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Appin, NSW

Historic village on the edge of Sydney's south-western suburban sprawl.

Slowly, but inexorably, the southern suburbs of Sydney are reaching the outskirts of the historic town of Appin. It was inevitable. Just along the road is the complex sprawl of Campbelltown and the good, flat land in the area is ideal for housing developments. There is already a sense of history compromised with the famous, historic churches being slowly enclosed by modern houses and the small shopping centre becoming more and more cafes and service stations. This, however, does not change the importance of Appin and nearby are such wonderful bushland retreats at the Cataract Dam where picnic facilities can make the visitor seem far removed from outer suburban Sydney.

Location

Appin, 240 m above sea-level, is located 75 km south-west of Sydney via the M5 (Hume Highway) and Appin Road. It lies between Campbelltown and Wollongong.

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Origin of Name

Governor Macquarie named Appin in 1811 after a small coastal village in Argyleshire in the Scottish West Highlands where his wife, Elizabeth, was born.

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Things to See and Do

Appin Park
The sensible starting point to explore Appin is Appin Park which is located on the Campbelltown side of town on Appin Road. There is an excellent history of the town and a map directing visitors to the main historic sites in the area. There is also an excellent guide to the town - Appin's Heritage Walk - which can be downloaded at http://www.appin200.com.au/assets/files/HERITAGE%20WALK%20final.pdf. It lists 16 places of interest in the district. Of particular interest are:

1. Appin Inn
This is what happens when an historic building is not occupied. Appin Inn has been vacant since 2004 and has fallen into disrepair but it dates to 1826 when William Sykes was granted a liquor licence and opened for business. It was partially demolished in 1912 and then rebuilt as a boarding house. The northern section of the building dates from 1826. When the hotel changed ownership in 1833 it was renamed the Union Revived Inn.

2. Schoolmaster's Residence, Appin Primary School
Located at 97 Appin Road (over the road from the Stone Cottage) this sandstone building was completed in 1867 and was originally built as the schoolmaster's residence. Nearby, in Elizabeth Close, is the original Appin Primary School building (1867). It was the first built under Henry Parkes' Public Schools Act of 1866.

6. Stone Cottage
Located on the eastern side of Appin Road between the hotel and the shopping complex is a building simply called the stone cottage . This building, with its distinctive half-mansard roof, probably dates from the 1830s and is typical of the dwellings which were once commonplace in the town. Some authorities suggest it was probably used as servant's accommodation for the hotel.  It was sold in 2005 and has recently been cleaned and repaired.

8. St Bede's Roman Catholic Church
On the corner of Appin Road and King Street are the grounds of St Bede’s Roman Catholic Church. It was designed in 1837 by Father John Therry. An influential and historical figure Therry, along with a colleague, was, in 1820, the first priest to be appointed to Australia. Built in different stages by different tradesmen the church was completed in 1841 and is considered the oldest Catholic church in mainland Australia to remain in continuous use. Both the church and its cemetery have been listed by the National Trust. Its iron-roofed square tower, which once had a timber belfry, is remarkably similar to that of the local Anglican Church. Both have historic graveyards.

9. St Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church
Located in Church Street, a short distance from Appin Road is St Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church. Construction commenced in 1840 and it was consecrated in 1843 after the Bishop had ordered the removal of a stone altar which had been constructed by the rector. The parish has been administered from Campbelltown since 1907. The cemetery, which dates back to 1840, is of particular interest.

11. St Mark's Rectory, Corner of Toggerai Street and St James Place.
Recent changes have altered this historic building, built in 1839, significantly. The roof line has been altered and a garage has been added and it has been surrounded by modern suburbia. Its neat little porch, attic, gabled roof, square stone chimney, and fifteen tiny windows are a reminder of what the buildings in the town looked like in the mid-19th century. There is a Latin text above the doorway which translates "Except the Lord build the house their labour is but lost that built it."

