Bella Vista Farm

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Photograph (c) David Powell, 2005

Built c.1830-1835, Old Windsor Road, Kings Langley (now Bella Vista).

Bella Vista is an intact historic farm complex of national significance. The complex features a homestead and farm outbuildings that remain almost untouched since the 1870's.

Lt. John Defoe's House, c.1794
  © David Powell, 2005
The Bella Vista area was first settled in 1794-1795 with a land grant to Matthew Pearce (it was the Pearce's who built Bella Vista and occupied it for much of it's history). Pearce named his property "Kings Langley" (which name still lives on in the suburb of that name). In 1799 Joseph Foveaux obtained a neighbouring grant of 980 acres, which was known as the "Stock Farm". The same year Richard Richardson received a 160 acre grant, which includes the present day site of Bella Vista. By the end of 1801 John Macarthur had aquired both Foveaux's and Richardson's grants, along with several other small neighbouring properties to create the 2270 acre "Seven Hills Farm". It was on this farm that the Macarthur's (strictly speaking Elizabeth Macarthur since John was in England at the time) bred  the first Merino sheep - the breed which quickly came to dominate the Australian sheep industry. Bella Vista's most important heritage is that it was the birthplace of the Australian sheep industry, an industry that more than any other has not only contributed to the Australian economy but has helped establish Australia culturally and as a nation. If only for this Bella Vista is the most important historic site in the Blacktown region, yet is one that is in extremely poor condition. Historically the Macarthur's Camden farm is often cited as the homeplace of the Australian sheep industry, however the breed (and the Macarthur herd) was first established at Bella Vista before being moved to Camden. In 1821 the Macarthur's exchanged their "Seven Hills Farm" for land at Camden and removed their merino herd there. The government then regranted the "Seven Hills Farm" land, with the main receipients being Matthew Pearce and James Robertson. It was Robertson who built the oldest part of what came to be known as "Bella Vista", c.1830. Robertson was an orchardist, but also ran sheep and cattle on the property. Robertson sold the estate, "Robertson Farm", in 1838 to Isabella Acres, who returned to England in 1842 and sold the land to William Pearce. Pearce added to the homestead, but it was his son, Edward, who expanded the farm and homestead to the present day complex. Edward was an orchardist and one of the most successful in the state by the 1880's, shipping produce to Melbourne and Tasmania, among other distant parts. The establishment of  farming and, more importantly, orchards, in the Murray River region in the 1890's saw a decline in Bella Vista's profitability and the family sought other sources of income. By 1912 sheep had again been reintroduced to the property and the family further diversified into cereal crops and vegetable gardening. By the 1920's the family began to concentrate on dairying and until 1949 "Bella Vista" operated as a dairy, at times being operated by the Pearce's, at other times being leased out. In 1950 the family sold the estate to the North Sydney Brick and Tile Company (now Norbrick), who then leased the farm in 1952 to the Jones family, who operated a dairy until 1979 (according to a family member - other sources claim it was a poultry farm). Some stablisation of the site (both the homestead and outbuildings) was done by the Jones family during this time and the laundry area roofed. In 1974 the homestead and surrounding land was resumed by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, the remainder of the farm being slated for the Norwest Business Park (developed in the late 1990's). In 1997 the core of the farm including the homestead and surrounding farm buildings was transferred to Baulkham Hills Council, with plans to restore the site.
Front of homestead, prior to restoration
  © David Powell, 1993
The "Bella Vista" site consists of the homestead, outbuildings and the core of the farm including slab fencing and paddocks. The farm buildings are mostly timber slab construction. The homestead is a two storey Victorian brick structure rendered throughout with stone-struck cement. The pitched roof is now terracotta tiles, with single chimneys on the north and south elevations and two on the west. Verandahs on north and south elevations are of concrete over sandstone with iron columns. The southern side of the house also has an upper balcony with wooden floor, iron columns and Victorian cast-iron balustrade. The original door on the southern side has a fanlight with shuttered windows either side. A second door on the east side and four french windows in the upper storey also have shutters.

Rear of house & Bunya Pines
  © David Powell, 2005
The earliest form of the house appears to be a single storey cottage with a verandah with timber posts and stone flagging and date to Robertson's occupation (1821-1838), along with the kitchen block. In 1865 Edward Pearce expanded the homestead, adding the second storey and an east wing. In 1887 he again refurbished the homestead, extending the verandah's and adding the French doors and Venetian windows. At the same time the breezeway between the house and the kitchen block was enclosed. The kitchen block, to the north of the main house, is a rectangular single storey Colonial Georgian structure of brick with shingled gabled roof, since clad with galvanised iron. The kitchen block had an externally accessed loft at some stage (there is a second story door, but no floor or stair). The kitchen block has been extensively modified and rebuilt and at some stage prior to 1960 another wing was added, adjoining the kitchen block.

In addition to the homestead the site contains a large number out outbuildings, some dating to the 20th century, but most to the 1800's. Most of these buildings are in a poor state, some partially collapsed. They include the Blacksmiths Hut (c.1870-1890), Coach house (1820's-1840), a barn (c.1870), tool shed (1860's), stables (1860's), cow shed (late 1800's) and the Packing & Wool Shed (1890's).

The Blacksmith's Hut is a small wood slabs structure with a gabled corrugated iron roof. It has partially collapsed and is covered with vegetation. The coachhouse, also known as Fitzgerald's Cottage, is probably the oldest building remaining on the site and was orignally a single storey slab timber cottage with a bark roof and a brick hearth, typical of the 1810's and 1820's. It has been considerably altered, first with additional rooms (1850's & 1860's) and then with its conversion into a coach house in the 1880's. The extensions were of timber frame and weatherboard. Flooring is a mix of earth, rough stone and brickwork. There is also a verandah. Only two walls remain of the original hut. Two other originally similar slab huts survived on the site until the mid 1900's. The barns and sheds are typical 19th century slab buildings with iron roofs. The barn has a timber floor and the remains of a shingle roof can be found under the present day corrugated iron roof. The remains of numerous other stuctures can be found on the site, largely completely collapsed, as well as cisterns located near the coach house and kitchen block.

The condition of the homestead and the outbuildings is extremely poor, with considerable deteoriation to the homestead due to weather and vandalism. The windows and most of the ironwork has vanished or been destroyed and makeshift repairs hold up the upper verandah. Alterations and additions made in the mid 1900's are not only out of character with the 1800's constructions but also mostly partially collapsed. As with the homestead, the outbuildings are also in a poor state, some partially collapsed, others overgrown with vegetation. The site has suffered in the past considerable damage from burrowing rabbits, especially noticable inside the unfloored outbuildings. Since the late 1990's, some restoration and stablisation of the site has been done, but it's fate remains in doubt with Baulkham Hills council determined to develop the property for housing and commercial usage.

During the 1980's and into the 1990's a volunteer caretaker lived on the site (in a caravan), an attempt to reduce the continued damage due to vandalism. The then caretaker was a friend of my family and in the late 1980's I was fortunate to have a private tour of the site.

NSW Heritage Office Website,
Timeline History of Baulkham Hills Shire,
Heritage Information, Baulkham Hills Shire,
Information from Bella Vista caretaker, c.1988
"Where the Country Became the City Blacktown", 1996, Blacktown & District Historical Society
Personal correspondence with Gwen Desmond, grand-daughter of the Jones family.