Prospect Hill | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Prospect Hill

Item details

Name of item: Prospect Hill
Other name/s: Bellevue (Hill); Mar-Rong Reserve
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Location: Lat: -33.8126561749 Long: 150.9300527660
Primary address: Clunies Ross Street, Prospect, NSW 2148
Parish: Prospect
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Holroyd
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT5 DP235064
LOTB DP33023
LOT63 DP752051
LOT3 DP802794
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Clunies Ross StreetProspectHolroydProspectCumberlandPrimary Address
Great Western HighwayProspectHolroydProspectCumberlandAlternate Address
Butu-Wargun DriveGreystanesHolroydProspectCumberlandAlternate Address
Reconciliation RoadProspectHolroydProspectCumberlandAlternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Boral LimitedPrivate 

Statement of significance:

The Prospect Hill area has state significance due to its unique combination of significant landscape feature, potential archaeological site, and association with important historical phases. As a dolerite outcrop rising to a height of 117 metres above sea level, Prospect Hill is a rare geological and significant topographic feature providing expansive views across the Cumberland Plain (Ashton, 2000).

The site is significant as a major reference point for early explorers from 1788, and as the site of a number of the earliest farms in New South Wales, which were established in 1791 (Higginbotham, 2000). Prospect Hill is also associated with Aboriginal frontier warfare during the early days of the colony, and as the site of one of the first Aboriginal/ European reconciliation meetings held in 1805 involving Samuel Marsden and Prospect Aboriginal groups (Flynn 1997).

Through its ongoing pastoral and rural use, the site has the potential to provide archaeological evidence of early farming practice and settlement (Higginbotham 2000). The landscape of Prospect Hill is likely to be one of the only remaining areas of rural land within the local and regional area that has retained its long-term pastoral use since the earliest days of the colony.
Date significance updated: 19 Feb 01
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.


Physical description: Prospect Hill is Sydney's largest body of igneous rock and rises to a height of 117metres above sea level. The hill is located between the south-west corner of CSIRO Division of Animal Production site and the south-east corner of the Boral Resources (NSW) site at Greystanes. The CSIRO portion of Prospect Hill is generally cleared for pasture grasses, with remnant stands of native vegetation along a creek line that runs from north to south along the site. The portion of Prospect Hill located within the Boral site has remnant stands of trees and has been partially used as part of the Boral Brickworks operation.

The first settlement of the area occurred in 1791 on the eastern and southern slopes of Prospect Hill, however no buildings dating from the 18th or 19th centuries remain above ground (Higginbotham 2000). A number of the original boundaries of the Prospect land grants of 1791can be identified when looking east across the CSIRO site from Prospect Hill (Ashton 2000). On the slope of Prospect Hill, north of the hilltop, is an abandoned quarry dating to the later part of the 19th century (Ashton 2000).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The southern portion of Prospect Hill, located within the Boral Brickworks site has been extensively quarried; however the CSIRO site has largely retained its original surface form. Archaeological potential high within the CSIRO site.
Date condition updated:19 Feb 01
Modifications and dates: Various modifications, extensions and refurbishment of buildings within CSIRO research complex over time.
Current use: Public park and reserve (SHR item). Grazing, brick quarry, industry, housing (adjacent lands).
Former use: Rural, quarry, research facility, industry, pastoral and agricultural farms,


Historical notes: Aboriginal & European settler history:
The area of Prospect Reservoir is an area of known Aboriginal occupation, with favourable camping locations along the Eastern Creek and Prospect Creek catchments, and in elevated landscapes to the south. There is also evidence to suggest that the occupation of these lands continued after European contact, through discovery of intermingled glass and stone flakes in archaeological surveys of the place. The area was settled by Europeans by 1789.

Prospect Hill, Sydney's largest body of igneous rock, lies centrally in the Cumberland Plain and dominates the landscape of the area (Ashton, 2000). Very early after first settlement, on 26 April 1788, an exploration party heading west led by Governor Phillip, climbed Prospect Hill. An account by Phillip states that the exploration party saw from Prospect Hill, 'for the first time since we landed Carmathen Hills (Blue Mountains) as likewise the hills to the southward'. Phillip's 'Bellevue' (Prospect Hill) acquired considerable significance for the new settlers. Prospect Hill provided a point from which distances could be meaningfully calculated, and became a major reference point for other early explorers (Karskens 1991). When Watkin Tench made another official journey to the west in 1789, he began his journey with reference to Prospect Hill, which commanded a view of the great chain of mountains to the west. A runaway convict, George Bruce, used Prospect Hill as a hideaway from soldiers in the mid-1790s.

