A Short History of Rockend
Early Settlement in the Gladesville Area
The earliest reports of settlement activity date back to 1795 when the people of the colony referred to the area as "Doody's". John Doody was an emancipated convict with considerable artistic talent, but alas in naming the area history was to neglect his pioneering presence in favour of the wealthy squatter, John Glades.
The colony of New South Wales was settled around the Sydney Cove area, on the south side of Port Jackson and further settlement developed along the southern shore towards Parramatta. The first major road was Parramatta Road. The land on the north shore of Port Jackson thus became attractive as potential farmland and settlers began to farm the north shore to feed a growing population and to decrease reliance on erratic suppliers from the Mother country. It soon became necessary to plan a river crossing that allowed for the loading and unloading of horses, livestock and carriages, and a punt was built at Abbotsford crossing the Parramatta River to Bedlam Point adjacent to Rockend Cottage.
This important access was named the Great North Road and it was designed to link Parramatta Road in the south with a road built from Bedlam Point to Wiseman's Ferry and beyond to the Hunter Valley. The punt was built in 1832 and served as the only harbour crossing for more than thirty years. Today the road is still named the Great North Road in Abbotsford and on the Rockend Cottage side of the river is known as Punt Road but further north it disappears into the bush on the opposite side of the Hawkesbury River adjacent to where the Wiseman's Ferry punt once stood as a crossing.
When was Rockend built?
There is no precise record of when Rockend was built, however, there was reference in 1836 to a building on the site which was proposed to be used as an Inn. John Terry Hughes purchased the loan from S.A. Bryant but failed in his attempt to have the licence granted as there was already a licenced Inn on the southern shore at Abbotsford. This Inn, knows as the Red Cow Inn, had a notorious reputation for disrupting farming production where our early suppliers had a great deal of trouble passing its front door when taking their produce to market.
The first time the cottage was actually mentioned on a title deed was when Emily Barton purchased the property in 1866.
Banjo Paterson's Life at Rockend
Emily Mary Barton was maternal Grandmother to Andrew Barton Paterson and he came to live with his Grandmother in 1874 to further his studies at Sydney Grammar School. His family lived in the country at Illalong and he used to spend his holidays back home on the farm with his father.
The bush had a profound effect on his poetic work, his bush ballads are immortal, and without doubt his life at Rockend in the city influenced his political thoughts and life philosophies. In 1909 after the death of his Grandmother, Emily Barton, the cottage was sold to the Thwaites family.
Rockend in the 20th Century
Whilst Gladesville Hospital has been the neighbour of Rockend throughout its history, the area immediately surrounding the cottage became an industrial area in the early part of the 20th century, particularly after it was purchased by the Meggitt family in 1923. Meggitt Linseed Oil factory stood on the site until it went out of business in the 1950's and the cottage was part of the industrial activity and it was ear marked for demolition following approval of a home unit development on the site in 1979. Local residents fought the demolition of the cottage because of its historical significance and its stands today preserved through the efforts of these people and the Ryde Council.
The area is now owned by the State Government and is permanently reserved as Harbour-side Parkland. Rockend Cottage is classified by the National Trust of Australia and protected by the Heritage Council of New South Wales.
Our Restaurant project has now ensured the preservation and public use of a significant example of our colonial heritage and establishes what can be achieved when members of the public, the Council and the State Government work together to preserve our heritage for the generations that follow.
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