Camden Museum and Alan Baker Art Gallery add over $1.7 million annually
New research shows that cultural and heritage tourism is worth around $6.4 million per year to the Camden LGA.
This figure is drawn from data sourced from Destination NSW (2018), which states that the average daily spend of a day tripper was $140 per day. The proportion of day-trippers that constitute cultural and heritage visitors is 9% of all day-tripper visitors.
According to .idCommunity (2023) demographic resources, in 2020-2021, there were 509,000 day-trippers to the Camden LGA per year. Cultural and heritage visitors comprise around 45,000 day-trippers of the total number of day-tripper visitors annually. These day-trippers are worth $6.4 million to the Camden economy.
Within these figures, the volunteer-run Camden Museum is one of the most prominent destinations with around 6000 day-tripper visitors per year, worth around $840,000 to the local economy each year. The Alan Baker Art Gallery has about 6500 day-tripper visitors annually, worth around $910,000 to the local economy annually.
What is cultural and heritage tourism?
Destination NSW (2019) defines cultural and heritage tourism as:
Ted Silberberg explains cultural and heritage tourism as ‘a tool of economic development that achieves economic growth through attracting visitors from outside a host community, who are motivated wholly or in part by interest in the historical, artistic, scientific or lifestyle/heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution’
Source: Cultural Tourism and Business Opportunities for Museums and Heritage sites, Tourism Management, Ted Silberberg, 1995.
How important is cultural and heritage tourism?
Destination NSW (2019) quotes research from Tourism Australia that
‘rich history and heritage’ was the 4th most important factor for the Domestic market when choosing a holiday destination, and 6th most important for the International market.
According to the National Trust of Australia (2018):
Globally, heritage tourism has become one of the largest and fastest growing tourism sectors, with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimating that more than 50% of tourists worldwide are now motivated by a desire to experience a country’s culture and heritage
Of all international visitors to Australia in 2017, 43% participated in a cultural activity and 33.9% in a heritage activity. Cultural and heritage segments have grown at 7.5% and 11.2% respectively over the past four years.
Source: 1. Tourism Research Australia, IVS YE September 2017. 2. United Nations World Trade Organisation, 2016 Annual Report
Cultural and Heritage Tourism in Camden
The Camden township is a site rich in heritage and history and a visitor destination with huge potential.
Camden Council is responsible for the most critical cultural and heritage tourism planning instrument. The Camden Heritage Conservation Area, Argyle Street, and John Street precincts are within it. (DCP 2019) The DCP (2019) outlines the conservation area’s character elements, objectives and controls.
Camden Council (2023) provides valuable information on its Heritage Planning webpage and lists all the local heritage items on the local and state heritage inventory (CC 2020).
Within cultural and heritage tourism, storytelling is an essential feature of the visitor experience.
The National Trust of Australia (2018) maintains that storytelling is a new global trend and
found that what encourages a visitor to a certain destination is its ability to engage in unforgettable and truly inspiring experiences that touch visitors in an emotional way and connects them with special places, people and cultures.
Camden storyteller Ian Willis (2023a) has written extensively about the local history of the Camden area, with an outstanding example being the Camden History Notes blog. He has published many other articles and stories in newspapers, newsletters, journals and books (2023b).
The outstanding storytelling organisation in the Camden LGA is the Camden Historical Society (CHS 2023a). The society’s activities include the biannual journal Camden History (CHS 2023b), monthly public lectures, and numerous book publications. (CHS 2023c). The Camden Museum archives provide much raw material for local storytelling. (CHS 2023d)
The Camden Area Family History Society (CAFHS 2023) is a crucial storytelling organisation which draws on raw material from extensive archives and keen volunteer members.
The Back Then feature of The District Reporter provides the most popular storytelling platforms. Here local storytellers include Ian Willis (2023c), John Wrigley, Julie Wrigley and others who tell interesting and exciting local stories about the past in each issue.
In 2009 there was a public outcry when there was a proposal to relocate St Mark’s church and develop the site. (The District Reporter, 16 February 2009) While the church building had remained unused for several years, the public protests posed a conundrum for local authorities. Why was there such an outcry over an empty building?
Small churches like St Marks are vital to small communities and their construction of place and development of community identity. Their potential loss threatens a community’s collective memory and sense of place. The church tells the story of a small farming community that has disappeared through the mists of time.
