The private English-style estate village of James and William Macarthur
The establishment of Camden, New South Wales, the town in 1840, was a private venture of James and William Macarthur, sons of colonial patriarch John Macarthur, at the Nepean River crossing on the northern edge of the family’s pastoral property of Camden Park. The town’s site was enclosed on three sides by a sweeping bend in the Nepean River and has regularly flooded the surrounding farmland and lower parts of the town.
The site of Camden was within the 5000 acres granted to John Macarthur by the 2nd Earl Camden [3.2], the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, in 1805, while Macarthur was in England on charges for duelling. Macarthur was a fractious quarrelsome self-promoter who arrived in NSW with his wife Elizabeth and family in 1790 as paymaster of the New South Wales Corps. The Corps (sometimes called The Rum Corps) was formed in England in 1789 as a permanent regiment of the British Army to relieve the New South Wales Marine Corps, which had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 to fortify the colony of NSW.
The town’s site, as part of the Macarthur grants, was located on some of the finest farming country in the colony in the government Cowpastures reserve on the colonial frontier. The grants were part of the dispossession of traditional lands of the Dharawal people by the British settler colonial project and inevitably led to conflict and violence. Macarthur claimed that the town’s establishment threatened the security of his landholdings at Camden Park and opposed it during his lifetime. On his death in 1834, his sons had a different worldview and moved to establish an English-style estate village dominated by a church.
A fine Gothic-style church
The ridge-top location of St John’s Church (1840) on the southern end of the town meant that it towered over the town centre and had a clear line of sight to the Macarthur family’s Georgian mansion at Camden Park 2.6 miles to the southwest. The fine English Gothic-style church was funded mainly by the Macarthur family and has been the basis of the town’s iconic imagery. There were a number of large gentry estates built on convict labour in the surrounding farmland, the largest being the Macarthur family’s Camden Park of over 28,000 acres.
Many immigrant families came to the area under Governor Bourke’s 1835 plan and settled on the gentry estates as tenant farmers, some establishing businesses in Camden. The first land sales in the village occurred in 1841, which stifled the growth of the existing European settlements in the area. The population of Camden grew from 242 in 1846 to 458 in 1856, although the gentry’s estates still dominated the village. Camden Park, for example, had a population of 900 in 1850.
The English-style gentry practised philanthropy in Camden to maintain its moral tone. Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow, John Macarthur’s granddaughter, encouraged the maintenance of the proprieties of life, moral order and good works, as well as memorialising her family by donating a clock and bells to St John’s Church in 1897. She also marked the memory of her late husband, Captain Onslow, by providing a public park in 1882 named after her husband (Onslow Park), which is now the Camden showground.
Camden became the district’s transport hub at the centre of the road network, primarily set by the pattern of land grants from the 1820s. The earliest villages in the district predated Camden and then looked to Camden for cultural and economic leadership as the district’s major centre. The arrival of the Camden tramway in 1882 meant that silver ore west of the district (1871) was shipped through the Camden railhead to the Main Southern Railway from Sydney.
Combined with rail access to markets, the town’s prosperity was assured by a series of technical and institutional innovations that transformed the dairy industry in the 1890s. In the 1920s, the Macarthur family set up the Camden Vale Milk Company and built a milk processing plant at the eastern end of the main street adjacent to the rail line. Whole milk was railed to Sydney and bottled under its label until the mid-1920s. Milk was delivered daily to the factory by horse and cart until the 1940s from local dairy farms.
Camden’s progress saw the construction of a new bank (1878), the commencement of weekly stock sales (1883), the formation of the Camden Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society and the first Camden Show (1886), a new post and telegraph office (1898), the foundation of two weekly newspapers (Camden Times, 1879, Camden News, 1880), a new cottage hospital (1898), the formation of a fire brigade (1900), the opening of a telephone exchange (1910), the installation of reticulated gas (1912), electricity (1929), town water (1899) and the replacement of gas street lighting with electric lights (1932), and a sewerage scheme (1939). By 1933 the population of the town had grown to 2394.
First local council
The first attempt at local government in 1843 was unsuccessful. A meeting of local notables formed the municipality of Camden at a public meeting in 1883. Still, it was not until 1889 that the municipality was proclaimed, covering 7,000 acres and including Camden and the neighbouring village of Elderslie. Nine townsmen were elected aldermen at the first election that year, and the first meeting was held at the School of Arts. In 1993 the Camden Municipal Council eventually became the Council of Camden.
Camden’s 1840 street grid is still intact today, with streets named after members of the Macarthur family – John Street, Elizabeth, Edward Street – and NSW colonial notables – Oxley Street, Broughton Street, Mitchell Street. The main highway between Sydney and Melbourne (the Hume Highway) passed along the main street (Argyle Street), until it was re-routed in 1976. The town’s business centre still has several Victorian and Art Deco shopfronts.
Some charming Federation and Californian bungalows in the church ridge-top precinct were the homes of the Camden elite in the early 20th century. The precinct is the site of Macarthur Park (1905), which was dedicated to the townsfolk by Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow and contained the town’s World War One cenotaph (donated by the Macarthur family).
John Street heritage precinct
John Street runs north-south downhill to the floodplain from the commanding position of St John’s church. Lower John Street is the location of the Italianate house Macaria (c1842), St Paul’s Catholic church and the government buildings associated with the Camden police barracks (1878) and courthouse (1857), and Camden Public School (1851). This area also contains the oldest surviving Georgian cottage in the town area, Bransby’s Cottage (1842). Lower John Street has the Camden Temperance Hall (1867), which later served as Camden Fire Station (1916–1993), and the School of Arts (1866), which served as the Camden Town Hall, while the rear of the building was occupied for a time by Camden Municipal Council.
Community voluntary organisations have been part of Camden’s life from the town’s foundation. In the late 1800s, they were male-dominated, usually led by the landed gentry, and held informal political power through patronage. James Macarthur sponsored the Camden School of Arts (1865) and Agricultural, Horticultural & Industrial Society (1886), later called the Camden Show Society, while the non-conformists sponsored various lodges and the temperance movement. A small clique of well-off local women established several conservative women’s organisations after Federation. Their social position supported their husbands’ political activities, and the influence of the Macarthur family was felt in these organisations, for example, the Camden Red Cross and Country Women’s Association.
Many men and women from Camden and the district saw military service in the Boer War and later World War One and Two when residents set up local branches of national patriotic funds and civil defence organisations. On the outskirts of the town, there were active defence establishments during World War II, including an airbase, army infantry, and training camps.
Economic prosperity from coal mining in the district’s western part challenged old hierarchies in the postwar years, replacing the old colonially-based rural hegemony. New community organisations like Rotary and later the Chamber of Commerce fostered business networks in the town. The Camden Historical Society (1957) promoted the town’s past and later opened a local museum (1970).
The New South Wales state government decreed that the town would become part of a growth area in the form of ‘new cities’ under the Macarthur Growth Centre Plan (1973), modelled on the British Garden City concept. Increasing urbanisation threatened the town’s identity and the number of community members formed by the Camden Residents’ Action Group (1973).
In 2007 Camden was the administrative centre of the Camden Local Government Area, which had a population of over 51,000 (2006) and an area of 201 square kilometres. The Camden LGA became part of the state government’s Sydney South West Growth Centre, planned to house 500,000 new residents, and is one of Australia’s fastest-growing urban areas.
Wave of nostalgia
Increasing levels of Sydney’s urbanisation have continued, threatened the loss of rural landscapes around the town, and awakened a wave of nostalgia. The NSW state government created the Camden Town Conservation Area (2008) based on the mid-20th century country town that aimed at preserving the town’s integrity and material fabric.
I recently came across this political propaganda piece in the Camden Museum collection. It is a political flyer for the United Country Party from the 1932 New South Wales state election. The flyer was titled the ‘Starvation Debenture’.
It is reasonable to assume the flyer was circulating in the Camden area at the time for it to end up in the museum collection.
The certificate was issued against the wider background of the Great Depression, the White Australia Policy and the conflict between the rise of communism and fascism in Europe. These forces were played out in the 1932 state election and were just as relevant in Camden as anywhere else in the state.
New political ideas were coming to Australia from migrants from Europe. These ideas included fascism and socialism. These ideas were embraced by some as solutions to the growing racial and economic problems facing the world after World War One. To conservatives it was a direct threat to Australia’s links to the past of protection and governance by Britain and British class structures.
