Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Convict Heritage of Oxford Street Epping

Oxford Street Epping circa early 1900's (a painting by Joyce Armstrong)

Oxford Street today

On Thursday, 21 October 2010, Hornsby Council Mayor Nick Berman officially opened the $3.5 million refurbishment of Oxford Street, Epping, New South Wales.

This new look street adds another layer to the history of Oxford Street, Epping. But its beginnings as the site of a convict sawpit should not be forgotten. I have suggested to Hornsby Council that a plaque be erected to this effect.

Because of a growing demand for timber for export and for an ambitious building program in the Colony, Governor Lachlan Macquarie set up a government sawmill, the Pennant Hills Timbergetting Establishment in 1816. It was originally on the site of the ridge around the present Hull Road at Pennant Hills. In 1819 it was enlarged with addition of a new site along a ridge a little further to the south on the present Oxford Street, Epping.

The sawpit was on the western side of Oxford Street (site today of the Catholic Church and
adjacent shops) as it sloped down to Devlin's Creek. The camp site for the convicts being on the opposite side where the Epping Methodist church was subsequently built in 1905 over the site of the former convict kitchen.

By 1825, the area was called "Barren Ridges" or "Barren Hills" because much of the timber had been cleared leaving an eroding landscape and siltration problems down Devlin's and Terry's Creeks.

History Services NSW has records of 60 convicts who were attached to Barren Hills.

For example, William Organ (per Daphne 1819) who came from Waterford, Ireland and who was a "Wheewright and Sawyer" is recorded in 1825 as being in "Government employment at Barren Hills". He was later assigned to the Rev John Joseph Therry, Roman Catholic Chaplain.

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

As part of the Macquarie 2010 Bicentenary Commemorations, the launch of "No Longer Barren" - a history of the Barren Ridges Convict Establishment and the Epping (Oxford Street) Methodist and Uniting Church 1820-2010, will be held on Saturday 27 November 2010 between 3pm-5pm in the worship centre at the rear of the Oxford Street Church. This will be hosted by Dr. Ian Jack, President, Royal Australian Historical Society.

This should be an interesting contribution to the history of Oxford Street, Epping.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at:

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