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Homesteading

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'There is no rural picture more alluring that a pastoral holding in country fitted for agriculture where droughts come but rarely, flocks multiply in profusion, money flows freely, temperatures observe considerate averages and life is close to the idyllic...'

‘On the Land, Farm and Station’, Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9/1906, p.7.

 

Homesteading in rural Australia provided a profitable and idyllic lifestyle for some, though life could just as quickly turn to misery during hard times.

Domestic life in the bush passed slowly. Gardening, music and books offered welcome diversions, while social interaction with neighbours, friends and visitors brought news and lively discussion to break the monotony, supplemented by an occassional trip to Sydney or one of the large inland towns. There were also times of ardous labour - sowing, harvesting, mustering, lambing, branding and shearing - as well as terrifying periods of drought, disease, bush fire and flood.

The isolation of many rural properties was such that dry supplies of flour, sugar, rice, tea and were brought in only once a year which meant that most homesteads needed to be as self-sufficient as possible. Eggs, vegetables, milk, bacon, meat and fruit were produced on the property which saw the face of Australia's rapidly spreading agricultural districts gradually softened by the growth of the ornamental and kitchen gardens, orchards and plantations that surrounded the typical colonial bush homestead.

On larger properties, the homestead was occupied by the owner or manager, with his wife and family and attendant servants, surrounded by stables, out buildings and various accommodations for agricultural workers and stockmen with yards on either side for mustering horses, sheep and cattle. Most homesteads were alike in appearance and many had grown from an original single cell cottage. These long, low bungalows were usually built from slabs of hand-cut, local timber with a neat pitched roof, wide chimney piece to one side and deep cool verandahs set in the sheltered hollow of a hill amid carefully cultivated gardens against dramatic mountains of the broader landscape facing the river or fat pasturage below. The bush was kept at bay with post and rail fences criss-crossing over the spreading plains beyond the homestead gate approached by a sandy track winding up from the road or river bank.

Homestead idyll

About this item: 

Signatures / Inscriptions: Titled beneath image. Signed & dated lower right "3 March 1803 Jno Bolger Pinxt"
Inscribed on reverse in later hand: "Done by one of the prisoners and kept as a curiosity".
General Note: John Bolger in fact arrived in Sydney in 1795 as a free man on board the Providence - see State Records of NSW Colonial Secretary Index 1788-1825

Walloomoolloo [i.e. Woolloomooloo] The Seat of Jno Palmer Esqre Port Jackson
1803
Bolger, John
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Digital ID: 
a928027
About this item: 

Signatures / Inscriptions"P.Anderson" -- handwritten in pencil on reverse, in a later hand
General NoteTitled in ink below view

Anderson Bros. Newstead. Glen Innes N.S.W.
n.d.
Anderson, P
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Digital ID: 
a1528203
Views of Sydney and Surrounding District / by Edward Mason - p88
ca. 1821-1823; 1892
Mason, Edward
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Digital ID: 
a1080088
Views of Sydney and Surrounding District / by Edward Mason - p21
ca. 1821-1823; 1892
Mason, Edward
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Digital ID: 
a1080021
Views of Sydney and Surrounding District / by Edward Mason - p52
ca. 1821-1823; 1892
Mason, Edward
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Digital ID: 
a1080052
Views of Sydney and Surrounding District / by Edward Mason - p9
ca. 1821-1823; 1892
Mason, Edward
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Digital ID: 
a1080009
Pumpkin Cottage, Illawarra, the first family residence of Henry Osborn in New South Wales / drawn by Robert Hoddle, Surveyor, 1830
Hoddle, Robert, 1794-1881
Hoddle, Robert, 1794-1881
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Digital ID: 
a1528491
[Sketches in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Norfolk Island, ca. 1841-1847] / by John Skinner Prout
ca. 1841-1847
Prout, John Skinner, 1805-1876
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Digital ID: 
a1796014
[View of Arthursleigh] 1839 / Conrad Martens
1839
Martens, Conrad, 1801-1878
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Digital ID: 
a928752
View of Dunheved, New South Wales / Conrad Martens
1837
Martens, Conrad, 1801-1878
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Digital ID: 
a2653002
[Trevallyn], Hunter River, Boydell's old home / [attributed to] Emily Anne Manning?
1839?
Manning, Emily Anne, d. 1846
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Digital ID: 
a1565002
About this item: 

The work is not signed, titled, or dated.
Painting forms cover of a papier-mache writing case, given to Theodosia Ogilvie, wife of Edward Ogilvie. The painting is attributed to Mrs Bundock (Edward Ogilvie's sister) from information supplied by the donor's husband. Dated from Mrs Bundock's visits to Yulgilbar in 1850 and 1852 (See the Yulgilbar station journal A 6993, pp. 20-22 and pp. 125-148)

