Tumbledown Barn

by Chris Counter

Foreword: On 18 October 1997 Chris Counter led a group of people on a tour into the paddocks of the former Riverstone Meatworks to visit the site of a building known as the Tumbledown Barn, one of the earliest buildings in the district, built between 1810 and 1820. The exact location of the Tumbledown Barn had been the subject of confusion, as one early researcher had listed it as being on Peter Farrell’s land grant, whereas later researchers felt it was on the land granted to William Sherwin. In this article Chris tells of how he came to be interested in the building and how he confirmed its location as being on the land grant to William Sherwin.


My interest in this subject stems from a letter I read whilst opening mail at the Riverstone Meat Works in 1983. The letter dated September 18, 1983, was seeking information regarding the whereabouts of any remains of a building known as Tumbledown Barn, believed to be located within the grazing paddocks of the Meat Works. The writer, Mrs Elizabeth Harvey of Eglinton noted that Tumbledown Barn was possibly the birthplace of Robert McPhillamy in 1818, Charles Marsden McPhillamy in 1821, Elizabeth McPhillamy in 1823 and John Smith McPhillamy in 1825. Due to extreme difficulties experienced in the meat industry at that time the Company suffered drastic staff retrenchments leaving no time to follow up and reply to the letter. A reply was eventually prepared by the Company on April 18, 1984, and permission was given to me to deliver it personally. The reply advised that nobody within the Company knew of any building remains or about Tumbledown Barn.

Research on finding the exact location of Tumbledown Barn starts with information provided by Mrs Harvey, which was an extract from Primary Records of the Archives of the Society of Australian Genealogists Sydney taken from the George Reeve Papers.

Tumbledown Barn two and a half miles from Riverstone Meat Works. Probably built 1810-1820. The homestead faced Eastern Creek (the east side is the front of the house). Mr Towers went there in 1897 during the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The farm is situated in the angle of South and Eastern Creeks, so is ideal for irrigation. The photo taken in 1899 shows Mr Jack Towers and family. The Barn was on the right of the building, opposite gable end to that of the chimney (sic) and next to the top loft. Barn has extensive stabling. A pepper tree stood and still stands in a gnarled condition a few yards away in front of where the water tank today is standing (front left side of photo). Tumbledown Barn Building stood till 1912 when the immensely long wooden slabs (which stood in horizontal position) and other parts of the woodwork were pulled down. The half-tree slabs were taken to the Riverstone Meat Works for the purpose of stabling horses. Tumbledown Barn stands in the 55 acre farm granted to a Mr Peter Farrell. The old sundried brick chimney and the pepper tree are all that remain. Robert McPhillamy of Gormans Hill was born at Tumbledown Barn between Clydesdale and Eastern Creek.

These were all the facts known to me about Tumbledown Barn. Strict security prevented me from looking at will around the junction of South and Eastern Creek for any remains of the chimney and the pepper tree. Following a discussion with a works stockman Steven Welk, he offered to take me to the junction of South and Eastern Creek where he knew an old pepper tree stood.

Investigations start with the 55-acre grant made at the junction of South and Eastern Creek in the District of Mulgrave Place to Peter Farrell, on December 18, 1799, by Governor Hunter. The grant was known as Farrell Farm.1 However, further research discounted the idea that Tumbledown Barn was on this grant. Instead, it was located on land granted to William Sherwin in 1799.

William Sherwin enlisted in the New South Wales Corps on December 29, 1789. It is recorded that he was then a Corporal. He arrived in New South Wales in 1791. The following year he received a 500-acre grant in Parramatta. In 1793, he was promoted to Sergeant and the following year leased 0.5 acres on Norfolk Island. He was under detachment to Townson in 1798/992 and was granted the 150 acres in the District of Mulgrave Place on November 12, 1799 for a rental of two shillings per year commencing after five years. The 150 acres were in six allotments of 25 acres each granted by Col. Patterson to six Privates in the New South Wales Corps and purchased by the person in whose name the grant was made out.3 In 1800 he was under detachment to McArthur, he was discharged in 1801. In April, 1803 the 150 acre property was sold to Samuel Marsden.4

In 1817, William and Mary McPhillamy arrived in New South Wales. They had married in Scotland and were tried and sentenced at Ayr in 1816 for the illegal use of spirit stills. They each received seven years transportation. Mary gave birth to their first born on board ship. Subsequently three children were born at South Creek, possibly at Tumbledown Barn, a fourth child is recorded as having been born in Windsor in 1825. The 1825 muster records William and Mary at Windsor free by servitude.5

George Reeve writes in a newspaper article in 1928 that the McPhillamys were the occupiers of Tumbledown Barn prior to the parents of the late J T Ryan.6 This would tie in with the information written by Ryan when he states that the Rope family, (his grandparents), went to reside at Tumbledown Barn after 1818.7

The Reverend James Hassall writes he was at school in Mulgoa between 1836 and 1839. He states that his Uncle, (Charles Simeon Marsden), had a dairy farm near Windsor called the Tumbledown Barn.8 Charles Marsden was born in 1803 the son of Reverend Samuel Marsden and Elizabeth Marsden. He married Elizabeth Howard Brabyn in June 1828. In 1838 Samuel Marsden died, leaving property to Charles, however there is no evidence that Charles ever owned Tumbledown Barn. Research at the Land Titles Office reveals a conveyance between the widowed Elizabeth Bobart, (daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Marsden), on the one part and James Mountford on the other part, on October 9, 1854. The document refers to the death of Samuel Marsden and his last will and testament dated October 18, 1836. In the will he left a parcel of land to Elizabeth Bobart then Elizabeth Marsden.9 This parcel contained 150 acres in the District of Mulgrave Place, situated on the south side of Farrell Farm and known as Tumbledown Barn. It was granted by the crown to William Sherwin on November 12, 1799. The same day a mortgage was drawn up between the same parties James Mountford being the mortgagor.10 There can be no doubt from this documentation that Tumbledown Barn is located on the 150 acre grant to Sherwin and not on the 55 acre grant to Farrell.

James Mountford of South Creek died in September 1863 and his last will is dated September 6, 1863. In the will he devised that all his farmland and premises situated between the South Creek and Eastern Creek should be dived equally between his daughters Elvina Mountford and Emma Ann Mountford. The real estate described is all that parcel of land containing one hundred and fifty acres lying at South Creek in the District of Mulgrave Place situated on the south side of Farrell Farm and known as Tumbledown Barn. The land was granted from the Crown to William Sherwin on November 12, 1799. Also all that parcel of land situate at South Creek containing about 55 acres bounded by South Creek, Eastern Creek and the lastly described parcel of land.11

On a map showing part of the Windsor district drawn circa 1842, T Muscrave, Surveyor, records Tumbledown Barn clearly within the boundaries of the 150 acre grant made originally to William Sherwin.12 This is further confirmation of the correct location of Tumbledown Barn.

1 Sydney Land Titles Office, Land Titles Grants Register 2, p. 417.
2 P.Statham, op. Cit., p. 341.
3 Sydney Land Titles Office, Land Titles Grants Register 2. P. 407.
4 Sydney Land Titles Office, unregistered conveyance endorsed on original crown grant.
5 L. Halloran, The McPhillamy’s of Bathurst, (unpublished. 1986)
6 Windsor and Richmond Gazette 17.7.1928.
7 James T. Ryan, Reminiscences of Australia Facsimile copy {Parramatta, 1982}, p. 3.
8 Rev James Hassall, In Old Australia {Brisbane, 1902}, p. 32,33.
9 Sydney Land Titles Office, Book 34. No. 348
10 Ibid, Book 34. No. 349.
11 Ibid, Book 112. No. 587.
12 Map, ZM4811.1122/1842/1 Mitchell Library.

Location of Tumbledown Barn

The Vineyard Mission School Church

by Winsome Phillis

The district now known as Vineyard was originally called The Vineyard because of the large number of grapes grown in the locality between 1850 and the 1890s. An early map of the Riverstone area c1856 shows vineyards out near Eastern Creek. Many of the vines were killed by a vine pest called phylloxera in the 1890s, but the name remained.

The Vineyard was in the Parish of St Matthew’s, Windsor about 5 miles from that church. The Vineyard School Church, as it was first called, was established in 1884 by the Rev. Frederick William Stretton, Rector of Windsor. In his book Early Days of Windsor J. Steele mentioned that the pulpit in the Vineyard church was made from a portion of the old original St Matthew’s pulpit.

There is now in the possession of St Matthew’s a chalice inscribed St Andrew’s, Windsor which could possibly have belonged to the Vineyard church.

Hawkesbury Chronicle. 1 November, 1884.
Vineyard Mission School opened on St Simon & St Jude’s Day (28 October). A Tea Meeting was held in the afternoon. Tables were given by Mrs Gow, Mrs Hancock and Mrs Yeo. Mr Beveridge catered. (Mr Beveridge was a baker, from Windsor.) At 7 pm a service of Evensong was taken by the minister from Windsor, Rev. F. Stretton.

The church was erected chiefly by voluntary labour, under the superintendence of Mr John Gow. It was originally of slab walls and iron roof construction, situated on the northern side of Windsor Road, near Level Crossing Road at Vineyard.

Marriages were held in the church, conducted by the rector of St Matthew’s. On the 21 May 1891 George Brien married Mary Jane Farrell. Another wedding was held on the 19 July 1893 when William Clout married Mary Jane Hayes.

An old book from the Vineyard Church, donated to the Museum by Jack Murray, records Church Collections and includes names of people who delivered Prayers / Sermon on various dates from 1892 – 1901.

Services were taken by Preachers / Lay readers including: Mr Simons, Mr Barnett, Rev. Mr Taylor, Rev. Mr Gillham, Rev. S.G. Fielding, Mr Wilton, Rev. Mr Gray, C.C. Dunston, Mr. Blacket

In the back of this Book are Minutes of Meeting held in Vineyards School Church from 1897 – 1901. Rev. S.G. Fielding was Chairman of many of these meetings.

1898 – The Harmonium had been repaired. Mr Denman, the tuner paid £1-10-0. Mr Blacket was awarded a vote of thanks for his gift of a Communion Rail.

1901 – Mr Blacket proposed that Mr Jones be empowered to have necessary repairs done to interior of Church, seconded by Mr Gray. This included seats, slabs under east window, floor by the Harmonium. Mr Farrell be appointed Caretaker as per last year.

In 1902 Minutes show that Services were being held every Sunday at 3.30 pm and a Sunday School was operating. However, the building was ‘decidedly dilapidated’ and was to be renovated. Some of the names of parishioners at this time were Messrs Grey, Forssberg, R. Strachan, Jones, Blacket, Forster, Farrell. Mesdames Schoeffel, Moss, Rubery, Strachan.

Another book of Minutes of Meeting, is dated from 17 September, 1902 to 2 April, 1912. At a committee meeting held on 17 September, 1902 Mr Simons took the chair. Mr Forssberg proposed (seconded by Mr White): That the Church be lengthened by 10 feet, the windows be enlarged, the roof painted with refrigerating paint, ventilators placed in the gables and a porch be added to the present structure. The Church to pay one half the money to the extent of £3, the mover the other half and any sum beyond £6.

A Meeting held on 28 January 1903 with Charles Forssberg as Chairman discussed the matter of Insurance: Building and contents were insured for £100 at 11s.9d. p.a. (£15 on the Organ, £15 on the fittings and £70 on the building.)

Mr Nigel A. Blacket resigned as Hon. Secretary & Treasurer. Mr Blacket was asked to take his son’s place until Easter. (There is also an Ulric Blacket mentioned as a committee member.)

In April 1903, the finances of the Church were in a very satisfactory state, showing a credit balance of £8/14/4. (£5 per annum paid to Windsor committee.)

18 April 1904, A working bee was to be formed to have W.C. erected at the Sunday School. A vote of thanks was given to Mr Burnett and other Lay Readers for coming to the Vineyard.

23 April 1909, A Stipend Fund was operating. Seven pounds to be paid to Windsor Church. Repairs were made to windows and floor. Carpet to be obtained for Communion area.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 23 April, 1910. At the Easter Meeting of the local branch of the C of E, a very satisfactory balance sheet was read by the Secretary. Votes of thanks were passed to Mr & Mrs A. Blacket and family for their help in the Sunday School etc, and to Mr F. Forster, who was re-elected Secretary & Treasurer.

Notes from Vineyard Church Minute Book:

In 1912 the Rector was Norman Jenkyn. A.H. Wilcher Secretary /Treasurer. Caretaker, Mrs Clarke. Parishioners include Messrs A. White, R. Strachan, H. Jones, S. Hudson, A. Wilson, Ulric Blacket.

1913 – A motion was placed on record to acknowledge the valuable services rendered to the church by Mr & Mrs R. Strachan.

In 1913 the church needed repairs to flooring and seats and Mr A. Blacket was paid £7/12/6 for same. Mr A. Blackburn was paid 17/6 for tuning the organ.

It was then suggested that no more money be spent on the present church, which was now nearly twenty years old, and the building of a new church was discussed. A building fund was proposed, however by 1915 it was found necessary to repair the old building and fences to keep the building in use.

Windsor & Richmond 21 April 1916. It was agreed that the presentation of prizes to Sunday School classes be on Sunday 9th April, so that one of the teachers, Lieutenant Ulric Blacket, might be present.

In 1919 the subject of building a new church was again brought up, the dimensions of 35’ x 19’ x12’ suggested. There was £43/19/1 in the Building Fund. Mr Wood gave an estimate of the cost of the new building in brick as £250. This was deemed too expensive and once again the proposal lapsed.

Church comes under the control of the Pitt Town Parish.

