Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Governor Macquarie has arrived!

On the rainy Monday morning of 28 December 2009, Mary and I attended the commemoration of the 200th Anninversary of the arrival of Colonel Lachlan Macquarie, Governor Designate of New South Wales at the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

The event was organised by the Woollahra History and Heritage Society and held at the Signal Station at Watson's Bay, Sydney. It was intended to capture the history of Macquarie's voyage to New South Wales. The president of the Society, Peter Poland, read extracts from the Sydney Gazette and journals and letters of some of the ships' passengers. The Society was also seeking to encourage descendants of the 73 rd Regiment, which travelled to the Colony with Macquarie, to form an assocation.

In 1809, Macquarie and his party [including Mrs Elizabeth Macquarie, Captian John Antill and the soldiers of the 73 rd Regiment, John Thomas Campbell who was to become the Governor's Secretary, and Judge Advocate Designate Ellis Bent] were on board the storeship HMS Dromedary which was accompanied by the warship HMS Hindostan.

Governor's Macquarie's journal of 28 December reads: "At 10 o'clock this morning ..... the Hindostan and the Dromedary anchored within the entrance of Port Jackson... The wind being ahead we could not proceed any further up the Harbour than the entrance".

Upon the arrival of the ships on that December day, the Union flag would have been hoisted up the flagstaff close to the site of the present Signal Station.

On this Monday, 200 years later, the Union flag was again hoisted by Sydney vexillographer, John Vaughan, along with the flag of the Scottish Australian Heritage Society, in honour of Macquarie's Scottish roots.

Lachlan Macquarie eventually landed at Sydney Cove on 31 December and took up his official position as Governor of New South Wales on 1 January 1810. So began on one the most significant periods in the development of New South Wales.

History Services NSW has extensive research material available on Governor Macquarie including a listing of the extensive public buildings and works undertaken by him.

The Bicentenary period of Macquarie's Governship (1810-1821) will see many commemorations of his achievements.

For details of upcoming events go to: http://www.macquarie2010.nsw.gov.au/

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tanilba House

Out on the western end of the Tilligerry Peninsula, (in Port Stephens, NSW) is Tanilba Bay. 'Tanilba' means 'place of white flowers' which is a reference to the flannel flowers which formerly thrived in the area.

The first settler in the area was Lieutenant William Caswell who was granted 50 acres of land at Tanilba in 1831 in recognition of his military service in the Royal Navy.

Using convict labour, William Caswell laid the foundations of Tanilba House in 1837. It was built of quartz porphyry stone which was quarried nearby. The mortar came from the lime produced by burning oysters. Vineyeards, gardens and a dairy were estabishled on the estate. We previously visited the homestead on one of the days when it is open to the public. It is a fantastic place retaining its charm of yesteryear.

Going back to its history, in 1920, Henry F Halloran, surveyor, real estate agent and property developer, purchased Tanilba Estate. He co-ordinated the bulding of a number of intriguing structures in local stone in the streets and parks of Tanilba Bay.

One of these being the stone Centenary Gates, on the Avenue of Allies, which were built in 1931 to commemorate the centenary of Williiam Caswell coming to Tanilba Bay.

History Services NSW has records for 23 convicts who at one time were assigned to William Caswell in the Port Stephens area.

For example, one Ellen Clarke who "in 1843 is recorded as having been apprehended after having absconded from Lieutenant W Caswell R. N." In 1841, Ellen had previously absconded from the Female Factory at Parramatta.

If you are researching a convict ancestor who was assigned to William Caswell, you should go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/convicts.htm

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kissing Point

On Saturday, 21 November 2009, celebtations will be held to mark the completion of the upgrade of works at Kissing Point Park and the adjacent Bennelong Park. These include a new pathway and boardwalk running through both parks.

Kissing Point was the original name of the area that we now know as Ryde. It is believed to have been given that name in the early days of the colony because the area of water around it was the furthest up the Parramatta River that heavily laden vessels could reach before their keels "kissed" the bottom.

On the way up the Parramatta River, the eastern shore flattens out around Kissing Point and so in the early days of the Colony lent itself to farming. The first land grants were made in 1792 to emanicipated convicts in the area which was named "Eastern Farms".

On of the these ex-convicts was James Squires, He was a First Fleeter who came to New South Wales on the Friendship in 1788.

On his emanicaption, he was granted 30 acres of land at Kissing Point on 22 July 1795. James was a very enterprising and community minded person and had many successful ventures in the early New South Wales Colony.

On his farm he grazed sheep, sowed wheat, maize and barley and was the first to successfully grow hops and commercially brew beer.

