Tag Archives: Emu Plains


It will be remembered that, on the eve of their journey across the Blue Mountains from Emu Island to Bathurst in April 1822, Thomas and Elizabeth Hawkins were entertained by Sir John Jamison at his property by the Nepean River.

A few months later, in August of that year, Sir John advertised in the Sydney Gazette that he was proposing to leave the colony for Europe towards the end of the year; he was wanting to sell his livestock (horses, cattle, sheep and pigs); and he was prepared to sell or rent ‘for a Term of Years’ his houses in Sydney, his estate of Regent Ville (on the Nepean), and his estates and farms elsewhere in the colony.

However, in September of the following year we find Sir John in the first stages of building a mansion at Regent-ville:

Tuesday last Sir John Jamison, the Proprietor of that invaluable Estate, Regent-ville, situate on the fascinating Banks of the Nepean, immediately fronting the picturesque Plains of Emu, laid the first stone of an intended mansion, to be erected on a magnificent scale. Regent-ville exhibited a scene of unprecedented festivity on the occasion; Sir John entertaining a large Party to an elegant dinner.

This function took place on 9 September 1823. A week later, on 16 September, the Commissariat Office in Sydney announced its acceptance of tenders for the supply of meat (fresh beef and salt pork) deliverable at Sydney, Liverpool, Parramatta, Windsor and Emu Plains. Among the suppliers to deliver at Emu Plains was Sir John Jamison of Regentville, with a tender for 1,000 lbs of salt pork.

In January of 1824 Sir John was advertising for twenty tenants, ‘of honest and industrious Character,’ each to rent at moderate terms ‘from 15 to 30 Acres of rich agricultural clear Land’ for five years on his Regentville Estate.

Proposed sale of livestock and sale and rent of properties: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/8/1822, p. 2. Laying of the foundation stone of the mansion at Regentville: ibid. 11/9/1823, p. 2. Tenders for the supply of meat: ibid. 2/10/ 1823, p. 3. Tenants: ibid. 29/1/1824, p. 1. The National Library of Australia holds a published engraving of Regentville by William Wilson, ‘Regentville, the Seat of Sir John Jamison’ (1838), from James Maclehose, Picture of Sydney and Strangers’ Guide in New South Wales in 1839, Sydney, J. Maclehose, 1839, facing p.171, viewable online.

From Rooty Hill to Emu Island

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See yesterday’s entry.)

Having rested on Sunday at the Government House at Rooty Hill, on Easter Monday the Hawkins family – Thomas and Elizabeth Hawkins, their children, Elizabeth’s mother Mrs. Lilly, and their attendants – resumed their journey westwards. The distance to the Nepean River was nine miles, and the road was ‘the same as before.’ (This seems to mean that the road was good, and perhaps also that it passed through forested countryside.) At the Nepean, one has to ford the river to Emu Island, where there are a Government house and depot. From here on there would be no places of habitation until they reached Bathurst, except for a lone house at stopping places.

There was a delay at this point, as this was as far as the animals and carts which brought them from Sydney were to go. Some new horses and carts had to be assembled on the Emu Island side of the river, and the family waited at a hut (on Emu Island?) until these were ready. That night part of the luggage was carried across the ford to Emu Island. The remainder would have to wait until the next day, and Sir John Jamieson (his name is so spelled by Elizabeth), who lived nearby, sent his head constable to guard it.

John Jamison (1776-1844), who was trained like his father in medicine, was knighted twice over, first in Sweden (1809, for dealing with scurvy in the navy of King Charles XIII) and later in England (1813). His father Thomas (1753?-1811) arrived in New South Wales in 1788 with the First Fleet, as surgeon’s mate. He became assistant surgeon, principal surgeon, acting surgeon-general, and a magistrate, and was involved in trade, including trade in sandalwood. He received several land grants, including land at the Nepean in 1805. He was prominent in the rebellion against Governor Bligh. Upon his death his son John inherited the land and came out to the colony in 1814 to farm it. Sir John Jamison was among those who accompanied Governor Macquarie on his tour of inspection across the Mountains in 1815, and would have been keenly aware of the conditions which the Hawkins family would face on their journey.

