History of Minto

It was probably an attempt by corrupt army officers to flatter the British Governor of India that led to the creation of the name "Minto".

In January 1808, officers of the then notorious NSW Corps - better known as the "Rum Corps" - deposed Governor William Bligh and took control of the colony for themselves.

Yet fearing harsh retribution from London, the officers were understandably keen to curry favour with senior government authorities. And the nearest high-ranking British official was the Earl of Minto, Gilbert Elliot Murray Kyngmount, who was Viceroy of India from 1807-1814.

So when the rebel administration opened a new farming district west of the Georges River in 1809, they named it in his honour. At the time, the districts of Upper and Lower Minto stretched form the north of Appin to Denham Court. And by the end of 1809, 34 settlers had received grants there.

Most of these grants were made official when the new Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, arrived in Sydney backed up by his own Scottish regiment.

Rebel NSW Corps officers were sent back to England to face court martial, but their "Minto" appellation remained. Although its location was somewhat altered, redesignated further west near the Nepean River. Macquarie renamed the area skirting the Georges River as "Airds".

European settlement of the Minto area began in 1811 when Dr William Redfern, the colony's best known physician, was granted 800 acres fronting the eastern bank of Bow Bowing Creek. In May 1818, Dr Redfern's property expanded with a further land grant of 1300 acres. Like Campbelltown, his property of Campbellfield was named after the Governor's wife, Elizabeth Campbell.

Dr Redfern, a man of great compassion and integrity, is believed to have been born in Canada about 1774, and qualified as a doctor in Britain in 1797.

By 1820, Redfern's Campbellfield property(PDF, 198KB) had greatly developed and expanded under the guidance of the aging doctor and his able young wife, Sarah. Their splendid homestead was built on a high hill overlooking the farm paddocks and Bow Bowing Creek valley. (Parts of this historic house still survive behind Minto Mall shopping centre).

Campbellfield, often called "Campbellfields", became one of the finest vineyards and sheep farms in NSW, and at its peak would stretch from the modern Ingleburn to Leumeah railway station.

But the property lost much of its impetus and prestige after the much mourned death of Redfern in 1833, and Sarah's subsequent departure.

When a railway platform was built in 1874 to serve the surrounding farmlands, it was called "Campbellfields Station". It should be noted most of the population at this time actually lived on the western side of the line.

But times were changing. It was the booming 1880s, and the fused with Campbelltown, was loosing its attraction. Maybe the memory of Redfern was too distant to matter that much?

Developers and subdividers were now moving in, keen to use the railway station to push the site's potential. To this end, in February 1882, the platform was officially renamed "Minto". As well as giving the estate a new look, the title helped preserve an early district name that had almost been forgotten.

Within a year, the portion of Redfern's property closest to the station had been carved up into residential lots, creating a Minto village. Redfern Road was named after the good doctor, while Minto Road was created parallel to the railway and ran north to Ingleburn.

Possibly taking a lead for the fact that Minto was an earl, the village's streets - on both sides of the rail tracks - denoted the English aristocracy of the day.

Hence today's Pembroke Road, Stafford Road, Warwick Street, Durham Street, Derby Street, Sussex Street, Essex Street and Somerset Street.

The 1890s and first half of the 20th century saw the village continue to grow, with the addition of more streets. Victoria Road was named in honour of Queen Victoria, and Albert Street (which has now largely disappeared) after her much-mourned husband. An early subdivision north of Minto Road created a network of streets which also only remain in small portions. And unfortunately, the motivation for their names - Memphis Street, Nelson Street and Francis Street - can only be guessed at. Maybe two of them honour the English maritime heroes Sir Horatio Nelson and Sir Francis Drake?

By 1950, several newer streets in the old village area had been also created. These were given womens' names - Blanche Street, Margaret Street and Phyllis Street. This theme appears to have been popular in the following years as well, creating Ruth Place, Christie Street, Susan Place, Lochee Avenue and Erica Place.