In 1798 he became the licensee of The Malting Shovel Tavern on the shores of the Parramatta River, a halfway house for travellers between Sydney Town and Parramatta by river.

At one time he had a bakery, suppled the Colony with meat, ran a credit union and was widely known for his fair play as a lender and philanthropist to his poorer neighbours. He was also a resident constable for the "Eastern Farms" district despite his convict background. Bennelong was buried on his farm in 1813.

History Services NSW has records for at least 15 convicts who worked for James Squires at Kissing Point, including those for Thomas Fox who was twice transported to New South Wales, viz:

  • married Bridget Fogarty in Tipperary in 1813 (she came to New South Wales as a free settler on the Bachelor in 1835);
  • first transported on the Guildford in 1816;

  • granted a Conditional Pardon on 31 January 1820;

  • employed by James Squires, Kissing Point 1822;

  • transported again on the Roslyn Castle, 1833;

  • assigned to David Ramsay , Dobroyd 1833 ;

  • granted Ticket of Leave, Parramatta 11 /2 /1841;

  • Conditional Pardon 31/7/1847.

    If you are researching a convict ancestor who was assigned to James Squires, you should go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/convicts.htm

  • Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Australian Technology Park

    A very interesting place to visit is the Australian Technology Park, five minutes walk from Redfern Train Station.

    It is on the site of the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop which from 1887 built and maintained the steam locomotives that were the backbone of New South Wales industry. Over 200 locomotives were built and at its peak in the 1930s, the workshop maintianed over 540 locomotives each year and employed over 300 skilled workers.

    Today the Australian Technology Park is a multi-functional Exhibition and Event Facilty with many interesting venues incorporating the structures of the old workshops.

    There is a heritage display of some of the old locomotives, carriages and machines used in the workshops.

    The Government Contracts and Contractors Database of History Services NSW has details of some 1600 government contracts awarded for the New South Wales Railways. Some examples are:

  • 1874 - provision of Turret Clock at Redfern Station.

  • 1878 - cartage of locomotives and boilers from the Governement Wharf at Circular Quay and Campbells' Wharf to Redfern, and

  • erection of an extension of the carriage shed at Redfern.
    • If you would like more information on contracts awarded by the New South Wales Government over the period from 1832 to 1900 go to:


      Monday, November 2, 2009

      A Desert Landscape

      On Friday last, we visited Birubi Point (near Anna Bay, Port Stephens NSW) at the entrance to the sand dunes of Stockton Beach.

      These are the largest continuous mobile sand dunes in Eastern Australia , stretching a distance of some 32kms and up to 1km wide, covering an area of 2500 hectares. The sands would have been deposited some six thousand years ago and were home to the aboriginal ancestors of the Woromi tribe.

      This is an exotic landscape - white sand dunes up to 40m high, clouds casting their shadows over the sands, tourists, camels, horses and concrete pyramids!

      But what are these strange structures?

      During World War II, the area was heavily fortified. Running across the
      beach into farmland for several kilometres was a line of heavy concrete pyramids (about 3000 in total) designed to slow down tank movements.

      Many of these 'tank traps' as they were known, are still where they were placed in 1942. On closer inspection, each pyramid has a serial number and the date when it was made, rendered into the concrete.

      A wonderful experience! Again bringing together a piece of the geography and history of our land.

      Friday, October 23, 2009

      Monument to the Canadian Exiles

      Moving on from Cabarita Park, which stands at the entrance to Hen and Chicken Bay, the search was on to find the monument to the fifty-eight French Canadian convicts who were sent to New South Wales for their part in the 1837-1838 uprising against the British administration in the Canadian provence of Quebec.

      We did a short walk in the midday sun along Exile Bay to Prince Edward Park and then drove around to Bayview Park at the head of Canada Bay. It was here that we finally located the monument.

      It had previously been at Cabarita Park where on 18 May 1970, the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau unveiled the plaque to mark the 130th Anniversary of the landing of the Canadian exiles in Sydney.

      Following the reclamation of Bayview Park, Concord Council moved the monument there in February 1984. This is closer to the historical roots of the story of the exiles.

      Arriving in Sydney Harbour on 25 February 1840 on the Buffalo, the fifty-eight convicts were transported to the Longbottom Stockade on the site of the present day Concord Oval. Bayview Park is the actual landing spot from where they would have disembarked en route to the Stockade along Wharf Road (Burwood Road).

      Circumstances saw these prisoners treated somewhat more humanely than most other convicts. They were industrious and hard working and were generally accepted by the early colonists. Archbishop John Bede Polding lobbied the Administration on their behalf.