The history of St Mark’s church is the history of Elderslie, and the church was a special place of community celebrations and commemorations along with family celebrations, traditions, and events. The church has been a gathering place, a sacred site.
An outdoor Sunday School proves popular.
St Mark’s church’s origins go back to 1901 and the formation of an outdoor Sunday School by Elderslie resident Miss Elizabeth Carpenter, a disgruntled St John’s church parishioner. Elizabeth (b. 1863) was the eldest daughter of Elderslie orchardist Horatio Carpenter. According to Elderslie resident Len English, the Carpenter orchard of Fernside was just behind the church with a frontage on Macarthur Road.
According to Harold Lowe, St Mark’s churchwarden and treasurer, the story goes that 38-year-old Elizabeth Carpenter had a falling out with the rector of Camden’s St John’s Church, Rev Cecil John King. (Harold Lowe, File Notes, Camden Museum Archive)
The Sunday School proved popular with local families, and ‘in the summer of 1902…[the Sunday School was] held under the shade of the great stone pines below Mrs Lydia Carpenter’s orchard’. Miss Elizabeth Carpenter brought her ‘American organ down on a slide and led the singing’. During the autumn, with inclement weather, the classes were held in Fernside’s ‘old wine press room’. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
The Sunday School continued to be an essential part of the church’s activities, and in 1933 the Camden press reported that the children of St Mark’s Sunday School held their picnic in Mr Bruchhauser’s ‘top paddock’. Showers did not let up until after lunch, but nothing was ‘daunted’, and the picnic was set up by ‘teachers and helpers in the church. ‘A very happy afternoon was spent by all’ after the ground dried out with ‘games and races’. (Camden News, 8 June 1933)
A new church
Miss Carpenter led fundraising efforts, ably assisted by RA Cross, Mr Albury, and Mr Bellingham, early in 1902 (Camden News, 5 August 1954), and moves were made ‘for the purchase of a piece of land’ and construction of the church building. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
A small portion of Thomas Teasdale’s land was acquired by the Church of England and held in the name of the Bishop of Sydney, the Most Reverend William S Smith, and part of the Narellan Parish. (SOHI 2022)
These efforts resulted in the opening of a church building on the site, with the first service on 22 June 1902. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
A church building was constructed and has been described as
a traditional vernacular form with a simple gable roof covered in shingles. It is a good and representative example of a very modest mission church typical of those erected in small country towns in the late 19th and very early 20th Centuries. Built of weatherboard with a corrugated metal roof and a small belfry, it contained two rooms (the nave and a small vestry) plus a porch. The window openings are simple timber sashes with horizontally pivoting openings. Windows are glazed with translucent and opaque domestic glass from the early 20th Century/Inter-War period. (SOHI 2022)
A new Elderslie resident, Mr Fred Carpenter, constructed the first six ‘handsome and comfortable seats of polished Kauri’, and parishioners donated chairs, books, lamps, blinds, alms dish, matting, communion cloth, pulpit cushions and drape. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
The church was dedicated by The Rt Rev Bishop AW Pain from Gippsland on St Mark’s Day in 1903, April 25. (Camden News, 5 August 1954) Saint Mark’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Mark, is held on April 25 and commemorates Mark the Evangelist, also known as Saint Mark. Mark the Evangelist is an essential character in early Christianity and is the ascribed author of the Gospel of Mark. Mark the Evangelist is considered the guardian of the earth and harvests and is celebrated in several countries.
According to the Camden press, churchwarden Harold Lowe suggested the church name some years after its consecration. (Camden News, 5 August 1954) According to Lowe, the new church was called St Marks at a St Mark’s Day meeting. (Harold Lowe, File Notes, Camden Museum Archive)
Church of England authorities ‘licensed [the church] for divine service in 1913 and named [it] for St Mark’. (SOHI 2022)
By 1914 the church was known as the St Mark’s Mission Church. (Camden News, 13 August 1914) According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a mission church is not locally self-supporting. Still, it depends partially upon the support of mission funds from the more prominent religious organisation that established it.
