1880s Our Campbelltown

Our Campbelltown 1880s


John Ahearn short term as Mayor

In 1882, the area was officially proclaimed as the Municipal District of Campbelltown by the Governor of NSW. Nine Aldermen were elected, with John Ahearn elected the first Mayor of Campbelltown. John Ahearn was elected because he had less connections with town life in Campbelltown the other councillors. John Ahearn was from the Ousedale waterworks near Appin and did not have any strong alliances with the well established farming family factions in the area. Ahearn was only Mayor for a year before the factions took control.

Historical portrait of John Aheam Campbelltown's forst Mayor
(Sourced from Local Studies Campbelltown City Council)

William Webb and the Campbelltown Herald

Campbelltown got its own newspaper, the Herald, in 1880, beginning as four simple pages of printed columns. Published on February 14 1881, the Campbelltown Herald was founded by William Webb, a well-known country journalist who was instrumental in establishing a number of country newspapers. William is buried in the Methodist Congregational Cemetery. The Macarthur Advertiser is a direct descendant of this newspaper. It became the Campbelltown News in 1920, then changed again, in 1952, to the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News. During the recession of 1982, the newspaper merged with the Picton Post and Camden News to become the Macarthur Advertiser. The image below shows the very first Campbelltown Herald - Campbelltown Library is the proud owner of the only known hard copy of this newspaper.

First edition of the Campbelltown Herald


Formation of council and its first members

The Municipality was proclaimed and signed by the Governor of NSW in January 1882 and elections held in 1882. The first mayor was John Ahearn and the first Town Clerk was Thomas Jenner Winton. At it's first meeting three standing committees were formed - finance, works and by-laws. The old Temperance Hall at the southern end of Queen Street was purchased in 1884 and in 1891 a fancy façade was added to the building. This is the old Town Hall as we know it today. The image below shows the Old Town Hall. The original Temperance Hall can be seen behind, with the fancy façade added later. The Town Hall(PDF, 219KB) contained a lending library and reading room.

Historical photograph of the Campbelltown Town Hall in its early days
(Image sourced from Credit Local Studies Collection, Campbelltown City Library)

Train Crash

There was a major Train crash at Campbelltown on 11 September 1884. A goods train was derailed as a result of a collision between two locomotives.

Old photograph of the scene at the 1884 Train Crash including the damaged train
(Image sourced from Gore Family Collection)


Campbelltown Camden Train line

The Campbelltown to Camden train, or tram service as it was known, played an important role in transporting people from both towns to their required destination. Its stations between Campbelltown and Camden included: Maryfields, Kenny Hill, Curran's Hill, Graham's Hill, Narellan and Elderslie. The line closed down in December 1962, with a special journey held on January 1, 1963- the last journey 'Pansy' would make. This is the Maryfields Special on the Campbelltown Camden line.

Black and white photograph of a Steam train
(Image sourced from Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society)

St Patricks Covent School for girls

1887 The Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St. Benedict arrive in Campbelltown to establish a convent/boarding school/high school for female students as well as to continue the provision of primary education at St. Patrick's Primary School (see Campbelltown 2020-1840's). St. Patrick's convent/boarding school/high school was established in St. John's Church(PDF, 233KB) (corner Broughton and George Streets) and opened and blessed by Cardinal Moran on April 28th, 1888. 1888 was a busy year for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan as they purchased the land and existing weatherboard cottages known as "Westview" (4 St John's Road) with the intent of establishing a boarding school for boys aged 5 -12 years. The first boarder intake at St. John's Preparatory College "Westview" took place in 1889."

Old photograph of a church style building
(Image sourced from Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society)

Below is a photograph of Westview - Purchased by Sisters of the Good Samaritan in 1888.

Old photograph of a property purchased by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan

Below is a portrait of Mother Placid Caulfield sgs - The first religious principal of St. Patrick's College, Campbelltown.

Sepia portrait of a religious woman, Mother Placid
(Image sourced from Campbelltown Library and Sisters of the Good Samaritan Archive)

Below is a photo of the St. Patrick's College Students at Old St. John's Church site in the 1890s.

Early class photograph of students at a convent school
( Image sourced from St Patrick's College Archives)

CBC BANK relocates to a new magnificent building

The Commercial Banking Company (CBC) had been operating out of McGuanne's House but in 1881 relocated to this magnificent building(PDF, 204KB), an instant Campbelltown landmark. It remained a bank building until the 1980s when the CBC merged with the National Australia Bank. The building became a pancake restaurant, then in 1991 the home of the local newspaper, the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, until 2013. Standing outside are members of the Gore family, with future mayor Alex Munro in the doorway and Mrs Woodhouse on horseback.

Historical band building
(Image sourced from Gore Family Collection)

A new Church - St John the Evangelist

In June 1886 a Gothic building(PDF, 193KB) more central to the township was commenced. A notable feature is a circular stained glass window above the entrance to the church.

black and white photograph of a church building

Glen Lorne

Glen Lorne stood off Appin Road, south of present-day Rosemeadow. It was the country home of George Mansfield - the architect of Campbelltown's CBC bank and St Helens Park. His family poses here in 1881 during a cricket match tea break. Mansfield purchased the property in 1876 and, around the original timber cottage, built a grand homestead named after his wife, Lorne. The home was destroyed by fire in 1981(PDF, 48KB).

Colonial family having tea on the lawn
(Image sourced from Gore Family Collection)

State Nursery is established

In 1881, 22 acres of land on Badgally Road were established as a State Nursery. It was bounded by what is now Blaxland and Johnson Roads. The role of the State Nursery was to supply, free of charge, trees, shrubs and seedlings to various institutions around the state. These included schools, councils, railway stations and many others. Sadly, and abruptly, in 1930 the Nursery was closed. Many of the workers transferred to the Sydney Botanical Gardens. Although the State Nursery was never intended to be a paying proposition, in 1929 it ceased supplying plants free of charge, and the demand fell rapidly. This combined with the Great Depression was probably the major factors in its closure.


New public buildings

The 1880s saw a boom in public buildings with a Post Office in 1881. Artwork by Sandy Inglis

Painting of the first post office building in Campbelltown
(Image sourced from Campbelltown Catholic Club)

Canals and tunnels that support the Upper Nepean Scheme

The Upper Nepean Scheme of the 1880s saw a series of canals and tunnels(PDF, 196KB) constructed alongside Campbelltown to transport water from the Nepean River and its tributaries to Prospect Reservoir, entirely by gravity - an engineering marvel. This section was photographed near Kenny Hill.

old photograph of Canals with water flowing through them through to the prospect reservoir
(Image sourced from Nash Family Collection)