The Blue Plaques program aims to capture public interest and fascination in people, events and places that are important to the stories of NSW.
The Blue Plaques program celebrates NSW heritage by recognising noteworthy people and events from our state’s history.
The aim of the program is to encourage people to explore their neighbourhood and other parts of NSW and connect with people of the past, historical moments and rich stories that matter to communities and have shaped our state.
The program is inspired by the famous London Blue Plaques program run by English Heritage which originally started in 1866, and similar programs around the world.
“Behind every plaque, there is a story.”
The essence of the Blue Plaques program is the storytelling. A digital story will be linked to each plaque.
The Blue Plaques should tell stories that are interesting, fun, quirky along with more sombre stories that should be not be forgotten as part of our history.
What is the Camden Red Cross story?
What is being recognised?
Camden Red Cross patriotic wartime sewing circles at the Camden School of Arts (later the Camden Town Hall now the Camden Library) – 1914-1918, 1940-1946.
What is the story?
The Camden Red Cross sewing circles were one of Camden women’s most important voluntary patriotic activities during World War One and World War Two. The sewing circles started at the Camden School of Arts in 1914, and due to lack of space, moved to the Foresters’ Hall in Argyle Street in 1918. At the outbreak of the Second World War, sewing circles reconvened in 1940 at the Camden Town Hall in John Street (the old School of Arts building – the same site as the First World War)
These sewing circles were workshops where Camden women volunteered and manufactured supplies for Australian military hospitals, field hospitals and casualty clearing stations. They were held weekly on Tuesdays, which was sale day in the Camden district.
Sewing circles were ‘quasi-industrial production lines’ where Camden women implemented their domestics skills to aid the war at home. Camden women cut out, assembled, and sewed together hospital supplies, including flannel shirts, bed shirts, pyjamas, slippers, underpants, feather pillows, bed linen, handkerchiefs, and kit bags. The workshops were lent a number of sewing machines in both wars.
The sewing circles also coordinated knitting and spinning for bed socks, stump socks, mufflers, balaclava caps, mittens, cholera belts (body binders) and other items. The women also made ‘hussifs’ or sewing kits for the soldiers. During the First World War, the sewing circles attracted between 80-100 women each week. The list of items was strikingly consistent for hospital supplies for both wars, with the only significant addition during the Second World War being the knitted pullovers and cardigans.
The production output of the Camden women was prodigious. Between 1914 and 1918, women from the Camden Red Cross sewing circle made over 20,300 articles tallied to over 40,000 volunteer hours. Between 1940 and 1946, during World War Two, women made over 25,000 articles, totalling over 45,000 voluntary hours.
The operation of the sewing circles was fully funded through the fundraising of Camden Red Cross and community donations. In 1917 alone, over 95% of branch fundraising was dedicated to these activities.
In World War One, other Red Cross sewing circles in the Camden district were located at The Oaks, Camden Park, Theresa Park, and Middle Burragorang. During World War Two, other centres across the local area included Bringelly-Rossmore, Menangle, Narellan, and The Oaks. Each group independently funded its activities.
These patriotic voluntary activities by Camden women were part of the war at home and have received little recognition at a local, state or national level. Wartime sewing and knitting have been kept in the shadows for too long. There needs to be a public acknowledgement of the patriotic effort of these women.
Where will the plaque be placed?
Camden School of Arts – later called the Camden Town Hall (1939-1945) and now the Camden Library.
What will the plaque say?
Camden Red Cross patriotic wartime sewing circles – 1914-1918, and 1940-1946.
English Heritage and Blue Plaques in the United Kingdom
London’s blue plaques scheme, run by English Heritage, celebrates the links between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked. Founded in 1866, it has inspired many similar schemes in the UK and around the world.
Reference for Camden Red Cross story
Ian Willis,Ministering Angels, The Camden District Red Cross 1914-1945. Camden Historical Society, Camden, 2014.
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.
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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.
Ferguson’s Nursery at Hurstville, Mittagong and Sylvania
During the post-war years, Ferguson’s Nurseries continued to be located on Sydney’s urban fringe as the metropolitan area expanded into the rural surrounds.
Hurstville nursery prospered then closed, another opened on the urban fringe at Sylvania while a cold-climate nursery opened at Mittagong and the Camden nursery closed.
In the mid-1960s, the family had sold the business to new owners who continued to use the Ferguson nurseries as a trading name.
The importance of the colonial legacy of Francis Ferguson is emphasised in July McMaugh’s Living Horticulture. She only lists four New South Wales 19th colonial horticulturalists of significance, one of whom is Ferguson.
The Camden nursery site remains quite significant in the history of the Australian nursery industry. Morris and Britton maintain that the site is
A rare remnant of an important and influential colonial nursery from the late 1850s and includes a collection of 19th century plantings and is a landmark in the local area. (Morris and Britton 2000)
Camden Nursery site
The Camden nursery on the Nepean River stopped operating in the immediate post-war years, and the nursery headquarters re-located to Hurstville.
