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A Summary:

1788, Mt Taurus and the First Fleet Cattle

  • Two bulls and four cows escaped from the First Fleet settlement at Farm Cove, 5 months after the First Fleet’s arrival, in May 1788.
  • The cattle travelled some 40 miles through undeveloped country to Menangle.
  • The settlers were entertained by Aboriginal dancers dancing “the dance of the bulls.”
  • They were seen by the Aboriginal people but were first sighted by a convict hunter in 1795, some seven years after they escaped, and they had multiplied to about forty cows and two bulls.
  • 1795, Governor Hunter came to see them and named the hill he climbed Mt Taurus.
  • He also then named the area the “Cowpastures”
  • Once caught, this was the first occasion that the new Sydney colony ate fresh beef.
  • Governor Hunter made it a crime to kill these cattle, so they could multiply and to preserve the food. It was then that he realized the colony would survive.
  • Two constables were stationed in a new house called ‘Cowpastures House’ in early 1805 at Elderslie, near the ford crossing of the Nepean to protect the cattle.
  • The area was declared a government reserve to enable the cattle to continue to multiply.
  • Only the Macarthur’s and the Davidson’s were authorized to cross the Nepean River after 1805 when their grants were received, but the government surveyor James Meehan noted there was an established track to the region.

1796. Wool production in Australia

  • John Macarthur bought 4 merino ewes and 2 rams from Capt Waterhouse who brought them in from the Cape of Good Hope.
  • At Elizabeth Farm (named after his wife), in Parramatta, he began a merino flock.
  • After the success of his fine merino wool in England, he bought more stock from George III’s flock at Kew in England.
  • These were all later moved to Camden Park, Menangle, and a flock of their descendants are still there today.

1805, Camden Park Estate

  • Lord Camden the Colonial Secretary, was most impressed with Macarthur’s sheep, so he ordered Governor King to grant John and Elizabeth Macarthur 5000 acres for sheep breeding, in an area of their choosing. They chose the best pasture land in the colony, the rich river flats, “the Cowpastures”, and then they proceeded to establish Camden Park, which became one of the finest estates in the nation.
  • Camden Park Estate thus was Australia’s first sheep pastoral stud.
  • The Macarthur’s established merino wool production there in 1806, as well as wheat, dairying, horticulture and grape growing.
  • These enterprises became a model for Australia’s proud agricultural traditions and they rank as one of Australia’s greatest agricultural pioneers.
  • NSW Heritage listing statement in part says” The Camden Park Estate is of social, historic, scientific and aesthetic significance to NSW and Australia. It shows a high degree of technical and creative excellence being a rare, and still relatively intact, example of a model rural estate of the early 19th Century (continuing to serve this function until the 1950s). It is the oldest pastoral sheep stud in Australia. The Estate’s considerable social and historic significance is also due to its ability to demonstrate the way of life, tastes, customs and functions of a 19th – early 20th Century rural establishment
  • BHP’s State Heritage Citation says” The Camden Park Estate is of social, historic, scientific and aesthetic significance to NSW and Australia”
  • By 1830’s the farm was expanded to 28,000 acres and was the greatest and most advanced mixed farm in NSW.
  • State registered.

1805, Belgenny Farm (Home Farm) on Camden Park Estate

  • This was the Macarthur’s second house on Camden Park Estate and one of the first farm buildings, where John Macarthur lived.
  • The first house was the single bark hut that once held a piano, and was the subject of a recent heritage ”dig”
  • The buildings are predominantly constructed of ironbark and are Australia’s most complete and authentic Georgian farm complex. They are still the oldest authentic group of operating farm buildings erected by Australia’s first family dynasty.
  • It is one of only a few agricultural places listed on the State Heritage Register.
  • The buildings include granary, stables, blacksmith’s shop, creamery, smokehouse, slaughter house and the farm cottage.
  • John Macarthur spent the last few years of his life here.
  • Aboriginal people who occupied the area, called the area ‘Binhinny’ and ‘Benkennie’, meaning “high, dry land.” This was later interpreted by Europeans as ‘Belgenny’.
  • Nationally registered.

