Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bills Horse Troughs

Bills trough at Medlow Bath

Horse Troughs in the Blue Mountains are located at:
  • Railway Pde, Medlow Bath - at the Somerset St intersection
  • Glen Rd, Woodford
  • Falls Rd, Wentworth Falls - near the Fletcher St intersection
  • Glenbrook - near the theatre
  • Blackheath - near the Govett's Ride statue in the park on the highway - not a Bills trough
  • Ardill park, Warrimoo
  • Douglass Square, Lawson - now lost.

There are also carved, stone troughs on Berghofer Pass and near the former Katoomba Baths at Leura Cascades.

Their story
The story begins in 1859 when George Bills was born in Brighton England. He came to Australia as a young man, and with his brother established a wire mattress manufacturing business in Kent St Sydney, which operated successfully over many years.

During his lifetime, George was a philanthropist who took a keen interest in seeking out cases of human need and gave many thousands of pounds anonymously to assist the needy folk.

George Bills died 14 Dec 1927 and his wife, Annis died on the 20 Jun 1910. After providing some personal bequests, his will directed the income from the residue of his estate to be used to provide troughs for horses, and for the purpose of preventing cruelty, and alleviating the sufferings of animals in any country.

Around 700 troughs were erected in Australia, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, and some 50 in overseas countries - England, Ireland, Switzerland [for donkeys] and Japan.

In the early stages of trough supply, each was individually designed and constructed. One of the first was a granite Memorial trough, hewn in one piece as a memorial to Mr Bills. It was situated in Barton St Hawthorn, Melbourne; the trough has long since been removed.

Later a standard design was adopted, and Rocla concrete products supplied many hundreds of the troughs in Victoria and New South Wales. Troughs were supplied on application to the Bills Trust by Councils, and truckloads of 10 would often leave the Rocla Factory for installation by a team of men in country towns. Most of the troughs were made and supplied in the 1930's in Victoria.

The cumbersome steel and concrete moulds were later moved to a Rocla factory at Junee, NSW; where about 20 troughs were made in 1938. The moulds were transferred to Sydney where about 200 troughs were made and supplied to various areas. But the growing use of the motor car and trucks caused a halt in demand for the troughs and none have been installed since World War II.


John Merriman
Local Studies Librarian

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Railway & the Blue Mountains

A D255 locomotive at Bowenfels, c.1885

During the 19th Century, improvements in transport and communication were of vital significance for the development of New South Wales. In 1815 it took Governor Macquarie nine days to travel by coach from Sydney to Bathurst. This time was substantially reduced during the next thirty years as improvements were made both to the Western Road and to the type of coaches operating along it. However, travel and the transportation of goods remained uncomfortable, hazardous and sometimes impossible in bad weather. The construction of the railway to make transport to and from the west both more reliable and more rapid was seen as essential for the future of the state. This would have a dramatic impact upon the development of the Blue Mountains area, opening it up to those with the resources and the leisure to enjoy the environment for its health and recreational value; as well as providing the means for exploiting the coal and shale resources being discovered there, and ultimately making it practical to commute to work in the city.
Baldwin 4-6-0 locomotive c.1900

Construction, Problems and Later Improvements
From the late 1840’s there emerged a strong demand for the building of railways in Australia, which was strengthened by the discovery of gold. From the 1850’s railway construction began which transformed eastern Australia. New lines opened from Sydney to Parramatta (1855), Campbelltown (1858) and from the Port of Newcastle to Maitland. Maitland had become the centre of trade for most of northern New South Wales and was the first section of what was to become the Great Northern Railway. Extension of the railway westward from Sydney to Bathurst was also considered a priority to tap the rich natural and rural products of the Bathurst plains and western areas, although there would be significant obstacles to overcome. Indeed in 1857 a survey of a route across the Blue Mountains stated that, “a direct line between Sydney and Bathurst cannot be obtained” (Royal Engineers Report, 24.1.1857). However by January 1863, the Western Railway was completed as far as Penrith and for the next four years this was to be the train terminus and departure point for the coach services to Bathurst. As they had been earlier, the Blue Mountains were again seen as a major barrier to westward progress, for the extension of the railway line was proving difficult.

Three alternative routes were considered by government planners:

1. Bell’s Line of Road via Mount Tomah and Kurrajong.
2. Grose Valley to its head and proceed by way of a tunnel to Hartley Vale.
3. The three explorers' route already favoured by the road builders.

The third alternative was finally chosen as the one offering the least problems, both physical and financial. But, as in the case of the road, the difficulties of ascent and descent at each extremity of the mountain barrier were to occupy the technical and imaginative talents of those concerned for many years. A railway requires easier grades than a road, so the problem was a formidable one.

