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A Brief History of Radcliffe and the Surrounding Area

Compiled by T.A. Johnston
(This article first appeared in The Radcliffe Community Bicentennial Cook Book, 1988)

The first white men to come to the area arrived around 1820, and began to settle along the Molonglo Plains, arriving at the junction of the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers on 8th December 1820. Timothy Beard, a convict who had arrived in the Colony in 1805 and received his pardon in 1817, set up as an innkeeper on 100 acres of land near Campbelltown. In 1828 he "squatted" on the Molonglo River near where Canberra Abattoir is situated today [The abattoir has since been cleared, and new light industrial suburb of Beard - named in honour of Timothy Beard - created in its place - ed,]. His station was called "Quinbean" and consisted of a few bark huts where convict stockmen cared for his cattle herd.

The first authorised settler to reside on a large holding in the district was Owen Bowen (1778-1840), a convict who had arrived in the Colony on 2nd July 1811, having sailed from Falmouth aboard the ship Providence. Bowen was freed from servitude at the age of 46 and secured a ticket of occupation for one hundred acres at Marlow Plains("Molonglo") in June 1824. Three years later he applied, unsuccessfully, for another grant at "Carrowillah" which was located three miles west of his holdings and eighteen miles from Lake George. In the 1828 NSW Census, Owen Bowen’s "Molonglo" was listed as having 500 acres (300 acres cleared land and 10 acres cultivated), with 17 horses and 827 cattle.

Over the years, Bowen, with good management and other additions, had enhanced his holdings and at the time of his death in 1840 the property was valued at 7,000 pounds, a large fortune in those times. William Bowen, Owen’s son, remained on the station and developed a taste for thoroughbreds. Some of the finest racehorses were bred in the Queanbeyan district, most notable were at "Currandooley" and "Molonglo". William Bowen sold "Molonglo" to Thomas Rutledge in 1865 and the property became part of "Carwoola".

Henry Colden Antill, a neighbour of Owen Bowen, was born in New York. He arrived in the Colony aboard HMS Dromedary on 29th December 1809. Antill was an Aide-de-Camp to Governor Macquarie, and he ultimately established an Estate near Picton called "Jarvisfield". In 1828, during a drought, Antill was forced to send his sheep and cattle to the Molonglo Plains. He established an estate at Primrose Valley which was to remain in the family until 1862 when it was acquired by Thomas Rutledge and absorbed into "Carwoola".

Another of Owen Bowen’s neighbours, William Balcombe, was Colonial Treasurer from 1823 until his death in 1829. Balcombe had previously been an official of the East India Company at St Helena, and it was here that he befriended Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile. His friendship with Napoleon was considered so dangerous that he was eventually removed to NSW. On 5th August 1824, Governor Brisbane offered Balcombe a grant of 2,000 acres at Menanglo or Marlet Plains about eighteen miles southwest of Lake George. The property was for the benefit of Balcombe’s sons, William and Alexander. In 1825 William Balcombe Jr, who was 15 years old at the time, was given a free grant of 800 acres at "Inverary" near Bungonia. It was on this property that he resided and managed the "Molonglo" grants. These grants soon grew and included a 4,000 acre grant obtained by his father. By 1827, a stock yard and dairy had been erected, plus servants' huts and various other buildings, with twelve acres under cultivation.

William Balcombe Snr called his property "The Briars" and built a slab home just below where the present stone cottages stand today. It is believed that William Snr was responsible for introducing two plants to Australia, the Sweet Briar and the Weeping Williow. The willow (Salix babylonica) grew nearby Napoleon’s grave on St Helena and Balcome is reported to have taken cuttings from these trees.

"The Briars" was sold to Thomas Shanahan in the 1840's when Balcombe’s sons moved to Victoria. Shanahan had previously been the licensee of the "Union Inn" which was opened in 1838 at Keefe’s Plains, Michelago. When he took up residence at "The Briars", Thomas Shanahan rebuilt the slab house further up the hill because of the flooding of the Molonglo River. The remains of that second dwelling still remain. Two later stone buildings stand to the north-east of this site, one built by Thomas Shanahan Jnr and the other by his son Sydney James in later years. The Shanahan private cemetery dating back to 1853 and containing eight persons is within several metres of the second slab house.

