Brief History of The Springwood Area

 

The earliest inhabitants of the Springwood district were the Dharug people. They populated the mountain area between north of the Grose Valley and east to the Hawkesbury River and the Cumberland Plain. The area was rich in wildlife and would have supported their needs more than adequately. Accurate population figures are not available and although there are still Dharug people living in the Blue Mountains their numbers were depleted with the coming of the white man, new diseases took their toll and their whole way of life was destroyed. The Blue Mountains presented a formidable obstacle to the British colonists who hoped that they would one day find vast areas of fertile plains on the other side.

The first explorer to set foot in the area later called Springwood was William Dawes, surveyor, astronomer and Lieutenant in the Marines. In 1789 Governor Arthur Phillip sent Dawes with a small party to reach the Western mountains. They crossed the Nepean at Emu ford, and keeping Round Hill (now Mount Hay) in view and ascending and descending the gullies they pushed their way through the areas we now know as Mt Riverview, Warrimoo and Valley Heights and reached Springwood on the Bee Farm Road ridge. They came to within nine kilometres of Mount Hay before they had to turn back with provisions running low.

When Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth were encouraged to attempt to find a crossing over the Blue Mountains by Governor Lachlan Macquarie they determined to stick to the ridges and were successful in reaching Mount York and finally getting a view of the Western Plains. They, too, passed through the Springwood area, camping the second night in Sun Valley and making a base camp at Springwood the next day while they spent some days clearing a path through the scrub.

 

Macquarie sent Deputy-Surveyor Evans to check the route and to extend the exploration westerly. He too camped at Springwood. William Cox was given the task of building a road along the route with working gangs of convicts. Work began in July, 1814 and was finished in January, 1815.

In May, 1815, Governor and Mrs Macquarie set out with a large party on a twenty-one day trip over the Western Road. Once again Springwood was one of the places selected to make a camp. In Macquarie Rd, Springwood, there is now a monument to mark this camp site. Macquarie wrote in his diary:

 

'We then halted at three o'clock in a very pretty wooded plain near a spring of very good fresh water, and pitched our tent near the side of the road. This stage is 12 miles from Emu Ford and our first on the Mountains. This place being very pretty I have named it Spring Wood.'

A Military Barracks was built on this site to protect travellers and to keep open communication with Bathurst. The Barracks was later moved to the other side of the road. In 1845, when the Barracks was no longer needed, the land and buildings were sold to Robert Martin who in turn sold to Thomas Boland, an Irish Bounty immigrant who had come to Springwood as Superintendent of road gangs. He opened the Springwood Inn which was also known as Boland's Inn. Another Inn was established at the Valley (Valley Heights) by Alexander Frazer. It began as the Valley Inn and later became the Woolpack, the Welcome Inn and Wyoming.

 

In 1867 the western railway was extended from Penrith to Wentworth Falls and travel to the mountains became much easier. Springwood began to grow. Frank Raymond built the Springwood Hotel in 1876, William Rayner opened a General Store which stocked just about everything in 1878 and in the same year a Public School was opened with Mr Charles F. Schowe, the first teacher. Limited post office services had been available at the Springwood Hotel, but in 1879 postal business was transacted at the Railway Station.


Springwood Station 1920

 

Springwood became a popular place for wealthy and influential men from Sydney to have holiday homes, some of them quite palatial. Sir Henry Parkes built "Faulconbridge", the Hon. James Norton "Euchora", the Hon. John Frazer "Silva Plana", the Hon. John Meeks "Everton". In 1882 John Hoare and his wife Alice built what was probably the most lavish home - "Homedale". This later was the first building of the Blue Mountains Grammar School. All these properties needed gardeners, caretakers and other staff and the Springwood population began to grow.

The area to the north of Springwood along Hawkesbury Road was settled by orchardists and timber getters. The orchards grew a wide variety of fruit - citrus, stone fruit, passionfruit, apples and persimmons. The site of the present Springwood Golf Course was a very successful orchard owned by John Ellison. Timber getters logged many of the large trees both for building and for railway sleepers.