      In 1841, Governor Gipps gave permission for the convicts to be granted Tickets of Leave and by 1842 many had found employment. Finally between November 1843 and February 1844 free pardons were awarded to all. All eventually returned to Canada except for two who died and one, Joseph Marceau who married a nineteen-year-old Englishwoman and settled in Dapto on the South Coast of NSW.

      Although this story is not popularly known, the convicts of the Buffalo have been well researched.

      History Services NSW holds records on all the fifty-eight convicts, in a handy summary format giving dates and details in particular of their Tickets of Leave and Absolute Pardons

      If you would like to research any of this information go to:


      The story of the Canadian exiles in the Concord area has been commemorated in the naming of the inlets of Hen and Chicken Bay viz France Bay, Exile Bay and Canada Bay. These areas have been much transformed in recent years with new residential developments.

      Our excursion today has been very interesting, greatly enhancing both our historical and geographical knowledge of the Parramatta River.

      Thursday, October 22, 2009

      Federation Pavilion at Cabarita Park

      The Federation Pavilion at Cabarita Park, Sydney 2009.

      Transporting history!

      On a visit to Cabarita Park on the shores of the Parramatta River yesterday, we located the original Federation Pavilion which was used at Centennial Park in Sydney on the occasion of the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901.

      It was in this Pavilion that the Oath of Office was adminstered to the Governor General, Lord Hopetoun by Sir Frederick Darley, the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Justice of NSW.

      Centennial Park, Sydney, 1 January 1901

      In 1903 the Council of Concord bought the Pavilion and moved it to its current location at Cabarita.

      And so a piece of Australia's History was transported!

      It is believed that the wooden framework of the current pavilion at Cabarita would have formed the wooden superstructure of the Centennial Park model. This supported decorative layers of plaster of Paris which formed the ornate rotunda used for the ceremonies on the day of Federation. The plaster of Paris however quickly disintegrated.

      The major events in the History of New South Wales leading up to Federation on 1 January 1901 are featured in an extensive Chronology on the History Services NSW website at:


      Thursday, October 8, 2009

      Finding Bennelong

      On Tuesday, while on our way to have lunch by the Parramatta River, our "Nav Lady" took us via the route of Watson Street, Putney where we spotted Cleves Park which is the location of Bennelong's grave. I had tried to find the grave site on a previous occasion in the nearby Bennelong Park.

      Cleves Park was originally part of the Kissing Point property of James Squire, the First Fleet convict who established the first commercial brewery in the colony at Kissing Point in 1798. It was here in James Squire's orchard, that Bennelong was buried when he died on 3 January 1813.

      It was reported that Bennelong often wandered onto the Squire's property and was befriended by James. He erected a plaque to commenorate his dear friend. The current monument was funded by the Australian Bicentennial Authority.

      Interesting name, Cleves Park. My wife had an Uncle Cleve. I have not been able to trace the origin of the name?

      Bennelong is the best known of our Aboriginal people at the time of the arrival of the First Fleet. Befriended by Governor Phillip, after his "capture" in November 1789, he straddled two cultures, attempting to build bridges between them. This of course took a terrible toll on him.

      The following is an extract from the Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 2, page 711 [correspondance of Daniel Southwell dated 27/7/1790, on the escape of the Aborigine, named Bennalong, from Sydney Town] which illustrates his dual role.

      "We have had little or no intercourse with the natives for a long time past, and Woolaraveray Bennalon [Bennilong], from whom we hoped so much, effected his escape on 3 May 1790, at a time when he was supposed to be well reconciled to his situation.

      He laterally slept in the same room with the Governor’s steward, and before it was light he pretended suddenly to be disordered, upon which the other opened the door, not doubting but he would soon return; at last, tired with waiting, he thought proper to go and see how and where Woolaraveray Bennalon was. Not finding him, and after calling repeatedly, soon concluded what had happened, and accordingly went to the Governor’s room with the unwelcome news".

      For a portrait of Bennelong go to the History Services NSW website at http://www.historyservices.com.au/nsw_colonial_chronology_1804_1817.htm

      Thursday, September 17, 2009

      Pioneers' Track

      On Tuesday last, Mary and I did a bushwalk along Pioneers' Track which meanders through Epping, Beecroft and Carlingford in Sydney's northwest.

      This opened up many surprises about the early history of the area.

      We entered the track at Midson Road where Devlin's Creek forms the boundary between Epping and Beecroft. The surrounding area is the site of the original land grants in Epping (then named the Field of Mars Common) made to Captain William Kent (170 acres on 12 May 1796) and his nephew Lieutenant Willam Kent (460 acres on 18 April 1803).

      The younger Kent called his property William Farm. It was not a working farm but both Government and private contractors removed timber from the property between 1816-1835.

