Townson of Varroville.
When Governor Bligh told Townson in 1807 that he might occupy his land but without any grant he also promised after much solicitation to allow him to purchase eight cows, four bullocks, twelve sheep, one pig and to give him the assistance of four convicts for eighteen months. (2) Thus Townson began to farm under great disadvantages, with no grant of land, too small a quantity of stock and scarcely any convict labourers. He wrote to England, asking that he and his brother might:
... be put on as favourable a footing as any who have come out; and as Government ordered the Blaxlands to be allowed to purchase ten cows for every thousand acres and to be allowed the assistance of eight or ten men for every thousand acres they hold, I hope we may have the same favour shewn us, and the Government herds are now becoming inconveniently numerous--not less than three or four thousand head. (3)
Bligh allowed Townson to occupy only five hundred acres, at the Devil's Back twenty miles distant and he stipulated that half of the cows should be of the Bengal breed. While Townson was still unavailingly objecting to these conditions and struggling for what he considered his rights, the Governor was overthrown. Townson was alleged to have said that the revolution was a good thing because he got his cows. (4) However, it does not appear that he received any cattle until May 1808 when he obtained stock from Johnston. He mentions having received twenty-one cows and four bullocks. (5)
The horned cattle of the colony at this time were derived chiefly from cattle imported from the Cape of Good Hope and India, with a few from England and St Helena. (6) However the breed was improved by the early introduction of good English bulls.
Townson's cattle seem at first to have caused him more trouble than his land. He was evidently dissatisfied because he had to wait for inferior cattle for which he paid while others received gifts of choice beasts. (7) Feeling himself to be the victim of unfair discrimination he delayed paying for ten of his cows and when he asked Paterson, who had assumed control in January 1809, for more considerate treatment regarding the cattle, he received an assurance that arrangements would be made in his favour. (8) Relying on this promise, Townson was surprised by a peremptory demand for immediate payment of 280 [pounds sterling]. (9) In an appeal lodged against the order of the court to pay this amount forthwith, some references made by Townson concerning Johnston and Macarthur caused them to take out an action against him for defamation. The significance of the case lay in the fact that this action was entered before Townson's appeal came before the court. Thinking to avoid litigation he asked permission to withdraw the appeal, or, if this were not allowed, to erase 'the objectionable passage'--a request which he had been informed was according to the custom of the colony. To his astonishment, although the appeal was withdrawn, an action against him for heavy damages was immediately begun, based on certain passages in it, 'and which', he protested:
I had a right to consider as an unpublished paper till it was read in your Court of Appeal--I therefore beg leave to state to your Honor that this Appeal has been surreptitiously taken from your office, instead of being kept sacred till returned to me--and that I have protested, and mean to protest, in every stage of the Suit, as against an unfair transaction, and contrary to the Custom of the Colony. (10)
In reply Paterson stated that Townson's appeal had not been surreptitiously taken from the Secretary's office, as he 'had presumed to assert', but had in fact been delivered by the Lieutenant-Governor himself to Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston 'for the purpose of affording that Officer an opportunity of Vindicating his Character from the heavy charges it contained against him,' and that, by withdrawing it, Townson had admitted the justice of the verdict.
In order to pay for the cattle, which he was not permitted to return to government, Townson advertised twelve head of horned cattle for sale at the stock-yard of Gregory Blaxland. Finding that there was no probability of raising the required sum, he withdrew the cattle from sale and was compelled to draw Bills upon England.
Throughout this affair Townson had been exceedingly harassed, not only by demands for payment and the action for defamation based on a statement that had not been made public, but also by the cares of the farm. In applying for the withdrawal of the appeal, he wrote to Paterson:
... if however the Appeal should not be withdrawn, I beg your Honor will erase, or allow me to erase the objectionable passage.--Another Cow dyed last Week, and I left another dangerously ill--I have none but Convicts at my farm and my presence is absolutely necessary.--I wish therefore to stop all further litigation. (11)
A month after these events, Townson wrote again to Paterson to remind him once more of his promise to make satisfactory arrangements in his favour. The only concession he obtained on this occasion was permission to purchase from government stock an additional number of cattle, for immediate payment in money, wheat or approved Bills. (12)
With regard to sheep, Townson had twelve head from the government stock promised him by Bligh. Hassall's Day Sales Book, Parramatta 1809-10, has an entry dated 4 December 1809 showing that Townson had had 400 sheep shorn at a cost of 7 [pounds sterling] or 7s. per score. These sheep may already have been grazing at Varro Ville, which had been surveyed in August of that year. The grant was ready for delivery in November 1809 and it is hardly likely that he would keep his stock on another person's ground for he had been obliged to send his sheep away from his original grant. It may be assumed that the land at Bunbury Curran in the District of Minto, which was later called Varro Ville, was occupied by the beginning of 1810, although Townson continued to reside at Tow-weery until the end of 1812. At the end of 1810 the stockyards at Bunbury Curran were referred to by Townson as 'my present stockyards' and were part of improvements which he said he regarded as provisional only until Macquarie's grants were made out.