The Interwar period also saw the emergence of a number of organisations that influenced state politics:
the Old Guard – a secret fascist organisation formed as a counter-revolutionary group and opposed the Lang Government, originally established in 1917;
the New Guard – a fascist paramilitary organisation that split with the Old Guard was pro-monarchist, anti-bolshevik, and pro-imperialist;
Reports of the flyer in the Sydney and country press
The Sydney press published a picture of the United Country Party flyer and there was an immediate demand for the leaflet. In the end, the United Country Party distributed over 200,000 flyers across the state. (SMH,4 June 1932)
The country press carried reports of the circulation of the flyer. The Wellington Times reported that the UCP flyers circulated around the town for the ‘amusement of the townspeople’. (Wellington Times, 9 June 1932)
At a political rally in Albury United Country Party supporters handing out flyers brawled with Langites who ‘did not like the leaflets’. (Sun, 8 June 1932) and the Melbourne press carried more reports (Argus, 6 June 1932).
United Country Party organisers were elated with the response to the flyers:
All over the country there has been a rush to secure the “starvation debentures” as souvenirs, and in many places they are pasted on the walls of hotels. (Daily Telegraph, 9 June 1932)
1932 State Election
Polling for the state election was held on Saturday 11 June 1932 for the single chamber of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. The opposing camps were Jack Lang’s Labor Party and Bertram Stevens’s United Australia Party and United Country Party coalition.
The third Lang government had been dismissed by Governor Philip Game on 13 May 1932. The Governor requested the Opposition Leader, BSB Stevens, to form an interim government until the election.
The Stevens coalition won the election with an 11 per cent swing against the Lang government and ended up with a 42-seat majority in the Legislative Assembly.
The Labor vote was diluted because the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party ran 43 endorsed candidates against the state division candidates. The ALP had split in 1931 and none of the Federal ALP candidates was elected. Both parties re-united in 1936.
Camden and the 1932 election
Camden and the surrounding villages were in the state electoral district of Wollondilly which also took in the Southern Highlands and Picton districts.
The endorsed candidates in Wollondilly were: United Australia Party was represented by Mark F Morton, MLA, John J Cleary represented the ALP (NSW) and Patrick W Kenna ALP (Federal). Morton was re-elected with a 71% primary vote.
The Camden press reported the remarks of the acting premier BSB Stevens in a front-page editorial. It stated:
Above all, each and every one of them wishes to maintain Australia’s membership of the British Empire the greatest of all democracies — and to keep Australia free from the taint of communism and its tyrannous methods. Freedom-loving Australians, like Britons from whom they are descended, shall never be the slaves of such a demoralising, dishonest, and humiliating system. (Camden News, 2 June 1932)
The Camden branch of the United Australia Party organised a public meeting addressed by MF Morton, the endorsed UAP candidate. The meeting was chaired by Mr EA Davies, and Mr Morton
gave an interesting resume of the events leading to the dismissal of the Lang Government ; stressing the point that it had been the first Ministry of the Crown to incite disobedience to the law of the land. (Camden News, 2 June 1932)
Mrs W Larkin and Miss Grace Moore moved a motion of thanks.
Enthusiastic rallies and vitriol
The 1932 election campaign was typified by large gatherings on both sides of the political spectrum, with a number of public meetings in Camden.
The acting premier, Bertrum Stevens, travelled over 1000 miles across the state in the days before the election. There was a particularly large rally at Peak Hill where over 5000 people gathered to listen to the acting premier and gave him a ‘thunderous reception’.
This is a bibliography of sources for the history of the story of Camden and District and is for all those interested in this historic location. This list of sources makes no claims to be exhaustive and is only a guide.
This list includes sources for the Cowpastures district (1795-1850), the Camden district (1840-1973) and the Macarthur region (1949-2022).
Researchers will locate other resources in places like the Mitchell Library, National Archives of Australia, State Records of NSW and a host of other archives.
The bibliography makes no attempt to cover the vast array of manuscript sources that are located in a diversity of archives, both public and private.
Bickel, Lennard, Australia’s First Lady, The Story of Elizabeth Macarthur, Allen and Unwin, North Sydney, 1991.
Bicknell, John R, The Dirty Blooody Jizzy, Gordon: John Bicknell, 2003.
Binney, Keith R, Horesmen of the First Frontier (1788-1900) and The Serpents Legacy, Volcanic Publications, Neutral Bay, 2005.
Bodkin, Frances and Lorraine Robertson, Dharawal Seasons and Climatic Cycles, Campbelltown: Bodkin and Robertson, 2006.
Booth, B & T Nunan, Cawdor Uniting Church, Churchyard Headstones Transcriptions and Burial Register, Illawarra Family History Group, Wollongong, 1989.
Booth, Beverly & Ron Clerke, The Churchyard Cemetery of St John’s Camden, Illawarra Family History Group, Wollongong, 1988.
Bridges, Peter, Historic Court Houses of NSW, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1986.
Broadbent, James, Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta, A History and Guide, Historic Houses Trust, Sydney, 1984.
Brosnan, Graeme, Hard Work Never Killed Anyone, Ern Clinton, The Story of My Life,This is My Story, Strawberry Hills, NSW, 2004.
Brown, Pam & Marion Starr, Narellan Hidden Treasures, Wilson Crescent Richardson Road Area Resident’s Group Inc, Narellan, 2007.
Brunero, Donna, Celebrating 50 Years: The Campbelltown-Camden District Band 1946-1996, Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, Campbelltown, 1996.
Bullen, Paul & Jenny Onyx, Measuring Social Capital in Five Communities in New South Wales, Centre for Australian Community Organisations and Management, Lindfield, 1997.
Burge, John, A Glimpse of Cawdor, Sesqui-Centenary Committee of Cawdor Uniting Church, Camden, 2000.
Burnett, Brian A, (ed), Camden Pioneer Register, 1800-1900, Camden Area Family History Society, Camden, 1998.
Burnett, Brian and Christine Robinson, (eds), Camden Pioneer Register, 1800-1920, Camden Area Family History Society, Camden, 2001.
Burnett, Brian, Nixon, Richard and John Wrigley, They Worked At Camden Park, A Listing of The Employees, Leaseholders and Tenant Farmers Known To Have Worked On the Camden Park Estate, Camden Historical Society, Camden, 2005.
Burnett, Brian, Nixon, Richard and John Wrigley, Place Names of the Camden Area, Camden Historical Society and Camden Area Family History Society, Camden, 2005.
Bursill, Les, Jacobs, Mary, Lennis, et al, Dharawal, The story of the Dharawal Speaking People of Southern Sydney, Sydney: Kurranulla Aboriginal Corp, 2007.
Callaghan, Leo, They Sowed We Reap, Catholic Parish of Camden, Camden, 1983.
Camden Area Family History Society, Camden Catholic Cemetery, Cawdor Road, Camden, NSW, Camden Area Family History Society, Camden, 2004.
Camden Area Family History Society, Camden Municipal Council Municipal List Rates Book 1894-1907, Camden Area History Society, Camden, 2005.
Camden Area Family History Society, Camden General Cemetery, Cawdor Road, Camden, NSW, Camden Area Family History Society, Camden, 2005.
Camden Area Family History Society, St Thomas Anglican Cemetery, Richardson Road, Narellan, NSW, Camden: Camden Area Family History Society, 2010.
Camden Council & Campbelltown City Council, Macarthur Heritage Directory, Camden: Camden Council & Campbelltown City Council, 2008.
Camden High School, Camden High School for our 50th Anniversary, 1956-2006, Camden High School, Camden, 2006.
Camden Municipal Council, Municipality of Camden, Information and Statistics, Camden Municipal Council, Camden, 1977.
Camden Park Preservation Committee, Camden Park, Menangle, Camden Park Preservation Committee, Menangle, 1974.
Camden Park Estate Ltd, Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, Menangle,Camden Park Estate, Camden, ud.
Camden Park Estate Ltd, Camden Park Estate, 1765-1965, Camden Park Estate, Camden, 1965.
Camden Park Estate Ltd, Camden Park Estate: Australia’s Oldest Pastoral Property, Camden Park Estate, Camden, 1953.
Camden Park Estate Ltd, Camden Vale: Special Pasteurised Milk, Production and Distribution, Camden Park Estate, Camden, 1953.
Carroll, Brian, The Hume: Australian’s Highway of History, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1983.
Charlton, Lenore, (ed), Alan D. Baker, Artist, 1914-1987, G & M Baker, Orangeville, 1987.
Clancy, Eric G, A Giant For Jesus, The Story of Silas Gill, Methodist Lay Evangelist, Eric G Clancy, 1972.
