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History of Denham Court

For Captain Richard Brooks of Denham Court, the desire to be "master of all he surveyed" was probably a strong one. It has been suggested that he wanted to recreate the typical English country estate - with himself as the lord of the manor.

Certainly it's true his panoramic hillside estate was one of Sydney's most vibrant social centres of the 1820s and 1830s. And for good reason - Captain Brooks had six beautiful daughters. The proud squire did his utmost to make Denham Court a name to be noticed.

That makes it all the more ironic that a more recent owner - Miss Gowan Flora MacDonald - fought tooth and nail to prevent Denham Court from being used as the official suburb name in 1970.

Miss MacDonald made special representations to Liverpool Council asking that the name only be applied to the historic Denham Court house and farm(372KB, PDF) - which she owned. Any use of the name for surrounding areas was unauthorised, she argued.

Denham Court, Ingleburn

Denham Court, Campbelltown Road, Ingleburn

Miss MacDonald suggested the "Edmondson" be used instead, honouring locally-bred John Edmondson who won the first Australian Victoria Cross medal for bravery of World War II. Unfortunately, it had been awarded posthumously in 1941 as he had been killed in action. Liverpool Council, regarding it as a fine tribute to the local war hero, offered no objection.

But the suburb in question straddled the council boundary. And the support of Campbelltown was needed prior to any name change - support that was hard to find.

Hostile aldermen claimed the "Parish of Denham Court" was a historic name applying to the whole area, and not just the house or farm. Council advised Liverpool that it objected.

In November 1970, the NSW Geographical Names Board attempted a compromise. It decided to name part of the area within Liverpool territory as "Edmondson Park", while the remainder would simply be "Denham".

But this dumping of the word "Court" only drew unanimous criticism from Campbelltown Council, and the war of words continued until 1976, when the full title was finally approved.

Little did Richard Atkins know 160 years earlier, the controversy he would spark by naming his 500 acre (200ha) land grant Denham Court.

Atkins, who was the colony's Judge Advocate, named it after his ancestral home in England. Ruth Banfield, who has extensively researched the history of Denham Court, suggests Atkins was a womaniser and alcoholic.

He eventually found himself in debt to a Captain Richard Brooks and transferred Denham Court into his ownership. Atkins left for England, never to return, while Cpt Brooks acquired four adjoining land grants and brought his wife and family out from England in 1814.

At first they lived in Sydney, but by 1825 the family had moved into a home at Denham Court. And within years the famous colonial architect, John Verge, had added elaborate wings and new central section.

The dances, laughter and social functions that dominated life at this grand homestead can only be imagined.

Ruth Banfield says Cpt Brooks' "grand vision" of being the English squire was such that he ordered a private chapel to be built on the estate. Church Road now leads to this "St Mary the Virgin" Church, which is supposedly based on a similar structure at Denham in England.

However the Captain barely lived long enough to see his dreams come to fruition. After being gored by a bull, he died at the age of 68 in 1833.

Denham Court was inherited by his daughter, Christiana, who had married an army lieutenant in the 48th Regiment - Thomas Valentine Blomfield. By the late 1830s, the property was becoming the nucleus of a small village, with a mill, church and hotel. Christiana and Thomas both died in the 1850s.

After some years as a ladies boarding college run by Miss Sarah Eliza Lester, it became the home of the Blomfields' son Richard.

In turn, his son, Andrew Blomfield, took charge and oversaw a huge subdivision of the Denham Court property in 1884, creating 444 blocks and leaving the old house standing on only 26 acres (10.4ha). Yet few blocks were sold.

John Mayne bought the property in 1890 and 11 years later the widower married local lass, Maud McDonald. It was their niece, Miss Gowan Flora MacDonald, who inherited the historic holding and sparked the debate with Campbelltown Council in 1970.

In 1974, Dr Keith Okey bought the house (which was classified by the National Trust in 1978) and carefully restored it as a private home.
Since the 1970s, the suburb area has been dotted with impressive mansions on large subdivided blocks.

Denham Court Road notes, of course, the old property. It has wound across the hills since last century, but was only sealed and widened for modern traffic in 1965.

Remnants of the old 1884 estate still exist in the form of Brooks Road (after the squire himself), Blomfield Road (in honour of his in-laws) and Dickson Road, after David Dickson, the brother-in-law of Richard Blomfield, who helped prepare the subdivision.

Woodd Road notes the Reverend G.N. Woodd, an early rector of "St Mary the Virgin" Church, while Gibson Road possibly recalled another local Anglican minister, Reverend J. Gibson.

Zouch Road pays tribute to Captain Henry Zouch, a police superintendent who had helped pioneer the southern districts of NSW. He had married Cpt Brook's sixth daughter, Maria.

A more modern street name is Keating Place, which recalls the owners of a boarding house that operated nearby in the 1920s.
Gowan Place honours Gowan Flora MacDonald, while McCormack Place notes an early family in the district.

Streets of Denham Court which are actually located in Liverpool Council area, such as Springmead Drive, Culverston Avenue and Pembury Close recall the names of early farms, while Cubitt Drive and Cassidy Street note pioneer land-holders such as William Cassidy and Daniel Cubitt.

"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.

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