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The British Garrison in Australia 1788-1841: the great roads.

The Great South Road

'In the year 1827, the road to Argyle was by the old Cowpasture road to the bridge at Camden. From there it turned south-easterly through the estates of John Macarthur (now Camden park), until the modern road from Menangle to Picton was reached. The line of this road was practically followed until the Stonequarry creek at Picton was crossed. Thence it proceeded southerly, crossing the Bargo river, until Lupton's inn was reached. The road then trended south-westerly through Bargo brush; and, passing about two miles to the east of the modern town of Mittagong, the range was ascended about a mile and a half to the east of the hill, now known as the Gib or Gibraltar, but called by the natives Bowrell. The road then went directly to the crossing of the Wingecarribee river at Bong Bong, and from thence virtually followed the present road via Moss Vale, Sutton Forest and Jumping rock to the crossing at Barber's creek, where the Argyle proper was considered to commence.' (1)

Up to 1829 there had been little military activity in the general area of the Great South Road. In May 1826 Captain Bishop, 40th Regiment, with a subaltern and 30 men had been ordered from Sydney to the Argyle to 'act in conjunction' with the local magistrate following the killing by natives of two stockmen, one of whom was believed to have attempted to take away the wife of one of the natives. No details of the outcome of the deployment have been found. (2) A detachment of the 39th Regiment, one subaltern, one NCO and 12 men, was stationed at Bong Bong at the crossing of the Wingecarribee River from March 1829 and a barracks built there, probably bark huts. Surveys for land grants were carried out at Bong Bong at that time, including eight 80 acre blocks for the settlement of NSW Royal Veterans. The site of the military station is now marked by an obelisk on the eastern side of the Bowral to Moss Vale road, close to the existing bridge over the Wingecarribee. Detachments of the same strength from the 39th, 17th and 4th regiments continued to be stationed at Bong Bong until 1834. (3)

In June 1829 Major Edmund Lockyer, in charge of roads and bridges, in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, reported that his road gangs were at Barbers Creek (Tallong) and sought directions for further development of the South Road. His request was passed to the Surveyor General, Thomas Mitchell, for advice and he, in characteristic fashion, decided to examine the entire existing line of the road. Mitchell's aims were to shorten the road, avoiding steep ascents and difficult river crossings. It is interesting that his first line from Campbelltown followed closely the route of the later developed southern railway line but Governor Darling did not agree that new roads should be opened up where existing ones would suffice and consequently road travellers on the South Road, which became known in 1928 as the Hume Highway, were faced with the route through Camden and across the difficult Razorback Range to Picton until the development of Highway 31 freeway superseded it.

Mitchell's other major realignment occurred at Mittagong. To avoid the crossing of the range at Mittagong and the swampy crossing of the Wingecarribee at Bang Bong the route was diverted to the west at Mittagong, to more easily cross the Wingecarribee at Berrima, where Mitchell reported that 'the site is good for a township or village, the scenery pleasing, water flowing and in great abundance'. (4) At the same time as he had been tasked to examine the route of the south road Mitchell was also tasked to select the final location for Goulburn and to survey the layout of the proposed township, again providing blocks for resettlement of veterans, this time members of the Royal Staff Corps. The allotments were situated in the area of the present Goulburn Gaol and it became known was known as the 'Soldiers Flat'. (5)

The detachment of the 17th Regiment stationed at Bong Bong disappeared from the Monthly Returns in 1834 and the following year a detachment of the 50th was reported at Berrima.

By January 1833 the location and lay-out of Goulburn had been approved and the survey of the Great South Road completed. There was an increase in activity along the length of the road; by March 1831 the strength of the detachment at Liverpool had been raised to a sergeant and 14 men of the 57th Regiment but in April 1833 it was increased to a subaltern, Ensign J D Territt with a sergeant and 20 men of the 4th, replaced in July 1834 by Lieutenant Bentley, one sergeant and 18 men of the 50th regiment. In 1835 Captain Montgomery, 50th, with one sergeant and 15 men, commanded at Liverpool, responsible also for a sergeant and 19 men with the Lansdowne Bridge party, and a detachment of the same strength at Georges River.

Lansdowne Bridge, designed, and the construction supervised by David Lennox, significantly upgraded Sydney-Liverpool communications. The bridge was opened on Australia Day, 1836 by governor Bourke, with the bands of the 4th and 50th Regiments playing at the opening.

By 1835 there were convict work parties employed on the length of the road from Liverpool to Marulan. At the Razorback Range, in the Bargo Brush, Mittagong and at Black Bob's Creek, 7.5 miles (12 km) south of Berrima the road parties were out of irons and unguarded. At Berrima and further south stockades had been established for ironed gangs. The Berrima stockade was sited on the south side of the Wingecarribee, the present-day location of the Roman Catholic Church. The Wingello stockade was not at the locality of Wingello, on the old road from Bong Bong to Lake Bathurst, but on Mitchell's line for the South Road to Goulburn, at approximately 3 miles (5 km) south of Uringalla Creek and 5 miles (8km) north of Marulan. (6)

At Berrima the guard detachment was commanded by Ensign Richard Waddy, 50th Regiment with one sergeant and 25 men. Waddy had been appointed an Assistant Police Magistrate and wrote to the Colonial Secretary on 29 July 1835 requesting copies of the Government Gazettes and the Acts of the Legislative Council be forwarded to him to enable him to carry out his duties as magistrate.