John Hosking (1806-1882) was owner of "Foxlow" station, which was named after his wife Martha Foxlow Terry, and settled on the estate around 1835. Hoskinstown is named after John Hosking, although it has undergone several nomenclature changes since its beginning. "Foxlow" was purchased by Thomas Rutledge in 1868 and he sold it to George Osbourne in 1870. The second homestead was renovated by the Falkiner family when they purchased the land in 1920.

William Rutledge (1806-1876) arrived in Sydney aboard the ship Harriet in December 1829 from County Cavan, Ireland. He set himself up as a contractor for Government supplies and was assigned six convicts in 1835. His address in 1834 was The Field of Mars, Parramatta. He was later to acquire land at Kissing Point and Eastwood. In early 1836, he acquired a station of 2,560 acres on the Molonglo Plains from Henry Gilbert Smith. Charles and Henry Gilbert Smith were granted the land in 1828, at the same time that Captain Henry J Rous, RN, of HMS Rainbow was granted an equal portion of land nearby.

After he had established himself, William brought out two sisters and four of his five brothers: Thomas, who later became the owner of "Carwoola", Richard and Lloyd, who went to Port Fairy in Victoria, and John, who moved to California. William himself moved to Port Phillip in 1838, and married Eliza Kirk in Sydney on 18th August 1840. (They had two sons and five daughters). He moved to Port Fairy in 1843 and remained there until 1865. He is remembered as a pioneer settler, merchant and banker.

After William had permanently moved to Victoria, his business interests in New South Wales were managed by his younger brother Thomas Rutledge. This included the Molonglo Plains station which he had named "Clonbrony" and which had been enlarged by the purchase of Edward John Eyre's "Woodlands".

The estate was later purchased by Thomas Rutledge and he called it "Carwoola" from the aboriginal name of land first occupied by Owen Bowen. The aboriginal word was Carrowillah which means "where the water meets the plain".

To increase his estate, Thomas Rutledge had purchased properties from Henry Antill in 1862, William Bowen, O. McAlister and W. Brown in 1865. The major holdings of Thomas Rutledge in 1870 were "Janefield" established by Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson in 1831, "Gidleigh" established by Admiral Philip Parker King in 1833, "Foxlow" established by John Hosking around 1835, and, of course, "Carwoola".

The home station for Rutledge became "Carwoola", which had grown to 25,000 acres, and it was here that he built a graceful Georgian mansion. The station included a village for his employees with houses, store, smithy and church. "St Thomas’" was built between 1872 and 1874 and was designed by Canon Alberto D. Soares, who was the incumbent of Christ Church Queanbeyan from 1858-1877. The stained glass windows are in memory of the Osbournes of "Foxlow" and the organ is in memory of James Maslin, who was killed in World War I. James Maslin’s father, J.F. Maslin, purchased "Carwoola" from the Rutledge family in 1907.

The total area of Thomas Rutledge’s holdings in 1870 was 55,000 acres of purchased land and 110 leased sections which stretched from Bungendore to Hoskinstown and beyond. Some portions of Radcliffe Estate are recorded as being part of Portion 130 grated to John Rutledge on 22nd November 1837. These portions were also absorbed into Thomas Rutledge’s "Carwoola".

It was not only his farming interests that made Thomas Rutledge a man of history. In December 1848, he was appointed to carry mail from Goulburn to the Maneroo (Monaro) via Queanbeyan during 1850. He was again awarded the contract for a thrice weekly service to Bungendore and Molonglo in 1853, and was to hold the contract until the early 1860's. In 1860/61 gold was discovered on the Rutledge estate and in June 1861 he opened his property up to diggers. Thomas Rutledge continued to be a prominent member of the community until his death in 1904.

William Forster Rutledge (1850-1912), son of Thomas Rutledge, became the first Shire President at the first meeting held on 27th February 1907. Lt. Col. Thomas Lloyd Forster Rutledge MLA (1889-1958), William’s son, was a member of the first AIF and left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and later became a member of the Legislative Assembly. His son, William S.F. Rutledge, lives on "Gidleigh".