      In 1835, James Devlin purchased the property renaming it The Devlin Estate. Devlin, like Kent did not live on the farm but allowed former convicts to rent and farm the land.

      Devlin's Creek is named after James Devlin and Kent Street, Epping of course after the Kents.

      We then came upon came upon Ray Park which was the site of the first orchard that grew the Granny Smith Apple on a commercial basis.

      At the Orchard Road exit, we came upon the history of the first settlers in what is now the Hornsby Shire. David Kilpack was transported as a convict to New South Wales on the First Fleet aboard the Scarborough. In June 1791, he married Eleanor McDonald who had been also transported as convict aboard the Lady Juliana in 1790. Kilpack received his freedom in 1794 and was granted 30 acres at Mobbs Hill (Field of Mars) where the couple settled. The following year he was granted another 50 acres.

      History Services NSW has records for both David Kilpack and Eleanor McDonald . It also has 10 records of convicts assigned to James Devlin. For example:

      "James Hillyer, aged 18 years, who arrived in Port Jackson on 18 February 1833 from Sheerness on the convict ship, Camden. It is recorded that he was assigned to James Devlin at Kissing Point in 1833. He was granted his Ticket of Leave in 1843 at Parramatta. In 1844 at Hunters Hill, he applied to marry Mary Ann Jones who was born in the Colony ".

      If you are researching your local area history, History Services NSW may hold records of early convict settlers in a summary format that you cannot get from any other source.

      You should go to our website at:http://www.historyservices.com.au/convicts.htm

      Thursday, July 9, 2009

      The First Fleet - Why Sydney Cove?

      Kurnell on Botany Bay

      Over the past few weeks, Mary and I have visited the sites where the first European visitors came ashore in our land- Kurnell on Botany Bay where Captain Cook landed in 1770, and Camp Cove just inside the entrance to Sydney Harbour where Captain Phillip came ashore on 21 January 1788.

      But our early settlement was not just a question of history but of more importantly of geography. Captain Cook visited Botany Bay in autumn and generally experienced "gentle breezes and pleasant weather". He came ashore on the southern and more sheltered side of the Bay and found a water supply to water his ships.

      Captain Phillip however, on bringing the First Fleet to Botany Bay some eitghteen years later, did not find Botany Bay an ideal place for settlement. There was poor sandy soil that was unsuitable for growing crops; there was a lack of sufficient fresh water; parts of the Bay had shallow water and thus the ships could not be moored close to shore; and it was buffeted by strong southerly winds.

      What a decision for Captain Phillip in January 1788, in command of the eleven Ships of the First Fleet and some 1350 men, women and children, when he had to venture north to find a more suitable place for settlement.

      He intended to explore Broken Bay. But there was another bay which was sighted and marked, but not entered by Captain Cook, which he named Port Jackson, after George Jackson, Judge-Advocate of the Fleet.

      On the afternoon of 21 January 1788, Captain Phillip and his party sailed into Port Jackson and went ashore at present day Camp Cove, a sheltered beach just inside the entrance to what is today our beautiful Sydney Harbour.

      Captain Phillip explored Port Jackson further and chose Sydney Cove as the place of settlement as it had a "good spring of water".

      An entry in the journal of one of the officers of the First Fleet describes the beauty of Port Jackson as:

      “having the finest terra’s, lawns and grottos, with distinct plantations of the tallest and most stately trees ever seen in any nobleman’s grounds in England, cannot excel in beauty those which nature now presented to their view. The singing of the various birds amongst the trees, and the fight of numerous parraquets, lorrequets, cockatoos, and macaws, made all round appear like in enchantment; the stupendous rocks from the summit of the hills and down to the very water’s edge hanging over in a most awful manner from above, and forming the most commodious quays by the water. The moulds here are a foot and a half down as rich as any garden in England will afford; there are also many very lofty firs, and here is also the cabbage-tree.“having the finest terra’s, lawns and grottos, with distinct plantations of the tallest and most stately trees ever seen in any nobleman’s grounds in England, cannot excel in beauty those which nature now presented to their view. The singing of the various birds amongst the trees, and the fight of numerous parraquets, lorrequets, cockatoos, and macaws, made all round appear like in enchantment; the stupendous rocks from the summit of the hills and down to the very water’s edge hanging over in a most awful manner from above, and forming the most commodious quays by the water. The moulds here are a foot and a half down as rich as any garden in England will afford; there are also many very lofty firs, and here is also the cabbage-tree.

