Camden · Colonial Camden · Cowpastures · Uncategorized

175th Anniversary of Camden’s foundation, 1840-2015

A Photographic Essay 

View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1
The township was established near the Government Hut that was as the accommodation used by the constables who were employed to guard the entrance of Cowpastures Reserve for the wild cattle in 1804 near the ford across the Nepean River. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1

 

Carinya Cottage c.1890 (Camden Historical Society)
Carinya Cottage c.1890 is typical of brick Edwardian cottages across the district that was closely associated with the Paxton and Cross family. The cottage was unfortunately demolished in 2010 to make way for a new housing estate. (Camden Historical Society)

 

Little Sandy with footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950. Diving board in foreground. (Camden Images)
Little Sandy footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950 with a diving board in foreground. The location was a popular spot for swimming and other water activities. In the 1920s and 1930s this part of the river was the location of the Camden Swimming Club. The footbridge was constructed during the Second World War as a training exercise for troops from the Narellan Military Camp. (Camden Images)

 

The Nepean River has shaped the Camden’s sense of place and the image shows Nepean River below the Cowpasture Bridge in 1900 in the vicinity of the ford mentioned by Governor Macquarie. The low state of the river indicates the effect of the Federation drought (mid 1890s-1902) on the local area. (Camden Images/CA Poole)

 

 

Camden's Argyle St (Hume Highway) in 1938 with Rural Bank on left looking east (Camden Images)
Camden’s Argyle Street (the Hume Highway) in 1938 with the Rural Bank and Bank of New South Wales on the left. The setback and height of the buildings in Argyle has not changed in 70 years. The key buildings are still identifiable from the same location at the John Street round-about. (Camden Images)

 

The Georgian Revival style Bank of New South Wales building was constructed in 1936 at 121-123 Argyle St, Camden. The bank manager and his family lived on the upper level in a self-contained flat. (I Willis)

 

Central Camden c1930s (Camden Images)
Central Camden in the early 1930s with the Woolpack Inn on the corner of John and Argyle Streets and the Commercial Banking Co building is on the opposite side of John Street. (Camden Images)

 

An Edwardian weatherboard cottage at 64 John Street Camden is typical of domestic architecture of the town and surrounding district in the early 20th century. At this time John Street was still unpaved, while guttering was constructed on block stone. ( J Riley)

 

 

Located on the Hume Highway the Tudor style Camden Valley Inn was built in 1938 as a milk bar to sell the Gold Top Camden Vale milk brand from Camden Park. Designed by architect Cyral Ruwald and constructed by builder Herb English. (Camden Images)

 

Cafes were a popular stop on the Hume Highway in central Camden serving milk shakes, hamburgers and mixed grills. Howlett’s Cafe was located at 159 Argyle Street show in this 1954 image. (Camden Images)

 

During the Second World War a number of airmen were killed in flying accidents in squadrons that statioed at RAAF Base at Camden Airfield. They are buried at Camden War Cemetery on a rise on Cawdor Road. (I Willis)
Camden Airfield was the location of the RAAF Central Flying School at the beginning of the Second World War training pilots and air crew for the Empire Training Scheme.

 

Coal mining added wealth in the post-war years and quite a few fibro cottages were constructed at Elderslie to provide accommodation for mine workers. They are an identifiable part of Camden modernism. (I Willis)
Local identity Llewella Davies was a member of the Camden Voluntary Aid Detachment, the paramilitary auxiliary of the Red Cross, that was part of the Second World War homefront war effort. (CHS0614)
camden_003
St John’s Church has been the moral heart of Camden’s sense of place since the church was constructed during the 1840s. It is located at the top of John Street which was unsealed in this image from the 1890s. (Camden Images)

 

The Hume Highway brought all aspects of modernism to the town from Sydney including motoring and consumerism at the Spanish Mission style Cooks Garage at the corner of Elizabeth and Argyle Street Camden in 1936 (Camden Images)

Source: Camden Images

Uncategorized

The Camden decked carpark that will not die

Camden Advertiser 12 July 2006 p.1
Camden Advertiser 12 July 2006 p.1

Camden decked carpark proposal

Camden Council recently resolved to investigate and design a decked carpark in Oxley Street as part of the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy (2014).

