Ld019 : Remnants of Coxs Road | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Ld019 : Remnants of Coxs Road

Item details

Name of item: Ld019 : Remnants of Coxs Road
Other name/s: Woodford's Trig Precinct
Primary address: Off Hepburn Road, Linden, NSW 2778
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Off Hepburn RoadLindenBlue Mountains   Primary Address
Old Bathurst Road and Taylor Road, WoodfordLindenBlue Mountains   Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Criterion (a) Historic
Constructed in 1814-15 Coxs Road is one of the earliest Colonial-era road-lines surviving in Australia. The 1814 road is tangible evidence of the development of the colony at Sydney and of the expansion of white settlement into western NSW. The road symbolises the occupation of the country and Governor Macquarie's aspirations for the eventual opening of the interior to European settlement after the discovery of the Western plains by G W Evans in 1814. In this respect the 1814-1815 Cox's Road has considerable symbolic significance as an official public work which laid the foundations for future development.

Criterion (b) Persons
Coxs Road is associated with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who commissioned the building of the road into the interior, and with the magistrate and ex-army officer Captain William Cox, who supervised the building of the road. The road is also associated with the convicts who laboured on the road to obtain their liberty, and with the officers and men who assisted Cox such as Lieutenant Thomas Hobby.

Criterion (c) Aesthetic
The Old Bathurst Road section of Coxs Road is one of the longest, largely intact and still legible surviving sections of the 1814 road. It extends for over a kilometre beside and overlapping with an unsurfaced local road along the top of the ridge. The remains of the 1814 road are the central feature of the ridge-top landscape. They relate historically, physically and visually to the undisturbed landscape to the east and to the various later transport and settlement developments to the west. From the apex of the ridge near the Woodford Trig Station there are extensive views on both sides of the road which conform with those described by early travellers giving a sense of the experience of travel along the early nineteenth century road even though parts of the surrounding area have been gradually developed with infrastructure such as sewerage pumping stations, pipelines and electricity power poles.

Criterion (d) Social
The section of Coxs Road from Linden to Woodford has long been recognised as a significant historic site. The road is of particular importance to Cox descendants. The William Cox Fellowship has previously nominated the road for heritage listing.

Criterion (e) Technical/Research
The series of surviving road lines between Linden and Woodford graphically illustrate the rapid progress made in colonial road-building in the early nineteenth century and the gradually increasing, more elaborate and ambitious nature of engineering and road-building through time. This section of Coxs Road illustrates the simple methods of early road building and the tools used by the convicts in the road gang and also contains numerous examples of extensive and well preserved 'Cox gutters'. The remains of the 1814 road illustrate the conditions of the period and contribute to an understanding of the process of exploration and development, and of early colonial road building and road use. The remains represent a major physical, technological and engineering achievement and exhibit fine details of workmanship. This section of the road also provides evidence of the early diversions and subsidiary routes which are described in the historic accounts of the early road.

Criterion (f) Rarity
Surviving precincts of the 1814-1815 Coxs Road from Penrith to Bathurst are rare examples of early Colonial road building in NSW.
Date significance updated: 03 Jan 05
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Construction years: 1814-1814
Physical description: This section of the 1814 Coxs Road extends for approximately 1.2 kilometres. The 1814 road occupies the crest of the south running ridge. The 1814 road runs partially within the line of a more modern unsealed access track which leads from Hepburn Road to the Woodford Trig station and partly within adjoining private property allotments, most of which remain undeveloped. From the Woodford Trig Station the road continues past the Rockcorry cottages where it is known as Old Bathurst Road. The road then coincides with modern Taylor Road for at least 650 metres.

Once the modern roughly formed vehicular access track leads off Hepburn Road at Linden, the remains of the Coxs Road evident consist primarily of a series of intermittent kerb-lines or low side-cuttings, some with shallow gutters or drains, which have been cut into the surface of the exposed sandstone rock platforms of the ridge. On the basis of the generally intended width of the road noted in the documentary evidence, and by observation of the topography, it is also possible to infer the probable position and line of the early road formation. Between Hepburn Road and the Woodford Trig at least sixteen sections of side-cutting or kerbing relating to Cox's Road are present, along with a taller picked rock-face and curved side drain apparently associated with, but slightly away from, the road formation. Immediately west of the Woodford Trig station, kerb-lines are cut on both sides of the road which extend here for 25 metres, but mostly the kerb appears to be marked on only one side of the road formation. Additional sections of kerbing may be concealed by vegetation.

