Kirkham Stables and Precinct | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Kirkham Stables and Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Kirkham Stables and Precinct
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Farming and Grazing
Category: Stables
Location: Lat: -34.0346524780 Long: 150.7093375230
Primary address: Kirkham Lane, Narellan, NSW 2567
Parish: Narellan
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Camden
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Tharawal
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT5 DP882365
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Kirkham LaneNarellanCamdenNarellanCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
SMA Motors Pty LtdPrivate 

Statement of significance:

Kirkham Stables constructed in 1816, is probably the oldest large stable/farm buildings in Australia. It is a fine Colonial building of a simple and strong symmetrical design. It is a landmark building whose setting is a relatively intact pastoral landscape, with its historic boundaries still comprehensible. It remains within a farm setting that retains views to and from other contemporary historic places.

The Kirkham Stables precinct provides evidence of a continuity of farming operations dating from the earliest period of settlement to the present. The Kirkham Precinct is significant as evidence of changing agricultural and pastoral practices during that period, and for its association with the development of specialist pastoral bloodstock breeding operations.

Kirkham Stables precinct is associated with important figures in colonial and mid nineteenth-century history. Surveyor Lieutenant John Oxley, an engineer and important figure in the early development of Australia, established Kirkham. A later owner, James White, was an important figure in the pastoral history of NSW, a member of the NSW Parliament and a successful owner and breeder of racehorses.

The Kirkham Precinct was the focus of considerable community social activity during early days of settlement and was a focus for work for people living both inside and outside the property. (Godden Mackay, pp 51-52, 1998)
Date significance updated: 20 Oct 99
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.


Builder/Maker: John Oxley
Construction years: 1816-
Physical description: The Kirkham Stables precinct:
The precinct contains many buildings including a homestead, workers cottage, managers cottage, stud breeding building, small stables building, horse stables, garages/office, milking sheds, machinery shed, a toilet block, shelter structures, and several built elements including a memorial to Chester ( a racehorse), a memorial to Oxley and monumental entrance gates. However only the original stable is described in detail below. Other notes follow.

Kirkham Stables (1816)
This building is in Colonial Georgian style, the design being essentially functionalist, with little of no ornament, and composed in an ordered manner. It is rectangular in its form, with largely symmetrical elevations and well-proportioned openings.

The Stables block is the only building that survives of Oxley's 1816 buildings (a large homestead once stood on the south-western side of Kirkham Lane (Weir Phillips, 2014, 5).

The Stables are constructed of between 350 to 450 thick masonry walls, now with a rough cast cement render on stone foundations. A brickwork plinth, approximately 1m in height. is used on the front of Kirkham Lane elevations. The building is buttressed along the rear elevation, at each end and at third points.

The Stables have a hipped roof, pitched at approximately 33.5 degrees. It is currently clad in painted corrugated iron sheeting. Original shingles appear to remain intact underneath both layers of corrugated-iron. (Godden Mackay,1998).

An avenue of English oaks (Quercus robur) marked the entrance to the property (Weir Phillips, 2014, 5). These led to the original 1812 Oxley homestead, which burnt down and was demolished in 1882 (Stuart Read, pers.comm., 5/5/2015).

Following the property's 1951 acquisition by the Sutton Group of Companies, Sir Frederick Sutton and wife resided here regularly and built at least 5 buildings (horse stud operations), a new dairy and other farm machine buildings. Landscape works were undertaken including plantings on Kirkham Lane around the dam and on the loop entry road. A new set of entry gates, believed to have come originally from Scotland, were installed, replacing an earlier set of gates in the same location. The Kirkham Lane boundary has two mature lines of trees which appear to be silky oaks (Grevillea robusta) and sweet gums (Liquidambar styraciflua)(Stuart Read, pers.comm., 5/5/2015).

Garden around homestead:
The homestead garden has a range of mature trees, one of which that is prominent is a Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara) near the rear service courtyard. A couple of other large deciduous trees are also in the vicinity and may be sweet gums or perhaps pin oaks (Quercus palustris) by branch pattern.

Southwest of the house elevation is a large pin oak (Q.palustris). In front of the house's front verandah has colour which appears to be an Asian pear (P.calleryana/ussuriensis)(ibid, 2015).

The view from the house's front rose garden east over paddocks is framed by mature trees on Northern and Southern sides.

Between the Stables and Manager's house is a large deciduous tree, either a sweet gum or an Asian pear, among other trees.

Near a modern toilet block north-west of the Stables is a large hybrid plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia)(ibid, 2015).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is fair.
Date condition updated:20 Oct 99
Current use: Vacant, part of a farm for beef cattle
Former use: Dairy, horse stud


Historical notes: The Camden region was originally occupied by the Gundungurra people (Weir Phillips, 2014). The area is home to the Tharawal and Gundungurra people (Robinson, 2008).