John Whitton, a man with considerable experience in railway construction in England, had been appointed Engineer-in-Chief of the N.S.W. Railways in 1856: to him fell responsibility for finding a solution to the problem. While he personally favoured the construction of a tunnel through Lapstone Hill, the finance available could not match the expense. As an alternative, Whitton and his staff designed a Zig-zag railway with two reversing points. It ascended the escarpment with a grade of 1 in 30 to 1 in 33, and incorporated a magnificent seven-arched sandstone viaduct across Knapsack Gully.

Knapsack viaduct, c1870

By July 1867, the railway was completed as far as Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls), and by May the following year had reached Mount Victoria. Whitton again employed the zig zag technique to descend the Blue Mountains in the west as the route down diverged from that of the main road lines and offered no possibility of a suitable grade.

The Great Zig-zag, Lithgow c.1870

The Lithgow or Great Zig Zag is an impressive piece of engineering. Two reversing points were again employed, but being considerably larger than its Lapstone equivalent, it required the construction of three large viaducts. Work on it began in 1866 and by October 1869, the railway line was completed as far as Bowenfels.

The top of the main ridge is the only viable route to cross the Blue Mountains. It was necessary, therefore, that the railway shared this often extremely narrow area with the road. This resulted in the railway crossing the road at various points and also meant that in some places the road itself had to be moved to make the best use of the limited space available. Such places are often indicated where the present road closely hugs the railway boundary.
Valley Heights station with gate-keeper's cottage c.1880
At locations where the original railway crossed the Bathurst Road, level crossings were constructed. There were twelve of these between Emu Plains and Mount Victoria, all numbered for easy identification and all except one, No. 7 at Springwood, provided with stone gatehouses. When the major part of the Blue Mountains line was duplicated in 1902, most of these original level crossings were removed and replaced by under bridges or over-bridges. At the time of duplication many of the present station buildings (e.g. Blaxland, Faulconbridge, and Valley Heights) were demolished and the original stations converted into island platforms. Indeed, Springwood, Wentworth Falls and Mount Victoria were the only brick station buildings then existing to survive duplication.

Originally of light construction, the railway line over the Blue Mountains was characterised by steep grades and curves imposed by the Government’s emphasis upon economy. As traffic increased over the years, considerable relocation work has taken place where possible, to ease grades and straighten curves. While it is difficult in many places to identify the original centre line, the abandoned cuttings and formations can still be seen. For example, between Linden and Woodford, the line was moved from the original deep cuttings during extensive relocation work in 1896, removing several bad curves. In some areas the abandoned rail route has been used to improve the alignment of the highway, as seen in the Lapstone-Glenbrook area.
Glenbrook Tunnel construction
As with the road approaches to the Blue Mountains, significant modifications have also occurred over the years to these sections of the railway:

1. Lithgow end: by 1885, westbound traffic caused a bottleneck and a deviation to avoid the Zig-zag came under consideration. A new route involving extensive tunneling was opened in October, 1910.

2. Lapstone end: increases in rail traffic caused similar bottlenecks to those occurring in the west, while the shortness of the reversing stations meant a limit on the length of trains. This posed a severe disadvantage as freight increased and more powerful engines were introduced. In December 1892, a deviation avoiding the Zig-zag and incorporating a tunnel through the Lapstone Hill was opened. Evidence of the original Zig-zag route remains on Lapstone Hill. By 1911, because of the discomforts caused by the tunnel ‘spoor ventilation, the severe 1 in 30 to 1 in 31 grades, and the bottlenecks that occurred following the duplication of the line from Glenbrook to Mount Victoria, a further deviation following the gorge of Glenbrook Creek, incorporating a new tunnel through The Bluff and a new brick viaduct across Knapsack Gully, remains the present rail route. The grade was improved to 1 in 60. The old tunnel still exists and much of the old rail route, including the old Knapsack Viaduct, has been incorporated into the Great Western Highway.

Stimulus To and Influence Upon Town Settlement and Development
In the decades that followed the opening of the railway line, a large number of the present Mountains townships emerged and took shape around the new railway platforms. The railway provided incentives for town growth and development in a variety of ways:-

Various inns spread at intervals along the Western Road provided the nucleus for the sparse settlement occurring during the first half of the 19th century. With the development of the railway, many of the early platforms were located in close proximity to established places of accommodation, thus reinforcing the early stages of human occupation.

