Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Lone Grave - To whom does it belong?

View of Grave (fenced) looking towards Withers Road
In William Harvey Reserve in Sandlewood Close at Rouse Hill in northwestern Sydney, there lies a single unmarked grave with a granite headstone. It has a single large cross etched into the stone. 

The site of the grave lies high up on the banks of the nearby Caddies Creek, facing in a south-westerly direction, just off Withers Road.

View of grave on oval shaped mound 

View of grave with stones surround

View showing a large cross etched into the headstone

View of grave from the rear showing the rounded top and stone shoulders

Up until about 2001, the area was known as Gravestone Park. There are no markings to identify the possible inhabitant(s) of the grave. So who does it belong to? 

There are two possible explanations.

The signage at the site states that "the grave of adult size, was constructed between 1840's and 1860's,and is probably the grave of someone who lived and worked on this farm and was buried there as there was no cemetery in the area at the time". [The earliest gravestone  found in the nearby Rouse Hill General Cemetery is dated 1870].

An interesting reference and possible alternative explanation is found in the book, Newcastle Its First Twenty Years:The Irish Rebellion and the Settlement of Newcastle 1804. Narrated and published by John W Delaney, Stockton 2004 [page 57]

Delaney nominates the site as that of the battle of Vinegar Hill of 1804, and cites some local oral tradition of it being a mass grave for the Irish rebels who fell there in the 1804 battle. He postulates that during the battle a great number of unarmed Irishman fled in all directions and were killed on site. A traditional story is that over the next few days after the battle, friends gathered the bodies of the dead Irishmen, particularly at Caddies Creek and placed them in a mass grave, high up from flood level, in the soft mounds of Caddies Creek.


Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken 15 April 2014

If you are interested in researching Australian history, go to our website at :

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The White Hart Inn - Linking with the Past

During excavation work for the sky train section of the North West Rail Link near the intersection of Old Windsor and Windsor Roads at Kellyville in north-western Sydney, the ruins of an early 19th century colonial inn were uncovered.

As part of the heritage work on the site, an archaeological dig began in December 2013. Over the weekend of 5 and 6 April 2014, two community open days were held to allow public access to the site and showcase the results.

The inn has been identified as the White Hart Inn which was dated back to 1826 when it was built by convict labour, including one James Gough (per Earl Spencer 1813). William Cox owned  the land on which the inn was built. The first publican is listed as William Cross (1830-1831) [NSW State Records - Publicans Licences]

Site of archaeological dig at the
White Hart Inn Kellyville.
December 2013- March 2014

Plan of archaeological excavation of the
 White Hart Inn prepared by the heritage specialists,
plus artist' s impression of the inn circa 1840s.

The dig is impressive uncovering:
  •  brick and sandstone foundations of a building 20 metres wide and 15 metres long facing  Windsor Road:
View of Inn frontage facing Windsor Road with
 verandah and two winged rooms.

View of main body of the Inn to the rear with a
 possible cellar site to the right.

Cellar excavatiom
View showing brickwork for rear verandah
  • separate kitchen building, 13 metres long and 5 metres wide, at the north-east corner of the main building, with two possible fireplaces.
View of separate kitchen building

View of likely fireplace at
one end of the kitchen

View of another fireplace structure
at the other end of kitchen
  • cistern for drainage;
View of cistern
  • over 2000 artefacts:
Artefacts in situ

Selection of artefacts uncovered

Key - possibly to the main door?

1816 Coin with Roman image of George 111

Selection of bottles found.

Cherry toothpaste container with an
 image of Queen Victoria

Fragment of a ceramic plate

Salt container , inscribed "Western aand Westarlis
British Tabs Salt

The discovery of the White Hart Inn site and ruins is very significant. Firstly, it takes us back to the beginnings of the Windsor Road in the early days of the colony when it was the main road between Parramatta and Windsor. It tells us the story of an important watering hole and an overnight accommodation spot along the way .

Today, the site will stand as a link from the past to the new railway of the future. It is anticipated that the site will be buried later this year so it can be conserved. One of the proposed pylons for the sky train will now be relocated.

History Services NSW in its Hotel and Liquor Licenses Database, has a complete index of over 52,000 persons who were licensed in the New South Wales liquor industry from 1856 to 1900.

In particular, there is an index of publicans from 1865 to 1900. 

This records John Seath ( per Minstrel 1825) as the licensee for the White Hart Inn, Windsor Road from 1865 to 1870 and from 1871 to 1874.


Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken on site at the community Open Day, Sunday 6 April 2014.

For further information go to the website:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Richard Webb Reserve - What's in a Name?

Our convict legacy is often found in geographical places name. For example Gladesville in Sydney, New South Wales is named after the convict John Glade; Redfern after William Redfern, mutineer, convict and surgeon; the Cotter Dam, Cotter River and Cotter Flats in the Australian  Capital Territory after the convict Garret (George) Cotter; and Thompson Square at Windsor after the convict Andrew Thompson.*

Richard Webb Reserve in West Pennant Hills in the shire of Baulkham Hills is named after Richard Webb. But who was Richard Webb? 

Richard Webb Reserve, Aitken Road West Pennant Hills.
 Photo taken March 2014

Richard Webb Reserve, West Pennant Hills - Deakin Place entrance.
 Photo taken March 2014

From the records of History Services NSW, Richard Webb was an English convict who was sentenced at Norfolk Assize to life on 20 March 1813, aged 17 years. His crime was burgulary. His occupation was a labourer.
  • He arrived at Port Jackson in the colony of New South Wales on 7 February 1814 in  the  convict ship General Hewitt; 
  • On arrival he was assiged to John Blaxland at Parramatta;
  • Webb was granted a Ticket of Leave. In the General Muster & Land & Stock Muster of 1822 he was listed as a sawyer living at Parramatta.  
  • 5 September 1826 He married Johannah (Hannah) Mocklar (nee Willdinson). They had nine children;
  • in the Census of 1828, Richard Webb was listed as a shopkeeper of Parramatta, aged 28 years, with a Ticket of Leave. His wife Hannah and son Richard were also listed;
  • He was granted a conditional pardon on 28 February 1834; and
  • an absolute pardon of his sentence on 14 October 1840.
After he was granted his conditional pardon, Richard Webb had a timber yard at Parramatta and then purchased land in the West Pennant Hills Valley. By 1840, he owned 260 acres of land  known as Webbs farms.

The bullock track which he made to connect his farm to Pennant Hills Road is today Aitken Road.

In 1989, in recognition of his success as a business man and farmer in the community, Baulkham Hills Shire Coucil named a reserve and playground in Aitken Road, West Pennant Hills, Richard Webb Reserve, after him.

Richard Webb died on 2 October 1881 aged 86 years and was buried in the historic St Johns Cemetery at Parramatta. He is interred in a family grave, with a distinctive white marble pedestal, in Section Two of the cemetery near the grave of John Blaxland.

Grave of Richard Webb, his wife Hannah Webb and other family members
at St Johns Cemetery, Parramatta.
Photo taken 16 March 2014

Headstone of the Webb family grave at St Johns Cemetery,
Photo taken 16 March 2014

If you would like more detailed information on Richard Webb or are researching your own convict ancestor, you should go to the History Services NSW website at: 


* History Services NSW has detailed records for all of these convicts. Go to the website  at: 
Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness 

All photos taken taken  in March 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Old Sydney Town - the Memories

The recent fire at the site of Old Sydney Town at Somersby, New South Wales, evokes memories of this iconic historical venture in its heyday.

Early guide book and brochure of Old Sydney Town , printed in 1974.
Photo taken January 2014
Old Sydney Town was the dream of architect Frank Fox who wanted "to achieve a re-creation of the birth of our nation" . 

Fox purchased the land at Somersby in 1969. Old Sydney Town was officially opened by the then prime minister, Gough Whitlam on Australia Day, 26 January 1975. At that time it was a joint venture with the Federal Government and the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac).

Old Sydney Town  was the was a faithful reconstruction of Sydney town between the years 1788-1810. Based on extensive research, it reflected the life of the convicts, the military and the emanicipists of the era as well the infrastructure and buildings.

Official guide to Old Sydney Town - 1974
showing key to the buildings
Photo taken February 2014

Map of Old Sydney Town - 1974
Photo taken February 2014

View of Old Sydney Town from Google Earth 2013
showing the remaining structure of the
Brig Perseverance at bottom left.
Among its features were:
  • Convict hut of William and Mary Bryant;
  • Government Windmill;
  • Dawes Observatory;
  • Rose Stablers' Eating House;
  • HM Brig Lady Nelson.
Its most significant contribution was in making Australian history popular. Old Sydney Town was an invaluable resource for school groups to gain a general knowledge our early colonial history in Sydney. It was also a fun place for a family outing to enjoy the same.