Townson was kept in a state of uncertainty about the location of the public road through his property. He was most anxious that it should not pass along his flat, between the hills and the creek, since this was the only part of his farm capable of being cultivated to advantage. Seeking Macquarie's assurance in the matter, he wrote from Tow-weery 23 March 1812:
This state of uncertainty has prevented me from going on with my plans, & I am still living, when at Bumbury curren, in a very uncomfortable manner, as on this Road depends where I shall place my House and make my Inclosures--I must build some where or quit the Country & live in Sydney--The natural Course of the Road whether to St Andrews or the New Farms, is on the other side of the Creek & not over my Flat. (13)
As a result of his inquiry Townson was referred generally to the clauses contained in the grants with the added assurance that as little injury as possible would be done to his land. Persisting in his inquiry, he was directed to refer to the previous reply and informed that all correspondence on the subject must cease. (14) Nine months later, on 21 January 1813, Townson was induced to write to the Governor again:
Your Excellency having forbidden me to address you upon the subject of a Road to my farm, nothing but a new circumstance having occurred induces me again to mention the subject--The Bridge I built about two years ago was lately carried away by a flood, &, as the Land on which it stood tho--unoccupied is, as I understand, located, were I to rebuild it--it might be considered as a Trespass & be pulled down, I am therefore unwilling to rebuild it, yet, till it is built, or some new Road made, every time my Cart travels the Liverpool Road it is obliged to be unloaded at the Creek--I hope therefore your Excelly will take this into your consideration. (15)
A brief reply informed Townson that the Governor did not feel it expedient to mark out at that time any particular line for a public road through his land. (16)
The Liverpool Road was made in 1812 and Townson was, of course, filled with the most anxious curiosity for news of its extension southward. The timber was felled for three rods on either side of the Liverpool Road which was two rods wide and cast up in the middle with stumps taken out. Soon after its completion the contract was made for making the Airds (Campbelltown) and Appin and Bringelly Roads. In his evidence before Bigge, James Meehan said the work was finished 'about four years ago', (17) or about 1815-16. On these narrow strips cut through new country the stumps of the trees were taken up two rods wide and six inches under the surface. Travelling must have been exceedingly uncomfortable when, as soon happened, traffic and rain brought the stumps above the surface. The road to Airds and Appin crossed the eastern corner of Townson's grant and left his flat land undisturbed. It is interesting to note that no government men were allowed the contractor, Roberts, nor any assistance from government.
Robert Townson was almost fifty years of age when at last he settled at Varro Ville, ready to play his part in the pastoral history of Australia. It is nearly a century and a half since he disembarked from the Young William. In that time careful breeding has effected a remarkable improvement in the quality of the world's sheep and cattle. Writing from Sydney to Under-Secretary Sullivan at the very time Townson was disputing with Bligh, Surgeon Luttrell made the following interesting observations:
If you remember, sir, it was required of me, on my coming into the colony, to make the rearing and breeding of sheep the first object of my attention, in consequence of the representations that had been made to Government of the value of the wool. Accordingly, on my coming into the country, I purchased six hundred pounds' worth of sheep; but as I found it was likely to be a very losing concern, and the wool to be little or no value, I thought it necessary to dispose of more than half my flock, but I have now upwards of three hundred ... it is from the horn cattle only that a family can hope to prosper ... (18)
The first sheep, like the first cattle, were from Bengal and the Cape of Good Hope, with a few English sheep. There was no doubt of the demand for fine wool by English manufacturers, but New South Wales was not yet in a position to export more than what might be regarded almost as mere samples. (19) Australian wool was still coarse, hairy and of scarcely any value. The quality of the wool was improving, but most sheep owners were more interested in breeding for the carcase, since there was an immediate market for mutton, whereas breeding for fine wool was still merely a speculation. (20)
Soon a fall in the price of stock showed the wisdom of those breeders who had aimed at fine wool production instead of relying solely on returns from the sale of the carcase, and those who had recognised the value of wool as an article for export had reason to congratulate themselves. Nevertheless, they were to experience disappointment in market fluctuations and the difficulty of packing their produce for the long journey to the English wool sales. Successful methods of wool washing, pressing and packing were learned by costly trial and error.
The government flock from which Townson obtained at least part of his stock had been improved by breeding for wool and carcase. The sheep were a mixed breed of Cape and Spanish, the wool not as fine as pure Spanish. The Muster of Land and Stock for 1818 shows that, in that year, Townson had 214 head of horned cattle and 1916 sheep. He had two horses also and seven hogs. He had twenty-two acres in wheat, eight in maize, four in barley, two in potatoes and two in garden and orchard. (21) His total acreage was shown as 2632, but as his large grant in the District of Botany Bay was unsuitable for grazing, his land must have been already overstocked. At all events he found it necessary to seek fresh pasture. For this purpose he obtained from Macquarie a permit to send his stock over the Blue Mountains. (22) The grass in the County of Cumberland had by this time deteriorated (23) from the increase in the amount of stock, which grazed on the native grasses. Overstocking, aggravated by a plague of caterpillars in 1819, (24) resulted in deterioration in the cattle, and the government had difficulty in obtaining supplies for the stores.
The public or government stores were almost the only market for the supply of meat. Having sent in a tender the stock owner would be advised by the published list of the time for sending the meat. On the Monday preceding the due date, the tenderer attended the centre to inquire whether any change had been made in the date. The lists published in the Sydney Gazette show that Townson was to supply meat at the Parramatta, Sydney and Liverpool Stores from 1815. (25) When he went to Parramatta on the Monday preceding 22 May 1819 to inquire whether he was to send 6000 lbs. of meat to the stores on the day fixed, he was informed that Thomas Moore of Liverpool had sent in a large amount so that the date of his turn was altered. However, instead of making this alteration a postponement as was customary in such circumstances, the Commissary, Mr Hull, put his tender at the end of the list. Townson pointed out to F. Drennan, the Deputy Commissary General that:
by the plan on which Mr Hull is acting any person may be ruined, for after waiting for Months, relying on the Faith of Government, he may be obliged to sell his Cattle by the Vendue Master to pay his impatient Creditors--It gives great power to the person in office, for by receiving the Government Debts on a certain day he may set aside the tender of any person he may wish to injure. (26)
Townson informed Bigge that:
In consequence of the loss of my turn--and the Caterpillars having destroyed all the Grass upon my Farm I have not had any Meat fit for the Stores ever since--So that with near 300 head of Cattle I have turned none in for near two years. (27)
Although much in need of flesh grazing land, stock owners were unwilling to send their flocks and herds over the Blue Mountains to temporary pastures. (28) Soon after receiving permission to send his stock to the Bathurst district, (29) Townson heard of Charles Throsby's discoveries to the southward. (30) As his cattle had suffered much he intended sending them off immediately, and at once sought a new pass to go southward instead of to the more remote west. Macquarie had already informed him of his decision not to give small grants or short leases. Townson asked for some right of occupancy, for even a short period, so that he might not be driven off whatever necessary settlement he might make by any stranger who should fix upon the very spot he had found as the site of a grant. (31) The Governor, however, refused permission to send cattle to the newly discovered country to the southward, on the grounds that it was intended to send a considerable proportion of government flocks and herds to graze there, and that no more private cattle were to be sent until the quantity of disposable land could be ascertained. He reminded Townson that his pass was for Westmoreland only, or the country to the west of the Blue Mountains. (32)
