Towrang convict stockade, on the outskirts of Goulburn, NSW

Posted by barbara on May 25, 2013

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This aerial photo captures the faint imprint of earthworks on the western side of the Hume Highway, opposite Derrick Rest Area, and adjacent to a lagoon on the Wollondilly River.

 

Many Sydneysiders are familiar the Great North Road and the 'Great West' road over the Blue Mountains (the Great Western Highway). Fewer are familiar with the 'Great South Road that was constructed in the 1830s from the crossroads south of Liverpool to Goulburn, and eventually became part of the Old Hume Highway.

Some 9.6 kilometres north of Goulburn, the Hume freeway bisects a sprawling heritage site that was variously in use and under construction between 1838-43. In the vicinity of the Derrick Rest Area on the left heading southish, and between the Towrang and Carrick side roads heading northish, it is not the easiest site to find.

Only added to the NSW State Heritage site register in January 2013, the convict stockade 'is believed to have held the largest concentration of convicts in southern NSW during its operation [variously numbering 90 to 250} and provides insight into the nature of convict life and labour and early road building in NSW,' (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage).

A word of warning for would be visitors. Because the handiwork of the convicts (the bridge and majority of culverts) and the stockade in which they were housed are split by the Hume Highway, in the absence of an underpass, after visiting the rest area, you have to get back on the highway for a short distance in order to explore the rest of the site.

 

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Few of the hundreds of thousands of people who drive down the present day Hume Highway have the slightest inkling of the existence of this handsome sandstone bridge over Towrang Creek, reputed to be designed by Scotsman David Lennox, and constructed by the convicts housed at the Towrang Stockade. 

Bypassed by various road upgrades, the bridge remains a testament to the hard labour of the convicts, some of them working in chain gangs, a regime that was regarded in its day as a form of secondary punishment. 

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In addition to substantial structures such as the bridge, the convicts were tasked with constructing a series of stone culverts, seven in all, to assist with local drainage. 

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In the pre-concrete days, the shale and sandstone construction associated with the culverts was suprisingly decorative.

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The remains of the convict stockade, powder magazine and cemetery are accessed from the western side of the Hume Highway via a non-signposted car park adjacent to the Towrang Road turnoff and entry point to Hume Highway freeway for Towrang residents heading north. 

The warning signage reflects the fact that visitors to this site are entering private land. 

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It isn't easy to make out the actual remains of what were apparently stone rubble and timber huts for the officer guards. 

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The powder battery, restored in recent years was sensibly built into the hillside facing onto the lagoon and away from the accommodation.

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It's a short walk across a creek to the little cemetery.

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