|Historical notes: ||INDIGENOUS OCCUPATION
A number of clans or families, known generally as the Darug people, settled along the Parramatta River and its headwaters. At the head of the river were the Burramattagal (or Barramattagal) of the Parramatta district, while to their west and north lived the Bidjigal who were known in both the Castle Hill and Botany areas. Pemulwuy, the Aboriginal warrior and his son Tedbury were of the Bidjigal clan.
The Darug people lived on a diversity of plant and animal life. Fresh water streams yielded mullet, crayfish, shellfish and turtles. Male food-gathering activities ranged from trapping and hunting native animals to collecting bull ants and their eggs and larvae of the longicorn beetle (the witchetty grub). Lizards, snakes, birds, potoroos, wallabies and possum were hunted.
Toongabbie Creek was situated in an alluvial valley running eastwards from Prospect to the sea that was dominated by stands of tall timber with gullies providing humid and fire-free conditions. These developed the closed canopies that supported patches of local rainforest or 'brush' in the rich soil, some of which still remain along the creek between Oakes Road and Briens Road. The turpentine ( Syncarpia glomulifera) and the coachwood or scented satinwood (Ceropetalum apetulum) were common, as were the lillypilly (Acmena smithii) and the water gum (Tristaniopsis laurina) (Dictionary of Sydney;McClymont, 1-2; Brook & Kohen, 3-5, 60, 356, 369, 371,; Kohen, 28; White, 128-9).
THE SPREAD OF SETTLEMENT AROUND ROSE HILL
Governor Phillip's 1787 instructions to 'proceed to the cultivation of the land' immediately, using convict labour resulted in the early establishment of government farms. His settlement of Rose Hill (later Parramatta) in November 1788 was driven by the need to develop an agricultural community that would make the colony almost self-sufficient. The government farm at Rose Hill thrived and paved the way for emancipist farming on land grants and the expansion of settlement around the township of Rose Hill. With the arrival of the Second Fleet in June 1790, (and an increased convict workforce), Phillip decided to expand settlement to the north-west of Rose Hill, along the Parramatta river valley, where the fertile river and creek lands could be cleared for cultivation.
The first expansion was a new 'public settlement' about 2.4 km to the north of Rose Hill on the south side of Toongabbie Creek, in the corner of land formed by the creek and the head of the Parramatta River. The site is now (2011) occupied by Westmead Children's Hospital and remnants of the Psychiatric Centre Farm. Collins referred to it as 'the new grounds' in August 1791. Under the direction of Thomas Daveney, 500 convicts, housed in 13 large tent huts, cleared 134 acres (54 hectares) that was then sown for maize. Karskens notes Tench's comment that (unusually) their labour was 'unassisted by any liquor but water'. (Dictionary of Sydney; McClymont 2-3; Collins, 1, 146; Tench, 249-50; Campbell, 12, 360; White, 128; Karskens 83-85; Plan of Rose Hill, ML).
TOONGABBIE: THE SECOND SETTLEMENT, PRINCIPAL AGRICULTURAL CENTRE AND GOVERNMENT STOCKYARD, 1791 - 1813.
In 1791 Governor Phillip appointed Thomas Daveney to select, plan and superintend a more extensive 'second settlement' further up the Toongabbie Creek, about 4 km north-west of the New Grounds. Here 500 convicts, most of whom were newly arrived on the Third Fleet, cleared 300 acres of forest in 30 days in late 1791, burning off the timber and planting the first crop of turnips to prepare the ground for maize (Collins, 144-5; Tench, 249-50; Karskens, 85). A year later (October 1792) Phillip could report that: 'One thousand acres of ground are in cultivation on the public account at Parramatta and a new settlement formed about three miles to the westward of Parramatta, and to which I have given the name of Toon-gab-be, a name by which the natives distinguish the spot' (HRNSW, I ii 645). Legend has it that this was the first colonial town to be given an Aboriginal name. However, Phillip named Parramatta in June 1791 (on the King's birthday) and Toongabbie a month later, in July (HRNSW, 539; Dictionary of Sydney; McClymont, 3).
