Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Woodford, Appian Way Precinct | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Woodford, Appian Way Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Woodford, Appian Way Precinct
Other name/s: Bathurst Road; Old Bathurst Road, Coxs Road
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road
Location: Lat: -33.734237 Long: 150.484103
Primary address: The Appian Way (off), Woodford, NSW 2778
Parish: Linden
County: Cook
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT1 DP1188067
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
The Appian Way (off)WoodfordBlue Mountains LindenCookPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The surviving remnants of Cox's Road, built 1814 to 1815, have state significance as the earliest road across the Blue Mountains and the first structure built by Europeans west of the Blue Mountains. Building of this road followed from the prior exploration by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth, and the survey by George Evans. The successful construction of the road was symbolic of the conquest of the natural barrier created by the Blue Mountains, and represented Governor Macquarie's vision for the ongoing development of the colony beyond Sydney and its immediate surrounds. Cox's Road enabled the later opening of the hinterland beyond the Blue Mountains for subsequent settlement, pastoral and agricultural expansion, which then escalated the dispossession of Aboriginal peoples from their lands.

William Cox was well known among convicts for his power to recommend pardons and tickets of leave. Most of the convicts who volunteered for the work to open a track to the interior were emancipated, receiving Pardons or Tickets of Leave on completion of the work.

The surviving road fabric demonstrates the crude and hurried nature of Cox's work, and the techniques used in tracing, cutting and forming the road. In conjunction with later colonial road alignments on the mountains and elsewhere, Cox's Road also forms part of a suite of roads demonstrating the wide range of road building styles and standards employed during the colonial period.
Date significance updated: 10 Nov 14
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.


Designer/Maker: William Cox
Builder/Maker: William Cox; Convict Road Party
Construction years: 1814-1825
Physical description: William Cox had been instructed by Governor Macquarie only to open a rough cart road, so that the new lands found in the western plains would be symbolically open. The road from Emu Ford to Bathurst, a distance of 101 miles [163 kilometres] was completed in only six months. Macquarie's instructions specified that the road should be at least 12 feet (3.6 metres) wide in order that two carts would be able to pass each other, and that the timber should be cleared on each side so that the road corridor was 20 feet (6.1 metres) wide. Stumps were to be grubbed out and any holes should be filled in. The surviving physical evidence shows relatively few locations where the extant road conforms with the dimensions specified in the instructions.

The section of road evident to the west of The Appian Way at Woodford, curves gently, enclosed by two deep cuttings for the railway and highway. Cox's Road is visible as a cleared section of broad and flat sheet stone pavement. A large shelved section of rock has an earthen embankment carrying the road over it. This illustrates the manner in which the other shelved sections may have originally (and subsequently) been made traversable.

At the east end where the Cox's Road commences in this precinct there is a cutting up to 1 metre high. This has a rough , irregular face, pitted with irregular chisel or pick marks and, here and there the thin (2cm wide) semi-circular shafts, though scattered rather than in parallel formation. An area of similar rock-cutting reappears at the end of the precinct, where it curves but is cut off abruptly by the deep railway cutting to the south. In form this cutting is similar to examples on other Cox's Road precincts at Old Bathurst Road (Woodford) and Cox's Pass (Mount York).

As the road proceeds west the slight embankment is supported by a low and rough rubble retaining wall (Type 1b) of 1-2 courses and up to 45cm high. It runs for approximately 40 metres and has a primitive stone box culvert at its centre (40cm wide x 20cm high) which comprises a single course of stone for the sides, a large roughly hewn stone as a lintel , and an earthen floor. The culvert is now silted up and the side drain which would have fed it is covered. (Karskens, 1988, Section 8 'Appian Way Precinct'). It is not known whether Cox's men built culverts on the 1814-15 road. While the adjoining retaining wall matches other early sections in style, there are no other examples of stone culverts in the Cox's Road precincts on the mountains and two similar examples located on the Mount Blaxland precinct date from a later period. It is therefore possible that the culvert, and perhaps the retaining wall were part of post-1814 improvements and widening operations. The road is approximately 8 metres (26 feet) wide at the widest point. At the edge of the sheet stone pavement there are examples of rock-cut drainage lines. Given the extensive time and labour needed for these, they may also relate to road improvements after the original 1814 road or be related to later railway works.