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Other Attractions in the Area

The Appin Massacre of 1816
European settlers moved into the Appin area, and the area around Cowpastures (now Camden), from around 1798 and by 1814 there was serious competition for food and land between the local Dharawal (Tharawal) people and the settlers. Historically the Aborigines in the area had relied on indigenous wildlife and reliable water. Now, with the arrival of cattle and the cropping of the land, their livelihood was endangered and so they "stole" corn and seeds and killed some of the domesticated livestock. This was not passive. The Tharawal also attacked the settler homes hoping to drive the intruders from their land.

The European settlers did not understand that all the Tharawal were trying to do was live off the land. The settlers replied with indiscriminate shooting, murder and rape. The Tharawal fought back.

The Sydney Gazette of 7 May 1814 reported: "On Saturday last Mr Campbell's servants at Shancomore were attacked by nearly 400 [aborigines]; the overseer was speared through the shoulder, several pigs were killed, one of which, a very large one, was taken away, together with a quantity of corn, and other provisions, the overseer's wearing apparel, and cooking utensils."

A week later there is a report: "Seeking vengeance they murdered Bitugally's wife and two children while they slept - the woman's arm was cut off and her head scalped, the skull of one child was smashed with the butt of a musket, and their bodies were left unburied for the families to find."

By June, 1814 the Tharawal had been joined by coastal Aborigines (the Gardangara people) and there was a threat to kill all white settlers in the Appin area. On 18 June two servants, John Price and Dennis Newingham were attacked and killed. The "war" continued until on 21 July Governor Macquarie ordered a punitive military expedition of 12 armed soldiers and four "friendly natives" into the area.

The historic plaque in Appin Park records: "In 1816 the Gandangara returned in search of food. Four European men were killed at the Nepean and another three at Mrs Macarthur's farm at Camden. Governor Macquarie ordered that all Aborigines in the Hawkesbury and southern districts be rounded up. If they resisted they were to be shot.

"Captain James Wallis of the 46th Regiment was in command of the soldiers sent to Airds and Appin. Wallis's men marched around the district for a month, guided by Dharawal (Tharawal) trackers - Budbury and Bundle. Wallis later complained to the Governor about the support shown to the Dharawal people by the local settlers, which had frustrated his attempts to round them up. When Wallis reached Appin he found several Aborigines sheltering at Kennedy's farm. John Kennedy and Hamilton Hume vouched for the men and persuaded the soldiers to leave. Wallis then travelled to William Redfern's farm after hearing Aborigines were sighted there, only to find the place deserted. He spent several days searching the Georges River near Minto and Ingleburn before receiving word that seven outlawed Aborigines were camped at Broughton's farm back in Appin.

"He marched his soldiers through the night of 17 April, 1816, only to find a deserted campsite. In the moonlight they could see figures jumping across the rocky landscape. Some of the Aborigines were shot and others were driven off the cliffs into a deep gorge. At least fourteen Aborigines were killed including the mountain Chief Conibigal, an old man called Balyin, a Dharawal man called Dunell along with several women and children. Only two women and three children survived."

Northampton Dale (originally known as Lachlan Vale)
Located on Northampton Dale Road off Brooks Point Road south of Appin,  Northampton Dale was originally the homestead of the Broughton family. The original name of the 1000 acre estate was Lachlan Vale. It was established on 22 May, 1811 and named after Governor Lachlan Macquarie . William Broughton had arrived as a free settler with the First Fleet in 1789. He came to Australia as a servant to the surgeon, John White, and later became Deputy Commissary of Stores in Sydney. His daughter Betsy married the local property owner and explorer, Charles Throsby. Broughton died in 1821. His wife remained at Lachlan Vale until her death in 1843. It was the subsequent owner, John Percival, who renamed the property. Northampton Dale was built some time before 1840. It was the third building on the property and predates 1840. It has a half-mansard roof, stone walls, multi-paned windows, and some related slab farm buildings.

Elladale Cottage
Head beyond Northampton Dale on Brooks Point Road and turn left to Elladale Road where Elladale Cottage, a sandstone Gothic house built in 1838 by Appin's first Anglican minister, the Reverend Hart Sparling, stands. It was named after Sparling's wife Ella and was used as a church until the completion of St Mark's in 1842. Sparling subsequently leased the house to Edmund Biddulph Henning and it was here that the famous letter writer, Rachel Henning lived with her brother and sister Amy when she visited Australia in 1855. You can read the Rachel Henning letters at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0607821.txt. Her tart observations are hugely entertaining.