      From extensive research from the Historical Records of New South Wales, Volumes 1 and 2, [Sydney Government Printer, 1892-1901], I have compiled the following chronologies on the History Services NSW website:

      1. A chronology of Captain Cook's discovery and exploration of Botany Bay. Go to

      2. A Chronology of the First Fleet Arrival at Botany Bay and subsequent Settlement at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. Go to: http://www.historyservices.com.au/resource_material_first_fleet_chronology.htm

      Monday, June 22, 2009

      Brush Farm House

      On Sunday 14 June 2009, Mary and I visited Brush Farm House at Eastwood, NSW. Ryde Council was holding one of its Open Days there to show off the restoration of the heritage property which was completed in 2007.

      Brush Farm House and estate is very much part of of the natural and cultural heritage of NSW. It is one of Australia's oldest remaining houses, being built in 1819-20 by the explorer Gregory Blaxland. It was a two story brick building on sandstone foundations in the Colonial Georgian style.

      Ryde Council purchased the property from the NSW State Government in 1990 and set in place a conservation project that has not only restored the building as a legacy of our early heritage but has opened it up for public use.

      The Blaxlands were among the first 'settlers of responsibility and Capital' to come to the young colony of New South Wales. The early Administraion encouraged such settlers promising them land, convict servants and free passages. Gregory Blaxland and his brother John were friends of Sir Joseph Banks, and it appears that it was he who strongly enocuraged them to emigrate.

      History Services NSW has numerous records of convicts assigned to Brush Farm and Gregory Blaxland. For example:

      Edward GING who arrived in Port Jackson on 27 July 1817 from County Cork on the convict ship, Chapman. It is recorded that he served Gregory Blaxland of the Brush Farm for four and a half years until 16 November 1822. He was granted his Certificate of Freedom in 1823 and was granted land at Campbelltown in 1825.

      If you are researching a convict ancestor who was assigned to Brush Farm, you should go to our website at:

      Tuesday, June 9, 2009

      Three Bees

      A convict ship alight in Sydney Harbour in 2009!

      On this coming weekend on Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights, the Fire Water spectacular, which is part of the Vivid Sydney program will re-enact such an event from Sydney's colonial past.

      Directed by Michael Cohen, Fire Water centres on the story of the convict ship the Three Bees.

      The Three Bees arrived in Sydney Cove on 6 May 1814 with a cargo of 210 male convicts. Two weeks later on Friday 20 May, a fire broke out and quickly engulfed the ship. It was cut lose from its moorings and drifted into the Harbour. When flames reached the cannons, cannonballs shot from the ship with one reaching the office of Captain John Piper at the Naval Office in George Street and destroying his writing desk. When the ship's gunpowder stores exploded, the Three Bees sank off Bennelong Point.

      Governor Macquarie's report of the incident can be found in the following despatch to Earl Bathurst , dated 24 May 1814 [ Historical Records of Australia , Volume 8]

      "The transport ship, Three Bees, commanded by Captain John Wallis, arrived on 6/5/1814, with 210 male convicts; out of the 219 originally embarked, the other 9 having died on the passage; and out of those landed, it has been necessary to send 55 to the Hospital, many of them being much affected with scurvy and others labouring under various complaints.

      On enquiring into the cause of this mortality and sickness, it appeared that many of them had been embarked in a bad state of health, and not a few infirm from lameness and old age. I am happy in being enabled to state that the convicts arrived by the Three Bees have, without a single exception, borne grateful testimony to their having been treated with the most unremitting care, attention and kindness, by the Master and Surgeon of the vessel, from the day of their embarkation until they were finally landed here.

      A Detachment of four Subaltern Officers and 38 Soldiers of the 46th Regiment arrived by the Three Bees, having acted as a guard over the male convicts on board, and by this vessel, John Palmer, Esq., arrived with the appointment of Assistant Commissary General.

      A most unfortunate accident took place in Sydney Cove immediately in front of, and at a very short distance from Government house on Friday evening last. At about 5 o’clock in the evening the fine new ship Three Bees was discovered to be on fire, and so rapid and violent was the burst of flames when the hatches were accidently raised, that all effort at extinguishing them was rendered totally useless, and must have been attended with the utmost risk to those who should have attempted it.

      The danger arising from the ordinary effect of fire being increased beyond all calculation by the consideration that a very large quantity of gunpowder was deposited immediately adjoining the place from whence the flames first proceeded. No alternative was left to the Ship’s Company but to immediately abandonment, which fortunately took place without any accident whatever. At this crisis, little short of the total destruction of the Town of Sydney was expected every moment to take place by the explosion of the Magazine.