In the following years it would seem that the Church did not prosper, as there are no more Minutes in this book until 1926, when Rev. Stanley Howard, Rector of Pitt Town Church convened a special meeting for the purpose of re-opening the Church.
Present – Mr Wilcher (Sec./Treas.); Mr E. Bock, Assistant Sec.; Mr Godfrey; Mrs A. Davidson; Mrs E. Hodges; Mrs Godfrey Sen.; Mrs Godfrey Jnr.; Mrs Wilcher; Mr Bloodsworth.
Services were to be held on the first Wednesday evening after the full moon at 7.30 o’clock. Sunday School was also to be restarted.
A working bee was formed for the purpose of repairing the windows and the fence of the church.
A Stipend of £12 per annum was to be paid to Pitt Town Church.

Transfer of Church to Riverstone Parish.

In October 1930 the Provisional District of St Paul’s became a Parish including the Vineyard Church with Rev. W. Owens as Rector. Once again the matter of a new church building was brought up with the result that in 1931 a new church building was erected on Windsor Road, next to the Vineyard Public School.

The Church News (St Paul’s) December, 1931.
Church Services at Vineyard are held on Wednesday after the full moon at 8 pm. The next service, the last in the old church, will be on Wednesday December 2, at 8 pm.

Mr Brennan was paid 7/6 for carting seats and organ from the old church to the new.

The Opening Service in the new St Andrew’s Hall was held on Sunday January 3, 1932 at 3.30 pm. Preacher, the Venerable Archdeacon Charlton. The old

Vineyards Church and land was sold for £23 in March 1933.

The old slab church.

At some time after the slab church was sold in 1933, soft wood partitions were erected inside the building to convert it to a three roomed residence.

In the 1940s the building was sold to Mr Bob Biddle who pulled it down and, using a horse and dray, removed the slabs, timber, windows and iron to his property at Vineyard, where some of it was used in his own buildings. Ron Cusbert who was only a lad at the time, helped in the demolition and recalls that the building was constructed of vertical slabs, with zinc strips between the slabs to cover the gaps. The slabs were rough cut, some flat, some rounded on one side. The pitched roof was covered with iron sheets. It was not a large building, being approximately 30 feet long by 15 feet wide, rectangular in shape with a door in the end facing Windsor Road. (There was no porch.) The sash windows were constructed of small square panes of glass.

The second Vineyard Church was in operation until 1978 and the history of this church will be covered in a future Journal.

Early days of Windsor J. Steele
Hawkesbury Journey D.G. Bowd
Minutes 1897 – 1912 M. Davis
Church Collections & Minutes J. Murray. Hawkesbury Chronicle
Windsor & Richmond Gazette
Minute Books from Vineyards Church
The Church News St Paul’s Riverstone
Vineyard Church – Income and Expenditure
Phone interviews: R. Cusbert & Y. Morley

Riverstone’s Woodcutters & Sawmilling

by Ron F. Mason

Those jaundiced individuals who can see nothing in Riverstone but a bush, or at best, a poverty stricken nest of woodcutters and butchers, and, perhaps an impecunious auctioneer or two, and a brickmaker in the last throes of the miserables, caused by the suspension of tick.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 16th March, 1889.

The image conjured up by Paul Twyford in his late nineteenth century description of Riverstone is hardly inspiring and while his objective was to contrast this image with the reality which he saw as being far more positive he has, none the less, given us an insight into the daily work of the town’s people. The economic importance of the meatworks is well understood. What is less well understood is the role woodcutting played as a source of employment and in changing the landscape of the areas surrounding Riverstone.

In the late nineteenth century, Sydney had an almost insatiable demand for firewood which, for a while, Riverstone was well positioned to satisfy. At the time areas like Nelson, Box Hill and Schofields were heavily forested and so provided a ready supply of wood conveniently located to the railway at Riverstone.

For a period of about 20 years commencing in the 1880s woodcutting was an important source of employment for many people – the gangs of woodcutters who toiled in the bush selecting and felling suitable trees for firewood and railway sleepers, the carters who hauled the wood to the mills in small drays and the mill operators who cut the wood into shorter lengths and trucked it by rail to the Sydney market. The bulk of the wood was destined to become firewood and was cut into lengths suited to the special needs of the users. Common types were baker’s wood, foot wood and two foot wood. The land owners also profited through the payment of what was known as a bush rent for the right to cut the trees on their property.

Some understanding of the number of people employed in the industry can be gained from this 1897 report in the Gazette: The timber on the Common is now practically destroyed, little remaining but a desolation of tree stumps and littered branches. Mr Terry’s Back Run is sharing the same fate. No less than 20 sleeper getters being busy there – besides a gang of fire wood cutters… 1 (Terry’s “Back Run” was located in Old Pitt Town Road, Nelson.)

These numbers are only indicative because by 1897 the industry was in decline and only two mills were still operating in the railway yard.

Sawmilling had burgeoned as an important industry ten years earlier. In 1934 the Gazette published the reminiscences of two long term residents of Riverstone. One, Thomas Davis recalled:

I first came to Riverstone in 1878 …The first sawmill in Riverstone was situated where the present dams are, near the meatworks office. It was carried out by Messrs McCullock, Andrews and Drew, and was in charge of Mr. Andrew Turnbull, the well-known bridge and road contractor. After a time the mill was removed to a site closer to the railway station, where Taylor’s Produce Store now stands; all the timber for Cockroach Alley was cut at this mill. It was later run by Messrs Barber & Sons for a while, then Messrs Boyd and King wound up the company. Others also cut wood there. 2

Some of the “other” mill operators were my great-grandfather Samuel Mason, his brother – James Mason, E. Carey, Tom Whorton, E. Comer, the Ouvriers – John, James and Charles, James Robbins, Fred Beggs, Alex Fyall, John Schofield, E. MacNamarra and John Wilkinson.

Not all of these mills operated at the same time or at the same location. The mills were powered by steam traction engines that could be driven from one location to another and it was common for the operators to move their mills to the railway yard most conveniently located to the source of wood. Sam Mason’s mill was most probably the longest serving mill in the station yard and even it was moved at least three times – initially from a site on the Marsden Park side of the railway to Mulgrave, then to the station yard and later to Quakers Hill.

In 1891 James Mason and E. Carey moved their mills from Riverstone to Mulgrave and some years later one of the Mulgrave mills was moved to Minto. Similarly Tom Whorton moved his mill from Schofields to Riverstone and then to Doonside. While John Ouvrier’s mill was first reported as being in the meatworks paddock, then in the station yard and later he established a second plant at Richmond.

Samuel Mason established his mill in 1885. The Hawkesbury Chronicle reported: Mason’s new saw mills cause some little stir already and when they get in full swing things will look lively on that side of the line. 3 Oddly there are several references to Mason’s mills and in 1894 both Samuel snr. and jnr. are identified as mill proprietors. However, within the family there is no memory of Samuel having more than one mill. Samuel’s mill was located in Garfield Road between Riverstone Park and what later became the site of the Royal hotel. At the time there was no hotel on this site, however, seven months later the Never Fail was built with a 45 foot frontage to Garfield Road and a 42 foot frontage to Carlton Street.4 Prior to this Samuel worked a small farm on Trig Hill at Nelson. In 1886, he mortgaged the farm to Tom Maguire for £300 and according to family tradition the money was used to finance the saw mill. Two years after it was established the Mason mill was moved into the station yard.

A few months after the Masons commenced operations the Chronicle reported that a second mill had been established – Another sawmill has started on the site of the old mill near the Cosmopolitan Hall; while on the other side of the line Mason Bros. are in full swing. 5

It is not clear to what extent the woodcutters, carters and mill operators worked independently. However, there is some evidence to suggest that although the individuals were self employed and worked on a contract basis, the mill owners coordinated the process – negotiated access to the trees, paid the bush rent, the wood cutters and carters and then arranged the final sale.

Another feature of the industry was that many of the contractors were related, either directly or by marriage and there is no doubt that this greatly assisted in the coordination of the various stages of production. For example Samuel Mason’s mill was always known as Mason Bros. presumably because the business was run by his sons – Sam and Mick who worked at the saw bench, Jack who worked as a wood cutter, Bill as a wood carter and later Frank as teamster.

In 1889 Samuel’s brother Jim also established a mill in the railway yard. Bill Hession (who later married Jim’s daughter, Alice), Jim Robbins (Jim’s brother in law), John Ouvrier and Jim Ouvrier (who married Maria Hynds, Jim’s niece) all worked in the business.

The bulk of the wood was sent to the Sydney market – sometimes for very little profit. In 1886 the Chronicle railed against the poor prices being received and the dishonest practices which it suspected as the explanation:

It is not to be wondered at, either, that people who are not butchers or employees of some sort at the meatworks have no money, take the wood trade, we have heard of instances where only 15s was obtained at auction for a truck load of good billet wood – in one case only 8s – out of which the sender had to pay freight, bush rent, cutting, carting and other charges. Now how all this can possibly occur except by down right robbery some where it is hard to conceive. First the weights are tampered with – for it is rarely that the weights returned are the same as the actual weights sent, and then there is the absolute giving the stuff away by salesmen and that this is a fact is well known not only in the wood trade but in everything else. 6

Whatever the explanation things did not improve with time. In 1894 the Gazette repeated the St. Marys Echo in questioning How is it that the best foot wood is still retailed in Sydney at £1 per ton while the wood senders only receive 8/6 – 10/- per ton for it, having to pay freight, bush rent, cutting etc. 7 Two weeks later it reported One shipper of timber received returns that left him 3d. per ton for cutting: 8 and yet again in 1914 – Business in the wood-drawing line has been slack on account of the low price obtainable for foot wood in Sydney. A little baker’s wood is being trucked. 9

Similarly the rewards for the wood cutters were not always good. In 1891 the Gazette lauded the benefits of collective bargaining:

In Goulburn woodcutters have formed a Union. Why don’t they do the same thing in this district where a larger number are engaged in the occupation. There is nothing like unity. In Goulburn men are to receive 3/- per ton for under 2 foot lengths and 2/6 per ton for 2 foot and over. Previously men had only received 1/3 per ton for 2 foot lengths. 10

The firewood business was not run on a sustainable basis. Through out the 1880s sufficient wood was being cut to support three mills and in 1891 the Gazette reported that: The three mills in the station yard are kept going. The weekend before last at Mr. S. Mason’s mill alone, 100 tons of foot wood were cut and it did not work on the Saturday either. Not a bad performance for boys. 11

However, a few months later two of the mills had moved to Mulgrave and the Gazette noted that wood is evidently getting scarce as the one left does not appear to be overworked. 12 The Mason Bros. continued to operate during the 1890s and at various times were joined by others but business became increasingly problematic and was described in 1895 as just as slow as a funeral. 13

By 1900 the Gazette reported: Woodcutting on the Common is not the business it used to be. The few who still remain at the trade hunt over again at the old and once rejected trees and logs, so that it is hard to see how selectors, should they take up the land, will find fire wood and fencing stuff. 14

Saw milling was a dangerous occupation and accidents were frequent. The most common were either head injuries caused by a part of the saw or a piece of wood being flung back at the bench operator or the inevitable loss of fingers.

In 1888 the Gazette reported that Mick Mason, one of Samuel’s sons was injured – It appears that he was cutting a piece of wood on the bench with a circular saw and by some means or other the saw brought a piece of it round, which flew up knocking five of his teeth out, besides other nasty bruising on his face. 15

Jim Mason sustained a similar accident – Whilst Mr. James Mason was engaged cutting wood with a circular saw in the station yard on Wednesday, he received some nasty cuts on the face. By some means or other the saw broke and parts of it flew up into his face. He was very fortunate to escape as well as he did. 16 Sadly his good fortune did not continue – shortly after Jim moved his mill to Mulgrave the Gazette reported:

News came to hand at 11.45 am on Friday that as Mr. J Mason of Mulgrave was cutting some wood with a circular saw, the saw broke and flew up with terrific force, striking Mason on the head and inflicting serious injuries. Mr. Hession instantly rode into Windsor for a doctor but unfortunately Dr Gibson was away in Richmond at the time, whilst Dr Callaghan was laid up in bed. Mr. R.A. Pye, Chemist went out to the scene of the accident whilst a message was dispatched to Richmond for Dr Gibson and a wire was also sent to hasten his return. We are sorry to have to report that Mr. Mason succumbed to his injuries a short time after the accident. The deceased was a popular and well liked man. 17

According to Evie Hines, her father Will Hession rode to Windsor to seek medical help and as he galloped past Carey’s hotel at McGraths Hill he called out and asked that they take brandy out to Mulgrave to help revive James but it was to no avail. 18

On the 27th February, 1892, the Gazette further reported:

On Saturday last an inquest was held at McGraths Hill before the Coroner J.B. Johnston Esq. on the body of Mr. James Mason, who died from the effects of an accident which happened the previous day at Mulgrave Railway Station. Evidence was given to the effect that the deceased was engaged in cutting wood at his saw mill. He had cut a piece of very tough wood when some how it again came into contact with the circular saw, which was revolving at the time. The piece of wood was thrown back with great force and struck the deceased on the side of the head inflicting terrible injuries. He fell backwards upon a heap of wood and sustained a fractured skull. He was conveyed to McGraths Hill but did not long survive. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
The deceased was a good hearted man and well liked by everyone who knew him. He was married and leaves a wife and nine children, the eldest of whom is about 16 years of age.

Our Riverstone Correspondent writes:

A gloom was cast over the town on Friday last, when the sad news reached here that Mr. James Mason of Nelson had met with a fatal accident at his saw mill, Mulgrave. The deceased was well known, and everyone, both in the neighbourhood he lived and here, had the profoundest respect for him, consequently the very greatest sympathy on all sides was expressed at the terrible calamity. For 2 years he worked his Mill in the Station Yard but wood became scarce and as there was a rush on the Pitt Town Common at the time, he thought he could do better at Mulgrave where he shifted his plant about 6 mths ago. All who were able to procure a vehicle on Saturday did so, while those who failed journeyed to Windsor by train to pay the last tribute to the genial “Jim Mason” as he was familiarly known.

