A Relatively Short History of Warrimoo


It is no accident that our small township of Warrimoo is divided in two: a “North Side” and a “South Side”. Both the Great Western Highway and the Railway line adjoin here on a narrow ridge. On one side, water run-offs descend in small southerly running rivulets behind our streets to join Florabella Creek, which in turn flows into Glenbrook Creek, and thence, to the East, into the Nepean River.

On the Northern slope a variety of channels likewise flow into Fitzgeralds Creek, which comes from Sun Valley, and Cripple Creek, whose source begins near the Attunga Road Tip. Both merge before flowing eastwards into the Nepean River. There are a number of trails to access these waterways, the most notable being the track behind Warrimoo Oval.

The bushland and rock formations around these features, still remaining as they were for thousands of years, supply us with abundant evidence of Indigenous life in the area long before Europeans discovered it. If one looks carefully enough, there are rock engravings, axe-grinding grooves, camp-fire remains, and in sheltered sites, ochre paintings, created by clans of the Darug people who occupied this place for millenia.

'Red Hands Cave' at Glenbrook--such sites do exist in Warrimoo, but they must be found in sheltered sites, and they need protection against vandalism. Many have already been ruined
An archaeological site established at the junction of Fitzgeralds Creek and the Nepean River, and supervised by Father Eugene Stockton throughout the 1980's, has confirmed Indigenous occupation of this vicinity for at least 40,000 years. This occupation has been continuous. Not many regions in Australia can claim such clear and unequivocal evidence of their local people's presence.

Darug groups moved unhindered along well-worn paths beside the waterways and hunted, fished, gathered and camped at designated places throughout the well-stocked bush. It is unlikely that any patch of earth was not trod by Aboriginal feet at some time in the previous thousands of years. Fire was used extensively, and most likely transported from site to site. White explorers always noted the widespread plumes of smoke as they ventured into the ‘Mountains.

Prior to European settlement, it appears that there was no shortage of cleared spaces at various spots throughout the bushland, rather like Sun Valley and Euroka today. These were most probably cleared by ‘firestick farming’ techniques where, if conditions were right, bush and scrub were set alight and burned to encourage new shoots of young green grass, and thus grazing by mobs of wallaby and ‘roo.

The Freycinet (French) expedition's view of two Darug ('Springwood') men, Hara-o and Karaora-drawn by the artist Pellion in 1819
Cultural activities and ritual were an integral part of life, as they were in all parts of Australia. Stockton's analysis of the density and range of occupation sites in Sun Valley point to the possibility of this well-watered place once being a major Corroboree site, where large numbers of Darug, and feasibly other language groups as well, gathered to celebrate important ceremonies, feast, and exchange goods. 

Lt. William Dawes 1762-1836

The first (documented) white person to set foot in the vicinity of Warrimoo was Marine Lieutenant William Dawes, who had been sent to New South Wales to assist the military keep order in 1788. He was a cultured man, who took an avid interest in astronomy (the telescope at Dawes Point) and in the local Indigenous people and their languages. So much so, that when Pemulwuy killed Governor Phillip’s gamekeeper and the Governor ordered him to go on a punitive expedition against the natives, Dawes refused to go. He argued that the gamekeeper, John MacIntyre, had caused provocation to Aboriginal people around the harbour, and may have deserved his fate. In the event, Dawes was prevailed upon to go on the expedition, which proved utterly fruitless. Nevertheless, the bad blood this whole incident brought between Dawes and the Governor ultimately led to his leaving the colony in December, 1791.

Marine Lieutenant William Dawes, the first (documented) European to have set foot in Warrimoo—December, 1789
However, two years earlier this same William Dawes, along with Watkin Tench, had discovered the Nepean River and with a small party and minimal provisions, Dawes determined to explore further westward. In December 1789, he commenced his journey:

To the ‘line of march’. The first day he headed due west from Emu Ford to the crest of the first ridge, in the vicinity of Mt. Riverview, and from here had a direct view of ‘Round Hill’ (Mt. Hay).

Dawes moved his ‘line of march’ to a straight traverse and made a bee line for Round Hill crossing the now line of highway just near the Sydney side of Warrimoo. [1]

In other words, Dawes scaled the escarpment at present day Mt. Riverview and took a direct westerly march, keeping a mark on Mt. Hay directly ahead. This route misses the areas of Glenbrook and Blaxland entirely, but if such a forthright strategy was to continue, it was clear Dawes’ path would be an extraordinarily difficult one, obliging him and his party to climb and descend continuously.

Early Warrimoo historian, Maisie Lupton[2] continues the story...

...he would have passed by the foot of the ridge which is now Florabella Street on his unsuccessful trip to find a route across the Camarthen Mountains, as the Blue Mountains were then known. It is believed that his ‘line of march’ would have taken him along a course similar to that of the high tension electricity line which crosses the Highway, near the (now defunct) Westward Ho Cafe, and continues across the gullies and ridges in a westerly direction...

 Dawes—same portrait, in colour, in reverse

Dawes and his small party marched on, and most of the conjecture (Dawes did not keep a detailed diary--merely some trigonometric readings and his distance covered) has him stopping somewhere between Linden and Lawson because provisions began to run low and exhaustion had set in. More recent examination of his readings, however, concede that his party had, in fact, covered the necessary distance to Mt. Hay before turning back.

The number of subsequent attempts to cross the Blue Mountains is now legion: Paterson, Bass, Everingham, Wilson, Barallier and Caley to name the most prominent. It is worth noting the attempts of Francis Barallier and John Wilson, because they illustrate something of the knowledge and influence of the Darug and Gundungarra peoples at the time.

John Wilson 1770-1800

John Wilson was an emancipated convict who actually chose to live with Aboriginal people in or near the ‘Mountains, on the Hawkesbury. He learned the languages and customs of his hosts, but maintained contact with colonial society, where he frequently spoke of knowing a way across the ‘Blue Mountains’, as it was (already) commonly known. Even then, it was widely rumoured that Aboriginal people did, in fact, use a route across these mountains. Subsequently it has been claimed that there were two routes used by them: the “Bilpin Ridge” path, no doubt following the current “Bell’s Line of Road”, and the “Cox’s River” route, entered via the Burragorang Valley.

When Wilson was finally commissioned by Governor Hunter to verify his claims, in 1798, he took a party of soldiers and convicts on a south-westerly route, presumably seeking the Cox’s River option. For some reason, the party was spooked, and several soldiers and convicts returned, leaving a small group of three men only. The official reason given was that the task of exploration was too much hard work, but it is more likely that fear dominated their judgement.

It is feasible that the Gundungarra either barred or misled Wilson, who may not have followed proper custom, so that he took a path much further to the south, travelling via present–day Bargo/Avon country, on to Berrima and Mittagong, stopping just 12 kilometres north of the contemporary city of Goulburn. Clearly, Wilson had found a relatively easy, fertile, though somewhat roundabout way across the Great Dividing Range, but he received no accolades from the Governor, and minimal effort was made to follow up on his achievement.

John Wilson continued to live a life close to Aboriginal mores, but he was careless in his relationships with Indigenous women. This ultimately caused his death by spearing shortly after his return to the Hawkesbury. He was 30 years of age.

Francis Barallier 1773-1853

In 1802, Governor King commissioned a French “emissary”, Francis Barallier, to cross the Blue Mountains via (what was later called) the Cox’s River route, using two Aboriginal guides: Gogy and and Bungin. Barallier made his base camp at Nattai and proceeded inland. As they progressed, Barallier’s diary noted Gogy’s agitation and growing unease as the party ventured further into Gundungarra country. Finally they met a substantial gathering of Gundungarra people, purportedly led by a “chief” (Elder) called Goondel.

In his diary, Barallier made careful notes of his observations. In this context it is worth remembering George Caley’s testament that coastal Aborigines greatly feared these ‘Mountain Men’. Barallier observed one very significant difference in their appearance to the coastal Eora: they wore heavy possum cloaks, which they valued highly, preferring to keep them rather than take the iron axes proffered by the explorer. We might infer that Goondel and his band valued warmth and comfort above hunting and chopping. They seemed to have an abundance of the usual provisions, and Barallier watched them roast a ‘native dog’ (Dingo).

Barallier passed on gifts and good wishes from the Governor to Goondel, who appeared satisfied with the transactions, and with Barallier and Bungin themselves. So much so, that he was prepared to offer his daughter to Bungin for the purpose of marriage if he came to stay with his own band. But Gogy dreaded what was in store for him. Apparently he had killed a Gundungarra woman (Goondel’s sister?) sometime previously, and he was terrified of his fate. He begged Barallier to release him from his role as guide, so he could rapidly return to safety. At the same time, Bungin asked leave to marry Goondel’s daughter. Barallier consented to both requests.

A strange corollary of this situation was that Bungin soon returned to the explorer’s camp, saying that Goondel’s daughter did not want to go through with the marriage, and that she had taken off with Goondel in hot pursuit. What this did to relations with white people, Barallier was uncertain, but his decision was to proceed westwards with sufficient care so as to avoid the Gundungarra Elder.

Barallier passed by the location of what is now the ghost town of Yerranderie and ended his sojourn on the Bindook Highlands. He was significantly closer to the edge of the Great Dividing Range than Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson were some 11 years later, but his achievement was largely ignored by Governor King. Later, Barallier’s route was to become the Colong-Oberon stock route, along which a road once took traffic from Camden to Oberon, prior to the flooding of the Burragorang Valley by Warragamba Dam.

Gregory Blaxland 1778-1853, William Charles Wentworth 1790-1872 and William Lawson 1774-1850

Young Gregory Blaxland, who led the expedition from his farm in
St. Marys (Eastern Creek)
Overall, nevertheless, it can hardly be disputed that Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and Lieutenant William Lawson found the most direct, spectacularly scenic and convenient route west to what seemed to be fine grazing land. Maisie Lupton picks up their progress...

In 1813, ‘travelling with four servants, five dogs and four horses loaded with provisions and ammunitions,’ Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth made their historic crossing of the Blue Mountains and although it is difficult to be certain of the exact location, the most recent information states that their first camp in the mountains, on May 12th, was approximately midway between the modern railway stations of Warrimoo and Valley Heights. (Previously, it was thought to have been near the ‘old’ Glenbrook railway station.) The place where they camped later became known as Black Log Hollow. Teamsters travelling to and from the west used to gather and light their fires at the base of a huge tree which eventually died. The blackened trunk became a well-known landmark. [3]

In this year of the Bicentenary of the Crossing (2013), the campsites on the first 3 days remain in some dispute. It is more likely that the campsite for the night of May 12th was at (present day) Glenbrook Lagoon, which subsequently became a 'first stop' landmark and was fairly widely known, even then, as a reliable watering and grazing spot. On the following day (May 13th), the party journeyed through bushland that is now the town of Warrimoo on a path that closely equates with today’s Great Western Highway. Blaxland wrote they had travelled:

...about a Mile and Came into a large tract of forest land rather Hilly they (Blaxland wrote in the 3rd Person--ed) computed it at two thousand acres, the grass and timber tolerably good...they found a tract Marked by an European (Dawes, Hocking, or Wilson?--ed) by cutting the Bark of the Trees and several native huts at different places when they had proceeded about two Miles their course was stopped by a Brush much thicker than they had met before...[4]

William Charles Wentworth at the height of his political power
Most of the early explorers of this area seem to agree that the Warrimoo/Valley Heights/Sun Valley section is clearer and higher than the thicker bush that follows. It is possible to see Mt. Hay from Warrimoo, but then there is a dip in the ridge plateau that takes one down into moister soil and denser "brush". There is plenty of evidence--the 'several native huts' mentioned--to support the probability of consistent Darug occupation of the district around Warrimoo/Long Angle Gully/Sun Valley on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.

