Wilsons Farm House | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Wilsons Farm House

Item details

Name of item: Wilsons Farm House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Homestead building
Location: Lat: -33.9525634705 Long: 151.1483844330
Primary address: 310 West Botany Street, Rockdale, NSW 2216
Parish: St George
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Rockdale
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT1 DP34647
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
310 West Botany StreetRockdaleRockdaleSt GeorgeCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
former Rockdale City CouncilLocal Government25 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

Wilsons Farm House is the last surviving example of the modest pioneer homes built along the banks of Muddy Creek. It demonstrates the early rural and more recent market garden development of Rockdale. It is an extant example of a simple nineteenth-century colonial farmhouse. It is associated with an early small holding settler family, the Wilson's. (Design 5 1997)
Date significance updated: 31 May 11
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

Builder/Maker: James Wilson
Construction years: 1855-1856
Physical description: Setting:
The site contains few elements relating to its early development. The only remaining site element relating to the history of Wilson's Farmhours is one Peruvian peppercorn tree (Schinus molle) to the north-west of the cottage (Davies, 2016, 65).

Wilson's Farmhouse sits in the north-west corner of the Women's Sports Field, approximately 10m from a dark brick 1970s two-storey house on the neighbouring site to its north. It is now located in a shallow holloy created by filling hte former market garden area to create netball courts and their associated car parking area (Davies, 2016, viii).

The open space formed by the netball courts to the south of the cottage occupies most of the land retained by James Wilson after his 1863 sale to John Bowmer. It also includes the land on the other side of Muddy Creek sold to John Bowmer. A suburban housing subdivision now occupies the northern boundary along Bryant Street. The rest of Wilson's land is still open space.

The farmhouse is one of the earliest surviving houses in Rockdale from a period when the place was undeveloped and the land was rural. It is associated with early market gardening in the area, has a long association with the Wilson family who farmed the land, which was originally 18acres and 20perches. The property is also associated with Chinese market gardeners who leased the land from 1930 to 1952 (LEP, 2000).

The southward fall of the land and the market height difference force the cottage to be dwarfed, overshadowed and overlooked by this neighbouring property. The open space formed by the netball courts to the south of the cottage occupies most of the land retained by James Wilson after his 1863 sale to John Bowmer. It also includes the land on the other side of Muddy Creek sold to John Bowmer. A suburban housing subdivision now occupies the northern boundary along Bryant Street. The rest of Wilson's land is still open space.

An earth berm that raises the level of the ground adjacent to the netball courts runs parallel to the cottage a couple of metres from its southern elevation. This change in ground level has covered over any physical evidence of the former compound of outbuildings to the south and left the cottage in a low-lying depression. The original relationship of the cottage to the street has also been altered by this change in level.

Other earthworks in the immediate vicinity have removed or covered evidence of the rear additions to the cottage and the large tree planted at the rear. A pine tree and recent plantings of small native trees partially screen the building from West Botany Street, replacing the low hedge visible in Eardley's sketch. The only vegetation in the immediate vicinity of the cottage is closely mown grass.

High-tension power lines run east-west immediately adjacent to the cottage. These lines, together with the earth berm form a subtle visual boundary between the farmhouse and its remaining original open space.

Car access to the property is via the Kerb crossing used for the netball courts. This is in approximately the same position as the sole vehicular entry to the market gardens visible in the 1951 aerial photograph. The area to the south of the cottage, previously occupied by a group of outbuildings, had been filled and raised and is now used for car parking during sporting activities.

House:
A single-storey, four-room, gable-roofed cottage. Externally, the cottage is constructed of roughly sparrow picked sandstone with dressed sandstone window sills. Two simple gable walls, with'S' wall ties, form the north and south elevations. The north wall incorporates the only chimney. The east elevation has two windows, .one each side of a centre door. Three crude sandstone steps lead down from the door. On the west elevation to West Botany Street, two windows flank an off-centre door, reflecting those on the east elevation and are protected by a hipped verandah.

The timber verandah structure and vertical timber board screen are of recent construction but appear to roughly follow an earlier structure. A rendered rough stone base to the verandah, although roughly repaired, retains vestiges of an earlier render finish which was marked out to resemble stone flags. The whole roof is sheeted with corrugated galvanised iron and most of it appears to be early.

Internally, the almost square plan is divided into four rooms with no internal corridor. The two northern rooms, Rooms 1 and 2, larger than the two southern rooms, each contain a fireplace and a door to the exterior. Room 2 contains evidence of a coat rack on the south wall, and the remains of early shelving either side of the fireplace. All walls are lime-plastered masonry.