Governor Macquarie had indicated in an order of 12 July 1814 that the name Emu Plains was to be used for that area ‘hitherto erroneously called Emu Island.’ Eight years later Elizabeth Hawkins refers to Emu Island; evidently the original name had persisted in common usage.

‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, I’, Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13. Cf. Elizabeth Hawkins – Crossing the Blue Mountains. The diary of an early traveller across the Blue Mountains, on the website of the Ambermere Rose Inn (Little Hartley). Vivienne Parsons, ‘Jamison, Thomas (1753?-1811)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 12-13, and online. Thomas Jamison [Principal Surgeon], ‘General Observations on the Small Pox’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 14/10/1804, p. 2 (the first medical paper published in Australia; see also p. 3, ‘Vaccination’, a brief article about the use of ‘the Cow Pock’ against the plague, reprinted from a London newspaper). G.P. Walsh, ‘Jamison, Sir John (1776-1844)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 10-12, and online. Sir John Jamison and Governor Macquarie’s tour of inspection: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2, at p. 1 (spelled Jamieson). Emu Plains and Emu Island: ‘Government and General Order’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/7/1814, p. 1; cf. the entry on ‘William Cox, road-maker’.

Weather conditions: 8 April 1822 (Easter Monday): Rooty Hill – Nepean area, apparently fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13 (no evidence of inclemency).

William Cox, road-maker

William Cox (1764-1837) arrived in Sydney in January 1800 as an officer in the New South Wales Corps. He succeeded John Macarthur as paymaster but got into financial difficulties when he bought for more than he could afford Macarthur’s Brush Farm at Dundas and other properties. This caused considerable inconvenience as it meant that others had to oversee the process of selling off his estate to pay his debts. He also incurred official displeasure owing to misuse of funds he was supposed to administer as paymaster. He was arrested, and in February 1807 sent to England, but a trial apparently did not eventuate. In 1810 he returned to New South Wales, having resigned his army commission the previous year, and began a rehabilitated life under Governor Macquarie. He lived, farmed and served as a magistrate in the Hawkesbury area, where his conduct won popular approval. He undertook a number of building works for the government, and this gave him a background for offering to construct a road across the Blue Mountains.

By a Government and General Order of 12 July 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie declared the construction of a road across the Blue Mountains ‘to the extensive Tract of Champaign Country lately explored by Mr. Evans’ to be ‘an object of the first Importance to the future Prosperity of the Colony.’ Acknowledgment was made of the ‘very handsome and liberal Manner’ in which William Cox had tendered his personal services for the undertaking. The Governor had accepted his proposal, had ‘entrusted to his Care and Judgment the entire Execution of the said Work,’ and was now making it known that the public were to keep away from the road under construction, so that the work could proceed unhindered and be completed as quickly as possible. Any unauthorised persons proceeding to the road or even crossing over the Nepean River to ‘Emu Plains’ while the road was being made would be taken prisoner by the Military Guard to be stationed at Emu Plains and sent to Sydney.

The term ‘Emu Plains’ was expressly used in this Order for that area ‘hitherto erroneously called Emu Island.’ It was from Emu Plains, on the left bank of the Nepean River, that the road was to start. Construction would begin in a few days’ time with the sending out of a working party of thirty men with a guard of eight soldiers. An announcement would be made in the Sydney Gazette when the road became ‘passable for Carts or Carriages of any kind.’

‘Government and General Order’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/7/1814, p. 1. Edna Hickson, ‘Cox, William (1764-1837)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 258-259, and online. William Cox, A Narrative of Proceedings of William Cox, Esq., of Clarendon, lately holding a commission in the New South Wales Corps or 102nd Regiment, in constructing a road from Capt. Woodriffe’s farm on the Nepean River, opposite Emu Plains, over the Blue Mountains, and from thence to Bathurst Plains, on the banks of the Macquarie River, in the years 1814 & 1815, Sydney, White, 1888.