• Blaxland began as Wascoe’s in 1867. John Outrim Wascoe was the current landlord of the “Pilgrim Inn”.
• Springwood was established in 1867 near the popular Springwood Inn, better known as Boland’s Inn.
• Woodford was opened in 1868 as Buss’s Platform. William Buss had been the popular licensee of the King’s Arms Hotel, or Buss’s Inn as it was more generally known, until his death in October, 1867.
• Lawson began as Blue Mountain in 1867. The Blue Mountain Inn, established in 1840, was nearby.
Wentworth Falls opened as Weatherboard in 1867. The Weatherboard Inn was one of the oldest of the mountain inns, established in 1827. This was for a time the railway terminus, and a bustling itinerant community developed around it.
• Blackheath had a railway platform built in 1869. This was the location of the Scotch Thistle Inn, though evidence suggests it was closed at this time.
Rail accident, Springwood 1923

During the 1870’s, the more reliable and rapid travel provided by the railway encouraged Sydney’s more affluent people (judges, politicians, businessmen, etc.) to purchase land and build country residences in the Blue Mountains. For a number of these, private railway platforms were provided to service their families, while others established their estates in proximity to already existing stations. The “country estate” trend soon attracted others including the businesses and services required to satisfy the needs of new communities. Many of these large properties were eventually subdivided in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Various specific railway activities provided growth incentives to those areas in which they were located. Water was essential for the operation of steam engines and a regular supply had to be maintained until electrification was introduced. Thus at a number of points along the railway line facilities for water storage and reticulation were established. From 1867 at Glenbrook (Watertank) water was gravitated from the lagoon to a tank by the rail line, while dammed supplies were constructed at Woodford/Linden (from 1885), Lawson (from 1867), Wentworth Falls (from 1878) and Blackheath (from 1867). The supply at Linden eventually became public, serving towns on the Lower Blue Mountains, while Glenbrook and Wentworth Falls were converted to public recreation lakes and Lawson and Blackheath to public swimming pools.
Katoomba platform and staff c.1880

With grades varying from 1 in 33 to 1 in 66, the climb between Valley Heights and Katoomba is one of the steepest in Australia. During the age of steam, both Katoomba and Valley Heights, with their turntable facilities, benefited as terminus points for the pilot engines. Valley Heights still retains its significance in relation to the railway with its roundhouse and workshops.

Mount Victoria’s position as a terminus for both tourist rail traffic to Jenolan Caves and commuter trains contributed to its early growth. For many years Mount Victoria was also one of the principal refreshment stops on the western line. Full meals were served in the substantial refreshment rooms built in 1868 and now occupied by the historical museum.

The numerous railway navvies and labourers who worked on the Mountain line also contributed to the growth and development of the towns along its route. For example:

·         In 1866-67, while the railway was being built, labour had to be supplied. At Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls) for example, Charles Wilson erected an accommodation house on the site of the present post office, which served the railway workers as a hotel, store, butcher’s shop and baker’s shop.
·         In the 1870’s the Springwood area contained a large proportion of railway families whose numbers contributed significantly to the early establishment of a public school in 1878 and, to business growth in the town around this time.
·         A similar stimulus for town development occurred at Glenbrook where a public school was established in 1892 in response to the many children in the work camps during deviation work to replace the old Zig Zag. Glenbrook-Lapstone was again the site of major construction camps during the 1913 deviation.
Lapstone Zig Zag

A further influence the railway has had on the pattern of development in the Blue Mountains arises from re-emphasis of the earlier division already imposed on the landscape by the road. The road and the railway both dominate the crest of the ridge, the principal area where settlement could occur. Many of the towns that developed found themselves bisected by the road-rail route. Additionally, many parish boundaries (e.g., Coomassie and Magdala; Linden and Woodford; Blackheath and Kanimbla) had been partly defined by the road route and many towns have grown half in one parish and half in another. As a result of this bisection there have been, in some towns, noticeable variations in settlement patterns on either side of the road-rail. Towns such as Katoomba and Blackheath, where a Crown subdivision was established on one side of the railway, separate from those areas where development occurred through subdivision of earlier grants.

Electrification of the suburban line between Parramatta and Penrith in 1915 was completed in 1955. By the end of the following year, an electric service was operating to Valley Heights and this was extended by the end of 1957 to Lithgow. Electrification of the railway had considerable effect upon development in the Blue Mountains. Along with the improved performance and general ownership of motor cars, it encouraged a shift in tourist emphasis from the extended holiday to the one-day excursion, an effect felt most in the Upper Mountains. Also, by improving access to the city and its western suburbs, it stimulated the trend to “commuter” or “dormitory” settlements, an effect most noticeable in the Lower Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Heritage Study – Final Report, Croft & Associates with Meredith Walker, for Blue Mountains City Council, 1982.

Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Remembrance: Springwood District Honor Roll 1914–1919

