Cattai Estate | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Cattai Estate

Item details

Name of item: Cattai Estate
Other name/s: Caddai Estate, Cattai National Park, Caddie estate
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Location: Lat: -33.5489535934 Long: 150.8999645490
Primary address: Wisemans Ferry Road, Cattai, NSW 2756
Local govt. area: The Hills
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin
Hectares (approx): 424
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT40 DP1144784
LOT1 DP605329
LOT2 DP605329
LOT323 DP826352


Includes Cattai Park, Hope Farm and Mitchell Park.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Wisemans Ferry RoadCattaiThe Hills  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Office of Environment and HeritageState Government26 Nov 98

Statement of significance:

Cattai National Park is a place of complexity and diversity that reflects the evolution of occupation, ownership and land management from Aboriginal occupation, through the contact and subsequent conflicts with European settlement of the earliest years of the nineteenth century to the late twentieth century recreational, environmental and educational values placed on this landscape. This comprehensive cultural landscape illustrates exploitation, manipulation and appreciation of the landscape and its various resources from the necessities of subsistence to today's management for, and orientation to cultural and natural values. (Clouston, 1996 pp.59).

Hope Farm collectively with Caddie is of state significance as a representative of continuous settlement and farming activities by one family since the (European) settlement of the colony and the allocation of land grants along the Hawkesbury River in the early 1800s.

Hope Farm has state significance for its associations between European settlers and the historic Aboriginal tribe, the Dharug, who were the original inhabitants of the area. It also has state significance for its associations with Dr Thomas Arndell, a surgeon, magistrate and land holder, who formed part of the first medical staff that cared for convicts of the First Fleet.

The Hope Farm house complex is of local significance as it remains a key focal element of the early pastoral landscape of Hope Farm that exhibits characteristics typical to Cumberland Plain colonial landscapes and setting, which are becoming increasingly rare in the Sydney Region due to the pressure of modern urban development. The farm buildings themselves are amongst a declining number of rural groups surviving in the area. The surviving rural landscape has local significance due to its ability to demonstrate important aspects of early European occupation such as buildings, cultural plantings, early approach routes, fencing and some archaeological features and sites.

The Hope Farm homestead has aesthetic significance at a local level as a simple slab hut (with later alterations and additions), being an integral part of a larger cultural landscape that includes adjoining Cattai and Mitchell Parks. The homestead complex also retains some cultural plantings including the English oaks (Quercus robur) and crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) that add to the aesthetic quality of the landscape. The homestead also has aesthetic significance at a local level for its siting and high scenic quality being located along the Hawkesbury River. Windmill Tower before c.1809 (Webb, C. et al, 2004)
Date significance updated: 04 May 17
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.


Construction years: 1804-1821
Physical description: Cattai National Park is located on the site of the First Fleet land grant given to surgeon, Dr Thomas Arndell (1753-1821) in around 1804 and presently covers an area of 424 hectares and is comprised of three separate park areas:

1. Cattai Park at the junctions of Cattai Creek and the Hawkesbury Rivers is the largest of the three park areas and covers an area of 224 hectares. The park has limited low impact camping grounds, barbecue areas, shelter sheds and open picnic areas along the banks of the Hawkesbury River. This area of the national park also contains The Cattai Farm area that was originally owned by Dr Thomas Arndell and the historic homestead 'Caddie' that he began building shortly before his death in 1821. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).

2. Mitchell Park is located approximately 2.5 kilometres up stream from Cattai Park and covers 140 hectares and includes picnic and barbecue areas. Also available within the park are approximately 4 kilometres of walking tracks that were developed by the University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury campus, and the National Parks and Wildlife Services. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).

3. Hope Farm is the only area within the Cattai National Park not open to the public for recreational activities at present. The park covers an area of 60 hectares and is located on the northern side of Cattai Park. Hope Farm is the site of a derelict stone windmill, considered to be the first European built industrial building in Australia. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).

Cattai Estate is home to a diverse range of plants and forms a natural habitat for many native and introduced animals. Thirteen plants within the park have been recognised as unique to the area and at least one plant has been listed for conservation due to its national importance. Cattai Park and Hope Farm contain a range of native trees including Ironbarks (Eucalyptus paniculata), grey gums (E. punctata) and forest red gum (E. tereticornis) indicative of the original species found in the area. This area of the national park also contains small areas of rare virgin bushland. (NPWS, 1997, Section 4.1.2.). Parts of Cattai and Mitchell Park also contain areas of wetlands that are home to large numbers of aquatic plants and birds that are unique to the Western Sydney ecosystem. Some remaining areas of the original Cumberland Plains have also been found within the national park and are home to rare vegetation that has been lost in other areas of Western Sydney due to agriculture and urban expansion that has occurred through the centuries since European settlement. Evidence of habitation of the original occupants of the area, the Darug People can also be found throughout the park and twenty-seven sites of significance have been noted. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.2).

