Sunday 28 December 2014

Souvenir Teacup

Camden souvenir teacup

Camden souvenir tea cup c.1930s-1940s (Camden Museum/I Willis)

This image shows a souvenir white glazed china tea cup dating from the 1930s-1940s. It is Shelley porcelain ware made in England for Whiteman’s General Store, Camden. The transfer of St John’s Church is dated 1910.

A souvenir, from French for memory, is an object that is treasured for the memories associated with it.

This type of tea cup was sold to tourists who visited Camden on day trips and those who wanted a momento of their visit to the area. 

 Whiteman’s General Store sold a range of these souvenirs. They illustrated natural beauty spots (Nepean River), civic buildings and momuments (war memorial) and indicators of local progress (commercial centres).

 Souvenir tea cups, plates, ash trays and other nic nacks were common for highlighting 'the best' of country towns and Sydney suburbs throughout the 20th century. They complement souvenir teaspoons and other momentos.

 See more of these type of souvenirs at the Camden Museum.
For more information

Thursday 18 December 2014

Festivals, Fetes and Fairs

Carols by Candlelight, Christmas Cheer

and the Roman custom of the Saturnalia

Each year in Camden a host of organisations put on their yearly Carols by Candlelight. They celebrate the traditional view of Christmas telling the Christian story of the birth of Jesus. Some are more secular in nature and celebrate the rituals and traditions of the Christmas festival.

The first Carols by Candlelight, which is an Australian tradition, started in Sydney in 1946. It was organised The Daily &​ Sunday Telegraph and Radio Station 2UW for the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children at Redfern. This was held in Hyde Park in Sydney.

Carols by Candlelight in the Camden area usually are attached to a local charity or a local church. 

One of the largest in the local area is the Carols in the Garden at the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mt Annan which can attract several thousand people. Those attending enjoy the ambience of the Lakeside venue and watch the show with the children and join in traditional and contemporary carols and Christmas songs. 

The Camden-Narellan Advertiser stated that around 7000 braved inclement weather on a recent Sunday night for the 2014 Carols in the Garden for the free community event. Garden spokesman stated that it was a great crowd and plans were in hand to plan for 2015. (Camden-Narellan Advertiser, 17 December 2014, p.8)

A smaller gathering which celebrates the Christian story of the birth of Jesus is yearly at St James Church at Menangle and is supported by the Camden Community Band.

Read more about the history of Carols by Candlelight and Christmas in Sydney

And for those who are curious there is a link between Christmas traditions and the ancient Roman celebration of the Saturnalia. What's that you say.

Historian Polydore Vergil (c.1470-1555) noted the connection between the English tradition of 'The Lord of Misrule' which was celebrated on Christmas Day and the Roman custom of the Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a lead-up to the winter solstice and recorded as 25 December in the Julian calendar. 

The Saturnalia celebrations involved revelries, hijinks, feasting and the cessation of formal business. The Romans looked forward to the coming of the light of the sum.

Read more about the Roman festival of Saturnalia and the Calendar of Philocalus at The Conversation website here

Camden 39th Annual Art Prize

Camden Art Prize Winner 2014 Dan Campbell with work Fire & Ice (I Wills) 

The Camden Art Committee launched the 39th Annual Camden Art Prize and Exhibition on Friday 2 May 2014 at Camden Civic Centre.

The exhibition was launched by Mr Angus Trumble, the director of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. Mr Trumble was appointed as the gallery director in December 2013 after leaving his position at the Yale Centre for British Art in Connecticut, United States. Mr Trumble was also previously the curator of European art at the Gallery of South Australia.

The winning art prize went to glass artist Dan Campbell for his work titled Fire & Ice.

The exhibition is open between 2 May and 9 May at the Camden Civic Centre in Camden.

Art Committee president Gaylene Feld said that the prize was possible due the generosity of donors. The aim of the prize is to support artist's work and is an acquisitive prize.

There were a total of 273 works on display in a number of categories including portraits, traditional, local, works on paper, watercolour and photography. The judges in 2014 were Sue Gasser, Colina Grant and Patricia Beale.
The crowd at AnnanRoma at the Australian Botanic Garden (I Willis)

AnnanRoma at Botanic Gardens

The yearly food and wine festival AnnanRoma  was held on Sunday 13 April 2014 at The Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan. The weather was kind and while the clouds rolled in it did not rain. The temperature was mild with a slight breeze from the south. There were a host of stalls tempting the hundreds of people with delights of all sorts. There was wine tasting, samples of eatery menus, and chocolates coated strawberries, ice-creams and drinks of all types. For others there was hot chocolate and espresso coffee. Visitors were entertained by a great line up of singers entrancing the gathered masses. There were also stalls for In Macarthur magazine, Destination Macarthur and the Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living. All up a great days entertainment was had for the whole family.