The official unveiling of the Board was performed on Anzac Day 1921, in the grounds of the Springwood Public School where it was hung temporarily against a background of Flags of the Empire, with the Australian flag most prominent. It was intended to move it to a permanent position in the School of Arts. More than 300 people assembled for the ceremony, which was performed by Cr Savage, President of the Blue Mountains Shire. He had been present at a memorial service at Katoomba the previous Sunday and had met Sir Charles Rosenthal who had said in his speech at that event:
Possibly you may not find some of the boys who come back all that you would like them to be, but you must be patient with them. You must remember the hell they have lived and fought through, and give them time to settle down — not one year, but many years — for some of the lads may never be as they once were.
Other speeches were made by Mr Hedley D. Meagher, the Rev. Kellett and the Rev. Father Brauer. School children, members of the Rifle Club, Red Cross members and private people placed wreaths at the foot of the board. One of the official guests at the unveiling was Cr Wall whose son, Private John Douglass Wall died at Fleurbaix, France, in 1916. His name is not on the Roll. Hedley O’Meagher conducted the ceremony and other guests were the Governor, Sir Walter Davidson, Mr James Lawson and Mr Broughton. At the conclusion of the unveiling ceremony the trophy machine gun captured by the 5th Machine Gun Section was officially declared in position outside the School of Arts, and its working was demonstrated by Sergt W. Hall, M.M. assisted by Gunner L. Mills. The disposition of the balance of funds raised is not known and the present whereabouts of the souvenir machine gun is also a mystery.

Unveiling the Honor Roll, 1921
The Springwood District Honor Roll


Ever since Australian troops scaled the heights of Gallipoli in 1915, war has played a major role in the way we see ourselves and the ‘digger’ has become for many the quintessential image of the typical Australian. We have also made the war memorial a prominent feature of our cultural landscape, present in just about every city, town and hamlet across the country. Some are on a grand scale while others are more modest and discreet in both design and location.

‘Honour boards’ fall into the second category, although ‘modest’ may misrepresent their importance. While they could be as elaborate as budget and imagination allowed, to many in the community they offered a more economical but no less respectful way to recognise wartime service and sacrifice. They were produced in vast numbers and can be found in public buildings, churches, sporting clubs, Masonic lodges and even commercial premises throughout Australia.
There are many honour boards in the Blue Mountains, containing hundreds of names that once struck deep and personal responses in the community. Inevitably, time has eroded this immediacy and most, if not all, of these names have become – well, just names!  To all but a few local and family historians these people have lost their identity. On memorial occasions they are honoured, not as individuals, but as a vague, abstract group.   

This is why this present book is so important. The World War I Honor Roll preserved by the people of Springwood has been given new life and the historians responsible are to be commended. Their research has rescued the men recorded here from the creeping anonymity that would have been their fate and given them back to their community as individuals who lived and breathed their own special human uniqueness. It also places their enlistment and war-time experiences within the social context of the time. We get a glimpse into what the Springwood they came from was like.  

These were men who like most of us lived ordinary lives and worked at ordinary jobs, but who were thrust by one of those moments of history into something extraordinary. But for a quirk of fate we too might have had to endure what they did. Some had exemplary military records, some found the discipline difficult to handle. Some survived unscathed physically, others were wounded and some were killed in action. But all of them were individuals, unique expressions of humanity. Think how much more meaningful Anzac Day ceremonies in Springwood will be when those participating have read this book!

This has been an important project and hopefully the work of these Springwood historians will be seen as a part of a wider community work-in-progress. What an achievement if, eventually, all the honour boards throughout the Blue Mountains were given the same re-birth!

John Low

From: Remembrance: Springwood District Honor Roll 1914–1919

Shirley Evans and Pamela Smith, Springwood Historians, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some History of the Parishes of Hartley, Kanimbla and Ganbenang By H.C. Dalziell

Kanimbla Valley
 Some History of the Parishes of
Hartley, Kanimbla and Ganbenang
By H.C. Dalziell

Presented to
Nepean & District Historical Society
Naturally, the first settlers secured land as near as possible to the main highway, provided it was suitable for their requirements. Those who acquired land in the back swamps concentrated on the production of dairy products and carried it up Centennial Glen to Blackheath; others took theirs by pack horse up the little zig-zag to Mount Victoria. At both places there was an unlimited demand for all foodstuffs from travellers going east and west. Those who secured land further out on the Cox River and beyond, and produced corn, hay and potatoes, had it carted to Jervis's store at Little Hartley, then the mecca of seller and buyer.

A few of those who settled on the land with larger areas made bacon, cheese and butter. Their butter was made in the summertime and salted in casks, and in winter was carted to the goldfields on the Turon and Hill End districts. Those farmers who grew wheat had it cut with a sickle and thrashed with a flail, then carted to Brown's Mill at Bowenfels, for gristing. When this mill was converted to the manufacture of woollen cloth, the nearest flour mill was Smith and Black’s at O’Connell. Those persons who employed convicts gave them wheat, which they ground in a small steel mill for their own use, and baked into a ‘damper’, in the evenings.

The cultivation land was fenced in with logs removed from the land to be ploughed; this was usually done with bullock teams. The roads were little more than clearings through the timber and were almost impassable for all but heavy teams, until they were placed under the control of a ‘road trust’, which consisted of three local residents having a defined length of road under their control, with a small annual government grant for maintenance and improvement.

To overcome the difficulty of small creeks and wet places, before the introduction of earthenware drain pipes, saplings, with the bark removed, were placed as close together as possible across the road; this was known as ‘corduroying’. The trust was forbidden to make a road within half-a-mile of their own residence. These trusts were dispensed with when the public works department undertook the whole management of roads and bridges.

