Camden Park Estate and Belgenny Farm
The Camden Park Estate is of social, historic, scientific and aesthetic significance to NSW and Australia. It shows a high degree of technical and creative excellence being a rare, and still relatively intact, example of a model rural estate of the early 19th century (continuing to serve this function until the 1950s). It is the oldest pastoral sheep stud in Australia.
The estate's considerable social and historic significance is also due to its ability to demonstrate the way of life, tastes, customs and functions of a 19th - early 20th century rural establishment. From its establishment the site was a particularly fine example of a colonial rural estate and served as a prototype for other 19th century estates. The intactness of the site's structures and their landscape settings enhances its role as a relatively unique survivor and as a site of archaeological and scientific importance. (LEP/ Heritage Study)
The site also has significance thorugh its historical associations with the Macarthur family - from its establishment by John and Elizabeth Macarthur in the early 19th century to the present day Macarthur-Stanham family - this relationship shown in both landscape and structures and being well documented and researched.
By the 1830s the estate of 28,000 acres included the greatest and most advanced mixed farm in NSW, at a time when Australian wools had almost ousted continental wools from British usage and the British manufacturers had a vast ascendancy in the world's woollen markets (Camden Park Estate, 1965)
Its extensive grounds planted in the tradition of 19th century English landscape parks holds a major botanical collection and its large, exceptional collection of rural buildings is especially important because of both the quality and rarity of the group.
The Camden Park orchard site and cottages area contains the remnants of an early commercial and scientific horticultural collection which was established by William Macarthur and made an contribution to commercial horticulture in NSW and other colonies such as South Australia. The cottages are an integral part of the orchard complex which continued to function commercially until for 150 years and are important 19th century elements of the landscape.
Camden Park played a vital role in the fledgling Australian wine industry through its importation and distribution of vine cuttings throughout NSW and the Barossa Valley of SA. By 1853 Camden Park listed some 33 grape varieties for sale. (By 1841 William & James were producing more than 5000 gallons and that wintage won Gold Medals in England. In 1844 24,000 vine cuttings were sent from Camden Park to Adelaide, setting South Australia on a path to becoming an internationally acclaimed wine growing district. (Everett, (1) 2004). Camden Park became world-renowned for the quality of its wine and by 1845 was producing around 10,000 gallons per annum as a serious vineyard and one of the most highly regarded in the colony and with quite a reputation overseas. (Everett, (2) 2004)).
James & William Macarthur managed the estate with great enterprise, importing expert workers: Australia's first skilled wool-sorter from Silesia, shepherds from Scotland, vignerons from Nassau and dairymen from Dorset. They installed the first irrigation plant in Australia in 1830 and the first sheep wash and wool press. After changes of soil and climate in 1849 dictated sale of their merino stud, wheat was the stable until the mid 1860s. But rust and labour shortage led to a change to mixed farming - sheep and cattle fattening, mixed grains, wine, horses for India until 1857, and Australia's largest plant and tree nursery. The 2000 specimens of plants, shrubs and trees included the country's premier collections of domestic orchids and camellias, both of which William Macarthur was one of the first to introduce into Australia.
Two vineyards were planted in 1830 and 1841 and produced up to 16000 gallons a year including choice vintages, with as much as 30000 gallons in cellar sometimes. In 1832 the estate exported the first Australian brandy, and had 8 vintage and fortified wines varying from Muscat to Riesling at the Paris Exhibition of 1861. Also in the 1830s William Macarthur pioneered processes of drying fruit, "with which the British Isles were unacquainted". In 1857 Camden Park had a variety of all normal species of orchard fruits and nuts, 56 varieties of apple including cider making types, 31 kinds of pear, 23 citrus fruit varieties including Navel oranges, 16 table grapes apart from 32 wine varieties. Apricots, plums, cherries, quinces, figs, chestnuts, almonds and strawberries were also grown on the estate. (Camden Park Estate, 1965, modified Read, S., 2004)
The Camden Park garden and nursery is historically important as part of the original Macarthur family Camden estate. The garden is significant for its demonstration of the early nineteenth century estate garden design, including the following: The use of a hill site to take advantage of the views; the use of plantings to enframe views; and the planting of trees with ornamental form, demonstrating the influence of the early nineteenth century horticultural movement. The area has historical significance as the original Macarthur nursery renowned for the introduction and propagation of exotic plants in early Australia. Significant features include the following: the area of olive and plumbago shrubbery; the brick edged gravel carriage loop; structured vistas from the house entrance and garden entrance; specimen plants of araucarias and camellias reputed to be the oldest in Australia; well blended later additions of herbaceous beds and rose garden; and ruins of the gardener's lodge, potting sheds and hothouses from the original nursery period. (Register of the National Estate, 1978)
Finally the estate is of major landscape and environmental significance as a significant area of open space lining the Nepean River with landmark landscape features including the tree lined river meadows, ridge top Belgenny Farm Group, the driveways and the relic orchard and plantations site on the flood plain north-east of the mansion.
Rare - historic and aesthetic values
Representative - historic, aesthetic and scientific values
Associative values - historic and aesthetic
Camden Park House is of historic and aesthetic significance as one of the finest of the nation's early 19th century country homesteads. More particularly it is an outstanding exemplar of Australia's Colonial Regency style of architecture, this significance being enhanced by the quality of the design and craftsmanship and the degree to which it has retained important original fabric and features. The building is generally regarded as one of architect John Verge's finest achievements. The house's historic significance is also due in large measure to its role as the home of the Macarthur family from the days of John and Elizabeth, through a direct line of descendents to the present. (Source, State Heritage Inventory Public Presentation report, modified Stuart Read, 09/2004).
Belgenny Farm and Camden Park Estate has historical, aesthetic, social and technical/research significance at local, state and national levels as the oldest, intact, rural landscape and group of farm buildings in Australia, with close associations with the Macarthur family. Belgenny Farm and Camden Park Estate was instrumental and influential in the development of this country's agricultural, pastoral, horticultural and viticultural industries.
It is both representative of the evolution of many rural industrial technologies and a rare example of a remnant colonial farm within the Cumberland Plain where many of its scenic qualities have survived intact. Belgenny Farm and Camden Park Estate has important associations with key figures in the history of New South Wales, particularly John and Elizabeth Macarthur, their sons James and William, and Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow.
As an unusually intact record of farm building construction techniques and rural technological change, Belgenny Farm and Camden Park Estate has enormous educational and interpretive potential for current and future generations of Australians.
Aesthetically, Camden Park Estate is in a setting of bucolic charm, symbolic plantings and important vistas with the added significance of the Macarthur family cemetery with its monuments and Belgenny Farm's timber vernacular buildings. The entire estate is considered to be an ongoing agricultural property of social significance.
Source:NSW Heritage Branch
Elizabeth Macarthur Avenue, Camden, NSW