Waddy's posting to, at that time, a remote and isolated station, away from any senior guidance, was typical of the service frequently imposed on young, inexperienced officers, leading Lieutenant Colonel Henry Breton, 4th Regiment, in his evidence to the British Parliamentary Select Committee on Transportation in reply to a question asking him to enlarge on a previous statement that the nature of the service was ruinous to the officers as well as men, to respond:
 'I will not say ruinous to the officers; I think injurious in a
 certain degree to the young men.... The officers are sent away with
 detachments completely away from the regiments; perhaps young
 officers; they are without society ; it may be, not a soul to speak
 to; then some of them take to keeping women, and get into scrapes in
 that way; taking the regiments generally, I think that the system of
 sending the young officers, before they learn their duty, away into
 the country, is very likely to be injurious to them'. (7)


Waddy spent only one year in the isolation of the Berrima station guarding ironed gangs employed in road making and quarrying rock for the construction of the court house and goal. It seems that the service there was not injurious to the young ensign; he went on to serve with the 50th in India where the regiment fought on the Sutlej campaign of the 1st Sikh War and later, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, commanded the 50th in the Crimea. In recognition of his service there Waddy was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath, a Knight of the Legion of Honour, and awarded, in addition to the Crimean War Medal, the Sardinian and Medijie Medals. He commanded the 50th again in the New Zealand War, serving on the Staff with promotion to Acting Brigadier-General and promotion to Major-General in 1868. Waddy died in 1881 and a monument to his memory is in Canterbury Cathedral. It was a worthy, soldierly record for Berrima's first military commander. (8)

The Berrima stockade was guarded by detachments of the 50th Regiment until 1837 when Lieutenant Horatio Gulston of the 90th took over with another subaltern, two sergeants and 29 men. The 90th remained at Berrima for only one year as it does not appear in the Monthly Returns for 1839 when the Court House and Gaol were completed. The gaol was quickly put to use but, due to the escape of convicted bushranger prisoners, in late 1840 a detachment of the 28th Regiment, Ensign Ablin, one sergeant and 23 men were sent from Sydney to provide security at the goal. They were replaced by a detachment of similar strength from the 99th Regiment in 1843, this detachment, commanded by Captain Gall, remained there for only one year; it was the last detachment to serve at Berrima. (9)

The next stockade, known as the Wingello stockade, was not located at the village of Wingello, which is on the Old South Road from Bong Bong to Lake Bathurst, but on Mitchell's line for the South Road to Goulburn, at approximately 3 miles (5 kin) south of Uringalla Creek and 5 miles (8km) north of Marulan. (10) The stockade site is off the eastern side of the current Hume Highway, at a truck stop and is on the head waters of Uringalla Creek; there is nothing to mark the site, now completely cleared and stone from the stockade is believed to have been used in the construction of the Roman Catholic Church in Marulan. (11)

The 50th Regiment from 1835 to. 1838 also provided the guard for the Wingello stockade. Lieutenant Bentley commanded the detachment of two sergeants and between 22 and 34 men for the three years. The detachment was not replaced in 1838. The baptisms of two children of members of the 50th at Wingello are recorded at the Heber Chapel, Cobbitty. Mary, daughter of No 350 Private James Ward, was baptised on 2 February 1835, and William, son of No 626 Private Thomas Powell, on 7 November 1837. Both soldiers had arrived on the transport Hoogly on 24 November 1834 and appear to have been almost immediately sent to the Wingello stockade. The practice of deploying newly-arrived troops immediately in small detachments in charge of ironed gangs in remote stations was recognised as harmful to the service and morale of the regiments. The Regimental History of the 80th Regiment, in the Colony from 1837 to 1845, records:
 No more depressing duty could be found for a Regiment than this
 guarding of convicts or more calculated to destroy the discipline of
 a Corps. As the vessels arrived from Europe with their cargoes of
 convicted felons, the Military Guard (generally composed of young
 soldiers, drafts for the regiment) was sent out into the interior in
 charge of road gangs, without having seen, or been seen, by the
 major part of the officers of their Regiment. These guards, with few
 exceptions, were commanded by young officers without experience, and
 who, for want of other sources of amusement, gladly availed
 themselves of the society of such of the settlers who casually fell
 in their way, and as was only natural, insensibly acquired their
 habits. (12)


As Bentley's was the first guard detachment at Wingello it could be that they marched there as escort of the ironed gang to be employed on that section of the road. It is a matter of conjecture how the pregnant Mrs Wade would have coped with the journey from Sydney to the stockade site; if she had been lucky, she may have ridden on one of the baggage wagons.