Owing to the death of Mr. J. Mason the cricket match between the Kellyville Club was cried off and the race between Bomibel & Mulgrave was postponed until today Saturday at McGraths Hill.

Sam Mason jnr. also suffered a number of injuries. In 1892 Sam nearly severed his thumb and forefinger 19 while two years later he smashed the fingers of his right hand.20 However, a more serious accident in 1901 saw the end of Sam’s saw milling days:

A serious accident happened to Mr. Samuel Mason jnr. on Friday morning last while working on Mr. James Ouvrier’s sawmill. It appears that he got hold of a forked piece of wood. As he pushed it along the bench the saw seemed to catch a shattered piece of the log and drew Mr Mason’s hand into the saw. Three fingers and the thumb of the left hand were severed, part of the hand also being cut off. Mr. Mason was at once conveyed to Dr Studdy’s residence where the hand was dressed. This is the most serious of the many accidents that Sam has met with during his time with the saw. It is not long since he got his forefinger cut off. The deepest sympathy is expressed for Mr Mason as he is liked by all who knew him and sympathy is also felt for his wife and 5 young children. 21

At the time of the accident there was no such thing as worker’s compensation or unemployment benefits. To help Sam and his family a benefit concert was held at the Riverstone Odd Fellow’s Hall. The concert raised £27/12/6, costs were £1/2/6, leaving £26/10/- to tide Sam over. 22

The mills developed as an important part of the day to day life of the town’s people and were a constant source of interest. The logs often produced more than just wood. Curiosities like the discovery of a horse shoe embedded in the middle of a thick dry box log, which appeared to be 30 or 40 years old,23 the odd snake and on one occasion a native cat all provided simple amusement for the town. When Jim Mason and E. Carey moved their mills to Mulgrave the Gazette lamented their leaving How we will miss the delightful music of the buzz saw! 24 Clearly people were a lot more noise tolerant in those days. Twelve months later the Gazette waxed even more lyrically – The gentle buzz of the merry circular-saw enliveneth the proceedings and trucks loaded to the top with firewood, stand on the rails ready for Sydney. A shrill whistle is heard, and an engine cleaves its way through the crisp morning air … 25

It is not clear what happened to the Mason Bros. mill. In 1899 the Gazette reported that Sam jnr. had moved his mill to Douglass Siding (Quakers Hill) and is lashing through the wood for Mr. C. Ouvrier who has purchased a bush paddock from Mr. Pearce. 26 Sam’s father was 65 years of age by this time and it may have been that he simply relinquished control of the mill to his son. An alternative explanation is that the business had failed and the mill was sold to pay creditors. This explanation has some currency in the family, however, I have been unable to find any evidence to support it. Whatever the explanation, Samuel snr. had by this time, ceased describing himself as either a saw mill proprietor or wood merchant and simply identified himself as a wood carter.

Three months later it was reported that having completed the contract for Charles Ouvrier the Mason Bros. would take charge of James Ouvrier’s mill at Riverstone. James Ouvrier had purchased a mill in 1896 and moved it to the station yard. 27 When it was first established, Ouvrier’s mill was worked by Mr. John Hay at the bench assisted by Mr. Beattie and Master Jack Hay.28 Sam Mason jnr. was still operating Ouvrier’s mill in February 1901 when half of his hand was severed. He had only one finger remaining on his left hand and this spelt the end of his days as a sawyer.

Emily Mason, Jim Mason’s widow, retained the Mulgrave mill and it was operated on her behalf by her brother Jim Robbins and son in law Will Hession. In 1895 the mill was badly damaged by fire. The Gazette reported that:

It is not often that you hear from us (Mulgrave) but I am sorry to have to relate that on Friday night or rather Saturday morning, the 6th instant, a disastrous fire occurred and caused the destruction of Mrs. J Mason’s wood cutting mill and 3 trucks of wood belonging to various persons. Every thing at the mill seemed alright at about 10 p.m. and the guards of the goods train that left the goods here at 12 p.m. say that they saw no sign of fire but at 4 a.m. Jas. Robbins and Jas. Mason who work the plant, were aroused by the roaring of the fire, but were unfortunately unable to save anything, as by that time every thing was enveloped in flames. They could only stand idly by and watch the fire did not spread and get at the engine which beyond a good scorching is not thought to be damaged. I would also like to remark that I am very much surprised by the apathy shown by the people of Windsor. The fire was seen by several people, I am informed, at about 4 a.m. and was even thought by several people ‘that it was the railway station premise’s, and yet not a soul came out to see if help was necessary. All day Saturday Messrs. Mason and Robbins had to stand by and pour water on the burning heap, a bucket-full at a time, and so fierce were the flames, that the water was licked up before it fell in the fire. I did think that the Windsor folk would have shown more sympathy with Mrs. Mason in her misfortune. 29

The mill was restored and continued to operate until at least 1910 when there was a report of an action in Windsor Court between William Hession and Brown over the payment for repairs to machinery at Hession’s Mulgrave mill. 30 In 1902 Emily Mason left the district to take up residence at Newtown and Bill Hession took control of the mill. Bill did not operate the saw himself. According to his daughter he had eight drays and preferred to cart wood to the mill. His benchman was Hugh Holmes. 31

Although the heyday of the saw mills was over by the turn of the century some, like Fred Beggs at Schofields, were still operating at the outbreak of the 1914-1918 War.32 Between the Wars and as recently as the early 1960s firewood was still being cut for domestic consumption – for fuel stoves, coppers, chip heaters and of course, heating. It was cut sporadically and primarily to augment other incomes. The technology had changed greatly but the methodology was fundamentally the same.

Amongst my grandfather’s – Frank Mason’s, papers I recently found a receipt, dated 11th May 1933, for £35 – the bush rent to remove all the dry timber on a Kurrajong property known as Trafalgar. In c1950 Frank’s son Brian purchased a hargan saw – a mobile circular saw powered by a single cylinder, BSA, motor bike engine. These saws were mounted on wheels and could be taken into the bush to cut logs and could also operate as a bench saw. They were far more mobile than the steam driven engines but no less dangerous. In 1951 Brian purchased a 100 acre bush block at Maroota where he and his father cut firewood which was then trucked back to Garfield Road where it was split. Nearly seventy years after Samuel Mason established his mill, history was being repeated.



1 Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 12.06.1897, p6.
2 ibid, 00.00.1934, p0.
3 Hawkesbury Chronicle, 04.07.1885, p3.
4 ibid, 07.08.1886, pp2,3.
5 op cit.
6 ibid, 02.10.1886, p3.
7 ibid, 04.08.1894, p5.
8 ibid, 25.08.1894, p10.
9 ibid, 26.06.1914.
10 ibid, 21.03.1891, p4.
11 Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 16.05.1891.
12 ibid, 12.09.1891, p9.
13 ibid, 12.01.1895, p5.
14 ibid, 10.06.1900, p12.
15 ibid, 29.09.1888.
16 ibid, 19.04.1890.
17 ibid, 20.02.1892.
18 Oral information supplied by Evie Hines (1895-1983), daughter of William Hession & Alice Mason, 03.07.1982.
19 Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 30.07.1892, p6.
20 ibid, 22.09.1894, p3.
21 ibid, 16.02.1901, p12.
22 ibid, 20.04.1901, p11.
23 ibid, 14.09.1895, p12.
24 ibid, 05.09.1891, p5.
25 ibid, 02.04.1892, p8.
26 ibid, 18.02.1899, p4.
27 ibid, 22. 08.1896, p12.
28 loc. cit.
29 ibid, 13.07.1895, p8.
30 ibid, 16.04.1910.
31 ibid, 09.11.1907, p4.
32 ibid, 03.07.1914.

Riverstone Public School

by Judith Lewis

Riverstone Public School opened in January 1883. Prior to this time, children in Riverstone could either attend one of two private schools known to exist or travel by train to Windsor Public School, which had been opened in 1869. The two closest public schools were at Windsor Road (presumably Rouse Hill Public which opened in 1875) or Rooty Hill, both some 4 miles distant from Riverstone. Other schools already existing in the neighbourhood were Vineyard Provisional (1872) and Nelson Roman Catholic, which also became a Public School in 1883.

Little is known of one of the private schools. It was run by Mr Clem Daley in the Temperance Hall, adjacent to the present day Police Station. The second private school (well documented in State Archival material relating to Riverstone Public School) was conducted by a German, Daniel Tideman, 38 years of age, in Mr George Myers’ farmhouse. This building still stands, unoccupied, in Garfield Road, on the sweeping bend to Marsden Park, opposite the Shields’ family properties.

On 28 January 1878 residents, represented by George Myers, Charles Maddocks and John Schofield Jnr., applied for funding for this school to become a Provisional School. This application was declined by the Council of Education on 11 February 1878, on the recommendations of the Inspector, Mr Johnson. His reasons were – that an average attendance of not more than 11 children could be maintained, – that the schoolroom was of an objectionable kind, – that the older children could conveniently attend schools that already existed in the neighbourhood.

On 21 August 1879 the residents of Riverstone again applied to the Council of Education, this time for the establishment of a Public School, under the provisions of the Public Schools Act. The local committee acting on behalf of the residents was Joseph Parrington, Publican and Storekeeper, Thomas Cuneen, Farmer, and John Schofield Jnr., Farmer.

The population of the school district was now given as about 100. Sixteen families undertook that their children would attend the school. Of the 47 children listed on the application form 19 were boys, 28 girls, and their ages ranged from four to fourteen. Families were: Parrington, Curry, Greig, Daniels, Curran, Easson, Williams, Cuneen, Myers, Baker, Vinauer, Schofield, Smith, Stubbs, Drayton, Ryan and Hyland.

The Inspector described the residents as chiefly employed in wood-cutting. There are Meat-Works and a Saw Mill established in the locality which afford employment to a number of people. A few farms are also to be found on the outskirts of the town. He described Riverstone as a rising township. Several buildings have been erected in the neighbourhood and a substantial addition to its population has been added within the past eighteen months.

Mr A.H. McCulloch of 335 George Street, Sydney donated land to the Council of Education with the proviso that a school be erected without delay. This land was one acre bounded by Market Street and Windsor (now Garfield) Road. The Inspector originally chose a site closer to the railway line on the corner of Pitt Street and Windsor Road. He then rejected both sites in favour of land between Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets on the north eastern side of Oxford Street because the land was higher and was sufficiently removed from the Abattoirs and Public House.

Inspector Murray and Chief Inspector McCredie spent much of 1880-81 “passing the buck”. Original plans and specifications were lost between the two inspectors and on 6 July 1881 the Architect for Public Schools was asked to prepare fresh plans. On 19 August Joseph Parrington and John Schofield Jnr. wrote to the Minister of Education asking for the long promised school for the children to be erected as parents are greatly distressed to see them growing up without any means of instruction.

On 5 December 1881 a letter to Mr Bowman MLA accompanied by a list of 50 children’s names stated that 27 children were travelling to school at Windsor, leaving at 10:35 a.m. and returning at 2:30 p.m., a most unsatisfactory arrangement.

The land offered by McCulloch was accepted. Plans and specifications drawn up by Government Architect Kemp were for a schoolroom accommodation for 30 pupils in one department with a teacher’s residence of two rooms and a kitchen attached. Tenders were invited through the Windsor papers in January 1882. It was recommended that the buildings be constructed of  weatherboard, with the estimated cost, including out offices, water supply, fencing and furniture, being £500. Five tenders were received and Mr Johnson’s tender, for a brick building, was accepted in March 1882.

William Langton, who was teaching at the Catholic School in Windsor, was appointed the school’s teacher. William and Mary Langton had six children. On 11 December 1882 William wrote requesting that a temporary wash house and kitchen be added to the two roomed residence as of course I cannot have all six children in one little room. William claimed he could get them put up in a few days at a cost of £10.

Kemp, the Architect, advised that permanent addition be made for two rooms with store closet, and extension of the verandah at a cost of £247 as the residence was too small for any teacher with a family. This recommendation was accepted but in the meantime the teacher has been authorised to erect a temporary kitchen and wash house at a cost of £10.

The school opened in January 1883 in a schoolroom measuring 20 feet by 17 feet (6.1 x 5.2 metres). It was intended to accommodate 42 pupils, the Inspector had estimated the average attendance would be 23, in the first fortnight it was 41.2. On 29 June the enrolment was 75. A weathershed built on to the schoolroom, that could serve for teaching purposes, was erected by mid 1884. It cost £57. The weathershed became the classroom for the two Junior Classes which were taught by Mary Langton.

Mary Langton received no salary other than the usual needlework allowance paid to the teacher’s wife. On the needlework afternoon Mary’s daughter took the class whilst Mary taught needlework. William’s salary was £14 per month. When he retired in September 1886 he received an annual pension of £109/7/6. By this time the average pupil attendance was 90. In the Back to Riverstone articles in the Hawkesbury Gazette of 29 June 1934 it was noted The late Doctors Frederick and William Langton were sons of Riverstone’s first schoolmaster.

Bernard Carroll replaced William Langton and by July 1892 there was an application from residents for removal of the school to a more suitable site. On 15 September 1908, with an enrolment of over 200, and a staff of four teachers, the urgency of this telegram from Headmaster Michael Myers to the Chief Inspector was understandable: Three assistants absent, two sick, one visiting dying mother, SEND SOME ONE!

Michael Myers was to serve the school until his death, during his long service leave, in 1913. Henry Anstey was headmaster during the war years and was the subject of many complaints and a lengthy enquiry. In supporting Anstey Senior Inspector Blumer commented, I know of no less desirable location for a decent teacher, than amidst the slaughtermen of Riverstone. Miss Stella Brown, a later teacher wrote, Twelve months in such a place is long enough for any girl …. The people are a coarse lot who work at the local meatworks.

Land for a new school was purchased on 22 May 1925 from the Estate of the Late Ellen Schofield for £150. On 11 September 1926 approval was given for a new school to be erected on this site. The contractor was S.W. & R.C. Potter, the contracted price was £7272, the final cost was £7358/12/8. The new school opened in 1929 and was described by Minister for Education Mr R.D.H. Drummond as the finest in the land. Land for a headmaster’s residence was also purchased from the Schofield Estate at a cost of £30.

More favourable comments than those of Inspector Blumer were made by Inspector E. Lewis in his June 1939 report: This is one of the few model schools in the district. The fine gardens, the excellent wall decorations and other ‘environmentals’ create a good impression which is fully confirmed by closer contact with the actual school routine and instruction.

In 1940 the enrolment was 320 and accommodation was described as inadequate. The headmaster from 1939 – 1949 was James Millerd, “Old Joe”, as he was affectionately known. Jim Russell, First Assistant (now it would be called Deputy Principal), recalled James Millerd as one of the kindest, most humane men, ….quite a character, ….Riverstone was his final posting and his dedication to that school was contagious ….accommodation was one of our prime troubles and I remember teaching some time in a weathershed half covered in a roller awning …. After some agitation, which did not endear us to head office, we received an old army hut.

In 1948 an Infants’ Department was formed and in 1949 six acres of land in Elizabeth Street was resumed as a site for new buildings, originally intended to be an Infants’ Department. Tenders were called in 1951 but work did not commence until 1954. The successful tenders, A.Q. Schubert & Sons Pty. Ltd., quoted a price of £55,555/5/-. Construction was completed in 1957 and the Elizabeth Street site became the Primary Department.

Prior to 1962, when Riverstone High School opened, most children had to travel to Richmond for their secondary schooling. Other secondary schools to cater for Riverstone children were at Parramatta, Homebush, Strathfield and later Blacktown. With the opening of a Pre-School in 1977 Riverstone was finally able to offer public education for all the schooling years. In 1999  students wishing to complete the last two years of high school must travel to Nirimba Senior High School at Quakers Hill.

Plans have been approved to consolidate Riverstone Public School on the one site, in Elizabeth Street where new buildings will cater for Pre-School to Year 6. When this eventuates, it will mean that, after over 115 years, there will then no longer be a Riverstone Public School in Garfield Road. Jim Russell’s old army hut will be the only building moved to the Elizabeth Street site where it will fittingly become The Community Room.

The following teachers have been in charge of Riverstone Public School from 1883 to 1999.

William LANGTON 1 Jan 1883  James MILLERD  1 Feb 1939
Bernard CARROLL 12 Sep 1886 James GORMLEY 3 Jan 1950
Michael MYERS 30 Sep 1893 Keith HINGSTON 2 Feb 1954
Henry ANSTEY 8 Jan 1913 Francis DONOHUE 1 Feb 1955
George CHAPMAN 14 May 1919 Walter ALDRIDGE 2 Feb 1960
Thomas GILMORE 17 Jan 1920 Leslie BURNETT 1 Feb 1966
Arthur PASSMORE 17 Jun 1926 Nathaniel JAGGERS 28 Jan 1969
John YATES 15 Mar 1928 Ronald HILL 28 Apr 1972
William ROUSE 29 Nov 1932 Stanley FULKER 28 Jan 1978
John McILLWRAITH 3 Dec 1936 Allan REYNOLDS 28 Jan 1986
Graham DALEY  15 Feb 1937 Brian GILES-BROWN  13 Oct 1997

Public Schools – Riverstone And District

by Judith Lewis

In the latter half of the last century, schooling for children in many districts was limited. Wealthy families could afford a governess or tutor. Others sent their children to a private school, if one existed. Many private schools were established by churches.

The Public Schools’ Bill of 1866 brought denominational and former “national”, now “public” schools under the control of a Council of Education. The bill required a minimum of average attendance of 30 for denominational schools, 25 for public schools. In sparsely populated areas the Act provided for the payment of teachers in privately erected small provisional schools.

Section 22 of the Education Act referring to Provisional Schools stated: …. the course of instruction shall be wholly secular and …. all such schools shall be subject to the same controls and inspection as are preserved for Public Schools …. so soon as 20 children shall have been in regular attendance at any such school for 3 months the said school shall be converted into a Public School.

In 1880 the Public Instruction Act introduced compulsory education into New South Wales for the first time. Parents with children over 6 years of age and not yet 14 were expected to send them to school or face prosecution. To enforce the Act the government appointed school attendance officers, whose task was to check on children not attending school and to launch prosecutions if necessary.

Public Schools opened in the Riverstone district as follows:

1868 Maraylya (known as North Rocks) operated as a Provisional School till 1871. It reopened in August 1874 and became a Public school in June 1880. In 1895 its name was changed to Forrester. It became Maraylya in 1920.
1872 Vineyard opened as a Provisional School in June 1872 & became a Public School in 1880.
1875 Rouse Hill Public School was opened in July, 1875.
1883 Nelson Public School was opened. It closed in August 1902, although an article in the Hawkesbury Gazette of September 1888 read ….the public school at Nelson will be closed and (that) the new institution at Rouse Hill will be sufficiently large to accommodate the needs of the scholars in the locality…
1883 Riverstone Public School was opened in January, 1883.
1889 Marsden Park Public School opened in July, 1889.
1895 Annangrove (known as Rouse Hill Road) opened as a Public School in July 1895, became known as Annangrove in October 1896, closed in May 1934 and reopened in June 1947
1900 Oakville opened as a Public School in March 1900.
1919 Schofields Public School opened in March, 1919.

Mary Bligh O’Connell

by Shirley Seale

Mary Bligh, who has been described as the sauciest, daintiest and most determined little spitfire ever to preside at Government House, was an independent and strong willed woman. Her association with Riverstone began on the occasion of her marriage to Maurice O’Connell, Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, when Governor Macquarie made a grant to him of 2500 acres of land, which O’Connell named Riverston after his birthplace in Ireland. Much has been written about O’Connell’s career, but it is Mary whose life had all the drama of a current television soap opera!

The Early Years
Mary Bligh was born to Elizabeth and William Bligh in London, early in 1783. She was the second daughter, her sister Harriet having preceded her. She was to have five sisters in all, for she was followed by Betsy, twins Frances and Jane, and Ann. The Blighs also had twin sons, who died when only one day old.

The only information we have of Mary as a child comes from a letter from her father to John Bond, who was married to his half-sister, Catherine, on 7th April, 1783:
I found Mrs Bligh very well, but the child, from her severe teething illness, suffering a great deal and indeed to add to all, a general breaking out over all her body and limbs, which most certainly was the itch. However, I am happy to say that from partial rubbings and her teething illness going off, she is survived to a pretty child.

During her early childhood, the family lived at Belle Vue, Hampden; Norse Moor Place, Lambeth; Durham Place, Lambeth; but after 1789 appear to have settled at 3 Lambert Place, London. They seem to have been a close family, despite Bligh’s problems with his career, as he wrote to, and about, them often. On August 19th, 1789, as he was in Timor waiting to return to London after the calamitous events of the mutiny on the Bounty, he wrote to his wife: Know then, My own dear Betsy, that I have lost the Bounty, and tells her at great length of the troubles he endured, but, at what was surely the worst time of his life, he remembers his girls. Give my blessing to my Dear Harriet, my Dear Mary, my Dear Betsy and to my Dear little stranger and tell them I shall be home soon.

Coming to Australia
It was Sir Joseph Banks who recommended Bligh for the position of Governor of New South Wales, as a firm disciplinarian, much needed in the colony. Bligh was reluctant at first as Mrs Bligh, being a very poor sailor, refused to go on another sea trip. Furthermore, he felt that the salary of one thousand pounds, ($2000), which had been paid to all previous Governors, was insufficient for him to live well and put some aside for later. It was agreed that his salary would be doubled and Bligh was appointed Governor and, in addition, Commander-in-Chief, on full pay, of all British ships in the N.S.W. station. Accordingly he was able to request his son-in-law, John Putland, be appointed as his naval Lieutenant and this meant that he could be accompanied by his daughter Mary, now Mary Putland, who would act as Governor’s Lady.

John Putland at this time, was a half pay Lieutenant, already with early signs of T.B., but Bligh proudly asserted that Putland was the first rating to be elevated to the rank of Lieutenant by Lord Nelson himself after the Battle of the Nile.

Bligh assured his wife that their separation would not last longer than five years and Mrs Bligh, who was a noted natural historian with a special interest in seashells, seemed contented to remain in England and wait. Bligh, John and Mary Putland embarked on the ship Lady Madeleine Sinclair and Mary wrote to her family: In this ship there are female as well as male convicts, among the latter is a clergyman named Newishman, a man of very good family. His wife is with him, they say a very genteel woman. Mary relieved the tedium of the long sea voyage by writing frequently to her mother and sisters, so we know that the very next day Bligh planned to visit Fortune another convict ship.

She writes again that at 10 a.m. Papa went on board the Alexander to see the state of the ship and convicts. They, poor unfortunate creatures, were delighted to see him. Bligh promised them that if their behaviour was good he would see if he could ameliorate their conditions. Also in the convoy was the Elizabeth, a whaler whose captain had a grant of land at Port Jackson, and the Porpoise.

They had not been at sea long when Lt. Putland was transferred to the Porpoise, while Mary stayed with her father. Soon after, the first portent of arguments to come occurred when Bligh, who considered himself to be totally in charge of the whole operation, ordered his ship to change course. This angered Captain Short on Porpoise, who had been entrusted with command of the ships at sea. He signalled Bligh to return to course, and when he took no notice, Putland was ordered to fire on the ship containing his wife and father-in-law. He refused to do so and the confrontation was ultimately defused when Bligh brought his ship back into line.

During the voyage Mary wrote to her family: Papa has purchased sapphires, emeralds and amethysts for Mamma and all of you – Mamma’s to be the handsomest of course.

The Arrival in Sydney
The party landed in Sydney on 8th August, 1806. The Sydney Gazette recorded, We are extremely happy to state that Governor King’s successor is accompanied by his amiable daughter, Mrs Putland, a circumstance which conveys the greatest pleasure and cannot fail being attended with the most beneficial consequences. Governor King almost immediately made Bligh a grant of 1000 acres on the Hawkesbury which he later turned into a model farm with Andrew Thompson as Bailiff, and 600 acres at St Marys for John and Mary Putland. Bligh returned the gesture with a grant to Mrs King, which she named Thanks.

The Blighs soon made their presence felt in Sydney Town. Bligh sent home to England some Rosehill parrots, but regretted that the emu egg, presumably being carved, was not finished, and Mary sent home feathers for her mother and sisters. Her sister Elizabeth wrote her thanks and said she thought them the most elegant of the kind I ever saw. She had been told they were from an egrette of the bittern tribe and told Mary that her mother had distributed them as favours to friends and people who had done them past kindnesses.

The gift giving was not all one way for Mrs Bligh sent Mary three pairs of silk stockings, six pairs of gloves and four pairs of shoes, besides some music, and Mary in a letter from Government House to her sister tells how excited she was by the receipt of a new gown, which was altogether different and superior to anything of the kind which has been seen in this country. Perhaps it was this gown which she wore to services at St Philip’s church one famous Sunday. Denton Prout describes the scene in the book, Petticoat Pioneers (page 41): the gown, a modish one, suited her to perfection, but it was so thin as to be almost transparent in the strong Australian light. It gave some of the soldiers sitting in the church such a lesson in the complexities of feminine wearing apparel that their minds were taken from the study of their prayer books. Mary was not wearing petticoats, and the long lacy pantaloons she wore underneath were visible to all. A series of lascivious chuckles ran through the church. Mary looked haughtily around to see what was causing the amusement. Then, realising that she was responsible, she did the only thing a woman of her upbringing could do in the circumstances. She fainted. Bligh, once his daughter had been carried prostrate from the church, angrily demanded explanations and apologies from the soldiers, thus further exacerbating the ill feelings that were mounting towards him as he introduced harsh methods to restore order in the colony.

The Beginning of Trouble
On the 10th October, 1807, Mary wrote to her mother, Papa is quite well, but dreadfully harassed by business and the troublesome set of people he has to deal with. In general he gives great satisfaction, but there are a few that we suspect wish to oppose him….Mr Macarthur is one of the party, and the others are the military officers, but they are all invited to the house and treated with the same politeness as usual.

Macarthur was indeed stirring up trouble, although in the previous January he had written to a friend, Our new Governor, Bligh, is a Cornish man by birth. Mrs Putland, who accompanied him is a very accomplished person. This was before he realised that Bligh would seek to prevent him trafficking in rum, which had been a perquisite of the N.S.W. Corps, and he was now recruiting other military officers to his side against the new Governor. Bligh, however, remained popular with many settlers, especially those of the Hawkesbury region, whom he had helped fairly and generously after a disastrous flood.