Another very interesting revelation regarding Aboriginal presence comes in Blaxland's journal for the 21st May. It doesn't come in the main text, but as a footnote. Blaxland often refers to the dogs' barking and disturbances of the horses at night, and there appears to be some unwillingness to go and check these disruptions in the dark. On this occasion they "heard something run through the brush very distinctly" and they "...called the dogs back supposing it was one of the Horses got loose." [5]

Blaxland's footnote to this incident is rather stunning: "This night we were in the greatest danger, as there is little doubt that the Natives had followed their (the explorers'--ed) track and advanced on them in the Night, intending to have speared them by the light of the fire, which is their custom." [6]

Why is this dramatic moment left as a footnote? There appears to be some degree of conscious effort on the part of almost all the early explorers, except perhaps Barallier, to minimise the presence and role of Aboriginal people throughout this period of contact in the Mountains. Was it simply a matter of British bravado or modesty in the face of possible conflict or confrontation, or was there rather a deliberate policy of presenting the original occupants of the land as peacefully acquiescent, or at least not noticeable?

There is significant evidence to suggest that Governor Macquarie was not overly impressed with the report supplied by Messrs Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson. It was not a venture that he had clearly endorsed. It appears he was unconvinced of their success because, despite the fact that the worthy trio had blazed their trail across a direct ridge line and reached a view of substantially clear, grassy grazing land, there was still a line of Mountains (in fact, the ‘Dividing Range’) reported across a valley (the ‘Vale of Clwydd’).

At first, Macquarie took no direct action over the reports of Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson. It was a full six months before he directed his Assistant Surveyor General, George Evans, to follow the path blazed by them and confirm if anything of value lay further west.

George William Evans--1780-1852

Part of the reason for Macquarie’s delay in sending Evans had been the fact that his Assistant Surveyor-General had been preoccupied with sorting out the chaotic land dispersals that had occurred in Van Dieman’s Land, prior to Macquarie’s arrival. The Governor’s choice of explorers was an interesting one, given George William Evans’ chequered early career.

A gentrified English colonial adventurer from Warwickshire, Evans had first tried his hand in South Africa, but moved on to NSW in 1802. As a Free Settler in the new colony, Evans won the favour of some of the key figures in the NSW Corps, most notably the Lieutenant Governor William Paterson, who promptly put him in charge of government stores at Parramatta.

With some training in trigonometry and basic land surveillance, Evans soon found himself Acting Surveyor-General of NSW, plotting an exploration of the Warragamba River to its source in the Mountains. In 1805 the Governor, Phillip Gidley King, dismissed him from his post—the question, of course, is ‘why’? Did he perform his role poorly? His later record suggests he was a better surveyor than most of his predecessors. Was he corrupted by the NSW Corps? It is possible, even though it is difficult--especially during the period of Grose and Paterson’s rule on the Corps’ behalf--to discern the difference between “corrupt” practice and “enterprise”. It would appear on the surface, at least, that Evans conducted himself with greater propriety than most others around him. Most likely King was on a mission to “clean up” the colony of the influence of rum and the NSW Corps—any association that might put Evans in that company would be suspect, and so King replaced Evans with his own man.

Nonetheless Paterson still had the power to ensure he received a land grant near Richmond on the Hawkesbury, feasibly, at that time, the richest farming land in the colony. Yet the Hawkesbury was an area fraught with difficulty for its white settlers, with persistent resistance from the local Darug people, and regular flooding afflicting its shores.

Consequent to the disastrous flood of March 1806 Evans gave up farming and found his old friend Paterson, who had been placed in charge of a new settlement in Van Dieman’s Land, now wanted him to survey the wilderness around him.

The latest Governor (arrived 1810), Lachlan Macquarie, had other plans. He directed Evans to explore the country around Jervis Bay to the south of Sydney. Evans not only did this competently, but struck a path inland to present day Appin, enduring considerable hardship to map quite good rural land for immediate settlement. Evans’ courage, persistence, and hardiness in carrying out this mission must have stuck with Macquarie, for he allowed the Deputy Surveyor-General to go to Paterson’s aid, but then recalled him for the major task that confronted him in 1813.

George William Evans—Surveyor, Explorer, Farmer, Bookshop Owner, Family Man

That task was to push further than all previous explorations and find a passage to the interior, where there might exist adequate pasture for the growing numbers of stock in the colony, as well as arable lands for settlement. This Evans and his party of two free men and three convicts did, and after reaching the most westerly point of the Blaxland party’s expedition, Mt. Blaxland, continued on for a further 98 miles to the present site of Bathurst. Here Evans named a westerly flowing river the “Macquarie” and wrote a glowing report of the relatively flat, sloping and scrubless lands lying between the Great Dividing Range and the area of Bathurst.

I cannot speak too much of the Country, the increase of Stock for some 100 Years cannot overrun it; the Grass is so good and intermixed with variety of herbs. Emu's and Geese are numerous,.. [7]

Evans also had his first encounter with one of the largest Aboriginal nations of NSW, the Wiradjuri people. It was brief, the group consisted of two women and four children, all of whom showed great fear and broke down to weep when confronted by Evans’ party. Evans showed sympathy and kindness towards the group, but gave no indication of why they might’ve reacted in such a frightened way. Had word of the depredations and dread diseases (ie Smallpox) of the new white invaders already spread among Wiradjuri clans? Or was the reaction simply an understandable fear of white ghosts, a traditional part of Wiradjuri belief? Was it rather that the small party had stumbled across totally strange aliens, without the protection of their own menfolk? Where were the men?

Evans repeatedly writes of the smoke plumes, scattered artefacts and sounds of Indigenous people, throughout his journey. He was convinced the local people knew of his movements, and that his party was being consistently watched. Yet at no stage did a ‘meeting embassy’ emerge from the surrounding bush. Was he considered friend or foe, or simply, indifferently?

Deputy Surveyor-General Evans had already determined to do more accurate orientations on his return journey. But it was on his return across the ‘Mountains that he encountered a massive bushfire. Evans was clearly startled, and by his own account, lucky...

Monday, 3rd.
The Mountains have been fired; had we been on them we could not have escaped; the Flames rage with violence through thick underwood, which they are covered with. Bad travelling the stick of the Bushes here are worse than if their leaves had not been consumed; they catch my Chain which makes the measuring very fatiguing; also tears our clothes to pieces, and makes us appear as Natives from black dust off them. The Marks in the Trees are burnt out; therefore am obliged to go over them again; Our Horses now want Grass; the herbage in this spacious Valley is destroyed; we cut some sweet Rushes for them that grow on the edge of a stream of Water which runs through it.
distance, 4 Miles.
Tuesday, 4th.
The Mountains are as yesterday; fired in all directions; at 11 o'clock I was upon the high hill; all objects Eastward are obscured by thick smoke; We stopped where there was feed for the Horses and Water.
distance, 5¼ Miles.[8]

 So, was the fire an accident of nature? Evans was travelling in high summer, December and January, a logical time for bushfires to occur. Thus far, his party had encountered heavy rains and parching heat, all factors that might point to a lightning strike, although the order of their occurrence was wrong. Aboriginal knowledge would be too keen to accidentally light a fire in hot, dry conditions that could endanger their own people—their ‘firestick farming’ was generally reserved for milder times of the year.

One has to consider the possibility that the bushfire from which they ‘could not have escaped’ may well have been a hostile act, or at least one that sought to sabotage the advance party’s mission. Evans struggled on for three more days, all of it through burnt out country. However, this was actually becoming an asset, and by the time he approached the country around Warrimoo, the cleared bush was allowing the party to travel faster.

Evans’ historic passage through Warrimoo is today marked by a ‘Footsteps in Time’ Trigonomical Survey Marker, in a small grass square on the eastern side of Warrimoo Citizens’ Hall. It is in the exact spot that Evans took his day’s readings for January 7th, 1814, thus:

                   ‘LAT        33*   43’   22”  E
                    LONG    150*  35’   52”  S’  

The top of the monument as it appears today.

 The monument concludes with the names of Evans’ co-explorers, two ‘Free Men’, Richard Lewis and James Burns and three ‘Convicts’, John Cooghan, John Grover and John Tygh. The entry that is both on the monument and in his Journal reads as follows:

Friday, 7th.
The Forest land continues a Mile farther; afterwards the brushy Ridge commences again, the thickest of it is consumed, which I consider fortunate, had it not I should be obliged to have given off measuring; at the end of today's Journey is a Lagoon of good Water, with tolerable grass round the edge of it.
distance, 5¾ Miles.[9]

In summary, Evans had just passed through some of the thickest bush he battled through on his initial trip across, presumably in the country around Valley Heights and Springwood, but most of this had now been ‘consumed’ by fire, thus making it possible to pass through much more comfortably upon return. This allowed him to do accurate measurements which he might otherwise have had to overlook, and to travel some five and three quarter miles—good distance through mountainous bush.

The ‘Lagoon of good Water’ is, no doubt, Glenbrook Lagoon, even now becoming a noted ‘stop off’ point for travellers on their way home from the arduous ‘Crossing of the Mountains’.

Upon his return to Sydney Town, Evans received due praise and reward from Governor Macquarie, moreso than had been given to Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson after their journey. Macquarie had never officially endorsed their expedition, and refrained from allocating their 1,000 acres of Bathurst land each till after Evans’ return.
William Lawson, the only one of the celebrated trio to take up the Land Grant offered by Governor Macquarie, to become one of the biggest landowners in NSW--died at Prospect
Only William Lawson took up his grant, and was reportedly the first to take his stock across the Mountains to settle there. He did some further exploration of the district towards present day Mudgee, but ultimately returned to Prospect, where he died.

Evans was awarded 100 pounds and 1,000 acres near Richmond in Van Dieman’s Land, his new destination since Paterson had appointed him Surveyor of Lands there.

Nevertheless Evans was still prevailed upon by the Governor to return to NSW to guide him on his carriage journey on Cox’s road across the Mountains and to assist the new Surveyor General, John Oxley, in his explorations further into the interior of the colony, mainly along the banks of the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers.