Light Up Camden

Thousands of local residents and families enjoy the Light Up Camden festival every year. There are hundreds of stalls along the main street, with fireworks later in the evening. Festivities in  2013 were held between 4.00 and 9.00pm and the arrival of Santa  is always a big hit with the little ones. A special part of the event is the lighting of the Christmas tree, which is located at the intersection of Argyle Street and John Street, and dominates the town centre during the festive season. 
The organising committee held it on a Saturday night in 2012 for the first time, previously held on a Thursday shopping night. The Light Up Camden festival in its current incarnation was started in 2006 by the Camden Chamber of Commerce, Camden Council and a number of local businesses. Before this the festival, which started in 1994, was organised  by the Camden Main Street 355 Committee of Camden Council with the support of the Camden Chamber of Commerce.

Weather always plays a role in a success and generally the organisers have been blessed with good weather, in 2011 rain forced cancellation. Crowds have grown over the years and in 2004 1500 people attended the festivities.

Cobbitty Village Markets

The Cobbitty Markets are always a popular attraction in the local area. They started in 1982 in the grounds of St Pauls Anglican Church at the initiation of Cobbitty Public School teacher Martin Frohlich. In 1987 the markets moved across the road into the grounds of the school, where it has been ever since. The markets support a host of local charities over the year with over $700,000. (Camden Narellan Advertiser 2 May 2012)

Cobbitty Market Lions Club BBQ 2013 (I Willis)

Camden Food, Wine & Music Festival

Sunday 22 September 2013

On a bright sunny Sunday in September, temperature 25 degrees, clear blue sky and a light south-westerly breeze hundreds of families enjoyed a relaxing day out on the Camden Town Farm. Music was provided by legendary Sydney jazz band Galapagos Duck, who have been in around various line-ups since the 1970s. There were a host of food stalls, wine tasting, children's entertainment with face painting, jumping castle and kids zoo. Some brought a picnic, while others enjoyed the providors and others watched the cooking demonstration.

Festival go-ers enjoying jazz band (I Willis)

Camden Festivals

The Camden district community have enjoyed festivals of one sort or another since the colonial days. From the New Years Day Carnival of the Federation period to the yearly parade of farming at the Camden Show and the Festival of the Golden Fleece in the 1960s. These have been a time for the community to come together and enjoy the company of family and friends.

Village Sports Day Carnivals

A major event on the social calendar of a number of picturesque villages in the Camden district were the annual New Year’s Day Sports Carnivals. They were part of the English traditions brought to the area by colonial immigrants, and in 1915 they were held in the villages of Cobbitty and The Oaks. Sports carnivals  were  wonderful community events that included all classes of villagers regardless of their station in life and during the First World War they held special appeal for patriotic fundraising.
These social and cultural traditions were not isolated to the Camden district and have been held in many other parts of Australia. They are still carried on today in some localities, for example, Glenlyon in Victoria (started in 1857) and Perlubic Beach in South Australia (started in 1914).

English village sports days

The origins of these festivals, according to Peter Hampson Ditchfield’s Old English Sports (2007), lies in ancient Saxon customs, particularly in Devonshire and Sussex, associated with ‘wassailing’ (carousing and health-drinking) to ensure the thriving of orchard trees (mainly apples) and exchanging presents. On New Years Day village youths undertook indoor and outdoor sport to keep out the cold by ‘wholesome exercise and recreative games’. Sports  included bat-and-ball, wrestling, skittles, blind-man’s-bluff, hunt the slipper, sword dancing and mumming (play acting).