There is little mention of John Putland at all and Mary’s first loyalty seemed to belong to her father. On 24th August, 1806, Bligh had appointed Putland his aid de camp(sic), and a magistrate throughout the territory and its dependencies and in January, 1807, Putland was appointed Commander of the Porpoise in the absence of Captain Short, who had gone to England on the Buffalo. Putland’s health must have been deteriorating steadily, however, and in November of the same year Bligh had written to Joseph Banks of John’s grave condition, and the traumatic effect it had on Mary, for they were inestimable to me, so you will feel for the distress we are in besides my apprehension for my daughter’s health. She has been a treasure to the few gentlewomen here and to the dignity of Government House. Only 16 months after their arrival in Sydney, John Putland died of tuberculosis on 4th January, 1808, and was buried in the grounds of Government House. Bligh had been very fond of his son-in-law and was said to be deeply affected by his death, perhaps to the extent of clouding his judgement during the difficult time coming.

The Rum Rebellion
Putland had only been dead for two weeks. Mary, a widow at twenty six, and her father were still in deep mourning. The officers of the N.S.W. Corp, goaded by Macarthur, decided the time had come to depose the Governor for his stringent policies on the importation of stills and on their lucrative monopoly on trading in rum. Although John Macarthur had signed an address of welcome to Bligh on behalf of the free citizens of the colony on Bligh’s arrival in August, 1806, his mind was now changed. Matters came to a head after Bligh had decided two court cases against Macarthur, one regarding the prohibited importation of stills. Macarthur moved to Sydney to be on hand to engineer the revolt. At last, after an abortive third trial, on 26th January, 1808, Macarthur and nine of his close associates petitioned Lieutenant Governor Johnstone to remove Bligh from office and he agreed.

So, on the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the colony, the Corps was ordered to march on Government House. Soldiers with fixed bayonets over-ran the grounds of the residence, pushing aside Mary and trampling on the grave of her newly buried husband. Johnstone, writing to Captain John Piper, the Commandant at Norfolk Island on 2nd February, (Piper was collecting shells for Mrs Bligh at this time), informed him of the event and assured him that not a single instance of disorder or irregularity took place, but that Bligh was nowhere to be found, but after a long and careful search he was at last discovered in a situation too disgraceful to be mentioned. A political cartoon of the day showed Bligh being pulled from under the bed, the inference being that he was hiding, but according to Merchant Campbell, who was dining with Bligh that night, the Governor was attempting to hide secret papers Campbell writes, We had just drank about two glasses of wine after dinner, when we understood that Mr Macarthur was liberated from gaol. The Governor almost immediately rose from the table and went upstairs to put on his uniform and I heard him call to his orderly to have his horses ready. I accompanied him upstairs and saw him open his bureau or trunk and take out a number of papers, when Mr Gore entered and delivered him Major Johnstone’s order for the liberation of Mr Macarthur. I had scarcely read that order when I heard Mrs Putland’s screams, upon which I immediately ran downstairs to the gate at the entrance to Government House where I found her endeavouring to prevent Mr Bell, who commanded the main guard, from opening the gate. I saw the gate opened and a party of soldiers and officers marched in. (Campbell was friends with Bligh and often visited him. He had given Mary a shawl in the way of a friendly present.)

Mary alone attempted to resist by force the intrusion of these soldiers, laying about her with a parasol to fend off the men trying to get through the bedroom door. One eyewitness reported: The fortitude evinced by Mrs Putland on this truly trying occasion merits particular notice, for regardless of her own safety and forgetful of the timidity peculiar to her sex, her extreme anxiety to preserve the life of her beloved father prevailed over every consideration and with uncommon intrepidity she opposed a body of soldiers who, with fixed bayonets and loaded firelocks, were proceeding in hostile array to invade the peaceful and defenceless mansion of her parent, her friend, her protector, and as she then believed, to deprive him of his life. She dared the traitors to stab her to the heart but to spare the life of her father. The soldiers themselves, appalled by the greatness of her spirit, hesitated how to act and that principle of esteem and respect which is inherent in the breast of every man who sees an amiable woman in distress, and is not himself a most consummate villain, deterred them from offering any violence to her.

It was Lieutenant Minchin, later of Minchinbury Estate, who physically removed Bligh from his bedroom and escorted him downstairs to hear formally of his deposition.

It is unfortunate that due to a lack of paper, no newspaper account of these events is available, as the Sydney Gazette was not published between August 1807 and May 1808. But we do know that Macarthur, hero of the day, paraded around the streets where bonfires blazed and riotous behaviour occurred.

Arrest and Detention
There was a lull for about a year, while Bligh and Mary were under house arrest, and little is known about the lives of the pair during this time at Government House, but suddenly they were returned to the spotlight when the rebels went to Bligh and demanded that he return to England on the Admiral Gambier. This he refused to do. Although he was no longer Governor, Bligh could not have his naval powers taken from him. Bligh still had command of the Porpoise, although he was not allowed to go on board. Johnstone wanted to use the Porpoise and he ordered Bligh to give up command of the ship or be confined to barracks. Bligh again refused. Bligh wrote, I went to my daughter and reconciling our feelings to our reputation, we parted.

Johnstone put Bligh into a one horse chaise and drove with him. Now Mary comes back into the limelight. Once again showing great courage and spirit, Mary pursued the carriage on foot and caught up with it, much to the astonishment and entertainment and indeed admiration of the populace. The picture is best described in Bligh’s own words.

He had only drove me 200 yards, when I found my beloved child, under a vertical sun, rushing after me, having passed Captain Abbott, who told her she need not go for they would not let her in. Bligh, who was riding in front, was almost at bursting point at the sight of his amiable daughter fainting and sinking under the accumulation of such unmerited wrongs and insults wantonly heaped on her beloved and respected parent.

Mary persisted, running along the street in the heat of a summer’s day, and arrived at the Barracks when the carriage did. Bligh continues and seizing hold of my arm, we walked into it, passing Lieutenant Colonel Foveaux, who came to direct Major Johnstone where I was to be confined. This happened to be a subaltern’s barrack. It consisted of two rooms with a bed in one and a sofa in the other. I had just got her to the sofa when distress of mind, and the great heat she had passed through overcame her.

Although her entry was voluntary, Mary was warned she would have to share her father’s confinement. Soldiers were sent for some clothes and necessary articles for her and she used the bed while Bligh took the sofa. Soldiers’ women waited on them, although her maid was allowed in to share the two hot little rooms some days later and three armed sentries kept guard over them.

The Tasmanian Excursion
Paterson was anxious to get the Blighs out of the colony and after seven days strict confinement, they came to an agreement. Bligh was to go with his daughter on board the Porpoise on 20th January and sail for England without touching any part of the territory, being allowed to return to Government House for the few days remaining. Johnstone said Bligh could take with him anyone he needed as a witness in the enquiry which would be held. However, Johnstone refused to release one of these people, so as soon as Mary and Bligh set sail, Bligh repudiated his promise, feeling that he was no longer bound to its terms, and sailed to the Derwent River in Tasmania and remained there.

Poor Mary suffered, for she was a bad sailor, so on arrival in Hobart Bligh went ashore to Government House, where David Collins was ensconced. Bligh described it as a miserable shell of three rooms and preferred to return each night and sleep on the ship. However, he left Mary ashore as Collins’ house guest. The two men finally had a fierce argument over the removal of a sentry from Government House, so Bligh removed Mary from the house and took her back to the ship. He insisted that Collins had insulted Mary by parading around, arm in arm, with his mistress, Margaret Eddington who was pregnant at the time.

Bligh removed the Porpoise down river to establish a blockade to stop all shipping movements in and out of Hobart. Collins ordered all people to have nothing to do with the ship and said he would fire on any boat going ashore from her. This made obtaining food very difficult for Bligh and Mary and he was forced to demand food from the ships he was trying to stop. They stayed there for six months until he heard in December 1809, that Macquarie was due from England, so Bligh set sail again for Sydney. Macquarie had his ship sail close to Hobart in the hope of meeting Bligh, but thick fog kept the ships from each other.

Return to Sydney
Bligh arrived in Sydney on 17th January, 1810, and he and Mary were welcomed by Governor Macquarie and invited to stay at Government House. Macquarie wrote in his journal, Commodore Bligh, accompanied by his daughter, Mrs Putland, came on shore and I invited them to dinner, but they declined. He did not know that they had already been introduced to his Lieutenant Governor, Maurice O’Connell, who had issued an invitation for them to dine with him and been accepted. Reports vary on whether Macquarie provided the Blighs with a house to live in, or whether Bligh himself rented the house in Bridge Street, close by the Tank Stream at ten pounds a month, but either way Bligh insisted on being provided with a protective guard from Macquarie’s 73rd Regiment, the Second Black Watch. The Hindostan was being prepared for his return to England, and Bligh insisted on being saluted each time he went aboard or came off the vessel, often as many as six times a day.

The Betrothal
At the time that Mary Bligh Putland met Maurice O’Connell, she was 27 years old and he was a 42 year old bachelor. Unbeknown to Bligh, who was busy preparing to leave the colony, Mary and Maurice were forming a serious attachment and when Bligh left on St Patrick’s Day to tour the Hawkesbury and see his farms again, Mary and O’Connell decided on a match.

Maurice Charles O’Connell was born in Riverston in County Kerry, Ireland in 1768. He was educated mainly in France where he studied for the priesthood. He then fought in the Irish Brigade with the French Army. Transferred to the British Army, he had a good military record before he joined Macquarie’s 73rd Regiment and came to N.S.W. in command of the Regiment and as Lieutenant Governor. Before the Hindostan was ready to sail, he had proposed to Mary and been accepted. Mary, however, kept the betrothal secret and actually packed her belongings and boarded the ship on 5th May. O’Connell then gave a grand dinner party at which he announced their marriage plans. Macquarie, who was aware of the disruption the presence of the Blighs caused in the colony, had been anxious to see them go, but was prepared to put a good face on it.

We have an interesting pen portrait of Mary at this time written by Ellis Bent, the new Judge Advocate who had arrived with Macquarie. Very small, nice little figure, rather pretty, but conceited and extremely affected and proud. God knows of what! Extremely violent and passionate, so much as now and then to fling a plate or candlestick at her father’s head ……..everything is studied about her, her walk, her talking, everything …… and you have to observe her mode of sitting down ……..dressed with some taste, very thinly, and to compensate for the want of petticoats wears breeches or rather, trowsers. He called the marriage a cursed match and continued, she is very clever and plays remarkably well on the pianoforte. I regret extremely this marriage, for in the first place I dislike her, and in the next place it crushed the hopes I had formed of seeing comparative harmony restored to the colony. He was one of the few who recognised what was going to happen and he wrote to his brother: I immediately divined the fact and now know that the Colonel is going to marry Mrs Putland, who has prepared all her accommodations aboard the Hindostan. He felt the marriage would encourage the split in the colony and make the place very unpleasant.

The Marriage
Macquarie ignored the rumour that Mary’s motive in marrying O’Connell was to settle in an important social position from which she could snipe at her father’s enemies. She brought to the marriage a large dowry in the form of her previous land grant and cattle, and Macquarie gave O’Connell a grant of 2500 acres at Riverstone as a wedding gift. The grant was made on the 7th May and the wedding took place on the 8th. Governor and Mrs Macquarie gave them a dinner at Government House, the ballroom being decorated with flowers and with festoons encircling a device showing the initials of the happy couple. The event culminated with a display of fireworks. This sumptuous ball had originally been planned to farewell the Blighs and was quickly adapted to suit both occasions. The wedding ceremony was conducted by Samuel Marsden and took place at Government House. Bligh gave the bride away. The Sydney Gazette gave no details of the wedding, just a brief official notice, but it did publish a very fulsome poem to celebrate the event.

Strike! Loudly strike the lyric string;
To Bridal Love devote the song;
Let every muse a garland bring
And Joy the festive note prolong!
To P……..d, amiable and fair
Soft as her manners pour the warbled lay;-
Another bolder strain prepare
For brave O’C………l on his nuptial day!
In Australia’s genial clime proclaim
Their love and valour blend their spotless flame
And wreaths of sweetest flowers prepare
For lovely P……..d’s flowing hair.

The poem ended with the line

And children’ children crown their virtuous love!

For some reason it was deemed improper to have printed their names in the poem, and it was left to the readers to fill in the blank spaces!

Bligh had not at first viewed the match with favour and he was fearful about what his wife would think of it, so he delayed informing his family until he reached Rio, when he wrote this letter:

“Hindostan”, 11th August 1810
in Rio de Janiero.

My dearest love,
Happily I am thus far advanced to meet you and my dear children. I am now well, as is our dear Mary, altho I have suffered beyond what at present I can describe to you. Providence has ordained certain things which we cannot account for; so it has happened with us. My perfect reliance that everything which occurs is for the best is my great consolation. In the highest feelings of comfort and pride of bringing her to England, altho I thought she could be under no guidance but my own – my heart devoted to her – in the midst of most parental affections and conflicting passions of adoration for so good and admired a child, I at the last found what I had least expected – Lt. Col. O’Connell commanding the 73rd Regiment had, unknown to me, won her affections. Nothing can exceed the esteem and high character he has. He is likewise Lt. Gov. of the territory – a few days before I sailed when everything was prepared for her reception, and we had even embarked, he then opened the circumstance to me – I gave him a flat denial for I could not believe it – I retired with her, when I found she had approved of his addresses and given her word to him. What will you not, my Dear Betsy, feel for my situation at the time, when you know that nothing I could say had any effect; at last overwhelmed with a loss I could not retrieve, I had only to make the best of it. My consent could only be extorted, for it was not a free gift. However, on many proofs of the Honour, Goodness and high character of Colonel O’Connell and his good sense, which had passed under my own trial I did, like having no alternative, consent to her marriage and gave her away at the ceremony consummated at Government House, under the most public tokens of honour and respect and veneration, the whole colony, except a few malcontents, considering it the finest blessing ever bestowed upon them – every creature devoted to her service by her excellence, with respect and adoration…………they remain persons of the utmost importance to the welfare of the colony and the admiration and respect of Gov. and Mrs Macquarie, who did the honours of the ceremony at Government House with an extraordinary degree of pleasure and even adulation.

