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1810-1821 – Major-General Lachlan Macquarie

Mauldon, V. Shaping the Domain: The Macquaries, presige and parklands in colonial Parramatta. garden History 44 suppl. 1 191-203.

Elizabeth Farm


Elizabeth Farm
Reconstruction on site
Roger Spencer – 28 June 2018


John Macarthur (1767-1834), a lieutenant of the New South Wales Corps, had arrived in Australia with the Second Fleet in 1790. In 1793 he was given a 40 ha land grant with a fine brick house on the Parramatta River which was surrounded by a vineyard, orchard, and 1.2 ha vegetable garden. The garden expanded to 400 ha and became one of several properties owned by perhaps the most influential stock and landholder in the colony, promoted to captain in 1795.
Elizabeth Farm today is a replica of the old building with little of the original site remaining except for an olive tree, possibly the oldest remaining cultivated tree in Australia, planted perhaps as early as 1805 (but no later than 1817).

A fiery but industrious personality Macarthur was returned to England in 1801 for dueling only to return in 1805 with a flock of Spanish sheep from the royal flock, purchasing 2025 acres of land southwest of Sydney to build an estate he called Camden Park. Exiled once again between 1809 and 1817 for his role in the deposing of Bligh as Governor, be returned yet again, having toured France and Switzerland researching vinyards and agricultural practice. Among his many plant introductions new to the colony were Cork Oak, Quercus suber, and China Rose, Rosa chinensis.

Elizabeth Bay House

In 1810 Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of the new Governor Macquarie took charge of their new land to introduce winding paths and landscape features to enhance and compliment the surroundings. There were a few other examples of ‘landscaped’ gardens but until the late 1820s gardening was militaristic and functional, gradually softening with the development of civil society, pastoral wealth and official sanction of ‘villa allotments’. By the 1830s a measure of affluence permitted the display of ‘taste’ as exemplified by the Colonial Secretary Alexander McCleay with his gardens at Elizabeth Bay and Brownlow Hill, and pastoralist William Macarthur at Camden Park. These gentlemen were able to indulge the gardenesque style of the 1830s – the ‘Gardenesque’ (plants separated to display their individual attributes), promoted by their highly influential mutual Scottish friend John Claudius Loudon. This style was emulated both in New South Wales and the other colonies although the smaller gardens continued to be mostly rectilinear and symmetric.

Vaucluse House

Sir Hayes took to farming and the ‘ gentleman convict turned gentleman farmer’ also built a house there called Vaucluse House. Elizabeth Bay House is the most elegant and sophisticated house of the 1830s in New South Wales. Alexander Macleay, who arrived in Sydney in 1826 with his wife and six daughters. The Macleays’ interests included entomology, horticulture, landscape design, architecture, natural history illustration and fine art. of poor girls as servants.


Vaucluse House

Vaucluse House
Roger Spencer – 1 July 2018


Macleay developed Elizabeth Bay as a celebrated landscape garden. The site of the house was chosen for its vistas across Sydney Harbour. The native bush was retained and planted with exotics to enhance its botanical interest and the dramatic topography was embellished with picturesque structures: a turretted stables, cottages, a rustic bridge, terrace walls and grottoes. Macleay’s development of his garden reveals his informed taste and romantic enthusiasm. Macleay’s approach to the Australian bush was in contrast with that of the majority of colonists, who customarily cleared it and started afresh. The bush was planted with specimen orchids and ferns to enhance its botanical interest, which could be enjoyed in the course of a ‘wood walk’. Two notebooks survive – partly in the hand of Alexander and partly in the hand of William Sharp Macleay – Plants Received at Elizabeth Bay, c 1826-1840, and Seeds Received at Elizabeth Bay, 1836-1857. These list the sources of plants for the Elizabeth Bay garden and illustrate a comprehensive approach to plant collecting, similar to their approach to entomology. The plant and seed books contain entries for purchases from the nurserymen Messrs Loddiges of Hackney, London and exchanges with William Macarthur of Camden. They also record the plants contributed by visitors to the Elizabeth Bay estate and by William Sharp Macleay’s natural history collectors in India. Macleay’s garden was notable for its fruit trees. Many visitors also remarked on Macleay’s achievement in creating a garden in what some people believed to be Sydney’s dry conditions and sandy soil. The Elizabeth Bay estate was progressively lost to subdivisions.

The Governors garden, later the RBG Sydney c.1816, was a means of introducing useful plants to the colony.

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