Governor Phillip (perhaps with the assistance of his Surveyor General, Augustus Alt) laid out the town plan for Toongabbie in a similar fashion to his 1790 plan for Rose Hill with convicts housed on huts on allotments along a main street (Johnston, 266, 369; Dictionary of Sydney).
By December 1792, Toongabbie had fulfilled Phillip's intention of becoming the principal farm of the colony with over 696 acres (281.6 hectares) of wheat, barley and maize while Parramatta's cultivation had dwindled to 316 acres (127.8 hectares). Most of the government's stock of cattle, horses and sheep were kept at Toongabbie as well. The settlement came to be self-sufficient with a barber, shoemaker, tailor, thatcher, miller and eight constables as well as convict overseers (Collins, 1, 207, 209; 343, 349; Karskens, 87).
Toongabbie was designed to accommodate a convict workforce of 700. But its convict population swelled to over a thousand, including 260 women, many boys and some 'old and feeble men' who were hutkeepers. Convicts worked from 5 am till 10 am, rested til 2 pm then worked until sunset. Work included felling trees, piling them up for burning, digging out stumps and turning the ground with spades and hoes. (Collins 1, 181, 343, 349; Karskens, 87; McClymont, 3; Tench, 249; Dictionary of Sydney).
Convicts were employed in raising grain, maintaining the township infrastructure and in looking after the government stock of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens (HRNSW, II 807). Convicts constructed a new stockyard in 1796 and a large shed for government cattle in 1797. When Governor King arrived in the colony in 1800 there were 262 cattle, 30 horses and 137 sheep at Toongabbie. These were useful for manuring the 120 hectares still under wheat and the 40 hectares ready for maize (HRNSW, III 221, 341; HRA, series 1, II 527). By 1801, however, King had all stock except cattle removed from Toongabbie to Parramatta (HRNSW, IV 327, 607).
In 1792, Toongabbie became the first location for the secondary punishment of convicts. Those convicted of stealing maize at Parramatta would not only be flogged but also sent to Toongabbie, where the work under the superintendent, Thomas Daveney, was severe and the location remote (Collins, I 177). The concept was extended in 1794 when 'bad and suspicious characters' were sent to Toongabbie and were put to work in chains (Collins, I 337).
Superintendent Daveney was a hard taskmaster and drove his convicts relentlessly through his overseers, 'a set of merciless wretches' often chosen from the toughest and most brutal convicts. Newly arrived male convicts were sent direct to Toongabbie. Those capable of handling a spade or hoe were set to work despite their emaciated condition after the long voyage. Hard labour combined with meagre rations led to many deaths at Toongabbie. Irish convict numbers increased rapidly after the 1798 Irish rebellion and the defeat of rebel (or patriot) forces at Vinegar Hill, Ireland. Most of the Irish transported between 1797 and 1801 were sent to Toongabbie where they were regarded as a disruptive element, threatening to desert at harvest time. Several planned Irish uprisings were foiled at Toongabbie. Their ringleaders were flogged and dispersed to the remote penal stations of Norfolk Island and the Hunter River coal mines. After 1801, Irish convicts were removed to the new (third) government farm being established at Castle Hill (McClymont, 6-9; Collins, 1, 177-8, 181, 212-3,402; Collins, 2, 42, 52; Clark, 36-7; Karskens, 86-7; Dictionary of Sydney; Yarwood, 79; Silver, 41-3).
Karskens notes the brutality and oppression that later came to be associated with Toongabbie (perhaps undeservedly). Like other government farms it was not established as a place of punishment (as were the later penal stations of Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Cockatoo Island). But it nevertheless came to be associated with tyranny, torture and oppression -- for which, however, there is little evidence. Toongabbie later acquired international notoriety as a place synonymous with slavery and famine and was included in the tracts of the anti-transportation and anti-slavery campaigners. It lived on in Irish folk memory as an original site of Irish oppression in Australia. 80 years after its closure, Ned Kelly, in his Jerilderie letter, 'placed Toongabbie in the larger story of worldwide Irish suffering at the hands of the English' (Karskens, 93-5; Kelly, 131).
