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The Campbelltown suburb of Kentlyn is located on the site of the old Campbelltown common. Proclaimed in 1879, the common occupied 2,000 acres (800 hectares) south of Peter Meadows Creek, east of Smiths Creek and west of the Georges River, providing firewood and temporary grazing for householders. In 1894, during an economic depression, common land was opened for homestead selection and pioneers, such as the Lyndhurst family, established small farms.
The first roads through the area were made by unemployment relief workers in the 1890s. The Old Ford Road led, via a Georges River crossing, to the Eckersley district on the opposite bank. During the 1890s, the handful of settlers there included the French-born Frere family, who cultivated a vineyard. Although Eckersley was depopulated in the early years of the twentieth century, when land was resumed for a military reserve, Frere's Road in Kentlyn commemorates this short-lived connection.
Kent Farms – the first subdivision
The land west of the river had acquired a new identity by the 1920s. A subdivision made by the Sydney developer Arthur Rickard was marketed as Kent Farms. As Rickard sold five-acre (two-hectare) plots for poultry farms, orchards and market gardens, the name of his development was soon attached to the whole area once covered by the Campbelltown common.
In the 1930s it was officially christened Kent Lyn, which eventually became Kentlyn. The district so named covered the future suburbs of Ruse and Airds as well as the current Kentlyn. The population was small, although it supported a public school, which opened in 1937. During the Great Depression, Kentlyn's undeveloped bushland was a haven for the unemployed, who built flimsy shacks and worked on relief projects organised by Campbelltown council.
After World War II, when state planning authorities selected Campbelltown as a growth centre, the three parts of the Kentlyn district developed at different rates. This is evident today in the adjoining suburbs of Ruse, Airds and Kentlyn. The first two are quite densely populated, with estates designed for young families by private developers or the state housing commission. The modern suburb of Kentlyn, however, has been shaped by its 'scenic protection' zoning in the 1970s. This put a brake on subdivision, by mandating a minimum plot size of five acres. By 2006 Kentlyn had a population of only 650, occupying some of Campbelltown's best real estate in a secluded bush setting.
Revealing rock art
The new suburb of Kentlyn also contains some of the oldest evidence of Aboriginal responses to European colonisation. The most significant site is the Bull Cave. Some of the cattle imported by the First Fleet in 1788 escaped almost immediately and it was not until 1795 that a large herd of wild cattle was found in the area soon named Cowpastures. In a rock shelter along the Georges River there is a painting of a beast with hooves but no horns. A member of the Tharawal people must have recorded one of the original bulls (which had been dehorned) soon after the great escape. Sadly, the original painting has been vulnerable to vandals, but a replica can be seen at the Wollondilly Heritage Centre.
In 2007 Kentlyn's Basin Reserve – which includes the Bull Cave – was renamed Keith Longhurst Reserve in honour of the late Campbelltown council ranger, who was a descendent of Kentlyn's 'first family' and did much to protect the Aboriginal history and natural heritage of the area.
CA Liston, Campbelltown: The Bicentennial History, Council of the City of Campbelltown, Campbelltown NSW, 1988
J McGill, V Fowler and K Richardson, Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs, Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, Campbelltown NSW, 1995
Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser