Monday, 19 December 2016

The Romance of Denham Court

(By William Freame.)
Roses of Jericho resemble at first sight a bunch of withered roots, but plunge them into boiling water and they revive expand, re-open and regain their former freshness. Our memories are like roses of Jericho, they may appear dead, but a chance word or a passing glance re-awakens them. Indulgent memory wakes, and lo! they live. Clothed with far softer hues than light can give. 
   The chief objective in this paper is to revive interest in an old-time roadside hamlet and to re-awaken memories of an historical little church that to-day appears "to waste its sweetness on the desert air;" and its burial ground. 
Where heaves the turf in many a moulder-ing heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The forefathers of the hamlet sleep. "To contemplation's sober eye" Denham Court does not appear important.
Situated about six miles south of Liverpool, on the old Campbelltown-road, it has lagged super-fluous since the railway has captured the traffic and induced settlement, two and a half miles away; yet it has a history, the most romantic.
Away in the thirties we read of Captain Richard Brooks having a very fine mansion called Denham Court, described as being one of the most com-plete establishments in the colony, with outbuildings, etc., on a large scale, and commanding extensive views over the valley of Bunbury Curran Creek and the thickly wooded highlands of the coastal districts.
The old house remains much the same to-day.
Old Macquarie Fields House still remains crowning the crest of the next hill, as it did when Denham Court was noted far and wide for its generous hospitality, now, alas! a thing of the past.
What big, brave old days they were.
On October 16th 1833, Captain Brooks-was gathered to his fathers, being then 68 years of age; Christiana, his wife, following him to that bourne from whence no traveller returneth on April 12th, 1835, aged 59 years. Upon their death Denham Court passed into the possession of Thomas and Christiana Blomfield, the latter being a daughter of Captain and Mrs. Brooks.
During Mr. and Mrs. Blomfield's time the family mansion was conducted according to the best tradi-tions of the foremost Colonial families, the old house being the scene of many a country party.
Mrs. Thomas Valentine Blomfield died November, 1852, and her husband on May 19th, 1857.
After their death the glories of the old house waned and little more is heard of it in the chronicles of the time.
During the sixties it was in the possession of Mr. Clements Lester; subsequently the property was acquired by its present owner, Mr. J. C. Mayne, J.P., of Greendale House, Nepean River, a gentleman of very retiring disposition. In the vicinity of Denham Court are several other old estates, notably .'Varro Ville,' founded by Robert Town-
son, L li.D., who died June 27th, 1827, and was buried in St. John's, Parramatta.
He was succeeded at 'Varro Ville' by T. Wills, Esq., and by the Raymonds. Another old estate is "Leppington," founded by the Cor-deaux family (subsequently of Berrima), now in the possession of Mr. Perry, formerly of Smithfield Grange, Merrylands. 
In the old coaching days the hamlet pos-sessed a turn-pike, or toll-bar, in the vic-inity of which the bushrangers once robbed the mail; also an inn, 'The Robin Hood,' situated near the bridge over the creek.
Twenty years after John Eccleston kept a public house near this spot.
Probably it was the successor of The Robin Hood, which was flourishing as late as 1842. The pre-sent village consists, besides the old man-sion, of a church and rectory and about a dozen cottages, some of them very old.
The oldest residents are the Bolgers, who to my knowledge have lived there for over 50 years.
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, sit-uated just off the road, was founded by Captain and Mrs. Brooks, who are buried under the floor of the chancel, or to be more exact, the church was built over their vault, provision for which had been made by them before their death. The building consists of a nave, the east end being railed off as a quasi-chancel, a clergyman's vestry, an entrance porch, and a turreted tower at the west end of the nave. Upon the interior walls are memorials to Honoria Rose Riley, of 'Raby,' who died at Denham Court on March 17th, 1839, aged 30 years, and her remains are buried in the vault beneath the church, her parents being Captain and Mrs. Brooks.
Another tablet is in memory of Lieut, George William Henry Wardell, of the 83rd Reg., a son of Captain Wardell, of the 28th Reg., and -a grandson of Richard Brooks.