Clerke, Ron & Beverley Booth, (eds), The Churchyard Cemetery of St John’s Camden, Illawarra Family History Group, Wollongong, 1989.
Cobbitty Public School ‘Child Anzacs Committee’, I Remain the Kid, As Ever, Cobbitty Public School, Cobbitty Public School ‘Child Anzac Committee’, Cobbitty, 2002.
Colman, Patricia Margaret, Just a Simple Soul, PM Colman, Deloraine, Tasmania, 1996.
Cowles, Christopher and David Walker, The Art of Apple Branding, Australian Apple Case Labels and the Industry Since 1788, Apple from Oz, Hobart, 2005.
Cox and Tanner Pty Ltd, Camden Park, Menangle, NSW, A Proposal for Restoration and Rationalisation, Cox & Tanner, North Sydney, 1981.
Country Press Association of New South Wales, Annual Report New South Wales Country Press Association, 1947 .
Davis, Sue, Chapters of Cawdor, An Account of People and Events that shaped 150 Years of Education at Cawdor Public School 1858-2008, Cawdor, Cawdor Public School, 2008.
De Falbe, Jane, My Dear Miss Macarthur, The Recollections of Emmeline Macarthur, 1828-1911, Kangaroo Press, 1988.
Den Hertog, Sonja, The History of Burragorang Valley From the Records, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1990.
Den Hertog, Sonja, Yerranderie, 1871-1995, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1999.
De Vries, Susanna, Strength of Spirit, Pioneering Women of Achievement From First Fleet To Federation, Millennium Books, Alexandria, New South Wales, 1995.
Ditrich, Julie, Realising the Promise: The Story of Harrington Park, Icon Visual Marketing, Camden, 2006.
Duffy, Michael, Man of Honour, John Macarthur, Pan MacMillan, Sydney, 2003.
Dunn, Ian and Robert Merchant, Pansy, The Camden Tram: An Illustrated History of the Campbelltown to Camden Branch Railway, New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, Sydney, 1982.
Ellis, MH, John Macarthur, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1955.
Evans, Gordon, 55 Years, A History of Camden Bowling Club, Camden Bowling Club, Camden, 1994.
The Evangelical Sisters of Mary in Australia, Realities –‘Down Under’, Testimonies of God’s Faithfulness, Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, Camden, 2006.
Fairfax, Marlane, Glenmore Uniting Church (Formerly Methodist) Graveyard, Transcript, Burial Records and Obituaries, Marlane Fairfax, Thirlmere, New South Wales, 1995.
Feiss, Mary-Ann, 50 Years of Legacy Torch Bearers in Camden, 1949-1999, Camden Branch of Torch Bearers for Legacy, Camden, 1999.
Festival of the Golden Fleece, Festival of the Golden Fleece, Camden Souvenir Programme 22-30 October, 1960, Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Wool Production in Australia, Festival of the Golden Fleece Committee, Camden, 1960.
Fletcher, Chrissy, Arthursleigh, A History of the Property 1819 to 1979, Chrissy Fletcher, Bowral, 2002.
The Friends of Wivenhoe, Wivenhoe Historic House, The Friends of Wivenhoe, Camden, 2008.
Garland, Jill and John Martin, Historic Churches of New South Wales, AH&AW Reed, Sydney, 1978.
Garren, JC & L White, Merinos, Myths and Macarthurs, Australian Graziers and Their Sheep, 1788-1900, Australian National University Press/Pergamon Press, Rushcutters Bay, NSW, 1985.
Gleeson, Damian John, Carlon’s Town, A History of the Carolan/Carlon Sept and related Irish Pioneer Families in New South Wales, Damian John Gleeson, Concord, 1998.
Hawkey, Vera, A History of St James, Church of England, Menangle, 1876-1976, V Hawkey, Menangle, New South Wales, 1976.
Hulme-Moir, Dorothy, The Silver Cord, ANZEA, Homebush West, 1993.
Jackson, Tony, Shepherd, Cathey, Green, Sharon & Brian Burnett, Camden Pioneer Register, 1800-1920, 3rd Edition, Camden: Camden Area Family History Society, 2008.
Jeans, DN, An Historical Geography of New South Wales to 1901, Reed, Sydney, 1972.
Jervis, James, The Story of Camden, A Modern Farming Community closely allied with the Earliest Australian History: published to Commemorate the Jubilee of the Municipality, Arthur A Gibson, Camden, 1940.
Johnson, Janice, The Cemeteries of the Camden Anglican Parish, Camden: Camden Anglican Parish, 2008.
Johnson, Janice, Private Cecil Herbert Clark, No 2883, Letters Home, Camden: Camden Historical Society, 2009.
Johnson, Janice, If Gravestones Could Talk, Stories from the Churchyard of St John’s Camden, Camden: Janice Johnson, 2010.
Johnson, Janice, John Wrigley, Brian Burnett & Richard Nixon, They Worked at Camden Park, A Listing of the Employees, Leaseholders and Tenant Farmers Known to have Worked on Camden Park Estate, 3rd Edition, Camden: Camden Historical Society, 2010.
King, Hazel, Elizabeth Macarthur and Her World, Sydney University Press, University of Sydney, 1980.
King, Hazel, Colonial Expatriates, Edward and John Macarthur Junior, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1989.
Kirkpatrick, Rod, Country Conscience, A History of the New South Wales Provincial Press, 1841-1995, Infinite Harvest Publishing, Canberra, 2000.
Koob, Daphne, Pioneers at Rest, The Uniting Church Cemetery Cawdor, Daphne Koob, Camden, 1998.
Knox, Bruce, A History of Local Government in the Wollondilly Shire, 1895 to 1988, Wollondilly Shire Council, Picton, 1988.
Lee, Claude N, A Place to Remember, Burragorang Valley, 1957, New South Wales, 2nd Edition, Claude N Lee, Mittagong, 1971.
Lee, John N, Rotary Club of Camden, Golden Jubilee Anniversary, 50 Years, 1947-1997,Camden Rotary Club, Camden, 1997.
Lhuede, Val, Yerranderie Is My Dreaming, Valued Books, Milsons Point, 2007.
Liston, Carol, Campbelltown, The Bicentennial History, Allen & Unwin, North Sydney, 1988.
Lofthouse, Andrea, Who’s Who of Australian Women, Methuen, North Ryde, New South Wales, 1982.
Lundy, Andrew, Elderslie High School, 25 Years of Achievement, 1976-2001, Elderslie High School, Camden, 2001.
Lyon, Doreen, (ed), Women’s Voices, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1997.
Lyon, Doreen & Liz Vincent, Created by a Community, A Social History of Camden District Hospital, Camden District Hospital, Camden, 1998.
Lyon, Doreen, From Estonia to Thirlmere, Stories from a Unique Community, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 2005.
Macarthur Onslow, Sibella, Some Early Records of The Macarthurs of Camden , Adelaide, 1973 (1914).
McGill, Jeff, The Towns, Villages and Suburbs of Macarthur, A Special Magazine to Mark the 200 Years of the Macarthur Region, Camden Advertiser (Insert April 2006), Camden, 2006.
Mantle, Nanette, Horse and Rider in Australian Legend, Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2004.
Martin, JB & George V Sidman, The Town of Camden Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Municipality of Camden, Facsimile Edition, Camden Uniting Church, Camden, 1983 (1939).
Mason, Ron and Chris O’Brien, Belgenny Farm, Camden Park Estate, Dept of Planning, Sydney, 1988.
Mathews, RH, Some Mythology and Folklore of the Gundungurra Tribe, Den Fenella Press, Wentworth Falls, 2003.
Menangle Public School, Centenary of the Menangle Public School, Centenary Committee, Menangle, 1971.
Meredith, John, The Last Kooradgie, Moyengully, Chief Man of the Gundungurra People, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1989.
Moloney, JJ, Early Menangle, Australasian Society of Patriots, Newcastle, 1929.
Moorhead, Arthur, (ed), The Australian Blue Book, Blue Star, Sydney, 1942.
Morris, Sherry and Harold Fife, The Kangaroo March, From Wagga Wagga to the Western Front, Sherry Morris, Wagga Wagga, 2006.
Mount Hunter Public School, Mount Hunter Public School, 125 Years of Education, 1859-1984, Committee, Mt Hunter, 1984.
Nepean Family History Society, St Paul’s Church of England, Cobbitty, New South Wales: Cemetery Inscriptions Record Series No 7, Nepean Family History Society, Emu Plains, 1982.
