An intimate glimpse into the dappled world of the Swann sisters at Elizabeth Farm, a few years before they sold up and left. The film was funded by Ampol, commissioned by the National Trust and directed by John Kingsford Smith. There are copyright restrictions on the commercial use or distribution of this production.
An ambient and dreamlike montage of photographs taken in the mid 1970s during investigations by Public Works Department staff and Heritage Branch specialists, leading up to the protection of Elizabeth Farm under the state government’s first Permanent Conservation Order, listed in 1977.
John Macarthur, son of a Plymouth draper, was, at the time of his wedding in 1788, on unauthorised leave from his regiment in Gibraltar, approaching mid twenties, his army future in doubt. Having borrowed money to enlist, John had no intention of fighting abroad. Wars with Spain and America were over by the time he’d drawn his first salary. The more lucrative postings to India were unavailable to those lacking influence or social connections. Seven uneventful years in the army had left him restless and dispirited. And unless he returned to Gibraltar immediately, he faced losing his commission. (more…)
John Macarthur was declared a lunatic in 1832, in the presence of 30 or so Parramatta citizens, under the direction of his sons James and William. As a result, he was stripped of all involvement in family business and politics and sent back to Elizabeth Farm where he lived for a year or so, imprisoned in his bedroom and overseen by servants who were required to sleep in the same room. People are surprised to learn that John Macarthur was disinherited by his sons, physically restrained to minimise family embarrassment and neutralise a serious image problem. (more…)
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Nine year old errand boy John Dwyer faced 7 years in New South Wales for stealing a watch. He sailed on the Norfolk and arrived at Sydney in 1832. He was assigned to the Carters Barracks and described as “three feet eleven and a half inches, complexion ruddy freckled and pock pitted, hair brown, eyes grey”. He was flogged on 4 separate occasions in April 1833 for 4 separate attempts to escape. After five attempts that month, he was placed in the cells on bread and water. In August he was sent to the Phoenix Hulk for transfer to Port Macquarie. He was described as a ‘notorious runaway’. In January 1835, while still on the Hulk, he was flogged for destroying a blue cloth jacket. He died at Port Macquarie during July 1836. He can’t have been more than 13 years old.
John Macarthur fought the first of at least 3 known duels on the Docks at Gravesend in 1789, while awaiting his ship’s departure for New South Wales. Insolence and ‘ungentlemanly’ conduct fuelled the dispute with the Neptune’s First Master, whom Macarthur had called a ‘scoundrel’. Following the duel, which was carried out nearby at a secret location, the family was given more comfortable accommodation below deck with John conceding that his opponent’s behaviour was that of a gentleman and man of honour. (more…)
While John Macarthur was abroad, between 1801 and 1805, to face questions concerning a violent dispute with his commanding officer Colonel Paterson, his involvement in family business continued at great pace. Having recently offered to sell his stock and properties to the government, samples of wool were conveniently couriered to England for the approval of Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society. (more…)
On the eve of his departure to Australia in 1788, John Macarthur faced financial and social ruin. Without connections and influence – and seriously in debt – his recent marriage to the timid, penniless Elizabeth Veale from Devon and the arrival, a few months later, of their newborn son, spelt certain disaster. (more…)
For at least two centuries, visitors to Elizabeth Farm have probably noticed spidery cracks high up on walls and ceilings throughout its main living and sleeping rooms. These are caused by a combination of factors, including the way in which the cottage was built and materials used, changes made to the garden and grounds, plumbing, geophysical activity and drought. Surprisingly soft brickwork and mortar provides enough flexibility to withstand moderate movement although a dramatic and sudden spike in rainfall, like Sydney experienced late last year, will inevitably open ‘old wounds’. (more…)
A map drawn in 1844 shows a large ‘out-building’, almost certainly a barn or stables, positioned south of the ‘Residence’ on Elizabeth Farm. A driveway stretching from Parramatta Road, turning right at the building to avoid the ‘pleasure grounds’, runs east for a while before reverting north again, past the kitchen garden and orchards, across Clay Cliff Creek, heading off towards Parramatta. (more…)