      The alarm was so great that numbers of the inhabitants deserted their houses, and fled into the Country to avoid being buried in ruins, Fourteen guns, some loaded with Ball and some with Grape Shot, exploded, sending their contents in various directions, as the ship drifted through the Town, fortunately, however, without doing any damage further than the breaking a window in the Naval Officer’s House and shattering a writing desk that lay within it. At this time a light breeze blowing off the shore, and the cable being cut, the vessel drifted to the extremity of the Cove where she struck on some projecting rocks called Bennelong’s Point, and here the expected explosion took place.

      Owing to some circumstance, which cannot be otherwise accounted for than by supposing that the ship had previously taken in water, and wetted the powder, the explosion did not occur till nearly two hours after it was expected, and was not by any means so tremendous as there was reason to suppose it would have been.

      The alarm for the town and the shipping in the Cove was now at an end, but the fire did not cease its ravages until the fine ship was burnt down to the water’s edge, which took place in about six hours from the first discovery.

      This unfortunate accident is attributed to some carelessness on the part of a Tailor, who had charge of a lighted candle in the morning in that part of the Hold whence the flames proceeded, and who is supposed to have put it out in a careless manner, dropping some of the snuff of it in an unextinguished state at his feet".

      Do you have a convict ancestor who came to Sydney Cove on the Three Bees? Would you like further information?

      History Services NSW has records on the entire 210 convicts who were landed ashore. Go to the website at:

      Wednesday, May 6, 2009

      The Bay Walk

      View inside Vault

      Today Mary and I did the Bay Walk around Iron Cove.

      On passing Rodd Park, we noticed a large sandstone cross. This revealed a most interesting story. It is the site of the Historic Rodd Mausoleum which was the family vault of Brent Clements Rodd, a pioneer of the Five Dock area.

      Brent Clements Rodd, who emigrated to Australia in 1822, was admitted to practice law in the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 28 September 1833. In 1838 he bought fifty acres of the Five Dock Estate and in 1845 his home, Barnstaple Manor was completed. He lived there with his wife, Sarah Janet Rodd, and their eight sons and four daughters. Several of the nearby street are named after the family.

      The Family Mausoleum (Vault) was carved from a large outcrop of sandstone rock at Rodd Point by convict labour.

      Sarah Rodd who died in 1896 and Brent in 1898, were interrred there. In 1903, the remains of ten family members were re-interred to Rookwood Cemetery to allow consevation works to the vault.

      The site was thought to be no longer existent but was rediscovered in 1975. The Rotary Club of Fivedock restored it to its original condition, including the return of the stone cross to the to the Family Vault.

      A monument on the site was unveiled by the Honourable Paul Landa MLC at a dedication ceremony on 20 March 1977.

      History Services NSW has the records of a number of convicts that were assigned to Brent Clements Rodd, including one Thomas Preston, stableman, who arrived at Port Jackson on the convict ship Lloyds on 18 December 1833.

      If you would like more information on Thomas Preston or would like to research other NSW convicts ancestors, visit the History Services NSW website at:


      Monday, April 27, 2009

      Historic Berrima

      Mary and I visited Berrima on the weekend to celebrate the 60th Birthday of our good friend Rob. We dined at the Magpie Cafe. The food was great and the atmosphere relaxed, and a good day was had by all.

      Took some interesting photos as shown above:
      1. Lambie's Well - first water supply for the town situated just below the western wall of the Gaol on the banks of the Wingecarribee River.
      2. Bulls Head Fountain on the northern wall of the Gaol. Built to provide water for the horses of those attending the Courthouse opposite.
      3. Our group.

      Berrima is a great place to visit. Situated in the NSW Southern Highlands, the town is a living example of Australia's rich colonial heritage. Established in 1831, it was planned in the manner of a typical English village. Today many of the grand old sandstone buildings - Berrima Gaol, Courthouse, Berrima House, Surveyor General Inn, Holy Trinity Church and St Francis Xavier Church - are preserved, providing a unique atmosphere to the town.

      History Services NSW has extensive historical information in our databases relating to the Berrima district including:
      • 643 records of convicts who were at Berrima at some time;

      • 180 records of Government contracts awarded for work in and around Berrima- repairs to the Gaol (1860) and additions thereto (1862); repairs to the Telegraph Station (1865); erection of a boundary wall around the Goal (1865); supply of furniture for the Courthouse (1871, 1877); erection of Police Station (1877); erection of Chimney Stack at the Courthouse (1892); installation of electric light at Berrima Gaol (1894);repairs to the Courthouse (1897);
      • records of all the licensees of the Surveyor General Inn up to 1900

      For more information go to our website at:


      Monday, April 20, 2009

      The Convict Priests

      The first Catholic priests to arrive in the colony of New South Wales were convicts. These were James Harold in 1800, quickly followed by James Dixon and Peter O'Neil.