Cobbitty New Year sports day 1915

The New Year Sports Day in the village of Cobbitty was a hallowed community event which started in 1866 The day included a variety of athletic and novelty events and finished with a gala concert in the evening. . It was one of the premier events on the social  calendar, and local resident Donald Howard, maintains in his Cobbitty’s Finest Hour (2010), that spectators and participants came in their ‘droves from miles around’.
The Camden News (17 Dec 1915) reported that there was a ten event programme  starting with the major event of the day the ‘Narellan and Cobbitty Handicap Footrace’ over 125 yards for male competitors. The running track, according to Donald Howard, was on the village green between the parish hall and St Paul’s Church. Entries had to be in by Boxing Day with an entry fee of 1/- and an acceptance fee of 1/6. There was fierce competition from the young men of the village for the handsome first prize  of £5, which  was twice the weekly wage for a rural labourer. Quite an amount for any villager, and first place attracted quite a bit of status and prestige for the winner. Even the second prize was a respectable 25/- and third prize 5/-.
Dress regulations for competitors in the ‘Handicap’ were strictly enforced with ‘trousers to the knee, or amateur trunks and singlets’ that had to be approved by two male members of the local gentry, Mr FWA Downes of Brownlow Hill and Mr TC Barker of Maryland. Race organizers conveniently  started the programme of events after lunch for competitors, which allowed village revellers to recover from the New Year’s celebrations. The ‘Handicap’ was put in the hands of the starters at 2.00pm.
Viillage youth were not left out of the story and were able to get a feel for the main event by entering their own footraces, one  for youths (14-18 years) and another for boys (under 14). Here  they rehearsed  the tactics that they might employ in main event when they were old enough.  
Other events on the programme catered for those locals not able to qualify for the footraces, and included high jump, ‘stepping’, and ‘throwing at wickets’, while the village women were allowed to take part in ‘nail driving’.
Village elders held positions of importance as starters, judges and referees and  supported their social status by donating appropriate cash prize for races. The Camden Brass Band was located in the ‘grounds’ and provided rousing patriotic tunes throughout the day. These tunes were enjoyed by the village ladies who entertained themselves during the day with tea in the parish hall.
Village women sold  their cooking, sewing, knitting and other ‘fancies’ at the sports day bazaar. The bazaar raised significant amounts of money for village causes, particularly the St Paul’s Church missions. The bazaar auxiliary was made up of village women  who were good organizers, but never sort the limelight that was bestowed on the male race organizers.  During the First World War the village women’s fundraising efforts, which were considerable, were directed to patriotic purposes, including the local branches of the Red Cross.
The  sports day festivities were closed in the evening with the Grand Concert held in the parish hall. The concert started at 8.00pm and the front seats were sold for 2/- while those less financially able bought seats at the back of the hall for 1/-. Local personalities and school children performed a variety musical items for the entertainment of the assembly, and occasionally a ‘big name celebrity’ was hired from the city. Donald Howard sadly recalls that the last Cobbitty Sports Day was held in 1941, due to a combination of  petrol rationing, material costs  and a general pre-occupation by villagers with the war effort.

The Oaks village New Year sports day 1915

Another district sports day was organized on New Year’s Day 1915 in the village of The Oaks. While not as prestigious as the sports day at Cobbitty, it did attract an enthusiastic crowd. It was organized by the Literary Institute and held in ‘Mr WS William’s paddock’, just outside the village. There was a 15 event programme starting with the premier event, ‘The Oaks Handicap’ over 130 yards. Prizes were awarded to the first 4 placegetters, with the winner receiving £2.  The sports day was more inclusive of the wider village community than Cobbitty and  included a tug-o-war, guessing competitions and a number of horse events. The horse events were a village specialty and the village even had its own race track. Refreshments were sold on the grounds by local women and the day was topped off by a night-time social which had ‘first class music’ from a local band.

District sports day

District sports day was not confined to The Oaks and Cobbitty. The village of Mount Hunter had earlier held a sports carnival on Boxing Day 1914, while the Camden Cycling Club was to hold a major gala day on Anniversary Day (Australia Day) 26 January 1915 at the Camden Showground, with a range of ‘bicycle, athletic and military events’.  (Camden News 17 Dec 1915)

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Charming Country Town

Jacarandas in Elderslie 2014 (I Willis)

More Blooming Flowers

The Jacarandas in Camden and surrounds are out in bloom again. They are a picture of colour and when a breeze pops  up or it rains they carpet the ground. 

Local jacarandas add to the sense of place and character of the area. They add to the picturesque aesthetic of the Camden district. Mr Tim Pickles stated in the Camden press that they are suited to the local area.

Read more in the Macarthur Chronicle 25 November 2014 Camden Wollondilly Edition p.36

Blooming Jacarandas 2013

Blooming Jacaranda street trees in the Camden area (I Willis)
 As you walk around Camden streets you will come across the current flush of purples and  mauves. The local jacarandas are in full bloom and they have spread a colourful carpet across local streets. The streetscapes provide a wonderful vista  of fantasy and charm. They take you on a journey of the imagination into a another world.

The jacarandas in bloom are regularly the front page story in local newpapers. (Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition), 5 November 2013)

Jacarandas have been a feature of the urban landscape for quite a while in the local area.