The remains of a small rectangular stone structure (approx . 2m x1m) are located 12 metres south of the road's edge . In 1988, Karskens noted that this resembled the station/stockade /hut remains found on the Great North Road, dating from the 1820s. Karskens also reported that an early hand-wrought iron tool , possibly the end of a pointed chisel or pick-axe was found on the surface of this mound, 'strongly suggesting that it was connected with the early road works - perhaps a storage depot'. (Karskens,1988, Section 8 'Appian Way Precinct, p 75). There is also a series of other mounds of earth and stones approximately 2 metres in diameter closer to the edge of the road - these are possibly spoil heaps, either from early efforts to fill the rock-shelves or from later railway era works.The presence of the stone structure and other features gives this precinct of Cox's Road particular archaeological research potential.

The proposed State Heritage Register listing of Cox's Road and Early Deviations includes six precincts of Cox's Road:

Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Linden, Linden Precinct - HC Plan 2639
Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Woodford, Old Bathurst Road Precinct - HC Plan 2640
Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Woodford, Appian Way Precinct - HC Plan 2641
Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Mount York , Cox's Pass Precinct - HC Plan 2642
Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Hartley, Clarence Hilly Range / Mount Blaxland Precinct - HC Plan 2643
Cox's Road and Early Deviations - Sodwalls, Fish River Descent Precinct - HC Plan 2644
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Substantially intact. Numerous archaeological features from the 1814 road are evident including road fabric, such as sheet rock pavement, a low wall and small culvert, rock cuttings and rock cut drains. There is also physical evidence of a small rectangular stone structure to the south of the road formation.
Date condition updated:01 Dec 14
Modifications and dates: 1820s
Current use: Access track adjacent to railway cutting which provides access to a railway powerline.
Former use: Colonial Road


Historical notes: The road from Emu Ford to Bathurst, a distance of 1011/2 miles [163 kilometres] was completed in only six months during 1814 and 1815 by a working party comprised mostly of convicts. Governor Lachlan Macquarie decided to have a carriage road constructed across the Blue Mountains, to the country which had been 'newly discovered' by Europeans in 1813.

The so called 'First Crossing' of 1813 took place on the traditional lands of the Dharug, Gundungurra and Wiradjuri people. Other routes through the ridges and valleys of the Blue Mountains had been used by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years.

William Cox was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset in 1764. He married Rebecca Upjohn at Devizes, Wiltshire in 1789. Cox arrived in NSW on board the 'Minerva' in January 1800. Cox became Chief Magistrate at Windsor in 1810 and in July 1814 Governor Macquarie made William Cox the Superintendent of the works for a new road over the Blue Mountains. His first wife died in 1819 and Cox married Anna Blachford in 1821. He died on 15 March 1837.

Cox's road party were in the Woodford area from early to mid-September 1814. The road-building in this area was pragmatic and primitive. Confronted with rocky platforms and sharp drops, Cox had his men clear the flattest parts, removing an 'immense quantity of rock' where necessary, and usually marking out the line with shallow chiselled gutters and utilising the rock platform as a pavement; where the road ran over the shallow soils, it was often marked out by rows or low walls of rough, broken stone. The actual building of the road involved the definition of a trafficable route which was then cleared of vegetation (trees being cut-off below ground level but rarely "grubbed out"), boulders and rocky outcrops. The formation of the road itself was as minimal as the terrain allowed, with low side-cuttings and embankments as necessary.

The actual construction and completion of the road is recorded in Cox's Journal. The journal indicates that three areas in particular required extensive cutting through rocky outcrops; at Linden to Woodford, Wentworth Falls and the descent at Mount York.