Townson now began to think of retiring and in 1820 he announced this intention, advertising for a bailiff or superintendent to manage the whole of his farming concerns. He required a competent man to visit the flocks and herds, keep the accounts, dispose of the produce of the farm, and he gave notice that none but an intelligent, honest, steady, sober man, able to read and write, need offer. (33)
In September of that year he made his third application to Macquarie for permission to move his stock to the southward, for having heard that a settlement was immediately to be formed there, he supposed that the country was to be opened to stock owners. In the event of such permission being refused, he asked that his cattle might graze on the near side of that river where he understood cattle of private owners were grazing. Otherwise he asked that part of his permit dated 19 May 1819 referring to temporary fresh pasturage might be altered, for, he said, he did not suppose that those gentlemen honoured with the Governor's friendship, who long ago had formed establishments over the Blue Mountains, had gone to such an expense upon a permit only for a temporary change of pasturage. (34)
Macquarie considered this 'not only a disrespectful but a most insolent and a most impertinent letter', (35) and he treated it therefore 'with silent contempt.' Townson, twitted by his friends for not having sent off his stock as others had done, was obliged to apply again before receiving an answer--still negative. He wrote from Bunbury Curran on 6 October 1820:
I was informed a few days ago by Mr Commissioner Bigge that your Excellency did not intend to answer my last letter of August 24th (36) in consequence of some expression that you thought disrespectful. Had it been returned to me with any intimation of the kind, it should have been corrected; nor would it have hurt my feelings to have made the alteration required, as I have always intended to treat your Excellency with the respect which is due to your high rank. But so urgent is my necessity, that I must again address your Excellency upon the same subject. I was told yesterday at the Fair that some gentlemen had already sent their stock into the New Country, and I was even censured for not sending mine. I therefore beg to know whether I may now send my Stock into the New Country discovered by Mr Throsby or into any of the adjoining parts. I must send my Stock somewhere till I can dispose of them, as since I wrote last to your Excellency my Stockman has informed me that seventeen Head of my horned cattle had died. If a Pass or Permit is necessary to visit the New Country, I beg one for myself and servants. (37)
In his acknowledgment of the same date Macquarie informed Townson that his request could not be complied with:
... until after the Governor has personally explored that country. But he has no objection to Dr Townson's sending his flocks and herds to the neighbourhood of Bathurst, or to the Five Islands, both which countries contain most excellent pasturage. (38)
Townson's reaction was immediate. He replied bitterly:
I now think it prudent to quit your government as soon as I can dispose of my property and settle my affairs. In the meantime I intend to see, and examine as a Naturalist, the different part of the Colony; in the pleasing study of Nature I passed the greatest part of my life till I had the misfortune to come to this Colony in the assurance that government wished 'a certain number of settlers of respectability and capital to establish themselves' here. I shall trouble your Excellency no more--and I now only write to beg that you will give me the requisite passports or permits for myself and four servants. (39)
To this was added a memorandum in Macquarie's hand. 'I sent Dr Townson the Pass herein required--but did not consider any further answer to his letter necessary. L.M. 10th Octr 1820'.
Without delay Townson offered the following property for sale:
1605 Acres of Land, about 13 miles from Sydney, near George's River. So large a tract of fine forest land, and so near to Sydney, is nowhere else to be found in the Colony. 1000 Acres of Land at Bunbury Curran, with a good house and offices, and one of the best gardens in the Colony. A great part is fenced in and divided into paddocks. 7 Flocks of Sheep, amongst the best wooled sheep in the Colony, a prime Flock; 2d ditto; 3d ditto; prime Wether Flock; young ditto; Ewe Lamb Flock; Wether Lamb Flock; and about 300 Head of Horned Cattle. To prevent unnecessary Explanations, Bunbury Curran Estate, the prime Ewe Flock and about 40 Head of Horned Cattle, will not be sold until all the other Lots are disposed of; and as the horned Cattle are in very poor and exhausted state for want of pasturage, they will not be exposed for sale till they are in better condition; of which notice will be given. (40)
The reason for the sale, which was to be by private contract, was the owner's intention of returning to England. This public announcement of cattle being in poor condition for want of pasturage, and of a settler selling out and leaving the colony, was perhaps a shrewd blow at Macquarie at a time when Commissioner Bigge was engaged in making his enquiry as to the state of the colony. A similar policy had been adopted by Macarthur when he was seeking permission to return to New South Wales and who advised his wife to let it be known that she intended to rejoin him in England. In any case, during that month of October the Governor was engaged on his promised tour of the new country, and on 19 October he passed through the settlement in the Sutton Forest district. On his return he issued a Government and General Order, dated 25 November 1820, permitting settlement in the New Country.
In the Sydney Gazette of the same date as that Order Townson was again advertising for a superintendent, and in May 1821 he was issued with a permit addressed:
To the Constables on Duty in the Cow Pastures; and to all others concerned. Permit Robt Townson, Esqre of Bunbury Curran to Pass through the Cow Pastures and the Country lying to the Southward and Westward of Cookbundoon Range, with the undermentioned Stockmen and Cattle--vizt Homed cattle 300 No Sheep 7 Flocks 2300" Stockmen and other Servants. Jno Sullivan Free man Thos Murray Do Edward White Prisoner Jno Neale Prisoner David Aiken Do Thos Plows Do --Doolan Do Pursuant to Government and General Orders 25th November 1820 Col Secs Office F Goulburn 3 May 1821 Col. Sec. (41)
He had evidently sought wider range of movement, for Goulburn's accompanying letter acknowledged one from Townson and regretted that it would not be possible for him to give a permit for the removal of the cattle to any other part than that stated.
After thus obtaining permission to take his cattle into the new country to the southward Townson submitted to the Governor a proposal to purchase land from government. The correspondence does not indicate the nature of this proposal, but it was submitted through the Colonial Secretary, Frederick Goulburn, with whom Townson had had a personal interview on 10 August 1821, and it included a copy of a letter from E.S. Hall to Townson without which it would have been incomplete and therefore unfit for submission. However, Goulburn's letter dated 13 August shows that Macquarie withheld his consent:
Having submitted to His E. the Gr. your proposal to purchase land of Government; I have his commands to inform you that he does not feel authorized to make the arrangement you propose at present; But he will have great pleasure in submitting your proposition to the consideration of His Majesty's Government in England. (42)
This proposal may have been a simple request to purchase, but it is difficult to see how Hall was involved. It is interesting to notice that Hall's promise of a grant of 1000 acres at Lake Bathurst was recorded on 23 August 1821. (43)
So it was that Townson, taking almost the whole of his stock, prepared to play his part in the great pastoral drive to the south. In seven years from that time the returns were to show a threefold increase in the sheep, while the cattle increase was fourfold.