The jacarandas were planted in Camden’s main street in 1927. (Macarthur Chronicle 24 June 2006)

In 2006 Camden mayor Chris Patterson asked the question should the jacarandas in the main street be replaced and he got a very loud response from the community. Save our trees!

The Camden Chamber of Commerce first proposed the removal and replacement with Manchurian pear trees in early 2006.

The Macarthur Chronicle reports that the unseasonably hot weather recently has resulted in the trees blooming early in the local area. (Macarthur Chonicle (Camden Edition) 12 November 2013) Jacarandas also bloomed early in drought years of the early 2000s giving a wonderful burst of colour in suburbs of Elderslie, Camden, and parts of Campbelltown and Picton.

In October 2013 the hottest day was Monday the 21st with a maximum temperature of  36.4°C while the monthly average for October is 27.6°C. October was also unseasonally dry, which according to horticulturalist Tim Pickles, has resulted in better flowers and more of them. The jacaranda originally came from Brazil  and really  like the warm conditions. (Macarthur Chonicle (Camden Edition) 12 November 2013)

Charm and Character of the Old

Argyle Street Camden c1938 (Camden Images)

What is it that gives Camden its charm and character? The answer is found in what still remains of the 1940s and 1950s country town of Camden, that is, its  rural and cultural landscape.

The country town

A walk around the central area of Camden reveals to the casual observer that the town is still strikingly similar to what it was like in the 1940s, especially the streetscape. Along streets like Menangle Rd, Broughton St, Murray St, Barsden St, Park St, Hill St, Mitchell St, Elizabeth St, View St, Alpha Rd, John St and even Argyle St. For example, the view along John Street from Camden Public School to St Johns Church is remarkably similar to that  of 60 years ago. Even the view down Argyle Street, especially building heights and street frontages, is similar to the times when the Hume Highway came through the centre of the town.

Picturesque panorama 

The panorama of the township across the floodplain  from a number of locations, eg, Macquarie Grove, Elderslie, or Cawdor,  is largely unchanged from the Second World War. There is the picturesque church on the hill, framed by the town and the farmland in the foreground.  Much as it was when RAAF fighter pilots at the airfield were worried that they would hit the church steeple as they took off on their missions.  As visiting RAAF airmen came into Camden on leave along Macquarie Grove Road the profile that the town made against the skyline would be very familiar to them today.

Federation houses

When the visitor enters the town from the north they still pass the old milk factory where the local dairy farmers unloaded their milk cans from their horse drawn carts. Coming into the township from the south along Cawdor Road the rural landscape gives way to the village showground as it has done since the 1880s. Or along Broughton Street, the visitor  can still image entering the town in 1940s passing the rows of neat weatherboard and brick cottages with their well maintained gardens.  The visitor walking along Menangle Road  passes the Federation houses adjacent to  Macarthur Park,  St Johns church and Dr Crookston's house. The same setting as the 1940s when young female voluntary aids walked up to Camden Hospital to do their wartime duty. 

Attractive streetscapes

The old part of central Camden has a number  of attractive streetscapes which illustrate the town's Victorian and Edwardian past . From the days when the local policeman would tie up his horse outside the police barracks and everyone in town knew that 'Pansy' had arrived at the railway station. The stationmaster would wander over from his house in Elizabeth Street, which still exists, to attend to his official business.

Argyle Street, Camden, 2012

Rustic charm and aesthetics

The farmland that surrounds the township is part of the rustic charm and aesthetic value that attracts many tourists to the town. The landscape of the Nepean River floodplain has shaped the image of the town from the 1840s and still determines how people view the town when they visit it today.

Camden today

The Camden of today still shows the signs of the social and community activities of the country town of the past. For example during the Second World War the ladies of the Camden Red Cross would go to the weekly sewing workshops in the town hall, now the library, while their husbands spent the day at the saleyards. And the location of the churches, shops, garages, showground, community halls, hotels, government buildings and parkland have remained unchanged in years.

Camden retains charm 

Despite recent developments in central Camden  many of the elements of Camden's rural  past still exist.  They give the town its rustic charm and pleasant ambience, and attract the Sunday visitor.  It would be disappointing to see any short sighted decisions made today that might damage this character.

Read more @   and  
@  and
@ Townies, exurbanites and aesthetics, issues of identity on Sydney's rural-urban fringe (AQ, 2012)

Charming Photographs of Camden

First published in The District Reporter 7 October 2005

Sunday 9 November 2014

Camden Landscapes

Camden Council Aldermen 1950 (Camden Images)

Political landscape

Camden Local Government

Local government in the Camden area in its current form was originally established in 1883 and, until the First World War, was dominated by Camden townsmen. 