The last stockade to be established and garrisoned on the Great South Road was the Towrang Stockade on the creek of that name which crosses the existing Hume Highway approximately thirteen kilometres north of Goulburn. The stockade site is off the northbound lane of the highway, opposite the 'Derrick VC' Rest Area. There is a dirt run-off from the northern lane about 500 metres north of the turn-off to Towrang Village and a stile across the fence gives access to the site. On the slope to the creek an excavation, which has been restored by the Goulburn Historical Society, is said to have been the powder magazine. At the bottom of the slope and across the creek are three gravestones from the stockade period. The grave of Private John Moxey of the 80th Regiment, was the subject of an article by Colonel Don Goldsmith in Sabretache, Vol IX No4, April 1967. The other graves are of Elizabeth Whittiker [sic] and Mary Brown, aged four years and one month.

A detachment at Towrang first appeared in the Monthly Returns (WO 17) in 1838--Lieutenant Rinaldo Scheberras, 80th Regiment with two sergeants and 28 Rank and File. The strength was increased to 35 R & F in 1839. Scheberras was replaced by a Ensign Curnow and a detachment of the 28th in February 1840. Scheberras was to go on to India with the 80th when it left New South Wales and having been promoted to the rank of captain, was killed at the Battle of Ferozeshah in 1845. Curnow's sojourn at Towrang was short, a detachment of two sergeants and 41 Rank and File, commanded by Lieutenant Tyssen, 80th Regiment, returned to Towrang in August of that year, relieved in turn by Lieutenant Cookson in 2842 and Lieutenant Gorman in 1843.

The Monthly Return for January 1844 shows only one Rank and File at Towrang, and the station disappears from the returns in 1845. The single soldier could not be identified from a check of the Regimental Muster Roll; it seems likely that he may have been left there as a caretaker pending the disposal of stores at the stockade. (13)

One interesting relic of the work of the convict gangs at Towrang is situated at the rear of the 'Derrick VC' Rest Area on the south-bound lane of the current Hume Highway. This is a stone bridge or culvert at the crossing of Towrang Creek by the old line of the Hume Highway. It is named on the TOWRANG 1/25000 map as "Lennox Bridge" but the New South Wales Road Transport Authority notice at the bridge states that the title can not be confirmed. It certainly has the characteristics of a Lennox design but by the date of construction 1839, there were many experienced, Lennox-trained bridge builders working with the road gangs. Unfortunately the parapets have been removed; perhaps these stones have provided material for the construction of one of the older Goulburn buildings, similar to the Wingello Stockade.

Whoever he was, the lone soldier of the 80th Regiment at Towrang in 1844 appears to have been the last man of the garrison regiments employed on the construction of the Great South Road.

(1) HRA Vol XIII p. 853.

(2) Bourke to Earl Bathurst, 6 May 1826, HRA I, Vol 12, pp. 270-1.

(3) James J Jervis, 1937, "The Wingecarribee and Southern Highlands District', Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceeding, Sydney. Vol XXIII, Part IV, pp. 247-300; WO 17, Monthly Returns.

(4) Col Sir T L Mitchell, Report on Roads in New South Wales, Sydney, 1856, p, 20.

(5) Ransome T Wyatt, the History of Goulburn, Sydney, Lansdowne Press, 1972, p. 40

(6) WO 17/2315-2330, Monthly Returns; Monthly Report Of Work Of Roads and Ironed Gangs for the Month of August 1835, SRNSW 4/4772/2B f46; James Jervis ASTC, FRAHS, A History Of The Berrima Distn'ct 1798-1973, Library of Australian History, North Sydney, 1973, p.32; conversation author/Linda Emery, Exeter 2003.

(7) British Parliamentary Papers 1837:38, Vol 22, p. 139.

(8) Colonel Fyler, History Of The 50th Or (The Queens Own Regiment) London, Chapman and Hall Ltd, 1895.

(9) James Jervis, op cit, p. 34; WO17/2328.

(10) WO 17/2315-2330, Monthly Returns; Monthly Report Of Work Of Roads and Ironed Gangs for the Month of August 1835, SRNSW 4/4772/2B f46; James Jervis ASTC, FRAHS, A History Of The Berrima District 1798-1973, Library of Australian History North Sydney, 1973 p.32.

(11) Maureen Eddy, Marulan, a unique heritage, Marulan, 1985, p. 1-33; WO 12/6127-6130.

(12) James P Jones, A History of the South Staffordshire Regiment (1705-1923). Wolverhampton, 1923, Whitehead Brothers, p. 54.-55.

(13) W012/8485.
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Title Annotation:Military Supervision of Convict Work Gangs. Part IV
Author:Sargent, Clem
Publication:Sabretache
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:2784
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