In 1937 Camden Municipal Council rejected an offer from Ferguson’s nurseries of 100 rose bushes for planting out in Macarthur Park. The council did not want the nursery to take cuttings from the park’s rose bushes. (Camden News, 13 May 1937)
In the 1930s, the Camden press reported that Ferguson’s nurseries had purchased the property of W Moore between the Old Southern Road and the Hume Highway (Camden News, 11 April 1935). This was in the vicinity of Little Street. (Cole, CHS, 1989) This is likely the 1937 outlet fronting the Hume Highway in Camden and still operating in 1944. (Camden News, 18 February 1937, 17 February 1944)
The Camden nursery outlet had stopped trading by 1946. The Camden press reported an application to connect to the electricity supply to RB Ferguson’s property at the ‘the Old Nursery’. (Camden News, 19 December 1946, 27 November 1947)
By the mid-1950s, the nursery was trading as F Ferguson & Son, headquartered at Hurstville with branches at Sylvania and Mittagong. (Sun Herald, 13 September 1953)
Operations for the Ferguson’s Nurseries were centralised at the Hurstville nursery in the post-war years, and the area around the nursery became known as Kingsgrove.
There was growth in the area following the opening of Kingsgrove Railway Station in 1931. Sydney’s residential development followed the development of suburban railway lines.
There was increased growth in the Hurstville area in the post-war years with increased housing in the area and rising land values.
The NSW Housing Commission built over 200 homes on what was called the Ferguson Nursery Estate at Kingsgrove. (St George Call (Kogarah) 21 September 1945)
In the 1957 Plant Catalogue, the nursery indicates that the business had a Kingsgrove address and had branches at Sylvania and Mittagong (Ferguson Nursery 1957)
1957 Plant Catalogue
In the 1957 Plant Catalogue of 54 pages, the nursery listed a Kingsgrove address and branches at Sylvania and Mittagong (Ferguson Nursery 1957). The catalogue listed plant stock for sale with advice for the gardener to achieve the best results.
The catalogue listed for sale: fruit trees; Australian trees and shrubs; flowering plants including roses, camellias (51 varieties), azaleas, hibiscus; conifers; ornamental trees; palms and cycads (varieties from California, Canary Islands, Siam, South America, India, China and Japan).
Amongst the fruit trees, the catalogue listed apples, apricots, citrus (cumquats, oranges, lemons, mandarins, grapefruit), nectarines, passionfruit, peaches, pears, plums (English, Japanese), prunes, quinces, as well as almonds and walnuts.
Roses were a speciality and included novelty roses for 1957, standard roses and others. The catalogue provided advice for gardeners to achieve the best results with roses, particularly care about planting and pruning. (Ferguson Nursery 1957)
Under Australian trees and shrubs, the catalogue stated:
Australia is endowed with of indigenous Trees and Shrubs that are entirely different and considered by many far superior to anything else in the world. Nothing is more useful for Parks, School Grounds, etc, that some of out Native Flora, and certainly nothing is more hardy or topical. (Ferguson Nursery 1957)
Fergusons offered a landscaping service to
assist and advise you in the correct formation and setting-out of Lawns, Drives, Shrubberies, also in the correct selection of suitable Shrubs, Roses, and all kinds of Flowering Plants, so that the ultimate results will be charming. (Ferguson Nursery 1957) (Ferguson 1957)
111 Port Hacking Road, Sylvania
Ferguson’s made a business decision post-war to follow Sydney’s urban fringe and establish a new nursery to the south of Hurstville in the Sutherland Shire at Sylvania.
Sutherland Shire was growing in the late mid-20th century. McDowells opened a department store at Caringbah in 1961, Miranda Fair Shopping Centre opened in 1964, the new Sutherland District Hospital opened in 1958, and the Sutherland Daily Leader was launched with its first edition on 29 June 1960. (Sutherland Shire Library)
The first mention of the Sylvania nursery in the Sydney press was in 1955 when Fergusons placed an advertisement for contractors to provide a quote to build a fibro cottage on the nursery site at 111 Port Hacking Road. (SMH, 1 October 1955)
The nursery opened for trading in 1961. A story in the Sutherland press about the history of the Ferguson nursery group. (Sutherland Daily Leader, 26 April 1961)
Nurseryman Rex Jurd conducted the management of the Sylvania nursery. (McMaugh 2005:252) (McMaugh 2005)
Nurseryman Jurd recalled that Francis Ferguson’s granddaughter, Nancy, and husband lived on the site. He said, ‘It seemed to Rex that they had little interest in the business’.
‘It was run down and he spent two years there fixing it up, and replacing all the plant material’, wrote Judy McMaugh.
The Sylvania nursery extended from Port Hacking Road to the waterfront on Gwawley Bay (now Sylvania Waters) (McMaugh 2005: 252-253). According to Jurd, the nursery was not clearly visible to on-coming traffic and was on the low side of the road and suffered from ‘few customers’.
Jurd, a fellow student with well-known Sydney nurseryman Valerie Swain at Ryde School of Horticulture, left Fergusons in 1959 and started working for Smart’s Nurseries at Gordon. (McMaugh 2005: 252-253)
The Sylvania nursery was sold to the Pike family in 1966 and it became part of Ferguson Garden Centre Pty Ltd. The new business retained the Ferguson name as part of the sale. (Sutherland Daily Leader, 16 May 1966)
Hume Highway (then Old Hume Highway, then Ferguson Cres) Mittagong
Ferguson’s Nurseries developed a cold-climate nursery at Mittagong in 1939 and developed under the management of nurseryman Arthur Carroll.
