Small farms to subdivision

Small farms to subdivision

During the Colonialist period, and without regard to any property rights of the resident Aboriginal people, the first grants of land in the district were made in 1794. In October of that year grants were made to two Chaplains Samuel Marsden (100 ac) and James Bain (100 ac) and then in December to Surgeon William Balmain (100 ac) as well as to two emancipists, William Jones (24 ac) and David Kilpack (25 ac). These grants were roughly along the line of the current Pennant Hills Road and thence down to present day Eastwood.

The next grants in the district known as North Brush were in 1795. The first of these was a grant in March comprising 325 ac jointly to 13 members of the NSW Corps and then in July to Charles Jenkins and Giles Golding (50 ac), David Kilpack (50 ac) and John Varnice (30 ac).

The Macarthur holdings

In December 1794 John Macarthur started to acquire land in the district by purchasing the holding of Rev James Bain. He then acquired the holdings of the 13 members of the Corps, that of Jenkins and Golding and that of David Kilpack. Details of the original grantees can be found at the end of this section.

An Irishman in the Colony at the time called Joseph Holt, admittedly a man with no great fondness for Macarthur, described the methods Macarthur used to acquire this land as:

“Every soldier got twenty-five acres of land in fee; many of them, when intoxicated, sold their ticket for a gallon of rum. Mr M’Arthur used to supply them with goods, and so obtained from these improvident and foolish men their tickets, by which he acquired an enormous landed property.”

By 1798 Macarthur had accumulated some 500 acres in this area and then doubled his holdings to over a 1,000 acres within a further four years. This land extended from Dundas through Carlingford, then Beecroft and finally went right the way to near present day Thompson’s Corner. Macarthur called this property his Cornish Hills Farms. The name probably derived from his father-in-law living in Cornwall.

After having acquired and starting to farm parts of this land Macarthur’ commenced travelling to England during which time he lobbied to acquire the rich, fertile plains around Camden: a task in which he was eventually successful. In achieving this long term goal a condition imposed, to justify the size of the new parcel, by (amongst other things) his surrender of other land that he owned. The most significant holding of land that he transferred to the Crown in 1821 was his Cornish Hill Farms. Western Beecroft near the motorway and across to the golf course, was therefore traded as part of Macarthur’s quest to establish his family’s wealth and a new industry on the back of the merino sheep.

Over time, the large absentee landlords like Macarthur, Marsden, Hassell, Savage, Devlin and Kent sold their land in the district a number of smaller farms with families living on the properties started to inhabit the district. 

The Murray Farm was sold by the family in 1881 to a partnership comprised a former farm manager of the Murray family, Edward James Maher together with William Henry Paling a city businessman who purchased land in the district and William Moseley. They subdivided the 600ac and lots of between 2 and 20 ac were sold from 1882. About three quarters of the lots were sold by 1885.

The new owners ran a variety of small mixed farms and orchards. Those who relied entirely from the income of these farms struggled and often financially failed.

The largest residential subdivisions then took place as part of the Crown land sales of the Field of Mars Common. This work commenced in 1884.   

Murray’s Farm

As noted above, one of the early small holdings acquired by Macarthur to form his Cornish Hills Farm was that of a First Fleet convict.

David Killpack was originally convicted in 1783 when he was about twenty three years of age. He was a sawyer by occupation when he was found ‘making merry’ in the presence of a turkey cock, a cock and two hens, two ducks and a gander. The poultry was not only alive, but stolen. Sentenced to seven years transportation, he sailed to the Americas on the Swift.  13 days out, the convicts mutinied and rowed back to England – from whence he was caught, convicted a second time and now sent to NSW.

He arrived in 1788 aboard the Scarborough. Three years later he married Ellenor McDonald and signed the marriage register. She was about 6 years older than he was. He received his conditional pardon in 1794 and in the same year, his first grant of 30 acres, near present day Carlingford – then called North Brush. His nearby second grant of 50 acres was received in 1795. The combined grants were from present day Pennant Parade to Pennant Hills Road and embraces what is now the Carlingford Court shopping centre. The entire holding was acquired by Macarthur with Killpack staying on as a manager until his death in 1797. He left 4 children: his son died a few months later but 3 daughters survived to marry [1]. His widow remarried in 1799 to Thomas Higgins having at least one further child. She did not die until 1835 when she was said to be 81 years old. She was buried with David Killpack.

