Saturday, May 21, 2011

Castle Hill Heritage Park

We recently visited the Castle Hill Heritage Park for the second time and made two interesting discoveries.

The location of the Park on 17 hectares of land in Sydney's north-west tells us the story of one of Australia's most important historical sites. It has been dedicated as a "National Heritage Site" by the Commonwealth Government.

In 1801, Governor King established a Government Farm on the site to provide grain for the Colony. It was manned by convict labour.

Many of the earliest convicts were political prisoners from the Irish Uprising of 1798 having been transported for "life" to the colony of New South Wales. It was from the Castle Hill Farm that some 200 of these convicts rose up in rebellion against the authorities on 4 March 1804 and marched to met the Redcoats ( the government forces of the NSW Corps lead by Major George Johnston) at nearby Rouse Hill, in what became known as Australia's "Battle of Vinegar Hill".

The Government Farm remained operational until 1810 when the old barracks buildings were converted into a lunatic asylum by Governor Macquarie in 1811. Subsequently, the buildings were used as a school and later a church.

The photo below is of a painting of the Castle Hill Government Farm circa 1806 near what is now the intersection of Old Castle Hill and Tuckwell Roads. It is attributed to JW Lewin, courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

The first discovery that we made this time round was the remains of what was an old well on the site (photo at left ).

This adds to the reality of the site as there is very little remaining of any buildings, save for some evidence of archaeological digs that uncovered some stone work

The second discovery was the stone from Vinegar Hill in County Wexford, Ireland (photo at right).

This stone erected as a monument in 2004 explains the significance of the naming of the "Battle of Vinegar Hill". Because the ringleaders of the Castle Hill uprising were Irish, the ensuing battle was named after the uprising at Vinegar Hill, in County Wexford in Ireland in 1798.

History Services NSW has the records for the two main leaders of the Castle Hill uprising, viz Phillip Cunningham and William Johnston. Both Cunningham and Johnston who hailed from County Cork in Ireland, were hanged for their parts in the uprising and so died for their cause a long way from their homeland.

If you are researching a convict ancestor who may have worked in the Castle Hill area, you should go the History Services NSW website at:

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