Bligh must have been very hurt by Mary’s duplicity, when he would have felt every confidence in her loyalty to him after all they had been through together. That he had been totally ignorant of the situation is shown in a previous letter he wrote home: The “Hindostan”, being large and commodious, my Dear Mary will feel more comfortable situated and particularly as she will have pleasanter society than in the “Porpoise”, a ship by no means agreeable to her.

So they were obviously expecting Mary to return home to England with her father, and what Mrs Bligh thought of this sudden change of plan is not recorded. Bligh did however take with him a letter from Mary to her mother, although we do not know the contents, and he concludes his letter from Rio by assuring his wife, Thus, my dearest love, when I thought nothing could have induced our dear child to have quitted me, I have left her behind in the finest climate in the world. To have taken her into the tempestuous voyage I have now formed, I believe would have caused her death. Everything Honourable and affectionate has been performed by Col. O’Connell which I soon hope to communicate to you.

Bligh left for England on 12th May, having given Mary bills of 140 pounds to settle her accounts before her marriage.

Mary and Maurice O’Connell lived in barracks in Wynyard Square until 1812 when O’Connell rented Vaucluse Estate at Vaucluse until 1814. Presumably the O’Connells, Mary, sometimes called a spitfire, and the amiable Maurice, settled down to married life. When Macquarie set off on a tour of inspection,
he wrote in his diary that on Wednesday, 28th November, 1810 he, with Mrs Macquarie, Mr Gregory Blaxland and others crossed South Creek and travelled along the right bank to Mr Marsden’s farm, then re-crossed the creek to Mrs O’Connell’s farm at Frogmore. On Saturday, 1st December Macquarie leaves the Kurry-Jung Hill named by the late Mr Thompson, Mount Maurice out of compliment to Lt. Col. O’Connell and on the following Saturday, 8th December, he writes, At 9 o’clock this morning, immediately after breakfast, Mrs M. and myself set out in the carriage from Windsor to Parramatta, accompanied by the gentlemen in our family and Mr Hassall. We halted for about a quarter of an hour at Lt. Col. O’Connell’s farm of Riverston (granted to him by me on his marriage) distant about 6 miles from Windsor on the high road to Parramatta, examined his dairy and stock yards and then pursued our journey. The O’Connells had made some improvements to their grant in just seven months. Mary and Maurice’s Riverston Farm homestead, (the E was not added to the name until an error was made in the spelling when the railway was built), was located at the junction of Crown and Junction streets, close to Windsor Road.

By 1811, Mary was pregnant, and on King’s Birthday of that year, 72 persons, including five ladies, one of them Mrs O’Connell, were entertained at dinner at Government House. There were constant wagers, it seems, upon when Bligh’s turbulent daughter, who, it was reported, had worn a fevered and anxious expression throughout the year, would add to the O’Connell clan. In fact her son Maurice Charles Junior, was born in January, 1812. Governor Macquarie was his godfather. By 1812 also, Mary’s land grant at St Marys of 600 acres had been swelled by 1055 acres granted by Macquarie to her. She had stocked the land and in that year bought from the government 8 cows, 9 oxen and 25 sheep, for which she paid a total of £386. ($772)

Although from these facts we would assume that Macquarie really liked and approved of the O’Connells, he realised that Mary was still the reason for a lot of discontent in the colony. In 1813 he wrote to Lord Bathurst and asked for a withdrawal of the 73rd Regiment and its Commanding Officer, for the peace of the colony. He wrote, Mrs O’Connell, naturally enough, has imbibed strong feelings of resentment and hatred against all those persons and their families who were in the least inimical to her father’s government. Lt. Col. O’Connell allows himself to be a good deal influenced by his wife’s strong-rooted prejudice against the old inhabitants, although he asserted, Lt. Col. O’Connell is naturally a well disposed man……..it would most assuredly greatly improve the harmony of the country if the whole of the officers and men of the 73rd Regiment were removed from it. As this was Macquarie’s own regiment, he must have had very strong feelings indeed that Mary had to go.

Accordingly, O’Connell was transferred with his regiment to Ceylon on 28th March. Macquarie held a farewell dinner for them and a welcome dinner for the new Lt. Governor, George Molle. They were thus present at Government House on the evening when Governor Macquarie’s son, Lachlan, was born. Macquarie wrote that there were 38 persons present at the large dinner, including Lt. Governor O’Connell and his lady, who slept at Government House, presumable before boarding the General Hewitt for Ceylon. The party broke up about half an hour before Mrs Macquarie gave birth. She had not attended the dinner as she had been in labour all afternoon. The O’Connells were aroused by a loud knocking at their door to announce the happy news.

The Years Away
So the O’Connells left Sydney, although as it transpired, not for good. Mary and Maurice had more children, Richard O’Connell, Charles Phillip, William Bligh, Robert Browning, Mary Nino Godfrey and Elizabeth.

Robert Browning, who had been born in December, 1817, died in Ceylon when he was only 14 months old, and there is a very sad story from the Gazette, 14th February, 1819.

Mrs O’Connell must have suffered severely from the powerful trial to her maternal affections. Her little boy was taken ill in their passage at the beginning of a gale wind that lasted some days, during which she was herself much indisposed, and both were deprived of all professional assistance as the only medical gentleman on board the transports, was unfortunately on another ship. On landing, some hope was entertained but it was soon dashed away and in a few days the afflicted parents were doomed to see the death of their boy, whose improved health and bloom they had at the commencement of the voyage contemplated with such delight.

Mary Nino Godfrey also died young, in Athlone, Ireland on 19th February, 1825. She had been born in 1823.

After leaving Ceylon, O’Connell retired on half pay to England where he was promoted to Major General in 1830. In 1834 the O’Connells were posted to Malta and he was knighted in 1835.

The Return to Australia
In 1834 the O’Connells were returned to Australia in the Fairlie, Maurice having been appointed to command the forces in N.S.W. Their son Maurice who was a captain in the 73rd Regiment, came with his father as his military secretary.

It was not long before Mary’s presence was felt by the then Governor, Gipps. In August, 1839, he reported to the Colonial Office that Sir Maurice O’Connell was claiming on behalf of Bligh’s heiresses, 105 acres at Parramatta worth about £40,000, ($80,000), and including the sites of the Female Factory, the gaol, the King’s School, the Roman Catholic church and chapel and many houses. His attorney had sent notices of ejection to all occupiers of the land. Gipps directed attention to the extreme delicacy of the position in which this business has placed me, since O’Connell was the senior member of the Executive Council and if the Governor were to die, would succeed to the position. At length, in February, 1841, a settlement was reached whereby the heiresses surrendered their claim to the Parramatta land but their titles to other grants were confirmed. One of these, Camperdown, the site of the present suburb, was later sold for £25,000, ($50,000), a huge sum for those days.

Mary and Maurice resided in a mansion called Tarmons at Woolloomooloo which now forms part of St Vincent’s Hospital. They put their Riverston property up for sale in 1845. They entertained lavishly at Tarmons and one dinner is described by a guest, Adjutant General Mundy, in 1846.
I dined this day, 29th June, with my respected chief Sir Maurice O’Connell, at his beautiful villa, Tarmons ………there were brisk coal fires burning in both dining and living room and ……..the general appliances of the household, the dress of the guests and servants were entirely as they could have been in London. The family likeness of an Australian and Old Country dinner party became less striking when I found myself sipping doubtfully, then swallowing with relish, a plate of wallabi(sic) tail soup, followed by a slice of boiled schnapper with oyster sauce. A roast of kangaroo venison helped to convince me……..a delicate wing of the wonga-wonga pigeon and sauce, with a dessert of plantains and loquats, guavas and some oranges, pomegranates and cherimoyas landed my decision at length firmly in the Antipodes.

Mary found time to serve on many public committees including a Ladies Committee set up to support Caroline Chisholm’s work with migrant women, on which she served with Lady Gipps.

O’Connell became Acting Governor on 12th July, 1846, after Governor Gipps left for England and until Governor Fitzroy arrived. So the wheel turned full circle and Mary was once again the Governor’s Lady until December 1847. Maurice O’Connell died at the age of eighty in his home on the very day he was to return to England, 5th May, 1848. He was accorded a full military funeral at St James Church. The Sydney Morning Herald carried a full description of the funeral procession, which was attended by a huge crowd, and listed the mourners. They also ran a long obituary which told the events of his busy life, but at no time was any mention made of Mary!

Mary did return to England where she died at the residence of her son-in-law, Colonel Somerset, at Beaufort Buildings, Gloucester, on 10th December, 1864, aged 81.

Her son, Sir Maurice O’Connell Junior, who made a very distinguished career in the Queensland Government, died in 1879 and William Bligh O’Connell died in 1896, while her daughter Elizabeth died in 1892. A grandson, Mr W.B. O’Connell was Minister for Lands in Queensland and died in 1901, leaving 9 children. A great-grandson was prominent in Sydney in the 1930s so the O’Connell influence in Australia remained strong long after Mary had departed.

Mary Bligh Putland O’Connell was a strong woman who attracted strong opinions both for and against almost everything she did. Yet she was a dutiful daughter, a loving wife and mother, who stood up against the iniquities she felt had been unjustly visited on her family. In the days when men ruled the world, Mary was there fighting for the rights of women and showing the strength there is in us all.

Halls in Riverstone pre Federation

by Winsome Phillis

There were two Halls in Riverstone in the 1880s. The Cosmopolitan Hall (which was later to become the Oddfellows Hall), and the Temperance Hall.

Cosmopolitan Hall – owned by Mr H.J. West – opened on 9 November 1884. This hall was situated on Riverstone Parade, facing the Railway line and what is now the Produce Store.

Hawkesbury Chronicle 1884: A Tea Meeting was held to celebrate the opening of the Riverstone Presbyterian School Church. The gathering took place in the large and comfortable Cosmopolitan Hall and the tables, seven in number were tastefully decorated and plentifully supplied with all that was needful to cheer and strengthen the inner man. Miss Cobcroft presided at the Harmonium.

The Cumberland Mercury, 22 November 1884, reported on the laying of the Foundation Stone of St Paul’s Church of England at Riverstone, after which the people adjourned to what is called the Cosmopolitan Hall, a large roomy structure erected by Mr H.J. West, for a lecture Hall, or anything else — though it is to be used as a church on Sundays, … until St Paul’s is finished.

In December 1885 The Hawkesbury Chronicle noted that there were three shops on one side of the Hall and on the other a blacksmith and wheelwrights.

The Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Lodge was established in Riverstone in 1892. The Windsor & Richmond Gazette 13 April 1895 reported: The Cosmopolitan Hall is now to be called the Oddfellows Hall.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 27 August 1898: E. Joseph, proprietor of the Oddfellows Hall, is having renovations to the hall carried out by Mr Pettitt. In July 1899 the hall was being lined.

In June 1899 the townspeople of Riverstone put on a Benefit Concert and Dance in the Oddfellows Hall, which raised £11/8/6 to aid Mr G. Voysey who was recovering from typhoid fever. These functions were common in the days of no government or medical assistance for those in trouble.

The hall continued to be used for meetings and numerous balls were held there. In April 1910, a Skating Rink was opened in the room adjoining the Oddfellows Hall by Miss Wiggins.

11 March 1927 Windsor & Richmond Gazette stated The Oddfellows Hall was under repair by Harry King.

In the 1930s the Hall was the venue for Concerts, Church parish teas and Bazaars, wedding receptions and other functions. Miss Sylvester gave piano lessons there and in the late 1930s early 1940s, Miss Onslow from Marsden Park used it for Youth Groups.

The Windsor & Richmond Gazette of 5 June 1931 describes the hall as it was on the occasion of the annual Catholic Ball: There were about 150 guests present…… The floor was perfect and the interior of the hall was strikingly decorated in shades of pink. The supper room was decorated in tones of yellow, with gerberas adorning the tables. A blazing log fire and comfortable chairs in the supper room proved a strong attraction to non-dancers, and here many a tale was told as the evening wore on.

It is not clear just when the Oddfellows Hall closed or when it was demolished.

Temperance Hall – owned by Mr B. Woods.

The hall was situated next door to the Police Station in Railway Terrace, facing the Railway Line.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 28 May 1892: Mr Woods is erecting a large room at the back of the Temperance Hall for balls etc. The room is to be 50ft x 30ft.

In 1896 the Gazette reported that P. Haberstroh was the lessee and had secured a new piano.

In 1896 the Church of England was undergoing repairs and services were held in the Hall.

2 April 1898 Gazette: L. Hempe has leased the Temperance Hall and renovated it. Two weeks later the Gazette reported that a piano had been purchased for the hall.

3 September 1898 Gazette: Mr B. Woods was making alterations to the Temperance Hall.

A Private School, run by Clem Daly was held there c1898 – 1900.

In the early 1900s motion pictures were shown in the Temperance Hall by Elsie Wiggins and her brothers. Kevin J. Cork describes the Hall in his book The Flicks: The Hall, which seated about 150, was of weatherboard with an iron roof (walls and ceiling were unlined) and had a brick supper room attached to one side.

The Temperance Hall was probably demolished in the 1920s.

Sources: Cumberland Mercury; Hawkesbury Chronicle; Windsor & Richmond Gazette;
The Flicks by Kevin J. Cork.

A History Of Rouse Hill, Box Hill and Nelson

by Laurie Hession 1977

A large parcel of land in this area, namely Portion 124 of 1,000 acres and known as the Copenhagen Estate was granted by Governor King to William Bligh, later Governor Bligh, by Crown Grant on 10th August, 1806. This large area stretched north-westwards from Second Ponds Creek, Rouse Hill, for almost 1½ miles, bounded on the south-west by Windsor Road, running to a depth of about 1? miles, taking in some of the Rouse Hill area, practically all of Box Hill and part of the Nelson district. (see Nelson Parish map).

