Hawkesbury Valley History

Hawkesbury Valley History

Within a few weeks of settlement at Port Jackson in 1788, Governor Phillip decided that the discovery of viable farming and was a matter of some urgency if the new colony was to grow and prosper.

And such after many forays along the coast, his search party decided to explore the river called “Deerubbun” by the Aboriginal people, but which Phillip later named the Hawkesbury. After this initial discovery of farming land, the Hawkesbury Valley was then settled in 1794 with the arrival of 22 settlers and farming flourished.

The Hawkesbury Valley region today takes in Windsor, Richmond, Pitt Town and St Albans, and the quaint rural settlements of Kurrajong, Bilpin, Lower Portland, Ebenezer, Colo and Wisemans Ferry. Take a drive through the Hawkesbury Valley region today – both the larger townships and in the more remote country areas - and you will see many remnants of the early days of settlement in New South Wales.

Windsor, formerly named Green Hills, was actually the third official settlement on mainland Australia, and walking through the township today you will notice many historic buildings that give a glimpse into life back then.

  • The Macquarie Arms Hotel is the oldest inn in Australia opening in 1815.
  • The Windsor Courthouse, built in 1822, was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway, who is featured on the $10 note.
  • The Water Tower, still in use today, was built in 1889 as an integral part of the original water supply for the township of Windsor.
  • St Mathews Anglican Church, built in 1817, once again by Francis Greenway, remains one of the most beautiful pieces of colonial architecture in Australia today.
  • Even older than the Church is the graveyard which contains graves of many prominent pioneers including a number that sailed to Australia with the First Fleet.

About 15 minutes south east of Windsor is Rouse Hill Estate which is one of Australia's most culturally important historic properties, not only for its artefacts, furnishings, buildings and gardens, but also because it is the most complete document of continuous family occupancy of a country house in New South Wales. Rouse Hill was established by Richard and Elizabeth Rouse in 1813 and was in use by six generations of the one family.

North east of Windsor is The Ebenezer Uniting Church, built by Scottish Settlers in 1809. It is Australia’s oldest operating church and still holds services every Sunday. On the same grounds is the Schoolmaster’s House built in 1817 and one of Australia’s oldest schools, now beautifully preserved as a museum.

As Sydney itself grew larger it became necessary to forge a road north. In 1825 a new  road was surveyed from Castle Hill to Wiseman’s Ferry. Convict chain gangs were employed to build the road out of solid bedrock. At one time there were more than five hundred men working on The Great North Road. It was an outstanding feat of engineering and road construction – in some places the retaining walls were up to 12 meters high with huge buttresses as supports. Sections of the road are now impassable to vehicular traffic, so gates have been erected at either end, however walking tracks are accessible from the Wisemans Ferry and area.

The Hawkesbury Valley area truly is the historical heart of New South Wales, and an integral part of the successful colonization and settlement of Sydney – an ideal destination for anyone curious about the early days of this state.

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