Old Windsor Road and Windsor Road Heritage Precincts | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Old Windsor Road and Windsor Road Heritage Precincts

Item details

Name of item: Old Windsor Road and Windsor Road Heritage Precincts
Other name/s: Main Road No. 635
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road
Primary address: Old Windsor Road & Windsor Road, Multiple, NSW
Local govt. area: Multiple LGAs
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Old Windsor Road & Windsor RoadMultipleMultiple LGAs  Primary Address
Sunnyholt RoadBella VistaBlacktown  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Windsor and Old Windsor Roads, as first laid out in 1794 and re-aligned in 1812-1813, are of State and national significance. They incorporate the second road to be laid out in the colony and played an important role in the settlement of the Hawkesbury region and the development of the colony of NSW.

The Windsor and Old Windsor Roads retain characteristics evocative of the historic, rural character of the Cumberland plain, both within the current road reserve and in redundant sections outside the reserve. Together they are vital in understanding the cultural landscapes of the region.

Remaining historic road fabric, both inside and outside the current road reserve, demonstrates the methods of road construction and maintenance over two centuries.

[Refer to Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road CMP (Clive Lucas Stapleton, 2005) for details of grades of significance; significant features and heritage precincts relating to the roads.]
Date significance updated: 14 May 09
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1792-
Physical description: OLD ROAD ALIGNMENTS

All roads are subject to minor adjustments in their alignment over time as improvements are made to their line and level. Curves tend to be straightened out, hills levelled and valleys filled. Often the construction of a new bridge across a watercourse brings about a change in road alignment.

It is 211 years since the first Hawkesbury Road was blazed and, although the routes of both the Windsor Road and the Old Windsor Road remain basically the same, they too have changed in all the ways listed above.

Stretches of the old alignment still survive alongside both these roads, however, and these provide a valuable archaeological resource as well as the opportunity to retain something of the character of the old road. Standing on these redundant stretches of old road bypassed by progress, one has a more poignant sense of their history.

The longest stretch of old road is the Old Hawkesbury Road which runs parallel to the Windsor Road at Vineyard but diverges to the north-east as it approaches South Creek. This is part of the original 1794 road to the Hawkesbury (Figure 3.2). It led to a punt crossing of South Creek but when the bridge was built in 1802 the road was repositioned on its current alignment further to the west.

The Old Hawkesbury Road survives in use partly as a sealed minor suburban road and partly as an unsealed rural lane giving access to adjacent properties. These two different characters are witnessed at its closest point to the Windsor Road at Latona Avenue, Vineyard.

Richard Rouse built his house around 1815 on top of a hill and facing the Windsor Road. He was responsible also for building a toll house on the opposite side of the road. At some time in the early half of the 20th century, possibly during the 1930s depression, a cutting was made through Rouse Hill thus separating Rouse Hill House from its historic setting (Figure 3.3).

In order to avoid further spoiling the house's setting, the Windsor Road will deviate around the former Rouse Hill Public School to the north east, leaving the cutting as the newest redundant road alignment.

The Historic Houses Trust of NSW who manage Rouse Hill House has developed a plan in conjunction with the RTA for reinstating the historic relationship between the house and the Windsor Road by filling in the cutting. This stretch of the road will therefore be returned to its early form as an unsealed road with post and rail fences either side in a reconstruction.

A further three old road alignments exist on the Windsor Road:
*Boundary Road Alignment (item 30)
*Caddies Creek Alignment (item 21)
*Excelsior Way Alignment (item 17)

All three are short sealed sections of road close to the present road and serving semi-suburban functions. Their archaeological value is yet to be determined but the Boundary Road alignment is known to contain five alignment stones.

One other possible Windsor Road realignment is at the crossing of Strangers Creek, Kellyville where presumably a new bridge has been built leaving the old section of road disused to the south. The line of road is still visible as a dirt trail but no evidence was found as part of this report that historic fabric is present underneath. The current plan for upgrading this section of the Windsor Road incorporates the supposed old section of road into the new cycle path with a new bridge over Strangers Creek.