In the 1820’s he ran foul of the new Lieutenant Governor of Van Dieman’s Land, George Arthur, who sought to dismiss him through a charge of illegally disposing of Crown Land, despite the previous administrator, William Sorrell, speaking highly of his services to the colony. Eventually Evans settled on a compromise, which meant that he resigned on the grounds of ill-health but still received a pension of 200 pounds.

For the remainder of his life, Evans pursued a range of further careers, including landscape painter, drawing master at the King’s School in Parramatta, bookseller and stationer. He sired twelve children through two marriages and died at the age of 72, in Hobart.

The Road Across the Mountains—

William Cox (1764-1837) and Warrimoo

A ‘Questionable’ Past

As with George Evans, William Cox had an unfortunate early association with the NSW Corps, but was, at least partially, rehabilitated by Governor Macquarie’s faith and astute judgement of character.

Cox and his family arrived in NSW in 1800. He was a lieutenant in the NSW Corps and succeeded John Macarthur in becoming its paymaster. He bought a farm from Macarthur at Dundas and began investing in it to build up its stock and improve its overall yield. This included the assignment of skilled convicts and the construction of their quarters. To pay for these capital improvements Cox ‘borrowed from the till’.

William Cox--paymaster of the New South Wales Corps

In 1803 he was found to have ‘overstrained his credit’ to the tune of 7,900 pounds and was dismissed from his post. Over the next three years Cox set out to repay his debt, which he largely achieved by selling his property. Nevertheless, in 1806 he was obliged to sail for England to stand trial, despite the fact that the British government was not particularly interested in prosecuting transgressors from its far-flung colonies.

It must be remembered that at this time Britain was embroiled in an ongoing struggle with Napoleonic France and the nation needed all the positive morale it could muster. The NSW Corps was, after all, a ‘volunteer’ detachment formed for the specific purpose of a posting in the penal colony and it really was not politic to have officers in His Majesty’s army being prosecuted in the courts for embezzlement—besides which, the debt had been repaid.


Thus, William Cox was never brought to trial. Instead, he resigned his commission in 1809 and sought to return to NSW to pursue honest civilian life. When he arrived in 1810 the new Governor, Macquarie, showed the extent of his faith in Cox’s good character by appointing him Magistrate of the Hawkesbury, at that time the richest and most productive district in the colony.

Cox repaid his superior with a singular devotion to his son’s extensive property near Richmond, which he called ‘Clarendon’, as well as a notorious dedication to the construction of a new society. He became renowned for freely issuing ‘Ticket of Leave’ passes for deserving convicts, these earning the nick-name: ‘Captain Cox’s Liberties’. He oversaw the construction of a host of new buildings in Windsor and Richmond, focussing on the use of a sandstone for which the region became famous. Schools, churches, gaols and other public buildings were constructed, the most notable being Windsor District Courthouse, designed by Francis Greenway and still standing today.

Getting The Job

As soon as George Evans had returned from his crossing of the Blue Mountains and Bathurst Plain in January 1814, Governor Macquarie was anxious to build a road along the trail he had blazed to expand the colony. In this context, Cox’s name wasn’t simply plucked from the air. Firstly, once hearing of Macquarie’s interest in the project, he volunteered for the task. Secondly, Cox had earned the trust of the Governor for a number of reasons:
·                  he had a demonstrated ability to use resources with maximum speed and efficiency
·                  he had built a reputation for ‘dealing’ with the local Aborigines. Despite the history of violent resistance that the Hawkesbury District had endured, the level of conflict seemed to have subsided under his watch, and he had developed friendly relations with some Darug people
·                  he had a history of fair-dealing with convicts and extracting constructive effort from them.

Macquarie’s Instructions

So Cox was chosen to build the road. In his official Instructions to him, Macquarie set out the following:

Government House, Sydney,
14th July, 1814.
1. Having some time since determined on having a carriage road constructed from Emu Plains, on the left bank of the river Nepean, across the Blue Mountains, to that fine tract of open country to the westward of them, discovered lately by Mr. Evans, and having recently received from you a voluntary offer of your superintending and directing the working party to be employed on this very important service, I now most readily avail myself of your very liberal and handsome offer of superintending and directing the construction of this road; and do invest you with full power and authority to carry out this important design into complete effect, Government furnishing you with the necessary means to enable you to do so.
2. The number of artificers and labourers--namely, thirty--and the guard of eight soldiers you have yourself already selected, or required, shall be allowed and furnished to you forthwith for this service, and they shall be supplied with a plentiful and adequate ration of provisions whilst employed upon it.

3. Herewith you will receive a list of the number of artificers and labourers allowed for this purpose, together with a scale on the back thereof of the weekly ration of provisions they are to receive. You will also receive herewith for your guidance copies of my letters addressed to the Deputy Commissary-General on the subject of the provisions, stores, tools, utensils, arms, ammunition, slops, and other necessaries to be furnished from his depôt for this service, all of which will be forwarded to you to the depôt established on Emu Plains forthwith, and which you will be pleased to receive and take charge of on their arrival there, placing such a guard over them as you may deem expedient, the sergeant commanding the guard of soldiers being instructed to receive all his orders from you for the guidance of himself and party, and for their distribution. You will likewise receive herewith for your information a general list, or schedule, of the provisions, stores, slops, tools, implements, and other necessaries intended to be forwarded to you from Sydney by the two separate conveyances or convoys, including one horse, two new carts (with harness), and two yokes of well-broken-in bullocks, it being my intention to send off the first convoy from Sydney to-morrow morning for Emu Plains, and the second convoy in a fortnight afterwards.

4. I am in hopes the provisions, tools, and other necessaries will arrive on the banks of the Nepean in time to enable you to commence the construction of the new intended road on Monday, the 18th inst. Entertaining the fullest confidence in your zeal, knowledge, and abilities for conducting and executing this service in the manner intended, it becomes unnecessary for me to enter into any detail on the subject, the more especially as you are already in full possession of my wishes and sentiments, as communicated to you on our late conversation on this head...

I remain with regard, Sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,

of N.S.W. [10]

Starting Out

So, with a troupe of thirty selected, trustworthy, hard-working and skilled convicts, all of whom were promised emancipation if they completed the road within six months, Cox commenced a crossing of the Nepean on July 18th, 1814 and thence continued road-building across Emu Plains to the foot of the Mountains.

Accompanying them was a “Guard” of 8 soldiers, assigned for the threefold purpose of ensuring the obedience of the convicts, blocking interference from sticky-beaking colonists and protecting the party from attack by Aborigines—mainly the latter, because Governors since Phillip had been haunted by the possibility of a united rising of Indigenous people, and recently (1813-14) there had been further outbreaks of violence along the Nepean River.

From the start, Cox’s journal professed high satisfaction with the work of those under his charge. He never referred to them as ‘convicts’, but as ‘workmen’, ‘smiths’, carpenters’ ‘fellers’ (treefellers) or by their individual names. He rewarded them with rations of cabbage which, he told them, would prevent scurvy. The central diet consisted of bread, salted pork, porridge, whatever vegetables Cox chose to use from ‘Clarendon’ as supplements, and whatever game could be found (‘roo, ‘pheasant’—lyre bird or bush turkey--and fish--and this was all frequently gained by dogs, soldiers and Cox himself).

By July 26th the road-builders had begun to ascend the escarpment,

Made a complete crossing-place from the end of Emu Plains to the foot of the mountains, and began to work up them. The ascent is steep; the soil very rough and stony; the timber chiefly ironbark.[11]

Confrontation near Warrimoo?

Subsequently Cox set up his first “Depot” on the Mountains, next to good forest, fodder, and ample water. It was here, at Glenbrook Lagoon, just prior to felling timber in the country towards Blaxland/Warrimoo, that the Superintendant had his first taste of insubordination. The incident is interesting for a number of reasons...

August 2.
The workmen go on with much cheerfulness, and do their work well. Gave them a quantity of cabbage as a present. After dinner I gave directions to Lewis to inform Burne he was to take the three forward fellers to fire-making. Soon after he came to me and said he would not receive any orders from Lewis, but would obey any I gave him, on which I told him I should send any orders I had to give to him by whom I pleased. He went away, but soon returned again, and said he would leave, on which I ordered the constable to receive his gun and ammunition, and he went away. Ordered him to be struck off the stores, and informed the party he was discharged from being a superintendent under me, and had nothing more to do with me or them. [12]

Firstly it was more than likely that the initial glamour of the project was already wearing off for some of the working party, most notably Burne, a noted kangaroo hunter and guide, who refused to do as Cox’s foreman, Lewis, bid him. A ‘personality clash’ had occurred, but Burne was at pains to point out that he would still take orders from Cox himself. While making it clear that most of the men were ‘cheerful’, Cox was not about to brook any divisiveness and gave Burne short shrift—he was roundly sacked, and his chances of a fruitful future in the colony had just shrunk considerably.

William Cox--Magistrate, roadbuilder, respected landholder, ambitious political figure, radical liberal--racist?

Cox’s authority among the work-party was confirmed in that short confrontation, and little of such trouble was to follow. But a new situation developed as his advance party approached the bush around present-day Warrimoo—were the two occurrences linked? (ie, was Burne afraid/concerned to go further?)

August 3
Sent the two working gangs, with their bedding, etc., two miles ahead. Heard the report of a gun, and soon after heard the chattering of natives, on which they returned and reported the same. Gave notice to the sergeant to provide a corporal and three men to go forward and take up their quarters with the working men...The weather fine. Cleared the roads to the entrance to a thick brush two and a-half miles ahead.[13]

This journal entry is a fascinating and ambiguous one. Cox said nothing of the consequences of the “report of a gun”—was it a warning shot, contested game, or a confrontation with the Darug? Was one of the natives shot and/or wounded? There is no evidence of spears being thrown. Clearly, the convicts in the advance party were trusted to be in possession of weapons, but generally their attitude towards Aboriginal people was renowned as being hostile. At the same time, Cox could barely afford trouble if he was to complete the road as required by Macquarie. He sent a small military detachment ahead with the men, and tried to make light of the whole incident.

 The road-building continued, but this was not the end of the story. The next five entries detail the construction of the road through present-day Warrimoo and Valley Heights (around the approximate “9 mile” distance mentioned in the journal by Cox).

August 4.
Removed the depôt to seven and a-half miles forward, as also the corporal and three privates. Lewis got leave to go to Richmond and return again on Sunday next. The men at work in a very thick, troublesome brush. A fine day, but close. The wind in the evening got round to the south.
August 5.
Timber both thick and heavy, with a thick, strong brush, the roots of which are very hard to grub up making it altogether extremely hard work.
August 6.
Timber and scrub brush the same as yesterday, but got through it this evening, and measured the new road and found we had completed nine miles. Marked the trees at the end of each mile. Went forward, and found a good-sized piece of forest land, with good water, to the right of an intended road about one and a-quarter mile ahead. The men all healthy and cheerful. Mr. Hobby joined me last evening. The people all moved forward to the end of nine miles.
August 7.
Removed to the nine miles on the road. I sent a man from last camp to the depôt to draw their rations. Wrote to his Excellency the Governor.
August 8.
Timber and brush very heavy and thick from the ninth to tenth mile. Thos. Kendall ill, unable to work. Mr. Hobby, with R. Lewis, went forward with John Tye about four miles, and marked the trees.Two natives from Richmond joined us; one shot a kangaroo. [14]

It is important to interpret all these entries together, in light of the incident with the gunshot. It would appear that the two to three miles between Glenbrook Lagoon and Sun Valley was some of the slowest and most difficult the road-building party had encountered thus far. Cox was at pains to describe the obstacles in grubbing roots and clearing brush, but did not address the issue of the natives seen earlier. Maybe progress was being slowed by precautions having to be taken to avoid ambush...(?)