This was the last year of Macquarie's term as governor. His attitude to Townson illustrates his policy of checking the growth of large estates which otherwise might have expanded indefinitely with the natural increase of stock. Had no restraint been exercised, the country would have been held by the first comers, to the grave disadvantage of later settlers and to the detriment of the colony's general development. However, there was another side to the picture; for whereas the need for control is indisputable, the actual extent of that control decides public welfare. Those who felt themselves checked by the Governor's policy were naturally dissatisfied, and in his letter of 10 September 182044 Townson gave Macquarie his own point of view:
... I beg once more to inform you that I am ruined by your restrictions from grazing on the waste, unoccupied lands of the Colony, and that if I cannot obtain your permission, I must sell my stock, and retire altogether from a Farming Life. Your Excellency now cannot but know that the losses from such prohibitions are immense--ruinous to the Stockholders, and ruinous to the Colony over which you preside. It is now nearly two years since I turned any meat into the King's Stores, yet I have near 300 Head of Horned Cattle, and between 2 & 3000 sheep--This is from want of pasturage. The Stockholder is ruined, & the Government Stores ill supplied.
According to the Land and Stock Returns, Townson held 214 cattle and 1916 sheep in 1818, while in 1821 the numbers are shown as 325 and 2913 respectively. The increase in acreage is shown as fifty, from 2632 acres in 1818 to 2682 acres in 1821. It would appear from this that the land was overstocked, evidence supporting Townson's claim and suggesting that the condition of his stock would indeed be too poor for him to be able to turn any meat into the King's Stores. (45)
The coming of Brisbane brought changes in colonial policy. At the close of Macquarie's government the tide of free immigration had set in and it continued to rise throughout Brisbane's time, many of the settlers moving into Argyle, the new country to the south. From 1819 intending settlers of Townson's description were again sought, persons 'possessing considerable science, activity, integrity and property.' (46)
In February 1822 Townson was waiting at Bunbury Curran for more hands to assist him before setting out southward. If shepherds were not available he asked for any kind of farming men. He was also in great need of a carpenter. (47) In May he received Brisbane's sanction for the temporary occupation of a circular space extending two geographic miles in every direction and bordering to the northward and eastward, but not encroaching on, the runs of Mr Broughton and Sergeant Bradley. (48) This was the beginning of Townson's acquisition of considerable grazing territory southward and westward of Goulburn Plains. This first station was the well-known Tiranna.
At the end of 1822 Townson proposed visiting his southern grazing run, but since several of the ships for England were to sail early in the new year he informed purchasers of fine wool for the English market that he had shorn his flocks, and had from four to five thousand weight of fine wool in the fleece to dispose of. (49) By selling locally he had the advantage of immediate returns for his produce and was at the same time spared the anxiety of a long wait for news of a successful journey to such a distant market. Prices for Australian wool were affected by conditions of the voyage and also by methods of washing and pressing the wool.
Early in 1823 Townson obtained the grazing rights extending two geographical miles in every direction from his stockyard erected to the west of a chain of ponds and seven miles to the southward of his previous ticket of occupation. This new run was to be placed under the charge of Miles Chapman, Prince, Michael Burne, John Dolan, Henry Dunkly, Thos. Dunkly, John Kenny, Thomas Berkshire and Thomas Murray. Note the significance of those simple words. The run was placed under the charge of certain men, all of whom were convict prisoners. As the pastoral tide flowed southward into Victoria, northward into Queensland and westward over the plains these conditions prevailed, a state of affairs that does not accord with the horror tales of fiction: nor does the fact that convicts practised their trade or profession while still prisoners, that some of the wealthiest men of the colony were of this class, that convicts' families accompanied them in exile and convict husbands were assigned as 'servants' to their wives and thus were able to support their dependents. The story of Australian settlement is far more absorbing than sectional or superficial accounts have revealed.
Although he had obtained this additional grazing right, provided that the land was then depastured by no previous tenant, (50) Townson now sought the security of a grant. Brisbane however was not ready to accede to this request since it was contrary to the regulation that land in the new country should not be granted until it had been surveyed in squares. (51)
The proper marking of both cattle and sheep was a condition of holding grazing runs, but boundary disputes were inevitable in unfenced country and there was trouble of this kind between the men on Townson's southern run and those on the neighbouring run. The stations were divided by a chain of ponds, Townson's being on the west and Meehan's on the east of this natural boundary. The situation is disclosed in a letter Townson wrote to Meehan from his home at Varro Ville:
I received your Letter of the 11th of October only a few days ago--on the return of my Cart from Goulburn Plains. Nothing would so soon put an end to our dispute as your Moderation in extending your boundary Westward-- Your late servant E. Burke called upon me a few days ago--he said you had ordered your Stockmen to feed on the East of the high Road to Bathurst Lakes--is this the case? I believe if you do not cross the Chain of Ponds my Stockmen won't complain--you keep to the E and we will keep to the West--I have sent my Overseer and principal Stockman to see whether an amicable arrangement can be made. (52)
At the end of the year Townson's grazing land was further increased by land extending two geographical miles in every direction around his sheepfold to be erected on the south side of the Breadalbane plains and about five miles to the south of Dixon's run, Mummell, and bearing from his first ticket of occupation called Turanno, west by south eight miles.