The width of the old road formation varies between 6.6 metres (20 feet) in the area between the two side kerb-lines near the Woodford Trig station, to about 4 metres (12 feet). The height of most kerb-lines is in the range of 5 to 10 centimetres but may reach a maximum of about 40 centimetres. Most of the kerbs are cut with vertical faces. Two types of marks are evident, implying the use of different tools during the cutting. Tools used would have included picks and mallets with pointed chisels or gads; as well as crow-bars, sledgehammers and wedges. Karskens has commented that the very low kerbs would 'serve little practical purpose except as slight drainage, but they marked the edge of the road for the guidance of travellers in these wild, barren and isolated expanses.' The most extensive, but often quite shallow, kerb-line occurs on the western side of the road, towards the northern end of the extant 1814 road formation. This section extends for a total length of about 40 metres, although not all of the kerb is fully exposed.

Two types of pavement are evident along this surviving section of Coxs Road. Much of the road in this area utilises the natural rock platform, some areas of which appear to have been partly "knocked-off" or picked away. Some areas also have deep ruts, apparently caused by both early and more recent traffic along the road. At the northern end, parts of the road formation or pavement appears to have been partly filled with small rock pieces or broken stone packing and the naturally occurring sandy earth loam.

South of the Woodford Trig station past the Rockcorry Cottages, there is a cutting along the south side of the road and a solid sheet stone pavement. As the road continues south there are two sections of early stone retaining wall on the east side of Old Bathurst Road. These sections of walling are both about 20 metres long. The stonework is of two types, basic rubble work and very primitive coursed work, suggesting that there may be more than one phase of construction. It is possible that the better quality coursed work might relate to slightly later 1820s improvements made to the early road. From Taylor Road the 1814 formation diverges directly west continuing close to the southern side of the railway line before re-emerging as the Appian Way Precinct near Woodford Railway Station.

In the vicinity of the Woodford Trig station in addition to the line of the 1814 road, there are a number of other early tracks including a loop to the east. It is likely that these are some of the early diversions made to avoid jolting over the slippery rock platforms of the original 1814 road.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Although parts have been damaged by the more recent installation of modern infrastructure, this section provides a long length of the 1814 road which remains substantially intact. Numerous archaeological features from the 1814 road are evident.
Date condition updated:03 Jan 05
Current use: Road
Former use: Road

History

Historical notes: The first European road into the interior was built between July 1814 and January 1815 by a party of convicts under the supervision of William Cox. William Cox was born in Wimbourne Minster, Dorset in 1764. He married Rebecca Upjohn at Devizes, Wiltshire in 1789. Cox arrived in NSW on board the 'Minerva' in January 1800. After financial difficulties he returned to England for 3 years, although his wife and his son James remained at 'Clarendon' near Richmond. Cox returned to the Colony in 1810 and although he had become a Captain, resigned from the army. He became Chief Magistrate at Windsor, a position he held for the next 27 years. William Cox and his sons George and Henry, took up 4000 acres of land in the Mulgoa valley near Penrith. In July 1814 Governor Macquarie made William Cox the Superintendent of the works for a new road over the Blue Mountains. His first wife died in 1819 and William Cox married Anna Blachford in 1821. He died on 15 March 1837 and is buried in the churchyard of St Matthew's Anglican church at Windsor.

William Cox was well known among convicts for his power, through favourable connections with Governor Macquarie, to successfully recommend pardons and tickets of leave. Emancipation was to be the remuneration for most of the strong, willing men he hand-picked to open a track to the interior. The party, including only around thirty who were actually road makers, were equipped with the simplest of tools - felling axes, cross-cut saws, hoes for clearing the path; crowbars, tomahawks, sledgehammers for breaking and moving stone; a single iron maul and wedges `of sizes’ for quarrying stone; some carpentry tools, a smith's anvil, small bellows, steel, and two sets of blasting tools and 25lb of gunpowder. There was no complete or detailed reconaissance of the line of road undertaken before the work began. Cox had as a general guide the plan drawn up by Surveyor George William Evans, but selected the line of road himself by riding ahead of the gang, with one or two assistants, blazing trees along the route requiring the least construction.

