The history of Thompson Square and the Windsor area is extensive. The following timeline represents an overview of events and milestones associated with the area.
- 100KNature's Way BCENature's Way
The Dyarubbin, or Hawkesbury River, is part of the extensive Hawkesbury-Nepean River System that surrounds Sydney. Thompson Square is located on a peninsula of red sandy alluvium above river flats composed of fertile loam deposited across aeons of flooding, tidal movement and the erosion of tributary streams. It is at the head of an ancient marine channel providing access to the Tasman Sea and beyond.
The archaeological excavations completed in 2018 found that the landscape was composed of two different layers of sand, formed by both river and wind processes over at least the last 82,000 years. The majority of the Aboriginal stone artefacts were recovered from these layers.
The archaeological evidence revealed three different periods of visitation and/or occupation by Aboriginal people — 27-17,000 years ago, 7-5,000 years ago and early post-European settlement (AD1794-1830s).
The majority of the artefacts date to between 27-17,000 years ago and they provide some of the earliest evidence of populations in the Sydney basin, and importantly through a major climatic downturn – the Last Glacial Maximum – which saw the abandonment of extensive parts of mainland Australia as they became less habitable. A number of glass artefacts were also found in the upper parts of the deposit which demonstrates post-contact interactions between Aboriginal people and early European settlers.
Phillip led an exploratory party, including Captain John Hunter, Judge-Advocate David Collins, Lieutenant George Johnstone of the Marines, surgeons John White and George Worgan, and midshipman Newton Fowell. They set out in June 1789 to explore Broken Bay and found the large river that flowed into it. In a second sortie in July, Hunter, as they approached what became Windsor, noted:
“The natives here, appear to live chiefly on the roots which they dig from the ground; for these low banks appear to be ploughed up … we found the wild yam in considerable quantities…”
And, near Richmond:
“… vast quantities of large logs which had been hurried down by the force of the waters, and lodged 30 to 40 feet above the common level of the river… we found here many traps, for catching animals, in which were observed the feathers of many birds, particularly the quail.” [ John Hunter, pp.150-153]
He named the river after British statesman Baron Hawkesbury.
Yarramundi was a Boorooberongal elder who met with Phillip along the banks of the Hawkesbury River on 14 April. As a gift to the Governor, Yarramundi presented him with two stone axes.
Yarramundi’s daughter, Maria Lock, would become one of the most well-known Aboriginal women of the colonial period.
His son, Colebee, helped guide William Cox as he surveyed the road over the Blue Mountains, and in 1819, Colebee would become the first Aboriginal person to be granted land in the colony. Later, he worked as a Native Constable at Windsor.
The first European land grants on the Hawkesbury were made along South Creek by Lieutenant Governor Francis Grose, after the departure of Phillip. From that time, the ability of the Boorooberongal to cultivate and care for their country became almost, but not quite, impossible. Conflicts escalated as the clan sought to access resources such as kangaroo, wallaby, fish, crayfish, mussels and their yam plots. With the land on the waterways the most sought after by the settlers, the Boorooberongal were continually faced with alienation from their ancestral home.
In August, one of the first recorded instances of violence near Windsor occurred when an Aboriginal boy was seized, detained and killed on, or near, the farms of Robert Forrester and Michael Doyle. From the transcript of the judicial proceedings, the following account of the events provides insight:
“Alexander Wilson says that Robert Forrester informed him that he had shot a native Boy, and that he was induced to it from motives of humanity. The Boy having been previously thrown into the River by the neighbouring settlers, with his hands so tied, that it was impossible he could swim to the opposite side.
Robert Forrester says that a large party of natives having appears at the back of his Farm he alarmed his neighbours and went out to observe them. That in the road to the natives they met a Native Boy who they supposed was coming in for the purpose of discovering what arms they had. That they made him a prisoner; tied his hands behind his back and delivered him to Michael Doyle…
That he was soon after alarmed by a cry from Doyles that the boy…escaped and had jumped into the River. That he and Twyfield immediately ran to the river and saw the boy swimming. That he then was prevailed on to shoot the boy by…all around. That the boy should get back to the natives and induce them to an attack by discovering there was no more than one musket in the whole neighbourhood. That the boy was not ill treated with his knowledge in any other manner than he was declared…” (Bench of Magistrates, Minutes of Proceedings Feb 1788 – Jan 1792, State Records NSW, SZ765)
Andrew Thompson, a significant figure in the history of the Hawkesbury, was appointed as a police constable at the Green Hills (Windsor) by Governor John Hunter. He took up residence in a cottage located near the newly constructed granary until 1798 when he built a home of his own.
Also completed in this year were the first military barracks and the Commandant’s house (a weatherboard building demolished c 1919), which later became known as the ‘Government House’ or ‘Cottage’, situated overlooking the river.
Andrew Thompson is appointed as Grain Assessor for the Hawkesbury region. For several years, the Green Hills agricultural production suffered from both drought and flooding. The first major flood, which exceeded 10m, was recorded in 1799 and washed away the wharf and the barracks.
John Grono migrates to Australia from Wales.
Also, significantly, this year marked one of the more brutal examples of violence experienced in the Hawkesbury region – the killing of two Aboriginal boys. Local woman, Mary Archer, who stood up to her neighbours and fellow settlers, reported the murders to the Chief Constable Thomas Rickaby. Her actions, and the following trial, led to the first European convictions in Australia for the murder of Aboriginal people. It was testified by Rickaby that:
“Mary Archer came to him [Rickaby] and asked him if he had heard of two native boys having been killed. He answered he had not,…and enquiring of her if she knew who had killed them she answered yes, that John Pearson had told her that Edward Powell, the constable, Simon Freebody, James Metcalfe, William Butler, William Timms, Thomas Sanburn and Bishop Thompson were all together when they were killed, but that Sanburn, Thompson and Pearson had nothing to do with the murder.
…The witness, being Chief Constable at the Hawkesbury, went up to Powell’s with two more constables…That Powell was from home, but in his house were Metcalf, Thompson and (he believes Timms) and Sanburn making enquiry of them if they knew any thing about the two boys being murdered. They made answer … that they knew nothing about it. But that Sanburn said they were as decently buried as any of the white people that were killed by the natives. The witness asked said Sanburn if he would show him where they were buried, who told him no.
That on leaving Powell’s house he met with Powell of whom he made the like enquiry about the murder, who said he knew nothing about it, he had killed none of them nor did he know who had. That Powell refused to inform the witness where the said bodies were buried but on a search he discovered and with assistance dug them up…the bodies were examined when the hands of both the said boys were tied behind them and a wound through the body of the smallest of them as if given by a cutlass and second wound on or about the hip as if given also by a cutlass. The other appeared to have been shot through the body by a musket ball and that one side of his head and down his face appeared to have been much cut by a cutlass.
…on being further interrogated…Powell informed that he thought it was the Governor’s orders to kill the natives where they found them. …Powell then answered that it was done at the request of Sarah Hodgskinson the widow of one Hodgskin who had been killed by the natives about three weeks before that time. That the witness went to the said widow and asked if it had been her request who answered it was. That the bodies were then buried and five persons taken into custody hereupon, when Powell one of the prisoners asked the witness how many he had apprehended and on being told replied there were eight of them and they would all fare alike.” (Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, 15-16 October 1799. State Records NSW, X905)