County Durham, NSW, lies to the north of Sydney, bounded to the west and south by the Hunter River and taking in the Paterson and Allyn River valleys. The Paterson River is a tributary of the Hunter River and the Allyn River is a branch of the Paterson River.
Both the Paterson and Allyn Rivers flow through rich agricultural land which, in the 1800s, was admirably suited for homesteads and dairying, the breeding of horses and cattle and for the cultivation of crops including wheat, maize, barley, oats, fruit orchards and vineyards. The streams abounded with fish, and building materials (such as stone, brick earth, limestone and cedar) were readily available.
The traditional owners of the Allyn River valley are the Gringai clan of the Wonnarua Aboriginal people.
The area was first explored by Europeans in 1801, when Colonel William Paterson (1755-1810) led a party of men into the upper reaches of the Hunter River, hoping to trace its source. They discovered the Paterson River valley. Paterson called the locality Green Hills (later Maitland) and named the Paterson River for himself.
After the closure of the penal colony at Newcastle in 1823, the Hunter Valley region was opened up to settlement. The river banks of the lower Hunter and their surrounds had been cleared of timber in the preceding years and the land was now seen as a prime agricultural resource.
Settlers and selectors
From the beginning of European settlement in Australia, the Governor was empowered to make grants of land to deserving convicts, soldiers and settlers. Free settlers began to arrive in the colony in greater numbers during the 1820s and, under new land laws enacted after 1825, they soon had the opportunity to become very wealthy landowners. Prospective settlers were granted land according to assessment of their financial means and allocated a convict for every 100 acres afforded by their resources. Once the size of their grant was determined, it was up to the settler to mount an expedition to the region to take up his grant and name his property.
In 1829 the official settled area of the colony was divided into Nineteen Counties and the region outside this area was considered to be 'beyond the boundaries', ie. out of bounds for settlement. However, these rules were soon ignored as pastoralists forged their way through the countryside.
Two young Welshmen, George Townshend (1798-1872) and Charles Boydell (1808-1869), arrived in Australia on 22 March 1826 to take up land grants in County Durham. Staking their claims, they named the Allyn River, the locality of Gresford and their homesteads, Trevallyn and Camyr Allyn, after places near their homes in Wales. Their Scots-born shipmate, Alexander Park (1808-1873), took up a neighbouring grant on the left bank of the Allyn River, which he named Lewinsbrook.
In 1831, Governor Darling was instructed that no more free grants were to be given. All land was to be sold by public auction and only land located within the Nineteen Counties could be made available for sale.
In 1840, Charles Boydell transferred 605 acres of land at Allynbrook, purchased from the government on 14 September 1836, to his younger brother, William Barker Boydell (1818-1878). William assumed responsibility for the mortgage on the property, which he named Caergwrle.
On 14 September 1836, George Townshend had purchased four blocks of land from the government with the aim of joining his Trevallyn estate to the rest of his Paterson River property. By 1842, Townshend had sold the block known as Clevedon, near East Gresford, to John H. Durbin. Dr Henry John Lindeman purchased Carawarra in 1842 and the vineyards were commenced in 1843.
A settler's letter
This letter written was by Arthur Way in September 1842 to his brother Benjamin, who lived in Durham, England. Arthur describes life on his farm Clevedon at Gresford on the Allyn River, NSW which he owned in partnership with John Durbin. In particular, he describes the farmhouse, the convict workers, his cattle and horses, and a visit to the Sydney races.