During the initial struggling years of European settlement in NSW, Governor Phillip began to settle time-expired convicts on the land as farmers, after the success of James Ruse at Rose Hill (Higginbotham 2000). On 18 July 1791 Phillip placed a number of men on the eastern and southern slopes of Prospect Hill, as the soils weathered from the basalt cap were richer than the sandstone derived soils of the Cumberland Plain. The grants, mostly 30 acres, encircled Prospect Hill (Ashton 2000). The settlers included William Butler, James Castle, Samuel Griffiths, John Herbert, George Lisk, Joseph Morley, John Nicols, William Parish and Edward Pugh (Higginbotham 2000).

The arrival of the first settlers prompted the first organised Aboriginal resistance to the spread of settlement, with the commencement of a violent frontier conflict in which Pemulwuy and his Bidjigal clan played a central role (Flynn 1997). On 1 May 1801 Governor King took drastic action, issuing a public order requiring that Aboriginal people around Parramatta, Prospect Hill and Georges River should be 'driven back from the settlers' habitations by firing at them'. Kings edicts appear to have encouraged a shoot-on-sight attitude whenever any Aboriginal men, women or children appeared (Flynn 1997).

With the death of Pemulwuy, the main resistance leader, in 1802, Aboriginal resistance gradually diminished near Parramatta, although outer areas were still subject to armed hostilities. Prompted by suggestions to the Reverend Marsden by local Prospect Aboriginal groups that a conference should take place 'with a view of opening the way to reconciliation', Marsden promptly organised a meeting near Prospect Hill. (ibid 1997). At the meeting, held on 3 May 1805, local Aboriginal representatives discussed with Marsden ways of ending the restrictions and indiscriminate reprisals inflicted on them by soldiers and settlers in response to atrocities committed by other Aboriginal clans (ibid 1997). The meeting was significant because a group of Aboriginal women and a young free settler at Prospect named John Kennedy acted as intermediaries. The conference led to the end of the conflict for the Aboriginal clans around Parramatta and Prospect (Karskens 1991). This conference at Prospect on Friday 3 May 1805 is a landmark in Aboriginal/European relations. Macquarie's 'Native Feasts' held at Parramatta from 1814 followed the precedent set in 1805. The Sydney Gazette report of the meeting is notable for the absence of the sneering tone that characterised its earlier coverage of Aboriginal matters (ibid 1997).

From its commencement in 1791 with the early settlement of the area, agricultural use of the land continued at Prospect Hill. Much of the land appears to have been cleared by the 1820s and pastoral use of the land was well established by then. When Governor Macquarie paid a visit to the area in 1810, he was favourably impressed by the comfortable conditions that had been created (Pollon & Healy, 1988, 210).

Nelson Lawson, third son of explorer William Lawson (1774-1850), married Honoria Mary Dickinson and before 1837 built "Greystanes House" as their future family home on the western side of Prospect Hill. Lawson had received the land from his father, who had been granted 500 acres here by the illegal government that followed the overthrow of Governor Bligh in 1808.

Governor Macquarie confirmed the grant, where William Lawson had built a house, which he called "Veteran Hall", because he had a commission in the NSW Veterans Company. The house was demolished in 1928 and the site is now partly covered by the waters of Prospect Reservoir. Greystanes was approached by a long drive lined with an avenue of English trees - elms (Ulmus procera), hawthorns (Crataegus sp.), holly (Ilex aquifolium), and woodbine (Clematis sp.) mingling with jacarandas (J.mimosifolia). It had a wide, semi-circular front verandah supported by 4 pillars. The foundations were of stone ,the roof of slate, and the doors and architraves of heavy red cedar. It was richly furnished with articles of the best quality available and was the scene of many glittering soirees attended by the elite of the colony. Honoria Lawson died in 1845, Nelson remarried a year later, but died in 1849, and the property reverted to his father. Greystanes house was demolished in the 1940s (Pollon, 1988, 116, amended Read, S.,2006 - the house can't have been 'on the crest' of Prospect Hill as Pollon states, if its site was covered by the Reservoir).

By the 1870s, with the collapse of the production of cereal grains across the Cumberland Plain, the Prospect Hill area appears to have largely been devoted to livestock. The dwellings of the earliest settlers largely appear to have been removed by this stage. By the time that any mapping was undertaken in this vicinity, most of these structures had disappeared, making their locations difficult to pinpoint (Higginbotham 2000).