Meanwhile, Cox’s trusted foreman, Lewis, was given leave to visit Richmond, and a letter was sent to the Governor, with no suggestion of its content. At the end of the 9th mile, Cox mentioned a valley with a good piece of forest land and good water—this more than probably was Sun Valley, an area now established[15] as an important ceremonial and meeting point for the Darug people, and conceivably a place that they might wish to preserve, and fight for.

Finally, in the August 8th report, “two natives” from Richmond suddenly turned up at Cox’s camp, “out of the blue”. These men were later identified in the journal (Agust 27th) as “Coley”, of the Boorooberongal clan—the same clan as Yellomundie (‘Yarramundie’)—from the Richmond/Castlereagh area, and “Joe”, a Mulgoa clan member who came from the area of the same name. It is relevant to note, that as well as his property, ‘Clarendon’, near Richmond, Cox had also acquired a large parcel of land in Mulgoa. Clearly, he had already had dealings with these men over previous years, maybe as employees, and feasibly Lewis had been sent to fetch them.

In most publications Joe and Coley* have been designated as ‘guides’. This is puzzling because Evans had blazed a clear trail and there appeared to be no trouble thus far in establishing the route of the road. Possibly it was due to the loss of Burne (Burns? Byrnes?), who had guided Blaxland’s party, as well as Evans’—but why would these men be capable of guiding the road-builders when their “country” was on the Eastern side of the range?

The incident with Aboriginal people, however, was serious, and it would have been commonsense for Cox to notify the Governor of the encounter, and to take whatever precautions he deemed necessary. Joe and Coley would have been important intermediaries with other Darug people.

At the end of his ‘Journal’ Cox sets out a summary ‘Memo for watering and feeding stock’, and the third of fourteen stops on the road’s route is designated as follows:

…3rd—Nine and a-half miles (from the starting point at the Nepean River—Ed), grass and water in a valley to the right of the road, about a quarter of a mile; entrance to it between two rocks (The Valley) [16]

Already, what is contemporary ‘Sun Valley’ was known as ‘The Valley’ in Cox’s diary. Clearly, it was a valuable stopover for readily accessible grass and water. Being the source of Fitzgerald’s Creek and reasonably close to the Nepean probably meant that white settlers had already found it and used it to hunt wildlife and graze stock when feed was scarce, as it had been in the years leading to 1813. Cox himself may well have used it thus. We also know that this was important land for the Darug, who had established shelters there. It would surely have been logical for them to be upset at the prospect of an intrusive road being built in their direction and for them to have shown their feelings towards the advance party.

All this is in the realm of supposition because Cox did not elaborate any reasons for the ‘gunshot’ and the ‘chattering’ of the natives. He was not alone in being reticent to explain incidents that occurred between Aboriginal people and British scouting parties—it was a common method of non-description, the reasons for which will be investigated further in this work, later.

The Road is Built—January 1815

Suffice it to say, there were no further incidents involving local Aborigines for the rest of the project. The road-building proceeded apace, and by November 3rd Cox had reached his biggest geographical/logistical hurdle: the descent from Mt. York. Building a satisfactory road down this steep precipice was a challenge indeed, such that Cox had to concede…

I… made up my mind to make such a road as a cart can go down empty or with a very light load without a possibility of its being able to return with any sort of load whatever; and such a road will also answer to drive stock down to the forest ground…It is a very great drawback to the new country, as no produce can be brought from thence except fat bullocks or sheep. The sheep also will be able to bring their fleeces up, and be shorn on the mountains…[17]

Thus, stock would be able to descend and climb the slope at Mt. York, but heavy loads would remain a problem for many years to come—the ‘Road over the Blue Mountains’ commenced its tortuous history of perpetual repair and modification from this date onwards.

On completion of the road all the way to Bathurst, in January 1815, Cox and Macquarie were both good to their word: the convicts who had worked so hard to construct the thoroughfare and its bridges won their freedom. The feat had been achieved in six months, through some of the most difficult terrain imaginable. Careful management of diet and resources had meant no loss of life to members of the working party, the one exception being Sergeant Bounds, who had died of an unspecified illness while Cox was briefly absent back at Clarendon.

The Governor was well pleased with Cox’s efforts and awarded him a further 2,000 acre block to become known as ‘Hereford’ at Kelso, just outside Bathurst. Here, the renowned Commissioner Bigge visited Cox in 1820 in the process of writing his ‘Report’.

Bigge found 5,000 sheep pastured, farm buildings erected and experimental work with artificial grasses in progress.[18]

He became one of the largest landowners in NSW, erecting mansions across the length and breadth of the colony. However, William Cox never received the 300 pound reward recommended by Macquarie from the British government, and was furthermore denied access to the colony’s Legislative Council, despite his eagerness to pursue a political career.

Despite Governor Macquarie’s enthusiasm for the man and his deeds, which were undeniably impressive, His Majesty’s government in London still retained serious doubts about the suitability of Cox for high office. Possibly this derived from his earlier record as Paymaster for the NSW Corps, or even more likely his professed public attitude towards Aboriginal people, reportedly uttered at Bathurst in 1824 and recorded in Bruce Elder’s Blood on the Wattle:

The best thing that can be done is to shoot all blacks and manure the ground with their carcasses. That is all they are fit for! It is also recommended that all the women and children be shot. That is the most certain way of getting rid of this pestilent race.[19]

In his time Cox the Roadbuilder had the profile of a radical liberal, espousing tolerant policies towards convicts, demanding a widening of the franchise, representative government and trial by jury. Yet this astonishing confession of William Cox’s innermost ambitions requires us all to re-evaluate the uncritical process of lionizing ‘Pioneers’ simply on the basis of being ‘the first’ in achieving this or that—history is also a method of judging the moral worth of our ‘heroes’.

Governor Macquarie and the Origins of ‘Spring Wood’

There is not a great deal of note for students of Warrimoo’s history in Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s carriage-ride across the Mountains. Of course he was assessing Cox’s work and was keen to see the countryside so effusively described by Evans, west of the Divide. No doubt his carriage rolled past the bushland that is now Warrimoo on the first day of his crossing, at a consistent jog.

Lachlan Macquarie--Governor of New South Wales 1809-1821, here seen in the dress uniform of his Regiment, the 73rd Highlanders, which he commanded
Yet Macquarie’s journey is pertinent to Warrimoo for one very good reason. His first encampment on the Blue Mountains was amid “…an extensive forest of large lofty trees mostly of stringy and iron bark.”[20] This forest was adjacent to a “…spring where we had been supplied with water, situated about a mile down a deep glen….The water is good, but something of a mineral quality. From this spring and the surrounding forest, the Governor gave the name of Spring Wood to this station.”[21] Such was the description given by Major Henry Antill, a co-traveller in Macquarie’s official party.

Mrs Elizabeth Macquarie, seen here in typical bonnet of the period. She was Macquarie's cousin, his second wife, and she accompanied him on his journey across the 'Mountains
Thus Spring Wood became not only a “station” in Governor Macquarie’s journey across the Mountains, but a second depot beyond the first at Glenbrook Lagoon, where troops would be stationed shortly after a barracks had been built there.

His ‘Oblique Purpose’

Macquarie’s purpose in setting up the two stations was somewhat oblique. From the outset, it was clear that he wanted to closely supervise the settlement across the Mountains. The two “stations” would ensure that no traveler on the Bathurst road would pass without the Governor’s express permission. Thus the future of the road would be tightly controlled.

Secondly, Macquarie appeared to be almost fastidiously concerned with the issue of “safety”. Safety from what? The oblique nature of his policy emanates from this seminal question.

Macquarie again--he was a popular Governor, but an autocrat. He ruled New South Wales with a fastidious attention to detail, and despotic firmness
The Governors of New South Wales had been operating, from the very beginning, under the clear British governmental order to maintain “amity and kindness” with the Indigenous people of this new land. Any news of uprisings or unfriendly attitudes from the natives that might have contradicted this policy would reflect upon the Governor concerned.

At the same time, the British government had enjoined its Governors to develop the colony by issuing Land Grants to worthy free settlers and emancipated convicts. This, in reality, created a contradiction of the previous policy, and was a difficult juggling act to execute. Hence Macquarie’s fastidiousness about travelers and settlers requiring “passes” to move westward beyond the depots.

At the very time Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson returned from their quest to cross the Blue Mountains and Cox’s road was being built (1814), trouble had been brewing along the Southern banks of the Nepean River with the Gundangarra people. The Gundangarra had felt that further settlement along the river was impinging on their lands and resources. Severe drought had driven both Indigenous and white contestants for the land to desperation. Violence had erupted and several deaths ensued on both sides.

This violence had escalated through 1815 and 1816, so much so that the Governor felt obliged to set up garrisons like the ones at Glenbrook Lagoon and Spring Wood, and maintain them for the safety of all concerned...

The necessity for establishing, and strictly enforcing this Regulation (ie “passes’”—Ed) is too obvious to every one who will reflect on it, to require any explanation here.[22]

For a man who articulated every order to the letter, this is a very coy explanation of the purpose of the depots. Obviously there was a need for “safety” against criminal depredations such as highway robbery, and for supervision of convict ‘Ironed Gangs’ later on, but taken in context, the main purpose of these “stations” or “depots”, was to protect travelers from Aboriginal attack and provide some degree of security for those daring enough to take a leap into the wilderness.

At first, travelers took refuge at the military depots, which was, no doubt, a growing imposition on the soldiers therein, or they camped alongside the road and took their chances.

Two Inns, with ‘Warrimoo’ in the Middle

This is where the two famous Inns come into the picture. In 1825, a man who had received a Land Grant in the (present) Blaxland area, Barnett Levey, set up an Inn to greet travelers who had just ascended the escarpment. It was close to water, provided grazing for livestock, stables, ‘victuals’ and a warm, safe bed. Soldiers were but a ‘Halloo!’ away, and security was reasonably certain. The name of this first place of rest was the ‘Pilgrim Inn’, the remains of which are found behind the ‘McDonalds’/’Quix’ outlets at Blaxland today.

