At first, traffic across the
Bathurst Road was
infrequent. As previously mentioned, Governor Macquarie held tight rein over
the number of land grants issued in the western districts, and any persons
wishing to cross with stock or provisions had to receive a pass in order to do
|Governor Thomas Brisbane--he implemented the Bigge Report, increased the population of Bathurst, and declared 'Martial Law' to put down the Wiradjuri/Windradyne uprising|
After the arrival of Governor Thomas Brisbane, however, the Bigge Report began to be implemented. The process of Crown Land distribution to the growing wave of free immigrants was streamlined and expanded—for every 100 acres of land granted, the settler was obliged to provide support and lodgings for one convict labourer. In a sense, much of the responsibility for penal supervision was now privatized.
There was a rapid expansion of population in the next few years: by 1824, the height of the Wiradjuri/Windradyne uprising, the number of white settlers was several thousand, so that natural game and hunting grounds had rapidly diminished. Open warfare and martial law were the result.
Thus, in the early 1820’s our
picture of the
around the changed considerably. Now, the
sight of travelers making their trek overland, by whatever means, was more
common, as were bullock teams carrying increasingly heavy loads of provisions.
These would return after several weeks, having picked up bales of wool (this
had to be shorn in sheds at the top of Lower Mountains )
or pelts or salted meats on the other side of the Mountains. Troops and convict
gangs too, made the journey back and forth according to governmental order. Mt. York
|This is a famous and commonly used sketch of an 'Ironed Gang'--sights such as this would have been common on the Blue Mountains as such Gangs were used for both maintenance and construction of the 'Bathurst Road'|
When the Wiradjuri Uprising was put down, traffic grew even more dense. Not only for those settlers who had legitimately secured further Land Grants west of the Divide, but for those cashed-up speculators who could not wait for official approval. They took their stock in search of fresh grazing-land and formed a new squattocracy flooding outward on paths blazed by Oxley, Mitchell, Cunningham and others.
These “squatters” were unstoppable, because official supervision could not keep up with them. They occupied the best land: fertile valleys and watercourses, clear grazing plains and sweet grasses, and they occupied hundreds of thousands of acres…
Thomas Livingstone Mitchell
In 1828, at the direction of the new Governor, Ralph Darling, Major Thomas Livingstone Mitchell succeeded John Oxley as Surveyor-General of
. He so impressed the British government
with his detailed mapping of the ’19 Counties’ (the officially settled European
areas of the colony) that he was knighted. One of his first objectives was to
improve the access of the New
South Wales Bathurst
Road at both ends of the Blue
|Governor Ralph Darling--replaced Brisbane in 1828 but had a tempestuous relationship with his Surveyor -General|
Ignoring Darling’s demands to keep costs low and simply maintain a convict ‘Repair Gang’ on the switchback ‘Zig-Zag’ road up the escarpment (currently called ‘Old Bathurst Road’)—a road, because of its nature, that required constant maintenance, Mitchell commenced construction of a new, more direct, more spectacular road up the mountain (now called ‘Mitchell’s Pass Road’).
|Thomas Livingstone Mitchell--Surveyor General of New South Wales and outstanding cartographer. He was another Scot who made a significant imprint upon the Blue Mountains|
The only problem was, this road demanded the crossing of a deep creek gorge, and thus a bridge, yet no bridge designers or builders existed in the colony in 1830. At least until Mitchell discovered one David Lennox, quietly constructing a sandstone fence in
Macquarie Street. Lennox was immediately ‘snatched’, and was given the task
of designing and building bridges across NSW, but first, the one at ‘Mitchell’s
|'Lapstone' or 'Lennox' Bridge, drawn during construction in the early 1830's...Note the sparser vegetation in those days|
or “Lapstone” Creek, the bridge was a tall horseshoe shape, and required the
establishment of a nearby quarry in order to be properly built—it is a tribute
to the convict gangs that built it, and is a masterful construction, which
rightly bears its designer’s name. It was opened in 1833. Early travelers on
this Mountains’ gateway frequently remarked on the spectacular ascent below
beetling cliffs, and the picturesque bridge as the road began to level out.
Meanwhile, Mitchell had also
addressed the bottleneck at the other side of the Mountains by constructing a
new descent of the Western escarpment down ‘One Tree Hill’ (
It soon became known as “ Mt. Victoria ”, and was again
testament to Mitchell’s vision and stubborn persistence in demanding high
quality, well built, stone supported, roads. Victoria
With further improvements to the resilience of this “
Road”, the time spent traversing it in horse drawn
carriages reduced from two weeks to two days. Indeed, it now became a
fashionable thing for ladies and gentlemen of means to take the trip across the
Blue Mountains in order to view the countryside of in all its forms. New South Wales
|Victoria Pass in the 1920's--it survived to service motor vehicles 100 years after it was built by over 200 convicts. This was part of the NSW 'Gulag'|
The newly set up Pilgrim and Valley Inns, sandwiching as they did the bushland of present-day 'Warrimoo', now looked to a healthy future, but it is clear that the changes taking place in the 1830’s threatened to swamp the Darug and Gandungarra peoples, and their way of life.