In June/July 2019, following my productive Archival visit to Sydney in February, we decided to drive to Sydney and stay for a month at Agnus Banks, a suburb on the Nepean River. This river is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River and close to all the early colonial settlements outside of Sydney in New South Wales.
Agnus Banks is a beautiful lush rural area with many large properties and elegant homes.
My plan for this Archival tour was to visit the New South Wales State Archives, the Hawkesbury public Library, Campbelltown public Library and Ebenezer historical church. I wanted to locate and visit original P[r]endergast properties at Kurrajong, Richmond, Cornwallis, Windsor, Lower Portland and Mulgrave Place in the Hawkesbury. I needed to research John Prendergast’s Airds land grant as well as the Campbelltown region. There was also P[r]endergast property at Wollombi in the Hunter Valley.
Link for Prendergast Land on Google Maps
In order to familiarize ourselves with the area, we drove around the Hawkesbury district on our first day. I had lived in this district years ago, but of course things had changed.
When I popped in to the information centre at Richmond to collect some pamphlets, I picked up a brochure “Hawkesbury River Towns, Heritage Highlights” and was surprised to learn that the name Mulgrave Place had been replaced by the name Pitt Town Bottoms. I later discovered that Lachlan Macquarie had changed the name in 1815.
Agnus Banks is a short 20 minutes’ drive to the New South Wales State Archives in Kingswood. I planned to learn more about the Prendergast properties. I wanted to discover who owned them and when by examining the Chain of Title of each property. I also wanted to learn where the properties were located in the Hawkesbury and Hunter regions so that we could visit the properties and walk on the land of my forebears.
When I visited the NSW State Archives and Records, after much research and assistance from the kind staff there, I was able to locate a Primary Application and a Map that showed 3 parcels of land purchased by Mrs P[r]endergast. This transaction occurred between 1800 and 1802. There were 2 blocks of land with Mrs Pendergast being owner and John Pendergast being occupier and a third block of land with Mrs Pendergast being owner and James Clark being occupier. James Clark was an Irish Rebel who was transported to Australia on board the Minerva with John Prendergast in 1800.
Enquiring from John at NSW State Archives and Records if there would be a document further back regarding the sale of land between the original Grantee and my Grandmother, Mrs Pendergast, he replied “No, you have struck gold if it shows both the name of the Grantee and the owner, this is the first record in the Chain of Title.” I was delighted! This proves that Catherine purchased the blocks of land from James Ruse and Samual Pickett. There is a record of the land grant occurring in 1797 but I have since learned that there were no Land sale/purchase transactions registered in NSW prior to 1802. I couldn’t wait to walk on the land at Pitt Town Bottoms!
During my stay, I was invited to give a talk about John Prendergast (Snr) and join the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury History Society for a picnic at Half Moon Farm. This was to be followed up by a newspaper article for the Hawkesbury Gazette.
Saturday 29 June, 2019
So, on a very foggy cool but sunny morning we set out for Half Moon Farm. We met the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury History Society at Wiseman’s Ferry Park for morning tea and then drove in convoy to Half Moon Farm. We were greeted by the lovely Melissa Medo of Echo Bush Regeneration there and enjoyed a delightful picnic where we all laid out rugs and sat on them to enjoy a packed lunch.
Following lunch Bernadette gave a talk about “Branch Jack” and another member talked about his Sullivan family in the early colonial days of the Hawkesbury district. I gave a talk about the life and times of John Prendergast and the family who lived at Half Moon Farm for over 100 years before the property was sold.
Whilst there, we paid a visit to the historical Half Moon cemetery and then explored some of the 80 acre property. Melissa gave a talk about the endangered species of animals living on the property and showed us the remains of a road made of large boulders. It was a very enjoyable day.
Photos of Half Moon Farm picnic
Monday 1 July, 2019
We drove to Campbelltown to conduct Archival research at the Campbelltown Public Library. I met with Librarian Andrew who retrieved for me a number of interesting books and other publications about the Prendergast family who were first settlers in the Campbelltown region.
John Prendergast Snr was granted 50 acres of land at Airds, near Campbelltown by Lachlan Macquarie on 20 June 1816.
John Prendergast Junior purchased many parcels of land at Campbelltown and married Elizabeth Dwyer in the newly consecrated St. John the Evangelist Catholic church Campbelltown on 1 June, 1824. Sadly John buried his wife Elizabeth at the Catholic cemetery, in 1847 just one year after he and Hugh Byrne were granted land and financed the construction of the cemetery. I have yet to discover how Elizabeth died but their son died just one week later. Family stories have suggested that they both died as a result of a fire but I have yet to find any details. If anyone reading this blog has any knowledge of this terrible accident, I would be interested to hear the details.
Photos of Elizabeth Dwyer’s Vault
*Since visiting the Campbelltown Public Library the wonderful Librarian Claire has emailed me information regarding the South Australian Newspaper dated July 1848. It advertises the large herd of horses bred by John Pendergast (of Campbelltown) and brought overland to be sold in South Australia in July 1848. This must have been prior to John Jnr. leaving Campbelltown and relocating to the Monaro district of NSW.
Wednesday 3 July, 2019
We decided to visit Wollombi in the Hunter Valley and Cousin Mark was only too happy to come with us and show us around the district. Along the way we visited a lovely Orchid Nursery at Peats Ridge and viewed exquisite blooms. These Orchids are very different from the tropical orchids that I grow in far North Queensland but just as beautiful.
The Wollombi cemetery where a number of P[r]endergast family are interred is within walking distance of the township. We visited the cemetery and then the very impressive museum before indulging in a spot of lunch at the Woollombi Tavern famous for its Doctor Jurd’s Jungle Juice. I was designated driver for the day so for fear of being over the legal alcohol limit, did not partake in this famous brew as I have been told that it has a high concentration of alcohol in it.
After lunch we drove to Millfield where we viewed the historic Rising Sun Inn. Thomas Prendergast, half-brother of John Prendergast Jnr. was the second licensee in 1840.
Wednesday 10 July, 2019
Today we drove up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and enjoyed a wonderful “Christmas in July” with 60 fellow Probians from the Rouse Hill Probus Club.
The event was held at the beautiful and historical Carrington Hotel. I had hoped that it might snow but although it was very cold, it was a crisp sunny day in the Blue Mountains.
Link to Carrington Hotel Website
We were greeted at the hotel by the President and escorted into the beautifully decorated hotel decked with the largest Christmas tree to greet us that I have ever seen. Just magnificent!
The lunch was a traditional Turkey, baked Ham and vegetables with Plum pudding and custard for dessert. A glass of Gluhwein and some traditional shortbread added to the occasion. Traditional Christmas carols were played by the Pianist as we enjoyed the delicious lunch. It was truly a lovely day.
Monday 15 July, 2019.
Our holiday at the base of the Blue Mountains would not have been complete if we had not enjoyed a visit to the Norman Lindsay Art Gallery in Faulkinbridge.
Norman Lindsay was famous for his still life paintings, his book The Magic Pudding and his love of Cats featured in his art. I love the way his art studio has been kept in the way he left it at his death. I could have spent hours looking at his lovely home, art studio and the grounds. It is such a lovely place to visit.https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/norman-lindsay-gallery/
Photos of Norman Lindsay’s place.
Tuesday 16 July, 2019.
We finished the research visit by booking a Christmas in July celebration on a Paddle wheeler that traversed the Hawkesbury River. It was a very enjoyable lunch and even better knowing that we were cruising up the same river my 5x Grandfather John Prendergast skippered the river boat Hawkesbury on in 1805.
But that is another story for another time.