The 'Pilgrim Inn' as it once was...Note the smaller building on the left hand side
The second was set up near ‘The Valley’, and thus became known as the ‘Valley’ or ‘Woolpack’ or ‘Welcome’ Inn. It was near enough to the water and grazing of Sun Valley, but not too far from the garrison at Spring Wood. It was situated directly opposite the current Valley Heights railway station and began operations in 1832, just two years before the winding down of the military barracks down the road. The famous and long-standing Inn was run by Alexander Frazer.

The 'Pilgrim Inn' as it is today--the two remaining walls probably belong to the building noted above...
This meant that the area currently known as Warrimoo was placed almost equidistantly between the Pilgrim and Valley Inns. It was a relatively safe place to camp by the roadside, so much so that early Warrimoo historian, Maisie Lupton, survived long enough to remember an important rest-over site:

The place where they camped later became known as ‘Black Log Hollow’. Teamsters traveling to and from the west used to gather and light their fires at the base of a huge tree which eventually died. The blackened trunk became a well-known landmark.” [23]

So the district around Warrimoo became a popular campsite—in these very early years of European incursion it was an area more commonly inhabited and passed through by white itinerants and Darug groups than others, such as Weatherboard and Blackheath, more remote and further to the west. Already, its geographic and functional identity was being framed.

An Aboriginal campsite--the Gundungarra traditionally built such shelters as these for guests visiting them...
A Further Note on Macquarie

The assessment of Governor Lachlan Macquarie remains one of ambivalence towards the Indigenous population he confronted. He was a typically determined British ‘liberal thinker’ who sought to establish a just society in his infant domain. He ruled it as a benevolent despot, but reacted ruthlessly when his authority was challenged.

In 1814 he attempted to address the issue of Aboriginal discontent head on. He called for a ‘muster’ and ‘Feast Day’ of all Indigenous people at Parramatta, but most did not show up. He set up the ‘Native Institute’ with William Shelly as its teacher and called for volunteer children to be brought in to be taught to read and write and to assume ‘Habits of Industry and Decency’, but only six attended.

Loyal and cooperative Darug people such as Colebee, Nurrangingy and Bungaree, were given metal plates (called ‘Gorgets’) and promised land grants, but violence escalated in the Cow Pastures when the Gundungarra attacked farms for food, were shot by militia, and took reprisals among the settlers, including three of Mrs Macarthur’s Stock-keepers at Camden.

Bungaree, 'Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe', wearing the uniform and  gorget (metal plate) awarded to him  by none other than Governor Macquarie
Now, faced with the collapse of the Native Institute and a frightening erosion of order on the Frontier, the other side of Macquarie emerged. He sent three separate detachments to different corners of the Nepean-Hawkesbury river system with orders to forcibly ‘arrest’ children and deliver them to the Institute. A list of wanted natives’ names was drawn up, including those of Goondel, Bitugally, Murrah, Yellana and Wallah—deemed outlaws to be hunted down, arrested or killed. If the latter, their bodies were to be

…hanged up in trees in conspicuous situations, to strike the survivors with the greatest Terror. [24]

This was indeed a policy of terror, pure and simple. The hysteria of the pursuit drew an innocent Dharawal group into tragedy, when Captain Wallis’ detachment surprised an encampment on Mr. William Broughton’s farm at Appin. In the ensuing melee shots were fired at the fleeing natives, many of whom were women and children and many of whom were said to have been panicked off a nearby cliff.

According to Wallis, fourteen bodies were counted killed, but there was no estimate of the numbers who disappeared over the cliff. Wallis claimed that two Gundungarra outlaws were among those counted as dead: Durelle and Kanabygal.

The violence did not end with the recall of the detachments and the capture of dozens of Indigenous warriors and children. Attacks and reprisals continued. In 1817, Macquarie imposed rigid restrictions on natives in ‘settled’ areas: they were not to carry weapons, nor assemble in groups of more than six, and ritual battles were ‘wholly abolished’.

Macquarie instilled Terror around the fringes of the Sydney basin, and remained concerned with the security of the Western Road--yet he also maintained his 'carrot approach' to the end
Yet the stubborn Governor continued his ‘carrot’ approach as well. He handed out more gorgets and land grants and monetary rewards. He heaped praise and awards upon those students in the Native Institute who performed outstandingly. He persisted with the Feast Days at Parramatta, and ironically the number in attendance grew to 300 plus. Wiradjuri groups from Bathurst walked over the Mountains, along the road, past Spring Wood and Warrimoo, just to attend the Governor’s Feast. By 1820, the warfare had subsided.

In 1821 the Bigge Report signaled the end of Macquarie’s autocracy. Now power passed to shorter-term Governors and the ruling pastoral elite. Policies changed. Increased land grants, larger in size and greater in number, flowed outwards from Bathurst. More convict labour was allocated to the big stations, and population grew beyond control. By 1823 the Wandradyne/Wiradjuri revolt was in full swing, and violence returned to the frontier.

Another portarait of Elizabeth Macquarie. She accompanied her husband on his return to Britain in 1822, where he struggled to restore his reputation. He died in 1824
Macquarie’s policies went with the man. There was no more ‘carrot’: the Native Institute withered on the vine, Aboriginal land grants were buried, the Feasts faded from view. Only Martial Law remained, and a strain of deadly Influenza…

The Road Across the Mountains—What was it like?

The Specifications

Cox's Road can be walked today. It is well marked and cleared.
The Governor was particular about the specifications for the road. It had to be at least 12 feet (about 4 metres—Ed) wide and wherever possible, 16 feet. Timber was to be cleared from the sides to a distance of 20 feet and where necessary culverts and bridges built. [25]

The width is 4 metres, cleared and grubbed--enough for a carriage to comfortably pass
So, were these requirements met as the road passed through the area we now know as Warrimoo? It would seem from the comments made by both early explorers and subsequent travelers, that the landforms and vegetation of the territory between the “first depot” at Glenbrook Lagoon and the Woolpack Inn, held no great obstacles to the task of road-building at that time. The process, according to Mackaness, was as follows:

…An alignment was marked by blazing the trees along the route which presented the least difficulties. A track was cleared and grubbed along this route, the road was graded (by convict, bullock or horse teams—Ed), bridges and small culverts were made where necessary, but no attempt was made to metal it, and in rare cases only was it fenced…All obstacles were overcome; rocks were blown up by gunpowder; boulders were levered out, or removed by block and tackle from the alignment of the road… [26]

Similar to the section at Warrimoo? Maybe, but probably less timbered and with less undergrowth

The section relating to Warrimoo was reasonably timbered, and apparently a certain species of ‘brush’ caused difficulty in being ‘grubbed out’, but otherwise the road was reasonably straight, marginally hilly, with a consistent sprinkling of what are referred to as “gums and stringybark” (Turpentines?—Ed). It is feasible, because of the degree of burning carried out by the Darug, that the “bushland” was considerably less dense than it generally is today. Such “denseness” did exist, but, it would seem, in various ‘patches’ along the Western Road rather than constantly.

As any Mountains resident knows, dirt roads and tracks can simply become waterways after a serious downpour—no doubt this was a feature of some sections of the first road. Travellers were to complain of “sandy accumulations” and sections where rock and ledge “outcrops” had to be negotiated carefully. The section between Pilgrim Inn and Springwood would have been well worn and hardened into shape by use.
A rocky section, but smooth nevertheless. The Western Road was a great achievement, but it was subject to constant maintenance and improvement over subsequent years

From the beginning, ‘Ironed-Gangs’ were stationed in camps and portable barracks across the Mountains to maintain and improve the “Western” or “Bathurst” Road. They were a common sight as one walked, rode, carriaged, or hitched a bullock-dray across the Blue Mountains in those early years before the Gold Rushes.


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 so.

Thus, occasionally, maybe once every couple of weeks, one might have seen groups of men droving a mob of sheep or small herd of cattle, or a string of packhorses taking provisions to the settlers who were seeking long term residence near Bathurst. By the time of Macquarie’s departure, 1821, this amounted to 117 souls—insufficient to disturb the livelihoods of the local Wiradjuri people.

Governor Thomas Brisbane--changed the system of Land Grants and  populated the lands across the 'Mountains
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 Western Road around the Lower Mountains 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 Mt. York) 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.

A common sight on the 'Bathurst Road'--'Ironed Gangs' used for maintenance and construction
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

Major Thomas Livingstone Mitchell--controversial Surveyor-General of NSW who succeeded John Oxley. He was a big factor in the road improvements which changed the face of the Blue Mountains 
In 1828, at the direction of the new Governor, Ralph Darling, Major Thomas Livingstone Mitchell succeeded John Oxley as Surveyor-General of New South Wales. 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 Bathurst Road at both ends of the Blue Mountains.

Governor Ralph Darling--he had a tempestuous relationship with Mitchell, and queried the costs of his road building ambitions
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’).

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 Pass’!

Lapstone or 'Lennox' Bridge as it was seen in the early 1830's--a triumph of Lennox's design and 'Ironed Gang' labour
Spanning “Brookside” 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 under 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’ (Mt. Victoria). It soon became known as “Victoria Pass”, and was again testament to Mitchell’s vision and stubborn persistence in demanding high quality, well built, stone supported, roads.

Victoria Pass in the 1920's--almost 100 years after its construction, still going strong and carrying automobiles.
With further improvements to the resilience of this “Great Western 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 New South Wales in all its forms.

The newly set up Pilgrim and Valley Inns 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.

Some Observations

It is important at this point to pay due acknowledgement to Dr. George Mackaness, whose trilogy of monographs entitled Fourteen Journeys Over The Blue Mountains of New South Wales (still available at Blue Mountains Libraries) has proved invaluable to local ‘Mountains historians such those of us at ‘Warrimoo History’.

Mackaness has not only researched the obvious authors: early exploration diarists such as Blaxland, Evans and Cox, but also the records of subsequent travelers across the ‘Mountains: those who had gamely followed the trailblazers and ventured into new territory as European observers.

The first-hand accounts of these early tourists make fascinating reading and their observations, as we shall see, provide a detailed and provocative picture of life across the ‘Mountains in the 1830’s. Thank you, Dr. Mackaness, for your efforts in finding and publishing, word for word, these cherished primary sources…

1) James Backhouse—1835

James Backhouse--1794-1869--sent by the 'Society of Friends' to carry out  missionary work in New South Wales, and report back to London. He was 31 when he travelled through 'Warrimoo'
Backhouse was a Quaker, and as a member of the ‘Society of Friends’, had been sent from London to carry out traveling missionary work in the Colonies. He was in no hurry, and tended to linger in those areas where he and his companion, George Walker, could do some good. His account is therefore quite detailed and objective.

