Historical Hawkesbury

The Hawkesbury has changed dramatically in the 221 years since European settlers first laid eyes on Richmond Hill. It was a cold winter in July 1789, when Governor Phillip’s party travelled down the Hawkesbury River and changed the Hawkesbury as we know it today. By 1810, the Hawkesbury evolved from a small settlement to an established colony of architecture and road systems. Some of which can still be seen today; Toxana House in Richmond, Loder House in Windsor, St. Matthews church in Windsor, the old school house in Wilberforce, R.A.A.F base in Richmond, Richmond School of Arts, Macquarie Arms Hotel in Windsor and Ebenezer Church. Now considered historical landmarks, these buildings were distributed among the five Macquarie towns; Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce.


The Five Macquarie Towns:
On Thursday 6 December 1810, Macquarie wrote in his diary “I gave the name of Windsor to the town intended to be erected in the district of the Green Hills, in continuation of the present village from similarity of this situation to that of the same name in England”.

In the days of early settlement, Thompsons Square in Windsor became the heart of the Hawkesbury. It was the centre for markets and the selling of goods and services with several stores and shop fronts lining the streets. It became a place for crime and punishment of early settlers. The village was soon dominated by architecture considered innovative of its time. Just up from Thompsons Square stood the Macquarie Arms Hotel built by Richard Fitzgerald in 1815 as requested by Governor Macquarie. Beside the Macquarie Arms was the Hawkesbury River, a busy passage for small sailing vessels to transport grain and supplies to the locals and then back to Sydney. The wharf at Thompsons Square was always busy with activity with most supplies brought by boat to be taken via rail from Richmond. By August 1874, the ferry service beside Thompsons Square was replaced by the Windsor Bridge. The construction of the Windsor Bridge saw the change of transport from small sailing vessels and horse drawn wagons which soon developed into motor trucks by 1930. It was a huge turning point for such a young settlement village. From there on, Windsor continued its transformation of architectural change, population growth and successes of developing into the well established town as we know it today.

Today, Windsor is recognised as a place of historic significance with remnants of a time forgotten by many still remaining. Still standing and operating is the Macquarie Arms Hotel, a popular watering hole for locals and listed as the oldest pub in Australia, on the mainland. Thompsons Square has been placed under a preservation order by the Heritage Council of New South Wales. Thompsons Square, still a popular destination for the locals who come together to attend regular market days on Sundays. The Hawkesbury River is a well known place for water sports, recreational activities and leisure. The Windsor Bridge still stands with its original piers intact.

Windsor is a place ideal for families, whether you are a local or newcomer, there will always be something to discover in Windsor.

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Royal Exchange Hotel

Above: Royal Exchange Hotel.
Cnr George Street and Johnston Street, Windsor

On the 6th December 1810, Governor Macquarie wrote in his diary “The township in the Richmond District I have named Richmond from its beautiful situation and as corresponding with that of its district.”

First signs of settlement in Richmond evolved on the 10th January 1811 when Governor Macquarie had the land surveyed and the site of the church, burying ground and school house were marked out. This was set out on a farm of 150 acres as obtained by Governor Macquarie. As time progressed, so did the town of Richmond. The Richmond School of Arts first served the Hawkesbury in 1858 rewarding the fledgling village with entertainment, public meeting, education, council and horticulture shows. By 1928 a fresh approach to the education system impacted on Richmond with a district rural school opening and replacing the older school buildings. The first of its time to accommodate secondary schooling to intermediate Certificate standard. Much later during 1955, Richmond High School opened, it was the first High School west of the Blacktown area. From as early as 1838, the St. Andrews Presbyterian church stood on West Market Street, with the Post Office servicing Richmond from 1829. The first bank opened on 29th August 1864, The Bank of New South Wales. Community facilities such as this aided community growth and prosperity for the long run. The community strengthened and occasionally enjoyed recreational activities. The Royal Hotel in Richmond was the first licensed in 1865 and remained the most favoured of the early inns. The Richmond Golf Club in 1897 encouraged community spirit and leisure when a group of seven enthusiasts met on public land to play golf. As the early settlement evolved into a prosperous township, Richmond was chosen to house the Royal Australian Air Force (R.A.A.F) base in 1920. During the post war period the R.A.A.F continued to grow and expand. This was partly responsible for a rapid increase in the population of Richmond.

Richmond has become a place impacted by its historic past and shaped by the influential people and houses that still stand today. The Richmond School of Arts still operates in the same building as it did 152 years ago. St Andrews Uniting Church, Richmond High School and the R.A.A.F Base have followed a similar path with all still operating for the community. Richmond has a great balance of the ‘new’ with cafes, restaurants and a large shopping centre in the heart of town. This is welcomed by the ‘old’ ways and structures of the past.

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Richmond Grand StandFlood near Bensons Lane

Commonwealth Bank Richmond

Top left: Richmond iconic grandstand in Richmond Park
Top right: Friday 20th June 1952, looking north across the Lowlands along Paget Street.
Bottom: Commonwealth Bank cnr. Windsor Street and East Market Street Richmond

Pitt Town
On December 6th 1810, Governor Macquarie wrote in his diary “the township of the Nelson District I have named Pitt Town in honour of the immortal memory of the late great William Pitt, the Minister who originally planned this colony.”