The land was farmed from 1806-1888 when the Prospect Reservoir was built. In 1867, the Governor of NSW appointed a Commission to recommend a scheme for Sydney's water supply, and by 1869 it was recommended that construction commence on the Upper Nepean Scheme. This consisted of two diversion weirs, located at Pheasant's Nest and Broughton's Pass, in the Upper Nepean River catchment, with water feeding into a series of tunnels, canals and aqueducts known as the Upper Canal. It was intended that water be fed by gravity from the catchment into a reservoir at Prospect. This scheme was to be Sydney's fourth water supply system, following the Tank Stream, Busby's Bore and the Botany (Lachlan) Swamps.

Designed and constructed by the Public Works Department of NSW, Prospect Reservoir was built during the 1880s and completed in 1888. Credit for the Upper Nepean Scheme is largely given to Edward Orpen Moriarty, the Engineer in Chief of the Habours and Rivers Branch of the Public Works Department from 1858-88 (B Cubed Sustainability, 2005, 7).

Quarrying of the basalt plug at Prospect Hill was well underway by the mid-nineteenth century (Higginbotham 2000). By the early twentieth century, Prospect Hill land had been acquired by quarrying firms anxious to expand their land holdings near this valuable source of raw material. The bulk of the present CSIRO site was acquired by the Commonwealth in 1946, and a further 15 hectares was acquired in 1963. In the early 1950s the site became operational and sheep were pastured for research purposes. In 2000, the CSIRO site has an area of 57.15 hectares and is the primary research centre of the Division of Animal Production, with some 40 buildings and sheds having been constructed over the last 40 years (Perumal Murphy Wu, 2000).

In 1998 Boral reviewed its holdings with a view to future redevelopment as its quarry neared the end of its life. SEPP59 was gazetted in 1999 applying to a number of Western Sydney holdings including Greystanes Estate, Nelsons Ridge, rezoning land on the hill's west for employment and on the hill's eastern side for housing and regional open space and providing precinct planning controls. Boral developed two precinct plans. Holroyd City Council adopted the residential precinct plan in 2002. The then Minister for Urban Affairs & Plannign took over planning powers for the employment area in November 2000 and approved the Employment Precinct Plan in June 2001, approving subdivision and associated works in the northern employment lands later in June 2001. Since, parts of the employment land have been sold and further subdivideed and sold.

In 2002 Delfin Lend Lease entered a joint venture with Boral to develop the residential lands. This part of the estate is now known as Nelson's Ridge (after Nelson Lawson who owned the Greystanes Estate and commissioned Greystanes House in 1837). Nelson's Ridge is being developed by Lend Lease in two stages with the first comprising the northern employment and northern residential lands and the second comprising the southern equivalents.

The former CSIRO site to the north of Nelson's Ridge was vacated in 1/2002 and sold to Stockland in March 2002. SEPP 59 also rezoned it for residential and employment uses. This site has its own precinct plan, now adopted into the Holroyd City Council's Development Control Plan: Part P Pemulwuy Residential Lands. It will eventually be integrated with the Nelson's Ridge development through Driftway Drive as well as cycleways and pedestian links being established between the two (Whelans InSites, 2010, 5).

Prospect Hill was entered on the NSW State Heritage Register in October 2003.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. (none)-
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 Farming by emancipated convicts on land grants-
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 (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Exploration-Activities associated with making places previously unknown to a cultural group known to them. (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Science-Activities associated with systematic observations, experiments and processes for the explanation of observable phenomena (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)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Prospect Hill is historically significant as the site of a number of the earliest farms in New South Wales, with a number of time-expired convicts settled on the land in 1791 by Governor Phillip (Higginbotham 2000). As a significant landmark on the Cumberland Plain, Prospect Hill provided an important reference point for early explorers from 1788, and played a role in the earliest exploration of the east coast of Australia (Ashton 2000). Prospect Hill is also associated with an important phase of Aboriginal/European contact; firstly through Pemulwuy’s guerilla warfare in the area between 1797 and 1802, and in 1805 as the site of a reconciliation meeting involving Samuel Marsden (Flynn 1997).