With the opening of the railway in 1868, and the decreased demand for their products from road travellers, the majority of small settlers abandoned or sold their holdings and went west and acquired larger areas, or found employment on stations being developed on the western rivers.
Ganbenang 1895
Grants of land were made to persons considered worthy of recompense for services performed, or to those who were considered likely to put it to good use. Some leased their lands to tenant farmers, who produced foodstuffs or livestock that was most needed. A noticeable instance of this was the Kanimbla estate, an Aboriginal name derived from ‘kanim’, the head of one tribe, and ‘bula’, and the head of another, both of which roamed these valleys. [Kanimbla was the name of the local Aboriginal band of the Gundungurra tribe and apparently means camping or fighting ground]  This grant was made to James John Oxley and Nathaniel Norton in 1824. It contained 10,000 acres, which, on re-survey when brought under the real property act, proved to be 12,510 acres.

The major portion of this land was let to farmers, and in 1875 was bought by E. Vickery, who employed J.W. Berghofer as manager. Later, an area of 4,000 acres was bought from the executors of Dr. W. Redfern to whom it had been granted in 1824, but not put to any use by the original grantee. By the purchase of some small holdings the total area was brought up to 18,670 acres of freehold land, and at one period practically the whole of the Megalong Valley was held under lease, but this area was lost in the eighteen eighties when the government land was thrown open for selection.

The whole of the freehold land was fenced and sub-divided with wire fencing, it being the first property in this locality to use wire as fencing material. A new homestead was built of locally made bricks, on a stone foundation and roofed with flat iron, about two miles from the original Norton home, and adjacent to the Cox River Road. The bulk of land was ring barked and generally improved and stocked with cattle; later on sheep were introduced but were never used for breeding during Mr. Vickery’s ownership.

Wethers were bought in the western districts, shorn and then fattened for the Sydney market. The carrying capacity was approximately one thousand head of cattle and ten thousand sheep and the horses necessary for the working of the property. In the eighteen nineties the property was leased to H.G. Lomax, a western grazier, who stocked up with sheep.
J W Berghofer
 On completion of his tenure, J.W. Berghofer was employed as manager and had the property wire-netted. It was again leased, to Messrs. Oliver Bros. for a short term, and in 1919, E.G. Harvey of Wellington bought 16,200 acres of the freehold land, the balance being bought by adjoining holders. After Mr. Harvey's death the holding was subdivided and sold, with the exception of 8,500 acres, now held by his grandson, George Stoneman. Near the original Norton home there is a walnut tree, evidently planted by them, which produces good crops of nuts.

‘Rosevale’, situated in-the southern end of Hartley Valley, was an original government grant made in 1823 to Jeremiah Grant and his wife Rose, hence the name. It contained an area of 1,000 acres and was used for farming and grazing cattle and houses. Grant was allotted assigned servants for improving the property, and in 1841 this land was bought by James Dalziell, who also bought some adjoining lands that had been previously granted to Dr. Redfern, the Rev. Samuel Marsden and John Grant; making an area of 5,000 acres freehold, he also held 2,000 acres of annual lease land.

In 1843 a new homestead was built with stone foundation, locally made bricks and shingle roof, to the design and under the supervision of David Lennox, who was Mr. Dalziell's brother-in-law, and who was brought out from Scotland to design and supervise the construction of stone bridges in Australia.

Lennox was recommended for the position by the Rev. Dr. Lang, the first Presbyterian minister to arrive in the colony in 1823. Mrs. Lennox died before he left Scotland and his two daughters were brought out to the colony when Mr. & Mrs. Dalziell decided to make their home in the new land, and settled first at Parramatta.

The property was used for mixed farming and grazing and eventually passed into the hands of a younger son, Alexander, after completing his education at King's School, Parramatta. It was he who first introduced sheep to the locality by the purchase of 300 merino ewes from John See of Bathurst. These sheep had to be guarded night and day on account of the large number of dingoes then roaming the country in search of fresh meat.

As the flock increased in numbers and the locality was cleared of dingoes, The sheep were divided into flocks in charge of shepherds; one lot in charge of John McAviney, and another in the care of Billy Lynch, a well-known half cast, who had left the police force where he had been employed as a black tracker.

After the property had been fenced in, the shepherds were dispensed with. Lynch went to live near the Gibraltar crossing of the Cox River, where his eldest son, Yogi, had selected land. This area was known to the Aboriginals as ‘Meglo’, which leans ‘a hand’, and derived from the formation of the land in that locality; this name has been corrupted by white people to "Megalong" [this is doubtful].

With further improvements and the increased number of stock, farming was dispensed with, except for home consumption, and the production of wool and fat stock concentrated on. Some small portions of the estate were sold and all the crown land has been selected. The major portion is still in the hands of the Dalziell family.