Nepean Family History Society, St Matthews Church of England, The Oaks, Glenmore Uniting Church, The Oaks Roman Catholic Cemetery, NSW, Record Series, No 15, Nepean Family History Society, St Marys, 1983.
New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, The Camden Tramway, An Illustrated History of the Campbelltown to Camden Branch Railway, New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, Sydney,1967.
Nichols, Alan, Jill Garland and John Martin, Historic Churches of NSW, Reed, Sydney, 1978.
Nixon, RE, Interesting Bits and Pieces of the History of Camden, Camden Historical Society, Camden, 1982.
Nixon, RE, (ed), Camden Show Society Centenary,1886-1986: One Hundred Years On Still a Country Show, The Society, Camden, 1986.
Nixon, RE, Carrington, The Centre of Total Care, 1890-1990, The Carrington Trust, Camden, 1990.
Nixon, RE & PC Hayward, (eds), The Anglican Church of St John the Evangelist Camden, New South Wales, Anglican Parish of Camden, Camden, 1999.
Norrie, Philip, Vineyards of Sydney, Cradle of the Australian Wine IndustryFrom First Settlement to Today, Horwitz Grahame, Sydney, 1990.
Oakes, John, Sydney’s Forgotten Rural Railways, Camden, Kurrajong, Rogan’s Hill, Australian Railway Historical Society, Redfern, 2000.
Onyx, Jenny & Paul Bullen, Measuring Social Capital in Five Communities in New South Wales, An Analysis, Centre for Australian Community Organisations and Management, University of Technology, Sydney, 1997.
Organ, Michael, A Documentary History of the Illawarra and South Coast Aborigines, 1770-1850, Aboriginal Education Unit, Wollongong University, Wollongong, 1990.
Pain, Allan, Records of the Parish of Narellan, 1827-1927, Sydney: np, 1927.
Partl, Sabine, Aboriginal Women’s Heritage: Nepean, South Sydney: Dept of Environment and Conservation NSW, 2007.
Pearce, Owen, Rabbit Hot, Rabbit Cold, Chronicle of a Vanishing Australian Community, Popinjay Publications, Woden, Australian Capital Territory, 1991.
Phelan, Nancy, Some Came Early, Some Came Late, Melbourne, np, 1970.
Power, Paul, (ed), A Century of Change, One Hundred Years of Local Government in Camden, Macarthur Independent Promotions, Camden, 1989.
Prior, Marjory Beatrice, Cow Pastures, An Uncomplicated Affair, Mike Prior, Gympie, 1999.
Proudfoot, Helen, Colonial Buildings, Macarthur Growth Centre, Campbelltown, Camden, Appin, Macarthur Development Board, Campbelltown, 1977.
Radi, Heather,(ed), 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Women’s Redress Press, Broadway, New South Wales, 1988.
Radi, Heather, Spearitt, Peter & Hinton, Elizabeth, (eds), Biographical Register of New South Wales Parliament, 1901-1970, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1979.
Reeson, Margaret, Certain Lives, Open Book, Adelaide, 1999.
Roberts, Jack L, A History of Methodism in the Cowpastures, 1843-1977, Jack L Roberts, Camden, 1976.
Robinson, Stephen and Christine, 1901 Census Camden NSW, Stephen and Christine Robinson, Camden, 2000.
Rosen, Sue, Losing Ground, An Environmental History of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment, Hale & Ironmonger, Sydney, 1995.
Russell, William, My Recollections, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1991 (1914).
Sayers, George, Views of Camden and Surrounding Area, Etchings and Drawings by George Sayers, George Sayers, Camden, 1996.
Sayers, George, Views of Camden and Surrounding Area, Etchings and Drawings by George Sayers, 2nd Edition, George Sayers, Camden, 2001.
Seibright, Les, Werriberri, King of the Burragorang, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1987.
Sharpe, Betty, The Messenger, A Book of Verse, Betty Sharpe, Camden, 1973.
Smith, Jim, Aborigines of the Burragorang Valley, 1830-1960, Jim Smith, Wentworth Falls, 1991.
Smith, Jim, The Last of the Cox’s River Men, Ben Esgate, 1914-2003, Den Fenella Press, Wentworth Falls, 2006.
Sommerlad, E Lloyd, Serving the Country Press, Country Press Association of New South Wales 1900-2000, The Country Press Association of New South Wale, Sydney, 2000.
Sproule, Colin, Timbermen of the Wollondilly 1821-1991, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1993.
Sproule, Colin (ed), Of Mines and Men, The Stories of the Miners of the Wollondilly Mines, The Oaks Historical Society, The Oaks, 1995.
St Aloysius Catholic Church, Church of St Aloysius, The Oaks, Centenary Celebrations, The Oaks Catholic Centenary Committee, The Oaks, 1965.
St Andrews Presbyterian Church, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Camden, 130th Anniversary, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Camden, 1979.
St James Church of England, A History of St James Church of England, Menangle, 1876-1976, St James Church of England, Menangle, New South Wales, 1976.
St John’s Church of England, The Church of St John, 135th Anniversary, St John’s Church of England, Camden, 1975.
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Along the Way: St Paul’s Catholic Church, Camden, 1859-1987, St Paul’s Catholic Church, Camden, 1987.
Strecker, Marlene, Wivenhoe, The Friends of Wivenhoe, Camden, 2004.
Stuckey, Frank, Our Daily Bread: The Story of Stuckey Bros Bakers and Pastrycooks of Camden, NSW, 1912-1960, Camden Historical Society, Camden, 1987.
Tench, Watkin, Sydney’s First Four Years: Being a Reprint of A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay and , A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson; with an Introduction and Annotations by LF Fitzhardinge, Library of Australian History/ Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney, 1979 (RAHS/A&R, 1961)
Tildesley, EM, A History of the Queen’s Club, Halstead Press, Sydney, 1970.
Thompson, Christopher, Camden Park, Menangle, New South Wales,Camden Park Preservation Committee & State Library of New South Wales, Camden, 1993.
Todd, Jan, Milk for the Metropolis, A Century of Co-operative Milk Supply in New South Wales, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1994.
Townsend, Helen, Serving the Country, The History of the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales, Doubleday, Sydney, 1988.
Turner, Greg and Denis Gregory, Camden Park, Birthplace of Australia’s Agriculture, NSW Agriculture, Orange, 1992.
Valentine, James, Then and Now: Historic Roads Around Sydney, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1937.
Vernon, Stella, The Fitzpatrick and Sedgwick Families of Campbelltown, Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, Campbelltown, 1992.
Vincent, Liz, Tales of Old Camden, Liz Vincent, Picton, 2001.
Waldersee, James, Catholic Society in New South Wales, 1788-1860, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1974.
Walker, George, Memories of Whiteman’s, Christine Davies, Camden, 2007.
Ward, John Manning, James Macarthur, Colonial Conservative, 1798-1867, Sydney University Press, University of Sydney, 1981.
Broadbent, James, ‘“Where purple flags and oxalis bloom” , The Significance of the Cow Pasture Garden’, in From Wilderness to Garden, Early Colonial Gardens, Their Future, 16th Annual National Conference, 1995, Australian Garden History Society, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 22-25.
Curtis, P, ‘The Camden Circuit’, Journal and Proceedings, Australasian Methodist Historical Society, May 1957, Vol. 72, Issue 72, pp. 969-973.
Eldershaw, Rosalind, ‘Gardening with History at Camden Park’, in From Wilderness to Garden, Early Colonial Gardens, Their Future, 16th Annual National Conference, 1995, Australian Garden History Society, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 33-35.
Hassall, R, ‘Bishop Reginald Heber’, Church of England Historical Society (Diocese of Sydney) Journal, May 1957, Vol. 2, Issue 2, pp. 22-23.
Lehany, Michael, ‘The Conservation Analysis of Camden Park, The Gardens and Grounds’, in From Wilderness to Garden, Early Colonial Gardens, Their Future, 16th Annual National Conference, 1995, Australian Garden History Society, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 26-32.
Little, V., ‘Centenary of Cawdor Church’, Journal and Proceedings Australasian Methodist Historical Society, July 1950, Vol. 59, Issue 59, pp. 819-820.
Liston, Carol, ‘The Dharawal and Gandangara in Colonial Campbelltown, New South Wales, 1788-1830’, Aboriginal History, Vol. 12, No. 1-2, 1988, pp. 49-62.