"In front of Minto there is a future expansion of brightness, and the expansion of the district is assured," claimed an optimistic Jubilee booklet from 1951. But it was not a claim all residents welcomed, and many preferred to retain the village as the quiet community it was.

But Minto in the 1950s, with a population of little over 500, was hardly postcard material. A public meeting held in March 1959 described it as dilapidated and "semi-desolate".

As recently as July 1961, the local press was running headlines: "Straying stock destroy Minto gardens." But the community was close-knit and happy with its lifestyle. But this was all about to change.

In the autumn of 1969, Campbelltown Council sold a large slice of the hillside land it owned east of Pembroke Road to the NSW Housing Commission. By the time the plans for this site were released in the 1970s, major concerns were being raised by the rural minded villagers. Mainly because the Commission wasn't planning to build free-standing homes on large blocks, but rows and rows of townhouses - still a very foreign idea.

In September 1976, the CI News reported that the first 55 homes had been completed. And like Claymore, Airds and Macquarie Fields, the entire estate was to be based on the varied-curve subdivision, where all street were deliberately curved to avoid blind corners.

But the street themselves were named with history in mind. They were all based on the "theme" of William Redfern and his life.

In 1797 Redfern had been a surgeon on the ship Standard at the Mutiny at the Nore. He was accused of encouraging the crew to revolt and was therefore sentenced to death. But due to his youth, this was commuted to transportation for life. As a convict, Redfern arrived in Sydney on the Minorca in 1801.

Soon after, he was sent to Norfolk Island where he served as assistant surgeon and won a full pardon in 1803. Returning to Sydney on the Estramina in 1808, he was appointed NSW assistant surgeon. As Redfern possessed no evidence of his qualifications he was successfully examined by three senior surgeons (including William Bohan). From 1816, Redfern served at the Rum Hospital, working under the guidance of Dr D'Arcy Wentworth.

Redfern was assisted by an apprentice, James Shears. He also ran a busy private practice and was the family doctor of Governor Macquarie.

In 1811, Redfern had been granted his land grant in the area originally named after the Earl, Gilbert Kyngmount. The doctor married Sarah Wills.

Redfern's investigations into the high mortality rate on convict transports such as the General Hewitt led to better conditions. Redfern expected to succeed Wentworth as principal surgeon in 1818, but London appointed James Bowman to the post instead. Disappointed Redfern resigned.

Redfern began devoting more and more time to his Campbellfield farm, and others like Wangoola near Bathurst. In 1821, he returned to London to lobby against laws curbing the freedom of former convicts. His health deteriorated and before his return to NSW, he spent some time at Madeira recuperating. There he collected vines and fruit trees and returned to Campbellfield to plant them.

In 1828, Redfern took his son William to Edinburgh to be educated, setting sail on the Orelia, Sarah remained in the colony with another son, but she was never to see her husband again. He died in 1833 and was buried at New Calton cemetery in Scotland.

Medical practitioners included William Balmain, Thomas Arndell, and Thomas Jamison, who popularised new protections against small pox introduced by Dr Edward Jenner in England. Other colonial surgeons were Edward Lutterell, James Mileham, William Sherwin and William Walker.

Workers on the Campbellfield estate included James Evans, Thomas Besford, John Gee, William Crocket, Themes Barratta, Patrick Hammal, Henry Durban, Bryan Moran, Brian McEliver, Richard Murphy, Hugh McCann, Patrick Mahan, Elizabeth Nicholls and John Sandeford. Redfern's land was also home to the Rachel Forster Hospital.

The new estate became a "political Football" in the state election of 1978, with the Liberal Opposition accusing the Wran ALP Government of forcing its Housing Commission tenants to live in "cramped, inadequate dwellings which lack size, quality of appeal".

The Government hit back by opening its newest townhouse development - Valley Vista - for public viewing.