1899 Gilbulla

  • Built by Major-General the Hon. J.W. Macarthur-Onslow as a home for his family.
  • The design was by Sir John Sulman
  • The large homestead is well preserved.
  • Beautiful gardens
  • Chapel built from logs with bark attached, and a striking northern glass wall
  • From 1943 it served as a Red Cross rehabilitation centre for WW2 veterans.
  • Sold to the Church of England in 1949 and then to Ellel Ministries in about 1999.
  • Now a conference centre and retreat but well preserved.

1826 Dairying began at Camden Park

  • 14 female convicts were brought to Camden Park to become dairymaids at Number 1 dairy.
  • In1829 mechanical irrigation began using an Archimedean screw pump which pushed 5000 gals an hour from the river over some 200 acres.

1830 Wine

  • Two vineyards were planted in 1830 and 1841 and produced 16,000 gallons of wine from Muscat to Riesling and fortified wines in 1849.

1834 Camden Park House

  • This was the third family home for the Macarthur family, across the valley from Belgenny.
  • The design of Camden Park House, which preoccupied the mind of John Macarthur in the last years of his life, was begun by his sons, James & William, in 1832 and completed in 1835, a year after his death.
  • The Camden Park House, which has become one of the great mansions of Australia, is still occupied by the Macarthur family, and is in fact thought to be one of the oldest residences in the country still occupied by descendants of its founder.
  • The family burial ground, carefully established over the decades, is located nearby and is the last resting place of John Macarthur and his direct descendants.
  • 1840, the sons of John Macarthur sold allotments for the township of Camden.
  • Row of workmen’s cottages.
  • Old Camellia garden.
  • Orchard to the north east.

c1848 Wheat

  • Wheat had been grown for a long time here but in 1848 it peaked at 40,000 bushels and 40 bushels to the acre.
  • c1860 the rust plague put an end to wheat production.
  • The 1200 acres of farming land then specialized in fodder crops like lucerne, oats, barley, maize and saccaline, with about 100 acres of orchards.
  • The land had been “tile” drained and ditched, with ‘flood break’ trees laid out on the flood plain to reduce soil erosion of this deep soil farming land.

c1850 Menangle Village, Cottages

  • The Aboriginals called it “Manhangle” or “place of swamps”, hence Menangle.
  • Menangle was originally the private village of the Camden Park Estate until 1975.
  • Along with Camden Park and Belgenny Farm it is in the heart of Macarthur Country where the cradle of the rural industries of Australia’s sheep, cattle, horses and vines all developed and flourished.
  • It became the biggest supplier of milk to Sydney.
  • In 1850, about 900 people lived on the property which included Menangle.
  • There were some 50 share farms centred on the river also.
  • During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, many cottages were built at Menangle, for those working in the various Camden Park Estate enterprises. 9 of these survive exactly as they were.
  • Today they are proposed by WSC for heritage listing individually and as part of the Menangle Conservation Area.
  • BHP Heritage Assessment lists 26 Heritage items in Menangle itself.
  • Historic and significant early residents on Menangle Road are,Numbers 50, 80, 92, 96, 98, 100, 102, 106, 119, 122, 124, 125, 128, 131, 135, 138, 149 and 151.
  • Council has had a Development Control plan in place for this area for many years.

1855 Road Bridge

  • The first road bridge built in 1855, which improved transport and opened up the area, was damaged by the 1867 flood. Its sandstone foundations can still be found.
  • It was replaced further up stream by a lower height bridge that would be less prone to damage.
  • Previously the ford had been north of Menangle called the “Bird’s Eye Crossing” and east of Menangle, “Archie’s Crossing” close to the “Black Hole” and the “Narrows.”