Camden & the Cow Pastures:
The area is associated with the early history of the colony of New South Wales. Governor Hunter named it The Cowpastures after cattle which had strayed from the Farm Cove settlement were discovered there in 1795. Due to the early European settlers, namely the Macarthurs, who established flourishing wool, wine and wheat industries here, the area is said to be 'the birthplace of the nation's wealth' (ibid, 2008).

Soon after settling Sydney Cove, colonists set out to explore the Sydney region. When soils around Sydney Cove proved unsuitable for cultivation, a second settlement was established at Rose Hill (later Parramatta) in late 1788. The first Europeans known to have explored the Camden area were Captain Watkin Tench, Lieut. William Dawes and Surgeon George Worgan in 1790. Tench noted the country around Camden as a plain with few trees and sandy soil, while the area closer to the Nepean River was thickly wooded. The area was little disturbed until cattle which had escaped soon after the First Fleet's arrival were re-discovered in the (Camden) area in 1795. The area became known as the 'Cow Pastures'. Access and settlement was restricted in the area to protect and nurture the cattle. The first grant in the area was 5000 acres to John Macarthur in 1805. He would eventually amass a vast estate of 24,000 acres here (ibid, 2014).

A number of grants were made in the area following the overthrow of Governor Bligh in 1809. To counteract the influence of John Macarthur, Governor Macquarie began distributing land on the northern and eastern sides of the Nepean River. One of the largest he made was to Surveyor-General, John Oxley, in 1810 (ibid, 2014).

One of the first land grants in the area was 600 acres to John Oxley (Godden Mackay, pp 5-9, 1998). Present-day Kirkham Lane defines the eastern boundary of his original grant (ibid, 2014). In 1815 his holding expanded to 1000 acres with purchase of adjacent land. Oxley named his grant Kirkham, after the Abbey in Yorkshire, where he was born. In 1816 he erected a large house and other farm buildings which included the stables building.

The stable Oxley built included horse boxes, storage areas to the rear, a loft and some rooms that were used for accommodation. Farm workers and convicts are rumoured to have stayed in the building when the farm population was at its highest. By late 1825, the first school in the Camden area run by Charles Gordon was operating from Kirkham, and through 2\1826 the first regular Protestant church services were also being held there (ibid, 1998).

During the Oxley family's ownership, Kirkham was a well-regarded horse stud. The English stallion 'Bachelor' stood at the stud in 1830. In 1827, the Reverend Thomas Hassell held a christmas services in the stable loft attended by the family and up to fifty convicts. Oxley cultivated wheat and sheep on Kirkham. By 1824 he had 4000 sheep and was winning awards for his merinos. Kirkham was one of five large estates in the area employing convict labour. Oxley had married Emma Norton in 1821 (Weir Phillips, 2014, 5-6).

Oxley died in 1828 and the property was passed on to his eldest son, John Norton. During John Norton's minority, Kirkham was managed by Captain Coghill, who had previously worked part of the farm. Coghill grew wheat and maize, which was processed on site in a mill erected in 1828. Farmers from the surrounding area, including the Macarthurs of Camden Park, used this mill. It was used until the 1860s, after which time wheat rust (a fungus) destroyed the wheat crops and production ceased. The mill was demolished in the 1880s (ibid, 2014, 6).

The farm stayed with the Oxley family and operated as a farm and horse stud farm (ibid, 1998).

In the early 1840s, Camden farmers turned their attention to wheat growing. Many sowed large areas to cash in on the high prices paid for the local flour which had a good reputation in the Sydney market. Unfortunately rust appeared in the crops in 1861 and 1863 and the industry was ruined along with many farmers (ibid, 2008).

When he reached his superiority, John Norton Oxley returned to run Kirkham. He married Harriet, daughter of the Reverend James Hassell and had seven children (ibid, 2014, 6). The Oxleys prospered until the 1870s, when they were involved in a failed cattle raising enterprise in Queensland (Godden Mackay, 1998). The ensuing financial disaster led to the sale of Kirkham. Despite his many business interests, Oxley was 'much embarassed in his pecuniary circumstances' at the time of his death, so much so that the Executive Council felt compelled to come to the assistance of his widow and two sons. While refusing to grant a pension, the British Government gave his sons a 5000 acre grant in recognition of their father's services (ibid, 2014, 6).

An advertisement (Sydney Morning Herald, 6/12/1870) noted its improvements (all 'first class and in good repair') included about 1060 acres of fine rich arable land, spacious brick-built family residence (with ten apartments, kitchen, servants' rooms, dairy, wine house and numerous outbuildings), several well-arranged dwelling houses ('labourers' dwellings'), a superior steam flour mill (with horizontal 10-horse power engine, boiler, French stones, machinery and gear in perfect working order), spacious granary, a superior cottage (of 7 rooms with outbuildings, garden etc), a large brick building used as a stables (12 stalls), and nearly the whole estate is cleared, stumped and ready for the plough... a 'choice vineyard - 5 acres of fine old vines, from which 800-1000 gallons of wine are usually made', together with farm houses, etc, about 80 acres of timber reserved for shelter... (ibid, 2014, 7).