Lieut. Wardell was drowned at sea July 14th, 1861, aged 21 years. At the east end is a fine three -light window' erected in memory of Richard Brooks, and Christiana, his wife, during recent years through the efforts of the Misses Riley, of 'Glenmore,' via Penrith. Looking through the registers one comes across many historic names. The first baptism was that of Euston, son of Thos, V. and Christiana Blomfield, date July 29th, 1838.
The second was that of Ann Honoria, daughter of Henry and Maria Zouch, July 29th, 1838, and the third was that of Charles, son of Charles and Charlotte Sturt, on Dec-ember 9th, 1838.
All three were baptised by Rev. R. Taylor, acting chaplain.
Among others baptised in this church were Frank A. Blomfield, February 9th, 1848, by Rev. John Duff us; Mary Zouch, June 30th, 1840, by Rev. R. Forrest; Percival Waddy, April 19th, 1846; William Henry Cordeaux, June 22nd, 1858, by Rev. G. Vidal. The first marriage was that of James John Riley and Christiana Eliza Passmore Blom-field, by Rev. R. Forrest, on February 4th, 1848, witnesses being L. M. and T. V. Blom-field. Catherine Cordeaux, E. and W. Cox.
The second was that of Rev. Robt. Leith-bridge King, B.A., and Honoria Australia Raymond, on December 13th, 1851, by Rev. Alfred Stephen. The third was that of Arthur Blomfield and Ann Mackenzie, on April 24th, 1856, by Rev. G. Napoleon Woodd, B.A. Among others married there were James Payten, of Parramatta, and Sarah Rose, of Mt. Gilead, July 28th, 1866; the. Rev. Lovick Tyrell, of Raymond Terrace, and Louisa M. Blomfield, 12th February, 1857, by Rev. G. Vidal, and Rev. Alberto D. Soares, of Collector, and Catherine Lane, March 10th, 1857. The first burials were those of Richard and Christiana Brooks, copied obviously from the registers of St. Luke's, Liverpool, signed by R. Cartwright, Colonial Chaplain. Then follow the registrations of the burials of Barrington Blomfield, July 17th, 1835; Ann Zouch, January 14th, 1839; Honoria Rose Riley, March 17th, 1839, both buried by Rev. J. Duff us; Christiana Blomfield, 31st October, 1852, by Rev. G. Vidal; Thomas V. Blomfield, 19th May, 1857, by Rev. G. N. Woodd; James John Riley, August 29th, 1882, by Rev. J. R. Blomfield; Rev. J. R. Bloomfield, 1st May, 1889, aged 63 years, buried by Rev. G. F. Garnsey; Christiana Eliza Passmore Riley, 20th October, 1904, buried by Rev. P. Pusswell. A few words concerning some of the above-mentioned: Rev. J. R. Blomfield was incumbent of All Saints', Parramatta, for several years. Rev. R. Lethbridge King was incumbent of St. John's from 1854 to 1867. Rev. L. Tyrell was a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, and Rev. A. Soares a canon of Goulburn Cathedral. J. J. Riley was the first Mayor of Penrith, and also the first captain of the Penrith company of Volunteers. The Rev. John Duffus, some time of St.. Luke's, Liverpool, was a brother-in-law of Count Lucian Stanlus de Brolie Plater, of Picton and Parramatta, and consequently an uncle of Mdlle Emily Laura, Comptesse de Brolie Plater, of Parramatta, and the late Count Ferdinand de H. BroliePlater, formerly of Richmond. Some idea of the history of Denham Court Church may be gathered from the following extracts of a letter written to me by Mrs. T. A. Browne, the wife of Rolfe Boldrewood, auther of 'Robbery Under Arms,' Writing under date July 16th, 1913, Mrs. Browne said, inter alia: — 'The old church of my childhood, among whose memorials is one to my mother, who expressed a wish to be buried with her mother, Mrs. R. Brooks. Mr. and Mrs. James Riley were married there, the young couple going away in a well-appointed four-in-hand, with gaily-dressed postilions. Another wedding was my sister Christiana to Essington King, a son of Admiral King. This was a bright, sparkling ceremony, attended by many officers in their glittering uniforms. The gaiety was kept up for a whole week. The Cordeaux of Leppington, Raymonds of Varro Ville, and the parsonage folk all accomodated guests, and Denham Court house was brilliant with guests.