Landed Gentry

After the war the success of the local dairy industry shifted political power on council to the interests of the landed gentry. 

Mining magnates

The success of the Burragorang Valley coalfields after the Second World War shifted the power base, again, to miners and local business interests. 

Urban Growth Area

From the late 1960s  the rural nature of the area has been increasingly compromised by successive state governments which have seen the LGA as a growth area for Sydney urbanisation. This was detailed in the Sydney Region Outline Plan in 1967, and from it came the Three Cities Plan in 1973.

Local Administration

Throughout this period council administration has been located in the Camden township, although some administrative functions have shifted to Narellan in recent years, better reflecting the commercial  and demographic realities of the LGA.  

A Little Bit of the British Empire

Historically the LGA has been an outpost of the British Empire with Anglo-Australian Christian traditions (a ‘little England’) where localism and parochialism, amongst a host of  factors (conservatism, interpersonal and familial networks, social hierarchies, gender expectations, rugged individualism, intimacy and rural ideology), typified the social and cultural make-up of the area.  
Read more about the history of Camden local government click here  and here
Read about the history of Camden at the Dictionary of Sydney

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Camden's Edwardian Cottages

64 John Street, Camden. Built c.1920. (J Riley)

Camden's Edwardian Cottages

Camden has quite a number of Edwardian cottages in the town area, on surrounding  farms and in local district villages.  They are typical of the early twentieth century landscape in the local district. The housing style was evidence of the new found confidence of the birth of a new nation that borrowed overseas trends and adopted them to suit local conditions. These style of houses were a statement of the individualism and the national character.

The name Edwardian is loosely attached to cottages and buildings erected during the reign of Edward VII from 1901 to 1910. This period covers the time after the Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 when the six self-governing colonies combined under a new constitution. They kept their own legislatures and combined to form a new nation.

Examples of Edwardian style cottages, including in and around Camden, were an Australian version of English Edwardian houses. Houses were plainer in detail, some with lead lighting in the front windows. Australian architecture was a response to the landscape and climate and the building style tells us about the time and the people who built them, how they lived and other aspects of Camden’s cultural heritage.

Edwardian housing style detail

The Edwardian style of housing also includes a broad range of styles including Queen Anne, Federation, Arts and Crafts and Early Bungalow. These styles often tend to be asymmetrical with a projecting from gable, can be highly decorated with detailed work to gables, windows and verandahs. Edwardian style cottages often fit between 1900 and 1920, although the style extends beyond this period influencing the Interwar style housing.

A number of Camden Edwardian style timber cottages have a projecting room at the front of the cottage with a decorated gable, adjacent to a front verandah, with a hipped roof line. This housing style is often characterised by a chimney that was a flue for a kitchen fuel stove and chip copper in an adjacent laundry. In some houses plaster cornices were common, sometimes there were ceiling roses, skirting and architraves. A number of houses have been restored while unfortunately many others have been demolished.

Some Camden Edwardian homes had walls of red brickwork, sometimes with painted render in part. While there are many examples in the local area of timber houses with square-edged or bull-nosed weatherboards.  Sunshades over windows supported by timber brackets are also common across the local area.

Doors in Edwardian style houses typically have three or four panels, with entry doors sometimes having an ornamentation. Common windows were double hung while later cottages may have had casement windows especially in the 1920s. Some cottages have return L-shaped verandahs, sometimes roofed with corrugated bull-nosed iron. Verandah post brackets had a variety of designs, with lattice work not uncommon feature. Verandahs featured timber fretwork rather than Victorian style cast ion lacework for ornamentation. Front fences may have had pickets, or just a wire fence in country areas.

Typical Edwardian colour schemes range from apricot walls, gables and barge boards, with white lattice panelling, red roofing and green coloured windows, steps, stumps, ant caps.

Gardens were often more complex than Victorian examples. Amongst Edwardian gardens growing lawns became popular. Sometimes had a small tree in the front yard which could frame the house and might separate it from adjacent houses. Common trees included magnolia, elm, tulip tree or camellias, while shrubs and vines might have been agapanthus, agave, St John’s Wort, plumbago, standard roses, begonias, day lily, jasmine and sometimes maidenhair ferns.