Another possible Windsor Road alignment is north of the crossing at First Ponds Creek, Box Hill presumably a disused section of road and landfill site from subsequent road upgrades. The line of the road is barely visible and further investigation would be needed to confirm that historic fabric is present underneath.

Two stretches of potential old road alignments survive alongside the Old Windsor Road near Kings Langley:
*Meurants Lane Alignment (item 2837) (two sections north and south of Meurants Lane).
*Stanhope Farm Alignment (two sections north and south of Samantha Riley Drive).

The most evocative section of old road is the section south of Meurants Lane. Both sections of this road are enclosed by earth embankments and vegetation. Despite their proximity to the current busy, four-lane road they retain the character of a country road that the Old Windsor Road once had.

Another stretch of road parallel to the Old Windsor Road thought to be an old alignment exists to the south of Johnstons Bridge, Old Toongabbie. Plans of the new bridge and approach roads built in 1980, however, show that the previous alignment of the Old Windsor Road only overlapped this side road in the last 30-40 metres before the bridge. This is confirmed by an aerial photograph of the road from 1943.3 This section of road is therefore not of significance. The oldest and most intact alignments are those at Meurants Lane (map OWR 4), Stanhope Farm (map OWR 2) and Old Hawkesbury Road (map WR 4).

The "Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road Conservation Management Plan" (Clive Lucas Stapleton, 2005) details historic road precincts for Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road. Significant items within each precinct have been identified and their significance graded according to the NSW Heritage Office heritage assessment criteria. Management responsibility and ownership of items falls across councils, the RTA and private owners. Further detail on the items and their ownership (including RTA Policy for Management of Items in the Road Reserve), is contained in the Conservation Management Plan.

The identified historic precincts controlled by the RTA are as follows:

WR2: McGraths Hill Archaeological Site and Cemetery
WR4: Old Hawkesbury Road
WR6: Vineyard Alignment
WR7: First Ponds Creek Alignment
WR8: Box Hill Vergescape
WR10: Rouse Hill Road Cutting
WR14: Caddies Creek Alignment
WR15: Strangers Creek Alignment
WR19: Excelsior Way Alignment
OWR1: Stanhope Farm Alignment
OWR4: Meurant's Lane Alignment

[Refer to Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road CMP (Clive Lucas Stapleton, 2005) for location details and details of grades of significance and significant features within heritage precincts.]
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Various. Refer to Old Windsor Road CMP (2005).
Date condition updated:08 Jul 09
Modifications and dates: Various. Refer to Old Windsor Road CMP (2005)


Historical notes: EVOLUTION OF OLD WINDSOR ROAD ( Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road CMP, 2005):

The 1796 plan shows the 'Road to the Hawkesbury' commencing at the more northerly branch of the Toongabbie Creek, with a track connecting the road to Toongabbie and Parramatta beyond. The plan shows the road probably as surveyed, with straight lines connecting points of the route. By the time Grimes produced the c1806 map of NSW , the Old Windsor Road is shown with some minor deviations, probably caused by the practicalities of hill and river crossings. These deviations include the kink in the road to the east of Box Hill Estate, and the re-routing of the road enabled by the construction of the bridge at South Creek in 1802. The line of the Old Windsor Road prior to this deviation is indicated by the present location of the Hawkesbury Road between the intersections of Chapman Road and Pitt Town Road. Both deviations enabled the Old Windsor Road to avoid the low-lying land along the Killarney Chain of Ponds.

Both the 1796 and 1806 plans show that the Old Windsor Road approached Parramatta from Toongabbie via the Government Farm at Rose Hill (declared the Government Domain by Governor Macquarie in 1810 )22 arcing across the Government Farm and meeting the Prospect Road for its approach to the present town of Parramatta. This route was probably established c.1792 with the establishment of the Toongabbie Government Farm.

Concurrent with, and an integral part of, Governor Macquarie's 1810 plans for the Government House and town plan at Parramatta, the Windsor Road turnpike was planned and constructed, following the route of Church Street across the Parramatta River and bypassing the Government Domain altogether.