By March 1980, more than 1060 homes had been built by the Commission and a new "district centre" was underway. This would include Sarah Redfern High/Primary School. Minto Mall shopping centre, playing fields, a school/public library and a hall. (Campbellfield Public School had opened in June 1978, and was named after the Redfern grant.)

Two of the new roadways built to service this "district centre" were named after old local families - Brookfield Road and Monaghan Street. A third, Mossglen Street, was after the farm of George Smith, a pioneer of the East Minto area.

Three of the main roads bisecting the Housing Commission estate itself - Pendergast Avenue, Goodwin Crescent and Mortimer Street - note early landholders John Pendergast, F.G. Goodwin and William Mortimer.

The other two roads are the remnants of 19th century farm laneways.

Ben Lomond Road (Ben is Scottish for "high peak") has trailed over the hilltop toward the Georges River for well over 100 years. In 1898, the local press reported it was "in anything but a good state".

Guernsey Avenue originally stretched all the way for the northern part of Minto Road to Smiths Creek. It was part of an old rural subdivision which also created three other streets named after England's Channel Islands - Sark Grove, Jersey Parade and Alderney Street. (In 1976, the southern portion of Guernsey Road became Townson Avenue after the famous local pioneer, Robert Townson.)

While the Housing Commission was busy developing its new community, private developers were also creating new housing estates to the north and south.

By 1976, Neeta Homes was developing an estate near the site of The Grange Public School (named after an early farm). At the same time, Leslie Homes was promoting its Eagleview Estate on the higher ground. In the south, most of the developments began in the 1980s, continuing well into the 1990s.

And the street name theme used across this entire area has been "the pioneers of Minto"

Some streets honour early land grantees such as Walter Collis, Paul Randall, Ed Myles, Thomas Wheeler, Luke Brennan, Peter Lillas, William Ross, John Fenton, Joseph Inch, Thomas Styles, James Underwood, James Welch, William Lane, William Kitson, James Fletcher, William Ray, John Neal (e), Richard Knight, F.A. Chaperon, Andrew Thompson, Richard Barnes, P. Keighran, D.C. Allen and R.W. Benham.

Residents of Minto from the late 1800s and early 1900s have also been honoured.

Among the better-known would be the Porter family. Robert Porter, born in 1844, moved to the southern end of Eagleview Road in 1897 where he planted an orchard and with his son, operated brick pits in Minto from 1904-18.

John and Phillip Sherack were vignerons, while Pierre Joseph and Michel Jerome Brial were French butchers and wool hide buyers who moved locally in the 1880s.

Christian Ohlfsen-Bagge was an engineer who had a poultry farm at Minto. His daughters taught music. John Charles Rider was a glass manufacturer, and Robert and Annie Longhurst ran a farm at East Minto.

Some of the other pioneers mentioned on street signs are Crammond, Hall, Boyer, Kidd, Haultain, Plowman, Sutton, Rushes, Cochrane, Bennett, Oprey, Hayes, Selby, Hanlon, Baker, Clark, Moffat, Norton, Borthwick, Parnell and Merryweather. More recent identities are honoured as well, such as Frederick Goodsell, who died in 1978.

All of these new roads have been built next to, or over the top of, older rural roads. One of the few survivors is Blackwood Road. Another is Eagleview Road, named for its obvious perspective across the valley floor.

In the early winter of 1971, the CI News reported a new 500 acre (200ha) industrial site at Minto was "well under way and starting to take shape". It continues: "The industrial site is literally being sculptured from the undulating terrain, by gigantic earth-moving machines. When completed the site will be transformed into a fully grassed, flood free modern industrial area." Bow Bowing Creek was converted into a grass lined channel.

As the first factories began to be established in 1974, Council decided to name its new roads in the industrial estate after old farm properties.

One property easily noticed on the parish maps was Stonny Batter, a 240-acre (96ha) farm owned by John Patrick, skirting the Georges River at Minto Heights.