Some Quakers of the 19th Century
After ministering to the inmates of the ‘Ironed Gang’ stockade at Emu Plains, he described his entry to the Blue Mountains… 

On leaving the Ironed-gang, we proceeded along dusty, mountain roads, through forests of Gum and Stringy-bark, in some parts of which, fire was raging with fury; it had burnt the scrub off other parts, and left it black. On reaching a place, called The Valley, where there is a plain, country inn, with the sign of The Woolpack, having moderate accommodation, we gladly rested for the night.[27] 

So Backhouse stayed at the Woolpack Inn, around 2 kilometres further on from present-day Warrimoo. Clearly, for James Backhouse there was not a great deal to comment on about the bushland mountain country he had thus far passed through, except to say that it was dry eucalypt forest land where fire was a common occurrence—possibly moreso than it had been in the preceding centuries, because it was no longer fully ‘managed’ by the Darug as it had been in the past.

A gathering of Quaker women--the Quakers were more open-minded and progressive than most  sects. They treated women equally, and led the fight to abolish slavery in the United States.

After traveling to Springwood and beyond, Backhouse encountered two ‘Ironed-Gangs’ that maintained the Western Road: 

About five miles from our lodging place, we visited another Ironed-gang, and three miles further, a third; in each there were about sixty men, and both were under the charge of a young military officer. The prisoners were lodged in huts, upon large, open areas, by the road-side, without any stockade. When not at work, they were kept on the spot, by a guard of soldiers, who are ordered to fire upon any that may attempt to escape, and who will not stop when called to. We were informed, that they had no Bibles, or other books, and that their only religious instruction consisted in the reading of prayers by the officer, or sergeant in charge, on First-days (Sundays—ed). A few of the prisoners lodge in moveable caravans, which have doors, and ironed-barred windows, on one side. Four or five men sleep in each end of them, on the floor, and as many more, on platforms. They are not less crowded than the huts, and are unwholesome dormitories. Many of the men sleeping in them, become affected with the scurvy. [28] 

It is not difficult to understand how readily diseases such as scurvy and ‘consumption’ (tuberculosis) flourished in such conditions, especially when coupled with a diet of weevilled flour and salted meats—fresh fruit and greens were rare. Cox’s achievement in totally avoiding scurvy during the six months of constructing the Western Road, is all the more impressive given this kind of working life twenty years later.

At last, Backhouse assessed the Mountains road as follows: 

The road over the Blue Mountains, winds nearly forty miles, along their ridge, which ascends and descends a little, at intervals. Some parts of it have been cut with much labour, by prisoners, and others are sandy and rocky, but most of it is now good for carriages. There are a few miserable, solitary public-houses, by its side, in addition to the better ones, already mentioned (the Woolpack Inn—Ed), and another, of decent character. Along its whole course there are no grassy openings to afford pasturage for cattle. At the present time, the little rigid herbage, in the forest, is dried up. The bullocks traveling with the settlers’ drays, are “ill favoured and lean fleshed,” from the scarcity of grass in the countries below. Dead bullocks were numerous by the road side. Wedge-tailed Eagles were frequently to be seen, feeding upon the fresh ones.[29] 

According to Backhouse, there were now a few shabby pubs by the side of the road. The impression is that they are shanty bark-huts which had no real longevity, supplied with locally-made liquor, and only in existence for the ‘quick kill’ of supplying bullockies with moonshine in their constant to-ing and fro-ing across the Mountains. These ‘Public-Houses’ must be distinguished from the more permanently established, albeit weatherboard, accommodation establishments called ‘Inns’. 

At this stage, there were four known Inns operating in the Mountains: the ‘Pilgrim Inn’ at present-day Blaxland, which operated at the junction of all three roads ascending Lapstone Hill: Cox’s Road (the contemporary Highway), the Bathurst Road (today’s Old Bathurst Road) and Mitchell’s Pass (still named thus today). 

The second was the ‘Woolpack’ or ‘Welcome’ or ‘Valley Inn’ situated near present day Valley Heights station. Initially this possessed good, clear pasture behind, in its ‘Valley’, but clearly by the time of Backhouse’s journey this had been rendered ‘plain’ by constant grazing and dry conditions.

The others were the ‘Weatherboard Inn’, at the location of what was to become ‘Wentworth Falls’, and the ‘Scotch Thistle’ at Black Heath, both of which were mentioned by Backhouse. 

One of the most striking observations made by the missionary was of the poor state of herbage all the way across. There was simply no easy way of supplying fresh grass to transportation animals (horses and bullocks), nor of adequately feeding stock-herds on their way to market from the western plains around Bathurst, with the poor vegetation of the ‘Mountains. The combination of drought and over-grazing, as well as accidentally sparked bushfires, had rendered the charcoal bushland arid and sparse. At least, that country that adjoined the Western Road.

One of the consequences of such poor conditions was the common sight of road-side carrion, in this case dead bullocks, the favored beast of burden for freight trips across the Divide. Backhouse noticed that this in turn, led to the proliferation of Wedge-Tailed Eagles, later to become a symbol of Warrimoo itself.

The badge of the Lower Blue Mountains Junior Rugby League Club, which commenced its life as the 'Warrimoo Eagles'

The image of this mighty bird is the key representative icon for Warrimoo Public School, the Warrimoo Rural Fire Service and the Lower Blue Mountains Junior Rugby League club, and has resulted in the township of Warrimoo being designated as the “Place of the Eagle”, despite the fact that they are rarely sighted today.

 2)  Charles Darwin—1836

When the Beagle dropped anchor at Sydney Cove on its notorious voyage of discovery, Charles Darwin was 27 years of age and the colony of New South Wales had a population of 3,600 convicts and 16,000 free citizens. He immediately hired a guide and two saddle-horses for his forthcoming ride across the Blue Mountains.

Charles Darwin 1809-1882. He was 27 when he took his journey across the Blue  Mountains

Darwin’s narrative of his ‘Journey to Bathurst’ is invaluable because his observations are so acute and prescient—his interest in the Aboriginal people of both New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land belie a scientific awareness of humanity and a concern for the anthropology of the world. From his writings, we can discern a great deal about attitudes and living conditions at the time.

He stayed at an Inn near Emu Ford and soon noticed some local natives:

At sunset, a party of a score of the black aborigines passed by, each carrying, in their accustomed manner, a bundle of spears and other weapons. By giving a leading man a shilling, they were easily obtained, and threw their spears for my amusement. They were all partly clothed, and several could speak a little English; their countenances were good humoured and pleasant; and they appeared far from being such utterly degraded beings as they are usually represented. In their own arts they are admirable: a cap being fixed at thirty yards (about 33 metres—Ed) distance, they transfixed it with a spear, delivered by a throwing stick, with the rapidity of a bow of a practised archer. In tracking animals or men they show most wonderful sagacity; and I heard of several of their remarks which manifested considerable acuteness. They will not, however, cultivate the ground, or build houses and remain stationary, or even take the trouble of tending a flock of sheep when given to them…[30]

The excerpt tells us that derogatory stereotypes of Aboriginal people had developed wide currency by 1836 and had already been bestowed upon Darwin by his obliging white hosts—they clearly had been portrayed to him as hopeless and “utterly degraded”. To his credit, Darwin had the wisdom to dismiss such bias and to take heed of his own eyes and ears, to draw his own conclusions.

Mountains people hunting, complete with 'throwing stick' ('Womra'), boomerangs and fire--the Darug and Gundungarra were extremely adept at the use of fire to assist hunting 

Secondly, the Darug of Penrith/Emu Ford are here armed with a “bundle” of spears. We might recall that Governor Macquarie had not only banned such weapons back in 1817, but had also forbade the gathering of large parties (a “score” is twenty—surely enough to cause menace if they chose to do so) of natives. Either the proclamation had been rescinded, subsequent Governors had forgotten it or “let it pass” now feeling secure in their conquest, or Darug warriors had reasserted their rights to hunt and live as they always had done, daring the invaders to stop them.

More importantly, the possession, use and expertise in applying their weapons indicates the warriors were still perfectly capable of living a ‘traditional life’. Game and ancient vegetation may well be scarce, but extensive groups of local Darug were still able to live by their wits--even if it meant playing up to white tourists--and spurn the dull life of domestic farming offered by the colonial administration.

A hunting demonstration today...

Darwin crossed the river…

Early in the morning we passed the Nepean in a ferry-boat. The river, although at this spot both broad and deep, had a very small body of running water. Having crossed a low piece of land on the opposite side, we reached the slope of the Blue Mountains. The ascent is not steep, the road having been cut with much care on the side of a sandstone cliff…From this first slope, the view of the extensive woodland to the eastward, was striking, and the surrounding trees grew bold and lofty. But when once on the sandstone platform, the scenery becomes exceedingly monotonous; each side of the road is bordered by scrubby trees of the never-failing Eucalyptus family; and with the exception of two or three small inns, there are no houses, or cultivated land: the road, moreover, is solitary; the most frequent object being a bullock-waggon, piled up with bales of wool.

Apparently Mr. Darwin was not impressed by our dear ‘Mountains’ flora, but we might take some heart in the knowledge that the drought written about in previous diaries still dragged on, and the consequences of Backhouse’s fires must still have been in evidence alongside the road.
Travelling in mid-January, the height of the Australian summer, could not have assisted Darwin’s temper, nor have increased the volume of fellow tourists on the Western Road. It would also explain the preponderance of wool drays making their way to Sydney after the summer shearing.

In his whole sojourn from Emu Ford to the Weatherboard Inn (present-day Wentworth Falls) Darwin did not see any more than one further grouping of Indigenous people, and we must remember he was deliberately seeking them out…

The number of aborigines is rapidly decreasing. In my whole ride, with the exception of some boys brought up in houses, I saw only one other party; these were rather more numerous than the first, and not so well clothed. This decrease, no doubt, must be partly owing to the introduction of spirits, to European diseases (even the milder ones of which, as the measles, prove very destructive), and to the gradual extinction of the wild animals. It is said that numbers of their children invariably perish in very early infancy from the effects of their wandering life. As the difficulty of procuring food increases, so must their wandering habits; and hence the population, without any apparent deaths from famine, is repressed in a manner extremely sudden…Wherever the European has trod, death seems to pursue the aboriginal… [32]

It is unclear exactly where Darwin encountered this “other party” of Aboriginal people. Strictly speaking, it could have been anywhere between the escarpment and Weatherboard, though one might reasonably expect them to have been near the small settlement at Springwood, since this “party” appeared to have no concern with the sight of Europeans and may have been in consistent interaction with whites at the “depot” there. This is also where Pellion and the French expedition of 1819 found some Darug warriors.

Of most concern is the total omission of any sighting of the “several huts” seen by Blaxland on the famous Crossing of 1813. These were observed, according to most calculations, in or near the valley below the ‘Woolpack Inn’ (ie Sun Valley/Long Angle Gully/Warrimoo), which Darwin must surely have passed and noticed. The most logical conclusion must be that they had been destroyed, either by Europeans or fire, so the people who used them had moved on, into obscurity.

Rock carving--the loss of local game placed increasing pressure on Mountains' clans to roam further afield, into the territory of other groups

Charles Darwin rode on to Bathurst, where he found the Macquarie River “a mere chain of ponds.” He returned to Sydney and continued on his voyage with the Beagle.