Weatherburn, A K, ‘The exploration and surveys of James Meehan between the Cowpastures, Wingecarribee River, Goulburn Plains, Shoalhaven River and Jervis Bay 1805, 1818 and 1819’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol 64, pt 3 (December 1978).
Willis, IC, ‘Active Citizens and Loyal Patriots: The Role of the Two Local Newspapers on the Australian Homefront, 1939-1945’, Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 24, 1, 2000, pp. 81-92.
Willis, Ian, ‘Fifty Years of Local History, The Camden Historical Society, 1957-2007’, An Address to the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Camden Historical Society, 12 July 2007, AQ Australian Quarterly, November- December 2007, pp. 11-16.
Jack, LE, History of Education in Camden and District, A Study of the Origins and Development of Primary Education to 1880 and Selected Aspects of Later Growth of Primary, Secondary and Adult Education, M.Ed. Thesis, University of Sydney, 1966.
JRC Planning Services, Environmental Heritage, Macarthur Regional Environmental Study, Working Paper 3, Department of Environment and Planning, Sydney, 1986.
Landarc, Draft Significant Tree and Vegetated Landscape Study, Camden Municipal Council, Camden, 1993.
Mason, Milton Lewis, Carinya, The Social-Class System of an Australian Community. PhD Thesis, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1960.
Mitchell McCotter Willing, Camden Area Flood Prone Land Study, 2nd Edition, Mine Subsidence Board, Sydney, 1993.
Proudfoot, Helen, Campbelltown, Camden, Appin, Survey and Report on Nineteenth Century Buildings and Sites, Volume IV, Section Four: Hume Highway to Camden, Bringelly, Cobbitty, Section Five: Narellan, Elderslie, Camden, State Planning Authority of New South Wales, Sydney, 1973.
Rosen, Sue, Hawkesbury-Nepean Historic Environmental Changes Study, Water Resources Program Hawkesbury-Nepean Strategy, Water Board, Sydney, 1992.
Sankey, Robyn, Camden and the Coal Industry: A Study of the Development of the Coal Industry in the Burragorang Valley and its Impact on Camden and the District in the Post-War Period, MA Thesis, University of Sydney, 1984.
State Planning Authority of New South Wales, The New Cities of Campbelltown, Camden, Appin, State Planning Authority of New South Wales, Sydney, 1973.
Stubbs, Judith, Camden New City, A Community Profile, Camden Municipal Council, 1985.
Tropman and Tropman, Draft Heritage Report, Camden Council, Camden, 2004.
Watson, Clare, Conservation of Public Access to and Interpretation of Belgenny Farm, Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, Camden, New South Wales, Report, New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, 1991.
In 2002 the Sydney press commemorated the life and times of Camden identity Colin Clark, a successful pharmacist who served his community, church and family. (SMH 20 May 2002) Colin married Dorothy, and together, they shaped ‘a vision for their future’ in Camden.
My interest in the Clarks was partly prompted by a photograph of a bottle of liquid paraffin sent to me by local resident Nicole Comerford. Colin had dispensed the paraffin to Nicole’s grandmother, Sheila Murdoch of Orangeville.
Colin Clark ran a pharmacy in Argyle Street for over 35 years. He trained as a pharmacist at the Melbourne College of Pharmacy, and met Dorothy in Stroud. They married in 1933 at Malvern Hill Methodist Church (Clark, Fix Ears, p.72) before moving to Camden in 1934.
Dorothy was an accomplished musician and an artist. In the mid-1920s, she received a scholarship to the Sydney Art School (Julian Ashton Art School) (Clark, Fix Ears, p.71), which trained several notable Australian artists.
The Clarks planned to stay in Camden for seven years (Mylrea, Interview) and as things turned out, they stayed a lifetime. (Camden News, 6 August 1981) Their Methodist faith shaped their worldview and they how fitted into Camden’s rich social fabric and became part of the ‘backbone of the community’. (Camden News, 6 August 1981). They mixed with other Methodist families who amongst others included the Whitemans, the Sidmans and the Stuckeys.
Colin became a well-regarded businessman and Dorothy, a stay-at-home mother. They were respected in all strata of society and mixed with people ‘of so-called high and low estate’. (Clark, Eulogy)
John Kearns argues that John Wesley ‘was an active citizen, concerned with people’s physical, mental and economic welfare as well as their spiritual well-being and he did many good works’. As were the Clarks.
Community service – ‘the backbone of the community’
Colin and Dorothy were community-minded active citizens who constantly devoted their ‘energies to the gentle pursuit of shaping their community’s lifestyle and character’ through several local organisations. (Camden News, 6 August 1981)
Colin was president of the Camden Historical Society from 1968 to 1970 and was made a life member in 1994. He was a foundation member of the Camden Rotary Club and served the club for 33 years. He was a member of the Carrington Hospital Board from 1967 to 1981, made a trustee in 1975 (Camden News 6 August 1981) and to honour his service, the board room was named after him (Clark Eulogy). He was president of the Camden Central School P&C in the early 1950s, a member of the Camden Masonic Lodge and a board member of the Camden Uniting Church. (Clark, Eulogy).
Colin was an active sportsman and participated in tennis, cricket, golf and lawn bowls. He was a foundation member of the Camden Golf Club, an early committee member of the Camden Bowling Club and instrumental in the foundation of the Camden CWA Rooms building.
Dorothy – musician, artist and mother
Dorothy was a musician and an artist with an appreciation of the arts. She was an accomplished pianist, and in 1936 played the piano at a Methodist ladies ‘towel afternoon’ (Camden News, 6 August 1936). In 1942 she was the pianist for a concert for the troops at the Narellan Military Base (Camden News, 5 February 1942), and in 1952 she played the piano at a fashion parade fundraiser for the Camden Hospital Ladies Auxiliary (Camden News, 2 October 1952). Dorothy was the pianist for the first Camden Musical Society performance. (Camden News 6 August 1981)
Dorothy Clark was an active member of the Camden Red Cross, Camden District Hospital Auxiliary, and the Camden Country Women’s Association.
Camden Museum – ‘a vision for the future’
In the mid-1960s, Colin and Dorothy had a vision for a local history museum in Camden where a collection of objects and things could tell the local story. (Mylrea, Interview) The Clark’s view of the world would have seen a museum providing an educational experience based on authentic objects and stories taken from Camden’s cultural traditions and values, and the individuals who created them. (Willis, Stories and Things)
The Clark’s vision and enthusiasm encouraged support after initial scepticism. With the help of Camden Rotary Club Colin eventually secured the old council rooms at the rear of the Camden School of Arts and opened a museum in 1970. (Wrigley, Camden Museum)
John Wrigley writes
Colin Clark was the president of the Camden Historical Society at the founding of the Camden Museum in 1970. Colin became a member of the society in 1963 and president in 1968. He was the fourth president of the society. (Wrigley, 2021)
Colin recalled, ‘In the 1930s it was quite common to be called upon to dispense a prescription mixture. There were no prepared medicines and it took around 20 minutes to put a script together. There were very few cosmetic preparations.’ (The Crier, 14 November 1979)
Colin’s pharmacy was initially located in the Whiteman building at 90 Argyle Street when he purchased Niddries business. The pharmacy opened at 8.30am, with half-an-hour for lunch to 8.30pm. The local doctors always ran a night surgery and Colin would be dispensing mixtures for the patients. On Saturday he opened at 8.30am to 1.00pm, then back at 6.00pm to 8.30pm and then Sundays and after-hours calls. ‘It was a very hard life.’ (Mylrea, Interview)
Kearns, Adrian J. “Active Citizenship and Urban Governance.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 17, no. 1, 1992, pp. 20–34. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/622634. Accessed 4 Sept. 2021.
Mylrea, Peter 1994. Transcript of an Interview with CC, Camden, 12 November, 19 November, 10 December 1993, 19 January 1994, Camden Museum Archives.
Mylrea, Peter 2001. ‘Camden Historical Society, Its First 25 Years, 1957-1982’. Camden History, Vol 1, No 1, March 2001, p.11.
Mylrea, Peter 2001. ‘Glimpses of Camden, Interview with Colin Clark’. Camden History, Vol 1, no 2, September 2001, pp.24-28.
Urick, B. Y., & Meggs, E. V. (2019). Towards a Greater Professional Standing: Evolution of Pharmacy Practice and Education, 1920-2020. Pharmacy (Basel, Switzerland), 7(3), 98. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmacy7030098
Recently Rene at the Camden Museum posted an intriguing photograph taken at the Camden Showground on the Camden Museum Facebook page. It showed a large group of young men and women who were identified as trainee teachers from Sydney Teachers College.