After the shearing Townson's wool was brought to Varro Ville where it was offered for inspection and sale. In March 1824 he was able to advertise over 6000 lbs of wool for sale in the following notice in the Sydney Gazette:
Wool for sale.--Dr Townson informs the purchasers of Wool, that nearly the whole of his Wool being brought to his farm at Bunbury Curran, it is ready for Inspection and Purchase. To avoid giving the Purchasers of Wool unnecessary trouble, he thinks it advisable to mention the terms.--The price is eighteen-pence sterling, or twenty-one pence in dollars at 5/-. One third to be paid on delivery at Sydney; One third by a bill at three months; One third by a bill at six months. And, as the Inspection and Purchase is to be concluded at the Farm, and defective Fleeces, if any, there rejected, no objections or remarks will be attended to on its delivery at Sydney, which will be at Dr Townson's expence. The quantity estimated from 6 to 7000 weight. (53)
Other pastoralists however consigned their wool for sale in England, a practice followed by John and Hannibal Macarthur, Marsden, Oxley, Howe, Berry and Wollstonecraft. An account of the sale of some of John Macarthur's wool in England in 1818 shows charges, including auction duty, advertisement, brokerage, freight, duty and commission, totalling 20.14s.11d [pounds sterling] on 145.12s.8d [pounds sterling], while charges for wool sold for 457.16s.0d [pounds sterling] amounted to 53.11s.1d [pounds sterling]. In addition there was the extra labour of packing and pressing before consignment. At wool sales in London in August 1821 Macarthur received for one bale of very fine wool 10s.4d. per lb and for another bale 5s.6d. per lb. The rest of his wool brought from 2s.5d. to 6s.10d. per lb. The prices obtained by his nephew Hannibal Macarthur at the same sale varied from 2s.3d. to 2s.11d, while William Howe received from 2s.1d. to 2s.6d. and Berry and Wollstonecraft from 1s.1d. to 1s. 81/2d. These good prices did not last. In a letter from London in 1829 James Macarthur wrote to his brother William:
The market for wool in this country has never recovered from the shock it sustained by the excessive importation of the year 1825 when nearly double the annual weight was forced upon the market. Prices have since that time continued to sink lower and lower until they have reached their present unprecedentedly low level. (54)
In the same letter James Macarthur mentioned a small lock weighing four ounces taken from a coarse bale of Dr Townson's wool and which he thought was probably from a Saxon sheep. A wager was laid by a wool broker named Hughes with a Saxon merchant that they could not produce four ounces equal to it from all the German wool in England, a month being given for the search. The comparison was made and the Germans confessed themselves beaten. The amount of wool imported into England from Germany, including the Austrian Dominions and Poland, according to Macarthur was twenty-two million pounds and the importation from New South Wales in the same year, 1829, exceeded one million pounds, with an almost equal amount from Van Diemen's Land.
Having several tickets of occupation for grazing runs in the south, Townson hoped to acquire land by purchase. In reply to his application to Governor Brisbane in November 1824 he was informed by Goulburn, the Colonial Secretary, that when Crown land was offered for sale his claim to purchase would be considered. (55) Meanwhile, at the end of the year (56) he received the governor's sanction to occupy a fourth grazing run, an area of two geographical miles round his stockyard to be erected at a place called Gunderne, about fifteen miles to the north-west of Lake George, with the usual provisos that it was depastured by no previous occupant, that the cattle kept thereon were marked as described in Goulburn's letter, and until such time as government might choose, at six months' notice, to revoke the indulgence and resume possession. The run was to be placed under the charge of Thomas Murray, free, one of the stockmen who accompanied Townson when he had established his first run, Tiranna, and who was named later as one of the men on the second run seven miles to the southward.
Sir Thomas Brisbane left the colony in December 1825 and was succeeded by Governor Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling. During the five years of his government there had been a continuous push southward by explorers and stockowners who followed up Throsby's discoveries. The Monaro was discovered in 1823 by Ovens and Currie and the penetration of this fine tract of undulating country was followed the next year by that of the territory from the Murrumbidgee to Port Phillip in Bass Strait, through the exploration of Hume and Hovell. The increasing numbers of immigrants with some capital and the freedom with which Brisbane made grants of land promoted the rapid occupation of newly opened country.
This tide of pastoral migration soon affected the holders of grazing runs under tickets of occupation and in February 1826 Townson was informed by Oxley, Surveyor-General, that application had been made for certain lands held by him on the Goulburn Plains and its vicinity by persons having regular orders for grants. He was accordingly given six months notice to quit unless he should select one or other of these stations as the land which he had received permission to purchase. (57) In September he was further informed that his grazing station of Gunderne had been chosen by a grantee and the Governor therefore asked whether he wished to retain two thousand acres as the land which Brisbane had given him permission to purchase. (58) Townson expressed his desire to purchase Gunderne.
Early in 1827 Therry wished to take possession of Townson's station of Mullum Bateman and the whole correspondence dealing with Townson's various representations on the subject of grazing lands was transmitted to the Land Board on 3 March. This Board had been set up by Governor Darling as a board of inquiry to prevent the irregularities in granting land that had occurred in the time of Brisbane, whose liberality in this respect gave rise to private speculation. According to the regulations established by Darling, land was granted in proportion to the means of the applicant and only on condition that improvements were to be made. An application by Townson for land had also been referred to the Land Board in the previous October and in May 1827 he was duly notified of the decision, namely that an immediate deposit be paid on the purchase of two thousand acres sanctioned by Brisbane in August 1825, and that the remainder of the purchase money be paid within three years from that date. This meant that the whole of the amount was to be found between 24 May 1827 and 13 August 1828. This short term may be regarded as further diminished by the drought of that year, which was in fact to continue for three seasons. The Board also permitted Townson to rent, with a view to purchase, an additional seven thousand six hundred acres at the prescribed rate of twenty shillings per annum for every thousand acres until the completion of the parish survey and valuation. This total of 9600 acres Townson was allowed to select in two portions instead of one portion according to regulations. He was permitted also to rent extra grazing if he so desired, provided that the land he chose was beyond the boundaries laid down by the Government Order of 5 September 1826. (59)
The 'kind and fostering nature' of government was needed for the patronage and encouragement of scientific and cultural progress. With the expectation of the early enjoyment of a portion of leisure, Townson had invited Windham, conjointly with the Hon. C.F. Greville, to send out with him a laboratory and a small collection of books, that as a man of science he might be of use to the settlement. On his arrival they had been placed for a time in the Commissary's care but since a number of the books were in German Bligh regarded them as of little value to the community in general. Townson intended the collection of books to form the nucleus of a Government Library, in which he showed himself possessed of an outlook which is only now becoming general. Nothing more was needed to mark him as an alien in that pioneering community of 140 years ago, remote from civilization, with its naval and military rulers, its convict and ex-convict citizens, its few free settlers, the governors being fully engaged by the cares of office, and the population by a constant battle to improve their fortunes by trade or by the conquest of a primeval land.