St Marks was part of the Church of England Parish of Narellan, St Paul’s Cobbitty and St Thomas’s Narellan. The rector of Cobbitty’s St Paul’s, Rev Canon Allnutt, conducted services at St Mark’s Church. (Cobbitty 1827-1927)
The first churchwardens were RA Cross, Thomas Albury and John Latty. By 1915 churchwardens were GM Gardner and T Albury, the minister’s warden was H Bellingham, and Miss Brain was the Sunday School teacher. (Camden News, 29 April 1915) Harold Lowe was the church auditor. (Camden News, 11 May 1916)
The church held its yearly vestry meeting, and the re-elected churchwardens for 1933 were T Albury, RA Cross and J Ross. (Camden News, 8 June 1933)
In 1940 the Narellan Parish Log reported that the rector decided to hold an evening service on the third Sunday of the month where he conducted a Lantern Picture Show. (Camden News, 7 November 1940)
First World War and Anzac Day
The First World War profoundly affected the church and the Elderslie community.
In 1915 a memorial service was held at St Mark’s for two Elderslie lads who ‘gave their lives for the Empire’ on the battlefield of the Great War and was held to an ‘overflowing’ congregation. They were Lance Corporal Eric Lyndon Lowe, Signaller, 18th Battalion and Bugler Milton Thornton. The local press reported that ‘beautiful wreaths’ were presented by Mrs Faithful Anderson of Camelot and one from the Cobbitty Rectory. Rev Canon Allnutt took the service, and his daughter, Alice, sang the ‘At Rest’ by Aylward during the offertory. An amount of £1/10/6d was collected for the Liverpool Camp Church Tent Fund. (Camden News, 28 October 1915)
The progress of the First World War and patriotic fundraising put pressure on the community and church parishioners. Yet despite ‘the many calls and patriotic funds’, church finances were pronounced ‘satisfactory’ at the annual 1916 vestry meeting. (Camden News, 11 May 1916)
St Mark’s Day coincided with Camden’s first Anzac Day in the Camden district in 1916. In 1919, the Anzac Day commemorative service at St Mark’s church ‘was crowded and especially attended by the families and friends of those who had met a soldier’s death’. (Camden News, 1 May 1919)
In 1934 Rev AF Pain celebrated the Festival of Saint Mark at the church, where parishioners presented ‘a bounteous supply of the fruits of the earth’ that was sent to Camden District Hospital. (Camden News, 15 February 1934) In 1937 there was a combined service for Anzac Day and the Festival of St Mark. (Camden News, 22 April 1937)
The services for Anzac Day commemoration and St Mark’s Day were split years after the Second World War. In 1952 the service with Holy Communion was held by Bishop EW Wilton from Cobbitty on Anzac Day, Friday 25 April 1952, at 9.30 am. The following Sunday, 27 April 1952, the church had the St Mark’s Festival Service. (Camden News, 24 April 1952)
Farewells and church anniversaries
The 10th anniversary of the church celebrations in 1912 was dampened by the departure of church founders Elizabeth Carpenter and her mother, Lydia.
According to rector Canon GH Allnutt, the Carpenter women had made an ‘immense contribution’ to the church’s foundation with service held once a month at Fernside while the church was being built. The rector presented Miss Carpenter with a gold watch for her efforts. She ‘was visibly affected’ as she thanked the assembly in ‘a simple words’ as the presentation had come as a ‘great surprise’. She said, ‘ she felt quite unworthy…as she had only tried to do her duty to the best of her ability’. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
In 1939 the church lost its long-term organist when parishioner Olive Burford of Camden to Alan Tindall of Rockdale. As a token of thanks, the parishioners gave her a silver hot water jug. (Camden News, 17 August 1939)
In 1952 on the 50th anniversary of the church, attendances were reported as ‘encouraging’ in the Camden press. Bishop Wilton conducted the evening service and said there was a Sunday School and a congregation ‘growing in strength’. The organists were Miss L Cross and Mrs J Bradford. Churchwardens were CS McIntosh, H Rudd, N Hore and Mr Bradford. The supper was organised by parishioners: Mrs Childs, Mrs Teasdale, Miss Teasdale, Mrs Wrench, Mrs N Ferguson, Mrs C Dunk, Mrs R Dunk, Mrs Weiberle, Mrs Harris, and Mrs Wilton. (Camden News, 10 July 1952)
Improvement and additions
There were ‘improvements and additions’ to the church over the decades. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
The churchwardens at St Thomas Narellan gave parishioners at St Mark’s the ‘old ‘John Oxley’ harmonium’ after they installed a new organ. (Camden News, 18 July 1912)