Toongabbie is also associated with a severe escalation of hostilities on the Cumberland Plain between the local Aboriginal people and the convicts and civil authorities. Earlier torchings of settler farm buildings and crops in the Prospect and Toongabbie areas escalated in 1792 to Aboriginal 'maize raids' on the Toongabbie Government Farm at harvest time. The frequency of these raids led to armed watchmen and soldiers being posted to guard the farm from 1794. Karskens reads these attacks on property as an Aboriginal response to dispossession and speculates that the 1794 'battle of Toongabbie' that secured the trophy head of an Aboriginal man was a non-military reprisal party raid on a sleeping Aboriginal camp that likely also included child-taking (Karskens, 456-60).
In March 1797 the Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy, of the Bidjigal clan, led a raid on Toongabbie Government Farm, followed by a series of robberies of the Northern Farms (around present day North Parramatta). Soon after this raid Pemulwuy was injured in the 'Battle of Parramatta' where around 100 hostile Aborigines clashed with vigilante groups of armed settlers and soldiers. In the altercation Pemulwuy was shot but recovered and escaped in irons from Parramatta hospital. From 1797 to 1802 Pemulwuy was a powerful Aboriginal resistance leader against British settlement. He lead raids on farms around Lane Cove, Bankstown, Georges River, Parramatta and Prospect, attacking, burning and plundering huts, crops, and livestock. Following his capture and death as an outlaw in 1802, his head was taken to the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London (from where it subsequently disappeared).
Toongabbie's decline was as rapid as its rise. Following Governor Phillip's departure in December 1792, Lieutenant Governor Grose adopted a different agricultural policy. Grose discontinued centralised government farming, granted land to military and civil officers, officials and settlers, allotted the majority of the convict workforce to them, and encouraged them to raise cereal crops, to be purchased by the Commissariat Store. Toongabbie's lands soon showed signs of exhaustion from repeated cereal cropping which gave Grose the opportunity to alienate land and reassign the convict work force (Karskens, 87-88; Fletcher Small Scale, 3; Fletcher, Landed Enterprise, 7).
In 1793 Grose appointed John Macarthur as Inspector of Public Works at Toongabbie as well as Parramatta. Working under Macarthur (who resigned in 1796 and was succeeded by Richard Atkins) and the Government Farm superintendent Thomas Daveney (discharged in 1795) and Andrew Hume (superintendent of convicts) was Richard Fitzgerald, a very able ex-convict who took responsibility for close supervision of convict performance from 1792 onwards. In 1798 Fitzgerald was superintending agriculture at both Toongabbie and Parramatta (HRNSW, II 14; III 27-28.)
Colonial government policy for agricultural production in the first decades of European settlement see-sawed between favouring government farms and private enterprise. In September 1795 Governor Hunter arrived in the colony with orders to re-establish public farming. As this involved withdrawing convict labour from settlers, it was a highly unpopular policy with both settlers and convicts. In December 1797 a large 90 feet (27.4 metres) long threshing barn was completed at Toongabbie which enabled eight or nine threshers to work concurrently. A large number of cattle were also placed at the farm to manure the soil for cropping ( McClymont, 8; Dictionary of Sydney; Karskens, 87-8; Collins, 1, 386; Collins, 2, 5, 52; HRA, 2, 18; HRA,2, 475; Fletcher, Small Scale, 6-7; Fletcher Landed Enterprise, 7).
In August 1801, however, Governor King advised the government that he had 50 men clearing land for a new Government Farm at Castle Hill to replace Toongabbie whose lands had been worked out by repeated cereal cropping. And in 1803 official policy under Governor King saw public farming once again wound back in favour of private enterprise. While Toongabbie Government Farm closed for crop cultivation in 1803, government stock remained on the site until 1807. When Governor Bligh rebuilt the dairy and barn in 1807 there were still 873 cattle at Toongabbie (and no other stock). Numbers were soon reduced but there were still 128 cattle, 3 horses and 189 sheep at Toongabbie in August 1808 (out of a mainland-wide total of 3351 cattle, 44 horses and 858 sheep). Governor Macquarie, arriving in 1810, reappraised the whole system of government farms in the colony. (HRA, 1, VI, 409, 612-13, 640; HRNSW,4, 462, 714; Karskens, 88; McClymont, 8; Fletcher, Landed Enterprise, 8).