This is not the first time that the council has considered a decked carpark. The first investigation of a decked carpark dates from 1996.  A later proposal in 2006 was eventually defeated. Over the decade a number of proposals were considered, meanwhile during this process the council developed over 360 additional car parking spaces in the town centre.

The following is an extract from an article that summarised the 2007 proposal:

Camden decked carpark proposal (2007)

The background to the 2006 carpark proposal can be found in the demographic shifts within the Local Government Area (LGA) caused by urbanisation. The importance of central Camden as the commercial hub of the LGA had gradually been eroded by population shifts to the north.

Camden traders faced increased competition from developments in the Narellan area, particularly the opening in 1995 of the Narellan Town Centre with 36 retail outlets and 1200 car parking spaces. Some Camden businesses felt that their viability was being threatened by these changes and approached Camden Council to provide a decked carpark in central Camden to attract shoppers.

In 1996 Camden’s deputy mayor, Eva Campbell, requested that council investigate a decked carpark at the site of an existing ground level parking area, between John and Murray Streets. This was one of three proposed sites in central Camden that were considered for a decked carpark over the next 10 years.

In the late 1990s at least one retail complex undertook a major re-development on the basis that the council would approve the construction of a decked carpark on the John/Murray Street site.

Apart from the John and Murray Streets site, the other two sites were also located at existing ground level carparks in central Camden, one in Larkin Place and the other between John and Hill Streets. The sites adjacent to John Street were on the elevated southern side of Argyle Street, while Larkin Place was located on the floodplain, on the northern side Argyle Street.

The major stakeholder was Camden Council. It was to be the owner, operator, financier, planner, and consent authority for the proposal. The council initially commissioned independent consultants to conduct a feasibility study (2002) and then approved the John/Murray Street site (2003), which was the site favoured by the Chamber of Commerce. The council needed loan funds beyond its budget and had to seek ministerial approval. The Department of Local Government demanded further community consultation in 2003 and a public exhibition period.

The results of the community survey indicated that local citizens felt the construction of a decked carpark was only a low to medium priority for council. Council elections were held in 2004, and the new council wanted further information and deliberation on the proposal. The sticking point was a comparison of the costings for Larkin Place and the John/Murray Street sites. The Larkin Place site yielded more carparking spaces at a lower cost per space, but the total cost for the John/Murray Street site was cheaper and it was still the favoured location of the Chamber of Commerce.

The council engaged a firm of architects to design the carpark in 2005 on the John/Murray Street site and held a stakeholders workshop shortly afterwards.

By mid-2005 public debate had intensified.and a number of parties expressed reservations about the proposal, supported by council’s heritage architects. In July council rejected the proposal. The Federal Member of Parliament entered the debate at this point and suggested an underground carpark.

Council wanted further consideration of the matter in late 2005 and approved the carpark in early 2006 on the John/Murray Street site.

The development of a decked carpark on the elevated southern sites compromised the vista of the St John’s Church from the Nepean River floodplain. The church was located on the hill behind the proposed John Street sites. This vista was part of the iconic imagery of Camden that has been an important part of the town’s cultural landscape and identity from colonial times.

The iconic nature of Camden’s sense of place was not contested by stakeholders. Although some stakeholders did feel that the final design of the decked carpark did compromise these values, including the council’s commissioned heritage architect. The architects felt that the proposal compromised the integrity of the ‘most intact country town on the Cumberland Plain’.

