Thursday, May 2, 2013

Visiting Bar Island

Approaching Bar Island from Berowra Creek
On Tuesday, 30 April 2013,  we visited Bar Island in Broken Bay as part of the bushwalks program of Hornsby Shire Council.

Bar Island  is situated at the mouth of Berowra Creek as it flows into the Hawkesbury River. It is only a small island covering some 3.8 hectacres in area and is located approximately five kilometres west of the Mooney Mooney Bridge. It is uninhabited today but is rich in Aboriginal and European history.

New signage
It was traditionally part of the land of the Dharug and Darkinjung Aboriginal people. An Aboriginal shell midden is found next to the wharf on the island.

Aboriginal shell midden near wharf.

Governor Arthur Phillip is reported to have have visited Bar Island on his second exploration visit to the Hawkesbury area in June 1789.

In the 1870s, Bar Island became a focal point for the local communities of the Hawkesbury with the coming of St John's Church of England, a school and a cemetery.

The Church was built in 1876 by John Crumpton, opening on 20th October that year with services being conducted by Rev Henry Ham Britten. A' half-time' school (in conjunction with the Peats Ferry School) was established on the island in 1875. Classes were held in the church from the following year. A violent storm in 1887 badly damaged the weatherboard church and it was demolished in 1892.

The only remaining part today is the stone fireplace and chimney which had been incorporated into the building using stone from George Peat's home "Fairview" which had fallen into ruin at nearby Mooney Mooney.

Fireplace and chimney remains of St Johns Church of England

Back view of fireplace facing the sun

But it is in the cemetery where we find a testament to the history of the early pioneers of the Hawkesbury district. A list of the known burials in the Bar Island cemetery is given at the foot of the Blog.

View of Cemetery looking up the hill
In 2007, Hornsby Council with funding from the NSW Department of Planning, repaired broken headstones such as those below:

Grave of Robert Milson died 14 September 1886
aged 62 years
Grave of Ann Elizabeth Milson, his wife,
died 9 September 1886
aged 39 years
Grave of Charles F Brown
Master Mariner
died 21 March 1901
aged 41 years

Grave of Harriet Young
died 14 December 1884
aged 75 years

Grave Alexander Bow Wilson
died 3 May 1887
aged 33 Years

Grave of James Cole
Native of Bristol England
died 26 February 1885
aged 71 Years

Grave of Mary Greer, died 18 July 1885
aged 65 year, and her husband,
John Greer, died 30 March 1888 aged 66 years
Grave of Charlotte Burton died 23 July 1890 aged 75 years, and
Marianne Bowles died 26 October 1892 aged 41 years.

Grave of Francis Byrne died 4 May 1887 aged 6 years.

Grave of Cyril Joseph Rose
 died 22 November 1895
aged 2 years and 6 months
The stories behind the people buried on Bar Island are truly fascinating. From unmarked graves, three tales emerge:
  • Sarah Lewis Ferdinand who was an Aboriginal woman who married  a German convict, John Ferdinand Lewis. They lived at Marramarra Creek and had seven children. She was known as Biddy and later Granny Lewis as she became the matriarch of a large group of Aboriginal and local pioneers. She died in 1880 and is buried on Bar Island. This is particularly significant as the locations of burial places of tribal aborigines are not widely known. 
  • James Calvert whom we identified as a convict. History Services NSW records that James arrived on the ship John in Port Jackson on 25 November 1827 from London. On arrival in the Colony, he was assigned as a labourer to Joseph Foulks of Lower Portland. He received a Ticket of Leave in March 1836 at Mangrove Creek, and a Conditional Pardon on 1 October 1842. In 1855, he married Ann (Annie) Jones at the Church of England  at Kincumber .He died at Brisbane Water in 1880 and is buried with his wife who died in 1883, in the Bar Island Cemetery.  

Known Burials in the Bar Island Cemetery, Hawkesbury River

Mary Ann Absolem                    Rubina Cole                              Maude Lloyd    
1822 - 1887                               Died 1880, aged 17 days           Died 1880, aged 3 weeks

Caroline Mary Banks                 Sarah Ferdinand                        Richard Lloyd
Died 1879, 
aged 5 months         Circa 1803 - 1880                      1830 - 1894

Marianne Bowles                       James W. Garthon                    Unnamed male child Lyden
1851 - 1892                              1859 - 1898                               Died 1884, aged 1 hour

William John Bowles                  Betsy Goodridge                       Frederick A. McLaughlin
1849 - 1903                               1856 - 1894                              Died 1903, aged 8 months

Charles Frederick Brown             Eva Isabella Green                    Ann Elizabeth Milson
1860 - 1901                               1901 - 1904                              1847 - 1886

Charlotte Burton                        James Kenneth Green                Cyril Joseph Rose
1815 - 1890                               Died 1904, aged 7 months         1893 - 1895

Annie Ellis Butters                     Mary Ann Jane Green                Elizabeth Bessie Rose
1839 - 1898                               1877 - 1897                              1824 - 1897

Joseph Blundell                         William Henry Green                  Mary Elizabeth Scott
Died 1906, aged 2 weeks           1874 - 1906                               Died 1887, aged 6 weeks,

Albert Byrnes                            John Greer                                Vincent William Seymour
Died 1898, aged 17 days           1822 - 1888                               1824 - 1899

Francis J. Byrnes                      Mary Greer                                Ivy Sutton
1881 - 1887                              1821 - 1886                               1900 - 1901

Joseph Byrnes                          Richard Hibbs                           Lavinia Blanche Thompson
1836 - 1882                              1844 - 1904                               Died 1884, aged 3 months

Maria Byrnes                             Samuel Albert Holland               Frederick H. Underwood
1843 - 1901                               Died 1899, age unknown            1854 - 1902

Annie Calvert                             James Augustus Jessup            Mary Whitley
1816 - 1883                               1840 - 1902                              1847 - 1885

James Calvert                            Ruby Johnson                           Alexander Bow Wilson
1805 - 1880                               Died 1887, aged 11 months       1854 - 1887

James Cole                               Sarah Emily Johnson                 Harriett Young
1814 - 1885                               1859 - 1895                              1810 - 1884

Mary Cole                                 Mary Annie Jones
1820 - 1892                              1853 - 1883

Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken April 2013

Reference sources:
Lorna Olliff:; There Must Be a River - A History of the Hornsby Shire, Ollif Publishing Co Sydney, 1975.

Tom Richmond: Hawkesbury River Heritage Cruise, September 2011

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


  1. I'm almost totally certain that my grandfathers brother was buried at Bar Island. His name was Samuel Arthur Holland. He was born in 1899 and died when he was only a few days old. His father (my great grandfather) was the station master at the new Hawksbury railway station at the time. The entry for "Samuel Albert Holland" looks too similar to be a coincidence.

  2. 9 September 1883 at Windsor Robert Milson at the age of 59 marries 36 year old spinster Ann Cole who is 23 years his junior.
    ■ 9 September 1886 Robert Milson's wife Ann dies on thier 3rd wedding anniversary at home on Mud Island (now known as Milson Island). [“The River Settlement of Milsons Passage” by John Carrick]
    ■ 14 September 1866 Robert Milson dies at home on Mud Island (now known as Milson Island). He has no children.[“
    Anne elizabeth Milson was his wife of three years, not his Daughter as written in the above photo.