Macquarie closed down most convict-run public agriculture but retained a government interest in owning substantial numbers of cattle and sheep in new stock-yards to be built at locations removed from towns and settlers. Stock was removed from Toongabbie in 1813 and in 1817 Macquarie confirmed that Toongabbie was permanently closed (HRA,1, VII: 251-252, 380-381, 742, 745-747; IX: 728).
POST GOVERNMENT FARM AND STOCKYARD SITE HISTORY
Macquarie retained his interest in Toongabbie, however, requesting the now disused site (but no convict labour or livestock) as a land grant on his resignation 'on account of the beauty of the Situation and the contiguity to the seat of Government, it being only 17 miles west of Sydney' (HRA, series 1, IX 728). The grant was not approved and the 700 hectares at Toongabbie, including the old village site, remained officially unoccupied either by government or lessees in 1825 (HRA,1, XII, 392-393).
It remained part of the Parramatta Domain until an act of the New South Wales Parliament in 1857 made sub-division and sale possible (20 Victoria, no.35; Trimmer, 43). Survey and subdivision in 1860-61 created allotments of 8.4 to 16 hectares around Toongabbie Creek. 240 hectares, comprising the entire site of the former Government Farm and much of its adjacent farm lands, were purchased by a single proprietor, George Oakes, in 1861 and used for grazing (LPMA, Crown Plans C750A.690; C750.690; C764.690).
At some point prior to 1860 quarrying, presumably for stone, took place on the north bank of Toongabbie Creek and on the south side of the creek near the present substation (LPMA, Crown Plans, C764.690, C750A.690).
George Oakes was a significant figure in local and state affairs who sat in the New South Wales Parliament from 1848 off and on until his death in 1881, mostly in the Legislative Council. Oakes' principal home was 'Rose Cottage' (now Perth House, built 1840s) in George Street, Parramatta (McClymont, 82-83). The site of 'Casuarina' (Oakes' substantial 1861 stone house, now demolished) is outside the SHR curtilage for Toongabbie Government Farm, at the north-west corner of the present Oakes Road and Barnetts Road. Oakes ran horses and cattle on his Toongabbie lands and grew fruit and vegetables. He constructed a stone weir across Toongabbie Creek (at the site of the present concrete dam) to create a private swimming pool for his family. Oakes is probably also responsible for the upper stone steps that lead to the four shallow steps cut in the bedrock beside the creek.
Oakes estate was subdivided after his death in 1881. The site of the former convict settlement was leased by a number of Chinese market gardeners from at least 1887. Harold Barnett, who grew up nearby, assisted in old age in drawing a map showing land use as he remembered it in 1890. Barnett claimed that as many as 50 Chinese men worked co-operatively on the gardens. Several Chinese market gardeners have been identified, mainly belonging to three families who worshipped together at St John's Anglican Church in Parramatta (Brook, 149-151; Toongabbie & District Historical Society 2011, 77).
Subsequent subdivision from the 1880s resulted in orcharding, closer settlement and new streets in the vicinity of the site. Since the land immediately adjacent to Toongabbie Creek was liable to recurrent flood, it was not developed and reverted to public use from the 1920s onwards as a series of reserves. In the 1960s and 1970s the former Government Farm lands adjacent to Toongabbie Creek came under local council control, initially Blacktown Council and later Parramatta City Council after 1972. Land north of Toongabbie Creek became Palestine Park which was named in conjunction with the streets of the adjacent subdivision (Goliath, Gideon, Rebecca, Reuben, Ruth, Esther and Enoch). The former market gardens on the south side of the Creek became Oakes Reserve. Both parks are used for passive public recreation.
Twentieth century development of the site saw the major portion of the settlement of the former Government Farm (covering most of the convict huts and allotments) acquired in 1973 by Baxter Australia (later Baxter Healthcare) and substantially developed for works of a pharmaceutical company. The western end of the convict farm site was acquired for construction of a substantial electricity transmission substation, now owned by Endeavour Energy. With the exception of a portion of Endeavour Energy's landholding at Lot 1 DP780050 (being the riparian corridor adjacent to the creek) none of these developed landholdings are included in the proposed SHR curtilage.