According to nurseryman Bill Starke, Arthur Carroll ‘was equipped with a draught horse, a cross-cut saw, and an axe, and he basically cleared the property by hand’. (McMaugh 2005: 105)
Mr Carroll was away on active during the Second World War and returned in 1946 as manager of the nursery which traded as F Ferguson and Son. (Southern Mail, 10 May 1946)
Bruce Ferguson sold the Mittagong nursery to the Pike family in 1970. (McMaugh 2005:363)
New ownership and the Ferguson name continues
Bruce Ferguson sold the Sylvania nursery in 1966. (Reeve 2017)
The new owners were Jack Pike of Pikes Nurseries Rydalmere and Arch and Alan Newport of Newport Nurseries Winmalee (Springwood). (McMaugh 2005: 320) The new ownership arrangement was incorporated in 1966 as Ferguson’s Garden Centres Pty Ltd. (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 1967).
The Pikes were innovative businessmen, and the Sydney press ran a story in 1967 that promoted the nursery as Sydney’s new ‘supergardenmarket’. (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 1967).
In 1970 the business purchased the Baulkham Hills Garden Centre and re-named it Ferguson’s Baulkham Hills Garden Centre. By 1973 the Newports had sold out to the Pike family interests. (McMaugh 2005:320, 366)
In 1974 outlets opened at Narrabeen and Warringah Mall, and the Sydney CBD. (McMaugh2005:365-366)
By the 1980s, there were many centres across the Sydney metropolitan area, including Baulkham Hills, Sylvania, Bonnyrigg, Narrabeen, Guilford, Mittagong in the Southern Highlands, in Victoria the Mornington Peninsular and on the far-north coast at Alstonville. (McMaugh 2005:366)
Ferguson, F. (1957). Ferguson’s Nursery Catalogue. Hurstville, F Ferguson & Sons.
McMaugh, J. (2005). Living Horticulture, The lives of men and women in the New South Wales nursery industry. Sydney NSW, Nursery and Garden Industry NSW & ACT.
Morris, C. and G. Britton (2000). Colonial landscapes of the Cumberland Plain and Camden, NSW : A survey of selected pre – 1860 cultural landscapes from Wollondilly to Hawkesbury LGAs. Sydney NSW, National Trust of Australia (NSW). 1 & 2.
Reeve, T. M. (2017). “‘Rawson’, Condamine Street, Campbelltown, a private residence, formerly known as ‘Marlesford’.” Grist Mills 30(2): 25-32.
In 1883 the Double Bay outlet of Ferguson’s Australian Nurseries at Camden was described in the Sydney press as a ‘well-ordered establishment…covering three acres…laid out in a most systematic manner’. (Illustrated Sydney News, 14 April 1883, page 3)
The Double Bay nursery was one part of the Ferguson horticultural enterprise, which started in the 1850s at Camden. Sales encouraged opening a second nursery at Campbelltown, later moved to Double Bay. The 20th century brought more changes and eventually new owners.
Ferguson’s nursery and William Macarthur’s Camden Park nursery were part of a British imperial horticultural network that satisfied the Victorians’ insatiable demand for plants. The industry was driven by plant hunting expeditions and a Victorian fetish for orchids, ferns, palms and other new plants.
The burgeoning colonial nursery industry in the Cowpastures was an integral part of British imperialism and the settler-colonial project. The Enlightenment notions of progress and development were good for business and re-enforced the dispossession and displacement of Dharawal people from their country.
Nurseryman Francis Ferguson
The Camden nursery was established in 1857 by Englishman Francis Ferguson on a 50-acre site fronting the Nepean River. Francis originally came out to New South Wales as an assisted immigrant in 1849 on the John Bright after working at Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire and other English estates. Initially, he worked for Sir Thomas Mitchell, laying out his estate at Parkhall (later Nepean Towers, St Mary’s Towers) at Douglas Park. (Morris and Britton 2000)
Historian Alan Atkinson describes Ferguson as ‘a man of education, some capital and mercurial habits’. (Atkinson, 1988)
Ferguson was head gardener at Camden Park Estate for William Macarthur (later Sir William) from 1849-1856 and could be styled as a Macarthur protege. (Reeve 2017) The Camden Park website maintains that William Macarthur ran one of the most important nurseries in 19th century New South Wales. According to visiting English nurseryman John Gould (JG) Veitch Macarthur was well known in Europe. Veitch Nurseries were reportedly the largest family-run plant nurseries in 19th century Europe.
Ferguson remained indebted to the patronage of William Macarthur (Morris and Britton 2000) and his experience at Camden Park and acted on Macarthur’s behalf when he was not in Australia. (WCL 2021)
In 1864 a 25-year-old JG Veitch (Financial Times, 27 September 2014), led a plant hunting expedition to the ‘South Seas’ and delivered several Wardian cases to Australian colonial contacts. While in New South Wales, he visited William Macarthur’s Camden Park nursery and Fergusons Australian Nursery, which impressed him. For a time Ferguson acted as an agent for James Veitch and Sons nurseries. (Morris and Britton 2000; McMaugh 2005)
Fruit trees, camellias and roses
Francis Ferguson opened the Camden nursery sometime in 1857 (Nixon 1991; Little 1977; Farmer and Settler, 8 July 1937, 15 July 1937) and it became the centre of a growing horticultural enterprise that extended well beyond the area.
