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:

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:

  • 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.