Cox was instructed to open a rough cart road, so that the western plains would be symbolically open. The road from Emu Ford to Bathurst, a distance of 101 miles [160 kilometres] was completed in only six months. Macquarie's instructions specified that the road should be at least 12 feet wide in order that two carts would be able to pass each other, and that the timber should be cleared on each side so that the road corridor was 20 feet wide. Stumps were to be grubbed out and any holes should be filled in. In practice, the 1814 road was so bad and dangerous that it was a deterrent to traffic. For at least a decade it was mainly used by government carts and drovers with mobs of sheep and cattle. Governor Lachlan Macquarie had no intention of opening up the interior for settlement immediately; to do so would have jeopardised the security of the convict colony.

Cox's men reached the Linden area by late August 1814, and remained at Linden - Woodford until around September 12, by which time they had move on to the present day vicinity of Hazelbrook. It was the first time they encountered the steep rocky platforms, and the ever-narrowing ridge. Cox's style of road-building was pragmatic and primitive. Confronted with rocky platforms and sharp drops, he generally had his men clear the flattest parts, removing an ‘immense quantity of rock’ where necessary, and usually marking out the line with shallow chiselled gutters and utilising the rock platform as a pavement; where the road ran over the shallow soils, it was often marked out by rows or low walls of rough, broken stone.

The actual construction and completion of the road is recorded in Cox's Journal. The journal indicates that three areas in particular required extensive cutting through rocky outcrops, an activity especially likely to have left an 'archaeological imprint' in the form of surviving physical evidence. These areas were Linden to Woodford, Wentworth Falls and the descent at Mount York. Entries in the journal indicate that the road party reached the Linden area at the end of August and constructed the road through the localities of Linden and Woodford during the first weeks of September 1814.

The actual building of the road involved the definition of a trafficable route which was then cleared of vegetation (trees being cut-off below ground level but rarely "grubbed out"), boulders and rocky outcrops. The formation of the road itself was as minimal as the terrain allowed, with low side-cuttings and embankments as necessary. In very rocky terrain cuttings were made into the mountain itself, the natural rock providing the road surface or pavement. It is possible that some of the stepped rock platforms may have initially been partly filled or levelled with earthern ramps, although Karskens suggests that Cox mostly left the road pavement in an unformed, natural state due to the haste with which the road was being constructed.

In any case even if it was initially partly filled or shaped, much of the original surface of the road weathered away quickly, as by 1819 it was reported that the stumps of the trees which had been left within the roadway were becoming exposed.

The Coxs Road itself, although invested with considerable symbolic significance as an official public work which laid the foundations for future development, was never intended to provide more than an expedient and temporary route which enabled the de-pasturing of stock from the Cumberland Plain to the area west of the Blue Mountains. Although the Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, made a grand official tour across the Mountains, in April 1815, settlement west of the Great Divide was not officially commenced until 1818 with the foundation of Bathurst, and was tightly controlled until the easing of restrictions in the 1830s.

By 1817, (and for two decades after) the Linden to Woodford section was according to Alan Cunningham, 'the most rugged and oppressive stage of the whole journey on account of the sandstone rocks on which the road is formed'. He also noticed that the Government carters had already created 'small circuitous routes in the bush’. Numerous accounts of subsequent journeys over the Coxs Road in the 'Twenty Mile Hollow' area (between Linden and Woodford) describe the difficult passage over the slippery sandstone surface and the uncomfortable jolting over the stepped rock platforms. It also appears that some minor secondary routes and deviations from the main track were also developed from an early period in order to avoid some of the more difficult descents. In 1824 it was reported that: 'Four miles beyond Springwood [the road] becomes rough, rocky and at times very difficult. It has been necessary to cut it through rocks, and sometimes to fill the hollows of the gullies. The road is often made of the sandstone itself, and so it is slippery and difficult for horses and vehicles.'

