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Windsor, NSW

Largest and most important "Macquarie" town on the Hawkesbury River.

Windsor is the largest of the Macquarie towns and, as such, is the administrative centre of the Hawkesbury area. Governor Lachlan Macquarie established the five Macquarie towns in the Hawkesbury Valley - Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Wilberforce and Pitt Town in 1810. Although the town is rich in historic buildings (it would be easy to spend a day exploring all the 19th century buildings in the town) there is a belief that, as the largest town, it has suffered most severely from modern development. The modern bridge; the wide road around the town which mixes historic houses with service stations; the modern malls and the inability to keep the historic town isolated, has compromised the historic importance of the town. However such iconic buildings as St Matthews Church, the Court House, Tebbut's observatories, Thompson Square and numerous other buildings offer an insight into life in the colony's third settlement.


Windsor is located 56 kilometres north-west of Sydney via the M2.


Origin of Name

Windsor was named by Governor Lachlan Macquarie after Windsor, home of Windsor Castle and Eton College, in England. Macquarie later noted: "A large Party of Friends dined with us today, consisting in all of 21 Persons, including our own Family. - After Dinner I christened the new Townships, drinking a Bumper to the success of each. - I gave the name of Windsor to the Town intended to be erected in the District of the Green Hills, in continuation of the present Village, from the similarity of this situation to that of the same name in England." Prior to Macquarie's intervention it was called Green Hills when, in 1794, 22 settlers took up land and a road from Sydney to the settlement was constructed.


Things to See and Do

Hawkesbury Regional Museum
A sensible starting point for any visit to Windsor is the Hawkesbury Regional Museum at 8 Baker Street. It is open Wednesday to Monday from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and has an excellent range of material about the Macquarie towns and information which provides an insight into the entire district. Tel: (02) 4560 4655. It is the only publicly-run museum in the Hawkesbury area.

Historic Windsor
You really could spend a day exploring all the historic buildings in and around Windsor. The Windsor Heritage Map (http://www.hawkesburytourism.com.au/hawkesbury-maps/windsor-heritage-map.html) lists thirty places of interest. The total experience of Windsor is divided into four specific Heritage Walks - Thompson Square Precinct, The Peninsula Precinct, Windsor Mall Precinct, McQuade Park Precinct - each Heritage brochure has a detailed description of each building of interest. They can all be accessed at http://www.hawkesburytourism.com.au/windsor-heritage-buildings.html.

For those with a limited amount of time there are a small number of distinct highlights which should not be missed (the numbers relate to the Windsor Heritage Walk maps):
The Run of Buildings on Baker Street and Thompson Square
This is the perfect place to start a walk around the town. A row of buildings rising from the banks of the Hawkesbury River includes:
1. Thompson Square - an excellent example of an early nineteenth century town square it is also a symbol of the changes which occurred in the colony during the time of Lachlan Macquarie.
3. The Doctor's house which dates from 1845 - it operated as a doctor's surgery from 1858-1992.
4. John Howe's house (circa 1820) which is now part of the museum - It was used as an inn before becoming the office of The Australian newspaper from 1871-1889.
5. Macquarie Arms Hotel - built in 1815 and, apart from the period between 1840-1874, used continuously as a hotel. It is the oldest structure built as an inn in Australia. If it had been a hotel without interruption it would be the oldest continuously run inn in the country. In his journal on 12 January 1812 Governor Macquarie wrote: "I gave Mr Fitzgerald a large allotment in the Square on the express condition of his building immediately thereon a handsome commodious Inn of brick or stone, and to be at least two stories high." Over the years the building has undergone many alterations which have obscured the original structure. On the Hawkesbury River side there is a plaque on the wall indicating the level reached by the record-breaking 1867 floods. See http://www.hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/67369/Windsor-HW-A-Thompson-Square-Precinct.pdf for a downloadable brochure with extensive detail.

16. Windsor Court House
The Windsor Court House was designed by the great convict architect, Francis Greenway, and completed in 1822 by William Cox who used convict labour for the construction. The building was restored in 1960. It features cedar joinery throughout, is still in use today, and is open for inspection when the court is not in session. Its warm sandstock bricks and stone lintels and its excellent portrait of Lachlan Macquarie make it one of Windsor's most appealing historic buildings.

