A modest area of parkland in westernSydney– the small remaining undeveloped portion of the most important public farm of the early NSW colony – has been listed on the State Heritage Register, Minister for Heritage Robyn Parker announced today.
Ms Parker, who was joined at the announcement today by Member for Baulkham Hills, Mr David Elliott, said that more than 200 years ago this tranquil suburban parkland on the banks of the Toongabbie Creek told a very different story.
“It resounded first to the sights and sounds of convicts felling and burning trees and later to their hard labour as they planted vital grain crops,” Ms Parker said.
“Less than four years after the First Fleet landed, around 500 convicts cleared the land on this site in one month for the colony’s second Government Farm whose lands extended south, well beyond today’s Windsor Road.
“The early governors knew that growing crops such as maize and wheat and raising stock was critical to keep the fledgling penal colony from starvation.
“By the late 1790s the convict workforce at the Toongabbie settlement had grown to more than 1000, all crowded into small huts built along two main streets.”
Mr Elliott welcomed the heritage listing of one Sydney’s most important historical sites.
“The area is rich in the State’s early colonial history and it marks the birthplace of farming at a time when the fledgling colony urgently needed food to keep from perishing,” Mr Elliott said.
“Heritage listing recognises the importance of the site and it’s significant place in the development of our nation.”
Ms Parker said there is evidence that the site also contained buildings for the superintendents and overseers, as well as a threshing barn, stockyards, a dairy and a church.
Heritage listing provides the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage with the opportunity to investigate the surviving archaeology and to interpret this fascinating period of convict history for future generations.
“There has been very little archaeological investigation to date on this site but as the site has remained largely undisturbed, it is likely that substantial archaeology of the convict settlement has survived,” Ms Parker said.
State Heritage listing means that the Toongabbie Government Farm Archaeological Site is protected under the NSW Heritage Act 1977 for future generations and that any major works on the site would be subject to decisions or advice from the Heritage Council of NSW.
While Toongabbie may have briefly been a successful farm, it also has a bitter history.
Toongabbie is associated with a severe escalation of hostilities on the Cumberland Plain between the local Aboriginal people and the convicts and civil authorities.
The Aboriginal leader Pemulwuy raided the Toongabbie Government Farm and convicts retaliated with reprisal raids on nearby Aboriginal camps.
Toongabbie was known to be harsh workplace where many died from extreme physical labour on meagre rations.
Large numbers of Irish convicts were sent to Toongabbie which became known for Irish convict uprisings against the colonial authority.