1863 Menangle Railway Station

  • One of the earliest station complexes to survive in NSW
  • Built on the new line south from Sydney in 1863 when the old line had finished at ‘Menangle North” station, close to the Pines house, and the brick foundations can still be see.
  • It became a focus for village development.
  • Features the remains of the Camden Estate spur line to the Creamery.
  • NSW Heritage Registered.
  • Menangle Park station was then built closer to the community of Menangle Park.

1863, Menangle Iron Rail Bridge

  • One of the most historic bridges in Australia
  • First large iron rail bridge erected in NSW and the oldest in NSW.
  • Created enormous benefit both social and commercial.
  • It was an example of advanced design and low cost infrastructure for the time and it received international recognition.
  • Intermediate piers were added in 1907 to increase the bridge load capacity.
  • NSW Heritage Registered

1866 Camden Estate Headquarters moved to Menangle

  • Due to the railway, road and dairying most business was conducted in Menangle.
  • Headquarters were in the Creamery.

1871 Menangle Public School

  • Camden Park Estate made application for a school in 1849, and a church school was established. The locality was initially known as Riversford, which later changed to Menangle. Pressure for a public school culminated in 1869-71 when a public school was opened, with an enrolment of 43 pupils. New school buildings were erected in 1906.
  • Land was donated “for the education of the children of Menangle” by Sir William Macarthur.
  • Building was completed in 1871, and the school opened with 43 pupils.
  • A residence was added before repairs in 1876.
  • The first school building was sold by auction along with the fence on 7th January 1876
  • A two room weather shed was added in 1878.
  • In 1891 during Arbour Day, money was raised for a library
  • Church services were initially held in the old school from 28th May, 1871.
  • From 1892, 52 shade trees and 20 citrus trees were planted.
  • 1906 Half an acre was given by the Macarthur family for a new residence on the western side and the school building and residents were replaced.
  • 1915 used as sleeping quarters for NCO’s being trained locally in WW1, The Great War.
  • 1922 a tennis court and 45 foot flagpole was added in the playground as were veggie plots.
  • 1928 was voted the school with the best garden within 50 miles of Sydney, with 54 pupils.
  • 1937 a replacement weather shed built
  • 1960 two additional acres were obtained from Camden Park Estate.
  • 1960 Major painting and a brick toilet block and new flagpole erected.
  • 1960 New residence in single brick was built.
  • 100 years of schooling was celebrated in May, 1971.

1876, St James Anglican Church “the church on the hill”

  • Foundation stone laid 24th March, 1876 and built by the Macarthur Family as part of Camden Park Estate.
  • The chancery sanctuary and tower were built to John Sulman’s design in 1898, to harmoniously blend with the earlier section of the church built to Horbury Hunt’s design (who also designed the “fairy tale” Camelot.
  • It was consecrated 25th October 1923 and given to the local Diocesan Property Trust.
  • Services were initially held in the old school from 28th May, 1871.
  • Entrance gate and trees are the first features you see.
  • The stables were further inside the gates and housed the carriage from Camden Park during services and also the rector’s buggy horse. They were removed in 1930 and sold to RE Hawkey and erected at the back of his home because of the advent of the motor car.
  • In 1876 a specification and quote for a new church on land donated by the Macarthur’s was completed. The side walls to be 18 inches thick and the ends 14 inches, with a roof of colonial pine and cedar door with a good 9 inch draw lock.
  • Nave bricks are handmade.
  • Lectern 1878.
  • Chancel was built by Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow in 1898
  • Organ 1902, purchased by Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow was hand pumped till 1947 when an electric motor was installed
  • Significant stained glass windows.
  • Polished oak interior panelling.
  • One of few churches with a weather vane instead of a cross on the steeple.
  • Peel of six bells installed in 2005.
  • Menangle became a stand-alone parish in 2008.
  • Registered on the National Estate.