20. John Tebbutt Observatory and Peninsula House
The John Tebbutt Observatory, located on Palmer Street, is genuinely fascinating. Tebbutt, a gentleman farmer and talented amateur astronomer, was born in Windsor in 1834. In 1845 his father built the house in Palmer Street which John inherited in 1870. Tebbutt had a lifelong fascination with astronomy. He bought his first scientific instrument, a marine sextant, in 1853 and used a clock with a seconds pendulum which he regulated by celestial observation. In 1863 at the Peninsula he built a small wooden observatory. He became famous for his meticulous observations and calculations. He calculated the circumstances of the total eclipse of the Sun on 26 March 1857 when conditions proved cloudy. He also made a series of measurements of the position of the comet Donati for which he calculated the orbit. On 13 May 1861 he observed a faint nebulous object with his marine telescope; a few days of observation showed that it was in motion and he announced the notable discovery of the great comet of 1861 (known as Tebbutt II), one of the finest comets on record - at one stage it had a tail which could be traced for over 100 degrees. In 1879 he built a square and substantial brick observatory. Both the wooden and the brick observatory still stand and the house, known as Peninsula House and built in 1845, is still owned by Tebbutt's descendants. Tebbutt achieved modern fame in 1984 when his portrait was included on the $100 note. There is more detail on the Observatory and the Windsor Court house on the downloadable brochure at http://www.hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/67370/Windsor-HW-B-The-Peninsula-Precinct.pdf.

74. St Matthews Anglican Church and Cemetery
St Matthews Anglican Church is known as the 'Cathedral of the Hawkesbury'. It is widely acknowledged as one of the best works of the great convict architect, Francis Greenway. Built by convicts between 1817-1820, the site was chosen by Governor Macquarie who laid the foundation stone in 1817. The huge square tower is an impressive landmark which can be seen for many kilometres. It was consecrated by the Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1822. Marsden died in the Windsor Rectory in 1838. The church has a number of fine stained glass windows including one donated by the Sydney department store owner, Anthony Hordern. The graveyard, which dates from 1810 and thus is older than the church, has the graves of a number of prominent Australians including William Cox, who built the road across the Blue Mountains, and the astronomer, John Tebbutt. The Cox grave, which is between the church and the road, has the wonderful inscription: "Not by Works of righteousness Which We have done, but acording (sic) to his own mercy he saved us. Reader, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." An equally interesting gravestone is that of Andrew Thompson who died in 1810. Thompson Square is named after him. The inscription on his grave was drafted by Governor Macquarie who wrote: "Sacred to the memory of Andrew Thompson Esquire J.P. and Chief Magistrate of the district of Hawkesbury a native of Scotland at the age of 17 was sent to this country at the time of his arrival he distinguished himself by persevering industry and diligent attention to the commands of his Superiors. By these means...to a state of respectability and affluence ... enabled him to indulge to the generosity ... in assisting his Fellow Creatures in distress ... More particularly in the Calamitous Floods of the river Hawkesbury in the years 1806 & 1809 and at the risque to his life ... & permanent injury to his health he exerted himself each time ... successive Days & Nights in saving the lives ... who but for him must have perished. In consequence of Mr. Thompson's good conduct Governor Macquarie appointed him J.P. This act which restored him to that rank in Society which he had lost made so deep an impression on his grateful Heart as to make him bequeath to the Governor the 4th of his Fortune. This most useful and valuable man closed his earthly career on 22nd day of October 1810 at his House at Windsor of which he was the principal Founder ... 37 years of age." Macquarie makes no mention of the fact that Thompson was a convict who arrived in Australia in 1792 after being transported for fourteen years for stealing cloth worth £10. He subsequently became the first emancipist appointed as a magistrate and was the first person buried in the cemetery at St Matthews.

75. St Matthews Anglican Rectory
This is the oldest rectory in Australia. It was built by William Cox to the plan of an unknown architect, possibly Francis Greenway or Standish Harris. The building is notable for its elegant entrance door and fanlight and semi-circular staircase. The small-paned cedar windows have retained their original interior folding shutters. There is a two storey brick stable standing at the rear of the building.


Other Attractions in the Area

The Origins of the Five Macquarie Towns
In 1810 Governor Lachlan Macquarie having taken a party and explored around the rich floodplains of the Hawkesbury River valley, decided to establish five towns. In his wonderfully named Journal of a Tour of Governor Macquarie’s first inspection of the Interior of the Colony commencing on Tuesday the 6th November, 1810, Macquarie wrote:

A large Party of Friends dined with us today, consisting in all of 21 Persons, including our own Family. — After Dinner I christened the new Townships, drinking a Bumper to the success of each. — I gave the name of Windsor to the Town intended to be erected in the District of the Green Hills, in continuation of the present Village, from the similarity of this situation to that of the same name in England; the Township in the Richmond District I have named Richmond, from its beautiful situation, and as corresponding with that of its District; the Township for the Evan or Nepean District I have named Castlereagh in honor of Lord Viscount Castlereagh; the Township of the Nelson District I have named Pitt-Town in honor of the immortal memory of the late great William Pitt, the Minister who originally planned this Colony; and the Township for the Phillip District; on the North or left Bank of the Hawkesbury, I have named Wilberforce – in honor of and out of respect to the good and virtuous Wm. Wilberforce Esqr. M.P. – a true Patriot and the real Friend of Mankind …

“Having sufficiently celebrated this auspicious Day of christening the five Towns and Townships, intended to be erected and established for the security and accommodation of the Settlers and others inhabiting the Cultivated Country, on the Banks of the Rivers Hawkesbury and Nepean; I recommended to the Gentlemen present to exert their influence with the Settlers in stimulating them to lose no time in removing their Habitations, Flocks & Herds to these Places of safety and security, and thereby fulfil my intentions and plans in establishing them.” And so the five towns, now on the outskirts of Greater Sydney, were created by the orders of the governor. A good, old fashioned government edict.