Near by Reaghs Farm Road denotes a property at Denham Court. (The road sits just a few hundred metres away from Underwood Street - and the owner of Reaghs Farm was Joseph Underwood).Huntsmore Road, Pembury Road, Montroe Road Culverston RoadHolmes Road notes Henry Kable's property of Holmes Farm, while Cary Grove was property of William Gaudry, near the intersection of Raby Road, Camden Valley Way and Swettenham Road all recall early Denham Court land holdings.

Merryvale Road recalls the name of a nearby house, which earlier this century was known as Oakleigh. It was the home of John Westbury, Campbelltown Mayor from 1937-39. Saggart Field Road notes an agricultural settlement that existed in the early 1800s (see Bow Bowing). The main road through the estate is Airds Road, named for the early title Governor Macquarie gave the district in 1810.

Some of the larger factories to be established in the estate included Atlas Plastics in 1973, Volvo in 1975, Pirelli Cables in 1977 and the huge Lever and Kitchen factory in 1979. (The latter was dismantled in 1995).

Other industrial streets, next to Minto Railway Station, were moulded from the early subdivisions of the 1800s. It was only in the 1970s that these quiet residential streets were rezoned for industrial purposes.

For decades motorists driving along Redfern Road had been caught in an often-hectic traffic jam at the rail level crossing. This problem ended in July 1993 with the opening of the long-awaited Minto Overbridge.

To streamline the new map created by this structure, the council has since renamed the entire roadway and overpass between Pembroke Road and Campbelltown Road as Ben Lomond Road. A small remnant of Redfern Road (west of the railway) has been renamed as Wiltshire Street, in accordance with the "English theme" chosen in 1881.

The best-known Minto reserve is without a doubt Coronation Park. Located off Redfern Road, between the railway line and Minto Public School, it was once an early common for the village. It was described as the "local recreation green" in 1926, when a resident, Henry Tyler Moore, had been found there dead, shot in the head, with a revolver in his hand.

In 1952 the first Minto Show was held on the ground, and the following year the State Government handed ownership of the paddock to Council. At the time, it was called "Minto Recreation Ground".

But as Queen Elizabeth 11 had been crowned in 1953, the Council decided in December to name the site "Coronation Park", to mark the regal event. A delighted Minto Progress Association hailed it "a most suitable name".

In August 1971, the CI News reported a new zone netball association had been formed and was lobbying for the creation of a 25-court netball complex. Coronation Park has since become the epicentre of that sport, drawing thousands of youngsters each week.

Rose Reserve notes the famous pioneer dam-builder, Thomas Rose (see Rosemeadow). Parish maps indicate he owned land in the Minto area as well. Nearby Townson Park, like the road it joins, recalls Robert Townson (see Varroville).

Etchell Reserve was named in honour of the family that helped open up the Georges River gorge country.

Redfern Park pays tribute, of course, to Dr William and his young wife, while John Rider Reserve honours the pioneer glass manufacturer.

Passfield Park, like the Passfield Park Special School, recalls the name given to an early rural subdivision of the Redfern property.

Kayess Park notes a family that farmed the nearby paddocks prior to the 1960s.

Piggott Bushland Reserve off Eagleview Road recalls one of Minto's best-known families, which owned a property on the hillside called Arcadia.

Charles Piggott's obituary in May 1928 gives us an insight into how hard life must have been for our early settlers. It was reported of Charles that: "He started dairying and had built up a very creditable herd when the largest flood ever experienced in Minto (about 49 years ago) brought ruin to himself and his family. During the height of the rush of waters the late Mr Piggott saw that the railway line had been washed away and eminent danger was in store for the first train venturing along."

"Mr Piggott grasped the situation and, through swirling water, made for the railway line, and with a crude oil lantern prevented a train passing along. The next morning he found that his dairy herd had all been lost in the flood waters. His second effort in dairying in later years brought further lose to the Piggott family, practically the whole herd being lost through a disease which broke out in the district".

"Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs - How and why they got their names" written by Jeff McGill, Verlie Fowler and Keith Richardson, 1995, published by Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.

Reproduced with permission of the authors.