Carwoola Clearing sale, 1928.  Photo courtesy Ted Bladwell and Carwoola Pastoral CoIn 1928, "Carwoola" was auctioned by J.F. Maslin, the estate at this time consisting of 25,775 acres. William George Hyles purchased Lot 2 ("Radcliffe") which was 2,000 acres plus 1,000 acres known as "Stony Creek" (Swans) west section. William’s daughter, Mona Ruth Hyles, in 1945 married Bruce Douglas, whose father had been the manager of "Carwoola" up until the auction. After the sale of "Carwoola", Bruce Douglas and his father purchased "London Bridge" at Burra and this property remained in the family until resumed by the Commonwealth for Googong Dam. William Hyles passed the 3,000 acre "Radcliffe" property on to his daughter and it remained in the family until 1970.

The Hyles family are well known in the district. In 1981, they either owned or leased such properties as "Woodlands", "Sharrow", "Felled Timber", "Millpost", "Old Kowen", "Murryong" (all in the Bungendore area), "Booroomba", "Uriarra Station", "Castle Hill" (in the Tharwa area), "Ironmongie" and "Woodglen" (in the Monaro), "Esdale" (in Mall-Cavan area), "Wandokai" near Creekend Corner and "Talbragar" near Berremangra. John Rowan Wallace Hyles of "Sharrow" is a great great grandson of Richard and Amelia Hyles, who left Plymouth in the ship Petrel, arriving in the Colony in November 1849.

In 1970, "Radcliffe" was sold to the Acona Pastoral Company, who later sold it to Tony Yiep who developed "Radcliffe Estate". The original Radcliffe house is sited on Lot 18 in Radcliffe Circuit. The shearing shed on Lot 19 is also one of the original Radcliffe buildings. There are the remains of even earlier dwellings and other minor structures and yards located throughout the estate.

The origins of the name Radcliffe are obscure in history, however it is possible that the name derived from a shepherd who was employed by Thomas Rutledge. In 1864, an aboriginal was sentenced to death for an attack on Marguerite Ratcliffe, wife of a shepherd employed by Thomas Rutledge of Molonglo. In view of the fact that paddocks on large holdings were named after the shepherds who resided on them, this may well be where the name Radcliffe came from. If one looks back on the obvious nomenclature changes to local area, names such as Carwoola (Carrowillah) and Hoskinstown (Hoskins Town, Hoskington, Hoskintown, Hoskingtown), it is possible that this confusion is brought about by the fact that many of the early settlers were illiterate and, combined with the diction of the Irish settlers, it was commonplace to hear incorrect pronunciations and see incorrect spelling.

Most of the early settlers in the district were immigrants from Ireland, as were my own family. Their origins began in the County of Murray with William Johnston(1843-1916) arriving in the Colony on 22nd March 1863, having sailed from Plymouth aboard the ship Sir John Moore on 8th December 1862. William, born at Belleek, County Fermanagh, Ireland, was a policeman in the Irish Police Force. He joined the "Mounted Troopers" on 28th May 1863 and remained in the force until 31st March 1901. He was stationed at Tumut, NSW and apparently travelled widely through the district on the gold coach.

My grandfather, James Lanty Johnston (1874-1945), was the second son of eight children. He was married to Vida Beatrice Jones (1878-1966) on 7th November 1906 at Darlington. Vida was born at Crainbob on a farm operated by her parents William John Jones (1837-1907) and Mary Ann Mullins (1839-1924). The farm was known as "Cunningdroo" and the farmhouse was still standing in 1984. Crainbob is now shown on maps as Coreinbob. Her parents were born and raised near Braidwood. The Jones family were well acquainted with Constable William Johnston and probably with the rest of the family due to his travels throughout the area.

There are still a great many families in the local district who are related to those early settlers and this history is by no means complete. Every effort has been taken to ensure its accuracy, and it is hoped it will give you a better idea of the area in which you live and some background information for your children.


"Bygone Queanbeyan" 1985, Rex Cross.
"History of the Yarrowlumla Shire" 1956, Gerald O’Hanlon.
"Canberra Collection" 1976, P.A. Sleth.
"Historic Canberra 1825-1945" 1977, Alan Fitzgerald.
"Queanbeyan District and People" 1968, Errol-Le-Scarlett.
"Boom to Bust - and Back Again" 1983, Susan Stanton.
"Station Life in Australia" 1988, Peter Taylor.
National Dictionary of Biography. 1928
NSW Census

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