Camden resident Peter Hammond asked on the Camden Museum Facebook page: Any idea why they were in Camden?
So what is the mystery?
The photograph is a bit of a mystery.
The photograph was contributed to the Camden Museum by John Donaldson and was taken in May 1924. The photograph shows 48 women, 34 men, and 2 children.
The photograph reveals more. You can see the spire of St Johns Church in the background and the absence of the 1938 brick front on the show hall. There are no brick and iron gates on the showground. The brick building at the corner of Argyle and Murray is yet to be built.
Photographs can tell so much about the past. They are a wonderful resource and this image provides much information about this mystery.
So I set off on a journey to solve the mystery of the question about the photograph.
A quick search of the Camden News on Trove revealed that in May 1924 there was indeed a camp of trainee teachers who stayed at the Camden Agricultural Hall in Onslow Park. The report in the Camden News revealed more information.
There are 109 students and some ten lecturers and authorities gathering, from the University Teachers’ College. The students are obtaining practical knowledge by attending the different schools in the district, and much good should be the result. Those in charge are to be complimented on the excellent arrangements at the camp. (Camden News 15 May 1924)
More to the story
So was this a one-off or is there more to the story?
Further digging reveals that the first camp was in 1921, there were two camps per year one in May and the second around August. There were between 70 and 100 trainee teachers at each camp and they attended several local schools during their stay. The camps seem to have been for about three weeks each. There appears to have lots of interaction between locals and visitors with sporting events, dances, lectures, and lots of other activities.
The first camp in May 1921 seems to have been a big deal not only for the town but also for the AH&I Society. Following the First World War, the finances of the AH&I Society were in a parlous state and the hall hire was a welcome boost to finances.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
Camden was first graced with the presence of these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed budding young teachers in 1921 when 64 of them settled in for a week at the show hall. The Camden camp provided for them an opportunity to practice their teaching theory and practice of the New South Wales New Syllabus that they learned in the classroom at Sydney Teacher’s College. The 1921 trainees were all single and were made up of 49 women and 15 men and four weeks after the Camden camp were to be placed in schools. (Camden News, 12 May 1921)
The Sydney Teachers College trainees were allocated to schools across the local region and the list included: Camden Campbelltown, Campbelltown South, Cawdor, Cobbitty, Glenfield, Ingleburn, Minto, Mount Hunter, Narellan and The Oaks. (Camden News, 12 May 1921)
The teaching practice visits were organised on a group basis and transport was either by train or bus. By end of their training course, the students had had at least three weeks of practice teaching in teaching at rural schools. (Sydney Mail, 8 June 1921)
In 1920 the STC students had been based at Glenbrook and the success of the experiment encouraged the college to extend it to Camden. The venture, according to the Sydney press, was a first in Australia for teacher training and it was believed at the time to be a world-first for such a camp. During the week in Camden, the camp was visited by the New South Wales Director of Education Peter Board and the chief inspector HD McLelland. (Sydney Mail, 8 June 1921)
A party of 89
In 1921 the party of 89, made up of students and lecturers and their families, had arrived by train at Camden the previous Saturday afternoon. The group was put up the show hall with conversion to a dormitory and the construction of cubicles to accommodate the mixed sexes. The show pavilion was converted to a kitchen and dining area from 6am to 9am, and then again after 4pm. The Camden press reports stated that at these times ‘the showground was a scene of great activity’. (Camden News, 12 May 1921)
The STA trainees had some time for recreation and in the evenings singing and games were organised between 7pm and 8pm by the music lecturer Miss Atkins, and the education lecturer Miss Wyse. Games and singing were held at the St Johns Parish Hall and sometimes the students’ organised tennis games. (Camden News, 12 May 1921)
Do you have any mysterious photographs that tell a great story about our local area?
Updated 17 April 2020; original posted 3 April 2020.
The Camden story is a collection of tales, memories, recollections, myths, legends, songs, poems and folklore about our local area. It is a history of Camden and its surrounding area. I have created one version of this in the form of a 1939 district map.
Camden storytelling is as old as humanity starting in the Dreamtime.
The Camden story is made up of dreamtime stories, family stories, community stories, settler stories, local stories, business stories, personal stories and a host of others.
These stories are created by the people and events that they were involved with over centuries up the present.
Since its 1997 inception History Week has been an opportunity to tell the Camden story.
What is the relevance of the Camden story?
The relevance of the Camden story explains who is the local community, what they stand for, what their values are, their attitudes, political allegiances, emotional preferences, desires, behaviour, and lots more.
The Camden story explains who we are, where we came from, what are we doing here, what are our values and attitudes, hopes and aspirations, dreams, losses and devastation, destruction, violence, mystery, emotions, feelings, and lots more. The Camden story allows us to understand ourselves and provide meaning to our existence.
Local businesses use the Camden story as one of their marketing tools to sell local residents lots of stuff. There is the use of images, logos, branding, slogans, objects, window displays, songs, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, and other marketing tools.
What is the use of the Camden story?
The Camden story allows us to see the past in some ways that can impact our daily lives. They include:
the past is just as a series of events and people that do not impact on daily lives;
the past is the source of the values, attitudes, and traditions by which we live our daily lives;
the past is a way of seeing the present and being critical of contemporary society that it is better or worse than the past;
the present is part of the patterns that have developed from the past over time – some things stay the same (continuity) and some things change.
History offers a different approach to a question.
Historical subjects often differ from our expectations, assumptions, and hopes.
The Camden storyteller will decide which stories are considered important enough to tell. Which stories are marginalised or forgotten or ignored – silent stories from the past.
Just taking one of these component parts is an interesting exercise to ask a question.
Does the Camden story contribute to making a strong community?
The Camden story assists in building a strong and resilient community by providing stories about our community from past crises and disasters. These are examples that the community can draw on for examples and models of self-help.
A strong and resilient community is one that can bounce back and recover after a setback or disaster of some sort. It could be a natural disaster, market failure or social crisis.
Ministering Angels, the Camden District Red Cross, 1914-1945.
Author Ian Willis
Publisher: Camden Historical Society
Ministering Angels ‘is an example of innovative and groundbreaking work in local history, and succeeds in demonstrating a new way of linking detailed local studies to larger themes in Australian history’. Dr Emma Grahame (Editor, Australian Feminism: A Companion, OUP, 1998. Editor, Dictionary of Sydneyhttp://www.dictionaryofsydney.org, 2007-2012)
Ministering Angels is a peer-review publication that tells 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.
Using the themes of soldier and civilian welfare, patriotism, duty, sacrifice, motherhood, class and religion, the narrative explores how the placed-based nature of the Red Cross branch network provided an opportunity for the organisation to harness parochialism and localism for national patriotic purposes.
The work shows how a local study links the Camden district Red Cross with the broader issues within Australian history and debates involving local history, philanthropy, feminism, conservatism, religion and other areas, while at the same time illustrating the multi-layered nature of the issues that shape global, national and regional history that can impact rural volunteering.
The book delves into the story of how Camden’s Edwardian women, the Macarthur Onslows and others of their ilk, provided leadership at a local, state and national level and created ground-breaking opportunities that empowered women to exercise their agency by undertaking patriotic activities for the first time.
In their wake Camden women created the most important voluntary organisation in district history, a small part of the narrative of the Australian Red Cross, arguably the country’s most important not-for-profit organisation. 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.
Ministering Angels is a local Red Cross study of volunteering in war and peace that provides a small window into the national and transnational perspectives of one of the world’s most important humanitarian organisations.
The Camden story is an ongoing project that aims to tell the untold stories of the Camden, Cowpastures and Macarthur districts. There is the telling, the learning and the showing of the story.
The project is constantly evolving and changing direction. It is centred around the construction of place and the meaning of landscape. These are culturally derived concepts from both Indigenous and European experiences.
There are the natural ecologies that make up the environment as well as atmospheric and geological elements. The natural elements are just as important as the cultural.
Complexities of the Camden story
The Camden story has its own complexities. There is no one single dominant narrative. There are many voices in the story and each has a right to be heard.
There are many threads to the Camden story and when woven together make a coherent story with many voices. The weave of the cloth represents the warp and weft of the daily lives of the actors on the stage. Together they create a vibrant design that can capture the imagination of many and inspire others.
There are many actors in the constantly evolving narrative, each with their own agenda. The story is played on a stage that is located on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe, a dynamic movable frontier on the city’s edge. It is a constantly changing and evolving cultural landscape.