Cattai Park industrial sites
The Cattai Farm area features some significant industrial sites including historic grain silos and the ruins of a windmill believed to be the oldest industrial building surviving in NSW (NPWS, 2007, 35).

Cattai Park Arndell homestead precinct garden
The garden area surrounding the Arndell homestead has a cottage type garden with a remnant area of orchard/vegetable garden to the south with some fruit trees (peaches, plums). Trees around the house include jacaranda (J.mimosaefolia), kurrajong (Brachychiton populneum), Brazilian pepper(corn) tree (Schinus molle var.areira), crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), mulberry (Morus sp.), Queensland nut (Macadamia integrifolia), long-leaved privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) and African olive (Olea europaea var.cuspidata)(both possibly from former hedges) and frangipani (Plumeria rubra cv.). Shrubs include oleander (Nerium oleander), Cape plumbago (P.capensis), Syrian & Chinese hibiscus (H.syriacus cv. & H.rosa-sinensis cv.), geraniums (Pelargonium spp./cv.s), heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica and its dwarf form, N.d.'Pygmaea'), Paris daisy (Euryops pectinatus), azaleas (Rhododendron indicum cv.s), Wisteria (W.sinensis), cotoneaster (C.sp. eg C.pannosus), Lady Bank's rose (Rosa banksiae cv.), Himalayan jasmine (Jasminium mesnyi), roses (Rosa cv.s) and ladder ferns (Blechnum sp.) and bulbs.

Cattai Park former orchard area (now picnic grounds area)
The floodplain below the Arndell homestead has today grass cover with scattered native and exotic tree species, comprising predominantly river oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana), honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos), Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica', black poplars (P.nigra), kurrajongs (Brachychiton populneum) and white cedars (Melia azederach var. australasica).(Stuart Read, pers.comm., visit of 14/8/2007).
Current use: National Park
Former use: Landscape, Farm


Historical notes: The original occupants of the area were the Daruk Aboriginal people, whose area covered most of northern Sydney. The Daruk Aboriginal people, who certainly occupied the land 13,000 years ago and possibly as far back as 45,000 years had affiliations with a landscape that extended roughly from the coast to beyond the Hawkesbury River and from Broken Bay to as far south of Sydney as Campbelltown. Appreciating the Aboriginal 'landscape' of the parks must be understood as being only a fragment of what was their real homelands.
1753 - Thomas Arndell born in Herefordshire, England. He arrived in Australia on the first fleet as a surgeon on board the sailing ship Friendship.
1788 - Dr. Thomas Arndell was appointed as the chief medical officer of Parramatta Hospital, comprising of two long tent style structures with a thatched roof.
1789 - Governor Phillip explored the Hawkesbury River areas. Dr Thomas Arndell was a member of an exploration party that explored the area west of Parramatta and the Nepean River, shortly after Governor Phillip.
1793 - Sightings of aboriginal settlements and cultivation in the area noted by Governors Phillip and Hunter, who wrote 'Banks of the Hawkesbury appeared to be ploughed from the practices of the Darug in harvesting of yams.' (Clouston, 1996, pp.37).

1794 - European settlement of the areas began, despite reservation by Governor Phillip of the threat of flooding in the region and the isolation of the area from Parramatta and Sydney. Dr Arndell retired from Parramatta Hospital and was granted a pension of GBP 50.00 a year to become a settler. He received a land grant of 61 acres near Parramatta from Governor Phillip and later another 70 acres from Lt. Governor Grose. (Heritage Council of NSW, 1992/93, pp16).

1795 - Soldiers sent into the area due to problems between the original indigenous occupants of the area, the Darug People, and the colonial settlers over access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds. Although no office figures have been located, it is apparent large numbers of aboriginal people were massacred and from this time onwards only limited sighting of indigenous population are reported. (NPWS, 1997, Section 4.1.4).

1799. Due the high level of cultivation of cereal crops within the areas the government built log granaries along the river to store excess grain for the colony. The area around Cattai Farm also shows archaeological evidence of building footings. (NPWS, 1997, Section Section 2.2.2).

1800 - Dr Arndell had acquired 330 acres north of Parramatta to cultivate wheat and maize crops, he was also granted seven convicts to help clear and work on the land.
1801 - Cornwallis government farm was established in the Hawkesbury area.

1804 - An additional land grant of 600 acres was granted to Dr. Arndell; in the area now know as Cattai National Park, where the Cattai Creek and Hawkesbury River join. (Bowd, 1994,pp.129-130). There are conflicting reports that 'Caddie' may have been occupied as early as 1802. ( Heritage Council of NSW, 1992/93 pp.16).