John Street, Camden

In the March 2014 edition of Camden History Joy Riley recalls the Edwardian cottages in John Street. Joy Riley vividly remembers growing up as a child and calling one of these cottages her home. ‘I lived at 66 John Street for the first 40 years of my life before moving to Elderslie with my husband Bruce Riley. The two rooms of 66 John Street were built by the first John Peat, Camden builder, to come to Camden. In the 1960s I had some carpet put down in my bedroom, the floor boards were so hard, as they only used tacks in those days to hold carpet, the carpet just kept curling up.’ She says, ‘The back of the house was built by my grandfather, William Dunk. They lived next door at 64 John Street. He also built the Methodist Church at Orangeville or Werombi.

Yamba Cottage, Kirkham

Another Edwardian style house is Yamba cottage at Kirkham. It was built around 1920, fronts Camden Valley Way and has been a contested as a site of significant local heritage. The building, a Federation style weatherboard cottage, became a touchstone and cause celebre around the preservation and conservation of local domestic architecture. This is a simple adaption of the earlier Victorian era houses for Fred Longley and his family who ran a small orchard on the site. The Yamba story is representative of smallholder farming in the Camden LGA, which has remained largely silent over the last century.  Yamba speaks for the many small farmers across the LGA who have not had a voice and were an important part of farming history in the local area.

The Toowoomba House

Edwardian country cottages are not unique to the Camden area and can be found in many country towns across New South Wales and inter-state. Toowoomba has a host of these type of homes and published the local council publishes extensive guides explaining the style of housing and what is required for their sympathetic restoration in the online publication called The Toowoomba House (2000). More elaborate Edwardian houses with extensive ornamentation can be found in Sydney suburbs like Strathfield, Burwood and Ashfield.

Edwardian Revival

For those interested in reading more there a number of good books on Australian Edwardian houses at your local library and there are a number of informative websites. Edwardian style houses have had a revival in recent decades and contemporary house can have some of their features. For example some are evident in housing estates at Harrington Park, Mt Annan and Elderslie.

Further reading

Read more on Edward housing styles in Australia here
Read about Federation houses here
Read about Australian residential architectural styles here
Read about Yamba cottage and Kirkham here

Wednesday 17 September 2014


Camelot (formerly Kirkham) (Camden Images)
Kirkham is a picturesque, semi-rural locality on Sydney's rural-urban fringe between the historic township of Camden, with its inter-war and colonial heritage and the bustling commercial centre of Narellan.

Sydney rural-urban fringe

The arrival of the rural-urban fringe at Kirkham in recent decades has created a contested site of tension and constant change, resulting in an ever-evolving landscape. Successive waves of occupants have created their own stories, heroes and icons through a reinterpretation of history and heritage.

Rural aesthetic

The most recent newcomers have taken ownership of Kirkham's identity, assisted by developer-created exclusivity and the locality's rural aesthetic. The physical landscape of Kirkham is dominated by a bucolic scene provided by the valley of Narellan Creek.

Colonial heritage

John Oxley (1784–1828) was granted 1,000 acres by Lieutenant-Governor William Paterson, which he had to surrender in 1810. Governor Macquarie subsequently granted Oxley 600 acres, which was increased to 1,000 acres in 1815. The grant was named Kirkham after Oxley's birthplace, Kirkham Abbey in Yorkshire, and had frontages on the Great Southern Road and the Nepean River.There are two heritage icons from the colonial period: Kirkham Stables and Kirkham homestead (Camelot).

Main road

The main road passing through Kirkham is the Camden Valley Way which was known as the Great South Road until 1928 when it was renamed the Hume Highway.

Pansy, Camden-Campbelltown train (Camden Images)

Pansy, the Camden tram

 The route of the railway ran alongside the Great South Road through Kirkham between Camden and Narellan and was a prominent cultural feature on the landscape. Kirkham Railway Station, which was one of nine stations located on the railway.

Yamba Cottage, Kirkham c 1920 (Camden Images)

Yamba cottage

Historic Yamba cottage fronts Camden Valley Way (formerly the Hume Highway) and has been a contested as a site of significant local heritage. The building, a Federation style weatherboard cottage, became a touchstone and cause celebre around the preservation and conservation of local domestic architecture.


Saturday 13 September 2014

The outdoor movie cinema is not dead

Add caption

Cinema Under the Stars 2014

Movies under the Stars again in 2014. Locals families had a great evening when thousands descended on The Australian Botanic Gardens for the annual Cinema Under the Stars as part of the Camden Festival. The show was centred around a family friendly event and organisers were not disappointed. Hundreds of local families with youngsters, mum, dad and grandparents all trotted out with their chairs, rugs and picnics. The food stalls did a roaring trade in sausage sandwiches and Turkish delights. the little ones had passed out by the end of the first feature and most left, leaving the hardy ones to take in the second show. At the finale the crowd, what was left of it, packed up and made their way to the half-empty carpark  in the paddock and left the Botanic Garden.
Action at the food stalls

Action in the crowd waiting for the movie
Heading home after the movie

Cinema Under the Stars 2013

Cinema Under the Stars 2013 (I Willis)
On a recent Saturday night  hundreds of families attended the Cinema Under the Stars at The Australian Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan. It was part of the Camden Festival which runs throughout September 2013.

