoral (Hall Road) Bushfire 22 October (6.00pm)

The fire, according to the RFS website, has been consolidated within containment lines. The current status of the fire is controlled and has burnt over 15,300 hectares to date. Two houses have been lost.

The RFS website reports that 'Fire continues to burn in the Southern Highlands near the villages of Yerrinbool, Balmoral, Yanderra, Pheasants Nest, Wilton, Bargo, Buxton, Hill Top, Alpine / Aylmerton and Couridjah'. Illawarra residents are still advised to remain viligent. The Picton Road remains open. ( )
Meanwhile elsewhere in this fire emergency: in the Springwood fire 193 houses have been lost to date, 7 in the Mt Victoria fire and 3 in the Lithgow fire. ( )

Day 5 Balmoral Bushfire 21 October (6.00pm)

On Day 5 the bushfire continues to pose problems for fire authorities. This afternoon Wilton came under ember attack and the fire was status was upgraded to Emergency. 
According the RFS website at 6.00pm the fire has burnt over 14,100 hectares and is currently on a Watch and Act status and still out of control. Illawarra residents are advised to 'remain viligent and monitor the situation'. The Picton Road has re-opened.
The weather conditions at Camden airport are currently: winds ENE at 16 kph; 28% humidity; temperature 30.9 degrees. (Weatherzone)
Relief organisations have swung into action and include appeals launched by the Australian Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul Society, Salvation Army and Anglicare. Similar to wartime relief appeals during the First and Second World Wars and others during natural disasters.

Day 4 Balmoral Bushfire 20 October (6.00pm) 

The fire continues to pose challenges for fire authorities this afternoon. According to the RFS website there are 270 fire-fighters tending this fire, which continues to be uncontained. It has burnt over 12,700 hectares and has a Watch and Act status.
While not posing any direct threat to Illawarra residents they have been advised to 'remain viligent and monitor the situation'.
The fire has crossed the Picton Road which remains closed. The eastern edge of the fire is burning adjacent to Cataract and Cordeaux Dams.

Balmoral-Yanderra fire from Appin area (I Willis, 18 Oct, 6.00pm)

Balmoral-Yanderra Bushfire 18 October 2013 (6.00pm)

The photo of this fire from the Appin area shows the increased intensity of the fire since this morning. The RFS website states that the fire is uncontained and has burnt over 8,000 hectares. The fire has crossed the Picton Road and is burning along the Macarthur Road area near Wilton. Fire crews have put in containment lines and are untaking considerable back-burning.  The village of Wilton has a meeting at the community hall at 7.00pm.

Balmoral-Yanderra Bushfire 18 October 2013 (9.00am)

Balmoral-Yanderra fire from Appin area (I Willis, 18 Oct, 9.30am)
The view of this bushfire from Appin this morning gives some idea of the conditions facing bushfire fighters in the area. The fire was downgraded from Emergency to Watch and Act with the head of the fire now 1.5km east of the Picton Road within the Sydney Catchment Authority. The Picton Road has been closed to traffic since yesterday afternoon and the Rural Fire Service website states that it is likely to remain closed for up to 3 days.
The weather conditions have abated and at 11.00am this morning the wind is currently from the ENE at 9 knots, the humidity has risen to 32% and the temperature is 19 degrees. This is different from the conditions yesterday (17 October) Thursday with a low humidity at 1.30pm of 8% and a maximum temperature of 32.6 degrees. Peak wind gusts at Camden airport recorded at 78kph at 11.30am. (Weatherzone)

Response to the fires

The reporting around the bushfire on the radio and on other media is very similar to wartime (as I outlined below). The fire event is now moving into the relief stage after the emergency in some areas with the Salvation Army swinging into action at the emergency centres, adopting a role it excelled at during wartime. There are reports typical of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appearing in radio interviews amongst victims and fire-fighters. This is a normal experience after a traumatic event  and people feel frightened, sad, anxious and disconnected ( These type of reactions were typical of soldiers who have experienced the battle-front during wartime. (Lifeline 13 11 14)
The homefront experience of wartime has been replicated this morning with fundraising appeals being launched by the Salvation Army, one of Australia's oldest and most respected relief organisations.
The communications of the fire have included all sorts of modern media with ABC Radio Sydney 702 turning into a community notice board. There were a number of eye-witness accounts being broadcast live on Thursday afternoon. Reports indicated that the fire-front response in specific localities was confused and out of control. A fire storm situation that was changing quickly by the minute. Very similar to reports of the military front line in the heat of a battle where confusion reigns and there is a lack of control. 
The 4 stages of a disaster - preparation, warning, impact, aftermath - are typical of these bushfires and other destructive events.  