The Ferguson nursery was located on the left bank of the Nepean River at the Macquarie Grove river crossing on the northern boundary of Camden Park estate. The nursery site had an east-west alignment with a 600-metre river frontage along its northern boundary ending at Matahil Creek to the east, with the Ferguson homestead on the rise to the southwest.
The homestead had ‘a fine view’ of the Camden township to the northeast with the spire of St John’s Church and allowed a ‘glimpse of Camden Park house in the distance’ to the southeast. (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 10 January 1880, page 68)
According to Alan Atkinson, the Australian Nursery specialised in ‘trees “peculiarly adapted to the requirements of Australia”, together will shrubs and native seeds’. (Atkinson, 1988)
According to an 1880 Sydney press report, the nursery was about eight acres in extent with ‘a long avenue’ terminating at a ‘large gate’ below the house ‘making a very nice carriage drive’. There were ‘very well laid out walks’ throughout the nursery, surrounded by ‘gigantic pines, araucarias, and poplars’. (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 10 January 1880, page 68)
Reports indicate that in 1879 Fergusons sold over 60,000 fruit trees and 5,000 camellias (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 10 January 1880, page 68). The nursery plant stock consisted of over 6000 camellias, 100,000 hawthorn seedlings. (Ferguson 1871)
In 1871 issued a series of five trade catalogues that listed plant stock for sale. The catalogues were:
New and Rare Plants
Hardy Trees, Shrubs and Conifers
Fruit Trees, with directions for forming the orchard.
Bulbs and Tubers. (Ferguson 1871)
The ‘Catalogue of New and Rare Plants’ listed over 950 individual plants and was a mixture of native plants from the Australian continent and exotics from worldwide. The catalogue listed a substantial selection of popular flowering plants, including roses, camellias, azaleas, pelargoniums and chrysanthemums, fuchsias, carnations, and dahlias. Utilitarian plants included ‘trees for avenues’ and ‘hawthorn for hedges’. Under the heading of ‘trees and shrubs’, details listed the plants’ ‘scientific name’, ‘native country’, ‘height in feet’, and price. (Ferguson 1871)
The Ferguson catalogue provided practical advice for the colonial gardener and a plant description. For example, ‘Araucaria Bidwilli – The Queensland Bunya Bunya, forming magnificent trees as single specimens’. Camellias were a favourite but hard to grow in the colonial climate, and details were provided on how to look after them. The hawthorn was a ‘favourite English Hedge Plant [and] thrives remarkably well in all parts of Australia, forming, undoubtedly, the best defensive hedge’. (Ferguson 1871)
Ferguson’s also offered advice on new and rare plants in the press. In 1876 the nursery published advice on the ‘rare’ Jacaranda mimosifolia described as ‘a singularly beautiful and rare flowering tree’. The report stated, ‘the Jacaranda mimosifolia is perfectly hardy in all but the very coldest districts of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.’ (Australasian (Melb), 6 May 1876)
Ferguson’s sold extensively across the colonial garden market in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand, supported by 14 agents in locations ranging from Auckland to Wellington and Wanganui in New Zealand’s North Island and to Dunedin in the South Island. In Queensland, agents were listed at Warwick and Darling Downs, while those in New South Wales ranged from Bega to Mudgee and out to the Liverpool Plains. Ferguson claimed that there was an increasing demand for ‘Australian Timber Trees’ in Northern India, California, Southern Europe, and New Zealand. (Ferguson 1871)
Condamine Street, Campbelltown
By the late 1860s, increasing demand and the distance from the Campbelltown railway station encouraged Ferguson to establish a nursery outlet at Campbelltown. (Ferguson 1871)
The Camden nursery was nine miles from Campbelltown Railway Station, and it took Mr H Ferguson in a buggy with a ‘fine stepper’ and an hour to get there. (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 10 January 1880, page 68)
The firm opened the Campbelltown nursery in 1869 in Condamine Street, close to the convict-built water supply reservoir. (Reeve 2017) It was stocked with 50,000 ‘well-grown healthy plants’ to supply growing demand from ‘up-country and adjacent Colonies’. (Ferguson 1871)
From 1874 the Campbelltown outlet was managed by Francis John (FJ) Ferguson, Francis’s son, who had returned from five years with English firm Veitch Nurseries at Chelsea and the firm now traded as Francis Ferguson and Son. (Reeve 2017)
Double Bay Nursery
Manning Road and New South Head Road, Double Bay
The business continued to prosper, and FJ Ferguson moved the Campbelltown outlet closer to Sydney. A site was chosen at Double Bay on a former market garden in 1876 and opened in 1878. (WCL 2021) (Reeve 2017)
The Double Bay Nursery site had ‘a large frontage’ on New South Head Road with ‘rich deep alluvial’ soil in a low lying area that drained into Double Bay. (Illustrated Sydney News, 14 April 1883)
By 1887 the nursery had two propagating glasshouses with impatiens and lasiandras, a bush house that accommodated a mixture of pot plants including camellias, bouvardias, magnolias, conifers and tree ferns. (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 6 August 1887, page 278)
In 1885 the nursery opened a shopfront in Sydney’s Royal Arcade, which ran between George Street and Pitt Street and had been designed by Thomas Rowe in 1881. The nursery shop was successfully managed by Herbert Ferguson and specialised in plants, seeds and cut flowers. (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 6 August 1887, page 278)
The Ferguson’s also ran a small nursery near Ashfield railway station to supply the Royal Arcade shop with cut flowers. (Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser 6 August 1887, page 278)
The 20th century beckons
The beginning of the 20th century brought more changes for the Ferguson nursery business, and by the late 1960s, new owners.