The early history of Rouse Hill and Box Hill is bound up with that of two families, the Rouses and the Terrys. Richard Rouse arriving here in the Colony in 1801, was appointed Director of Government buildings in Parramatta. Rouse Hill was formerly known as Vinegar Hill, but this name had tragic associations after the “Battle of Vinegar Hill” the convict uprising of 1804, and so upon the suggestion of Governor Macquarie, Richard Rouse renamed his property Rouse Hill in 1816. Rouse House was built by Richard Rouse, using convict labour, the building was commenced in 1813 and completed in 1820, the stone being quarried at Parramatta. Rouse was granted 1,500 acres of land on which a few sheep and cattle grazed, very little of this land being cleared for production. He also held land for grazing beyond the Blue Mountains.

Samuel Terry arrived here, as a convict in 1801, and became the richest man in New South Wales, dying in 1838. He acquired much of the Copenhagen Estate (mentioned earlier) another of his many properties was an area of 1,700 acres at Box Hill, granted in 1816 to Robert Fitz and conveyed to Samuel Terry in 1819, when Fitz was in financial difficulties, thus Terry became a neighbour of the Rouses, Richard Rouse having supervised Sam’s labours as a convict.

Samuel’s son, John, married Eleanor Rouse, one of Richard’s daughters in 1831. They lived in the homestead at Box Hill, (now McCall Garden Colony), John being accidentally killed in 1842, falling from his horse. He was aged 35 years. The Box Hill Estate passed on to Samuel Henry Terry, one of John’s sons.

Samuel Terry’s foreman was Charles Hynds, an English yeoman and forebear of the Hynds’ family in the area. He lived on the Estate for about 50 years dying at the ripe old age of 94 years. It was during this time that wheat was grown in the Box Hill area, the crop one year being worth one thousand pounds ($2,000).

Samuel Henry Terry became a private member of the Legislative Assembly in 1859 at 26 years of age and later in life, until his death in 1887, was a Member of the Legislative Council. From S.H. Terry the Estate passed on to his son George A. Terry, who married Nina Rouse at Christ Church of England, Rouse Hill, in 1895, and lived in the Box Hill homestead.

Annie Hynds was nurse for the family of George and Nina Terry, two boys of this family, Roderick and Gerald, are still living on the Rouse property at Rouse Hill.

George Terry was Master of the Sydney Hunt Club and also Master of the hounds. Hunts were held on the Box Hill and neighbouring properties, a trail being laid by a horseman dragging a rag soaked in aniseed, hounds followed this scent, followed by the huntsmen. The Whip was Frank Mason, whose job was to control the hounds. Frank was a one-armed man having lost his left arm at the shoulder, the result of a shooting accident while duck-shooting at Broadwater. He would hold the reins with his teeth while he took another hold with his one hand. The huntsmen would jump their horses over the three rail fences from one property to another, having little respect for growing crops at times. Horse races were also held on a Racecourse on the flat paddock of Box Hill homestead, lying between Windsor Road and Terry Road.

George Terry ran sheep on the Box Hill property, having as many as 4,000 head and 100 bales of wool in the shed. Terry Road was in these days a private entrance, known as Terry’s Drive, with a white gate at the entrance not far from Windsor Road and terminating at the homestead. Terry Road was constructed through to Old Pitt Town Road when the Estate was subdivided into about 170 blocks and offered for sale in 1919. The homestead property of 211 acres was sold later.

Old Pitt Town Road, as the name implies, is believed to be the original road through to Pitt Town. Before coming to Boundary Road, Old Pitt Town Road ran through property owned by S.H. Terry, this property passing from Terry to Rumery then later Bill Andrews. Where Old Pitt Town Road crossed Boundary Rd. there was a gate, known locally as “The Blue Gate”. This apparently was to stop stock straying as Old Pitt Town Road was not fenced at this time during the land ownership of Terrys and Rumerys, this property was part of the 1,700 acres Samuel Terry acquired from Robert Fitz. 1,100 acres was sold by George Terry to James Ouvrier who married Maria Hynds. Ouvrier cut
timber on this property, carting it with a team of horses and drays to a mill at Riverstone. This property has been a large dairy farm for some decades now, Mr Robert Hurrell being the owner for many years. The present owner is Mr Scheinberg, the property being known as Red Gables, some blocks at the present time being subdivided and sold along the frontage to Old Pitt Town Road.

When the Terry homestead (Box Hill House) and property was sold it was bought by a Mr Neville, other owners were Mr Singer and Mr Bingham. In 1956, the homestead with 40 acres of land was donated to the Sub-Normal Children’s Welfare Association by the then owner, Mr W.V. McCall, the property being named “The McCall Garden Colony”.

Other names associated with the early times of Box Hill include those of James Hynds snr., who lived on Hynds Road opposite Robbins Road, Bob Hynds and sisters lived at the corner of Windsor Road and Nelson Road (Rouse Hill side) – the Sargeant family living where Mr and Mrs Pederson now live, some forty to fifty years ago Mr and Mrs Foley were here, an old stone building is on this property but I haven’t found out its origin – Jim Robbins living on the corner of Nelson Road and Robbins Road had an orange orchard on the property where Vincent Hynds now lives. Jim lived with his sister Lucy and together they reared their three nieces Emily, Lucy and Caroline Roberts, their parents dying and leaving these three children orphans. Emily married Frank Mason, Lucy never married living alone in Jim Robbins’ house, with Caroline marrying James Hynds Jr. Another orchard growing apples, pears and plums on the northern side of the junction of Nelson Road and Edward Road was owned by brothers, Peter and George Berry.

Entertainment in these days consisted of house parties. For instance, one such party an account of which is in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 26th May, 1900, mentions a gathering of forty friends at the home of Mr & Mrs Pat Hession, Master John Hession of the 3rd Regiment and Master John Robbins supplying the music. I believe a dance was held on the decking of Murphy’s Bridge on Annangrove Road to celebrate the opening of the bridge.

Rouse Hill used to have its own Police Station, situated on Windsor Road between Annangrove Road and Second Ponds Creek. In 1892, Mr E. Grace was transferred from Rouse Hill to be the first policeman at Riverstone. Rouse Hill was established before the advent of Riverstone township.

During the first World War of 1914-1918 the women of the district sewed and knitted articles of clothing to be sent to Australia’s Forces overseas, meeting at Rouse House. Robert Smith’s son, Austin, of Nelson and Alfred, son of James Ouvrier, answered their country’s call to arms. Alfred Ouvrier being killed in action.

During the second World War of 1939-1945, Euchre parties were held on a regular basis, in private homes, to raise funds to buy comforts for the troops.

After Box Hill was sub-divided and sold some names associated with the area are Roderick Terry, living for a while on the late Bob Hynds’ property, later setting up business as a general carrier, having nine or ten motor-lorries on the road, public weighbridge, sawmill and mechanical repairs, on the hill at the corner of Windsor Road and Terry Road – Mr Robertson ran sheep on the flat bounded by Nelson Road, Robbins Road and Hynds Road – Mrs Masters and Bob Munro on Windsor Road – Jack Dean of Alan Street. Along Terry Road, was Harold Cox coming here in 1928, Thomas Lackey
and Paddy O’Brien (before 1928), Denmeade, McNamara, Scotty McLinden, George Hurst, Wilson, Scully, Harriett, Gardner, Aksamentoff, Stepanoff. Roy Turnbull a well-known name in the area moved in later. Along Old Pitt Town Road there was George Ritchie, Reid, George Higgins, Butson, Kamaralli, Owie, (later Leonar Holmes had Owie’s place) Thorpe and Bert Hughes. Charles Stocker and Christopher Brown moved on to Old Pitt Town Road later. In George Street there was Sid Tull and Carr-Wynne. Michael Hanrahan lived on Mason Rd, with Sid Dege and Frank Picone coming later. Along Hynds Road there was Miss Murray, Mrs Staunton, Herb. Newham, Gardner and Lawrence. Three of these people, Aksamentoff, Kamaralli and Owie had been members of the Russian Cossack Choir. Mr Owie was also the local egg carrier for some time. Many of these people set up poultry farms, others rearing calves, or keeping pigs.

During the early 1930’s a small glider club operated off the hill where Mrs Dege now lives. The gliders were kept in a galvanised iron shed at the bottom of the hill, pulled into position for launching by Mr Butson with a horse, and launched into the air pulled by a car. Further along this hill in the vicinity of where Mr Cole is now living, motor-bike hill climbs were also conducted about this time. During all these times, just about everyone knew everyone in the district, far different from to-day when there are more people moving into the area following further subdivisions into five acre lots.

Adjoining Box Hill is Nelson, so named in honour of Lord Nelson the famous British Admiral of around 1800. In this area the Mason and Hession families are to Nelson as the Rouses and Terrys are to Rouse Hill and Box Hill. These two families also intermarrying. Other families of this era were that of Robert Smith and William Hynds. Robert Smith married Cecelia Hession living on Blind Road where Noel Crawford now resides. Robert’s brother Daniel married Margaret Hession, they lived at Plumpton, this was another instance of two brothers marrying two sisters. William Hynds also lived on
Blind Road on the property Miss Cleary sold a few years ago, their old home being burnt down in the bushfire of January, 1939. Uncle Bill, as he was affectionately known, built the house still standing on this property, Portion 155, for his nephew James Hynds Jr.

William Mason arrived in Australia with the first load of Irish convicts in 1793, on the boat Boddington. He was convicted in County Armagh receiving a seven year sentence. He had a property at North Rocks, apparently this was an early name for the rocky area around Maraylya and Nelson. He had two sons William and Samuel. Samuel married Harriett Norris and it is this family that the Masons are descended from. Samuel took possession of an 80 acre block at Nelson on 31st March, 1831, the property to be known as Iron Bark Park. He was a stonemason and had a small quarry on this property. The pillars in front of the altar in the Catholic church, Windsor, being built from stone quarried here. Samuel and Harriett had fourteen children – Samuel, who operated a sawmill at Riverstone, married Sarah Hession, were parents of the Mason family of Marsden Park; – John married Susan Hession, parents of the Nelson Masons, these two couples having a double wedding ceremony on the 17th June, 1856; – Maria married Thomas Hession, my grandparents – thus three Masons married three Hessions; – Harriett and Emma married brothers James and William Hynds; – another
son James married Emily Robbins, he operated a sawmill at Riverstone for a time, then moved to Mulgrave, getting killed there in a sawmill accident, being only 38 years old, leaving his wife with nine children, ranging in age from seven weeks to under 17 years.

Another two daughters Annie and Mary never married and living on their father’s property, ran a dairy selling butter in Windsor; the remaining daughter Elizabeth married John Cusack.

The Mason family acquired just over 340 acres of land in Nelson, now it has all been resold, no member of the Mason family residing here now.

Thomas Hession and his wife Bridget, were married in Ireland, lived in the Parish of Tuam, County Galway, arriving here in 1841 as assisted migrants, and, I believe, they lived at Pitt Town before coming to Nelson in 1856, when Thomas was granted by purchase, Portion 154, 50 acres for fifty pounds. One pound (now two dollars) per acre seems to have been the general price for land at this time.

The original home of timber-slab walls with bark ceilings is still standing, the original roof I imagine would have been shingles, the present roof being galvanised corrugated iron. The homes of four generations of Hessions are standing almost side by side on this property. Thomas and Bridget had ten children, three of these, Patrick, Michael and my grandfather Thomas, were carriers over the mountains, driving to Bathurst long before a railway was though of. “Mick” Hession had the champion scratch-puller in those days, a horse named Billy. Billy was recognised as being these best horse that ever crossed the mountains and was never beaten. Scratch pulling was a contest of brute strength between two horses linked back to back, and I understand was declared illegal early this century. Harry Rumery, Robert Smith and Sam Mason II, were mountain carriers also. Most carriers settled in the Hawkesbury district after the railway was built to Raglan, near Bathurst. Harry Rumery moved to Bourke.

Down through the years, members of the Hession family acquired 338 acres of land in Nelson, including Samuel Mason’s original grant, 112 acres being still retained to-day by four of their descendants, including the original grant of 50 acres.

A few years ago Baulkham Hills Shire Council constructed a net ball court and play area off Alan Street, Box Hill. It is known as the Turnbull Reserve, so named in recognition of the work Mr and Mrs Roy Turnbull did for the district through the Rouse Hill Public School Parents’ and Citizens’ Association and the Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association.


Sources: Compiled from personal knowledge and from information provided by my mother – Mrs. M.A. Hession, Mr. Edwin (Ted) Terry, Mr. Ronald F. Mason and Mr. Harold Cox.

Tumble-Down Barn, Riverstone (1810-1912)

by David Cragg   June 1999

Foreword: In this article, David Cragg, a descendant of one of the owners of the Tumbledown Barn provides an insight into life at the Tumbledown Barn. In the style of authors Hassall and Ryan, David spells the name as Tumble-Down.


Tumble-Down Barn is an unlikely name for an early colonial dwelling (built 1810-1820), that survived for over one hundred years. The barn stood on a 150 acre grant, situated at the junction, niche or angle of South and Eastern Creeks, Riverstone. The barn faced Eastern Creek and was estimated to be approximately 2.5 miles from the site of Riverstone Meatworks. Having probably commenced its life as a rudimentary dwelling, it had by the turn of the century become a structure consisting of immensely long half tree slabs, at least one chimney made from sun-dried bricks, and a corrugated iron roof, with a water tank standing beside it.