Most of the grooved 150 mm timber boarded ceilings have been eaten by termites. A nailing pattern in the ceiling joists suggests a previous ceiling of lathe and plaster. The four rooms have ceiling patches of various materials. The floors are concrete throughout.

Portions of a timber scotia cornice survive in Room 1. There is no evidence of a skirting nor window or door architraves in any room. An early doublehung, six-pane window and its frame survive in situ in Room 1. On the floor of Room 4 lie the remains of an early window and its frame. Other window joinery is almost entirely missing. All door frames appear to be original but none of the door leaves survive.

No evidence could be found of the rear additions. (Design 5, 1997).
Modifications and dates: The land was originally 18acres and 20perches.
Current use: currently used by Rockdale City Council as storage rooms for salvaged interior fixtures and plant nursery equipment, in a public park.
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm and farm house, market garden

History

Historical notes: Cooks River Area:
The following Aboriginal history of the Rockdale is summarised from Aboriginal people of the
Cooks River valley by Lesley Muir. The Aboriginal people of the Cooks River valley all belonged to the Eora or coastal Darug language group. Within this language group were a number of clans, each identified with a part of the country. The Gameygal or Kameygal clan lived on the north side of Botany Bay, probably between the mouth of the Cooks River and present day La Perouse.

The majority of scholars believe that the country to the south, between the Cooks River and the Georges River from Botany Bay to Rose Hill was associated with the Bediagal clan. At the centre of the territory was a camp near Salt Pan Creek. Pemulwuy and his son Tedbury were members of this clan4. One source, however, combines the clan names of Bediagal, Bidjigal and Bejigal into one group, and places their lands northwest of Parramatta near Castle Hill.

As at the 2011 Census, 0.6% of the population of the then Rockdale LGA identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. At La Perouse, 21.3% of the population identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in the 2011 census.

The clans spent some months of the year at regular campsites. In 1788, Watkin Tench noted in his diary: 'On the northwest arm of Botany Bay [the Cooks River] stands a village, which contains more than a dozen houses, and perhaps five times that number of people'.

Large shell middens at campsites near the mouth of the river and in sandstone rock shelters on its north and south banks are evidence of occupation of the valley for at least between 1,000 and 4,000 years.8 It is probable that lime-burning, quarrying and other land excavation activities since 1788 have disturbed many of the archaeological deposits, but a stone axe head was found on the site of Marrickville Golf Club, two stone artefacts were located with shell material in
Kendrick Park Tempe and one rock art site remains. Within one of the sandstone caves at Undercliffe are 23 white hand stencils, two of them with forearms, and two foot stencils, a rarity in the Sydney region. There is also an extensive midden.

By 1790 the new colony was starving, as no store ships had arrived for two years. Governor Phillip authorised hunting expeditions to take game from the country of the Wangal, close to Sydney, known to the British as the 'kangaroo ground'. In December 1790, one party of hunters crossed at the 'treacherous' ford of the north arm of Botany Bay (Cooks River) in search of food, and built a hut of boughs for overnight shelter on the 'peninsula' (sand spit) at the river's mouth.

One of the hunters, John McIntyre, the governor's gamekeeper, was feared and hated by Bennelong, a Wangal man, and his intimidation of the Eora people was well-known. Once over the river, McIntyre was stalked by five men of the Bediagal clan and was speared by Pemulwuy, a young man who had been 'lately among us...evident from his being newly shaved'. The spear was barbed with small pieces of red stone, confirming that Pemulwuy belonged to one of the
'woods tribes'. A retaliatory expedition of 49 marines, sent by Governor Phillip, to 'bring in six of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay' crashed through the bush 'in various directionswithout seeing a native'.

In 1793 and 1794, Lieutenant Governor Grose, intending to form a chain of farms between Sydney and Parramatta, began granting the land of the Wangal clan. It is possible that the Rev. Richard Johnson, who maintained good relationships with the Aboriginal people, chose his farm, Canterbury Vale, above the Cooks River as a result of their advice to follow the existing pathway to the Georges River. No land south of the river was granted until after 1804 and it was not until a large number of grants were given in 1808-9 that there was real conflict over the alienation of Bediagal land.

New farms bordered the pathways to the Georges River, Kogarah Bay and Salt Pan Creek, and when William Bond and Frederick Meredith tried to occupy their land between Coxs Creek and Salt Pan Creek, they had to battle a possession dispute with Aboriginal leader Tedbury and his companions. William Bond was 'first driven off by the Natives, with a providential escape for his life', 10 while Frederick Meredith 'narrowly missed being speared thro the Temple by the
Natives'.