Atkinson, Alan (1988). Camden, Farm and Village Live in Early New South Wales. OUP, Melbourne.
Ferguson, F. (1871). Catalogue of new and rare plants, hardy trees, shrubs, conifers &c. Camden NSW, Ferguson’s Australian Nurseries. (NLA)
Little, S. (1977), Correspondence to CHS 19 February, MSS, Camden Museum Archives
McMaugh, Judy (2005). Living Horticulture, The lives of men and women in the New South Wales Nursery Industry. Nursery and Garden Industry NSW & ACT, Sydney
Morris, C. and G. Britton (2000). Colonial landscapes of the Cumberland Plain and Camden, NSW: A survey of selected pre – 1860 cultural landscapes from Wollondilly to Hawkesbury LGAs. Sydney NSW, National Trust of Australia (NSW). 1 & 2.
Nixon, RE (1991). Camden Rose Festival. Typescript, Camden Museum Archives.
Reeve, T. M. (2017). “‘Rawson’, Condamine Street, Campbelltown, a private residence, formerly known as ‘Marlesford’.” Grist Mills 30(2): 25-32.
In 2018 the love of the Jacaranda in the Camden area extended to the launch of a new festival around the purple blossoms.
The idea first germinated in 2017 with the support of Argyle Street Business Collective. (Camden Narellan Advertiser, 8 August 2018)
In 2018 Camden Council threw its support behind Business Collective’s Jacaranda Festival. Council withdrew support for the annual Light Up Camden festival conducted by the Camden Chamber of Commerce, Tourism and Industry.
The town’s Christmas celebrations were incorporated into the new Jacaranda Festival.
The current generation of Jacaranda trees and their flush of purple haze started with street plantings in the 1920s.
an erect, though umbrageous and handsome growing tree, 30ft. to 40ft high. Its foliage is, perhaps, the most beautiful of all exogenous trees.
It is soft, feathery, fern or frond like, and exquisitely elegant, while at the same time it is decidedly grand, both in its proportions, graceful arrangements, and symmetry.
It may be said of the species that even out of flower it has no equal amongst moderate-sized ornamental trees, while to give expression to the effect of its appearance when in fall bloom no words would suffice. It must be seen to be appreciated.
The blossoms are large, of a most striking and delightful blue, and produced in such profusion that, viewed from a little distance, the tree appears, as it were, a graceful and living cone of floral grandeur.
Though rare, as we have remarked, enough has been proved to warrant us in stating that the Jacaranda mimosifolia is perfectly hardy in all but the very coldest districts of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. (Australasian, 6 May 1876)
“On returning, they would unload at Kangaroo Point cliffs’ wharfs and the first curator of the gardens, Walter Hill, would row across the river and exchange seeds and plants with visiting sea captains.
“A visiting sea captain from South America gave Walter Hill the first jacaranda, which he planted at the rear of the city botanic gardens in 1864.”
Camden Jacaranda Festival
The 2018 Jacaranda Festival was the inaugural event under founder and Camden Hotel manager Andrew Valciukas. Mayor Symkowiak said the ‘festival cheer will remain a highlight and nothing has changed [from Light Up Camden]’. (Macarthur Chronicle, 21 August 2018)
The festival ran from 23-25 November and opened on Friday night with live music throughout the town centre, including hotels, shopfronts and the Alan Baker Art Gallery.
The Jacaranda Experience opened on Saturday afternoon and into the evening when the Christmas tree was lit followed by fireworks. There was a street market with stalls and outdoor dining along Argyle Street and a stage in John Street for ‘local school children, dance schools and local professional acts’.
Larkin Place featured a motocross demonstration and a display of ‘fabulous street metal’. Fireworks topped out the festivities on Saturday night. (What On Macarthur, leaflet, November 2018) (Camden Narellan Advertiser, 8 August 2018)
Camden Region Economic Taskforce director Debbie Roberts put together several short films with Camden personality and historian Laura Jane Aulsebrook. The Jacarandas featured along with Camden Cottage, Show Pavilion, Camden Library Museum, Macaria and other historic sites.
CRET’s films appeared on Facebook in the week leading up to the festival. They were popular and prompted a bus group from Sydney’s northern suburbs to visit Camden for a walk led by LJ Aulesbrook.
Walks of town’s Jacaranda lined streets and historical sites were conducted on Sunday by members of the Camden Historical Society, including Laura Jane. The program of historic walking tours started at the Camden Museum. (The Jacaranda Walking Tour Map 2018)
Camden Flower Festivals
Flower festivals were not new to Camden.