Stone masons quarried local sandstone for building, and bee keeping, dairying, poultry farming as well as the keeping of goats, sheep, and cattle provided work and food for the tiny village. Sometimes the local livestock strayed onto the Western Road or into the residents' gardens leading to a demand for a local pound.

Mountain air was widely thought to be beneficial for invalids so the district became a popular area to convalesce. Accommodation was needed and Boarding Houses were established and holiday cottages built. One-day trips became popular too and city visitors would stroll in the bush, patronise the Hotels and Rayner's Store and return home on the train with great bunches of ferns, waratahs and other wildflowers. Holiday makers. rail workers and travellers came and went, providing extra business for the village.

1st St Thomas Church of Springwood

The local people were very community minded and joined together to establish the type of town they wanted. Churches were of prime importance and Christ Church of England was consecrated in 1889 while the Frazer Memorial Presbyterian Church was opened in 1895. St Thomas Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1892 and the first Methodist Church was built in 1923.

The Springwood Progress Committee worked hard for an improved road and better rail and postal services, and often voiced the need for a town hall and a resident doctor. Dr J. Boyce Mugliston, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (England) left Katoomba to live and work in Springwood in 1895. The town hall took a little longer - the Springwood School of Arts opened in 1913.

A Police Station was built in 1879 with John lllingworth the first Constable. A new Post Office was opened early in 1901 and a telephone exchange was installed there in 1912. Electricity was turned on in Faulconbridge and Springwood in 1924 whilst town water arrived in 1936.

In the early days the people of the area made good use of their leisure time - cricket and later tennis were popular and later still golf, rifle shooting and football. It would seem that almost everyone had some sort of performing ability. Concerts were grand affairs with singing, recitations, short skits, dancing and a variety of instrumental presentations. Sports days were often arranged, clubs and lodges were formed and money was raised for worthy causes. The Debating and Dramatic Club discussed and debated such touchy subjects as "Republicanism versus the Monarchy" , "Should women be given the vote?" and "Should women propose?"

With the coming of the train nicknamed "The Fish" (so called because of the names of the driver and the fireman) which arrived in Sydney at 9.16 am and returned to Springwood at 8.05 pm in 1880 it was possible for business people to commute to the city to work. Increasing improvements to the line and the establishment of the Valley Heights Locomotive Centre where assistant engines could be provided, the trip became faster and even more convenient. The electrification of the line in 1957 shortened travelling time even more and an increasing number of people found the area a pleasant place to live. Corresponding improvements in the Western road, including the diversion of the highway away from the residential area of Valley Heights and the shopping centre of Springwood and its progressive widening made road travel easier. More people had cars, land was cheaper than in Sydney and the Springwood district grew rapidly as a residential area, convenient to the city but less expensive, with the added advantage of a mild climate, fresh mountain air and lovely mountain scenery.

Springwood Street Scape


There are two State High Schools in the area now as well as a Roman Catholic High School on the site of the historic St Columbas Seminary, but in the 19th and early 20th Centuries a number of private schools were established including Hartlands for young Ladies (now a private house called Hartfield), Springwood Ladies College in "Moorecourt", Springwood College (for boys) in "Southall" and Blue Mountains Grammar in "Homedale".
 

The Blue Mountains has attracted many gifted and creative people and the Springwood area has been home to a significant number of artists. Norman Lindsay and his wife, Rose, bought "Maryville" in Faulconbridge from Francis Foy in 1913 for 500 and he lived there (except for brief spells in Sydney) until his death in 1969. George Finey, a talented black and white artist, cartoonist and caricaturist, Wynn Davies and Ron Broadley, commercial artists, Jo Booker, painter and black and white artist and John Dabron, artist, Director of Art, N.S.W. Education Department and true eccentric all lived in Springwood. In the year 2000, Springwood is a vibrant Mountain town with recreational, social, cultural, sporting and educational facilities for everyone.

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