3) Mrs Louisa Anne Meredith—1839

Mrs Meredith was an articulate ‘Lady of Means’ who had married her cousin, Mr Charles Meredith, in England and then migrated to Australia. She was ‘radical thinker’ who supported the Chartists and thus electoral reform in Britain, as well as an amateur naturalist and author of some note, who ultimately came to live in Tasmania. One of the first things she and her husband did upon arrival in New South Wales, was to set out on an excursion from their abode in Homebush to travel to Bathurst, by carriage.

Young Louisa Anne Meredith--as she looked upon her arrival in the blue Mountains. A traveller and writer of the newly arrived Victorian era. Note that hairstyles have now dropped to the shoulder, and the part is rigidly in the middle

After crossing the Nepean in the usual way, by ferry, and noting the total absence of emus in ‘Emu Plains’, for already they had been made extinct there, her carriage rose up the new Mitchell’s Pass Road…

…we reached the foot of Lapstone Hill, the first ascent, up which an excellent road has been made, winding along the side of the mountain, with high overhanging rocks on the left hand and a deep wooded ravine on the right. The wild scenery and the zigzag road reminded me of some of the “passes of the Alps”, as drawn by Brockedon, save that our ravine had no foaming torrent roaring down it; and it was only by the most intent observation that I could detect something like moisture trickling over the rocks, where an opening in the trees left the far-down stony bed visible.

It was October, and as I have before remarked, the spring months are by far the greenest in this land of ever-browns; so that I saw the country under favourable circumstances, although the severe droughts of the two preceding years had destroyed the artificial crops, and even the native grasses, to a deplorable extent…I was quite delighted, and thought that if all our progress over the dreaded Blue Mountains were as pleasant and interesting as the commencement, the journey would be much less wearisome than I anticipated…[33]

So Louisa was impressed with her carriage-ride up Mitchell’s Pass. Her interest in botany was stimulated by the wildflowers around her, and she was particularly struck by the local “Waratah”, a floral emblem evident on the badge of our present-day Blaxland High School.

Meredith was a skilled writer and artist--her botanical  prints of Australian flora remain beautiful today

Nevertheless Louisa Meredith’s account is not always so positive…

After driving some miles nearly all up-hill, we stayed to breakfast at a small way-side public house, where the slovenly slipshod women, dirty floors, and a powerful odour of stale tobacco-smoke, gave me no very favourable expectations of cleanliness or comfort. On the smoke-stained walls hung some very highly coloured and showily framed prints, representing young gentlemen with red cheeks and very blue coats trying to look very hard at young ladies in pink gowns with very large sleeves; and severally inscribed, “The Faithful Lovers;” “The Betrothed;” “The False One,” &tc; ingenious distinctions of character, which it would have been extremely difficult to discover from the portraits alone.[34]

Louisa is not terribly impressed. The central question, and it is timely to invite further (outside) knowledge and comment on this point, is whether or not the establishment to which she refers at this point is the ‘Pilgrim Inn’, or one of the lesser ‘Public Houses’ of dubious reputation referred to earlier by James Backhouse.

The mention of ‘some miles nearly all uphill’ suggests the ascent up Mitchell’s Pass as well as the distance between Lennox Bridge and the ‘Pilgrim’. After all, the road after ‘Pilgrim’ undulated somewhat despite the fact that it rose at the sites of Warrimoo and Springwood. She also refers to ‘slipshod women’ in the plural—it was not just one woman serving—suggesting that this “small wayside public house” was at least large enough to employ more than one person.

At this point it is worth examining the actual proprietorship of the ‘Pilgrim Inn’, and discovering more about its original owner, Barnett Levey, a Sydney-based entrepreneur and impresario who had an Inn built at this same strategic point on the Western Road between 1825 and 1827.

Barnett Levey (1798-1837)--Entrepreneur, bookseller, publican, real estate agent, speculator, performer, producer, bankrupt. He built the original 'Pilgrim Inn', but carried out minimal supervision of its subsequent operations.

In the meantime he was setting up the ‘Royal Hotel’ in George St., Sydney, which brought him into conflict with the new Governor, Sir Ralph Darling. His reckless dealings in alcohol, his enthusiasm to entertain the public with dramatic shows, and his construction of a windmill in the middle of Sydney to challenge the monopoly of the government mill, ultimately meant that Barnett Levey incurred the full wrath of the NSW government, which shut most of his projects down so that he soon found himself utterly broke. [36]

Meanwhile, in 1827, Levey had built one of the most spectacular homes in the colony, ‘Waverley’, overlooking the beach at Bondi, but his by now onerous debts required him to divest many of his other assets. Henceforth, the ownership of the ‘Pilgrim Inn’ became somewhat obscure because it was put up ‘For Sale’ by Levey in 1828, complete with orchard, garden and ‘an excellent house of 12 rooms’. [37]

Waverley House as it was in 1900. It was the first notable house in Bondi, and overlooked the beach. Built by the man who was the original owner of the Pilgrim Inn--Barnett Levey, in 1827. It was demolished in 1904.

Barnett Levey, among his many occupations, was a Real Estate agent who was always devising new schemes for the sale of land to accrue funds and thus pursue his real passion: the theatre (including his own solo performances on stage). So it was unclear at this point whether the ‘Pilgrim Inn’ was actually ‘sold’ or simply ‘leased’ to one William Williams for 100 pounds a year. Williams later was said to have been gored by a bull and killed, which might give us reason to assume that management of the Inn became less than thorough… ‘slipshod’ perhaps.[38]

Business can’t have been brilliant in the ensuing years, because ‘ownership’ of the ‘Pilgrim Inn’ changed hands at least twice in the 1830’s: first to James Evans and then to Henry Mace, who bought the subdivided land, Inn and surrounding stables, garden etc for the quite princely sum of 500 pounds.[39] Mace must have been the owner when Louisa Meredith visited—if indeed it was the ‘Pilgrim’ to which she referred—and made her scathing observations.

It must be reported, before going further, that the original ‘Pilgrim Inn’ was mentioned glowingly in the 1834 ‘NSW Calendar’, a traveller’s publication which informed people of the roads, sights, and accommodation of the whole colony. It presented the Pilgrim Inn as “…One of the cleanest and most convenient in the country.”[40]

The Pilgrim Inn early in the 20th Century. It's wooden parts were burned down in the 1968 fire, but some of the stone building to the left of the photo survived. Its grounds served as a Nursery until the arrival of McDonalds

To confuse matters further, Levey received a further Land Grant in 1835 from Governor Burke which was called the ‘Mt. Sion Estate’, slightly to the west of the original grant, which also went up for sale and which had a building erected upon it called the ‘Pilgrim Inn’. This ‘Inn” also changed hands, then changed its name to the ‘Late Lord Byron’ in 1838, but lost its licence to operate in 1842. [41]

There is a clue here that the second ‘Inn’ was not operating successfully—it could feasibly have been ‘slipshod’ and ‘slovenly’. The name, ‘Late Lord Byron’ may well conform to the type of wall decorations mentioned by Louisa Meredith, but then the grimy ‘smoke stained walls’ suggest an age of more than a couple of years to her Inn.

Notwithstanding, grime and grubbiness were then, and still are, a matter of management—either Inn could have been subject to poor practice at the moment of arrival of Louisa Anne Meredith’s carriage one sunny morning in October, coming to a halt at the Front Entrance, with its occupants hungry for breakfast.

An older Louisa posing with a book she may have written, and surrounded  by furniture and bric-a-brac of the mid-19th Century

The following contains a fascinating account of the culinary delights supplied by such wayside Inns of the early Victorian era, including an entirely feasible theory as to the origins of the authentically Australian word “damper”…

In many places you find some particular dish more generally in vogue than others, but in New South Wales one universal reply follows the query of ‘What can you give us to eat?’ and this is, ‘’Am an’ eggs, Sir;’ ‘mutton chops’ forming the usual accompaniment, if required. So ham and eggs we had, and mutton chops, too; but from their being fried all together in the same dark-complexioned fat, the taste of these viands was curiously similar, and both of impenetrable hardness. Unless great care is taken, meat spoils so soon in this climate, that the custom among most persons is to cook it almost as soon as it is killed, which of course precludes the possibility of it being tender. Tea, with black sugar, but no milk, and bread without butter, completed the repast, with the addition of “damper”, a composition respecting which there are diver opinions, some persons preferring it to bread, whilst I think it is the worst way of spoiling flour. The etymology is perhaps “Dampier”, this indigestible food (an excellent damper of a good appetite) being supposed by some persons to have been invented by the great circumnavigator, and the manufacture is this:--A stiff dough is made of flour, water and salt, and kneaded into a large flat cake, two or three inches thick, and from twelve to eighteen broad. The wood-ashes are then partly raked from the hot earth, and the cake being laid on it, is heaped over with the remaining hot ashes, and thus bakes. When cut into, it exceeds in closeness and hard heaviness the worst bread or pudding ever tasted, and the outside looks dirty, if it is not so: still, I have heard many persons, conversant with every comfort and luxury, praise the “damper”; so I can only consider my dislike a matter of taste. In “the bush”, where brewer’s yeast cannot be procured, and people are too idle or ignorant to manufacture a substitute for it (which is easily done), this indurated dough is the only kind of bread used, and those who eat it constantly must have an ostrich’s digestion to combat its injurious effects. [42]

An even older Louisa, in the classic garb of the Victorian Age. It is amazing how the tastes of the Queen became so universal, even in the far-flung colonies.

Again, Louisa might at first appear to be a fickle English ‘soft-hands’, but it is possible to detect a certain underlying delight in the rough adventure of her experience. Her critique continued into the Inn’s yard…

Adjoining this comfortless habitation (called an inn) was a small plot of potato-ground, but no attempt at neatness or improvement was visible; all was slovenly and neglected. The dirt and indescribable combination of ill smells within, was but a type of the state of things without. In the rear of the house one vast undistinguished rubbish-heap spread around, bounded only by some wretched dilapidated outhouses and stables, and reeking with foul exhalations, on which, and its more tangible delicacies, a large conversazione of pigs seemed to luxuriate most satisfactorily. Several children were lying or lounging about in close companionship with the pigs, equally dirty, but apparently less lively. Miserable creatures! whilst my companions enjoyed their cigars in the cobwebbed verandah, I crossed the road, and was at once in the wild bush, where I rambled for some time, interested by everything around me, though careful to keep tolerably near the house.[43]

Thus refreshed, Louisa Ann Meredith and her husband continued on their journey to Weatherboard, where they were beaten to the rooms of that Inn by another party. Forced to travel six miles further on, to 'Pulpit Hill', just beyond present-day Katoomba, in the dark, they made it to ‘Blind Paddy's’ Inn and there, spent the night.

Further evidence of Louisa's skill as botanical artist--there is something 'Japanese' in the attention to detail and the careful design elements.