The Appian Way Precinct is the last of the extant precincts located at Linden and Woodford where the Cox's Road was cut into the rocky ridge in 1814.It was superseded in the 1830s by a new road alignment, below and to the north. In 1831, when Surveyor W R Govett drew his 'Trace of Blue Mountains Road and Range from Springwood to near Pembrokes hut' the new line near Twenty Mile Hollow was marked. (State Records NSW, Map 5116, Surveyor General R.874)

Discoveries of convict-built retaining walls and other features exposed by large-scale highway reconstruction during the 1990s, indicated that extensive work was undertaken in the Woodford area from about 1827 which escalated in the mid-1830s, when a new road line was selected, cut into the mountainside and reinforced by extensive convict-built masonry retaining walls. These were recorded and either relocated; reburied, part-reburied or demolished as the 'Woodford Bends' Reconstruction of the Great Western Highway was completed.

A deep railway cutting was made alongside the Appian Way Precinct of Cox's Road it the 1860s, and this was re-used for the Great Western Highway realignment in the 1990s. A second railway cutting was made in 1896 which sheared off the western end of Cox's Road. That cutting was widened for the railway duplication in 1902 and is still in use as part of the Blue Mountains and Main Western Railway Line. The construction of The Appian Way road in 1912 also cut off the eastern end of Cox's Road. Nevertheless a small section of 1814 road survived, which is now within operational railway land.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Surviving remnants of Cox's Road have state historical significance as physical evidence of the first road constructed across the Blue Mountains from Emu Plains to the Bathurst Plains (1814-15). Constructed in 1814-15 Cox's Road is one of the earliest Colonial-era road-lines surviving in Australia. The 1814 road is tangible evidence of the development of the colony at Sydney and of the expansion of white settlement into western NSW. The road symbolises the occupation of the country and Governor Macquarie's aspirations for the eventual opening of the interior to European settlement after the discovery of the Western plains by G W Evans in 1814. In this respect the 1814-1815 Cox's Road has considerable symbolic significance as an official public work which laid the foundations for future development. Cox's Road is linked with the foundation of Bathurst, the first inland settlement in NSW, which was proclaimed by Governor Macquarie on 7 May 1815 after his journey along the road.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The surviving remnants of Cox's Road have state significance for their close association with Governor Lachlan Macquarie who commissioned the building of the road into the interior, and with the magistrate and ex-army officer Captain William Cox, who supervised the building of the road. The road is also associated with the convicts who laboured on the road to obtain their liberty, and with the officers and men who assisted Cox such as Thomas Hobby, Richard Lewis, John Tighe and Samuel Ayres. The crossing of the Blue Mountains, the surveying of a route to Bathurst and the building of Cox's Road were significant events in the period of Macquarie's governorship. Governor Macquarie's view of the importance of the road is demonstrated by his reports to Earl Bathurst, the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, and by his journey to the Bathurst Plains immediately after its construction, where he proclaimed the site for the Bathurst township.

William Cox's achievement using a small group of convict men in a short period of time and with no loss of life caused by road-making or other substantial difficulties, was reflective of his reputation as a more humane employer and magistrate than many of his contemporaries. The leadership qualities, vision and skill he showed constructing the road would also be evident in later government contracts won by Cox for other public works.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The surviving precincts of Cox's Road have state technical significance for their ability to demonstrate simple, pre 1820s road building techniques. Improvement of the 1814 route throughout the 1820s also provide important evidence of later road building techniques and demonstrates the ongoing use of this key route to the interior, before it was superseded by the new Great Western Road laid out by Sir Thomas Mitchell in the 1830s.

