December: An Important Month In The Hills District

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The first regular ferry service linking Sydney and Parramatta commenced in 1793. The following year a road was completed to permit easier travel by horse or coach. In 1799 the Parramatta gaol was deliberately burnt down. Richard Rouse arrived in the colony in 1801 and the first Australian blankets were made using locally produced wool.

John Cliffe Watts
John Cliffe Watts

In 1805, four convicts escaped from Newcastle and travelled overland trying to link with friends on the Hawkesbury River at the base of the Blue Mountains. They were captured near Castle Hill and became the first persons to reveal an overland route linking Sydney and Newcastle.

John Macarthur was arrested in the middle of December in 1807 under a warrant issued by Judge-Advocate Richard Atkins to ‘show cause’ having abandoned his ship the Parramatta and refusing to pay for the crew and their rations. This legal fight became part of the mutiny in the colony by the military when Major George Johnston declared martial law on 26 January 1808 and arrested Governor William Bligh. This tumultuous event has become known as the Rum Rebellion.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie named five township sites in 1810 as part of his plan to create vibrant settlements at Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce. Samuel Marsden exported 4000 to 5000 lb (2000 kg) of wool to England as a result of his sheep breeding experiment and his son-in-law Rowland Hassall opened a non-denominational Sunday School Institution together with John Eyre in 1815.

Government House at Parramatta was enlarged by architects John Cliffe Watts and Francis Greenway in 1816 and Governor Macquarie recommended the country be named Australia rather than New Holland in 1817.

The population was excited by the opening of an overland mail service by coach and packhorse linking Sydney and Melbourne in 1837 and flocked to the new Sydney retail store opened by David Jones in 1838. Ten years later the Australian Mutual Provident Society was founded.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.