These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.
Interest in the Yarramalong Valley started with cedar getters in the 1830s but Europeans had been travelling near and through the Valley for decades beforehand. Its proximity to the Great North Road (George Downes Drive) was alone sufficient to ensure this.
Ownership of private land began in 1840. The groundwork was unknowingly laid by Wyong’s pioneering Cape family. William Cape was a teacher and English immigrant. In 1823 he took over control of the Sydney Academy with his eldest son William Timothy to assist him. William senior put schooling aside to concentrate on Brisbane Water grants he and two of his sons had at what today we would call Wyong and Alison. They were relatively close to the coast.In 1827, William Timothy Cape became responsible for the Sydney Public School. One of his pupils was Richard Hill with whom the Capes formed a close connection. Hill would have become well aware of the Capes’ interests in the area.
Perhaps the real impetus that led to private ownership in the Yarramalong Valley started with the birth of three daughters of an emancipist, Francis Cox. Sarah Cox was born in 1806, Maria in 1809 and Henrietta in 1812. It can confidently be said that their choice of husbands led to the beginning of ownership of private land in the Valley.
Sarah married William Charles Wentworth the journalist, politician and explorer. Wentworth himself had no direct involvement with the Valley but was to smooth the way.
Maria married George Bloodworth, the son of a respected emancipist brickmaker. In the 1830s George was illegally removing cedar from Crown land in Jilliby, Yarramalong and beyond. He was not unique in this. Narara settler Frederick Hely, a one-time Principal Superintendent of Convicts, was doing the same. Bloodworth used leased land at Jilliby as a base. He apparently established a camp in a paddock immediately to the north west of Stephenson’s Bridge.Henrietta Cox married Richard Hill. He had been born in 1810 as the son of an emancipated butcher. He was apprenticed as a carpenter. In the 1820s he managed Wentworth’s Vaucluse estate. Wentworth became his mentor. This led to Hill becoming a Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly (1868–1877) and of the Legislative Council (1880–1895). He had many other activities including being a pastoralist, hotelier, company director, large orchardist near Lane Cove River, magistrate, Agricultural Society Councillor and a founding member of the Aborigines Protection Board.
Hill knew of the Capes’ ownership of coastal land in the district. His new brother-in-law George Bloodworth, was operating inland in the nearby timbered Yarramalong Valley and would have drawn Hill’s attention to the Valley’s potential in a district with which Hill was already broadly familiar because of his connection with the Capes. He applied to purchase land as early as 1838. On 18 February 1840, he succeeded with a grant of 843 acres. This land went from near Yarramalong School down to and east along the southern side of Wyong Creek. It encompassed Stinsons Lane and the Yarramalong cemetery area. It has been incorrectly said that the grant was to Reverend Richard Hill of St James Church in Sydney. There was indeed a grant to the Reverend Hill but it was at Milbrodale in the Hunter.
An intriguing part of Hill’s grant was that it was made on the very day that George Bloodworth died – 18 February 1840. Was this just a coincidence and if not, why not?
Hill did not settle on his grant and possibly did not ever sight it. Significant private ownership and settlement in the Valley began c1853. By 1865 settlers had included the Balls, Beavens, Boyds, Durringtons, Fannings, Hills, Kellys, Kennedys, Lettes, Morans, O’Neills, O’Tooles, Stinsons, Tobins, Waters and Watkins. A number of these names remain familiar. They came from various places but largely from the Hunter and from Macdonald River. The Stinsons, Waters and Hills, for example, were from Hexham.On 8 November 1854, Richard Hill sold his land to John Maximus Lette who had arrived in the Valley from Tasmania with his new wife the year before. Lette built a home on the eastern side of Stinsons Lane between Wyong Creek and the still-existing lagoon. Later the 843 acres were, in effect, divided into two with the section to the east of Stinsons Lane acquired by the Stinson family who were already large landowners in the district. The section to the west of Stinsons Lane went to the Hill family which included Alexander and Hamilton Hill. These Hills had no connection with Richard Hill the original owner. The relatively new and recently sold home at 1429 Yarramalong Road carries the name Hamilton Hill.
The settling of the Yarramalong Valley began long before Wyong township itself was established. This came about when the Sydney/Newcastle railway opened in 1887– 1889. Wyong became a transport centre for transporting timber.
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SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.