While Macarthur was in England, amongst other things negotiating to acquire his Camden lands, he met a young farm manager Andrew Murray who was the nephew of the great novelist, Sir Walter Scott. Murray was studying horticulture when he came into contact with Macarthur who was looking for someone to help him import different plants to test their commercial viability. Murray cared for the selected plants in a greenhouse erected aboard the Lord Eldon on the voyage out in 1817.

Working for the Macarthurs post arrival he undertook a range of tasks on their property in additional to their plants – including herding cattle at Cornish Hills Farm. While working in the district he met and married Eleanor Killpack, one of the daughters of David Killpack.

Murray travelled with the Macarthurs to Camden and became a constable at Cowpastures. Andrew and Eleanor’s first daughter Christiana Sarah was born 6 April 1820 at Upper Minto. Leaving the Macarthurs, he took on various government posts including Overseer of the Government Garden at Parramatta and other activities. In developing a range of interests he often worked alongside a new found friend, one James Milsom who became a significant landholder in Pennant Hills, at “Dartford Park” Thornleigh and on the lower North Shore where Milsons Point is named after him, was of similar age and had also worked on Cornish Hills Farm when he first arrived as a free settler in 1806. While Murray then lived at various times in Parramatta or Ultimo he became an absentee landholder in present day Beecroft when granted 230 acres – centred on present day Murray Farm Road and on the north by Devlin’s Creek. The Crown grant comprised land that Macarthur had earlier surrendered as part of the negotiated arrangements whereby Macarthur acquired land at Camden.

Murray’s was not good farming land and so was an unlikely selection for someone with his background. Certainly, the land had a connection with his mentor John Macarthur but this doesn’t seem a likely motivation for such a venture. There was another connection with this land because, as mentioned above, Andrew married Eleanor Margaretta – the sister-in-law of his friend James Milson. As also noted both Eleanor and Milson’s wife Elizabeth were daughters of David Killpack. It is said that Andrew first met Eleanor while out herding cattle at Cornish Hills Farm. Eleanor had received a grant of 60 acres in 1816, as part of the subdivision of the Castle Hill Government Farm. She sold this land to James Milsom in 1826 [2].

Murray’s holding grew to 600 acres and was largely used for timber getting with small holdings leased to emancipists who farmed them. He died in 1858 and his widow a decade later. Their tombs are nearby to the graves of David and Ellenor Killpack. The Beecroft land was bequeathed to his younger daughter Elizabeth Stewart, and stayed in the family until it was subdivided and sold between 1882 and 1885. It was sold to a partnership of William Paley, Edward Maher and William Mosely.

A sandstone house on Murray Farm Road dates from the time that the Murray family owned the land.

[1]    Martha married James Reynolds; Elizabeth to James Milsom and Eleanor to Andrew Murray

[2]    Affidavit of Andrew Murray, dated 23 December 1826

The Missionary Grants

Subsequent to the initial grant to Marsden and Bain in 1794, in April 1798 a number of grants, each of 100 ac were made to missionaries or medical men. The two most easterly of these grants which straddled modern day Pennant Hills Road (and so comprising the north east corner of modern day Beecroft) leading up to present day Thompson’s Corner were to Rowland Hassall and (a further grant to) Samuel Marsden. A neighbouring grant in what is now West Pennant Hills was to Francis Oakes. Also nearby were grants to William Henry and Rev James Clover.

Samuel Marsden

Rev Samuel Marsden grants went (approximately) from the current shopping centre at Thompson’s corner down to Copeland Road. The current Pennant Hills Road bi-sected this grant. Marsden called his grant “Mount Wilberforce.” William Wilberforce, the great abolitionist of slavery, was the patron of Marsden and the person who organised Marsden’s appointment as assistant chaplain to the Colony [3].