1804 - Beginning of construction of mill and granary at Hope Farm (Considered to be the first industrial building in Australia). The farm was created to allow the second son to inherit property within the area. (Clouston,1996,pp.40) There is no viable evidence the mill was ever run on a commercial basis for supplying flour to the colony. Governor King announces the creation of six common grounds for public grazing to assist small landholders. One of these areas near Pitt Town later forms Michell Park.

1805. House known as 'Macquarie Retreat' built, later the home of Aboriginal missionary, Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld, who married Dr. Arndell's daughter Sarah on the 8th October 1824.
1806 - Major flooding affected the Hawkesbury areas causing major damage to cereal crops, livestock, buildings and the lose of seven lives. Dr Arndell and Samuel Marsden undertook a major survey into the flood and its subsequent effects, 1493 residents sustained varying degrees of lose and the damage bill was estimated at GBP35, 248.00 a considerable sum for the small fledging colony. (Bowd, 1994, pp.129). Arndell now owed 630 acres and as well as growing grain he was also rearing sheep and cattle on his land.
1810 - Over seventy-one percent of the arable land in the Cattai area was under cultivation. The importance of the area in supplying grain to the colony is evident when the government of the time referred to the area as 'the granary of the colony'. (Clouston, 1996, pp. 41).
1819-1821 - The areas was considered to be one of the most highly populated regions in the colony. (Clouston.1996, pp. 41).
1820 - Dr. Arndell begins construction of 'Caddie" homestead, now situated within the Cattai National Park
1821 - The death of Cattai Farms founder Dr Thomas Arndell at the age of sixty-nine. 1850. It appear the mill was abandoned along with the Granary, grain storage facilities and mill homestead, all appear to have fallen into disrepair by the early 1860's. (NPWS,1992/93, pp,11).
1863 - Catastrophe hits the area in the form of a rust blight that destroyed the entire crop for the year. Disease and the opening of new arable land in other parts of the state had a dramatic effect of the grain industry of the area and caused the reduction and eventual abandonment of grain crops. (NPWS, 1997, Section.4.1.5).
1865 - Hope farm separated from Cattai Farm and the land was used mainly for the grazing of cattle.
1912 - Part of the property was sub leased for orchards, although these were later totally destroyed by flooding in the area in the 1930's.(NPWS, 1997, Section. 4.1.5.).
1930 - One of Dr. Arndell's descendants Thomas Gordon Arndell used part of the property to grow fodder for dairy herd and won several awards for his inventive storage facilities. Flooding during the 1930's once more had a detrimental effect on the property and destroyed dairy and silo building. Also during this period the original "Caddie" homestead underwent major renovations under the supervision of architect Bruce Dellit, known for his colonial revival style. Funds for the alteration to the property were funded through the family's banking interest, not farming which was not longer considered viable. The remaining arable land was used for vegetable market gardens during the 1930's and supplied sweet corn to the American army during the Second World War. (Clouston, 1996, pp,42).
1952 - The area was opened up for general recreational use; during the 1950's the area became a popular area from camping, bushwalking and picnics.
1958 - Michell Park became a recreational reserve, managed by the Department of Lands.
1981 - 'Caddie Park' purchased from Mr. Tom Arndell by the Department of Planning and Environment, National Parks.
1983 - The park was opened to the public for recreational purposes.
1990 - Mitchell Park added to the 'Cattai' state recreational area.
1992 - Hope Farm was added to the park to increase the amount of regional open space and the entire area was renamed 'Cattai National Park'. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).

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 Working on private assignment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Clearing land for farming-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Muron Bolot, architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Cattai and Mitchell Parks are of national cultural significance. Collectively they encompass a most substantial portion of an original First Fleet grant and an early Common that in the case of the former has been retained generally intact and which has evolved over two hundred years according to an array of external factors, personal tastes, needs and preferences. This complex cultural landscape reflects the broader regional patters of the Hawkesbury as well as the individual specific aspirations and regional patterns of the Hawkesbury as well as he individual specific aspirations and achievements of one family. It documents an extensive variety of European activities achievements of one family. It documents an extensive variety of European activities (domestic, industrial, agricultural, pastoral, recreational and aesthetic refinements) and illustrates their evolution according to the several historic catalysts. With the extensive evidence of Aboriginal occupation also contained in the parks, including evocative evidence of the contact period, it is possible to illustrate and investigate many hundreds and possibly thousands of years of continuous occupation and cultural diversity.

The physical demonstration of these several "layers" of occupation is spread throughout the entire park and takes many forms, architectural features, relics, archaeological sites, changes, additions to or subtractions from the landscape. These "constructs" of culture are not the only evidence the environment. Areas of little or no change have been left for perceived or exploited the environment. Areas of little or no change have e been left for particular reasons which are as instructive of purpose and action as are the demonstrable changes and additions.