These opinions and others were carried by the Camden press including a diversity of letters from local residents. Public debate on the issue intensified in 2005 and the press reported the progress of the proposal with headlines, like: ‘Don’t dare do it?’, ‘Parking war not over yet’, ‘Fury over backflip’ and ‘Expensive “white elephant”’. The letter pages were scattered with colourful comment under headings like: ‘How to wreck the cultural landscape of Camden’, ‘Deceitful and devious on car park issue’ and ‘Car park cops a serve…or two’.

One issue that complicated the political process surrounding the progress of the proposal through council was the matter of councillor’s pecuniary interests. A number of councillors on the pre-2004 council and the 2006 council had business interests that were adjacent to one of the proposed sites. This raised the matter of a conflict of interest.

Councillors regularly excluded themselves from debate on the proposed carpark because of their declared interests, and one councillor felt she needed to justify her actions in the press. Despite this a complaint was made to the Department of Local Government about four counsellors and their perceived conflict of interest in mid-2006. All were cleared of any wrong doing, although one councillor appeared on the front page of the Camden Advertiser to explain his position.

The council made efforts to develop additional parking spaces and between 1999 and 2003 provided 367 extra parking spaces.

In addition 46 extra car parking spaces for shoppers were provided by ejecting council staff from a carpark adjacent to the council chambers. Where once council office staff had enjoyed free all day parking there was now a three hour time limit. One councillor suggested that it would not hurt council staff to walk an additional 100 metres to work.

More reading

Read the full article Ian Willis, Democracy in action in local government: Camden NSW (2007)

Read more here

Read about the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy here on the Camden Council website

Further research

A summary of the 2014 Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy process over recent months is being compiled by the author of Camden History Notes.  The summary will be posted on this blog at the end of January 2015 for comment by interested parties. These will then be used to draft a submission for a conference presentation on the issues in early 2015. It is hoped to publish a journal article at a later date.

Camden · Colonial Camden · Uncategorized

Camden dreamtime

Camden's John Street with St John's Church 1890s (Camden Images)
Camden’s John Street with St John’s Church 1890s (Camden Images)

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

The ‘country town idyll’ is defined as an idealised version of a country town from an imagined past which uses history to construct imagery based on Camden’s heritage buildings and other material fabric.  At the heart of the idyll is the view that Camden should retain its iconic imagery of a picturesque country town with the church on the hill, surrounded by a rustic rural landscape made up of the landed estates of the colonial gentry.  The idyll has been created by its supporters in an attempt to isolate Camden, like an island, in the sea of urbanisation and development that has enveloped the town.

These are the values that the supporters of Camden’s ‘country town idyll’ have encouraged and then expressed in the language they used to describe it. They  talk about the  retention of Camden’s ‘country town atmosphere’, or retaining ‘Camden’s country charm’, or ‘country town character’. They describe the town as being ‘picturesque’, or having ‘charming cottages’. To them Camden is  ‘a working country town’, or is simply ‘my country town’.   These  elements are evocative of an emotional attachment to a place that existed in the past, when  Camden was a small quiet country town that relied on  farming for its existence.

The origins of the ‘country town idyll’ are to be found in the rural ethos that is  drawn from within the nineteenth century rural traditions brought from Great Britain, where there was a romantic view of the country, that had an ordered, stable, comfortable organic small community in harmony with the natural surroundings. Elements of this rural culture have been variously described as ‘countrymindedness’,  ‘rural ideology’,  ‘rural ethos’, ‘ruralism’, and a ‘rural idyll’. They have been a pre-occupation of many scholars, including contemporary writers, like the Australian poet Les Murray.

Within this tradition there  is an Arcadian notion of  a romantic view of rural life where there is  a distinction drawn between the metropolis and the village, commonly known as the  town/country divide. This was the essence of pre-war Camden (a town of around 2000) where rural culture  provided the stability  of a closed community which was suspicious of outsiders, especially those from the city, with life ordered by social rank, personal contacts and familial links. It was confined by conservatism, patriarchy and an Anglo-centric view of the world.

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