In the vicinity of the first homestead there are three pear trees, said to have been planted on the graves of assigned servants, still bearing heavy crops. There are also quince trees growing close by that still bear fruit, they were planted by the first owner.

Another well-known property is 'Liddleton’, situated astride the Cox River, adjacent to the town of Hartley, consisting of about 5,000 acres of freehold land and at one time a considerable area was held under annual lease. The first 2,500 acres were originally granted to John Maxwell in 1830, who was formerly connected with the military depots at Glenroy and Bathurst. He was supplied with a number of assigned servants to assist in improving the land, which was used for mixed farming and grazing.

This estate has changed hands several times. Western graziers, in need of relief country for their flocks and herds in times of drought, bought the property and, when rain fell in the west, they re-sold. It was at one time bought by Messrs. Wolseley & Caldwell and it was here that Mr. Wolseley was able to bring his shearing machine to perfection and have the sheep shorn that were running on the property, this was the first instance of machines being used for a general shearing.

In 1885 a demonstration of the machines in action was given in the Goldsborough wool store in Melbourne. The following year the machines were installed at Toganmain and Dunlop stations and also in some Queensland sheds. After forming a company to carry on the manufacture and distribution of the machines, Mr. Wolseley returned to England and engaged in the production of the Wolseley motor car. Later on, D.D. Pye acquired the property and carried out improvements by building a new homestead and wool shed, subdivided the area into smaller paddocks, cleared up fallen timber and planted about ten acres of apple orchard.

Among the smaller settlers was Patrick McAviney, at Chaplo, adjoining the Megalong Valley. He, like most others, was engaged in mixed farming, dairying and the raising of pigs. An elder son, Thomas, acquired land by selection, near the head waters of the Long Swamp, and engaged in the grazing of horses and cattle. After improving the land he transferred to sheep, with good results.

Others to acquire land by selection in this locality were Dominic and Arthur McCauley and Henry England. In later years Peter O'Rielly selected land near the junction of Long Swamp and the Cox River. When his sons grew to manhood they went north to the McPherson ranges, and their property was sold and the rest of the family followed to the boys' home. It was here that Bernard made history by the discovery of the Stinson plane that crashed with such disastrous results in that locality. He afterwards wrote two interesting books, ‘Green Mountain’ and ‘Cullenbenbong’.

A flooded pumpkin patch, Ganbenang 1894

Another early pioneer was Patrick Keenan who selected land astride the Cullenbenbong   Creek and, with the addition of annual leases, had quite a sizable holding for the production of cattle, horses and pigs. On account of the lack of roads, all that was produced had to walk to market and most of the goods going in had to be taken by pack-horse,  unless some venturesome bullock driver could be induced to take the risk. His wife was regarded as the district’s most expert horsewoman. It was she who piloted Lord and Lady Carrington across the Cox River, then in half flood, when they rode from Katoomba across country to the Jenolan Caves. [via the Six foot Track, 1887]

Settlement gradually extended to the area then known as Marsden’s Swamp, where the Rev. Samuel Marsden had received a crown grant of 600 acres, but did not make any use of the land, eventually selling it in two blocks, one to John McPherson and the other to Alexander Dalziell, who cultivated the creek flats and used the other portions for grazing.

Settler's family at Ganbenang 1895

The First settlers to acquire land in this area, either by ticket of occupation or by selection, were Michael Ryan, Terence and Hugh Flanagan, Delaney, Michael and James Kelly, John O’Connor, John and Isaac Taylor, James Farrell, James McPherson and others with small holdings. All were engaged in agriculture, mainly maize and potatoes. The name of this locality was changed to ‘Ganbenang’, derived from the large number of gang-gang cockatoos in this district when the early settlers arrived.

There is an area of land on the eastern side of the Ganbenang creek, approximately three miles long by one mile wide, on which all the native trees have died, it is generally agreed the cause was from grubs eating the sapwood and, in turn, the gang-gangs eating the grubs; very few native trees have grown on this land since.

‘Duddawarra’,  an Aboriginal word meaning 'dirty water’ [actually Big bend in river, or camping place with good water] on the Cox River, was a crown grant to John Grant in about 1822. It was leased to the Commens  family who eventually bought the major portion of the land and put it under intensive cultivation. It was they who introduced ‘pise’ for home building to the locality and which was followed by other land holders, to their advantage. It has proved to be the most substantial, economical and comfortable home, if properly designed and constructed. This property is now owned by the fourth generation of the Commens  family. Others to settle in this locality were J.J. Hughes, who received a crown grant of two hundred acres at Buckamall.  Others who selected land were George Marriott, Denis O’Connor,  Robert Duff, James Simpson and James Carroll. 