In the late 1960s, the Camden Rose Festival committee organised an annual festival and street parade, topped out with the crowning of Miss Rose Festival Queen. The celebrations were initiated by Camden community worker JW Hill in aid of Camden District Hospital. (Camden Advertiser, 11 February 2009)
The beauty, resilience and fragrance of roses have made it a favourite of gardeners and flower-lovers, as well as a symbol of love, for centuries. Roses are romantic and voluptuous, with their petals painted in beautiful colours.
Camden’s Ferguson’s Australian Nurseries had an extensive catalogue of roses and sold them all over Australia and beyond.
Flower shows were not new in Camden, and the annual St John’s Church Flower Show was held each year starting in the 1890s and continuing for many decades.
our love of gardening, plants and soil can perhaps be attributed to the combination of the British heritage – reflected in a lot of garden design before modern trends and native practicality infiltrated our yards and apartments – and a climate that lends itself to spending time outdoors planting and pruning.
On the Camden Town Centre edges, there are two white concrete posts with numbers and letters. What are they, and what do the letters mean?
These white concrete posts are mileposts from when the Hume Highway ran up the centre of Camden along Argyle Street. The letters indicate destinations, and the numbers are distance in miles. These items are part of Camden’s engineering heritage.
The letters: M is Mittagong, S is Sydney, L is Liverpool and C is Camden. The distance is a mile: an imperial unit of measure from before the time of metric measurement. The mile here is a statute mile which is 5280 feet or 1.609 km, as opposed to a nautical mile used in air and sea transport and is different.
The English mile
Mileposts dated back to the Roman Empire and were placed alongside the Roman roads. Distances were measured from the city of Rome. The mile originated from the Roman mille passus, or “thousand paces,” which measured 5,000 Roman feet.
The first mileposts along English roads appeared in 1593 and were standardised in England under the reign of Elizabeth I. The English mile was a different length from the Scottish mile and the Irish mile. These measures were not standardised in the British Commonwealth and the US until 1959. (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1935. https://www.britannica.com/science/mile)
In the colony of New South Wales, the first sandstone milestones were located on the Parramatta, Liverpool and South Head Roads from 1816 on the instructions of Governor Macquarie. Milestones provided accurate reference marks along with the expanding public road system for travellers on coaches. (Crofts and Crofts, 2013)
In the colonial period, Governor Macquarie’s Obelisk of Distances was erected in 1818 as the official starting point for all distances in NSW. It was located in what was then the centre of Sydney and is now Macquarie Place. The monument was also ‘a symbolic peg’ as the furthest extent of the British Empire in the early 1800s.
The placement of milestones in colonial NSW set a precedent. They were placed along the left hand or southern side of the roadway with the destination facing Sydney. The posts were meant to be seen by travellers coming from either direction for the benefit of stagecoach drivers to measure their distance from Sydney. They also ensured that the driver was on the correct road as many were just bush tracks. (Crofts and Crofts, 2013)
The two concrete mileposts in Camden were part of the road improvements by the NSW Department of Main Roads in 1934.
The decision to implement a programme of mileposting followed the first annual conference of state road authorities in February 1934 held in Melbourne. The meeting decided to adopt uniform national procedures for mileposting and road warning signs for roadworks, among other matters. It was felt that uniformity of services would help interstate travellers. (DMR, 1934)
In 1934 the department allocated £134 to the program in the Sydney area. (DMR, 1934)
The DMR Main Roads magazine stated that
In the days before the advent of the motor vehicle, when travel by road was slow and was done on foot, on horseback, or in horse-drawn carriage, few things gave greater service, or were more eagerly looked for, than the mileposts. (DMR, 1934a)
According to the Department of Main Roads, mileposting before 1934 provided signs that gave direction and the distance of important towns. Mileposts had lost their importance to the traveller because the car speedometer gave ‘progressive mileage’ stated a departmental report. (DMR, 1934a)
Mileposting in 1934 was implemented with one specific aim.
The purpose of the mileposts now is to provide a convenient system of reference marks along the road for the use of those whose responsibility is to maintain the roads in a proper state. (DMR, 1934a)
The stated purpose was for the milepost to be a reference point along the road to give a precise position for any roadwork that needed to be done. Information to travellers was only secondary. (DMR, 1934a)
Mileposting to 1934 had been haphazard, with much work generated at a local level and many gaps. Road maintenance was a secondary consideration, with information for travellers paramount. Much work was ‘incomplete’. Groups of mileposts were only based around important towns, sometimes following main roads and sometimes not. (DMR, 1934a)
The 1934 mileposting project was partly triggered by the 1928 classification of all roads in NSW into state highways, trunk roads and ordinary roads.
The 1928 changes saw The Great Southern Road through Camden renamed the Hume Highway in 1928. The 1929 Razorback Deviation shifted the highway to the east away from the former Great South Road (now Cawdor Road). (DMR, 1934a)
Different types of mileposts were used in 1934 for different purposes. Concrete posts were used in the Sydney area and country towns, like Camden, and elsewhere there were timber posts.
There was a strict protocol for the letters and numbers on the posts, with letters and numbers incised and painted black and distances measured from the post office, and sometimes not. Posts were placed on the left-hand side of roadways leading from Sydney or the coast, as they were in colonial times.