The estate was sold to John White in the mid-1870s. White (1828-90, born in Stroud, son of a former overseer for the Australian Agricultural Company. During his 20s he became a land owner in the Hunter Valley, and later elected to the NSW Legislative Council as a member for the Upper Hunter Valley (1864-8; 1874) in the 1870s. White was an important figure in the horse racing industry: a long term committee member of the Australian Jockey Club and its chairman in 1880 and from 1883-90. Although he had racing horses on his Hunter Valley properties, Kirkham enjoyed better access to the Sydney race tracks. Late nineteenth century newspapers regularly reported the results of the Kirkham Stud. White also bred horses at his Segenhoe property and built the lavish Newmarket Stables (a separate State Heritage Register item in Randwick). The most famous Kirkham horse was stallion 'Chester', who won 19 out of 29 starts, including the Melbourne Cup. White won five AJC Derbys (1884-9) and six VRC Derbys (1877-90). He is reputed to have collected over 121,000 pounds in stakes from 66 horses winning 252 races. 'Chester' died in 1891 and is said to be buried close to the Kirkham Stables. White also raced horses, unsuccessfully, in England.

White carried out improvements to Kirkham estate. The original Oxley homestead was demolished in c.1882, possibly after damage by fire. White commissioned John Horbury Hunt to design a new mansion in the French Gothic style. Hunt had earlier carried out substantial extensions to White's Sydney villa, Cranbrook, at Rose Bay (Bellevue Hill). The mansion he built at Kirkham, now known as 'Camelot', is separately listed on the State Heritage Register and located on an adjoining property (south of Kirkham Lane). The Camden-Campbelltown Railway line was constructed during White's period of ownership, in 1882. Kirkham Railway Station was the second of nine stations on this line, which operated until the 1960s (ibid, 2014, 8).

No construction date has been identified for the existing dwelling on the site. The Godden Mackay 1998 conservation management plan suggests a likely date of mid-late 19th century, based on physical evidence. It is thus likely to have been built during the White family ownership. It has been suggested that the dwelling was moved to its existing location at an unknown time (ibid, 2014, 9).

In the 1880s dairy farming became the main industry in the area. GA Porter was the first farmer to send milk to Sydney, from his property Corstorphine, on 6 March 1883. Farms have started to disappear however, due to the pressures of high production costs, milk quotas and competition with dairy companies, and also attractive offers from land developers (ibid, 2008).

James White died in 1890, but the place still operated as a horse stud. Stock was once again sold off on Emily Scott's death in 1897. The property appears to have been broken up at this time and the horses and Jersey dairy herd sold off. (ibid, 2014, 9).

By 1902 a section of land comprising 478 acres of Oxley's grant and 23 acres of Lord's adjoining grant had been subdivided from the original Oxley land of 1000 acres and sold.

During most of the 20th century the property has been used for grazing dairy cattle. The current dairy on the site was built in c1966 and represents the modernization of dairy facilities on the farm.

The property has had a number of different owners over the ensuing years, with boundary adjustments, identified by Godden Mackay (1998) as follows:
1902: H.L.MacKellar to Isabella Lewis. MacKellar had formerly managed the Kirkham Stud for Mrs. Scott and in 1898 purchased the pick of the Jersey dairy herd. He later became the official starter for the AJC;
1920: Edward Lewis and Walter W. Robins to James Doyle;
1926: Doyle to Thomas Glugston of Narellan, 'farmer';
1928: Glugston to Arthur Wm. Coleman of Darlinghurst, 'builder';
1930: Coleman to Thomas Clugston, of the residence;
1936: George Reading (current mortgagee) to Wm. Joseph Hammond of Sydney, 'merchant';
1941: Hammond to Frank and Ruby Viola Beazley, 'graziers';
1945: Ruby Beazley to Archibald Joseph Chapman of Narellan, 'farmer';

1951: Chapman to Sir Frederick Walter Sutton, Chairman of the Sutton Group of Companies.
Sutton resided at Kirkham regularly with his wife. Improvements undertaken under their ownership included construction of at least five buildings associated with horse stud operations, a new dairy and other farm machine buildings. Landscape works were also carried out, including plantings on Kirkham Lane, around the dam and on the loop entry road. A new set of entry gates, believed to have come originally from Scotland, were installed, replacing gates in the same location (ibid, 2014, 9).