Pitt Town initially began triangular in shape (unlike Macquarie’s other towns which were mainly rectangular) surrounded by early settlement farms and was situated one mile from the Hawkesbury River. It was a town ideal for farmers who were forced to take refuge from flooded waters. Once the initial surveying had concluded under the guidance of Governor Macquarie and the settlers had their designated allotments marked out, the town quickly began to flourish. From 1814 St. James Church and School was founded by Macquarie who provided “school houses which serve as chapels, where Divine service is regularly performed on Sundays and the instruction of children during the weekdays”. The arrival of Rev T.C Ewing in 1846 changed the colony of Pitt Town to one of religious stability when he arranged for the St. John Church to be built for the sole purposes of worship. This was completed in 1858. By 1878, a well established public school replaced the old school house, which up until this time continued to serve as a school. Various Inns are quickly established in the colony with the first record of licences in 1809 to George Hall and Thomas Biggers. From then on, many Inns came into being. Inns were popular and were a successful way in creating jobs and incomes. Another profitable way to earn money was sales and trades. In Pitt Town, settlers like George Hall with a wife and six children to care for, relied on the sale of meat and grain to the government. As Pitt Town was furthest away from the river, most livelihoods rested on the successes of their farms. If successful, the farms rapidly grew and expanded with the Pitt Town area acquiring more land as time went by. This was the case for George Hall who by 1820, had 166 stock animals, 200 pigs and by 1828 he had expanded his land, owning 1244 acres. George Hall impacted Pitt Town being an active member of the public and partly responsible for establishing Ebenezer Church. George Hall and other strong pioneers of the era were responsible for building Pitt Town up to be what it is today.

Today Pitt Town is a beautiful area, still dominated by green pastures. A prosperous small town still embracing its past with lasting legacies to its heritage such as the Ebenezer Church. This church is the oldest church in Australia and is located not far from Pitt Town. Pitt Town is a friendly community and is a great place to visit whether you are relocating or just passing through. It’s a place to unwind and breathe the fresh country air.

On 6th December 1810, Macquarie wrote in his diary upon naming the five townships, “the township for the Phillip District, on the north or left bank of the Hawkesbury, I have named Wilberforce in honour of and out of respect to the good and virtuous Wm Wilberforce Esq. M.P. a true patriot and the real friend of mankind“.

The township was marked not far from Windsor along the lowlands of the Hawkesbury River. Here, settlers lived off the land working on the river and farms nearby. Lands were predominantly used to graze stock. As time passed, the smaller settlement began to evolve. The first official post office was established in 1856 with a general store opening the following year. In 1820, a public school on George Road was warmly welcomed by the locals. A permanent church replaced alternate Sunday Services in the school house when St. John’s Anglican Church was consecrated in 1859. Law and order was quickly established with District constables and a lock up by the early 1830’s. Then a police station opened in Wilberforce by 1883. It is worth noting that Wilberforce was the first place of meeting for the first Colo Council in 1906. Eighty years later, they merged into the Hawkesbury Shire Council, still operating today.

Wilberforce owes its very existence to the hard work and labour of our early settlers, with most arriving on the First Fleet. Wilberforce is a neat township ideal for families. For the tourists, Wilberforce has to offer them plenty with the Butterfly Farm, Ski Gardens and Hawkesbury River. A small town, with a huge community spirit.

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On the 6th December 1810, Governor Macquarie wrote in his diary “the township of Evan or Nepean District I have named Castlereagh in honor of Lord Viscount Castlereagh.”

Upon naming the five Macquarie Towns, Governor Macquarie had carefully surveyed Hawkesbury’s land and high points. The five townships were chosen out of their foreseen potential which became evident from the surveyor’s results and documentation. Macquarie had anticipated that all five of his towns were to serve a specialized purpose in accordance with the towns geographical situation, soil type, proximity to the river and many other factors influencing the final decision of selecting the five towns. Castlereagh was selected predominantly to be a land of farming opportunity as it had alluvial soil. Possibly due to its far distance from the Hawkesbury River, while farming was common in Castlereagh, a bustling township never developed. Instead, a township was formed in Penrith. Castlereagh was many acres of farming. Occasionally during the early 1900’s the air space above Castlereagh was used for flying lessons which took place from the R.A.A.F Base in Richmond. Still, there are a few architectural structures which remain today including Nepean House and Hadley Park. In 1895, the official township of Castlereagh was recognized, however by 1948 this had dissolved.

Today, many residents still call Castlereagh home. Predominantly it is the adjoining space between Richmond and Penrith. Both these towns are highly modernized. However, for those seeking the peace and quiet of country life with the convenience of modernity only a 15-20 min drive away, then Castlereagh would be the perfect dwelling place for you.

A snapshot of our local history during the 1940’s to 1950’s


St. Albans HotelFlooding at Francis St

Top left: St. Albans Hotel (at this time unlicensed)
Top right: Francis Street, Richmond. 1948-49.

Richmond Park

Above: Richmond Park.


1. Windsor Municipal Council, Historic Hawkesbury, Hawkesbury Press Pty. Ltd., 200 George Street, Windsor NSW, 1979.

2. Bowd D.G., Macquarie Country; A History of the Hawkesbury, published by Author, Bowd, 1969.

3. Bowd D.G., Hawkesbury Journey; Up the Windsor Road from Baulkham Hills, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1986.

1. Personal photographs courtesy of R & M Rozzoli, Hawkesbury.