Original signage at Old Sydney Town.
Photo taken June 2012

Family fun Day at Old Sydney Town - In the stocks
Photo taken May 1986
Coach ride at Old Sydney Town
Photo taken May 1986

Like similar historic villages (Australian Pioneer Village at Wilberforce, Lachlan Vintage Village at Forbes)  Old Sydney Town had a chequered history. It was leased to Warwick Amusements in 1987 and was subsequently bought by that group in 2000. 

Old Sydney Town was closed down in 2003.

In February 2013 it was reported that Peter and Michael Fox (sons of the founder) were in discussions with the park owner, Richard Chiu, to investigate a sustainable and viable future for the Old Sydney Town site [Daily Telegraph, 19 February 2013].

On a visit to the site in 2012, some vestiges of the original layout still remained.

A Redcoat at Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012

View of Entrance to Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012
View of Entrance to Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012

View of entrance to Old Sydney Town after the fire
Photo taken February 2014

View of entrance to Old Sydney Town after the fire
Photo taken February 2014

It was with a certain sadness then that we revisited the Old Sydney Town site after the recent fire in February 2014, realising that it had been robbed of a little bit more of its history.

The fight to save Old Sydney Town is not over. Maybe something good can come out of the ashes!

If you are interested in researching Australian history, go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/

Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken and dated from my collection.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Carrington and Tahlee - Off the Beaten Track

Today the settlements of Carrington and Tahlee lie proverbially "off the beaten track" on the northern shores of Port Stephens, New South Wales.

In their heyday in 1830's and 1840's as headquarters of the Australian Agricultural Company, (AAC) they were thriving settlements.

In 1834 at the end of the term of Sir Edward Parry as Commissioner (1830-1834) of the AAC, "there was a busy settlement at Carrington of nearly 500 souls and a school  for 50 children." [Port Stephens Story published by the Port Stephens Historical Society 1980, page 16]. The School which opened on 17th May 1830 was the first in the Port Stephens area with Mr and Mr Mawson as schoolmaster and mistress. [Port Stephens Story, page 55]

On a recent visit we were able to tap into the colonial and some more recent history of the area:

1 Church of the Holy Trinity, Carrington

Convict Church at Carrington circa 1847 - Front view
Photo taken January 2014

Convict Church at Carrington circa 1847- Rear view
Photo taken January 2014
Built by convict labour in 1847, this sturdy stone church was the first permanent church established by the AAC at Carrington by Commissioner Phillip Parker King (1839-1949). 

It was consecrated as the Church of the Holy Trinity in 1851. With the relocation of the headquarters of ACC to Stroud, it was closed in 1862 in favour of St Johns at Stroud.It was restored in 1880 under the patronage of Robert Hoddle White MP and rededicated as the Church of St Andrew in 1888. It was finally closed in 1947 and is today a private property.

The church's bell was a relic of the convict days at Carrington. From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald we have the following description:

"An interesting relic of early the days is attached to the church; this consists of a bell made in England in 1829, and brought out by the company and used for the purpose of sounding an alarm when a convict escaped: with the departure of the convicts the bell was no longer required for this purpose, and it was attached to the church by means of a wooden belfry. Unfortunately the woodwork rotted and the bell fell, being cracked in the fall, and could not, of course, be rung....... "[Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 29 December 1934].

At time of this article being written, the bell could be seen outside the entrance porch of the church, securely concreted to a plinth. But where is it today?

 2) Tahlee House

Tahlee House - January 2014. View looking up from walkway
Tahlee House situatedt 600 metres to the west of Carrington was originally built by convict labour in 1826 as the residence for the Commissioners of the ACC. 

It first occupant was Robert Dawson (1826-1828). He supervised the construction of a Boat Harbour below the house to protect small boats from the south westerly winds. Built by convict labour under the supervision of stonemason Daniel Ivey, it is still intact today.

In the 1830s, Sir Edward Parry made several additions to Tahlee House.  Captain  Phillip Parker King was the last Commissioner to reside there House in 1840s. He oversaw the relocation of ACC to Stroud in 1853.

Mr Frederick Manton purchased the Tahlee Estate from the ACC in !854 for 2500 pounds. The house however burned down in 1860 leaving only the walls standing.

Tahlee House was to come into it own again in 1880's following its purchase by Robert Hoddle Driberg White for 850 pounds. Robert White was a member of Legislative Assembly of the New South Wales Parliament for the seat of Gloucester (1882-1887).