1883 – 1948 Butter Factory

  • The first butter factory in NSW at Menangle.
  • It became the Central Creamery in 1948.
  • Milk arrived by horse and cart and motor vehicles.

1886 Menangle Weir

  • Thought to be built around 1886 as part of the Upper Nepean Water Scheme, to maintain landholder’s riparian water rights. It was built of wood and can still be found about a metre below water.
  • The second weir made of concrete was built in about 1911 as part of an eleven weir system to maintain the water right along the river length.

c1880 Foundation of Commercial Dairying

  • Mrs Macarthur-Onslow brought back with her from England plans and ideas to establish her dairying.
  • Milking became the life blood of Camden Park Estate.
  • The individual dairies specialized in different breeds and cross breeds.
  • Sent the milk to Sydney in water cooled milk cans.
  • 1899 Mrs Macarthur-Onslow formed a company with her children to control the dairying and Camden Park Estate Ltd was formed.
  • By then the dairy company was serviced by 12 cooperative farms and 40 leased farms.
  • In 1926 a special milk suited to children and invalids was produced and was distributed in Sydney by another company, called ‘Camden Vale Milk Company and sold its special milk, Camden Vale Milk, with the golden alfoil cap.
  • 1928, The Camden Vale Milk Company later merged with the Dairy Farmers Co-operative Milk Company.
  • By 1932 the company was the largest dairy cattle centre in Australia with 1200 head that rose to 2,800 in later years. There were nine model dairies with each dairy having a manager who were supervised by the “home farm” or Belgenny as it was known later.
  • Menangle became the chief milk receiving depot.
  • Pigs were raised to consume the waste.
  • The butter produced in Menangle was called ‘Laurel” brand butter.
  • The whole milk was dispatched by rail to Dairy Farmers Co-operative Milk Company by rail to be pasteurised, bottled and distributed.
  • It was decided to streamline the whole system and the Rotolactor was built and completed in 1952.This improved the operation and quality of the “Special milk”
  • The Nepean River and other water supplies were vital for production as one dairy cow drinks 15 to 20 gallons of water a day and another 30 gallons was needed to wash and maintain the quality of the process. That’s about 200 litres per cow, equating to half a million litres per day at full production.
  • The dams cover about 100 acres and hold 170 million gallons or 800,000 cubic metres of water.
  • The Estate had storage capacity for 2400 tons of fodder in vertical silos and 6000 tons in pits.
  • It was the first estate to breed wholly by artificial insemination.

1895, St Patrick’s Catholic Church

  • St Patrick’s Catholic Church was built in 1895 to service the local Catholic community.
  • Prior to the church a small school of up to sixty children existed.
  • The school was run by the Josephite Nuns and initiated by Mary McKillop, and it was one of 6 local schools she initiated.

1895 Menangle Gate Lodges

  • Both designed by Sulman and Power in 1895 as gate houses for Camden Park. One was west of Menangle on Woodbridge Road, and the other north of Camden Park House.
  • They were placed at the ends of the Camden Park Estate private road, and the gates were closed once a year.
  • The Woodbridge Road one now has both Macarthur and Onslow crests under its roof peaks.

1898 Camden Park Estate Central Creamery

  • Built by the Macarthurs adjacent to the railway station in 1898
  • The Creamery initially separated milk for the sweet cream trade in Sydney, and from 1929 became the local depot for receiving whole milk for city distribution.
  • After 1917 milk was sent raw to the Dairy Farmers Co-Operative Milk Company in Sydney, by cart to Campbelltown and then by train
  • Historic in that it shows the extent of commercial dairying and its connection to Camden Park Estate.