Original Yulgilbar homestead, ca. 1850-1852 / painting by Mrs Ellen Bundock (nee Ogilvie
ca. 1850-1852
Bundock, Mary Ellen, 1817-1898
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Digital ID: 
a128964
Item 06: Natural history and botanical drawings, ca. 1849-1872 / [attributed to Louisa Atkinson] - p1
ca. 1849-1872
Digital ID: 
a1082001
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Views of Euromedha Station, Macquarie River, New South Wales, 1858
1858
Digital ID: 
a404001
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An album of sketches belonging to Phillip Parker King (many by him), which relate to his surveys of the north-west coast of Australia and Tasmania between 1817 and 1822 in the vessels Mermaid and Bathurst; and of South America in 1826-1830 commanding HMS Adventure, in company with HMS Beagle. Some early caricatures by King are included. Later material in the album may have been added by P. P. King's son, Philip Gidley King.

For further information see:
King, Phillip Parker. Narrative of a survey of the intertropical and western coasts of Australia : performed between the years 1818 and 1822. London : John Murray, 1827; and Narrative of the surveying voyages of his Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836 : describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Volume 1. Proceedings of the first expedition, 1826-1830, under the command of Captain P. Parker King. London : Henry Colburn, 1839

See also:
PXn 790 for notes on this album compiled by Philip Gidley King the younger in 1903. A transcript of these notes is filed at PXn 951.

No. 12: paper is watermarked "Whatman 1810". Ink sketch appears to be after a pencil portrait of Baudin ca. 1802, by Nicolas-Martin Petit (private collection, Melbourne).
See:
The Encounter, 1802 : art of the Flinders and Baudin voyages / [compiled by] Sarah Thomas (Adelaide : Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002); Terre Napoleon : Australia through French eyes, 1800-1804 / Susan Hunt, Paul Carter (Sydney : Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales in association with Hordern House, 1999); Baudin in Australian waters : the artwork of the French voyage of discovery to the southern lands 1800-1804 / edited by Jacqueline Bonnemains, Elliott Forsyth and Bernard Smith (Melbourne : Oxford University Press in association with the Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1988)
No.48 has been attributed to Phillip Parker King.

Another library copy of lithograph and inscription no. 50-50a is recorded in ML correspondence as being inscribed "A. Picken lith. / Day & Haghe, lithrs. to the King" (CY 3250 p.316)
Most titled on image or the reverse
Many items bear faint notes inscribed by King. These are recorded at PXn 951

Phillip Parker King - album of drawings and engravings, 1802-1902
1802-1902
King, Phillip Parker, 1791-1856
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Digital ID: 
a3464112
[View of] Bungarrabee [sic, ie. Bungarribee] NSW / painted by J[oseph] Fowles Sydney 1858
1858
Fowles, Joseph, 1810-1878
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Digital ID: 
a128323
[Colonial family portrait, ca. 1860s / watercolour by] / R. Grindell
ca. 1860s
Grindell, R., fl. 1863-
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Digital ID: 
a128870
Anderson Bros. Newstead. Glen Innes N.S.W.
Anderson, P
Digital ID: 
a1528203
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Urawilkie, 1869 / E.N.B.
1869
Blacket, Edwin Newbald
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Digital ID: 
a4303001
Taradale, 1868 / Thomas Turner
1868
Turner, Thomas, 1813-1895
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Digital ID: 
a928621
Bingle family : scrap album, 1856-1880s
1856-1889
Digital ID: 
a164003
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Afternoon tea on "Cornalla" station - Deniliquin, NSW
c 1898
Digital ID: 
bcp_06443
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Interior of drawing room, "Cornalla" - Deniliquin, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_06445
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By the early 1800s, a flourishing local market had emerged for views of private town houses and country seats as a record of colonial success and to provide a visual reminder of the pleasures of rural life. The spread of settlement during the 1830s saw house portraits produced in even greater numbers by professional and amateur artists alike, becoming increasingly popular as the number of professional artists working in the colonies grew after the 1850s. 

House portraits serve as an important visual record of the aspirations of successful colonial land owners. Some artists depicted homesteads in stark isolation choosing to concentrate on the sheer effort required to tame, order, fence and manicure the bush into parkland. While others showed not only the house in the landscape but also prize-winning livestock, proud pioneers riding fine horses and well-dressed family members undisturbed by the daily rigours of manual farm labour.

Such representations of colonial Australian life played a part in attracting immigrants from the northern hemisphere, enticing them with notions of the gracious living and affluence to be had in the colonies. The popularity of house portraits began to decline in the late 19th century as photography became the preferred medium for landowners wishing to possess a permanent record of their properties. 

This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.