He fully revitalised Tahlee House adding a billiard room and ballroom. He entertained the social set being well known for bringing guests from Sydney on his steam yacht, Kingfisher. The ground were beautifully landscaped. In 1886 White also bought a valuable Hele organ for house.

Tahlee House with distinctive cannon - January 2014
One interesting feature at Tahlee House is the six pounder cannon on the front lawn. It has the Royal Cipher of George III (GR) inscribed on it. It is one of several cannons that were on the Tahlee property which have casting dates of 1812 and 1819. It is believed that they originated  from the Dawes Point Battery (Sydney) on its dismantling in 1870s and 1880s. 

Cannon on front lawn at Tahlee House.
Photo taken January 2014

Close-up view of cannon on front lawn at Tahlee House.
Photo taken January 2014

Royal Cipher "GR" inscribed into the cannon.
Photo taken January 2014

3) Tahlee Bible College

In 1949, the Christian missionary group, Gospel Fisherman Mission (now Tahlee Ministries Inc) leased the property from Alfrey Beecher Stewart White (son of Robert). In 1959, the Mission purchased the property from Alfrey White after a large donation was given to the group.

The Tahlee Bible College commenced operations in June 1959.

In the early 1960s, the college purchased disused  buildings from the Greta Migrant Camp which has closed in 1960. These Included the picture theatre and ten accommodation huts. In 1963, eight Nissan huts each containing five rooms were purchased for twenty pounds each from the Australian Army at Rutherford.

Picture theatre, now admimstration building at Tahlee Ministries
 January 2014
Accommodation huts at Tahlee
January 2014
Nissan hut at Tahlee - January 2014
Tahlee Bible College is heritage listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

The Australian Agricultural Company established in 1824 was a very important part of the settlement of Carrington and Tahlee from 1826-1849.

The charter of the company encompassed the grant of one million acres of land at Port Stephens New  South Wales. This was contingent upon certain conditions being met, including the employment of a large number of convicts.

History Services NSW in its Convict Database has records of: 
  • 1225 convicts in the Port Stephens district, of whom
  • 1096 were assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company.
    If you are researching a convict ancestor in the Port Stephens area, you should go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/convicts.htm

    Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

    All photos taken taken  in January 2014

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    Under the Southern Skies - A Rich History of Astronomy in the Colony of New South Wales

    Under our clear southern skies, there is a rich history of observing the stars in the Colony of New South Wales: 

    Dawes Point Observatory - 1788

    At the time of the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788, astronomical observations were vital to navigation and meteorology. 

    No time was lost in giving Lieutenant William Dawes the task of setting up the Colony's first observatory. He did this In April 1788, on the site of what is today Dawes Point, under the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The point was named Point Maskelyne after the Astronomer Royal who had supplied Dawes with books and instruments to carry out his work.

    Site of William Dawes' Observatory at Dawes Point, Sydney
    [photo taken September 2012]
    Extract from signage at Dawes Point
    showing Dawes' correspondence during the
    establishment of the Observatory.
    [photo taken September 2012]
    Dawes lived on site at the observatory, and it was here that he befriended the Cadigal woman, Patyegarang, and recorded the local aboriginal language.

     After Dawes left Australia in 1791 the Observatory fell into disuse.

    Parramatta Observatory - 1822

    It was not until the appointment of Thomas Makdougall Brisbane as Governor New South Wales in November 1821, that Sydney was to get its next observatory.

    Brisbane was a keen astronomer and privately built an observatory in Parramatta Park, next to Government House.*  It was completed in March 1822. He employed two astronomers, Carl Rumker and James Dunlop who did some very active work.

    Obelisk in Parramatta Park marking the founding
      of Governor Brisbane's Observatory on 2 May 1822.
    [photo taken February 2013]

    Wording on obelisk
    [photo taken February 2013]

    Signage giving information on the Observatory
    [photo taken February 2013]

    Signage showing plan and elevation of the Observatory c 1822
    [photo taken February 2013]

    When Governor Brisbane left the Colony in December 1825, he sold his instruments and books to the Government which then took over the control of the Observatory.

    Carl Rumker was appointed as New South Wales' first Government Astronomer (1827-1830). James Dunlop succeeded him in 1831, holding the position until 1846. By this time activity had declined and the Observatory was in a state of disrepair.