Hume and Hovell Monument
About 4 km north of Appin, on the Appin Road to Campbelltown, is a stone monument erected in 1924 to mark the centenary of the 1824 Hume and Hovell expedition to Port Phillip, which departed from Hume's house. The cairn is made of material taken from Hamilton Hume's house.

Cataract Dam
Located on the Appin Road 10 km from Appin, 24 km from Campbelltown and 31 km from Wollongong, the dam is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm daily. The facilities include a huge picnic area above the dam with electric barbecues, a large kids playground and plenty of benches. The dam itself is a reminder of a bygone era. It is not just a functional cement edifice. Rather it has impressive sandstone walls, a gracious tower in the middle of the dam and a sense of solidity which only £429,000 could buy back in 1907. It is historically significant both because it was the first of Sydney's four dams but also because it is located near the site of one of the Sydney basin's most infamous Aboriginal massacres. If you walk up to the park on the eastern side of the dam wall you'll notice a plaque recording "the massacre of men, woman and children of the Dharawal Nation ... on 17 April, 1816" with the poignant "We are deeply sorry. We will remember them." from the Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group.

Explore the Appins of the World
When I first wrote about Appin I received an email from a man who was setting up a website about all the Appins around the world. If you are interested in learning about Appin in Canada and Appin in Scotland check out: http://www.tartanhen.co.uk/ and http://www.tartanhen.co.uk/appin/index.htm.

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History

* Prior to European occupation the area was inhabited by the Dharawal (Tharawal) Aborigines for over 20,000 years.

* In 1807 botanist and naturalist, George Caley, explored the area and described the Appin Falls.

* In 1811 Governor Lachlan Macquarie named Appin after a coastal town in Argyleshire, Scotland where his wife had been born. Elizabeth Campbell had grown up in Airds House, Appin. It was the fifth village in the colony.

* In 1811 Macquarie granted 1000 acres in the district to Deputy Commissary General William Broughton. In gratitude Broughton named it Lachlan Vale after Macquarie.

* In 1812 Macquarie gave 100 acres to Andrew Hume whose son Hamilton became a noted explorer..

* In 1814 Andrew Hume, with his sons John and Hamilton and a local Tharawal guide crossed from Appin and explored the area where now the towns of Picton, Mittagong, Bowral and Berrima exist.

* On 4 October, 1815 Governor Macquarie inspected the area and commented on the success of the farms in the area.

* In 1816 Hume and his party ventured further south-west from Appin to the Goulburn Plains.

* On 17 April, 1816 at least 14 members of the Tharawal people were massacred near Broughton Pass.

* Hamilton Hume was granted 300 acres at Appin where he built the homestead 'Beulah', which is still standing, halfway to Campbelltown, on the Appin Road.

* In 1824 Hume and Hovell left Appin and travelled south on an expedition to Port Phillip.

* The Appin townsite was surveyed in 1834.

* By the 1830s Appin was a major staging post for people wanting to travel to the New South Wales South Coast.

* In 1855 Rachel Henning, the famous letter writer, lived with her brother in a house near the town.

* On 24 July, 1979 14 miners were killed in the Appin Mining Disaster.

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Visitor Information

Appin does not have a visitor centre. The closest information centre is Campbelltown Visitor Information Centre, 15 Old Menangle Road, Campbelltown, tel: (02) 4645 4921.

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Useful Websites

The Wollondilly website - http://www.visitwollondilly.com.au/towns_appin.php - has useful information on the town and the http://www.appin200.com.au/assets/files/HERITAGE%20WALK%20final.pdf is an historic guide to the town.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

1 suggestion so far
  • Do you have a railway station in Appin? If not, how close is the nearest one?

    There is no railway station at Appin. The closest railway station is at Campbelltown which is 16 km north of Appin. BE

    Lorraine Naylor