Macquarie moved the western road to Prospect to the ridgeline at this time in order to increase privacy for Government House,23 and the 1813 plan published by Burr & Ballisat, although nearly identical to Grimes' 1806 in most respects, shows the Old Windsor Road joining the Prospect Road along the ridge for the approach to Parramatta.

The undated plan of the County of Cumberland appears to record the configuration of the Old Windsor Road about the 1820s. In this plan the deviation at Box Hill is clearly shown, but is less pronounced than the 1806-1813 deviation. At the Parramatta end, the Old Windsor Road is shown running due south in a straight north-south line (rather than a curve, as is shown in 1796 and 1806) between Toongabbie Creek and the Western Road.

By 1827, GB White's survey shows a relatively major change in the route of the Windsor Road near Box Hill, where the road is aligned along a broad curve at Riverstone, near the intersection with Garfield Road East, and removing the characteristic kink in the road previously evident near Box Hill. The reason for this realignment is not clear at present. The 1827 plan does not include the route of the Old Windsor Road south of Kellyville, and therefore does not indicate any changes to the Parramatta end of the road at this time.

By 1860, at the time of surveying lots subdivided from the former Government Domain at Parramatta (the area presently occupied by Westmead Hospital), the present-day alignments of Darcy Road, Mons Road, Hawkesbury Road, and Hainsworth Road (now Institute Road within Westmead Hospital) appear to have been laid out formally for the first time as boundaries of new lots within the subdivision. The plan depicts a number of 'cart tracks' which neatly mirror the alignment of the new streets. Although appearing to travel a circuitous route, the cart tracks avoided crossing the Toongabbie Creek and the Parramatta River. In mid-20th century street directories, parts of Darcy Road are called the Old Windsor Road, leading to the present conclusion that the cart tracks indicate the route of the Old Windsor Road as it approached Parramatta.

Mackenzie's 1885 survey noted several locations where the original alignment of the Old Windsor Road differed from the 1885 route, with the earlier alignments frequently marking the boundaries between civil parishes. Additionally, the route of the Old Windsor Road through the former Government Domain at Parramatta is confirmed by the 1885 survey along the present day alignments of Darcy Road, Fulton Avenue, Hart Drive, and Ferndale Close.


