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IFHAA Local History Library

Picton NSW - The Early Years
©By Liz Vincent

Picton, New South Wales

The first explorers to come through the Picton area were a party led by ex-convict John Wilson in 1798. Other parties followed in the next 20 years including George Caley in 1802, collecting botanical specimens. Picton has a long European history, being one of Australia's earliest settlements. First contained in the area known as the Cowpastures, then as Stonequarry, Picton as we know it today was not the chosen site for the town. It was in fact, orginally, a private town.

The area for a government town, just south of the Picton we know today was first set aside in November 1821. This area is now known as Upper Picton or Redbank. It is on the Redbank Reserve, its southern boundary, Redbank Creek, Stonequarry Creek on the east, Prince Street on the north side and Rumker Street its western boundary.

In the early days of settlement in the colony, a number of cattle went missing from the settlement at Sydney Cove. These were found in 1795 near the Nepean River. The herd had grown and were seen as a hope for the cattle breeding future of the colony. The government decided to leave them in that area. The area was defined by Surveyor General Oxley as lying between the Bargo River on the south, the Nepean and Warragamba Rivers in the north, westerly to the Nattai Mountains and on to the east to the Nepean River. This area was sealed off to allow the cattle to continue breeding without disturbance. This lasted until the 1820s.

Picton was contained in this area and so was first called the Cowpastures, then Stonequarry, until 1841 when the small settlement was re-named Picton. It should be noted that the district was called Picton from as early as 1822 when the grants were made as being in "the district of Picton". Major Henry Colden Antill received the first land grant in 1822.

Though much discussion has been held over the years as to who named Picton and for whom, it is believed the name was probably decided on by Governor Brisbane perhaps in honour of an old soldier friend Sir Thomas Picton. In 1840 George Harper decided to take advantage of the natural development of the private town on Major Antill's land. He advertised in April 1840 that 45 building allotments in the township of Stonequarry would soon be for sale by auction. They would be from one half to one acre in size and situated on his land on the southern side of Stonequarry Creek on either side of the main road.

His private town never took off. Mr Harper unfortunately died in March 1841 and the property was leased in full. George Harper's property "Abbotsford" extended from the Stonequarry Bridge out along the road that led to The Oaks. The remains of the house are still on the property just past the Abbotsford Bridge. Major Antill, in July 1841 advertised in the Sydney papers, the auction of his sub-division to be called the Village of Picton, late Stonequarry in August that year. He stressed that many blocks had frontages to the main road up which all the wealthy owners from the south travelled with their wool clips.

In 1845 the government made moves to lay out its own town just south of the private town. Surveyor Galloway was employed to survey the area and make half acre blocks for purchase. These blocks were first offered for sale in 1847. They were all sold by 1855. Land was held back for grants to churches and for the school and courthouse. The government town was also called Picton. This led to confusion and it was re-named Upper Picton in 1847.

A petition was made to the government to name its village Redbank but the government decided it was to be called Upper Picton. Even to this day, over 150 years later, local residents still often refer to the area as Redbank. On a number of occasions when money was allocated for a public building, arguments developed on where it was to be located. It seemed each time the government called tenders on a site in its town, the Antill family would offer land in its private town and that was where the building would ultimately be erected.The Upper Picton residents who had purchased land in Upper Picton naturally felt cheated. Unfortunately they had no friends in government and though they fought for the government's support in its own town they were unsuccessful.

For many years, the resentment between Upper and Lower Picton festered. It lay like a boil beneath the surface of life. When an issue arose where Upper Picton residents felt they were being placed second to Lower Picton, it would erupt and once again cause disagreement and division. As the years passed, the private town flourished and the government town languished. Though it had some businesses, churches and a school, eventually it subsided into an existence as the poor relation. To-day, those resentments have totally disappeared and many people are not even aware of its happening

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Last modified: March 20, 2006