1904 Menangle Store

  • The Menangle Store built in 1904, also to the design of the prominent architect firm Sulman and Power.
  • The Store Manager bought provisions, stores, seed, fertiliser and fuels used across the area and having a liquor licence, the Store was a centre for community gatherings especially with the community hall next door.
  • Today is a tourist attraction.
  • Coolrooms domed brick well, butcher room and chill room and baker’s ovens are still to be seen.
  • Once known as Hickey’s, then Curry’s.
  • It also supplied groceries and fresh made bread from their own ovens, as well as fresh store killed meat.
  • Also drapery, tin ware and anything else that was needed including mail and friendship.
  • Customers were supplied by horse and cart “in all directions”. The runs were to Douglas Park on Moreton Park Road and on to Wilton. Secondly to Camden via the estate. Finally across Archie’s Crossing, over the Nepean, up through Mt. Gilead to Appin.

c 1904 Menangle Hall (School of Arts Hall)

  • Thought to be built about the same time as the Store, 1905.
  • Built  by the community on Macarthur land
  • Dances were held monthly from the early 1900’s onward.
  • Wrought Iron gates are a memorial to Frank Veness, the Butter Factory Manager 1922-1945.
  • 1983 The community wrote to Council asking them to be Trustee for the Hall and carry out work required, which Council did.
  • 1985 Council were informed they could not legally be a trustee, so the community voted for it to be resumed by Council. This happened after much debate in November 2000.
  • The hall was closed by Council as it was apparently uninsurable, in 2008.
  • The Menangle Community Association are working on the closure with Council.

c1920 Tennis and Cricket.

  • Menangle held the District Tennis Championship trophies.
  • Don Bradman played on the concrete pitch with coir matting covering.

1939 Camden Vale Inn

  • Built to sell ‘special milk’ to travellers on the Hume Highway.
  • Now called Camden Valley Inn.

1942 Menangle Bushfire Brigade,

  • Formed in Menangle although it had existed at Camden Park Estate for many years.
  • First shed was opposite the store till 1990.
  • The bad grass fires of 1953 necessitated running both a Camden Park and Menangle brigade.

1952 Rotolactor, “The Rotary Milking Machine”

  • In 1980 was declared a National Tourist attraction by the Macarthur District Gazette
  • It was the second of this design and size in the world.
  • Made from brick and stainless steel it had walls of glass letting in natural night by day and lights for night milking.
  • It was 24 metres in diameter and was capable of milking 2500 cows twice a day.
  • Each cow was milked in about 7 minutes.
  • They entered and left at the same point and as they travelled around being milked, they ate.
  • It required a small staff of nine to operate milking 300 cows per hour.
  • It was an icon in Australia and significant in that it shows the scale and development of dairying in Menangle.
  • Tourists and school children visited weekdays and weekends to experience the “special milk” and see the state of the art milking process and production.
  • Registered Trade Marks were ‘Camden Vale’, ‘Cowpasture’, ‘Laurel’, and ‘Milk with the golden cap’, that were used to name produce from the Dairy, Agriculture and Orchard producer, Camden Park Estate Company.
  • BHP state “It (The Menangle Area) provides the opportunity to interpret the history of dairy farming and production in the region for a period encompassing 150 years of development.
  • The Rotolactor operated until 1983.

Fruit Production.

  • By 1965 the orchard was 74 acres
  • produced from 7200 trees, 10,000 cases of choice fruit.
  • Included apples, peaches, pears, plums and nuts.

Menangle today still recognizes this heritage with “Macarthur Country” and after polling and meetings endorses the preservation of this districts heritage. Today, BHP’s Mining Plans list 632 sites of archaeological and cultural heritage in the Menangle, Appin, Douglas Park, Wilton and Picton areas.

Other family names associated with the area.

Curry, Reedy, Cummins, Dowle, Finn, Hawkey, Hunt, Heighington, Barrett, Channell, Hillier, Hopson, Luck, Leuchel, Mahoney, McKnight, Sharp, Smart, Starr, Veness, Wheeler, Neave, Rofe, Starr, Camerons, English, Veness, Templeman, McGrath, New, Crisp, Burrell.