Saturday, March 22, 2014

Richard Webb Reserve - What's in a Name?

Our convict legacy is often found in geographical places name. For example Gladesville in Sydney, New South Wales is named after the convict John Glade; Redfern after William Redfern, mutineer, convict and surgeon; the Cotter Dam, Cotter River and Cotter Flats in the Australian  Capital Territory after the convict Garret (George) Cotter; and Thompson Square at Windsor after the convict Andrew Thompson.*

Richard Webb Reserve in West Pennant Hills in the shire of Baulkham Hills is named after Richard Webb. But who was Richard Webb? 

Richard Webb Reserve, Aitken Road West Pennant Hills.
 Photo taken March 2014

Richard Webb Reserve, West Pennant Hills - Deakin Place entrance.
 Photo taken March 2014

From the records of History Services NSW, Richard Webb was an English convict who was sentenced at Norfolk Assize to life on 20 March 1813, aged 17 years. His crime was burgulary. His occupation was a labourer.
  • He arrived at Port Jackson in the colony of New South Wales on 7 February 1814 in  the  convict ship General Hewitt; 
  • On arrival he was assiged to John Blaxland at Parramatta;
  • Webb was granted a Ticket of Leave. In the General Muster & Land & Stock Muster of 1822 he was listed as a sawyer living at Parramatta.  
  • 5 September 1826 He married Johannah (Hannah) Mocklar (nee Willdinson). They had nine children;
  • in the Census of 1828, Richard Webb was listed as a shopkeeper of Parramatta, aged 28 years, with a Ticket of Leave. His wife Hannah and son Richard were also listed;
  • He was granted a conditional pardon on 28 February 1834; and
  • an absolute pardon of his sentence on 14 October 1840.
After he was granted his conditional pardon, Richard Webb had a timber yard at Parramatta and then purchased land in the West Pennant Hills Valley. By 1840, he owned 260 acres of land  known as Webbs farms.

The bullock track which he made to connect his farm to Pennant Hills Road is today Aitken Road.

In 1989, in recognition of his success as a business man and farmer in the community, Baulkham Hills Shire Coucil named a reserve and playground in Aitken Road, West Pennant Hills, Richard Webb Reserve, after him.

Richard Webb died on 2 October 1881 aged 86 years and was buried in the historic St Johns Cemetery at Parramatta. He is interred in a family grave, with a distinctive white marble pedestal, in Section Two of the cemetery near the grave of John Blaxland.

Grave of Richard Webb, his wife Hannah Webb and other family members
at St Johns Cemetery, Parramatta.
Photo taken 16 March 2014

Headstone of the Webb family grave at St Johns Cemetery,
Photo taken 16 March 2014

If you would like more detailed information on Richard Webb or are researching your own convict ancestor, you should go to the History Services NSW website at:


* History Services NSW has detailed records for all of these convicts. Go to the website  at: 
Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness 

All photos taken taken  in March 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Old Sydney Town - the Memories

The recent fire at the site of Old Sydney Town at Somersby, New South Wales, evokes memories of this iconic historical venture in its heyday.

Early guide book and brochure of Old Sydney Town , printed in 1974.
Photo taken January 2014
Old Sydney Town was the dream of architect Frank Fox who wanted "to achieve a re-creation of the birth of our nation" . 

Fox purchased the land at Somersby in 1969. Old Sydney Town was officially opened by the then prime minister, Gough Whitlam on Australia Day, 26 January 1975. At that time it was a joint venture with the Federal Government and the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac).

Old Sydney Town  was the was a faithful reconstruction of Sydney town between the years 1788-1810. Based on extensive research, it reflected the life of the convicts, the military and the emanicipists of the era as well the infrastructure and buildings.

Official guide to Old Sydney Town - 1974
showing key to the buildings
Photo taken February 2014

Map of Old Sydney Town - 1974
Photo taken February 2014

View of Old Sydney Town from Google Earth 2013
showing the remaining structure of the
Brig Perseverance at bottom left.
Among its features were:
  • Convict hut of William and Mary Bryant;
  • Government Windmill;
  • Dawes Observatory;
  • Rose Stablers' Eating House;
  • HM Brig Lady Nelson.
Its most significant contribution was in making Australian history popular. Old Sydney Town was an invaluable resource for school groups to gain a general knowledge our early colonial history in Sydney. It was also a fun place for a family outing to enjoy the same.

Original signage at Old Sydney Town.
Photo taken June 2012

Family fun Day at Old Sydney Town - In the stocks
Photo taken May 1986
Coach ride at Old Sydney Town
Photo taken May 1986

Like similar historic villages (Australian Pioneer Village at Wilberforce, Lachlan Vintage Village at Forbes)  Old Sydney Town had a chequered history. It was leased to Warwick Amusements in 1987 and was subsequently bought by that group in 2000. 

Old Sydney Town was closed down in 2003.

In February 2013 it was reported that Peter and Michael Fox (sons of the founder) were in discussions with the park owner, Richard Chiu, to investigate a sustainable and viable future for the Old Sydney Town site [Daily Telegraph, 19 February 2013].

On a visit to the site in 2012, some vestiges of the original layout still remained.

A Redcoat at Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012

View of Entrance to Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012
View of Entrance to Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012

View of entrance to Old Sydney Town after the fire
Photo taken February 2014

View of entrance to Old Sydney Town after the fire
Photo taken February 2014

It was with a certain sadness then that we revisited the Old Sydney Town site after the recent fire in February 2014, realising that it had been robbed of a little bit more of its history.

The fight to save Old Sydney Town is not over. Maybe something good can come out of the ashes!

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

Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken and dated from my collection.