There are many layers to the Camden story each with its own particularities. As each layer is peeled back it reveals memories and meanings from the past that influence the present. Those who are interested can dive into the many layers and help unravel the entangled threads of the web and give some clarity to their meaning within the story.
The Camden story is a journey that is constantly evolving with many signposts along the way. There are a lot of fellow travellers who have their own stories. There are many pathways and laneways to go down, each with its own meaning and memories to the travellers who come along for the journey.
The Camden story has its own road map of sorts with signposts and markers of significant places along the journey for those who want to look. There are many opportunities for those who want embark on this journey and uncover many of the undiscovered mysteries of the Camden story.
It is in the interests of those who want to tell the story that they walk the ground in which the story is embedded. The landscape speaks to those who want to listen. The experience is enriching and fulfilling and shapes the telling of the story.
Some parts of the Camden story
The Camden story has many parts and some are listed below:
This is a short history of the town, which is situated on the floodplain of the Nepean River, on the traditional land of the Dharawal people in an area known as the Cowpastures. The Camden area’s distinctive landscape has moulded the community’s identity and sense of place. From the earliest days of European settlement class and social networks ordered daily life in the village with the local gentry at the top of the social hierarchy.
The Camden district ran from the Main Southern Railway around the estate village of Menangleinto the gorges of the Burragorang Valley in the west. It was a concept created by the links between peoples’ social, economic and cultural lives across the area. The district became the centre of people’s daily lives for well over a century and the basis of their sense of place and community identity.
This short historiography is one of the few that has been attempted to illustrate the construction of the history of a rural community. It is an attempt to examines the broad range of influences that shaped the writing of the Camden community’s history.
Movie makers have always had an eye on the Camden district’s large country houses, rustic farm buildings, quaint villages and picturesque countryside for film locations. From the 1920s the area has been used by a series of film makers as a setting for their movies. It coincided was an increasing interest in the area’s Englishness from poets, journalists and travel writers.
The Camden bibliography is an attempt to highlight some of the research that addresses the notion of Camden as a country town and the subsequent urbanisation of the local government area. The sources listed in the bibliography cover the geographic area of the Camden district.
The Cowpastures emerged as a regional concept in the late 18th century starting with the story of the cattle of the First Fleet that escaped their captivity at the Sydney settlement. The region was a culturally constructed landscape that ebbed and flowed with European activity. It grew around the government reserve established by Governors Hunter and King. It then developed into a generally used locality name centred on the gentry estates in the area.
The story of European settlement in the Cowpastures is intimately connected to the story of the convicts and their masters. This story has not been told and there is little understanding of the role of the convicts in the Cowpastures district before 1840. Who were they? What did they do? Did they stay in the district?
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. 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. This is an example of a short locality history within the local area published by the Dictionary of Sydney.
Early European settlers were the key actors in a place-making exercise that constructed an English-style landscape aesthetic on the colonial stage in the Cowpastures district of New South Wales. The aesthetic became part of the settler colonial project and the settlers’ aim of taking possession of territory involving the construction of a cultural ideal from familiar elements of home in the ‘Old Country’. The new continent, and particulaly the bush, had the elements of the Gothic with its grotesque and the demonic, and the landscape aesthetic was one attempt to counter these forces. Settlers used the aesthetic to assist the creation of a new narrative on an apparenty blank slate and in the process dispossessed and displaced the Indigenous occupants. The new colonial landscape was characterised by English place-names, English farming methods and English settlement patterns, with only cursory acknowledgement of Indigenous occupation.
The rural-urban fringe is a dynamic frontier, an ever expanding zone of transition on the edges of Australia’s major cities and regional centres. This paper examines the proposition that Sydney’s urban growth has pushed the city’s rural-urban fringe into the countryside and unleashed the contested nature of place-making in and around the
country town of Camden. It will be maintained that the dynamic forces that characterise the rural-urban frontier have resulted a collision between the desires and aspirations of ‘locals’ and ‘outsiders’ and prompted a crisis in the identity of place. Community icons
and rituals have become metaphors for the continuity of values and traditions that are embedded in the landscapes of place. The actors have used history and heritage, assisted by geography and aesthetics, to produce a narrative that aims to preserve landscape identity, and has created a cultural myth based on a romantic notion of an idealised
country town drawn from the past, ‘a country town idyll’.
What’s in a name? Quite a lot if you live in the fringe urban communities of Campbelltown, Camden or Picton in the Macarthur district on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe. In the past these communities have been fiercely parochial country towns with clearly identifiable differences based on history, heritage, traditions, mythology, rituals, demographics, local government and a host of other factors. With the encroachment of Sydney’s urban sprawl they have been wrapped up by the tentacles of the metropolitan octopus and faced challenges on a variety of fronts. The questions that this article raises concern Macarthur regionalism. Is it authentic? How representative is it of the former country towns that are now incorporated within it?
The Nepean River is one of the most important waterways in the Sydney basin and has particular significance for Sydney’s southwestern rural-urban fringe. The Nepean River catchment extends south and east of the Sydney Basin to take in areas near Robertson and Goulburn. West of Wollongong the tributaries includng 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.
Camden is a country town whose history and development has been influenced by war. The town was part of Australia’s homefront war effort, and from the time of the Boer War the most important part of this for Camden was volunteering. The Second World War was no exception, and the most influential voluntary organisation that contributed to the town’s war effort was the Womens Voluntary Services [WVS]. The Camden WVS was part of a strong tradition of Victorian female philanthropy in the town, which attracted, and depended on, middle class women socialised in Victorian notions of service, ideals of dependence, a separatedness of spheres, patriarchy, the status quo, and by the inter-war period, modernity.
On 21 October 2004 the former Member for Camden, Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Kernohan, died after suffering a heart attack. She was sixty- five. Thousands of people lined Argyle Street in Camden to see the cortege and pay their last respects, I and compliments flowed from both sides of New South Wales politics. There were over 1850 column centimetres devoted to her death and subsequent funeral in the local press. Kernohan was a popular, larger than life figure in Camden. She held the seat of Camden for the Liberal party for over 11 years in an area that some have claimed is the key to the success of the Howard Government. How was Kernohan able to gain this type of support? This paper will try to address this question, although initially it is useful to give a brief overview of the electorate.
A notable part of Camden modernism that has disappeared is the drive-in movie theatre. The Narellan Gayline Drive-in Movie Theatre was one of the notable attractions in the local area between the 1960s and 1980s located on Morshead Road, Narellan (now Narellan Vale). Along with rock ‘n roll, transistor radios, the bikini, the mini-skirt, it marked the lifestyle of the baby boomers. Always popular with teenagers and young families. The drive-in movie theatre was a defining moment in the district for a 20th century culture that was based around the icons of the period: cars and movies.
Catherine Fields once boasted a national tourist facility which attracted thousands of visitors a year to the local area, the El Caballo Blanco entertainment complex. The El Caballo Blanco complex opened in April 1979 at Catherine Fields. The main attraction was a theatrical horse show presented with Andalusian horses, which was held daily in the large 800-seat indoor arena.
The Camden Country Women’s Association made camouflage nets during the Second World War and was the largest netting centre in the area. The Camden CWA camouflage netting centre was assisted by sub-branches at Campbelltown and Narellan, which were established after the joint CWA-WVS meeting in December 1941.
One of the most popular memories of the Camden area by locals and visitors alike is the Camden branch line and its famous locomotive Pansy. It has a truly dedicated and enthusiastic bunch of supporters who positively drool about it and overlook its foibles. Old timers tell and retell stories to anyone who wants to listen, all laced with a pinch of exaggeration and the romantic. A part of local nostalgia. The Camden branch line was operated by the New South Wales Railways from 1882 to its closure in 1963.
Oran Park Raceway was doomed in 2008 to be part of history when it was covered with houses in a new suburb with the same name. It was also the name of a former pastoral property that was part of the story of the settler society within the Cowpastures. The locality is the site of hope and loss for both locals and new arrivals. The Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit was located in the south-western and western part of the original Oran Park pastoral estate. The main grand prix circuit was 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners as well as changes in elevation around the track.
This post was prompted by an item in the Oran Park Gazette, an A4 newsletter newspaper. Gazette journalist Lisa Finn-Powell asked: What is the future of the community newspaper? The local ‘rag’ in our suburb is a free tabloid newspaper thrown onto our front driveway each week. Actually there are two of them, the Camden Narellan Advertiser and the Macarthur Chronicle. Where I live some of these newspapers stay on the neighbour’s driveway for weeks and disintegrate into a mess. Other neighbours just put them in the bin. So not everyone is a fan of the local ‘rag’ in the age of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
The members of 32 Squadron arrived in Camden Airfield in September 1942 after seven months of hazardous operational duties supporting Allied Forces in New Guinea and the surrounding area, including New Britain. The squadron had been ‘hastily formed in the field’ in February 1942 with personnel drawn from other units. The squadron’s operational duties at Camden Airfield included reconnaissance and sea patrols off the east coast of Australia.