Posts were located with a clear view from the roadway of 200 feet with specific instruction on distances from roadways and locations for cuttings and embankments. On bridges, the mileposts were be clamped to the handrails.
In mid-1934, the NRMA suggested the mileposts on the different highways should be painted in a variety of colours. (Kiama Reporter and Illawarra Journal, 20 June 1934) The suggestion was not taken up.
One supplier of the concrete mileposts was the Hume Pipe Coy (Aust) Ltd. (Main Roads, August 1938)
In the Camden area, the Camden Heritage Inventory states there were wooden mileposts along Cawdor Road, formerly The Great South Road. They pre-date the concrete mileposts.
In a 2002 survey for the Heritage Inventory, the three Cawdor Road timber mileposts were intact.
The posts were local hardwood cut by a sawmill in Edward Street in the late 1920s and delivered to The Great South Road (Cawdor Road) site by Camden teamster Les Nixon. (NSWSHI)
In a recent search, I was only able to locate one intact timber milepost in a fairly poor condition.
CROFTS, R. & CROFTS, S. 2013. Discovering Australia’s Historical Milemarkers and Boundary Stones, Sydney, Roberts and Sandra Crofts.
DMR 1934. Department of Main Roads Ninth Annual Report for the year ending 30th June 1934. Sydney: NSW Legislative Assembly.
DMR 1934a. The Mileposting on Main Roads. Main Roads, 5.
Walking over the Cowpastures bridge, you have a vista of the tranquil water of the Nepean River impounded behind the Camden weir. The tranquillity belies the raging torrent that can cover the bridge at flood times.
On the western end of the bridge is a small park where a plaque celebrates the 1976 re-construction of the bridge. A flood had turned the timber bridge deck into a twisted mess twelve months earlier.
The plaque states:
Originally opened in 1901 this bridge was extensively damaged by flood in June 1975.
Following repair it was re-opened by The Hon J JC Bruxner MLA, Minister for Transport and Highways, 9th April 1976.
Ald RB Ferguson, Mayor. Camden Municipal Council.
REA Rofe Esq. MLA, Member for State Electorate of Nepean.
AF Schmidt Esq., Commissioner for Main Roads, New South Wales.
Plaque, Argyle Street, Camden.
The low-level Cowpasture bridge is a pinch point for the movement of goods and people across the river. Its closure at flood times has created a choke-point that disrupts daily life. Other low-level bridges in the local area at Menangle, Cobbitty, and Macquarie Grove Road have suffered the same problem.
The access issue was only solved with the opening of the high-level Macarthur Bridge in 1973. The bridge is an important example of Camden’s engineering heritage and was built as part of the local region’s NSW Askin Governments New Cities structure plan.
Economic importance of access
Access to the southern side of the Nepean River has been an issue since European settlement and the discovery of the Wild Cattle in 1795. Governor Hunter named the area the Cowpastures in 1796, and it became a restricted reserve from 1803 to stop cattle poaching.
The issue of access across the river was illustrated in 1810 when a party led by Governor Macquarie visited the area. Macquarie wrote in his journal on 16 November 1810:
There being very little Water in the River at this time, we crossed it at the usual Ford in our Carriage with great ease and safety.
A bridge at last – ‘a paltry affair’
As the colonial frontier moved beyond the Cowpastures, there was increased traffic across the Nepean River, sometimes reported as the Cowpastures River. (SMH, 2 October 1861). The frontier conflicts between Europeans and Indigenous people calmed on the Cowpastures after the 1816 massacre. (Karskens, 2015) The process of settler colonialism and its insatiable appetite for territory increased traffic through the Cowpastures in the 1820s.
The river crossing required a more permanent solution to deal with the increased traffic movement along the Great South Road. The first Cowpasture bridge was built in 1826, then new bridges followed in 1861, 1900 and 1976. Each was trying to solve the same access problem (SMH, 2 October 1861).
A low-level bridge was first raised in 1823 when Surveyor-General John Oxley of Kirkham objected to a bridge at Bird’s Eye Corner river crossing (Menangle). The final decision was to build a crossing halfway between the Belgenny Crossing and Oxley’s Macquarie Grove. (Villy, 62-63)
Work began on the low-level Cowpasture bridge in 1824 and finished in 1826. Construction was supervised by convict Samuel Wainwright and built below the crown of the riverbank. There was no shortage of sceptics, and a band of local ‘gentlemen’ thought the bridge would collapse in the 1826 flood. (Villy, 62-63) They were wrong.
A convict was stationed at the bridge as a caretaker to remove the bridge rails in flood. In 1827 a toll was introduced on the bridge, with the right-to-collect sold for £70. It was forbidden to cross the bridge on a Sunday, offenders were fined and cattle impounded. (Starr, 16-17)
Repairs were carried out on the bridge after floods in 1835 (Starr: 17) and in the 1840s ‘landowners, carriers and mail contractors’ complained. They were concerned that the bridge was submerged by floodwater ‘on every occasion’ and in a recent deluge ‘the Bridge was sixteen feet underwater and the neighbouring flats, a complete sea for miles’. (Starr: 17)
In a number of memoirs, the bridge was described as ‘a very a paltry affair’ (Starr: 23) and a ‘primitive structure’ (Sydney Mail, 5 February 1913).