From the 1820s onwards, the earlier lines of road were upgraded and although short sections of Coxs Road were later adopted as parts of the local road network (eg. part of Burke Road, Linden and Old Bathurst Road and Taylor Road, Woodford) most of the original Coxs Road appears to have gone out of use with the completion of new road deviations by convict gangs during the 1830s. When Mrs Louisa Meredith travelled through the area in 1839 she still endured the jolting and bumping over the ‘jumpers’, the rock steps of Cox's Road; but she wrote also of the newly completed road sections, which wound 'terrace-wise along the side of a steep mountain'.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Constructed in 1814-15 Coxs Road is one of the earliest Colonial-era road-lines surviving in Australia. The 1814 road is tangible evidence of the development of the colony at Sydney and of the expansion of white settlement into western NSW. The road symbolises the occupation of the country and Governor Macquarie's aspirations for the eventual opening of the interior to European settlement after the discovery of the Western plains by G W Evans in 1814. In this respect the 1814-1815 Cox's Road has considerable symbolic significance as an official public work which laid the foundations for future development.

Coxs Road is associated with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who commissioned the building of the road into the interior, and with the magistrate and ex-army officer Captain William Cox, who supervised the building of the road. The road is also associated with the convicts who laboured on the road to obtain their liberty, and with the officers and men who assisted Cox such as Lieutenant Thomas Hobby.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Old Bathurst Road section of Coxs Road is one of the longest, largely intact and still legible surviving sections of the 1814 road. It extends for over a kilometre beside and overlapping with an unsurfaced local road along the top of the ridge. The remains of the 1814 road are the central feature of the ridge-top landscape. They relate historically, physically and visually to the undisturbed landscape to the east and to the various later transport and settlement developments to the west. From the apex of the ridge near the Woodford Trig Station there are extensive views on both sides of the road which conform with those described by early travellers giving a sense of the experience of travel along the early nineteenth century road even though parts of the surrounding area have been gradually developed with infrastructure such as sewerage pumping stations, pipelines and electricity power poles.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The section of Coxs Road from Linden to Woodford has long been recognised as a significant historic site. The road is of particular importance to Cox descendants. The William Cox Fellowship has previously nominated the road for heritage listing.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The series of surviving road lines between Linden and Woodford graphically illustrate the rapid progress made in colonial road-building in the early nineteenth century and the gradually increasing, more elaborate and ambitious nature of engineering and road-building through time. This section of Coxs Road illustrates the simple methods of early road building and the tools used by the convicts in the road gang and also contains numerous examples of extensive and well preserved 'Cox gutters'. The remains of the 1814 road illustrate the conditions of the period and contribute to an understanding of the process of exploration and development, and of early colonial road building and road use. The remains represent a major physical, technological and engineering achievement and exhibit fine details of workmanship. This section of the road also provides evidence of the early diversions and subsidiary routes which are described in the historic accounts of the early road.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Surviving precincts of the 1814-1815 Coxs Road from Penrith to Bathurst are rare examples of early Colonial road building in NSW.
Integrity/Intactness: High
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Threats include vandalism and inadvertent damage to relics through inappropriate use of the access road for delivery of modern building materials for new houses and continued use as a convenient corridor for modern utilities. Passive recreation uses are appropriate. Some appropriate on-site interpretation is desirable to explain the history and significance of the 1814 road to visitors.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP1991LD01927 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study LD019   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983LD019Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992LD019Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Review2003LD019Jack, Hubert, Lavelle, MorrisIJ, SL Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008LD019Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAllan E Searle1980Historic Woodford and Linden
WrittenAndrew Wilson1983Historical Archaelogical Survey of Linden "B" Water pumping station 274 and access routes, October
WrittenGrace Karskens1988Cox's Way: Historical and Archaeological Study of Cox's Road and Early Crossings of the Blue Mountains, NSW
MapRoads and Traffic Authority, Heritage Sites Survey Unit, Parramatta1994Detail Survey of Cox's Road between Linden Railway Station and Woodford Railway Station
WrittenSiobhan Lavelle1992Historical Archaeological and Heritage Assessment of the construction of new power lines in the vicinity of Hepburn and Old Bathurst Roads, Linden, NSW, July
WrittenW C Cox and D B Cox for William Cox Fellowship1985Request for action to preserve remnants of 1814 Convict-built road, Linden, Blue Mountains, NSW, May

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1170715


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