Among the books which Townson sent to Macquarie soon after the Governor' s arrival in the Colony were Theatre de 'agriculture in four volumes; the second, third, fourth and fifth volumes of the Transactions of the Board of Agriculture; and nineteen numbers of Agricultural Reports which he had received from Sir John Sinclair, President of the Board of Agriculture, for the use of the colony. Writing to Marsden in February 1821 he expressed his opinion of the need for a library and his disappointment at the way in which the books he had brought from England for the use of the public had been virtually buried:
I have always regretted that, in a colony so very distant from the Mother country, there should be so small a collection of books--particularly whilst the Govern(t) in England has been so liberal in its patronage of this colony. The readyness with which I have always obtained Books from the Small Collection in your care, has made me regret that the Transactions of the Board of Agriculture which were given to me by Sir John Sinclair for the use of the Colony, were not sent by me to add to the Collection under your care, which is open to everyone, rather than to that Collection I brought out at the Public expence, which being in the private apartments of the Governor, is concealed and indeed unknown to anyone. In early times Librarys and [Colect.sup.s] of Books were connected with [Ecclestic.sup.l] [Establish.sup.ts] and I hope you will consider it as your public duty to increase your collection and render it as useful as possible.
His own private collection included French, German and Latin classics, commentaries, encyclopaedias, one of which was a Domestic Encyclopaedia, and a number of scientific works.
In the very year that Townson had given books to Macquarie, Marsden had returned from England with his collection which he had obtained by soliciting contributions from his friends for the use of the colony and for the purpose of establishing a library. He consulted the Reverend Robert Cartwright as to the best place and plan for lending them, and
soon after his arrival a small room was built by himself in his yard and the books were placed in it. There was an Idea of establishing a Library & for the purpose of Defraying the expence of attending to the books but we could not succeed in establishing it & the books always remained in Mr Marsden's possession. (60)
Although numerous, the books were not valuable as a collection but they were available to all and Cartwright did not think that Marsden ever refused them to any one who applied for them.
During Macquarie's term of office several attempts were made by leading colonists to form an Agricultural Society for the purpose of communicating experiments and information acquired in farming practice and to have an exhibition of livestock for the purpose of their general improvement. In this project Townson was associated with Cox, Marsden and the two Blaxlands, Sir John Jamison and a number of others, by whom it was submitted for the consideration of the Governor with the request that he would become the patron. His Excellency however did not accede to the proposal, his reason being, so it was said, that he objected to it as persons who had been convicts were not likely to be admitted. Admission was to have been by ballot. According to Archibald Bell's statement to Bigge in 1819, convicts might own large estates but did not generally occupy them, whereas the gentlemen proposing the Agricultural Society actually resided on estates which were cultivated very largely under their immediate direction. (61) Townson's former neighbour and Macquarie's 'late worthy Friend', Andrew Thompson of St Andrews, may be taken as an example of the kind of emancipist that caused the deadlock. Bustling, industrious, avaricious, astute, shopkeeper, publican, vendor of spirits and creditor of most of the settlers in the Windsor district, Thompson was persona non grata to the upper class of colonists but much admired by the Governor. Although in possession of St Andrews for only eight or nine months before his death in 1810, he had left it in excellent condition, with a good house and offices, garden, stockyard, and ten acres cleared and enclosed for corn. In November 1810 it was in the care of a competent overseer, Joseph Ward, and his wife. However, during the first year of Brisbane's office, the Agricultural Society of New South Wales was at length formed on 5 July 1822 and Dr Townson was appointed one of four vice-presidents. (62) The following month he was appointed a member of the committee for the management of the Stock Fund of the Agricultural Society. (63) This fund was established for the purchase of stud stock, and Townson was among the thirty-six subscribers later notified of the arrival from England, per ship William Shand, of the following stock for distribution: fifty-two merino sheep, two bulls, eight heifers and two pigs. (64)
When members of the Agricultural Society dined after the General Quarterly Meeting at Nash's Inn, Parramatta, at the beginning of 1823 the dessert was contributed from the gardens of Dr Townson and Captain Piper. 'It consisted of no fewer than 18 kinds of fresh fruit, and 4 of dried; among which were the banana, the Orlean plum, the green gage, the real peach, the cat-head apple, and a peculiarly fine sort of musk melon.' (65)
Throughout the colony were many gardens and orchards planned and tended by settlers who found in them some little corner of their native land. Among the most notable was that of John Piper whose elegant home stood on the southern shore of unspoiled Port Jackson, and the one Robert Townson set in a clearing on Varro Ville. Here, too, was one of the best vineyards in New South Wales. Next to Gregory Blaxland, Townson was regarded as having 'most successfully and most extensively given his attention to the vine.' (66) Having established his vinery, Townson became a pioneer of the Australian wine-making industry. In this sphere he was bracketed by Peter Cunningham with John Macarthur, (67) who before his return in 1817 from exile had examined methods of viticulture in Europe, a subject which one may suppose was not neglected by the Doctor during his sojourn in Germany and his journeys in Italy and Sicily. Among the enterprising colonists endeavouring to produce a supply of Australian wine Townson was second only to Gregory Blaxland.
The sanction to purchase a portion of his ticket of occupation marked the end of Townson's pastoral expansion. Only a month later, after a few days' illness, his death occurred on 27 June 1827 at his home of Varro Ville at Bunbury Curran. He was buried in St John's cemetery, Parramatta, where his grave may be seen today. A bachelor who husbanded his money as expertly as he did the soil, surrounded by his books, a recluse from society who did not shirk civic responsibilities, he had been rather an extraordinary figure in the young colony. It cannot be doubted that the unsympathetic attitude of the governors during the greater part of his life as a settler lost for the colony benefits which might have been derived from the knowledge of a man of his character and attainments.