Moyne  Farm, [called Tunumberee by the Aborigines] adjacent to the Cox River Road, was a crown grant made to John Grant in about 1819, and named after his home in Ireland. He built the present homestead and lived there a short while, eventually selling the property and securing land in the Lachlan Valley near Canowindra. The buyer was Thomas Delaney, senior, who increased the area by selection. After his death the property was taken over by his son, Thomas jnr, who further increased the holding by selection and purchase. For a number of years he supplied milk to Mount Victoria. His five brothers were well-known for their interest in butchering businesses in the district. On this property there was a small cemetery in which some of the pioneers are buried.

Adjacent to this property in Grant's creek the only gold in the Area under review was discovered but in such small quantities that the cost of recovery was greater than the return and had to be abandoned.

Boy on a horse, Ganbenang 1894

Hugh Brady selected approximately 600 acres astride the Cox River Road about one mile from its junction with the main highway. The area west of the road was bought by V. Parkes, son of Australia’s great statesman - Sir Henry Parkes. The land was divided into two blocks, one was bought by N.D. McKillop,  who established the Bonnie Blink apple orchard, the remaining land was bought by W.S. Cripps  who planted the Cranbrook orchard of 120 acres, which is the largest in the district. Orchards have been planted on the northern side of the main road and, by careful selection of suitable fruit from the various plantations, the Hartley growers association secured a first prize at the world-wide Wembly exhibition.

After the opening of the railway to Bowenfels in 1869, practically all the traffic to and from the west ceased to go through Hartley, causing the then flourishing township to collapse, both from a business and structural standpoint - most of the houses were of a very temporary nature. It was also a big loss to the man on the land, to be deprived of a ready market for his products. They concentrated on wool and livestock until the opening of the shale mine at Hartley Vale and the coal mines at Lithgow attracted sufficient population to warrant a revival of farming.

In the eighteen eighties and nineties, pastoral products were bringing very low prices, mainly on account of the western stations being stocked to capacity, and the advent of the rabbit plague in that area. The export of frozen meat to European countries was then only in the experimental stage. Fat cattle were being sold for from £4 to £6 per head and fat sheep were worth from 5/- to 8/- each, according to the amount of wool they carried.

Old store sheep were on offer at 1/- each; best combing wool was selling at from 6d to 8d per lb. There was always a good demand for all classes of horses, especially heavy draughts, coach and Indian remounts. There was a gradual rise in the price of fat stock, until the peak was reached after good rains had fallen over the state. Quoting from the, ‘Stock and Station Journal’, dated 20th June, 1920, ‘Sheep were sold the previous day at Flemington fat stock sales at from £3 to £4 each, with extra prime at £5 and fat cattle to £25.13.0 each’.

In 1831 free grants of land were abolished and the upset price of all crown land fixed at 12/- per acre, until 1843, when the capital value of all rural areas was raised to £1 per acre, and remained at that price under the Free Selection Act introduced in 1861. This act permitted a person to acquire a minimum of 40 acres conditional purchase and 120 acres con­ditional lease, or up to 1280 acres with residential and improvement conditions. These lands were, generally, second class and were held previously by large holders under annual lease and in most cases, were selected by sons of small farmers, thereby increasing the joint holding and permitted the grazing of stock in addition to farming.

During 1902 the whole state was under the spell of one of the most severe droughts known, when hundreds of thousands of stock in pastoral areas died from lack of feed and water. Hordes of rabbits came into the valleys from the west, eating everything edible, and in the summer of 1904-5 the whole of the southern portion was swept by bush fires, reducing the carrying capacity of the land to practically nil. Some of the land has not yet recovered.
Rabbit shooting, Megalong Valley

The problem of getting rid of the rabbits was one of the most difficult the landholder had ever undertaken; all modern methods were used to exterminate them, but with little success. Mr. Vickery had a freezing plant erected at Kanimbla and exported the carcasses overseas. It employed a large number of men trapping the rabbits but had little effect in reducing their numbers. Property owners were forced to realise that wire-netting their boundaries and having all rabbits dug out within their areas was the one and only solution of the menace.

Until near the end of the last century the ruling rate of wages paid to stockmen and other rural workers was 15/- per week, with food and accommodation provided for single men; married men received £1 with rations, which consisted of 10 lbs. of flour, 10 lbs. of meat, 2 lbs. of sugar, 1 lb. of tea, with hut provided and, generally, a cow to milk. Their hours were, in most cases, from daylight to dark and usually six days per week. Shearers were paid 17/6 per 100 sheep, with food and accommodation provided, or £1 per 100 without food.

Dolls'  tea party, Ganbenang 1895

As in all early settlements the women of this area nobly played their part in pioneering the bush lands. The rearing of their families under the most primitive conditions was a problem they cheerfully undertook. Fortunately, there was a strong bond of friendship between the settlers in most cases, and they did not hesitate about going to the assistance of a neighbour in distress. Invariably all were good horsewomen and thought little of carrying their youngest child on horseback when going to render assistance to anyone in difficulties. Few were fortunate enough to have a wheeled vehicle to transport their children needing medical attention, if such was available.