Tedbury was killed in 1810 at Parramatta and there were no more accounts of Aboriginal resistance in the Cooks River valley. By 1845, when Mahroot (known also as Boatswain) gave evidence to the New South Wales Legislative Council Select Committee on the Conditions of the Aborigines, beside himself, there were only three women from the 'Botany Bay tribe' still alive, and only 50 Aboriginal people in the area altogether, though Mahroot's evidence was that when he was a boy there were around 400 of his people living in the Botany Bay area, who mainly lived on seafood and "fern root". Netting of fish in Botany Bay by the colonists had depleted the fish stocks, and the food supply for Aboriginal people was severely reduced by the demands of colonial settlement. It is likely that those who survived the epidemics of infectious
diseases which ravaged the Eora population in the 1790s moved further west or into Sydney and thus lost their connection with the Cooks River valley (Davies, 2016, 14-15).

Wilson's Farm and House:
For many years in the nineteenth century the suburb of Rockdale and the locality where Wilson's Cottage is located had other names - Frog's Hollow, Muddy Creek, or White Gum Flat.

Both the current name and its historical predecessors describe aspects of the geography of the area: Rockdale, a name that was adopted officially in 1878, describes the rock outcrops around Cameron Street and below the ridge of Forest Road. Wilson's Cottage is within the catchment of Muddy Creek, which with Spring Creek drains the waters of the district into the Cooks River.

The area of Wilson's Cottage was sold in a government land sale of the early 1850s, with the grantee being Alexander William Riley who purchased 60 acres in (on the 25th: Design 5) April 1853. Riley (1818-1870) was one the beneficiaries of the estate of Edward Riley, and an officer in the British army (80th Regiment of Foot) at the time of his death in 1870.

Riley's historical association with the grant is marginal, for on 10th October 1853 the grant was transferred to William Manning Clarke, and on the following day Clarke conveyed the grant to John Murphy for 180 pounds (Davies, 2016, 15).

The 60 acres originally granted to Riley on 25 April 1853 was acquired on 11 October 1853 by John Murphy, a draftsman and landholder (painter and glazier: Davies, 2016, 15) of Waverley, who named the whole estate KilIarney (presumably after his place of birth. The architect was probably Thomas Bird, for the house was described as having been erected under the supervision of an architectt, and Bird was referred to in the sale notice as having laid out the survey of the subdivision (Davies, 2016, 15)). Murphy built Killarney House on the western portion which he sold on 20 July 1854 to Thomas Henry Hayes, a livery stablekeeper of Sydney. This portion is now west of West Botany Street.

In 1855 Murphy sold the portion east of West Botany Street containing 18 acres 20 perches, to James Wilson, a farmer of Cooks River. The deed contained a covenant to keep the premises safe and undefaced which indicates there was possibly a building on the land at that time. The property then remained in the hands of the Wilson family for 103 years. It appears that the family cultivated their land but the type and extent of crops is unknown.

James Wilson was formerly overseer to Colonel Johnson of 'Annandale' on land previously owned by John Bowmer.

The exact date of construction of the cottage is not known but it would appear to have been between c1853 and c1860.

James Wilson, a sawyer by trade, arrived in Australia on 20 May 1850 aboard the Thetis with his wife, Isabella (nee Macdonald), and seven of his eight children. These were Isabella aged 19, John 17, Janet 13, Helen 12, Francis 10, James 6, and Mary Anne aged 4.

His eldest son, David, had immigrated the previous year aboard the Thomas Arbuthnot with his wife, also an Isabella (nee Muril), and two stepsons, Robert aged 7 and John 5. David, in 1850, worked as a storekeeper in Sydney but by 1854 he was working as a labourer at Cooks River.

In 1863 James Wilson sold 9 acres 21 perches of land along the eastern side of his property to John Bowmer, a gardener who had arrived aboard the Irene on 16 October 1852. (Design 5 1997)

After James Wilson died on 20. April 1869, the estate passed to his wife who, on 23 April 1884 sold the house and land to their son, David George Wilson. It appears from records that David Wilson continued market gardening and lived there with his family.

When David died on 31 January 1905, the property passed to his wife, Sarah Ann (nee Brown), the executor being David George Wilson Jnr. David Jnr was not a gardener but a clerk living at Dulwich Hill and on 28 January 1917 Sarah Wilson leased about 3 acres with a house on what was then known as Wilson's paddock to Chinese market gardeners, Fong Hoy and Fong Loy, trading as Sam Lee for 12 shillings per week.

When Sarah Wilson died on 10 February 1923, she left the property to four of her children, Lily Maud Loveday (nee Wilson), Elsie Mabel Thompson (nee Wilson), David George Wilson and Leslie James Wilson.