The church’s original shingle roof was replaced in 1912 with ‘short-sheet corrugated iron painted dark red oxide’. The ceiling and floors were also replaced. (SOHI 2022)
On the death of Canon Allnutt in 1919, Percy Butler was commissioned to construct a communion table in his memory. Local cabinet maker and carpenter Fred Carpenter had built additional seating, a prayer desk, a communion rail and a lecturn. (Harold Lowe, File Notes, Camden Museum Archive)
A vestry was later added to the building that could act as a chancel when there was a need for additional seating. (Harold Lowe, File Notes, Camden Museum Archive)
The St Mark’s Churchwomen’s Guild held the 1954 church fundraising fair with stalls selling ‘useful goods, including handicrafts suitable for ‘Christmas presents’ at the home of Mrs C Dunk in Luker Street. The fair was opened by Mrs A Pain, the wife of the former rector St Paul’s Church of England, Cobbitty, who held services at St Mark’s church between 1919 and 1940. (Camden News, 4 November 1954)
The construction of Warragamba Dam was advantageous for the church community when the former Nattai Post Office/general store building was brought up from Burragorang Valley and placed at the church’s rear as a hall. (The District Reporter, 2 February 2009). The Women’s Guild and the Elderslie community funded the relocation and fit-out of the hall as a kitchen. (The District Reporter, 16 February 2009; SOHI 2022))
In 1959 a meeting of churchwardens, the Women’s Guild and the rector resolved to create a special fund to finance the purchase of the land adjoining the existing church site. It was decided at the same meeting to repair the organ, which cost £24. (File Notes, Camden Museum archives) The kitchen was extended in 1961; in 1966, the Church of England purchased a small part of an adjoining property. (SOHI 2022) In 1968 a new hall was constructed on the site.
Funerals and remembrance services
Funerals and remembrance services were a time of community grieving and support, and the church had a central role in these events.
The death of local parishioners was always a loss to the church. A St Mark’s parishioner and ‘keen’ church worker Mrs Ellen Cross recently died aged 66. (Sydney Morning Herald, 6 January 1930) A stalwart of the St Mark’s Sunday School, Mrs FA Goodman died aged 60 years old. She had taken the Sunday School just days before admission to Camden District Hospital, where she died of pneumonia last Saturday, December 5. Mrs Goodman had ‘conducted’ the Sunday School from 1926 to her death. (Camden News, 10 December 1931)
St Mark’s churchwarden James Ross was killed by a motor car as he walked at night between the Cowpastures Bridge and the milk depot in 1938. (Camden News, 29 December 1938)
A remembrance service was held at St Mark’s on the death of Joyce Asimus, daughter of Mr and Mrs Roy Asimus, of ‘The Heights’ Elderslie, who died after a recent operation. Joyce was reportedly a ‘friendly, energetic and affectionate soul held a high place in esteem and affection of the neighbourhood’. The St Mark’s Churchwomen’s Guild was represented by Mrs Funnell Senr, Mrs Wilton, and Mrs Childs. (Camden News, 29 October 1953)
St Mark’s parishioner and Elderslie resident, 89-year-old Mr RA Cross of Macarthur Road Elderslie, died in 1954. Mr Cross had been a churchwarden since St Mark’s church foundation. The Camden press reported that Mr Cross and other parishioners attended St Marks Church within days of his death. Mr Cross was a retired brickmaker and made bricks for famous local properties, including Camelot, Carrington Hospital, and Pomare at Cobbitty. His funeral was held at St Thomas’s church at Narellan, with the service taken by Bishop Wilton and buried in Narellan cemetery. A week later, a remembrance service at St Mark’s was for this ‘faithful and regular worshipper’.(Camden News, 29 July 1854)
The funeral of Mrs Constance AM Ross of Elderslie, mother of Mrs Childs, was held at St Mark’s church in 1952. The Camden press reported that this was the first time a funeral service with the casket was held at the church in its 50-year history. (Camden News, 10 July 1952)
Last service and the loss of a church
Over time, church parishioners died, old Elderslie families moved away, the church congregation grew smaller, and the parish could not financially support the church. Church authorities decided to ‘amalgamate St Mark’s with St Thomas‘s, Narellan, with the final service being held at St Mark’s being held on 21 October 2001. The church was then closed to sell the land’. (SOHI 2022)
In Elderslie, as elsewhere, the threatened loss of a local church often triggers a passionate response from the local community. The local church, even if unused, is a repository of collective memories and a sacred site that possesses a sense of place and community identity.