In 1852 a portion of the bridge washed away, and there were terrible floods in February and April 1860. There was a need to replace the ‘dilapidated’ bridge. (SMH, 2 October 1861)
Tenders were called in early-1860 for a new five-span timber truss bridge (NSW Government Gazette, 6 April 1860), and it was under construction by September. The construction tender was won by Campbelltown building contractors Cobb and Bocking (SMH, 21 September 1860; SMH 2 October 1861), who also built the low-level timber truss bridge at Menangle in 1855. (RMSHC, 2019; Liston, 85)
A grand affair
There was much fanfare at the new bridge opening on Monday, 30 September 1861, at 3 pm. There was conjecture about the crowd size. The Empire claimed a crowd of 50 people while the Sydney Morning Herald boasted there was 200 present. (Empire, 3 October 1861; SMH 2 October 1861).
Whatever the crowd, there were a host of speeches and Mrs Bleecke, the wife of Camden doctor Dr Bleecke, christened the new bridge the ‘Camden bridge’ by breaking a bottle of Camden wine on the timbers. Then, the crowd let out three loud hearty cheers (SMH 2 October 1861).
At the end of the official proceedings, the men, 40 in number, adjourned to the Camden Inn, owned by Mr Galvin, for a ‘first-rate’ sit-down lunch. The meal was accompanied by a host of speeches and much imbibement. There were many toasts starting with ‘The Queen’ and ‘Prince Albert’. The ladies were left ‘to amuse themselves as best they could until the evening’ (SMH 2 October 1861).
The festivities at lunch were followed in the evening by a ‘grand’ ball held at Mr Thompson’s woollen mill. The floor had been cleared on orders of Mr Thompson, and the space decorated with ‘evergreens’ and ‘flowers’ and brilliantly lit by kerosene lamps. (SMH 2 October 1861)
According to the Sydney press, the Camden populace had ‘seldom’ seen an event like it. One hundred thirty-four people attended the ball. Festivities on into the night with a ‘great profusion’ of food and dancing winding up at 4 am the following day. Locals declared they ‘had never spent a happier or pleasanter day’ (SMH 2 October 1861).
The railway to Camden
In 1882 when the railway line was built between Campbelltown and Camden, the track was laid across the timber bridge deck. This reduced the width of the roadway to 15 feet, and traffic had to stop when a train needed to cross the bridge.(Camden News, 27 June 1901)
According to the Camden press, passengers were regularly notified at Redfern Station (now known as Central Station) with a sign saying ‘traffic to Camden stopped at Camden bridge’ due to frequent flooding. The bridge’s timber deck was ‘well below the banks of the river’. (Camden News, 27 June 1901)
The existing 1860 timber truss bridge was constructed for light road traffic and continually posed problems for the railway. Only the lightest railway locomotives could use the bridge, and the heavy grades of the branch line at Kenny Hill meant that the train was restricted to a small number of cars. (Camden News, 27 June 1901).
In 1900 a new steel girder bridge was constructed to take the weight of two locomotives. The specifications for the bridge are:
five steel girder spans each of 45 feet on concrete piers;
178 feet of timbers beam spans;
making a total length of 403 feet;
the bridge deck was seven feet higher than the 1860 timber truss bridge deck;
construction was supervised by the Bridge Branch of the NSW Public Works Department;
Flood time was an exciting time for rail passengers going to Camden. When the bridge closed, railway passengers got an exhilarating boat ride across the flooded Nepean River. The train would stop at Elderslie Railway Station, climbing aboard the railway rowing boat. Passengers would take their lives in their hands and be ferried across the flooded river by the boatman. The rowing boat was given the Camden Municipal Council in 1889 (Pictorial History Camden: 87)
In the mid-20th century it was not unusual for local Camden women to travel overseas by ship. They were part of an exodus seeking adventure and new horizons. They wanted to see the world and they did.
The story of two of these young women, Shirley Dunk and her best friend Beth Jackman, has been told in a recently published article in Anglicaby the University of Warsaw.
The article is titled: “My box of memories”: An Australian Country Girl Goes to London’.
The article abstract is:
In 1954 a young country woman from New South Wales, Shirley Dunk, ex- ercised her agency and travelled to London. This was a journey to the home of her fore- fathers and copied the activities of other country women who made similar journeys. Some of the earliest of these journeys were undertaken by the wives and daughters of the 19th-century rural gentry. This research project will use a qualitative approach in an examination of Shirley’s journey archive complemented with supplementary interviews and stories of other travellers. Shirley nostalgically recalled the sense of adventure that she experienced as she left Sydney for London by ship and travelled through the United Kingdom and Europe. The article will address questions posed by the journey for Shirley and her travelling companion, Beth, and how they dealt with these forces as tourists and travellers. Shirley’s letters home were reported in the country press and reminiscent of soldier’s wartime letters home that described their tales as tourists in foreign lands. The narrative will show that Shirley, as an Australian country girl, was exposed to the cosmopolitan nature of the metropole, as were other women. The paper will explore how Shirley was subject to the forces of modernity and consumerism at a time when rural women were often limited to domesticity.
To read the article about Shirley Dunk and Beth Jackman click here
The article was originally presented at a conference at the University of Warsaw in 2019. To read about the conference click here.
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