    The building was demolished in 1847 except for two stones which still stand in Parramatta Park. The instruments were put into storage for use in a future facility.

    Remains of the original transit circle telescope stones used inside the observatory domes.
    .Parramatta Park - February 2013
    [ Conservation in progress]
    Sydney Observatory 1858

    Plans were then made for a time ball observatory in Sydney. However, Governor General Sir William Denison who arrived in New South Wales in January 1855, saw an observatory as an important addition to the Colony. He commissioned  the Colonial Architect, Alexander Dawson to draw up plans for a completely new observatory at 'Observatory Hill' at Millers Point.

    Completed in 1858, the Sydney Observatory is an impressive sandstone building in Italianate style. At that time, it comprised a four-storey tower for the time ball, a dome to house an equatorial telescope, a room with long narrow windows for a transit telescope, an office and a residence for the astronomer. A western wing was added in 1877 with office and library space and a second dome for another telescope**.

    Facade of Sydney Observatory
    [Photo taken June 2011]

    View of Observatory looking south, showing time ball tower.
    [Photo taken June 2011]
    Telescopic dome, Sydney Observatory
    [Photo taken June 2011]

    Initially the main function of the  Sydney Observatory was time-keeping with the installation of the time ball. This is still raised today to the top of its post and dropped exactly at 1.00pm.

    With the appointment of Henry Chamberlain Russell as Government Astronomer (1870-1905), the Sydney Observatory gained international recognition. Russell was a competent administrator and scientist. Initially he made use of some of the instruments from Parramatta but was successful in gaining funding for further instrumentation including a new Schroeder telescope to be housed in an enlarged Muntz metal dome. He introduced weather maps in daily newspapers in 1877.

    His most significant project was the commitment of the Observatory to theAstrographic Catalogue, a project of the 1887 Congress of International Astronomers  to photomap the night skies of the Southern Hemisphere. 

    With the brief to map the stars of the Sydney sky, this project would take up the  resources of the Observatory for some eighty years till the 1960's and subsequent publication in 1971.

    Pennant Hills Observatory - 1898

    Site of Observatory Park, Pennant Hills
    [Photo taken February 2013]
    One requirement for the Astrographic Catalogue was a clear sky away from the interference city lights. Henry Russell was successful in moving the astrographic telescope for the project to a site, known as Red Hill on the corner of Pennant Hills and Beecroft Roads at Pennant Hills. 

    Construction of an Observatory on the site was completed in 1898. It was operated for 32 years by James Short, an astronomical photographer.

    Photo showing Pennant hills Observatory circa 1890
    [Source: TROVE - Powehouse Museum Collection]
    In 1931, the impending retirement of James Short and lack of funding during the Depression years saw the closing of the facility and relocation of the telescope back to the Sydney Observatory.

    Much good work had been accomplished at Red Hill.  A memorial has been erected indicating where the telescope stood.

    Memorial at Observatory Park, Pennant Hills
    [Photo taken February 2013]

    Wording on memorial plaque
    [Photo taken February 2013]

    The Sydney Observatory isheritage listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

    It remained in continuous use as an Observatory until 1982, when it was was passed to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, now the Powerhouse  Museum. 

    Today the Observatory is maintained as a museum and public observatory with an important role in astronomy education and public telescope viewing.

    Some of the more interesting exhibits include the Parramatta Observatory's original collection of instruments which is largely intact.

    *History Services NSW in its Convict Database as a record of one, Daniel Jackson ( per 
    Somersetshire, arriving at Port Jackson on 16 October 1814) as having been employed in 1824 as a "Stonemason at the Observatory at Government House and when that work was completed he had the Governor's permission to be exempt from Government duty and to work for himself."

    If you would like further information on Daniel Jackson, or if you are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at :

    **Historyy Services NSW in its Government Contract and Contractors Database has seventeen records of government contracts being awarded for work on the Sydney Observatory during the period 1862 to 1900 including:

    • 1868 to David Jones & Company - for carpets and blinds for Sydney Observatory;
    • 1874 to T.R.Robinson - for supply and erection of Muntz Metal Dome for Equatorial  Tower, Sydney Observatory;
    • 1877 to Goddard & Pitman - for additions to Sydney Observatory;
    • 1880 to Stewart & Smith - for additions to residence at Sydney Observatory;
    • 1896 to Shuker & Males - for building fireplaces, repairs,  Messenger Quarters, Sydney Observatory;
    If you would like further information, go to our website at:

    Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness - January 2014