Macquarie's crossing

When Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson returned from their journey across the Blue Mountains, Governor Macquarie quickly sent his assistant surveyor-general, George William Evans (1775-1852), to investigate building a road over the mountains.

Evans set out in November 1813 to retrace the explorers' trail. After surveying the road, he pushed on into the grassy plains beyond the mountains and discovered the Macquarie and Lachlan Rivers. Macquarie then commissioned William Cox to build the road. With a team of convict workers Cox completed the task in less than six months.

 > View William Cox's journal kept during the building of the road in 1814 catalogue link 

Eager to see the new territory for himself, Macquarie organised an excursion over the Blue Mountains to inspect the road and the land beyond the mountains. On 25 April 1815, the Governor and Mrs Macquarie left Sydney with a group of 50 people including William Cox, the Surveyor-General John Oxley, Major Henry Colden Antill, Macquarie's aide de camp, and John William Lewin, the artist who was to make a visual record of the excursion.

The Macquaries travelled by carriage, stopping for lunch at Parramatta and staying overnight at the King family's farm at South Creek. They crossed the Nepean River at 11am the next day and began the climb to their first campsite. This was named 'Spring Wood' by the Governor.

Once in the mountains, the party witnessed first hand the challenges faced by the road builders, as well as the grandeur of the scenery. Descending into the grassy plains on the western side of the mountains, they camped on the banks of the Macquarie River for a week during which time the Governor selected a suitable site for the erection of a town to be named Bathurst. The party returned to Sydney on 19 May 1815.

Major Henry Antill (1779-1852) and John Lewin (1770-1819) both kept records of the trip. The men agreed that Antill would provide Lewin with a copy of his journal in exchange for a set of Lewin's watercolour views. In this way, the historic trip would be appropriately documented for posterity.

Lewin's paintings of the excursion capture previously unrecorded landscapes, and provide some wonderful behind-the-scene glimpses into the organisation needed for the excursion. Antill included a listing of the views in the back of his journal and made notes linking the views to his text. Major Antill's journal, with its accompanying set of 15 views by Lewin, was presented to the Mitchell Library in 1937.

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