Again when Jane our cousin, was married to Charles, another son of Admiral King, the same gaiety was kept up.
The last marriage of a daughter te house was that of Louisa Blomfield to Lovick Tyrell, nephew of Bishop Tyrell.
Then came the death of Thomas Valentine Blomfield, a man loved by everyone.' ? Let us now consider the succession of incumbents.
During the first few years the affairs of the church were directed by. the chaplains of Liverpool. In 1844, the Rev. F. W. Adams, one of the first to be ordamed in Australia, was appointed to the incumbency.
In 1846 he was transferred to St. Paul's, Paterson, and was succeeded at. Denham Court by Rev. Geo. Vidal, B.A., who remained until 1855, being succeeded by the rector of Prospect, Rev. Geo. Napoleon Woodd, B.A., who remained until 1882, when the affairs of the parish began to decline.
The sister church of Holy Innocents, Cabramatta, a .pioneer settlement 10 miles S.W. of the present railway village of the same name, had been joined on to Cobbitty, under Rev. A. W., now Bishop Pain, in 1877, and Denham Court was for a time attached to Campbelltown. During 1900 Denham Court and Cabi-amatta, now called Rossmore, were formed into a mission district, under the care of Rev. Mr. Macarthur, of St.. John's, Parramatta, who in the following year was succeeded by Rev. P. Presswell, also of St. John's. He remained there five years, and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Cherry, and then by Rev. ^Arthur Reeves, whose ministry of 3 1 years was successful. Then came Rev. H. Arnold, 10 months. He was succeeded by Rev. H. F. L. Palmer, formerly of South Creek: . . Let us now turn our attention to the rectory. After Rev. G. N. Woodd's departure the building became vacant, and was let to a Miss Goodin, who conducted a school there. Twenty years ago it was burnt out and the ruins remained until 1912, when Rev. A. Reeves had it rebuilt at a cost of nearly £ 600. Visiting the church in 1912 I found the sacred edifice in a bad state of disrepair, patches of plaster had fallen away from the interior walls, the windows were broken, and the roof leaky, while the doorway into the vestry was falling in. I suggested to Mr. Reeves that if the parishioners would repair the body of the church I would renovate the chancel. The parishioners, having to finance the new rectory, could only contribute 13s 2d. The Misses Riley, of 'Glenmore,' via Penrith, collected £10 from among their relatives. With £10 13s 2d we were able to do about £25 worth of work. 'Ora est labora.' So we prayed with our hands and the most urgent repairs were done. A few words concerning Holy Innocents, Rossmore, near Bringelly. This locality was under the name of Cabramatta, one of the oldest agricultural districts in New South Wales.
During the thirties Rev. T. Hassall used to conduct Divine service here in a log building, average attendance being 20. persons.
In 1837 Bishop Broughton reported that £175 had been subscribed towards the cost of erecting a church. He . added £ 25 from the £ 600 he had received from the English Church Societies towards the cost of erecting churches in the colony. The present beautiful Gothic stone church was completed by 1850, when Rev. G. Vidal was incumbent of Denham Court and Cabramatta (now called Rossmore). Much more could be said about these old districts if time permitted ; but we hasten back to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Denham Court. AH around, on the graves of rich and poor alike, the sun, with lavish indifference, has been bestowing, its rich flakes of golden hue, chequering each stone with quivering patches of cool shade and glowing sunlight.
To the earnest few whose faith and aspirations cluster around the slow- . growing fabric of Australia, this church and burial ground will be replete with a sacredness and an abiding influence.
The evening has begun : to spread her mantle, the stones no longer glow with sunshine. Long shadows creap across the roadway and play fantastically among the graves.
The very atmosphere seems charged with a mystic tenderness, a strange pathos; no longer the pathos of desolation and sorrow, but rather that of a sweet, yearning, allforgiving love. Slowly the sun sinks, touching with its gold and crimson one solitary cloud deep down upon the horizon, investing it with a grandeur radiant and stern.
The crimson deepens into purple, the purple into grey, the grey into night. I bring you this 'Bunch of Roses of Jericho' — memories of the romances of Denham Court.
9 May 1919 Windsor and Richmond gazette

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