From 1951 the Sutton Group of Companies began upgrading and improvement works to again establish a racehorse stud at Kirkham. The farm's dairy ceased operation in 1990. Although the property is still stocked with beef cattle, the horse stud operation has now also finished (ibid, 1998, 5-9).

The boundaries of the current farm site are markedly reduced from the second Oxley grant in 1815. It now consists of part of the 1902 subdivision of Oxley's original 1810 grant (land east of Kirkham Lane) which was further reduced at the end of the 20th century for a residential subdivision on the northern part of the property. Within the stables precinct itself a mixed degree of integrity is evident with the introduction of a number of mid-late 20th century stabling and milking yards, machinery sheds, stable buildings and garages now encroaching on the curtilage of the Kirkham Stable building (ibid, 2014, 30).

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 (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)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Applying architectural design to industrial structures-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - colonial vernacular-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with the Hon. James White, grazier, horse breeder and racer, MLC-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Rev. Thomas Hassall, the galloping parson-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor (later Maj-Gen.) Lachlan Macquarie, 1810-1821-
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-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Oxley, Surveyor General-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Kirkham Stables and its broader setting provide evidence of an early Australian land grant and the earliest period rural activity outside central Sydney and Parramatta. It provides evidence of the nature of early farming operations in Australia. It is evidence of the pattern of land alienation, settlement and use in the Camden area. It is associated with Surveyor-General Lieut. John Oxley, and explorer and important figure in the early development of Australia. The historic setting of Kirkham Stables, being Oxley's land holding from 1815, is significant and can still be understood within a largley open landscape defined on three sides by strong geographic and historic boundaries; Camden Valley Way, Macquarie Grove Road and the Nepean River. Kirkham Stables is associated with James White, an important figure in the pastoral history of NSW,a member fo of the NSW Parliament and a successful owner and breeder of racehorse. The Kirkham Stables was the focus for early and religous activities in the local area and is associated with important early local persons, including Rev. Thomas Hassell.(Godden Mackay pp49-50, 1998)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Kirkham Stables is a large and impressive Colonial Georgian style building which provides evidence of a formal understanding of design and taste in that period. The symmeterical design and layout of the Stables, and its close relationship with the formal approach of Kirkham lane, are features of the early nineteenth-century approach to design and setting. The Kirkham Stables precinct, including the late Victorian period homestead and timber store, retains a pleasant farm character and a visual relationship to and from adjoining historic properties and key approaches. (Godden Mackay, pp50, 1998)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Although no particular research has been undertaken in relation to social value or significance, it is likely that the contemporary local community identifies strongly with the sense of place that remains around Camden, associated with this early history and the role of early properties in the establishment of pastoralism in Australia. Kirkham was significant as the focus of considerable community social activity during early days of settlement in this area, and it is likely that it was also a focus for work for people living outside the property. (Godden Mackay, pp50, 1998)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Kirkham Stables has the potenital to provide evidence of past farming techniques and practices. Documentary evidence indicates arachaeological potential in regard to previous structures and paddocks in areas near Kirkham Stables. (Godden Mackay, pp51, 1998)
SHR Criteria f)
The Kirkham Stables are probably the oldest large stable building surviving in Australia (Godden Mackay, pp51, 1998)
SHR Criteria g)
Kirkham stables are a representative example of early barn and stable farm buildings. (Godden Mackay, pp51, 1998)
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 0141111 Aug 00 1037668
Heritage Act - s.130 Order  19 Mar 99 362447
Heritage Act - s.130 Order - Revoked  13 Aug 99 925798
Heritage Act - s.130 Order - Revoked  18 Jun 99 704040
Local Environmental Plan 4821 Feb 92   
National Trust of Australia register  8672   
Register of the National Estate 324821 Mar 78   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Colonial Landscapes of the Cumberland Plain and Camden, NSW2000 Morris, C., & Britton, G./NSW National Trust (for the Heritage Council of NSW)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenArchaeological & Heritage Management Solutions2015Historical Archaeological Assessment, Homestead Cottage, Kirkham
WrittenBHI Architects2014Statement of Environmental Effects for Alterations and Additions, 130 Kirkham Lane, Kirkham NSW 2570 - Lot 5 DP 882365
WrittenGodden Mackay Logan1998Kirkham Stables and Precinct Conservation Management Plan, Kirkham Stables
WrittenRobinson, Steve2008Camden West View detail
WrittenWarwick Mayne Wilson, Heritage Landscape Consultant2015Assessment of Heritage Significance and Impact of Proposed Removal of three Trees close to Kirkham Homestead to enable the erection of extensions to it
WrittenWeir Phillips Architects2015Building Assessment - Homestead House - 130 Kirkham Lane, Kirkham
WrittenWeir Phillips Architects & Heritage Consultants2015Heritage Impact Statement 130 Kirkham Lane Kirkham

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5014178
File number: 14/4512; H99/52/2; S95/638/1

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