Cinema Under the Stars

Cinema Under the Stars started out at Macarthur Park in Camden 12 years ago as part of the Camden
Spring Festival but the huge crowds outlived their welcome and a new venue was needed. It was transferred to the botanic gardens where a crowd of several thousand could see the movie without destroying the vegetation or each other.

Movie go-ers were directed to park their cars by the volunteer bush fire fighters in a vacant grass paddock adjacent to the tarmac carpark. Movie go-ers unloaded their rugs, picnic rugs, eskies, fold up seating, picnic baskets and with the kids in tow walked across the parking area to the site of the movie action.

Early movie go-ers

The inflatible movie screen was located next to the lawn amphi-theatre next to Lake Sedgewick, with sound projecting from speakers located either side of the screen. The projector was strategically located on the high side of the lawn. The projectionist was showing slides of the Camden Festival while the sun setting and darkness decended on the crowd.

What was screening

Movie go-ers were all bundled in warm coats, beenies and  scarves. They brought their blankets, picnic rugs and fold-up chairs and watched the 2012 release Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, an animated adventure comedy, with voices done by the likes of Ben Stiller. In the movie Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman were fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple. Their journey takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent - Madagascar style.

This was followed after a short inteval by the 2012 comedy release of Parental Guidance with stars Bette Midler and Billy Crystal. In the movie Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grand-kids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behavior collides with Artie and Diane's old-school methods.

Food queue

One of the most important things with all outdoor movie experiences is the food. Going back to the days of the drive-in of the 1960s and 1970s the queue for the hot-dogs, chicko-rolls, and chock-top was one of the most memorable experiences. It has changed little in 50 years. Today patrons line up at the BBQ run by the local Lions Club for a steak or sausage sandwich. Or you line up for a take-away coffee or hot chocolate.

Movie go-ers lining up at the BBQ 

Going home at night's end

When the movies have finished it is time to pack up all the gear up and the kids, and cart it all back to the car. Making sure not to leave behind anything in the dark. You have to take all your rubbish with you and not a mark of your presence on the botanic gardens lawn. The movie go-ers trapes back across the paddock into the dark. Back to the car with all the gear.

Then there is drive out of the paddock car park, weaving your way between the witches hats, like threading cotton through the eye of a small needle. Follow the leader out of the car park minding not to run over some else's youngster in the dark. Making sure not to drive down a rabbit or wombat hole. Then follow the conga-line of cars out of the  gardens grounds before they shut the gates and lock you in.

Read more on the outdoor movie experience

Sunday 31 August 2014

Camden District Red Cross

Ministering Angels

The Camden District Red Cross is the story of conservative country women doing their patriotic duty in an outpost of the British Empire. From 1914 Camden district women joined local Red Cross branches and their affiliates in the towns and villages around the colonial estate of the Macarthur family at Camden Park. They sewed, knitted and cooked for God, King and Country throughout the First and Second World Wars, and during the years in-between. They ran stalls and raffles, and received considerable community support through cash donations from individuals and community organisations for Red Cross activities.

Camden’s Edwardian women, Enid Macarthur Onslow, Sibella Macarthur Onslow and their ilk, provided leadership at a local, state and national level. These women were intelligent, wealthy and powerful with extensive transnational networks between Camden, Sydney, Melbourne and London. Their families, along with others from the district, provided their fathers, sons and brothers as imperial warriors for Australia’s overseas military excursions from the time of the Boer War, and local women worked to support ‘their boys’. The leadership group created ground-breaking opportunities that empowered country women and allowed them, within the strict confines of rural life, to exercise their agency by undertaking patriotic activities for the first time.

The Red Cross encouraged women to immerse themselves in the ministering angel mythology and serve ‘their boys’ by volunteering at branch sewing circles and fundraisers, and as voluntary aids at military, civilian and Red Cross hospitals.

Their stories were the essence of place, and the success of the district branches meant that over time homefront volunteering became synonymous with the Red Cross.