The Australiana Pioneer Village
Located at Rose Street, Wilberforce, 6 km along the Hawkesbury River from Windsor, and open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm every Sunday, the Australiana Pioneer Village was started as a commercial enterprise, failed, was closed for ten years and then was taken over by volunteers and opened again on Australia Day 2011. It is genuinely interesting combining a large number of historic buildings (which have been brought to the site) with demonstrations of traditional crafts and volunteers who dress up and recreate the various roles of people from the 19th century. The buildings include the pit sawn timber Mitchell Cottage (1890); Bank of Australasia (1920s); Riverstone Police Station (1888); Perry House (1856) from Richmond; some wagon sheds; Case Cottage (1896); Cartwright Cottage (1870); Atkins Blacksmith Shop (1862); stable of the Blackhorse Inn (1874); Bowd's Sulky Shed (1874); Aiken Hut (1875); St Phillips Church (c.1890); Kurrajong Railway Goods Station (1926); Shearing shed (1880s); Mangold Cottage (1886); Kenso Cottage (1890); Bee Hive Shop (1879); North Sackville Post Office (c. 1890); Riverstone General Store (1860); the Oxboro Inn; Marsden Public School (1889); Quilty stables; and Salters Barn (1850). For more information check out http://theaustralianapioneervillage.com.au.



* The area had been occupied by the Dharug Aboriginal people for an estimated 40,000 years before Europeans arrived.

* In 1789 Governor Arthur Phillip explored the area. Phillip described the rich countryside 'as fine as any I ever saw'. The richness of the farmlands and lush green hills caused Phillip to name the area Green Hills.

* Windsor was first settled by Europeans in 1794 when 22 settlers took up land and a road from Sydney was established. The early farmers provided Sydney Town with almost half its food supply. The produce was delivered by boat down the Hawkesbury River, out into the Pacific Ocean and around into Sydney Harbour. This was the beginning of a riverboat industry which continued throughout the nineteenth century.

* In 1795 the square that became known as Thompson Square was constructed.

* In 1799 five settlers from the Hawkesbury River district - Simon Freebody, William Butler, Ed Powell, James Metcalfe and William Timms - were all brought to trial for the murder of two Aboriginal boys. Around this time the area was so productive it was providing Sydney with half of its grain.

* In 1809 the Hawkesbury River flooded and decimated the crops in the area.

* In 1810 Governor Lachlan Macquarie named the settlement after the Royal Town of Windsor which lies to the west of London. Aware of the problems of flooding, Macquarie insisted the town be built above the floodplain.

* In 1814 John Howe established a regular ferry service across the Hawkesbury near where the Windsor Bridge now stands. That year Howe became the town's Chief Constable.

* In 1867 the Hawkesbury River flood was so dramatic it reached the first floor balcony of the Doctor's house in Baker Street.

* In 1874 the Windsor Bridge was opened to traffic across the river.

* In 1883 the Windsor Railway Station was completed.


Visitor Information

Hawkesbury Visitor Information Centre, Hawkesbury Valley Way, Clarendon, tel: (02) 4560 4620 or 1300 362 874. It is open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 9.00 am - 4.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.


Useful Websites

There are a number of useful websites. Check out http://www.historicwindsorguide.com, http://www.hawkesburytourism.com.au and http://www.hawkesburyaustralia.com.au/info/things-to-see-and-do/windsor-walk.

Got something to add?

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

4 suggestions
  • An amazing town, and it will most certainly be ‘ buzzing’ on Saturday June 27th 2020, when many of the Baker & Single Family Members gather at St. Matthews Anglican Church Hall for a ‘Second Reunion’ to ‘Celebrate the Life of William Baker Gentleman – Convict – 2nd Fleet Vessel Neptune 1790. William, upon completion of his 7 Year Sentence, settled in Windsor and became an important part of the town’s early development, Baker Street being in his honour.

    Robyn Single
  • It would be great to include something about the Hawkesbury District Hospital and Benevolent Society. The original building is wonderful and I believe its the second oldest hospital in Australia and surely is a testament to a wonderful communal spirit.

    Diana Baird
  • What about Cornwallis Corner. My great great grandfather was born there. Early settler my 5th great grandfather a marine from the First Fleet. The Supply ship the Friendship. Benjamin Causly. The his Son In law. George McGunnis. Then his Son in Law. James Connelly. This then come down to me. My grandmother Agnes Connelly.

    Mary cole
  • They are buried at St Thomas Church Cemetery in Windsor

    Mary Cole