Once the army moved into Narellan Military Camp it commenced operation and became part of the wartime scene during WW2. Men were seen marching all over the district, there were mock raids and the men practiced firing small arms. The camp is an important part of the story of Narellan during war as thousands of men, and some women, moved through the camp on their way to somewhere in the theatre that was the Second World War.
Supermarkets are one of the ultimate expressions of modernism. The township of Camden was not isolated from these global forces of consumerism that originated in the USA. The Camden community was bombarded daily with American cultural influences in the form of movies, motor cars, drive-in, motels, TV, and radio. Now consumerism was expressed by the appearance of self-service retailing and the development of the supermarket.
The local milk bar is a largely unrecognized part of Camden modernism where the latest trends in American food culture made their way into the small country town by Australian-Greek immigrants. The design, equipment and fit-out of local cafes and milk bars was at the cutting edge of Interwar fashion. The cafes were a touch of the exotic with their Art Deco style interiors, where fantasy met food without the social barriers of daily life of the Interwar period. Camden milk bars rarely just sold milk shakes unlike their counterparts in the city. To make a living and ensure that their businesses paid their way the cafes and milk bars also sold fruit and vegetables, meals, sandwiches, lollies, sweets and chocolates.
The interwar period in Camden was a time of economic development and material progress. The prosperity of the period was driven by the local dairy industry and the emerging coal industry. During the interwar period one of the most important economic arteries of the town was the Hume Highway (until 1928 the Great South Road). For a country town of its size the town had modern facilities and was up-to-date with the latest technology. The interwar years were a period of transition and increasingly the motor car replaced the horse in town, and on the farm the horse was replaced by the tractor, all of which supported the growing number of garages in the town.
The Camden town centre and its multi-layered history are evident in the many different building styles evident as you walk along the main street.
If walls could talk they would tell an interesting story that would immerse you in the past in the present. They would provide a gripping account of the characters that were central to the stories.
Living history is storytelling
Living history allows participants to be able to read the layers of history of an area.
Living history is like peeling off layers of paint from a wall when viewers peel back the layers of history of a site, building or place. Each layer has a special meaning – a special presence.
Lived experience leads to storytelling which is real and authentic.
Storytelling creates the meaning of the past and creates the characters of the past in the present. It allows the past to speak to the present. Storytelling and stories at the essence of place.
The living history movement
Living historian Scott Magelssen maintains that living history museums ‘engage strategies in their performance of the past’, claiming to be ‘real history by virtue of their attention to detail’. (pp. xii-xv)
One of the early influencers of the living history movement in North America was Henry Ford who established his indoor and outdoor living museum experience in the Detroit suburb of Dearbourn in Michigan USA. Henry Ford said of his museum
I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used…. When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…
Camden storytellers peel back the layers of the history of the town and district and reveal the tales of local identities, larrikans, characters, rascals, ruffians and ratbags.
There are a number of layers to the Camden story and they are
Pre-European period of the Indigenous Dharawal people when they called the area Benkennie
The Cowpastures were named by Governor Hunter in 1795 and the establishment of the Cowpastures Government Reserve. Under European control the Indigenous Dharawal people dispossession and displacement of their country. The Macarthur family’s Camden Park Estatestarted with the 1805 grant to John Macarthur.
The Camden township was established as a private venture of the Macarthur family in 1840. The streets were named after its founders – Macarthur, Elizabeth, John, Edward.
The Macarthur region (1970s +), named after the famous local Macarthur family, grew as part of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe. It is made up of Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Local Government Areas.
Immerse your imagination in the past at the Camden Museum through living history.
The Camden museum tells the Camden story through displays of artefacts, objects, memoriabilia and other ephemera by using a living history approach.
The displays tell a story of an earlier period and allows visitors to immerse themselves in the past in the present.
Map of the Camden district in 1939 showing the extent of the area with Camden in the east. The silver mining centre of Yerranderie is in the west. (I Willis, 1996)
Walking the past through living history
Visitors to Camden can walk the streets of the town centre and imagine another time. A time past that can be recalled through living history.
The CHN blogger attended an informative and interesting talk at Belgenny Farm in the Home Farm meeting hall. The presentation was delivered by Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA.
Mr Watson, an advocate of the living history movement, was the guest of the chairman of the Belgenny Farm Trust Dr Cameron Archer. Mr Watson was on a speaking tour and had attended a living history conference while in Australia.
Mr Watson said, ‘The 130 acre farm was gifted to the community in 1974 by a state politician with the aim of showing how farming used to be done in New Jersey.
Howell Living History Farm is located within a one hour of around 15 million and the far has 65,000 visitors per year and 10,000 school children.
Mr Watson said,
‘We took about 10 years to get going and deal with the planning process, which was tenuous for the government authorities who own the farm.
Mr Watson said,
‘The main aim at the farm is the visitor experience. The farm represents New Jersey farming between 1890 and 1910 – a moment in time.’
Mr Watson says,
‘We do not want to allow history to get in the way of an education experience for the visitor. The farm visitors are attracted by nostalgia which is an important value for them.
Most historic farms are museums, according to Mr Watson and he said, ‘At Howell Living History Farm visitors become involved in activities.’
The farm uses original equipment using traditional methods and interpretation with living history.
The Living History Movement
Historian Patrick McCarthy considers that living history is concerned with (1) ‘first person’ interpretation or role play (2) adopting authentic appearance (3) re-creating the original historic site of the event.
Living historian Scott Magelssen maintains that living history museums ‘engage strategies in their performance of the past’, claiming to be ‘real history by virtue of their attention to detail’. Living history museums ‘do not merely represent the past; they make historical ‘truth’ for the visitor’. (pp. xii-xv)
According to Magelssen living history museums ‘produce history’ like textbooks, films or a lecture. Under the influence of post-modernism history ‘is on longer to be seen as the reconstruction of the past through scientific analysis’. Living history is a research tool. (pp. xii-xv) There are various interpretations on the way this is constructed, configured and delivered amongst the theorists.
Origins of living history museum movement
One of the early influencers of the living history movement in North America was Henry Ford who established his indoor and outdoor living museum experience in the Detroit suburb of Dearbourn in Michigan USA. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the USA and attracts 1.6 million visitors. Ford opened the Greenfield Village to the public in 1933 as the first outdoor living museum in the USA and has over 100 buildings moved to the site dating from the 1700s. Henry Ford said of his museum
I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used…. When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…
Living history @ Belgenny
Belgenny Farm is an authentic collection of colonial farm buildings that were once part of the Macarthur family’s Camden Park Estate.
The Belgenny Farm website states that its education program adopts the principles of the living history movement. It states:
Schools enjoy a diverse range of hands-on curriculum based programs including the new Creamery Interpretative Centre. The Creamery showcases the dairy industry over the last 200 years and is supported by a virtual tour and online resources.
And more to the point:
Belgenny Farmwas established by John and Elizabeth Macarthur in 1805 and contains the earliest collection of colonial farm buildings in Australia. The property is a major educational centre with direct links to Australia’s agricultural history.
Sydney Living Museums
Sydney Living Museums is part of the living history museum movement and manages 12 historic properties across NSW. The stated role of SLM is to:
enrich and revitalise people’s lives with Sydney’s living history, and to hand the precious places in our care and their collections on to future generations to enjoy.
to refresh and unify our diverse range of properties and highlight our role and relevance for current and future generations.
Living history is storytelling
Living history is walking the ground of an historical event or place or building. Walking the ground shows the layers of meaning in history in a place or building.
Walking the ground is an authentic real experience.
Participants absorb the past that is located in the present of a place or a site. The past is the present and the past determines the present. It shapes, meaning and interpretation. It is the lived experience of a place.
Living history allows participants to be able to read: the layers of history of an area; the layers of meaning in a landscape; or the layers of history in a building.
It is like peeling off layers of paint from a wall when viewers peel back the layers of history of a site, building or place. Each layer has a special meaning – a special presence.
Lived experience leads to storytelling which is real and authentic.
Storytelling creates the meaning of the past and creates the characters of the past in the present. It allows the past to speak to the present.