The Appian Way Precinct of Cox's Road provides an excellent and self-contained example of the type of work done on the stoney Woodford ridge. This precinct neatly encapsulates several key features of early road building, including cuttings, sheet stone pavements, low rock walling, and a very small and primitive culvert. The structural remains and mounds have considerable archaeological potential.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Cox's Road and its remnants are demonstrated as having social significance at a state level by the substantial interest in identifying and promoting Cox's Road for cultural tourism and education, and celebrating the bicentenary of the road by the general public, state and local government bodies and a range of community organisations. The road is of particular importance to Cox descendants. The William Cox Fellowship first nominated sections of Cox's Road for heritage listing in the 1980s.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Precincts of Cox's Road have research significance at a state level for their ability to demonstrate early nineteenth century road, culvert and bridge building techniques using basic skills and technologies. The remains of the 1814-15 road illustrate the conditions of the period and contribute to an understanding of the process of exploration and development, and of early colonial road building and road use. The remains represent a major physical, technological and engineering achievement and exhibit fine details of workmanship. Several precincts of the 1814-15 road have specific archaeological potential.
SHR Criteria f)
Surviving precincts of the 1814-1815 Cox's Road from Penrith to Bathurst are rare examples of early Colonial road building in NSW. The surviving remnants of Cox's Road have state significance as a rare example of pre 1820 road building based on the use of manual and primitive tools, and predating the more sophisticated road survey and construction techniques employed on the later 'Great Roads' of the 1820s and 1830s.
Integrity/Intactness: High
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

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
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977


Cox’s Road and Early Deviations—Woodford, Appian Way Precinct

SHR No 1955

I, the Minister for Heritage, 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 that 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”.

The Hon Rob Stokes, MP
Minister for Heritage

Sydney, 5 Day of March 2015


The item known as Cox’s Road and Early Deviations—Woodford, Appian Way Precinct, situated on the land described in Schedule “B”.

All those pieces or parcels of land known as Crown Land and Part Lot 1 DP 1188067 in Parish of Linden, County of Cook shown on the plan catalogued HC 2641 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.

1 Maintenance and Restoration

The maintenance of Cox’s Road and Early Deviations to retain its condition or operation without the removal of or damage to the existing fabric or the introduction of incompatible new materials.

a. Restoration of Cox’s Road and Early Deviations by returning significant fabric to a known earlier location without the introduction of new material.
b. Restoration of Cox’s Road and Early Deviations without the introduction of new material to reveal a known earlier configuration by removing accretions or reassembling existing components which does not adversely affect the heritage significance of the item.
c. Maintenance and minor repairs necessary to preserve and maintain the functioning of Cox’s Road and Early Deviations, especially where it remains in use as a local road or access corridor, including pavement resurfacing (using existing or compatible replacement materials, but not modern materials); maintenance of historic roadside kerbing; maintenance and repair of historic roadside walling; traffic management; relocation and maintenance of existing signage.

Note: Maintenance means 'the continuous protective care of the fabric and setting of a place'.

2. Repairs, including to services

a. Repairs and activities associated with the maintenance and repair of existing services and public utilities including communications, gas, electricity, water supply, waste disposal, sewerage, irrigation and drainage that are situated within Cox’s Road and Early Deviations precincts. This includes replacement of poles, stay poles, wires and associated items where the same locations and fixing points will be reused.
b. The repair (such as refixing and patching) or the replacement of missing, damaged or deteriorated fabric that is beyond further maintenance, which matches the existing fabric in appearance, material and method of affixing or installation and does not involve damage to or the removal of significant fabric.

3. Works

a. The carrying out of road work or traffic control work, within the meaning of the Roads Act 1993, within the road corridor and surrounding land that is required for associated works and infrastructure.
b. Ongoing current operational works and maintenance activities along Cox’s Road and Early Deviations precincts currently carried out by Local Government or other authorities, such as:
• road side vegetation management including vegetation trimming, tree trimming and/or removal (if required for road safety/traffic hazard);
• stormwater drainage works such as shoulder and pit clearing;
• road repairs such as pot hole patching and road sweeping;
• provision of necessary delineation such as guide posts and traffic signage;
• access controls, drainage and erosion control;
• vegetation and bushfire management;
where such works cause little or no impact on existing heritage fabric.
c. Temporary works, not exceeding 12 months, including containment areas, or scaffolding, other works and enclosures necessary for the carrying out of maintenance or enhancement works for Cox’s Road and Early Deviations. All temporary works must be reversible.
d. Minor works that do not alter the appearance or overall form and would not require the removal of significant fabric of the Cox’s Road and Early Deviations.
e. Installation of new access points such as property driveway openings, where made in accordance with the Roads Act 1993 and where such works including new access construction, driveway design and levels would not require the removal of historic Cox’s Road and Early Deviations pavement or other historic road fabric.