The earliest family known to be associated with Tumble-Down Barn is McPhillamy. It is believed that a Robert McPhillamy was born to convict parents there in 1818. The McPhillamy’s eventually settled in Bathurst, and became quite prominent in that area.

Another interesting early reference to Tumble-Down Barn involves an early colonial couple who had the distinction of being the parents of the first white male child born in Australia. Anthony Rope and Elizabeth Pully, arrived with the first fleet in 1788, and married 19 May 1788. Their first child, Robert Rope, was born in the Soldiers’ Barracks, Wynyard Square, nine months and ten days after the arrival of the fleet in 1788. The Rope family, sometime shortly after 1818, went to reside at Tumble-Down Barn for a brief period, before moving onto William Faithfull’s Estate on South Creek. Their grandson James T. Ryan (1818-1899) went on to become a Member of the Legislative Assembly for NSW, 1860-72.

The Reverend James Hassall, a grandson of Samuel Marsden, mentions Tumble-Down Barn in his memoirs, published in 1902. Hassall had frequented the farm as a child between 1835 and 1839. His uncle, Charles Marsden, owned the farm, and had also been granted 900 acres between Windsor Road and Eastern Creek. Two families from the “Highlands of Scotland” were employed at the dairy, operating at Tumble-Down Barn making cheese and butter during this time. Young James frequently found their speech difficult to understand. To visit Tumble-Down, James and his Uncle would make a 12 mile journey through scrub and along bush roads on ponies, camping in tents overnight so they could fish in South Creek. They often broke their journey to Tumble-Down three miles short of their destination to hunt Dingos for a couple of hours.

Many families came and went over a long period. Tumble-Down came into prominence again when a meat works was established at Riverstone in 1879 by Benjamin Richards. In 1934 it was stated in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette that: In 1885 a small wool-scouring plant was built in one of the paddocks near the works, where all the pieces of wool removed from the heads and legs of the sheep were treated.

This may have been the Woolwash that was built quite close to Tumble-Down Barn. So near in fact was the Woolwash to the Barn that it was initially called Tumble-Down. It was estimated that only 2 miles lay between Riverstone Meat Works and the Woolwash. In 1883 a Joseph Henry Cragg came to live in Riverstone with his wife and children. They settled soon afterwards at Tumble-Down Barn and began operating a fellmongery called Tumble-Down wool-scouring works. Joseph Henry had previously operated a wool-scouring establishment in Breakwater, Geelong between 1873 and 1881.

The NSW Electoral Rolls between 1885 and 1894 show a Joseph Henry Craeig(sic) or Craig residing at South Creek. In the years following he was listed as living at Essex Farms. The wool-scouring venture at Riverstone was not deemed a successful one in the long run, as the water used in the scouring was not suitable for the production of good coloured wool. Pollution in South Creek was raised as an issue in 1884, with the numerous wool-scouring establishments on its banks receiving most of the initial blame. In a June 1884 journalistic investigation by the Hawkesbury Chronicle, it was concluded that the water: …is contaminated by Riverstone Meat Works, and we believe, a large Fellmongering establishment at South Creek.

The reference to a large fellmongery establishment may have been the Tumble-Down fellmongery, but it is difficult to tell. It is highly likely that Joseph Henry owed the majority of his business to the Riverstone Meat Works and respected Benjamin Richards greatly. In a meeting of the Riverstone Progress League held in August 1886, in the Cosmopolitan Hall, it was suggested by Misters Jackson and Woods that Mr Richards be written to regarding “the awful stench” coming from the Meat Works. Joseph Henry, who was chairing the meeting subsequently lost his temper at the suggestion of putting a motion so “disgracefully insulting” to Mr Richards and…. leaping out of his chair, after the manner

of a ‘Spring-heeled-Jack’, he turned a summersault over a tie-beam, landed on the secretary’s nut, and flooded the table with a deluge of ink – from which the scribe’s books were rescued, looking disgustingly black – he then declared the meeting adjourned.

Floods were common events in Riverstone’s history and the land on which the Woolwash and Tumble-Down Barn stood was prone to the frequent flooding of both the Eastern and Southern Creeks. The flood of March 1890 saw: All the low lying land about Eastern Creek is flooded …. Messrs J.H.

Craig(sic), J. Court and others are flooded out. The traffic between here and Marsden Park is blocked, as the water is about 8 feet deep on the bridge.

This did not deter Joseph Henry from moving about the area, as was reported a week later:

Mr. Joseph H. Craig(sic) of the woolwashing establishment on the South Creek, has purchased for his own use a grand boat which he landed here on Saturday morning by the goods train. The craft which is imported from Norway, is a substantial and well-finished one, and will carry sixteen passengers. Mr. Craig(sic) intends christening her ‘Swan’.

During the flood he managed to carry 168 passengers in his boat to and from Marsden Park in one day.

Despite the flood of 1890, a year later it was reported that the Woolwash was doing quite well:

Owing to the increase of mutton demanded in Sydney and the London market, and the number of skins to be dealt with, Mr. J.H. Craig(sic) has now 30 persons employed at his wool washing establishment at South Creek. Joe will make things hum.

In that same year it was stated that there were a number of local wool-scouring establishments that were prepared to handle clips from the district’s shearing sheds.

Whenever Eastern Creek rose in a substantial way the wool that had been laid out on the ground at the Woolwash had to be moved to higher ground to prevent it from being swept away. When the Creek was at a more regular level it was suggested in 1895 that people could row on it to within 70 yards of the Meatworks. Sometimes minor man-made ‘floodings’ at the Woolwash took place due to local youths plunging into Eastern Creek. Often they would meet on the banks of the Creek for a picnic, where they would gather ferns and play various outdoors games. Sometimes these games led to a ‘fortunate’ few being tossed into the water.

In April 1899 Joseph Henry Cragg announced that the fellmongery known by the name Tumbledown was now to be known as Jordon Mills. Along with the name change, he had installed, since January that year, a quantity of machinery and embarked on other major improvements. He had been obliged to “bring it up to the mark”, and thus meet the wishes of the Board of Health. The Board had required that in the future no washing will be done in the [Eastern] Creek, and the refuse water will be run off so that it will not reach that stream.

A little community sprung up around the Woolwash and Tumble-Down Barn. Joseph Henry Cragg’s daughter Adelaide Rachel who had married one of the employees, John Towers, in 1896, was a cook for the workers at the Woolwash. It has been said that Noble Hanna also lived and worked at the Woolwash or Essex Farms, but was ordered off the land after having an argument with Joseph Henry. He subsequently pulled down his house and re-erected it on the banks of Eastern Creek. It still stands today at the end of Marsden Lane, though in a very dilapidated condition. It is a very good example of the type of house that existed in the Woolwash community, around the last 1800s. Other names associated with the Woolwash during this period were Scholey, Hayes, Windred and Parkhill. Often stories of encounters with black snakes, mishaps in sulkies, fishing, picnicking and rowing near the Woolwash would find their way into the local paper.

As well as poor water quality in the Eastern and South Creeks the successive floods of 1890 and 1897 also contributed to its troubles, culminating in the flood of July 1900, where:

… Riverstone was visited by a flood which, in my opinion, has done more damage than all the previous floods put together… The loss at Jordon Mills Woolscouring Works is very extensive, and damage has been great.

One month later, in August, the effects of the flood seemed to have some effect on working conditions at Jordon Mills: We are told that the wool-washers at Eastern Creek recently went on strike, and the staff is now an entirely new one. The genial Mr. Cragg is a straight goer and will stand no nonsense.

Tumble-Down Barn’s occupants had also suffered immensely from the floods. By 1897 Joseph Henry Cragg’s family had entirely moved out of Tumble-Down Barn and into Redgate, on Farm Road, though his son Matthew Henry Cragg seemed to have resided at South Creek between 1895 and 1900. In 1897 Joseph Henry’s son-in-law, John Towers, had moved into Tumble-Down Barn with his family, and had taken over the daily running of Jordon Mills. The Towers family was still living at the Barn in 1900 when the major flood of that year struck. The flood waters of South and Eastern Creeks compelled the whole family to take refuge in the top portion of the Barn until a boat was sent from Riverstone to rescue them. Eventually however, despite the constant flooding and unsuitable water supply, Joseph Henry Cragg was unable to secure the terms he desired from the Riverstone Meat Company, and ceased carrying on the fellmongery. John Towers continued to work as a fellmonger and lived at South Creek at least up until 1906. By 1912 he and his family were living in the Riverstone township, though John Towers continued working as a fellmonger.

The Tumble-Down Barn dwelling stood until about 1912 when the immensely long wooden slabs and other parts of the woodwork were pulled down. The half tree slabs were taken to Riverstone Works for the purpose of stabling horses. Today a lone, gnarled pepper tree, which stands in the middle of a paddock, marks the spot of Tumble-Down Barn. The tree, which was planted by John Towers, stands a couple of yards in front of where the water tank once stood. However nothing remains of the Woolwash itself.



  • Ryan, James T., Reminiscences of Australia, George Robertson and Co., Sydney, 1894;

  • Hassall, Rev. James S., In Old Australia, R.S. Hews & Co., Sydney, 1902; Hawkesbury Chronicle; Windsor and Richmond Gazette; Reeve Collection at the Society of Australian Genealogists;

  • NSW Electoral Rolls; Winsome Archard (nee Towers), Mervyn Towers and Rita Adams (nee Towers)


by Rosemary Phillis

The earliest buildings in the Riverstone district housed timber cutters and farmers. Most would have been made of timber slabs, with tree stumps or sandstone blocks as foundations. Bricks would have been limited to chimneys and wells.

Two buildings that were built of brick prior to 1860 and are still standing are Hebe Cottage at Bridge Street in Schofields and the Box Hill Inn on Windsor Road. Hebe Cottage is believed to date back to the 1860s and the Box Hill Inn to 1841. Where the bricks for these buildings came from is unknown.

When the Meatworks was constructed in 1878/9 the bricks were made on site by Thomas Davis and Joseph Elliott. The clay was dug in the paddocks, formed into bricks and fired in a kiln located in the paddocks at the Vineyard end of the Works. So little was known of the area at the time that they made 15 000 bricks and placed them too close to Eastern Creek and they were destroyed in a flood.

The opening of the Meatworks led to a building boom in the town in the early 1880s, with the construction of houses, shops, churches and a school. The boom meant a need for brickmakers in the town, as with transport limited to horse and dray it was not feasible to move large numbers of bricks from other areas. Fortunately the district was ideal for brickmakers as it had large clay deposits and a handy supply of water in Eastern Creek.

Early records of the occupations of the townspeople are scarce, making it difficult to determine the earliest brickmakers in the district. The 1886/7 New South Wales Post Office Directory, listed Charles Northover and the 1889/90 Directory listed David Jenkins. The Electoral Rolls for 1886/7 & 1887/8 show three bricklayers, Charles Northover, George Norman and David Jinkins (sic).

Demolition of a number of chimneys and wells around the district over the years has revealed bricks stamped on the top with the following letters: GN which is believed to be George Norman, CI which is possibly Charles Northover and K Co. which has not been identified. 1 Examples of each of these bricks can be seen at the Museum in Riverstone.

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 11 June 1892 reported that George Norman was to close his brickyard and go to Western Australia and that another brickyard would be opened on Mr B. Woods land near the Never Fail Hotel.

A month later the Gazette of 16 July 1892 stated that G. Holden was to open a brickyard near Eastern Creek. George Holden three years later won a prize at the Hawkesbury Show for his bricks.2

There was a brick pit at Schofields Siding. The Gazette of 24 April 1897 in reporting on how drought was affecting the area, stated that the brick hole at Schofields Siding has gone dry.

The Gazette of 11 February 1899 stated that a brick cottage near the Oddfellows Hotel is being improved and that bricks had been delivered by Mr G. Holden. In July that year the paper noted that Mr George Holden had a fine load of bricks ready for the kiln.3

Brickmaking was mentioned in the Gazette in 1899 on a number of other occasions. On 18 March 1899 the Gazette reported that a brick kiln was shortly to be started below the Royal Hotel and that it is intended to turn out a great quantity of bricks at this yard. On 15 April 1899 there was a report that the Riverstone Brick Company had started operations. Nothing else is known of this company.

By early 1900 the only bricklayer listed in the Electoral Rolls for the Riverstone District was George Holden of Marsden Park. In the 1920s he was listed as living in Clifton Road at Marsden Park and according to the Birth Death and Marriages records he died in 1931.

In the book And So We Graft from Six to Six, The Brickmakers of New South Wales, Warwick Gemmell states that George Holden was handmaking bricks up until at least 1914. Throughout Sydney many other small brickmakers had been forced out of business by larger operations using brickmaking machines. However the lack of mechanised transport and the distance of Riverstone from these bigger operations meant that George was able to continue to operate well into this century.

The introduction of mechanised transport finally led to the larger companies supplying bricks to the District. One of the largest brickmakers in the Metropolitan area was Goodlet and Smith. When the Riverstone Meatworks was demolished in 1994/5 many of the bricks were found to have the GS stamp on the top.

The extensive clay deposits around Marsden Park resulted in the development of a number of huge quarries. One of the old brick pits is located in Burfitt Road at Schofields though it is no longer used as a quarry. (The pit is surrounded by a high fence and is not visible from the road.)

There is still one large brickmaking company in operation in the district and that is PGH Bricks in Townson Road at Schofields. The site was originally operated by Autobrick and was officially opened in 1962 by Premier Renshaw.4 PGH took over from Autobrick in 1978 and still quarries clay on site for the production of bricks and pavers.

1 And So We Graft from Six to Six, The Brickmakers of New South Wales, Warwick Gemmell, 1986.
2 Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 25 May 1895.
3 Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 1 July 1899.
4 Phone conversation with Sylvia a former Autobrick employee.