      They were Irishman, transported to New South Wales for their complicity in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. As they were not officially appointed clergyman, they were not welcomed by the Colonial Administration as it was thought that they would incite rebellion in the large number of Irish convicts.

      The first Catholic Masses in the colony were therfore celebrated in secret, as depicted in the stained glass window in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney (first window on the western side of the nave). This is an early the celebration of the Eucharist by Father James Dixon in the kitchen of a cottage in 1803 with a lookout at the door.

      Father Dixon celebrated the first official Mass in the colony
      on 15 May 1803 following a procalmation by Governor Philip Gidley King permitting Catholic worship.

      There is an exhibition in the crypt of St Mary's
      Cathedral, with a set of silk vestments known as the "Convict Vestments" probably used by Father Dixon.

      While researching the early days of the Catholic Church in Australia, I was particularly interested in the official correspondance between the main players, including the
      NSW Colonial Administraion, the British Government and the priests themselves. This is found in various despatches of Series One of the Historical Records of Australia [published by the Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament ].

      Using these primary sources, I have complied a "History of the Roman Catholic Church in the Colony of New South Wales 1800 -1836".

      You can find this on the website of History Services NSW at:


      Thursday, March 19, 2009

      The Settlers Arms Inn - Shellharbour

      While visiting Shellharbour on the south coast of NSW, I came across an historic plaque in the town centre marking the site of "The Settlers Arms" Inn built in Shellharbour by Robert Martin in 1856.

      The Inn was a meeting place for many local events most notably being the signing of the petition to form the Municipality of Shellharbour dated 14 January 1859.

      The Local Government Petitioners Database of History Services NSW has records of over 47,000 persons who signed one of the 315 petitions or counter petitions during the period 1858 to 1883 relating to the formation of local government municipalities in New South Wales.

      For the Municipality of Shellharbour, we have the names of 210 persons who signed the petition.

      For further information, on local government petitioners go to:


      The Settlers Arms was destroyed by fire on 8 April 1872. The "New Royal Hotel" was built on the site in 1891.

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

      For the Shellharbour area, we have 25 entries.

      For further information, on Hotel and Liquor Licensees go to:


      Shellharbour Weekend

      I enjoyed a great weekend at Shellharbour recently with the gang from Sydney and Canberra, mixing pleasure with a smidgin of history.

      Shellharbour, originally known as Peterborough was named because of the shell-like natural features of the local landscape. It was one of the earliest land grants made to D'Arcy Wentworth. After his death in 1827, the estate was divided between five of his children - Robert, Martha

      (Reddall), Sophia (Towns), Mary Ann (Addison) and Catherine(Darley). The streets of Shellharbour were named after these families.

      Caroline Chisolm, the Emigrants' Friend settled some families in the district in 1843.

      Some of the group walked out to Bass Point to view the memorial to the sinking of the US tanker, Cities Services Boston. The ship ran aground off this point in the early hours of 16 May 1943 during the Second World War after it was caught in a violent 70 knot gale.

      Thirty soldiers from the 6 Machine Gun Battalion AIF, together with members of the local Volunteer Defence Corp, the Police and local fishermen undertook a daring rescue to save the 62 American crewman.

      However four AIF soldiers died during the rescue. Two memorials to them have been unveiled, one at Bass Point by Captain S D Matchett (R.A.I.) on 8 September 1968. The other by the Mayor of Shellharbour, Alderman R J Harrison on 5 May 1983, located in Caroline Chisolm Park.

      Wednesday, March 4, 2009

      Denistone House - History where you find it!

      While visitng a family member in Ryde Hospital, I took time out to explore Denistone House and its history. Denistone House is now an administration block in the grounds of Ryde Hospital in Sydney, New South South Wales.

      Denistone House was rebuilt in as an imposing stone residence in 1872 by Richard Rouse Terry, grandson of the wealthy convict Samuel Terry, and brother of Edward Terry the first mayor of Ryde.

      The original "Dennistone House", was the property of Dr Thomas Forster and named in memory of his English birthplace. [Thomas Forster was the husband of Gregory Blaxland's daughter, Elizabeth. In 1829, Blaxland transferred Brush Farm Estate to Elizabeth and Dr Forster. In 1830 they expanded the estate by purchasing the Porteous Mount grants of 120 acres on the Denistone ridge].

      The house was destroyed by a bushfire in 1855.
      In 1872, the land was acquired by Richard Rouse Terry who built the current house.