In 2009 there was a community outcry over a proposal to subdivide the land surrounding St Mark’s church, relocate the church building, demolish the church hall, and cut down the camphor laurel on the Camden’s Register of Significant Trees. (The District Reporter, 16 February 2009)
Passionate locals voiced their concerns, particularly about the state of the camphor laurel. Councillor Eva Campbell maintained that the church was ‘the most significant building in Elderslie’. (Macarthur Chronicle, 3 February 2009) Later reports show that the camphor laurel tree was planted to celebrate the church’s consecration in 1903.
In the end, Camden Council voted to cut down the tree and approved shifting the church across the existing site to allow the consolidation of three allotments into two. (The District Reporter, 16 February 2009; Macarthur Chronicle, 3 February 2009)
The Anglican Church deconsecrated St Marks in 2010. (SOHI 2022)
The church site and buildings were sold to the private owners in 2011 and converted to a private residence where the new owners became the guardians of the community’s collective memories.
In 2022 a proposal by the private owners to extend the former church building generated public interest in maintaining the cultural heritage of the church’s history.
Updated on 28 April 2023. Originally posted on 25 November 2022.
The Anglican Church at Cobbitty recently held an open day for the community to celebrate 190 years of the Anglican community in the village. Those who attended could listen to local experts give talks on the history of the Anglican church in Cobbitty, the stained glass windows in St Pauls, and its fixtures, furnishings and artefacts.
The Anglican Church has been the heart and soul of the village since the Hassalls established themselves in the Cowpastures district in the early days of the colony of New South Wales. The church has been central in place-making and developing community identity in the village.
The church’s presence is why the village exists and is closely reminiscent of a pre-industrial English-style rural village. The village even had its own blacksmith, an essential traditional trade in all rural villages. Working over their hearth with hammers and anvils, making and crafting the farmers’ tools to make decorative work for the church graveyard.
The Hassalls were the de-facto lords of the manor. The development of the village was their fiefdom. Long-term local identity and font of knowledge of all things Cobbitty John Burge recalled in his talk on the ‘History of the Cobbitty Anglican Church’ that the Hassall family owned pretty much all of the farms up and down the Nepean River in the vicinity of Cobbitty.
The Reverend Thomas Hassall, the son of missionaries Rowland and Elizabeth Hassall, who arrived in New South Wales in 1798, was appointed the minister of the Cowpastures district in 1827.
Thomas Hassall built The first chapel in the area, called Heber Chapel, and opened in 1827, with Thomas as rector. It was named after the Bishop Heber of the Calcutta Diocese, where Cobbitty was at the time.
As its first school and church, Heber Chapel became the centre of village life. The chapel was used as a school building during the week and for religious purposes on weekends. Schooling at the chapel continued until 1920.
The Heber Chapel was constructed of hand-made bricks with a shingle roof. Its simple design perhaps reflected the rustic frontier nature of Cobbitty of the 1820s when Pomari Grove, the site of the church and chapel, was owned by Thomas Hassall.
Recent renovations and restoration were carried out in 1993.
There was the opening of St Paul’s Church in 1840, with consecration by Bishop William Broughton. The community supported the construction of a Rectory in 1870 and a church hall in 1886.
St Paul’s Anglican Church was consecrated in 1842, designed by Sydney architect John Bibb in a neo-Gothic style with simple lancet-shaped windows, typical of the design. These windows originally had plain glass and, over the decades, were changed for stained-glass
The church was built with plain glass windows. Stained glass became popular again in the mid-19th century as part of the Gothic revival movement in England and New South Wales. Stained glass was originally installed in medieval churches and cathedrals and then fell out of popularity. (Dictionary of Sydney)
There are 10 memorial windows in St Pauls, the oldest dated 1857 and made by English glass artist William Warrington. It was donated by the Perry family in memory of their daughter Carolyn. There is one original window dating from 1842 with small glass panes in the period’s style.
Well-to-do members of the church community preferred to donate a window as a memorial rather than a wall plaque or other church object to commemorate their loved ones.
The current presentation of the church is different from the 1840 St Pauls. Today’s church represents the many changes that have occurred over the years. The changes in the building reflect changes in style, technology, tastes and support, as well as periods of neglect.