(1) This paper, illustrated with many lantern slides, was originally read before the Society in 1946. The typescript was found among the papers of Olive Havard after her death. The list of slides illustrating the paper has not been located. In the 1940s the Mitchell Library housed the state archival collections as well as the Mitchell and Dixson Collections. Where sources quoted in the text are known to have been subsequently transferred to State Records New South Wales [SRNSW], this has been indicated but no attempt has been made to locate all manuscript sources referred to in the text. Part 1 was published in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (JRAHS), vol. 91 pt 1, June 2005. Since then, the RAHS has been informed by member Dr A.A. Day of studies undertaken in Europe on Robert Townson. These include Hugh Torrens, 'Robert Townson (1762-1827) natural historian & traveller', vol 55, pp. 170-1, in B. Harrison and H.C.G. Matthew (eds), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 60 volumes, 2004; H. Torrens and T.G. Vallance, 'The Anglo-Australian traveller Robert Townson (1762-1827) and his map of Hungarian 'Petrography' (1797)' in E. Dudich (ed.), Contributions to the History of Geological Mapping, Budapest, 1984, pp. 391-8; H. Torrens, 'Robert Townson (1762-1827): Thoughts on a Polymathic Natural Historian and Traveller Extraordinary' in P. Rozsa, (ed.), Robert Townson's Travels in Hungary, Debrecen, 2000, pp. 19-26; Trevor R. Shaw, 'Robert Townson, traveller in Hungary in 1793--His life and Work', Acta Carsologica, (Ljubljana) XXVI/2, 1997, pp. 225-47.
(2) R. Townson to the Rt. Hon. W. Windham, 10 October 1807, Historical Records of New South Wales (HRNSW), vol. 6, p. 299.
(3) R. Townson to Rt Hon. W. Windham, 10 October 1807, HRNSW, vol 6, p. 299.
(4) Rowland Hassall to Bligh, 8 September 1808, Rowland Hassall Papers, Mitchell Library (ML) A859.
(5) Colonial Secretary: In Letters, Memorials L-Y. [SRNSW]
(6) Surgeon Luttrell to Under Secretary Sullivan, HRNSW, vol. 6, p. 294.
(7) R. Townson to Paterson 12 March 1809. This complaint is similar to that of the Hawkesbury settlers who were obliged to wait as long as twelve months after delivering their grain to the government stores before receiving goods in return, after those in charge of the colony had selected the best for themselves. HRNSW, vol. 7, p. 34. Also vol. 6, p. 803.
(8) R. Townson to Paterson, 12 March 1809.
(9) 'I received at my farm a Letter from Mr Commis. Williamson written by order of Lt. Colon'l Johnston, desiring me to send by the Bearer a set of Bills upon England for 280 [pounds sterling] due to the Crown for the ten Head of Cattle I received last May--I wrote in answer that I should pay for my Cattle by instalments & that I was soon to be favoured with an interview with your Honor when the mode of payment would be determined. On Friday last I was served at my farm [Tow-weery] with a Capias to bring me into Court the following day--I obeyed the hasty summons ... & upon ex parte information, after a desultory conversation, without having time to call a single witness, or having the assistance of a friend, the Court consisting of Mr Atkins, Mr Throsby & Mr Broughton, order me to pay the 280 [pounds sterling].' Townson to Paterson 12 March 1809.
(10) R. Townson to Paterson 27 March 1809. Sundry Letters to and from Lieut. Governor Paterson 1809, D144.
(11) R. Townson to Paterson 27 March 1809. Details of the action against Townson for defamation are not available, nor is it known whether or not the case came before a court. It would be interesting and informative to know the nature of Townson's 'heavy charges' against Johnston and of his 'defamation' of Macarthur. A search among early court records might be fruitful.
(12) Lt Gov. Paterson's Letter Book 1808-1809, p. 46, D 144. The copy, at this place, of Townson's letter to Paterson is of the letter noted as 'missing' from Colonial Secretary, In Letters, Bundle 3, No. 29, p. 50. [SRNSW]
(13) R. Townson to Macquarie, 23 March 1812. Colonial Secretary: In Letters, bundle 6, no. 14. [SRNSW]
(14) Colonial Letter Book, Miscellaneous Persons, April 1811-December 1813, no. 3, fols 34-35; 11 April 1812.
(15) R. Townson to Macquarie, 21 January 1813. Colonial Secretary: In Letters, bundle 7, no. 145. [SRNSW].
(16) Colonial Letter Book, Miscellaneous Persons, April 1811-December 1813, no. 3; 25 January 1813.
(17) Bonwick Transcripts: Bigge Inquiry, Box 5, no. 16, fol. 45415. [ML]
(18) HRNSW, vol. 6, p. 294.
(19) R. Townson to Castlereagh, 2 April 1808, HRNSW, Vol. 6, p. 570.
(20) In a report made to Governor King in 1805, Edward Wood, an English wool expert who had come to New South Wales that year with Macarthur, said that specimens of wool grown in Macarthur's flock and from a ewe of Samuel Marsden, satisfied him that with due care and attention to breeding from the pure Spanish sheep until sufficient numbers could be raised, the whole of the wool would in a few years become equal in quality to the very best from Spain. A great objection to the Merino cross was that as the wool became finer the constitution of the sheep weakened. Macarthur, however, continued to cross the progeny of mixed bred ewes with Spanish rams, and as the breed approximated the pure Spanish the sheep became healthier, demonstrating that strength of constitution and weight of carcase might be combined with fineness of wool. Sibella Macarthur Onslow (ed.), Early Records of the Macarthurs of Camden, pp. 125-6.
(21) This total of thirty-eight acres under cultivation falls far short of the 167 acres required by Macquarie when he issued Townson's grants.
(22) The permit was dated 19 May 1819. R. Townson to Macquarie, Bonwick Transcripts: Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 63282, 10 September 1820 [ML]. Perhaps in anticipation of his absence from Bunbury Curran, Townson advertised in the Sydney Gazette, 15 May 1819, for '... an overseer, who can manage a farm, either under the Inspection of the Proprietor or in his Absence:--Also, a House Servant, who can cook. Likewise a Gardener, and a good Fencer wanted--None but honest, sober, steady men, with good characters, need apply.'
(23) John Thomas Bigge, Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the state of agriculture and trade in the Colony of New South Wales, London, 1823, p. 14.
(24) Bigge, Agriculture, p. 15.