Dr. Rygate was practising his profession in South Bowenfels about 1855. During the construction of the Zig-­zag in 1869, Dr. Flatau was the government medical officer to those employed on the work; he was also available to any local resident needing his services. After the completion of the railway to Bowenfels, Dr. Tualli started practice in Hartley, but did not stay long before transferring to Mount Victoria.

Another problem was the education of their children. It generally fell to the lot of the mothers to give their children instruction in educational and religious matters, as far as they were capable and until they were old enough to send away to a boarding school. In about 1880 a half-time school was estab­lished at Duddawarra and Ganbenang in charge of C. Neave. The buildings were erected by the parents of split slabs with a thatched roof. Five years later the government built schools at each centre, that at Ganbenang was put in charge of Hassan Mylecharane and that at Duddawarra under the control of Miss. G. Poyitt.

Brother and sister, Ganbenang 1895

The settlers' wives generally spent their evenings in the making and mending of the family clothing, which had to be done with a needle and, when time permitted, they also plaited hats from rushes that grew in the creeks; these were known as "cabbage-tree" hats and were in general use until the introduction of felt made from possum fur. The light was supplied from homemade tallow candles, until the introduction of kerosene. The camp oven was in general use for baking bread and roasting meat.

Aboriginals came up to this locality from Burragorang by the Black Dog track for seasonal work in the summertime, such as shearing and harvesting. One, Billy Russell, was regarded as an expert with the boomerang. The natives always returned to the warmer climate of Burragorang for the winter. On the highest point of Tinker's Hill, adjacent to the road leading through these valleys, there is an Aboriginal burial ground. The last two natives buried there were George Miranda and his wife Black Bet.

The end.

Printed and published by Blue Mountains Historical Society

Note - this is an original source document and may contain a number of inaccuracies. Minor corrections to spelling and expression have been made. Explanatory notes in square brackets are by the Local Studies Librarian, based on more recent research. 

All images are from the Local Studies collection.

Blue Mountains City Library, 2014.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Murder at St Hilda’s, Stella Catherine Reynolds

St Hilda's in the 1940s
photo: Blue Mountains City Library

St Hilda’s Church of England was designed by prominent 20th century architect John Burcham Clamp, a partner of Walter Burley Griffin, and built by a Mr. Johnson of Leura. It replaces the first Anglican church built in 1885. This was known as the School Church of St Hilda and was built through the activity of the Rev. Simons, the incumbent at Blackheath. The first clergyman was the Rev. Power. The present building was dedicated by J C Wright, Archbishop of Sydney, on 16th September 1914.  

At about 4.00 pm on Sunday 10th May 1959, John (Jock) Reynolds, a 36 year old cook from the Gearin Hotel, accompanied by his baby son, entered the grounds of St Hilda’s Church.  Over 300 people had gathered in the church hall at the rear, part of the estimated one million Australians who heard a direct radio and landline broadcast of the Billy Graham crusade attended by 150,000 people at the Sydney Showground that afternoon.  Jock Reynolds confronted his wife Stella, who was preparing tea in the church hall at the rear, and started making accusations against her, then in his own words, “blew up” and attacked her with a large kitchen knife.

A woman’s screams were heard by the church warden Mr Robert Ashall, 56, who went to investigate. He was met by a woman staggering outside in the laneway, bleeding from stab wounds to the  abdomen. Inside lying on the floor was Stella Reynolds bleeding profusely from a deep stab wound to the chest, she would be pronounced dead on arrival at Katoomba Hospital a short time later. 
The lane way at St. Hilda's where Patricia Holcroft was found bleeding
from stab wounds and the hall at the rear where Stella Reynolds died.
photo: John Merriman

The woman in the lane was her friend, Mrs. Patricia Holcroft 29, of Railway Pde, Leura, who was injured attempting to protect Stella; she would recover after a four hour emergency operation at Katoomba Hospital. A third woman, Mrs. Helen Gifford, 47 of Canowindra, Stella’s sister, received deep cuts to the arms and hands while trying to protect her sister. The dead woman’s eighteen month old son was found unhurt in the hall. Captain Dixon of the Salvation Army later recovered a blood stained boning knife from the church garden.  

In response to earlier complaints about his behaviour from his wife, Reynolds had told Police, “She is hanging about with a dago at Blackheath and I will continue to persecute her,” and later said in a statement to police, “I had to kill her, I placed her on a pedestal but she killed my love. I was taught to kill in five seconds in the war. I’d do it again. I feel 15 years younger. I’ve got no more worries. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”  

John Reynolds was committed for trial at Central Criminal Court on 11 November 1959 and was found not guilty of murder on the grounds of insanity. Mr Justice Moffitt then directed that he be kept in strict custody during the Governor’s pleasure, he served time in Long Bay gaol and was later deported to Ireland.
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
2014 Blue Mountains City Library