4. Signage

a. Installation of new way finding or interpretative signage or relocation of existing signs, except where these are commercial signs, modular sign structures, cantilever sign structures, or signage over 2 square metres in size.
b. Display of any notice on the land for the purpose of site interpretation and/or public information where disturbance of land associated with this activity would not adversely affect any significant archaeology including (but not limited to) original road fabric, historic infrastructure or services and 'relics' within the meaning of the Heritage Act 1977.

5. Excavation

a. The excavation or disturbance of land that will have a nil or minor impact on archaeological relics including the testing of land to verify the existence of relics without destroying or removing them, where:
i. an archaeological assessment, zoning plan or management plan has been prepared in accordance with Guidelines endorsed by the Heritage Council of NSW which indicates that the land is unlikely to contain relics or deposits (of State or local heritage significance) and/or
ii. evidence relating to the history or nature of the site, such as its level of disturbance, indicates that the site has little or no archaeological research potential.
b. The excavation or disturbance of land is for the purpose of exposing underground utility services or communications infrastructure which occurs within an existing service trench and will not affect any relics.
c. The excavation or disturbance of land is to expose survey marks for use in conducting a land survey.

Note: Should archaeological relics or deposits be uncovered all work must cease in the immediate area. A suitably qualified and experienced archaeologist must be contacted to assess the archaeology and the Heritage Council should be informed immediately

6. Landscape Maintenance

a. All landscaping, gardening and fencing works associated with the ongoing use of the land for domestic, pastoral and agricultural purposes, excluding any works that may materially affect the significance of the item or disturb archaeological relics.
b. Weeding, watering, mowing, top-dressing, pest control and fertilizing necessary for the continued health of plants, without damage or major alterations to layout, contours, plant species or other significant landscape features.
c. Pruning (to control size, improve shape, flowering or fruiting and the removal of diseased, dead or dangerous material) between 10% and 30% of the canopy of a tree within a period of 2 years.
d. Removal of dead or dying trees which are to be replaced by trees of the same species in the same location.
e. Tree surgery by a qualified arborist, horticulturist or tree surgeon necessary for the health of those plants.

7. Farming

All activities associated with the ongoing use of the land for domestic, pastoral and agricultural purposes, including road maintenance and fencing but excluding any new development or construction that would materially affect the significance of the item.

8. Safety and Security

a. The erection of temporary security fencing, scaffolding, hoardings or surveillance systems to prevent unauthorised access or secure public safety which will not adversely affect significant fabric of the Cox’s Road including landscape or archaeological features of its curtilage.
b. Emergency stabilisation, erosion control, hazard reduction or bushfire prevention works, necessary to secure safety where Cox’s Road and Early Deviations precincts have been damaged or destabilised and there exists a safety risk to users or the public.

9. Bushfire Prevention

The undertaking of fire prevention works in accordance with a Local Council, NPWS or Rural Fire Services approved Fire Management Plan for any Cox’s Road and Early Deviations precinct. This includes works relating to hazard reduction to: reduce vulnerability; maintain defendable space and protect; or maintain and enhance the biodiversity and ecological values of any relevant Cox’s Road and Early Deviations precincts or adjoining land Reserves.

10. Minor Development Endorsed by the Heritage Council of NSW

Minor development specifically identified as exempt development by a conservation policy or strategy within a conservation management plan or a conservation management strategy which has been endorsed by the Heritage Council of NSW, where such work would not materially impact on heritage significance.
Mar 25 2015

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0195525 Mar 15 27829

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Map 1831‘Trace of Blue Mountains Road and Range from Springwood to near Pembrokes hut’ the new line near Twenty Mile Hollow was marked.
WrittenG. Karskens,1988‘Cox’s Way: An Historical and Archaeological Study of Cox’s Road and Early Crossings of the Blue Mountains, NSW’

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
(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: 5062550
File number: EF14/12820

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.