Read more here

And read more in Ministering Angels

See the Red Cross display at the Camden Museum here

See details of book here

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Pimelea Spicata - Endangered

Spiked Rice-flower (ANBG)

Spiked Rice-flower - Pimelea Spicata

One of the Camden area's little known endangered plant species in Pimelea Spicata or in plain English Spiked Rice-flower.

Spiked Rice-flower is a low growing shrub that flowers occasionally. The small flowers are white tinged with pink. The plant usually does not grow to more than 30 cms in height.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service information sheet states that the plant is difficult to detect unless it is in flower. It flowers sporadically between May and January depending on rain.

Locality and distribution

The plant occurs in fragmented areas in urban fringe areas, including patches of remnant Cumberland Woodland in the Narellan area..

More specifically it is distributed in Cumberland Woodland in Western Sydney from Mt Annan and Narellan Vale, to Freeman's Reach and Penrith, as well as Western Sydney Regional Park, Prospect Reservoir Catchment,  Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan and the St Marys ADI site. It extends to the Illawarra where it is found in areas from Mt Warrigal to Gerroa and Minnamurra, mainly on coastal headlands and hilltops.


Threats to the plant include habitat modification and loss, weed invasion, dumping of rubbish, arson, fire hazard reduction, trampling and compaction from bikes, walkers and vehicles and exposure to herbicides.

Studley Park house development threat

Proposed development around Studley Park house in recent times has given this little flower a new level of prominence in the minds of the local community. 

Learn more about the pimelea spicata (spiked rice flower)

Updated 28 December 2020; Originally posted 7 July 2014.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Camden Museum

Brunero Spinning Wheel c.1916 (Camden Museum)

Brunero Spinning Wheel

The Camden Red Cross workers used the Brunero spinning wheel to make wool yarn for knitting soldier’s socks in the First World War. While the Industrial Revolution replaced hand-spinning by the 1914 Camden women retained this traditional craft skill and put it to patriotic purposes.

The hand-spinners at the Camden Red Cross supplied hand-knitters with yarn to make woollen socks, which were then sent off to Red Cross headquarters in Sydney. Soldier’s woollen socks lasted about 2-3 weeks in the trenches of the Western Front and stopped the soldiers from getting trench foot. The Red Cross supplied patterns for knitters, and the Camden News occasionally published the patterns as well.

The spinning wheel has its origins in the Middle East in the 12th or 13th centuries and replaced hand spinning with a spindle. In European cultures it was replaced by mechanised spinning in the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Spinning is the subject of fables, fairy tales and stories going back to the Middle Ages. They also appear in music, legends and myths with symbolic political meanings.

The spinning wheel in its various forms has a domestic utilitarian status. Spinning is a tedious craft that takes time to master. 

The Camden spinning wheel was made by Domenico Brunero, a Camden inventor and manufacturer, sometime around 1916-1917. Brunero’s spinning wheels were of a unique design because of his invention with the skein-maker, wool-winder and spool-stands conveniently placed so that the wool was quickly ready for knitting. There are very few of Mr. Brunero’s cleverly designed spinning wheels still in operation.

The State Library of New South Wales has the records of Irene Read and her collection of knitting patterns for socks that were knitted for Australian soldiers. She said that the best socks were seamless and comfortable. Click here to view Irene Read's records @ SLNSW

Thanks to Julie Wrigley, Exhibition Curator, The Camden district Red Cross in war and peace.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Camden Military History

First World War Memorial at Macarthur Park Camden (Camden Remembers)

Camden district Military History

There are many aspects to military history of the Camden district that start in the colonial period and are part of current events. They can be categorised under a number of heading and they include:
(1) conflicts
(2) wartime homefront.
(3) military establishments
(4) memorials
(5) organisations
(6) cemeteries
(7) local identities


There have been local residents who have participated in a host of military conflicts since the 18th century. For details of some of these see Camden Remembers

The Homefront

There was lots of activity on the Camden homefront especially during the conflicts of the first half of the 20th century.

The most important homefront organisations in the history of the Camden district was the Red Cross. There were branches across the district as well as a number of auxiliary organisations including Voluntary Aid Detachments, and the Junior Red Cross. 

Military establishments

There were a host of military establishments across the district were part of the larger Australian military effort. 


Read more @ Camden district memorials


Camden War Cemetery (I Willis)
The Camden War Cemetery is located on the outskirts of Camden township adjacent to the Camden General Cemetery.

Read more on Camden War Cemetery

Further reading and helpful resources @

Camden Remembers
Camden RSL
Camden History
The Australian War Memorial
National Archives of Australia
Gallipoli and The Anzacs
Spirits of Gallipoli
Australians on the Western Front 1914-1918