Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Early settlement

Small farms to subdivision

 The first grants of land in the district were in 1794. In October grants were made to two Chaplains Samuel Marsden (100 ac) and James Bain (100 ac) and then in December to William Balmain (100 ac) 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 [1] 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.

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.

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.[1A] 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.

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. Just a year after he arrived in the Colony, Andrew married Eleanor Margaretta – the sister-in-law of his friend James Milson. Eleanor had been named after her mother. Both Eleanor and Milson’s wife Elizabeth were daughters of David Killpack, our poultry fancier, First Fleeter and sawyer. [2] It is said that Andrew first met Eleanor while out herding cattle at Cornish Hills Farm. It might have been love that motivated our Scottish Presbyterian !

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. [1B]

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.

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

[1B] Affidavit of Andrew Murray dated 23 December 1826

The Missionary Grants

In April 1792 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 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 was granted 100 acres on 16 April 1799. This grant 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 & Heylin.

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 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 for 587 Pennant Hills 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 ac. For more information on Savage see his entry under People.

Mary Martin

Mary was a daughter of John Randall. John ‘Black Jack’ Randall was a negro who arrived on the First Fleet. John Randall was sentenced to transportation at the Manchester Quarter Sessions in 1785 and was transported on the ‘Alexander.’ From 1789 he was a gamekeeper in Parramatta and married Mary Butler (who had arrived on the ‘Neptune’ in 1790) in 1790. The eldest surviving daughter was Mary who was born on 4 December 1793. John received a grant of 60 acres at the Northern Boundary Farms in 1792 and he sold this land to General Joseph Holt in 1800. Holt described him as “about six feet high, well made and straight” who “played on the flute and tambourine.”[4]   

Mary was a widow with twelve children who lived in the Common since at least 1844 in a bush home near present day York Street and Copeland Road. [5] This location is shown on a 1847 map.[6]

For more information on Mary see the entry on Mary Martin under People

The Field of Mars Common

To the east of the grant to John Savage, Macarthur’s Cornish Hill Farm and William Kent Jnr’s grants was what became on 11 August 1804 some 5,000 acres known as the Field of Mars Common. 

[1] James Hill, William Baxter, Josiah Emery Cooper, Robert Cross, Peter Farrell, Robert Freeman, George Gore, Samuel Hunt, Charles McCarthy, John Owen, Thomas Stoakes, John Townson, John Wood.

[2] The ADB Vol 2 p 232, says Milsom married his employer’s daughter but this cannot be correct as David Kilpack died 9 years before Milsom arrived in the Colony.

[3] A T Yarwood Samuel Marsden: The Great Survivor (Melbourne Uiversity Pres, Melbourne, 1977) pp13-18.

[4] M Gillen The Founders of Australia (Sydney, 1989) p 298

[5] T Patrick, J Symes and A Tink In Search of the Pennant Hills (Pennant Hills, 2007) p 162

[6] Hornsby Shire Historical Society Pioneers of Hornsby Shire 1788-1906 (Sydney, 1979) p49

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