Ultimately Barnett Levey’s frenetic efforts to provide dramatic cultural expression to the rudimentary colony proved a failure, and he slid into ever-more chaotic behaviour and drink, so much so that he died in 1837, at a mere 40 years of age. He left a widow and four children, and it is uncertain where and how their lives ensued, considering their breadwinner’s estate was bankrupt, and required sell-off by the Sherriff.

The original ‘Pilgrim Inn’ survived for many years as an Inn but the wooden part was burned to the ground in the 1968 fires. Two stone walls remain behind the ‘Quix/McDonald’s’ complex in contemporary Blaxland.

The second ‘Pilgrim Inn’ morphed into Blaxland’s (‘Wascoe’s’) first General Store and Post Office, but was demolished in 1913 to make way for the new railroad and station.

Louisa Meredith’s husband’s property investments in New South Wales went bust as a result of the droughts and bank collapses of the 1830’s. Consequently the couple moved to Tasmania where Louisa built a reputation as a colorful travel and botanical raconteur who had books published back in Britain. She died in 1895 at 83 years of age.

Mrs. Barnett Levey--he pursued his schemes with avid enthusiasm, but the death of her husband in 1837 left her and her four children destitute.

4) Mrs Sophia Stanger

So, what do all these observations have to do with ‘Warrimoo’, which had not been “settled yet? In a sense, in history, we need to understand why things do not happen as much as why they do. Warrimoo was not settled by Europeans in the middle of the 19th century, because its time had not yet come…

The testimony of these traveling observers tells us of the realities of the period: the amenities (or lack thereof), difficulties of travel, the size of population, the wilderness all around, the type of country required for European exploitation. Prior to the gold rushes, the section of lower mountains’ bush we now call ‘Warrimoo’ was simply part of the scenery to be passed through.

Horse and dray of the type commonly passing through the bushland yet to be called 'Warrimoo'

 Now that the European invasion was in full swing the role of Warrimoo as ‘place’ was to change irrevocably. Darug land management practices, which had focussed on integrative cycles of resource usage, was being cumulatively degraded. The European invasion demanded conquest, clearance and domination. Mrs. Sophia Stanger was part of that invasion. More than our previous observers, she represented a working class determination to struggle, subdue and win—an attitude emblematic of the British imperialist movement of the time.

Her story is in the form of a letter to her “Beloved Mother” back in England. She sought to travel across the Mountains to Bathurst with her Blacksmith husband Joseph and her five children, during the winter of 1841.

Admitting at the start that they could not afford the 90 shillings each needed to catch the “mail cart”, she and her husband agreed to sell all non-essentials and “hitch a ride” with another settler, on his two-horse dray, camping along the way. They thought this might avoid the “undesirable company of bullock drivers, who are almost sure to be convicts of the very lowest grade.”[44]

The journey did not commence well...

And now, dear mother, fancy me with my five dear babes seated on the top of this miserable load! Eliza walking on a little out of the town, and my husband by our side, on one of the coldest mornings in June (which you must remember is your November, and quite as cold in many parts); but although we had resolved on starting, the poor horses had evidently determined otherwise, both positively refusing to act as leader. After much whipping, scolding and rearing up, the horse in the shafts fell down with the load pressing heavily on some part of it, making it very restive and with no little difficulty, we again dismounted. As is usual in such cases we soon had plenty of help and plenty of advisers:--

"Sure you wouldn't be thinking to cross the mountains with all those children!” cried one; and “sure you'll lose all your babes, God bless them!" cried another; "the mountains are all covered with snow, you will certainly perish," said a third; while others were utterly astonished a young girl should have so many children and especially three at a birth...

Every hour seemed now to increase our perplexities, for the horses would not stir an inch and the load was by far too heavy. Our goods were gone on several days in advance of us and there we stood with just money enough to defray our expenses and none to spare for delays or fresh agreements, the driver coolly telling us that he was very sorry, but his horses would not take the load, and he would not go without it... [45]

Horse and dray, except this pic shows strong and fit draft horses and an empty dray--that of the Stangers was  overladen and the horses were unable to sustain the load...

Yet the Stanger family finally made it to the base of the Blue Mountains, and rested around a fire for the climb ahead of them...

Being anxious to reach the top before dark, we attempted once more to proceed, but here the poor horses once again raised objections, and very soon the accompanying dray was backed fast against a tree, about 9 feet (3 metres—Ed) below the level of the road, and here we must have stayed had not a number of men forming the iron-gang (who were returning from their work of improving these roads) kindly assisted us, for a small sum to buy themselves tobacco. They very readily strung into harness of ropes, some drawing before, and others pushing at the wheels. These men are stationed at various places, with two or three soldiers over them, working constantly in heavy irons, and their labour generally appointed as punishment... [46]

...When a draft horse can no longer "go", it simply collapses and refuses to move

Exhausted, Sophia and her brood achieved the top of Lapstone Hill and marvelled at the view below them. They advanced to set up camp near the Military Depot at Glenbrook Lagoon, and after almost being crushed in their tent by startled horses during the night, awoke next morning to continue their trek...

Now, again, the roads were heavy, and the drivers, notwithstanding every effort, were constantly mortified by the horses standing still, and then lying quite down.

Through this day poor Eliza walked on with dear baby, and I brought up the rear and blocked the wheels at every stoppage, sometimes left half-a mile behind, and then having to run as fast as possible to perform this new but somewhat irksome duty. Having made this day about eight miles, (it must have been less, probably six miles—Ed) we encamped near a hut at Springwood and with mutual consent, the next morning, parted with our guide, who, placing the horses abreast, proceeded with his load, leaving as to wait some other conveyance.[47]

Clearly on this day, Sophia Stanger and her family had passed through the bushland that was to become, within a few decades, “Warrimoo”. Her preoccupations were elsewhere, however: with the welfare of her young children: the baby, Matilda, a mere two months old, the eldest boy, Willie, and the triplets, Mary, Sarah and Eliza, all of whom were under six years of age.

The sheer labour of keeping the draft-horses moving and supervising the safety of her young, no doubt meant that the countryside drifting painfully by meant little to Sophia, nor all those like her, preceding her or following in her wake. Without the slightest inkling of the future, yet part of history. Such are our own lives, today, ‘History is what happens when you’re busy doing other things’...

Bullock team of the type commonly seen crossing the Blue Mountains--a "team" was nine bullocks, usually with two bullockies and a host of dogs

Towards evening that day we were joined by five bullock teams and as one had behind his dray a new and empty one, we agreed with him to take us to Bathurst. Among these vehicles was the one loaded with our goods, which we had passed on the road, but as they formed altogether a jolly company and had been a week coming from Sydney, they thought well to "spell" (as they termed it) another day; but while they were carousing, our stock of provisions were diminishing, and it was with cheerful hearts that, about eleven the next morning we found ourselves on the road, comfortably seated in our new conveyance, and forming, as the procession moved slowly along, a formidable array--for, to every dray, there were about three men to swear at, beat and take care of the bullocks, each team consisting of nine, and almost as many dogs. Now we had no more anxiety, for our cattle were sure though slow, and if any difficulty occurred, it was only to hook on some ten or eight others and soon all was set right.

Nothing occurred worth relating until we camped the second night, when having all our fires lighted, the winds blowing very cold and high took some of our sparks across the road and soon communicated with the bush. Seeing it spread and blaze to a considerable extent amused us. It is not infrequently that in dry seasons the bush takes fire, spreading destruction for miles, burning down everything before it. I should say that on these mountains, we felt the cold quite as severely as at any time I can remember in England and we daily expected snow, as it lays sometimes for weeks on these ridges, but dear Joseph most cleverly, contrived to shelter us by placing our ships berths at the sides and covering the top with the canvas of our tents.[48]

A team that is apparently in poorer condition--lack of pasturage on the Mountains' Road  often meant cattle were left to die there, attracting carrion feeders like eagles

Ironically, Sophia Stanger and her family had found security among the swearing bullockies they had so desperately sought to avoid at the outset of their journey. Ironically too, she found warmth and “amusement” in the blaze that “burned everything before it”, no doubt wringing havoc upon the wildlife and people(?) in its path.

The successful arrival of the Stangers at Bathurst some days later, and the many families that followed, meant that British settlement of the Nineteen Counties, and the Blue Mountains, proceeded apace.

[[1] PAISH, Lindsay, Heritage, Newsletter of the Blue Mountains Association of Cultural Heritage, issue #10, July-August 2010, p1
[2] LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, p.11
[3] LUPTON, Maisie, Ibid., p11
[4] MACKANESS, G, Fourteen Journeys Over The Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Part 1 1813-1815--'Blaxland's Journal', Review Publications, Dubbo, 1950 (available at Springwood Library) p.11
[5] MACKANESS, G, Ibid., p.15
[6] MACKANESS, G, Ibid., p.24
[7] EVANS, G. W. Journal 1813-1814, December 21st, from Historical Records of Australia, Vol viii
[8] EVANS, G. W. Ibid, January 3rd and 4th
[9] EVANS, G.W. Ibid, January 7th
[10] MACKANESS, G., ed  Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains, 1813-1815,-- Number Three--Memoirs of William Cox, J.P., Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978 p 41 and, Facsimile reprint published 1979 by Library of Australian History, reproduced in, 2004 Chapters 8, 9, 10
[11] Ibid, July 26, p43
[12] Ibid, August 2, p44
[13] Ibid, August 3, p44
[14] Ibid, August 4th-8th
[15] CAMERON, B., Sun Valley and Long Angle Gully—A History Cameron, Springwood, 1998 pp2-5
[16] MACKANESS, G., op. cit., ‘Cox’s Journal’, January 6th, p.69,
[17] Ibid., pp52-3
[18] Ibid., p.41
[19] ELDER, B., Blood on the Wattle, Child & Associates, Sydney,1988, p 50
[20] MACKANESS, G., op. cit., ‘Antill’s Journal April 26th’ p. 85
[21] Ibid, p. 85
[22] Ibid., ‘Tour Over the Western or Blue Mountains’, Governor Macquarie, p.81
[23] LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, p.11
[24] MACQUARIE, L., Governor's Diary and Memorandum Book, 10th April 1816, Macquarie Archives, Macquarie University 2006
[26] MACKANESS, G., ed  Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains, 1813-1815,--PART 1- Number Three--Memoirs of William Cox, J.P., Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978 p.70 ‘Notes and Commentary
[27] Ibid, p10
[28] Ibid., p10
[29] Ibid., p11
[30] Ibid., p38
[31] Ibid., p41
[32] Ibid., p.40
[33] MACKANESS, G., Fourteen Journeys Over The Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978, p.48
[34] Ibid., p48
[35] Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 01 Mar 1930, p.13

[37] Trove, op.cit.
[38] Ibid.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Ibid.
[41] Ibid.
[42] MACKANESS, G., op cit. p50
[43] Ibid., pp50-51
[44] MACKANESS, G., Fourteen Journeys Over The Blue Mountains of New South Wales –Part III—1835-1841, Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978, p.65
[45] Ibid., p. 65
[46] Ibid., p66
[47] Ibid., p67
[48] Ibid., pp 67-68


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