Marsden sold “Mount Wilberforce” in August 1818 to Captain John Welsh, captain of the convict transport Claudine. This appears to have happened at a time when Marsden was concentrating his efforts on a new property at Bathurst which had been granted to him in 1815. Welsh subsequently re-located to Hobart where he formed the firm of Welsh &

Welsh sold the land in September 1822 to George Thomas Palmer son of Commissary General John Palmer who had arrived on the First Fleet. In 1839 the farm was leased with the advertisement saying that Mount Wilberforce Farm was “lately in the occupation of Mr W P Palmer, newly erected verandah cottage.” After the death of G T Palmer the land was subdivided into three parcels with Francis Allsop purchasing 28 acres; Francis Maher 33 acres, and James Smith 42 acres on the western ridge.

For more information on the 33 acres sold to Francis Maher see the entry under Houses on this web site for 3–5 Copeland Road, Beecroft.

Rowland Hassall

Rowland Hassall was granted 100 acres on 20 April 1799. This grant was approximately from present day Copeland Road to the motorway. To the north was the grant to Rev Samuel Marsden and to the south the grant to Rev James Bain. Hassall called this land “Kerby Corner.” The 1802 Muster shows that Hassall had a freed man, William Clarke farming at least part of the land growing wheat, maize, barley and vegetables like potato, peas and beans. He also had 12 sheep and 2 hogs.

When Hassall died in 1821 as a result of an influenza epidemic and the land was bequeathed to his son-in-law Rev Walter H Lawry (1793-1859). Lawry ministered at the Pennant Hill timbergetter’s establishment. Following Lawry’s death the land was bequeathed to his son-in-law Francis Oakes Jnr. Oakes sold the land in 1861 to James Smith (1816-1887) of Pennant Hills. When Smith died this land was bequeathed to his son Edwin. An 1889 map of the area shows five houses on the property. A lease is granted of part of the land to Mock Ah Tock a Chinese Market Gardener. Use of the entire land is given to the Beecroft Golf Club in June 1906 and then Smith sells it to five men on behalf of the Club in December 1906.

For more information on this land see the entry under Activities – Sport – Golf.

William Kent Jnr

Along the eastern border of Macarthur’s Cornish Hills Farm 460 ac were granted to William Kent Jnr in April 1803. It is within this land that the Beecroft properties to the east of Midson Road and south of Devlins Creek are located.   

John Savage

To the north and east of Marsden’s grant was one made in August 1804 to John Savage comprising 290 acres. For more information on Savage see his entry under People.

Mary Martin

It is also important to consider the occupancy of land from at least the 1840s by Mary Martin (1793-1857). Mary was neither a missionary nor (like Violet Holcombe, for whom see under People on this web site) a descendant of one of them. For detail about her origins and family see under People.

Following her husband’s death, Mary was widowed, largely destitute and having twelve children. She seems to have been squatting on the Common since at least 1844. On the Common, she seems to have had a bush home near present day corner of York Street and Copeland Road. This location is broadly identified in an 1847 map.

The Martin family have remained in and around Beecroft ever since.

Land Grants comprising the Macarthur Cornish Farms  

 Grant No.  Grantee  Marine or Other  Acreage
 193  Rev James Bain  O   100
 363  David Kilpack  O  30
 413  James Jill, William Baxter,   Josiah Cooper, Robert Cross   Peter Farrell, Robert Freeman   George Gore, Samuel Hunt,   Charles McCarthy, John Owen,   Thomas Stoakes, John Townson,   John Wood  M  325
 450  Charles Jenkins, Giles Golding  M  50
 453  David Kilpack  O  50
 581  Samuel Wigfall, William Baxter, Joseph Bayliss, John Burt, William Charlton, Michael Collins, Joseph Draper, Isaac Floyd, Richard Gilbert, William Hughes, William Miller, John Missing, William Morgan, John Roussan, Patrick Skert, James Vinson, Joseph Whittaker   M  425
 725  Peter Smith sold to James Fleet Cover  O  50
 748 James Kenny sold to John Warby  O  30
 787 James Fleet Cover   O  50

Sources: R J Ryan Land Grants 1788-1809 (Australian Documents Library, Sydney, 1981): T Patrick, J Symes, A Tink In Search of the Pennant Hills (Pennant Hills Local Studies Group, Pennant Hills, 2007) p 39