A presentation by John Burge on ‘The History of the Cobbitty Anglican Church’ illustrated the many lives of the church, from periods of solid support by the local community to relative neglect. During the 1980s, the graveyard became overgrown, and graves were hidden under bushes. John’s images showed numbers of past symbolic trees, mainly cypress, that were planted and grew into large trees. Sometimes these were planted too close to the church building endangering its safety and stability. They were removed.
When you look at the church, you see a slate roof and automatically assume this was original. It is not. The slate roof is a recent addition in 2014 and was installed as part of the church restoration when work was done on roof trusses, barge boards, and guttering. The church initially had a shingle roof with a plastered interior vaulted ceiling. Now it has a slate roof with a maple timber-lined interior ceiling. The walls are quarried sandstone from Denbigh.
Electricity was installed in 1938 after originally being lit by candles and then kerosene lamps.
The pews and pulpit are unchanged and are Australian red cedar timberwork.
Music is provided by an 1876 Davidson organ from Sydney after the music was initially provided by violin, then harmonium.
The Anglican story of Cobbitty continues to evolve around the Heber Chapel, St Pauls, the Rectory and the church hall. The village continues to grow, as does the life of the church community, with a host of activities under the current church leadership.
Updated on 6 June 2023. Originally posted on 8 October 2017 as ‘A little bit of England celebrates 190 years at Cobbitty’
In late August 1928, two Camden colonial families celebrated the marriage of Keith Whiteman to Alice Margaret (Marge) McIntosh. This wedding was a social event between two local families of some importance and social status. The McIntoshes conducted a very successful dairy operation on the family property of Denbigh at Cobbitty, while the Whiteman family were successful Camden retailers.
Both families had colonial origins. Members of the Whiteman family had immigrated to New South Wales in 1839 from Sussex to work on Camden Park Estate. While the McIntoshes had immigrated to New South Wales from the Inverness region of the Scottish Highlands in the 1860s.
The ceremony was a relatively small country wedding of 60 guests, given both families’ social profiles and economic positions. The wedding ceremony was held in the historic setting of St Pauls’s Anglican Church at Cobbitty.
St Pauls was the centre of the village of Cobbitty and an expression of its Englishness, typical of several villages across the Camden District. The church was originally built under the direction of Galloping Parson Thomas Hassall in 1842 and adjacent to his 1828 Heber Chapel.
According to the press reports, the church was decorated with a simple floral arrangement of white flowers and asparagus ferns (Camden News, 20 September 1928). The white flowers for the August wedding were likely to have been, according to Angela Wannet, Butterflies Florist in Camden, local calla lilies, oriental lilies, and carnations with trailing ivy.
While not elaborate, the floral displays in the church indicated that the families did not spare any expense on this critical family celebration.
Bride and groom
Cobbitty-born 33-year-old bride Marge McIntosh was the fourth child of Andrew and Ada McIntosh of the colonial property of Denbigh at Cobbitty. Denbigh is one of the oldest gentry properties on the Cowpastures and is listed on the state heritage register. It was initially an 1812 land grant to Charles Hook, then by the Galloping Parson Thomas Hassall (1826-1886), followed by the McIntosh family.
The family first leased the property in 1868 and then purchased it from the Hassall family in 1886. The State Heritage Inventory States that the house and property ‘retains a curtilage and setting of exceptional historic and aesthetic significance’.
Camden-born 28-year-old bridegroom Keith Whiteman was the second child of Fred and Edith Whiteman of Melrose at 69 John Street, Camden. Melrose was a significant Edwardian brick cottage on John Street Camden. The Whiteman family had significant business interests in Argyle Street Camden, including a general store and newsagency.
Keith and his brother Charles gained control of the general store 12 months after Keith’s wedding on the death of his father, Fred. The original Whiteman’s general store opened on Oxley Street in 1877 and moved to Argyle Street. According to The Land Magazine, it was ‘reminiscent of the traditional country department store’. (28 February 1991) and at the time of the report on Australia’s oldest family-owned department stores.
The fashionable bride
We are lucky to have a wonderful photograph of the bride Marge McIntosh in her wedding gown at Denbigh. It provides many clues to the importance of the wedding to both families and their no-nonsense approach to life. While not an extravagant wedding, the bride’s outfit reflects that no expense was spared on the gown and floral decorations for the bouquet and the church decorations.