(25) Townson was to supply at Parramatta, 15 April 1815,4000 lbs.; 20 July 1816, 2500 lbs.; 26 October 1816, 1000 lbs.; 21 May 1818, 4000 lbs.; 22 May 1819, 6000 lbs. At Sydney, 30 October 1819, 8000 lbs.; 22 February 1823, 12000 lbs. At Liverpool, 3 April 1823,2500 lbs. Vide notices in Sydney Gazette.
(26) Copy of letter from R. Townson to F. Drennan in Bonwick Transcripts: Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 60302 ff. [ML]
(27) R. Townson to Bigge, 7 September 1820, Bonwick Transcripts: Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 60302 ff. [ML]
(28) Bigge, Agriculture, p. 14.
(29) Not to be confused with the Bathurst district. See JRAHS, vol. 24, p. 318.
(30) However, in his evidence to Bigge, P. Hart, who had been in charge of Oxley's property, Kirkham, stated that in 1816 he had taken 500 head of Oxley's cattle through the Bargo Brush and as far as the site of Oxley's station at 'Wengie Carribbe'. He believed that nobody had been farther than Bargo at that time. Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 5, no. 16, fol. 45460. [ML]
(31) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 19, fol. 63279. Bigge's Appendix vol. 132. [ML]
(32) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry. Macquarie to Townson,4 September 1819, fol. 63281. Macquarie also refused Gregory Blaxland permission to send cattle to unlocated land over the Blue Mountains, Box 5, fol. 45269. [ML]
(33) Sydney Gazette, 3 June 1820.
(34) This river would appear to be the Wingecarribbee. For settlement in this district see JRAHS, vol. 23, pt. 4, p. 253; Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 63283. Bigge's Appendix vol. 132. Townson to Macquarie, 10 September 1820. The evidence of William Cox shows that he and his sons had ten flocks pasturing in the Bathurst district while Lawson had two flocks, Redfern four, Hassall three, W. Pentory two, Rd. Lewis one, T. Arkell one, G. Cheshire one. Also there were about 1400 head of horned cattle belonging to the Coxes, Redfern, King, Sherard, Lewis and the settlers living there. Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 5, fols 45163-4. [ML]
(35) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 63287. Bigge's Appendix, vol. 132. Macquarie to Townson, 6 October 1820. [ML]
(36) The letter which Macquarie felt insulting was that of 10 September 1820.
(37) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 63285. Bigge's Appendix vol. 132. [ML]
(38) Macquarie to Townson, 6 October 1820, Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 63287. Bigge's Appendix vol. 132. [ML]
(39) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 25, fol. 63288. Bigge's Appendix vol. 132. [ML]
(40) Sydney Gazette, 21 October 1820.
(41) Colonial Secretary, Misc. Persons, vol. 14, p. 13. [SRNSW]
(42) Colonial Secretary, Misc. Persons, vol. 14, pp. 222,249. [SRNSW]
(43) Colonial Secretary, Letter Book April-October 1821 p. 263. [SRNSW]
(44) Missing from manuscript.
(45) Elsewhere the number of cattle held by Townson in 1821 is shown as 282 and the number of sheep as 2482. The time of year is not shown, and may account for the discrepancy in numbers. Even here, overstocking is indicated on pastures of native grass on uncleared land. Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 26, fol. 46691. [ML]
(46) Excerpt from a notice in 1819 in the Gentleman's Magazine as quoted by Marion Phillips, Colonial Autocracy, London, 1909, p. 113.
(47) Colonial Secretary, In Letters, Bundle 18, 1822. [SRNSW] As early as 1800 convict labour had become insufficient to meet the demand. The Government as well as settlers suffered from the shortage. Three-quarters of the male convicts had been released by 1792, and although between that date and the year 1800 there had arrived 1259 new convicts, no less than 1264 had been released in the same period. Deaths, casualties and escapes further reduced the number. According to D.D. Mann's account, The Present Picture of New South Wales, London, 1811, p. 64, when Governor King relinquished his command there were only 710 prisoners, few of whom were skilled, a shortage of labour that had contributed to the lack of public buildings and the disrepair of those that existed. This problem, aggravated by conditions following the arrest of Bligh, was attacked with marked success by Macquarie, but although he had first choice of the convict workmen as they arrived it was still necessary for the selected men to be trained by the Civil Architect, Francis Howard Greenway.
(48) Colonial Secretary, Misc. Persons, vol.16, p. 344. [SRNSW]
(49) Sydney Gazette, 6 December 1822.
(50) Colonial Secretary, Misc. Persons, vol. 18, p. 379, 1 March 1823. [SRNSW]
(51) Goulburn to Townson, 8 July 1823. Colonial Secretary, Misc Persons, vol. 19, p. 639. [SRNSW] It may be noted that Townson's address here appears for the first time as Varro Ville, Airds, instead of Bunbury Curran.
(52) Colonial Secretary, In Letters, Bundle 21, Oct-Dec 1823, f. 59. [11 Nov 1823] [SRNSW]
(53) Sydney Gazette, 11 March 1824.
(54) Macarthur Onslow, Early Records, p. 429.
(55) Colonial Secretary, Misc Persons, vol. 23, July 1824, November 1824 (10 November 1824). [SRNSWI
(56) 30 December 1824. Colonial Secretary, Misc Persons, vol. 24, p. 191. [SRNSW]
(57) Surveyor General to Colonial Secretary, fol. 268, 1 February 1826. [SRNSW]
(58) Colonial Secretary, Misc Persons, vol. 34, p. 176, 21 September 1826. [SRNSW]
(59) Colonial Secretary, Internal Revenue and Postmaster, Letter Book 2, 1827-1829.
(60) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 8. Bigge's Appendix vol. 127. [ML]
(61) Bonwick Transcripts, Bigge Inquiry, Box 5, fols 45216-18. [ML]
(62) Sydney Gazette, 12 July 1822.
(63) Sydney Gazette, 23 August 1822, Supplement.
(64) Sydney Gazette, 11 August 1825.
(65) Sydney Gazette, 6 February 1823.
(66) Sydney Gazette, 13 July 1827.
(67) Peter Cunningham, Two Years in New South Wales, London, 1827, pp. 224-5.
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|Date:||Dec 1, 2005|
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