The Early History of Fairfield District

12 December 1956 The Biz (Fairfield, NSW)

(By Tom Fltzpatrick)

The early history of Fairfield district is centred around Smith-field, for it was there that John Ryan Brenan established the first township in 1841.

However, according to James Jervis, A.S.T.C., Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society, in October 1789.

Governor Phillip went to Rosehill to trace stream of water supposed by those who fell in with it, to communicate with the north west of Botany Bay.

In this little journey it is probable that he passed through portion of the Fairfield district.

A later journey was made by Governor Hunter.

On January 19, 1797 he went to Botany Bay and traced the Georges River up for twenty-five miles.

Apparently he examined Prospect Creek and then travelled over-land to Parramatta.

Between these years little interest seems to have been taken in the district and some time was to elapse before the settlers moved south from historic Parramatta.

On the western boundary of Parramatta starts the road once "a pain in the neck" to the municipalities through which it traverses.

Now really trafficable, the Cowpasture Road is one of the most historic highways in Australia.

In the early days of the colony, a few head of cattle escaped from the tiny settlement at the head of Sydney Cove and disappeared into the unknown.

Seme seven years passed and a party discovered the descendants of the stock near what is now the town of Camden. 

The district became known as "The Cowpastures," and the officers and gentry of the early settlement visited the locality when they wanted a jaunt into the country.

The track led from Prospect Hill, and a settler named John Warby earned an honest penny by acting as guide.

In 1805 James Meehan, a surveyor (who five years later was commissioned by Governor Macquarie to lay out the town of Liverpool), measured a road to the ford at the Nepean where the present bridge crosses the stream at Camden.

This became the Cowpastures Road and it was the main and only road to the south for some years.

Occupation of the land in the district known as Fairfield began in 1803, when an area of 12,500 acres was set aside for the Orphan Institution, then situated at Sydney.

It was in-tended that the revenue derived from the use of the land should be devoted towards the upkeep of the institution.

This large area of land covered the country south, almost as far as Liverpool, and was not sold for many years. The lease was dated August 15, 1803.

On January 1, 1806, two grants were made to one James Gowan, each of 100 acres.

These lands were on the north bank of Prospect Creek, and Carramar Station stands on one of the grants. John Gowan was Superintendent of Stores in Parramatta at one period.

Gowan later obtained another section of 160 acres dating from October, 1816.

Villawood school pupils will be interested to know that the school is built almost in the centre of the area.

These lands, passed into the hands of John Horsley, and the estate was advertised for sale in 1840.

The homestead - a seven - roomed cottage - was known as "Mark Lodge," and the property passed into the hands of Dr. Bland. It has been popularly supposed that Dr. Bland named the estate "Mark Lodge," but such is not the case, for it was well known by that title before Dr. Bland became the owner.

Probably the most, interesting individual connected with Fair-field's early history was a Frenchman - Gabriel Louis Marie Huon de Kerillian (and that's a mouthful), who on obtaining a grant of 100 acres, named it "Castel Paule."

For this grant he was required to cultivate 20 acres and pay an annual quit rent of two shillings.

De Kerillian, a French noble man, after fleeing from his country during the "reign of terror," went to England and joined the "N.S.W. Corps" or the "Rum Corps," as it was nicknamed.

Arriving here, he came under the notice of John Macarthur, who employed him as a tutor to his sons and built for him a schoolhouse still standing at Parramatta. Kerillian later moved to Bungonia (out from Goulburn), where he had another grant.

His death is wrapped in mystery.

One day he left home and nothing further was heard concerning him.

It is supposed he fell over one of the many high cliffs overlooking the Shoalhaven Valley.

The main section of the town" of Fairfield is built on Kerillinn's grant, and the station stands near its centre. Isaac Nelson and Thomas Hanson also received grants of 100 acres each, on January 1, 1810, and on the same date James Larra received 300 acres.

Hanson's grant lay north of Prospect Creek, close to the present railway line.

Fairfield Park is on Nelson's grant and Larra's 300 acres lay at the junction of Prospect Creek and Georges River. James Larra was a well-known individual in the early history of Parramatta, having been transported to the colony in 1792.

Completing his sentence, he became an auctioneer at Parramatta and opened an inn known as "The Masons'" or Freemasons Arms, standing on the site of the present Parramatta Courthouse.  

In the area lying between the Woodville Road, the pipe line, the southern line and Regents Park line, lands were granted as follow: 50 acres to B. O'Brien in 1833; 55 acres to John Morris in 1840; 40 acres to William Bland in 1841; and 240 acres to James Byrnes.

A portion of Samuel Norths 640 acre grant dates from 1837, and named by him "Guildford," lies within these boundaries.

Dr. William Bland was a picturesque personage and has left his mark on the district's early history.

Like many another of our early colonists, he came here against his will.

While a young man he was involved in a duel in which his adversary was killed.

Bland was sentenced to seven years' transportation, and reached Sydney in June, 1818.

He spent the rest of his life here and died in 1868. He was both a patriot and a philanthropist. Henry Kendall the sweet singer of long ago said of him:-

"And having battled to the end,

Gainst evil speech and deeds of dust,

He sleeps - this statesman, scholar, friend-

The slumber of the just."

Bland's grant of 40 acres was originally promised to a disbanded soldier named John Ward in 1831.

The latter did not occupy the grant and transferred his interest to Dr. Bland.

Bland retained the name "Mark Lodge" for it and the other lands he had purchased, by which title it was known for many years.

A portion of the estate was laid out as an olive plantation and afterwards as a vineyard which was under the management of William Stumph for many years.

The estate was subdivided into, lots of from half to five acres for vine-yards and small farms, and sub-mitted to auction on December 19, 1885.

(With acknowledgements to James Jervis, F.R.A.H.S.)