The design of the outfits, as described in the press reports and in the photograph, reflects the influence of modernism and the fashions from Paris and London. This was a modern wedding in the country between two individuals of some social status.
According to the press reports of the day, the fashions worn by the wedding party were the height of modernism. The bride wore a classic 1920s design described as a ‘simple frock of ivory Mariette over crepe-de-chen’ of lightweight silk crepe as a backing, which was quite expensive.
According to one source, the made-to-order gown was fitted and likely hand-made by a Sydney-based dressmaker. The Mariette wedding gown style is still popular in England for brides-to-be if wedding blogs indicate trends. The bride’s gown was fashionable for 1928, with the hemline just below the knee.
The bride’s veil was white tulle, with a pink and white carnations bouquet. One local source in the shoe industry describes the bride’s shoes as a hand-made white leather shoes with a strap and a three-inch heel. They would have likely been hand-made by one of the four or five Sydney shoe firms of the day, some located around Marrickville.
Marge McIntosh wore a headdress of a ‘clothe’ veil style, which was popular then. The veil was ‘white tulle mounted over pink, formed the train and held in place with a coronet of orange blossom and silver’. According to press reports, the elaborate floral bouquet was made up of white and pink carnations and, according to Angela Wannet who viewed the bride’s wedding photo, was complemented by lilies and ferns.
The history of wedding robes as a part of celebrating wedding festivities dates back to the ancient Chinese and Roman civilizations. The first recorded mention of the white wedding dress in Europe was in 1406 when the English Princess Philippa married Scandinavian King Eric.
In the British Empire, the Industrial Revolution and the marriage of Queen Victoria to her first cousin Prince Albert in 1840 changed all that. The fitted wedding dress with a voluminous full skirt became the rage after their wedding. The British population romanticized their relationship, and young women rushed to copy their Queen. The bride’s beauty was enhanced with the rise of wedding photography and did much to popularise the white-wedding dress trend.
Our modern bride at Cobbitty was attended by her sister Etta (Tottie) McIntosh in a frock of apricot georgette and the bridegroom’s sister Muriel Whiteman who wore a blue georgette, with hats and bouquets toned with their frocks. Georgette is a sheer fabric with a good sheen that is difficult to work and requires a good dressmaker. The fabric is difficult to cut out and sew and, according to one source, is easy to snag. The dressmaker exhibited her skill and experience with handcrafted sewing if the wedding photo of the bride, Marge McIntosh, is anything to go by.
The groom had his brother Charles Whiteman act as best man and an old school friend from Albury, Mr T Hewish as groomsman. (Camden News, 20 September 1928)
The wedding guests retired to a reception at the McIntosh’s historic colonial property of Denbigh, where the bride and groom were honoured with the ‘usual toasts’ and many congratulatory telegrams. A master of ceremony would have stuck to a traditional wedding reception with an introduction of the bride and groom, then toasts, with a response speech from the bride’s father, more toasts, responses by the groom’s father, followed by the reading of telegrams. The McIntosh family household would have likely provided the catering for the wedding.
Amongst the wedding gifts were a rose bowl from the Camden Tennis Club and a silver entre dish from FC Whiteman & Sons staff. These gifts reflect the interests and importance of the bride and groom in these organisations. Tennis was a popular pastime in the Camden area in the 1920s, and some Camden tennis players did well at a state level in competitions. The entire dish would have been a plain design reflecting the influence of 1920s modern styling rather than the ornate design typical of Victorian silverware. (Camden News, 20 September 1928)
The bride’s going away outfit was ‘a smart model dress of navy blue and a small green hat’. This would likely have been a fitted design typical of the style of the period and the influence of modernism in fashions in London and Paris. (Camden News, 20 September 1928)
The bride and groom left for a motoring honeymoon spent touring after the wedding festivities. In the 1920s, motor touring gained popularity as cars became more common and roads improved. Coastal locations and mountain retreats, with their crisp cool air in August, were popular touring destinations in the 1920s.
The wedding photograph of Marge McIntosh in her bridal gown, like historical photographs in general, is a snapshot in time. The image provides a level of meaning that contemporary written reports in the Camden press do not contain. The photograph provides subtle detail that can fill out the story for the inquisitive researcher.
While the wedding reports did not make the social pages of the Sydney press, it does not understate the importance of this union at a local level in the Camden community. It would be interesting to speculate if there were similar weddings between other Camden families.