      A plaque funded by the NSW Bicentennial Council reads:

      This "Handsome Mansion" was bult in 1872
      by Richard Rouse Terry. A "picture of
      elegance and comfort of the most unostentatious
      kind" it was an integral part of the social life of
      early Ryde."

      Denistone House was purchased by the New South Wales Government in 1913 for use as a convalescent home for men. It later became the maternity wing of the Ryde District Soldiers' Memorial Hospital which opened in May 1934.

      Monday, February 23, 2009

      A Government Contract!

      Today I travelled on the first train out of Epping on the new railway line to Chatswood.

      Despite the political arguments that the line is coming into operation some three years late, it appears that the original idea for a junction line from Epping connecting the northern railway line with the North Shore line goes back some 80 years to John Bradfield of Harbour Bridge fame.

      According to an article in the Northern District Times, 18 February 2009, Pastor Larry Galbraith of the Epping Church of Christ holds archival documents that point to a plan for a Epping-Chatswood railway . According to a commerative booklet dated Easter Saturday 1928, to mark the laying of the foundation stone of the Epping Church of Christ in Bridge Street, the "value of siting a new church at Epping, given the electrification of the Northern Line and the authorisation of the junction line connecting the northern suburbs at Epping with the North Shore line" was duly noted.

      The $2.29 billion railway line is the biggest infrastructure project in NSW. As an engineering feat it is a testament to all those who worked on it.

      Do you have an ancestor who worked on building the foundation of New South Wales?

      History Services NSW has a database of Government Contracts and Contractors covering some 49,164 entries on successful applicants for contracts awarded by the New South Wales Government over the period from 1832 to 1900.

      For more information go to:


      Thursday, February 19, 2009

      Was your ancestor a Postie? - 200 years of Australia Post

      This year 2009, marks 200 years of the postal service in Australia.

      The postal service officially began on 25 April 1809 when a former convict, Issac Nichols was appointed the first Postmaster of New South Wales.

      His task was to co-ordinate all mail coming into the colony. He set up Australi's first post office at his home in George Street, Sydney and advertised the names of all mail recipients in the Sydney Gazette. Settlers could collect their letters from Nichols' home for a fixed price of one shilling per letter, with parcels costing more depending on weight.

      Upon Nichols' death on 8 November 1819, George Panton was appointed second Postmaster of New South Wales. He also held the office of Wharffinger, transacting both his duties from a small building on Kings Wharf until March 1828 when accommodation was provided for postal work in a small office in Bent Street.

      In 1825, the NSW Legislative Council passed the first postal Act giving the government control of the colony's postal services. The Post Offce in New South Wales was officially established as government department in March 1828. On 8 March, George Panton was appointed Principal Postmaster.

      He appointed appointed his private servant as the colony's first postman in 1828. From that time, letter carriers as they were known distributed mail in Sydney.

      Mail routes out of Sydney were established and more postmasters were appointed. By 1828, regular daily horseback deliveries had begun operating from Sydney to Parramatta and Liverpool; a twice weekly service ran to Windsor and Campbelltown and a weekly service from carried mail to Penrith and Bathurst. There was also a twice weekly mail service by ship between Sydney and Newcastle.

      As the colony grew, post offices sprang up and the postal service became a vital cog in the wheel of opening up overland routes for the mail and providing a means for people to communicate and receive supplies.

      Because of the distances involved in the distribiton of mail, the Government of New South Wales required the services of thousands of contractors to deliver mail services. Often it was the mail contractor who forged the route through an inhospitable countryside.

      History Services NSW has compiled a database of over 12,000 contracts awarded by the Government of New South Wales to persons to provide specific mail services for the period 1835 to 1901. For more information go to:


      Thursday, February 12, 2009

      Finding Richard Johnson

      On Australia Day, 26 January 2009, Mary and I visited Richard Johnson Square on the corner Hunter and Castlereagh streets in the centre of Sydney.

      We got a great photo of the monument erected in Richard Johnson's honour against the backdrop of a vintage bus from the Sydney Bus Museum. Buses from the Museum's fleet were running services through the city for the Australia Day celebrations.

      Reverend Richard Johnson was appointed to accompany the First Fleet to New South Wales to become the first clergyman in Australia. His story illustrates the significant difficulties he experienced in establishing religious services and building a church in the infant Colony.

      For full details of his story go to:

      Wednesday, February 11, 2009

      NSW Convict Ancestors

      History Services NSW is a one-stop research boutique that can provide you with the most comprehensive information on your NSW convict ancestor.

      Visit us at http://www.historyservices.com.au/

      We will be able to help you if you are just getting started with your family history or are updating your research.

      Since the launch of the our website we have provided many researchers with information on a convict ancestor.

      Enquiries and comments are most welcome.