Prospect Hill has historical associations arising from the use of the site over time; including the Aboriginal frontier leader Pemulwuy, Samuel Marsden and those earliest former convicts who settled at Prospect Hill including William Butler, Samuel Griffiths and William Parish.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Prospect Hill has aesthetic significance as Sydney's largest body of igneous rock, which rises to a height of 117 metres and provides expansive views across the Cumberland Plain. The large dolerite formation of Prospect Hill is a rare geological and landmark topographic feature, lying centrally within the Cumberland Plain. (Ashton 2000). Through the long-term use of the site for pastoral use, the landscape retains an essentially rural character, which is becoming rare in the locality.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Through its continued use for research purposes over the last 40 years, the CSIRO complex, which is located at the foot of Prospect Hill, has significance for those employees who have worked at the research facility, and in particular for those scientists who have carried out work which is of importance to Australia';s cultural history (Perumal Murphy Wu 2000).
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Through its continual pastoral/rural use since 1791, Prospect Hill has the potential to provide archaeological evidence of early historical settlement or agricultural techniques used (Higginbotham 2000).
SHR Criteria f)
Prospect Hill is unique as a significant landmark site, and through its ability to demonstrate historical links with early European exploration and settlement as well as Aboriginal conflict and reconciliation, with the landscape retaining its continual pastoral use since the early days of the colony.
Integrity/Intactness: Long-term pastoral use on much of Prospect Hill has ensured the site retains its historical links and archaeological potential. However, Prospect Hill is under immediate threat from development, which has the potential to impact upon the significance of the site. This includes the rezoning of the site as part of SEPP 59 and development for residential/employment purposes, the continual quarrying of the southern portion of the hill; and new development proposals including a proposed flagpole to be erected on Prospect Hill commemorating Federation.
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 workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT, 1977


Prospect Hill

SHR No. 1662

I, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning (Planning Administration), on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act, 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of the said Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule C by the owner, mortgagee or lessee of the land described in Schedule B on the item described in Schedule A.

Diane Beamer
Minister Assisting the Minister for
Infrastructure and Planning (Planning Administration)

Sydney, 16th Day of February 2004

The item known as the Prospect Hill, situated on the land described in Schedule B.

All those pieces or parcels of land shown edged heavy black on the plan catalogued HC 1907 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.

The staged removal of pine trees planted on Prospect Hill and replacement of removed vegetation with appropriate native flora, representative of the Cumberland Plain is permitted.

NSW Government Gazette No. 51, Page 1097, 5 March 2004
Mar 5 2004
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for commentCMP by Conybeare Morrison Pty Ltd for Holroyd City Council, dated November 2005 Conservation Management Plan endorsed by Heritage Council 12 May 2006 for a period of five years, expires 5 May 2011 May 12 2006
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 0166217 Oct 03 165/200310112-1011
Local Environmental PlanProspect Hill    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 2003It's over the Hill (Parramatta Advertiser 3/12/03)
WrittenAshton, W.2000Landscape Heritage Assessment- CSIRO Division of Animal Production
WrittenConybeare Morrison2005Prospect Hill Conservation Management Plan
WrittenEnvironmental Resources Management Australia2002Greystanes Estate - Residential Lands Precinct Plan
WrittenFlynn, M.1997Holroyd History and the Silent Boundary Project
WrittenGovernment Architect's Office2008Prospect Hill - Heritage Landscape Study & Plan - Final Report
WrittenGraham Brooks & Associates2007Heritage Impact Statement - State Heritage Register Precinct within the Lakewood Residential Estate, Pemulwuy
WrittenHigginbotham, Edward2000Historical and Archaeological Assessment of CSIRO site
WrittenJo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management2004Archaeological Salvage Excavations in the Greystanes Estate
WrittenKarskens, Grace1991Holroyd - A social history of Western Sydney
WrittenLend Lease2015Statement of Heritage Impact - Marrong Reserve South, Greystanes Estate, Pemulwuy (Nelsons Ridge Residential Lands)
WrittenPerumal Murphy Wu2000Architectural Assessment- CSIRO Division of Animal Production
WrittenPollen, Francis1996Greystanes - in 'The Book of Sydney Suburbs'
WrittenSturt Noble Associates and Lend Lease, Issue for Public Exhibition, 17 November 20152015Draft Plan of Management – Marrong Reserve, Pemulwuy
WrittenWhelans InSites2010Statement of Environmental Effects - Mar-Rong Reserve, Pemulwuy - Construction of Landscaping and Public Domain Works, Greystanes Esttate, Nelsons Ridge

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: 5051526
File number: EF14/4745; 09/02310; H00/00504

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