The visual and written reports of the wedding give a new insight into life in Camden in the 1920s and how the community was subject to external transnational influences from all corners of the globe. Many claim that country towns like Camden were closed communities, which is true in many respects. These two Camden families were subject to the forces of international fashion and maintaining their community’s social sensibilities.
On the hill overlooking the Camden town centre is a church building representing the community’s historic, moral and emotional heart, its sense of place. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the church represents the town’s soul, built below it on the Nepean River floodplain in the mid-19th century.
A metaphor for the order and stability
The church is a metaphor for the order and stability it represented in the wilds of the colonial frontier. It was at the centre of the original proposal for the English-style village of Camden in the 1830s, along with a courthouse and a gaol.
For the Macarthurs of Camden Park estate, the church was the centre of their moral and spiritual conservatism. As part of similar early 19th English estate villages, the church represented the stability and order Macarthur required of the new community on their estate. More than this, the church was a central part of the landscape vistas of the village from Camden Park House.
James Macarthur’s view of the world
According to Alan Atkinson, the church represented James Macarthur’s religious view of the world where faith emanated from the ‘joint initiative of all classes’. Macarthur maintained that ‘collective and mutual dependence’ was an essential part of the ‘Christian spirit’ that would be a ‘symbol of for their reliance on each other’. [i]
The church cause was promoted by James and William Macarthur, and they appealed to neighbours and employees for a fund to construct the church. By 1835 the Macarthurs subscribed £500 of a total of £644 from estate workers and neighbours.
The church’s building coincided with Governor Bourke’s Church Act of 1836 which offered a subsidy for building churches in the New South Wales colony. Macarthur applied for a subsidy of £1000 of the total cost of £2500.[ii]
The church was constructed with local bricks and timbers and was consecrated in 1849. Hector Abrahams states that St John’s church:
In its architectural innovation and picturesque placement in a controlled landscape, it is among the most important parish churches in Australia.[iii]
Camden religious precinct
The church and its grounds are in a religious precinct that includes the rectory and stables (1859), church hall (1906), and a cemetery. While the church was initially proposed in a ‘classical’ style, it was eventually constructed in the Gothic Revival style, which became popular in Sydney then. Sydney architect Hector Abrahams maintains that St Johns was the first Gothic Revival church in the colony of New South Wales when it finished in 1844.
Gothic revival looked back to the glory of the medieval period, in contrast to neo-classical styles, which were popular at the time. To its supporters, Gothic architecture was representative of Christian values that were being destroyed by the Industrial Revolution. Gothic architecture was aligned with the conservatism of the Macarthurs rather than the republicanism of the French and American revolutionary wars and neoclassicism. Its popularity was partly driven in the colony of New South Wales by the rebuilding of the British Houses of Parliament in 1834, which evoked a romantic age.
Over the subsequent decades, St John’s church has represented Camden’s Englishness. Probably the first reference to St John’s church and its Englishness was in the Anglican newspaper, the Sydney Guardian when it stated
it’s graceful and really well proportioned spire presents a cheering object to the up country traveller, as it breaks the dull outline of bush hill carrying the mind back to scenes well remembered and deeply loved by all English hearted folk (Sydney Guardian quoted in Clive Lucas Stapleton & Partners, St. John’s Anglican Church Precinct Menangle Road, Camden Conservation Management Plan, 2004, Sydney, p.44)
In 1926 the church was at the forefront of the mind of Eldred Dyer, who wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that Camden was reminiscent of English parish church towns. He wrote that as he stepped out and walked around the town centre, he lifted his:
eyes to the old church as it stands in beauty on its hill, and In a flash you are transported to some old English church town. In a moment, if you have understanding, you and in a flash you are transported to some old English church town.[iv]
To a travel writer for the Sydney Mail in 1926, the church was the dominant English-style landscape feature on a road trip through the area:.
the shapely and lofty steeple of its church raising itself above the copse of frees on the hilltop and giving the little township a quaintly European aspect.[v]
From its inception, the church has become central to all representations of the Camden township and what it means to be born and bred in the district. The church is the fundamental icon is the community’s sense of place and identity.
The church symbolism is central in tourism literature, business promotions, stories of the town, its history, and other representations of the district.
The church continues to dominate the town centre skyline and the minds and hearts of all Camden folk. Here hoping that this continues for another century.
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