It all started with the Hawkesbury River.
Flowing to the west of Sydney, Australia, this mighty river has huge floods. Engulfing the surrounding countryside the river’s gift is rich fertile farming soil.
This floodplain became the market garden for colonial Sydney. The then Governor of New South Wales, Governor Macquarie, established several towns here known as the Macquarie Towns.
Two of these were Windsor and Richmond.
Libby and I went to Windsor searching for colonial history and hit the jack-pot. At lunch-time we wandered down the street looking for ‘foodie’ places.
‘There’s the oldest pub in Australia!’ announced Libby.
What a find!
Still standing after being established by Richard Fitzgerald as a purpose-built Inn in 1815 the Macquarie Arms was just like the old pubs I visited in London.
Complete with low doorways as people were shorter back then.
How many feet have trodden over this worn entrance?
I wonder if a few of them were bushrangers.
Sipping beer and looking around the original cedar-panelled rooms and winding staircase I wonder what schemes were hatched over a few schooners of cleansing ale.
Apparently one wild colonial lad was born in Windsor. Captain Thunderbolt made his entrance into the world here in 1835. An expert horseman he stole thousands of pounds worth of prize racehorses and evaded capture for many years.
Did he return to his birthplace to bend an elbow? We will never know.
However, we do know the high mark of the worst Hawkesbury River flood on record (1867). A plaque beside the pub gives me pause when I see how far it is from the river today.
More fascinating discoveries await in the Hawkesbury Regional Museum.
Boomerangs, throwing sticks and axe heads give us some idea of the life of the Darkinjung, Darug, Eaora and Kuringgai Aboriginal people who lived here for thousands of years.
Grim reminders of our convict past such as leg irons and balls and chains are quite eerie.
Gangs of chained convicts worked on roads and buildings. These sinister relics bring this back to life.
Leaving the convicts behind we walk along Thompson Square past Howes House built in 1827 for free settler, John Howe, who was Chief Constable of the town for some years.
Beside this is the Doctors House which was the residence for a series of doctors until 1992.
Across from the Macquarie Arms beautifully restored shops and business places still stand.
A humble colonial cottage sits just outside the town centre.
Loder House in the Windsor Mall was built in 1834 for George Loder, a free settler, who never lived in it as he died the year it was built.
More beautiful photographs of Windsor can be found on Libby’s blog.
Finally, Libby and I venture a little further from the CBD to visit St. Matthew’s Anglican church (1817).
Designed by the ex-convict Sir Francis Greenway (transported for forgery) the church has stained glass windows and a beautiful blue panelled ceiling.
Headstones of all kinds are found in the churchyard – from the solid and ornate to extremely humble metal plaques.
Saddest of all are the unmarked graves. Some souls disappear without a trace.
Historic Windsor breathes history.
The Hawkesbury River floodplain has provided food for people for thousands of years and countless stories remain to be uncovered from this area.
Captain Thunderbolt rides through my imagination and is that the distant clink of leg irons I can hear? And didgeridoos?
Thanks for reading my post. Happy travels.