Balmoral-Yanderra Bushfires Give Eerie Driving Conditions 17 October 2013

Smoke causing eerie driving on Mt Ousley Road Wollongong from Balmoral-Yanderra Bushfire (K Willis, 17 Oct, 5.00pm)
Smoke causing eerie driving at Picton Road near Mt Ousley Road from Balmoral-Yanderra Bushfire (K Willis, 17 Oct, 5.00pm)
Eerie and surreal driving conditions were created by the emergency bushfires in the Balmoral-Yanderra area. Radio reports constantly give updates of dangerous conditions in the Blue Mountains at Springwood, while conditions deteriorate in the Hunter Valley. There have been losses of houses in the Blue Mountains,while conditions continue to be dangerous for residents of effected areas. 

Warragamba fires 2001

Reports make these fires the worst in the Sydney area since 2001 when Warragamba township was severely impacted. There were many houses lost in the village and elsewhere. The resilience of community spirit is sorely tested under these type of disaster conditions.

Weather conditions

The dry westerly winds, with strong gusts, of both these fire events create difficult weather conditions for fire fighters  on the Sydney rural-urban fringe. Very low humidity (between 8% to 15% today) and high temperature, when combined with the gusty winds, provide a lethal combination for local residents. The rural-urban interface is zone where fire events can have a severe impact on people's lives.  


Bushfires are a part of the Australian environment and cause dangerous conditions when they impact on urban areas. Aboriginal people managed the Australian environment with fire for thousands of years.

The battleground

The organisation, language and actions of fire-fighting have many similarities to the battlefront during wartime. There is the fire ground, the emergency, command structures, command centres, lethal consequences, civilian evacuation centres, dangerous conditions, the fire front and a host of other similarities. The battle on the firefront and wartime frontline are both unpredictable with authorities trying to maintain containment measures. Both are highly stressful for victims and fighters and put communities under incredible pressures. Both try the resilience of communities and the social networks across those village, towns and suburbs involved on the Sydney's rural-urban edge.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Jacarandas Removed in Central Camden

Protesters from the Camden Community Alliance express their objection to the removal of jacarandas in Argyle Street Camden on 12 August 2015. Members of the Alliance have ramped up their protests in recent weeks. The protesters are standing on the corner of Oxley and Argyle Streets. This is one of several street protests that the Alliance members have conducted in recent weeks.

Camden Council contractors removing the jacarandas at the intersection of Oxley and Argyle Streets in Camden. These works are part of the Town Centre Improvements that the council approved in 2014. The Camden Community Alliance has requested meetings with council and they have been declined. One of the principle objections mounted by the Alliance is the lack of engagement by council over these matters.

The Camden Community Alliance members protested this week over the removal of Jacaranda trees in Argyle Street to make way for traffic lights at the intersection with Oxley Street. 
Earlier the week Alliance members made their presence felt at the meeting of Camden Council. They were expressing their increasing frustration when council staff took questions on notice at the meeting. Mayor Symkowiak adjourned the meeting for 5 minutes, hoping the meeting could be continued, according to the Macarthur Chronicle report.
Later in the meeting local residents called out from the public gallery and the council meeting was adjourned on two more occasions.
A post of the Camden Community Alliance Facebook page maintained that it was 'impossible' for members 'to contain their voices any longer'. The post said that it was sad that it had all come to this and Alliance members looked quite radical over these matters.
The council meeting ended with cries of 'shame' from the gallery.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Kings Bush Nepean River

Kings Bush

King's Bush is the reserve adjacent the river's edge and  is named after Cecil J King, the rector of St John's Church between 1893 and 1927. According to John Wrigley, King kept his horse in the paddock next to the river and swam at the same spot in the river.  Reverand King was a keen sports fan and played for the Camden Cricket Club and was the teams wicket keeper for a number of years. In 1927 he was the patron of the Camden Golf Club  and president of the Union and St John's tennis club. King was ordained at St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney in 1887 by the Bishop Barry of the Sydney Archdiocese. (Camden Advertiser 2 June 1949)

Read more  @ John Wrigley, Place Names on the Camden Area, Camden, CHS, 2005.

Information Panels at Kings Bush Reserve

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Gilbulla, a Menangle Arts and Crafts mansion

Open Day 2014

Open Day 2014

Gilbulla, Menangle

Gilbulla is an Arts and Crafts style mansion built in 1899 by James W Macarthur Onslow after his marriage to Enid. The house was designed by John Sulman from Sydney architects Sulman and Power.

In 1919 the house was the venue for the marriage of James and Enid's daughter Helen to Captain RC Stanham with over 300 guests including the wife of the Governor-General Lady Helen Munro Ferguson.

In 1927 the Duchess of York, later the Queen Mother, visited Gilbulla on a visit to Australia with her husband for the opening of Parliament House in Canberra.

James's sister Sibella moved into Gilbulla in 1932. Sibella held a number garden parties for the Red Cross.

After Sibella's death in 1943 the Australian Red Cross rented the property for use as a rehabilitation hospital for returning soldiers who were suffering from nerve conditions.

The Anglican church purchased the property in 1949 to be used as a CENEF conference centre.

Gilbulla was purchased by Ellel Ministries in 2002 and are the current owners.

Gilbulla was opened to the public for the first time in 2012 for many years.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

A Seaside Holiday

North Beach Wollongong

Local folk from the Camden district have been going to Wollongong and the South Coast for beach holidays for generations. It is a time to relax, chill out, slow down, drop out, and generally escape the hum drum of  daily existence of home and work.

The seaside holiday has been more than that. The development of the beach holiday owes much to the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s and the shorter working week and increased wages of ordinary workers. Australian’s copied the English Victorians and their interest in health and well-being and particularly cold-water bathing. The scurge of diseases like tuberculosis (or consumption as it was known) were constant threats to health and well-being of people. The inter-war period (1919-1939) saw the added influence of modernism, consumerism, movies and tourism on the mobility and spending patterns of people. All these contributed to the attraction of the beach.

Camden aquatic sports and swimming

Camden folk were influenced by all these social and cultural trends. Swimming had become popular before the First World War as Peter Mylrea found in his history of swimming (Camden History, March 2006). The Camden Aquatic Sports were held in the Nepean River in 1909 and the foundation of the Camden Swimming Club in the 1920s. But for young people the beach provided the lure of the exotic when compared to swimming in the Nepean River.

The beach attracted the attention of Camden families particularly during the Inter-war period. Local marriages were consummated with a honeymoon to Manly Beach for the weekend. Manly was accessible by steam train and ferry, and was far enough away to seem like another world for a newly wed farm labourer and his sweet-heart. The railway also provided easy access to Wollongong beaches, particularly localities like Kiama. The motor car provided mobility and the South Coast provided an escape to stay in a boarding house or camp.


After the Second World War the boom in the motor car travel meant that Camden families could drive further for a beach holiday. One ever popular location was Kiama. Other beach localities started to draw the attention of Camden families, particularly Jervis Bay and St George’s Basin.

Geoff's seaside holiday at Stuart Park


Geoff McAleer reported that in his youth in the 1940s and 1950s on the annual Christmas holiday at the beach in Wollongong. The beach was Wollongong’s North Beach and the McAleers holidayed at Stuart Park Caravan Park.  The McAleers were joined on the Christmas beach holidays by the Holyoakes, Dunks, Williams and the Cliftons. It was a popular location with Camden families because, according to Geoff, ‘it was close to Camden, only a 40 minute drive and it was good body surfing spot.’ There were no surf boards then according to Geoff. That would come in the 1960s. On occasions Geoff and his Dad, Hubert, would have a boys weekend away at Stuart Park. Geoff took his sweetheart, later to be his wife, Olive there for Christmas holidays with the family in 1949. The popularity of Stuart Park owed much to the presence  a safe beach on the estuary of Fairy Creek, away from the surf, called Fairy Beach. The beach was sheltered and popular for swimming and boating from the 1920s. Unfortunately for patrons the  caravan park was closed in 1964 but under public pressure was re-opened in an adjacent location in 1966. It was eventually closed permanently in 1970. The park had a kiosk as well as a camping area and was popular with day-trippers for picnics.

Lighthouse, Wollongong Harbour

Cheryl's seaside holiday at Bulli Beach

Wollongong beach-side caravan parks have come under pressure to be closed and caravans evicted in recent decades. One spot where Camden families still have a beach caravan holiday is Bulli Beach camping reserve. Cheryl, who has a caravan at Bulli Beach, along with a number of other Camden families enjoy the escape it provides from ‘the rat race’. She says that a number families have had permanent vans at the park, which have been passed down between the generations. They all escape Camden on Christmas holidays and long weekends. It is a great spot for all sorts of recreation.

Where do you go to the beach?

Beach holidays have always been important for Camden district families. Do you have memories of holidays at Wollongong and South Coast beach holidays. Historian Ian Willis is collecting stories about beach holidays from Camden families who might have stayed at beaches in the Wollongong area, Kiama, Gerroa, Shoalhaven and the South Coast. Has your family had a beach holiday in the same spot for generations? When you go to the beach? What did you do? Where did you go? How did you fill in your time? What was your favourite spot?  

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Narellan Gayline Drive-in Movie Theatre

Signage from the Narellan Gayline Drive-in which operated between 1960s and 1980s (I Willis)
One of the notable attractions in the local area in the 1960s-1990s was the Narellan Gayline Drive-in Movie Theatre, which was located on Morshead Road, Narellan (now Narellan Vale).

A little bit of Camden Modernism that has disappeared.

Along with rock ‘n roll, transistor radios, the bikini, the mini-skirt, it defined the lifestyle of the baby boomers. It was as popular with teenagers as it was with young families. It was a defining moment for a 20th century culture that was based around the icons of the period: cars and movies.

The drive in at Narellan was owned and operated from 1967-1992  by EJ Frazer and operated as the Narellan Gayline Drive in Movie Theatre.