Most sites, places are relics display a high degree of integrity. They provide landmarks that identify the landscape as "old". Often they have a picturesque and evocative quality that reflects a nineteenth century appreciation of the landscape as well as appealing of twentieth century sensibilities. Individually the sites could be used to scientifically investigate or document various aspects of technological and/ or cultural practices. The well defined history of the park makes such investigation particularly could be exploited and interpreted. This is true for both site specific questions and more general issues of history, culture and technology.

Important or valuable as individual sites are, however, the most significant value of Cattai and Mitchell Parks are in their collective diverse and well preserve tapestry of Aboriginal and European lives and endeavours.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The natural systems of Cattai National Park are important as they include representative natural ecosystems of the Hawkesbury River floodplain and adjacent foothills on Hawkesbury sandstone and a range of rare elements which are significant at the regional, state and national level. While the vegetation communities of Cattai National Park are not Cumberland Plain Woodland, their location within this geographic area increases their significance because of the extent of clearing that has occurred on the Cumberland Plain generally.

The underlying geology and soils provide a representative demonstration of the interaction between older, eroded sandstone foothills and the more recent alluvial deposits. the Burralow Swamp soil landscape found at Reedy Swamp in Mitchell Park is of restricted distribution in the region.

Two plant communities, Sedgeland dominated by Knotweed and Paperbark Low Open-forest, are of significance as they are considered vulnerable to extinction in New South Wales. Several plant communities are of regional significance as they are of urbane expansion. These communities include Dry Rainforest, Forest Red gum Open-forest, and River Oak Open-forest. The Mitchell Park section includes an unusually diverse range of paint communities within a relatively small area.

Cattai National Park provides suitable habitat for one plant species of national conservation significance, Brasenia schreberi, and one plant species of regional significance, Whalebone Tree (Streblus brunonianus). The Park also provides habitat for a large number of plant species which are considered vulnerable in western Sydney.

The Park includes a diverse range of fauna habitats, including wetland habitats which are of restricted distribution in the region, and provides suitable habitat for many fauna species listed in Schedule 12 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

The Park also demonstrates the relationship between the underlying natural characteristics, stages of agricultural development in the area and subsequent regeneration following cessation of agricultural pursuits.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Cattai National Park in its short history as a public recreation reserve has gained social value as an important recreational facility for the west and northwest of Sydney. It provides for many visitors throughout the year who are attracted to the Park by the sense of space and the connections that the park provides to the cultural and natural landscape.

The park has particular value for families providing as it offers a divers and attractive range of cross generational interests that encompass historic, recreational, educational and environmental interests. This multi-dimensional aspect of the Park would appear to attract a good spectrum of visitors. The Park is also likely to have particular value to Aboriginal people.

As the west and northwest sector of Sydney continues to expand to its planned growth it can be anticipated that Cattai National Park will provide an increasingly sought-after recreational outlet. Consequently it can be deemed that the Park is rapidly acquiring increasing social significance for the community within the region.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Cantai National Park includes a range of evidence of Aboriginal occupation, artistic expression (engravings), tool preparation (grinding grooves, ground and pecked areas in a shelter), stone manufacturing technology and use (stone artefacts some of which have been retouched and/or used), some food sources (apparent rich evidence of bone in one shelter deposit); contemporary albeit brief, of Aboriginal and European occupation (the engraving of the sailing ship and a possible glass artefact recorded during the survey of Caddie Park.

The significance of the Aboriginal archaeological evidence in Cattai National Park is very much limited by the fact that the archaeological evidence most likely to contribute to an understanding of the scientific significance has not been researched an cannot be assessed.

The overall significance of the Aboriginal sites appears to be that they are representative of sites at both the local and regional levels. Some specific sites (CSRA 1 and CSRA 9) are of higher significance within both the local and regional levels. The engraving of the sailing ship at SCRA 1 provides rare documentation of the arrival of Europeans by the Aboriginal inhabitants. The deposit at CSRA 9 has the potential to contain deposit which may date commencement of occupation in the area and a range of economic activity.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0098202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Local Environmental Plan  01 Mar 91   
National Trust of Australia register  6906   
Register of the National Estate 0296821 Mar 78   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
National Parks & Wildlife Service Section 170 Register  National Parks & Wildlife Service  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Cattai National Park View detail
Management PlanClouston1996Cattai National Park Conservation Plan
WrittenDavid Scobie Architects2011Cattai National Park Conservation Management Plan
WrittenNational Parks and Wildlife Service1997Cattai National Park Plan of Management
WrittenNSW National Parks & Wildlife Service20072007 Guide to NSW National Parks View detail
TourismTourism NSW2007Cattai National Park View detail
WrittenWebb, C., Jhaldiyal, S., George, R. & Chaudhary, R.2004Conservation Management Plan Hope Farm Homestead

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

(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5014094
File number: S90/05713;S91/02261; S90/06440

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.