*1794: The first land grants were made in the Hawkesbury area to 22 emancipists in response to the need for additional agricultural land. By the end of 1794, over 100 grants were made in the region between present-day Windsor and Pitt Town. A government store, soldiers' barracks, granary, and government cottage were established at Green Hills (later known as Windsor) to service the settlement.
*1794:- A road was established between the Green Hills/Hawkesbury area and the older settlement at Parramatta. The road amounted to a track, suitable for travel by horseback or foot. The road traversed the Government Domain at Parramatta and approached the Government Farm at Toongabbie.
*1797:- Governor Hunter ordered landholders to undertake road improvements along the Hawkesbury Road, including widening the road to 20 feet. (This is the date for the creation of the Windsor Road as a carriageway.)
*1802:- A bridge was constructed at a new South Creek crossing of the Windsor Road, financed by tolls, and replacing the previous punt crossing further east. The current road alignment at South Creek dates from this time. The earlier road alignment, leading to the punt crossing, is reflected in the alignment of the present day Hawkesbury Road.
*1804:- Convicts from the government farm at Castle Hill revolted and were confronted by military forces near Rouse Hill. The battle came to be known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill after a 1798 uprising in Ireland against British rule. The soldiers were able to apprehend the rebels by quickly travelling via the Old Windsor Road, which was the key to the containment of the rebellion.
*1805:- Surveyor James Meehan surveyed an alignment between Parramatta and Kellyville which became the basis for the (New) Windsor Road in 1813. A committee was formed to collect funds for the upkeep of the colony’s two main roads: Sydney to Parramatta, and Parramatta to Windsor.
*1806:- Surveyor Grimes' map of 1806 shows the road from Parramatta to Green Hills (the Old Windsor Road) and from Prospect to the Cowpastures.
*1810:- Governor Macquarie described the Windsor Road as "scarcely intitled [sic] to that name…in so bad a state of repair as to be scarcely passable." Later in the year, Macquarie established five towns along the river: Windsor, Richmond, Pitt Town, Wilberforce, and Castlereagh. A contractor, James Harrex, was engaged to build a new turnpike road between Parramatta and Kellyville, following Meehan's 1805 alignment via Castle Hill. This new alignment would avoid the hilly section (referred to by Governor King in 1803 as "the Seven Hills") of the original (Old) Windsor Road. The new alignment also enabled a more direct route to the Hawkesbury from Sydney. Most importantly, the new route avoided the newly-proclaimed Domain at Government House, Parramatta, and was part of Governor Macquarie's extensive plan for the improvement of Government House and its landscape setting.
*1812-1813:- Upon the failure of James Harrex to complete the new road works, John Howe took over and completed the contract, which included the construction of 70 bridges. The new road was 32 feet wide and alignment stones marked the carriageway.
*1810s:- Governor Macquarie introduced a toll system on the Windsor Road with toll gates north of Parramatta and south of Rouse Hill.
*1816:- Land granted to Richard Rouse who built Rouse Hill House and moved in between 1818 and 1825. Rouse also constructed a toll house opposite.
*1824:- A regular passenger coach service between Parramatta and Windsor commenced; however, the poor condition of the road caused the coach service to be suspended in the late 1820s. Complaints about the poor condition of the Windsor Road continued in the following decades. By the 1830s, passenger and mail coach services were established. 1826-1832 Governor Ralph Darling held an ambition for the colony’s roads to be developed along the concept of the English system of "great roads."
*1827:- Newspaper report on "an outbreak of bushranging on the road between Sydney and Windsor. Several vehicles have been stopped and the passengers stripped of all valuables." Escaped convict, 'Bold' Jack Donohoe, described in 1830 as "the most notorious of the bushrangers currently operating in New South Wales," got his start robbing bullock drays on the Windsor Road. Donohoe is remembered as the last of the convict bushrangers and the first of the bushrangers to be romanticised in bush ballads.
*1833:- Windsor Road was proclaimed as a Main Road under 4 Wm IV No 11, gazetted 11 September 1833, to be maintained at public expense.11 The Old Windsor Road was declared a Parish Road. 1835 A toll house, the second on the site, was constructed at the South Creek crossing near Windsor.
*1830s:- The deteriorated condition of the Old Windsor Road rendered it "impassable" in sections, and the options of either repairing and re-opening the Old Windsor Road or creating a new road alignment were debated. The alignment stones along the Old Windsor Road may date from this period.
*1830s-40s:- The No. 12 Road Gang, a convict gang, was assigned to maintain the Windsor Road, however lack of men and ineptitude of the overseer compromised were complained of in correspondence by the Roads Branch of the Surveyor General's Department.
*1849:- The Windsor Road Trust was formed to oversee maintenance of the Windsor Road. Convict labour carried out maintenance in the previous two decades to the establishment of the Windsor Road Trust.14 Responsibility for the road between Vinegar Hill and Windsor was charged to the Windsor Road Trust, while from Vinegar Hill to Parramatta, responsibility for maintenance of the road was under the Parramatta Road Trust.
*1853:- Fitzroy Bridge constructed across South Creek at Windsor, replacing the earlier Howe's Bridge.
*1864:- Steam railway extended from Penrith to Richmond via Windsor.
*1867:- Factors including the 1867 flood of the Hawkesbury River, the opening of land west of the Blue Mountains brought about by the railway in 1869, and the onset of the rust disease which affected the area's wheat crops combined to bring about the end of the Hawkesbury's role as Sydney's 'breadbasket.' Maize and vegetable crops replaced wheat farming, and in the 1880s, farmers in the Hawkesbury Valley turned to orcharding. 1885 Surveyor Mackenzie surveyed the Old Windsor Road for the Surveyor General.
*1920s:- Dairying and poultry farming industries took hold in the Hawkesbury Valley. Orcharding continued to take place along the roads in areas such as Baulkham Hills area.
*1924:- The Department of Public Works used water-based macadam in reconstructing the Windsor Road near Rouse Hill. A bitumen coating was laid down in 1925-6, and renewed in 1928-9. Water-based macadam was an improved road surface treatment necessitated by the rapid rise of the motor vehicle.
*1928:- Windsor Road, together with Bells Line of Road and the Darling Causeway was announced as Main Road 184 on 22 May.
*1940s:- Cutting and filling of the Old Windsor and Windsor Roads was reportedly undertaken by the United States military to prepare evacuation routes should a Japanese invasion take place in Sydney.
*1948:- Shoulders of the Windsor Road were widened to 22 feet to provide for anticipated traffic.
*1981-1984:- High-level bridges constructed by the Department of Main Roads over Pye's Crossing and Johnston's Bridge. The last unmade section of Old Windsor Road was surfaced by Blacktown and Baulkham Hills Councils.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The alignment (route) of the original Hawkesbury Road (now Old Windsor Road, and part of the Windsor Road) is of historic significance as the second road alignment to be established in the colony of NSW.

