Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Camden West

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Camden West

Camden West is in Camden municipality. The area's natural boundaries are Sickles Creek to the west, a large loop in the Nepean River to the north and a creek running north from Cawdor into Matahil Creek and eventually the Nepean River. While Westbrook Road, Fosters Lane and The Old Oaks Road separate this rural area from the rest of Camden and the Wollondilly Shire.

The area is home to the Tharawal and Gundungurra people.

Early European history

The area is associated with the early history of the colony of New South Wales. Governor Hunter named it The Cowpastures after cattle which had strayed from the Farm Cove settlement were discovered there in 1795. Due to the early European settlers, namely the Macarthurs, who established flourishing wool, wine and wheat industries here, the area is said to be 'the birthplace of the nation's wealth'.

Camden West was first named in 1823. After the Government Prohibition Order against the entry to lands west of the Nepean River (to protect the cattle of The Cowpastures) ceased, Governor Brisbane granted John Macarthur a further 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) adjoining his Camden Park Estate, previously granted in 1805.

Agriculture and industry

In the early 1840s, Camden farmers turned their attention to wheat growing. Many sowed large areas to cash in on the high prices paid for the local flour which had a good reputation in the Sydney market. Unfortunately rust appeared in the crops in 1861 and 1863 and the industry was ruined along with many farmers.

In 1885 3,600 acres (1,457 hectares) of Camden Park Estate north of Cawdor were subdivided into small farms of up to 130 acres (53 hectares) each. Among the buyers were WH Paling, W Stimpson, GA Porter, W Carter, JW Cliff, A McCullock, Alfred Burnett and F Ferguson.

In the 1880s dairy farming became the main industry in the area. GA Porter was the first farmer to send milk to Sydney, from his property Corstorphine, on 6 March 1883. Farms have started to disappear however, due to the pressures of high production costs, milk quotas and competition with dairy companies, and also attractive offers from land developers.

In October 1991 Camden West was divided into three new suburbs – Ellis Lane, Grasmere and Bickley Vale.

The most visible and important industry in Camden West today is Sydney Water's treatment works – a magnificent industrial feature in the rural landscape and a sign of the growth expected in the Camden area.

Camden West retains its rural air in spite of new development, which is restricted to large allotments mainly in the Grasmere and Ellis Lane areas. Bickley Vale remains virtually untouched by residential development. Much natural forest remains, and the ridge line along most of the length of the area running north to south offers magnificent views across the landscape towards Camden.


GV Sidman, The Town of Camden: a facsimile, Camden Public Library, 1995

Camden Council, Camden, www.camden.nsw.gov.au

Ian Willis 2008, 'Camden Bibliography: Biography of a Country Town', Camden Historical Society, Camden, www.camdenhistory.org.au

RE Nixon, Carrington: The Centre of Total Care 1890–1990, Carrington Centennial Hospital, Camden, 1990