On 30 November 1929, nine allotments along the northern boundary of the estate were sold at auction, while the southern portion comprising the market garden was retained by Lily Maud Loveday.

The 1929 auction notice suggests Lots 1 to 9 are vacant but a Water Board survey dated September of the same year (two months before the auction) shows clearly that aU lots except Lots 1 and 7 are built on. It is possible that the survey was added to at a later date, a practice common with these plans. This same survey shows no additions or outbuildings to the cottage while the subdivision plan shows an addition to the east. Site evidence suggests that, at about this time, the lath and plaster ceilings were replaced with timber boarding.

From May 1930 to April 1945 the land was leased by Chinese gardeners, Kim Fun and Lee Yee, and from April.1945 to March 1952 by Fun Low, Chune Hor and Ah Look. The cottage probably provided accommodation for the Chinese workers. An early publication relates a police raid on the premises during which West Botany Street gardener Ah Quay was charged with being the keeper of a common gaming house. Also before the Court were Messrs. Ah Sing, Lee Choy, Wing Lee, Lee Sup, Ah Lee, Wong Foo, Ah Chew, Ah Chuck, Lee Fun and Go Hop.

A 1951 aerial photograph shows the intensity of the market garden activity and at least two shed structures to the south with what appears to be a small service compound between them and the cottage. A large tree can be seen to the east of the cottage with a small addition joining it on this side

When the Cumberland Council imposed restrictions on the development of large tracts of land, the market gardens in West Botany Street were designated as open space. On 10 June 1952 the land passed to Lily Maud Upcroft (daughter of Lily Maud Loveday?) and, when the garden lease expired in 1958, the property passed to the Council of the Municipality of Rockdale. The deed is marked 'No further dealings to be registered.' It is possible that about 1958, the cottage ceased to be used as a residence.

Prior to about 1972 Rockdale Council continued the historical land use of market gardening. It seems cessation of that use and conversion to recreational space was undertaken about that time, in 1971, when Rockdale Park opposite was developed from playing fields into a botanic garden. The removal of the playing fields upset local groups such as the St. George Cricket Assn. and a petition of protest was generated. About this time Council was running out of places to dispose of municipal rubbish. It was raised in November 1971 by Mayor Rathbone that the market garden should be considered as a short term measure. About 1972 the weekly tenancy of the Chinese market gardeners, Fun Low, Chune Hor and Ah Look, was terminated (Davies, 2016, 39). An aerial photo of 1977 shows the site cleared of garden beds, levellled and in use for sports. The Rockdale Womens' Netball Complex opened officially on 2nd April 1978 (ibid, 40).

The cottage has been used by Rockdale City Council as storage rooms for salvaged interior fixtures and plant nursery equipment, in a public park.

Wilson's Cottage has been empty for many years and is in a very poor and vulnerable condition. The future of this diminutive 19th century cottage will only be made possible if its conservation and restoration is undertaken and the building is given a viable future use (Bayside Council, grant application, 12/2016).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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 Private farming-
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 Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
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)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Alexander Riley, businessman-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with James Wilson, sawyer, farm overseer, farmer-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Murphy, draftsman and landholder-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Bowmer, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with David George Wilson, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Fong Hoy, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Fong Loy, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Sam Lee, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Kim Fun, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Lee Yee, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Fun Low, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Chune Hor, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Ah Look, market gardener-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Lily Maud Loveday, land holder-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Lily Maud Upcroft, land holder-

Recommended management:

Irrespective of any other actions, the cottage must be conserved with appropriate conservation works. The minimum works are to secure the building, prevent water ingress and further damage to building fabric, and to protect the place against vandalism. A full program of works needs to be developed, preferably with a future use determined (Davies, 2016, 84). Provide on-site interpretation of Wilson’s Cottage and its site as part of any new use. Ø Encourage uses which enable public access to and public interpretation of the cottage and its site. Ø An interpretation plan is to be prepared as part of a future DA for the site and the interpretation that arises is to be implemented prior to the building/s being occupied.(ibid, 91).

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act Building Maintenance and change of use


Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material; and
(2) Change of use
Nov 7 1986
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
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.

FRANK SARTOR
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

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0048702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0048707 Nov 86 1755473
Local Environmental Plan  04 Jun 93   
Local Environmental PlanRockdale LEP 2000 25 Aug 00   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDesign 5 Architects1997Wilson's Farmhouse - Conservation Plan
WrittenPaul Davies P/L2016Wilson's Cottage, 310 West Botany Street, Rockdale - Conservation Management Plan

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: 5044983
File number: S91/02114 & KHC 860653


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