History of Wedderburn

Geographically separated from the rest of Campbelltown by a steep gorge, winding road, and a thick forest, Wedderburn is a step back in time.

Still dominated by orchards and farms, this rural locality is rich in plant life and fauna - most notably the famous koala colony. Pristine O'Hares Creek Gorge - to the east of the suburb - is already earmarked to become Campbelltown's first National Park.

Plans are also being debated to create more prestige home lots in the area - a far cry from the days when civilisation was literally hacked out of the wilderness by poor selector families in the 1890s.

Exactly how Wedderburn got its name is a mystery. It is a fairly common English surname and the latest Sydney phone book lists more than a dozen families by that name. But the man or woman intended to be honoured by the local suburb seems lost to history. Maybe they were known by another name altogether and it was, at some time, misspelt?

After all, in June 1835, the Government Gazette describes "Widderborne" as one of the 10 parishes included in the Campbelltown Police District. Yet by 1848, W.H. Wells' Geographical of Australian Colonies called the rugged and unsettled area as the "Parish of Wedderburn".

It wasn't until the late 1880s that the first pioneers made their way into the Wedderburn bushland and started clearing in preparation for cultivation and planting.

A school opened in 1896, and a union church two years later. In 1896, Elizabeth Greenwood was appointed postmistress and her home was used as the post office(PDF, 231KB) until it closed in 1927. (The sandstone ruin still stands).

Wedderburn Bridge was built about 1892, replacing a rocky ford. This old wooden structure is long-gone now, replaced by a concrete causeway in the 1980s (However, this often disappears under flood waters, isolating the suburb for days.)

When a journalist from the Campbelltown Herald visited the area in March 1923, he found a "thriving" village.

"It is marvellous to note that this locality, which was practically all bush and scrub a few years ago, comparatively speaking, is now the centre of one of the best fruit-producing centres of the State".

Most of the suburb's modern roads follow the path of the old bush tracks carved out by the pioneers. Wedderburn Road itself led to the settlement from Campbelltown, part of its old route now being Karrabul Road in St Helens Park and St Johns Road in Bradbury.

The section going down into the river gorge, described in early newspaper reports as "Wedderburn Hill Road", has always been a perilous path. In 1920, the local Fruitgrowers' Association requested Council erect a log fence on the Campbelltown side of the bridge, due to "dangerous state of the cutting, where accidents have happened through going (over) the side."

Two stretches of Wedderburn Road (as it passes through the suburb) are now known as Lysaght Road and Minerva Road.

Andrew Lysaght was the local MP and Attorney-General in the State Labor Government of Jack Lang. In 1929, he had lobbied for the construction and opening of the unsealed road which today links Wedderburn and Appin.

Minerva was the ancient Roman goddess of the Arts, and former ranger, Keith Longhurst, suggests the name was most likely dreamed up by the Polish-born local artist, Gracius Joseph Broinowski (1837-1913).

Fleeing his native country to avoid military service, Gracius migrated to Australia in the 1850s and within decades had established himself as a major colonial artist, particularly with birdlife. Retiring to a farm in Wedderburn, he began compiling his six-volume book, Birds of Australia, including 300 of his own illustrations. A swimming hole in the nearby creek system was also named after the Roman goddess - Minerva Pool.

Broinowski's love of birds may also be responsible for the title of nearby Bellbird Road, because many old-time locals insist they have never seen or heard a bellbird in the area.

Far more common are the lyrebirds, also known as "bush peasants" - hence Pheasant Creek and nearby Pheasants Road.

Hillcrest Road probably highlights its own geography, while Jersey Road marks the old entrance to the Ferndale property founded by the Swann family. (Part of this route is also called O'Hares Road, named after the creek that winds past Wedderburn.)

Blackburn Road recalls an early settler who is actually listed on old parish maps as "G.V. Blackburne". Aberfoyle Road is a Scottish name, and is believed to have been given by the Scobie family.

Victoria Road paid homage to the reigning Queen, while Airlie Road (origin unknown) formed an access way into an early farm holding.

Man against nature has always been a factor of life in Wedderburn, and stories of wild bushfires and the deep gorge country south of Campbelltown go hand in hand.

It was in 1939, after a savage blaze destroyed 80 per cent of the local fruit crop, that the Wedderburn bushfire brigade was formed. It has been kept busy every since.

By the 1950s, the "small but progressive" rural district of Wedderburn had a population of just over 100 residents, occupying 40 orchards, which produced up to 50,000 cases of fruit. Electricity came in 1952.

The importance of preserving Wedderburn's extensive bushland was recognised in 1974 when the subdivision standard was increased from 10 hectares to 40 hectares. In 1981, this was reduced to 10ha with the concession that a 2ha lot could be created from each 10ha lot which existed at that time.

In 1982, developers proposed to subdivide an old holding known as Yeomans Estate (at the end of Victoria Road) into a series of 10ha lots. These would have had access from roads to be constructed along ridgetops, while rear boundaries took in creeks in pristine bushland gorges. So Council prepared a new plan, which allowed a similar number of 4ha blocks, as long as the gorges were transferred into the ownership of the Council, so they could be protected.

The main thoroughfare in this subdivision was Katanna Road. This unusual name was a composite of Christian names from the Yeomans family.

Other new roads were titled with a "scouting" theme. This is due to a 1983 request by the District Scout Commissioner who wanted to mark the 75th year of scouting in the nation. "The names submitted are of deceased people active in early years of scouting and terms synonymous with scouting," a Council report of the time recorded.

These names include Winton Close, Fairburn Road and Hodgson Close.

By 1995, plans to allow smaller subdivisions of the Wedderburn farms were under serious debate. It's claimed this could turn the whole area into a Kentlyn-style suburb of 2ha blocks. If any new streets were formed as a result, a host of scouting names is still being held in reserve, such as Smart, Sidman, Corroboree, Baden-Powell, Triglone, Jamboree and Dahinda.

In 2012 the State Government declared Dharawal National Park along the O'Hares Creek gorge.

"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.