The alignment influenced human activity in the region from its establishment in 1794, related to the earliest phase of expansion of settlement beyond Sydney and Parramatta. The alignment defined aspects of the settlement pattern (such as the laying out of grants and the consolidation of services at Green Hills) and provided the region's primary overland transport route, vital to the settlement of the north-western Cumberland plain.

The re-alignment of the Windsor Road in 1812-1813 (after the foundation of the Macquarie Towns in 1810) is historically significant as a component of Governor Macquarie's vision for the orderly settlement of the colony, particularly for the Hawkesbury region and the Governor's Domain at Parramatta. The new alignment's avoidance of the hilly section of the original route provides evidence for the presence and naming of the 'Seven Hills' now known as the Hills District.

The Windsor Road is part of the first turnpike system in the colony.

The decline in status of the Windsor and Old Windsor Roads post-1850 reflects the corresponding decline in the Hawkesbury region's importance as Sydney's breadbasket.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Windsor Road is associated with numerous persons and events of historical significance, including the Battle of Vinegar Hill, Governor Macquarie and his vision for the colony, settlers of note such as Richard Rouse, and the bushranger 'Bold' Jack Donohue.

Windsor Road is associated with the significant survey work of colonial surveyors James Meehan, Charles Grimes, as well as Lands Department Surveyor Roderick Baylis Mackenzie.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The aesthetic significance of the Windsor and Old Windsor Roads is understood on three levels as follows:

The roads enable and are an inherent component of the aesthetic experience of the wider cultural landscape of the Cumberland plain. For example, there are strong visual connections between the road and historic homesteads such as Box Hill, Rouse Hill, Bella Vista, and Tebbutt's Observatory, as well as views of Windsor, and views of monuments, such as the Pearce family cemetery and Vinegar Hill.

The road contributes to the visual understanding of the aesthetic character of the numerous individual historic places located along it (e.g., the aesthetic appreciation of a colonial-period inn or toll house in part relies upon understanding the buildings relationship to the road.)

Finally, vestigial sections of the older 'country lane' parts of the roads have aesthetic value of their own as evocative reminders of the earlier rural character of the immediate area.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The esteem with which numerous heritage and history interest groups hold the Windsor and Old Windsor Roads is evidenced by the level of interest in preserving the roads, and the heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory) which apply to the roads.

Old road alignments on Old Windsor Road at Meurant's Lane are well known vestiges of the old road and there is evidence of community concern about their preservation.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Windsor and Old Windsor Roads are of high significance for their research potential as the location of the only alignment and boundary stones known to exist in NSW. These stones are rare evidence of colonial road making technology, which have potential to reveal more information about their purpose and history.

Numerous identified potential archaeological sites along the roadways contribute to the research significance of the roads.

The fabric of the Old Windsor and Windsor Roads themselves are of technical and research significance for their ability to demonstrate the development of road-building and improvement technologies over two centuries.
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.

Recommended management:

[Refer to Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road CMP (Clive Lucas Stapleton, 2005) regarding recommended management and conservation policies]


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenClive Lucas Stapleton2005Windsor and Old Windsor Roads 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: State Government
Database number: 4301011

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