Warren and Bruce Bowden - Heritage Park - Part 2


Castle Hill Heritage Park

Interview 2b

Interviewees: Warren Bowden, born 1930
          and Bruce Bowden, born 1932

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 28 Nov 2008

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Jan 2009

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee(s)


Where was the Munro’s house?

If it can be believed that the Munro house stood on the terraced area then it was just out of the reach of all the boys and people manoeuvring themselves across the park. It stood where, and we’ve established this, where it should catch the best view in the park. There’s a view there to the Blue Mountains.

Who were the Munros?

No we don’t know, we don’t know.

Their occupation would have been which part of the last century?

Well see the Moores were the people who purchased the parcel of land that it was on in the subdivision when the church left. The Munros moved into the house and we really don’t know. But they were pretty well positioned financially because they spent quite a lot of money on getting to and from the house from Banks Road. Also we do know that this terracing which I speak of was done laboriously and well and probably from some of the stonework which belonged to the original barracks.

Banks House Castle Hill 1980s

Now who were Les and Ivy Banks and what was their use of the land?

Two wonderful homely people who played a part in the life of the people at the bottom of Banks Road in the street their father lived there on the same property with them. Old Zean resting now in Castle Hill cemetery nicely memorialised he was a very striking man. His ability with horses and ploughing and things of that nature, he understood orcharding, every branch of the summer fruit, he grew vegetables and of course he lost his wife quite a bit earlier. He wasn’t a handsome man by any means but he was a nice guy who smoked a pipe eternally. It hung from the corner of his mouth through the mis-shapen teeth even in speech. But he was an identity, he really was. Then his son built a quite modern weatherboard home near by and we had a lot of association with Les. Les was a giant of a man with hands as big as saucepans, he created without any doubt the best naval orange orchard in NSW. He was known for it people would drive from Sydney to pick up a case of Les’s. They paid an appropriate price for it too. But the last thing that Les would say to you in a conversation was “and I believe you’ve been walking through the orchard today Warren”. “Well yes Mr Banks “. Well I thought I saw some skins underneath one of the trees, you wouldn’t know anything about that would you”? “Well no, no” and then he’d say “and how’s your father” and that was an expression that I’ve never forgotten, he’d use it at the end of a sentence quite often.

Now all these people had bought land that is now on the Heritage farm isn’t it? What’s now called the Heritage Park? Were they subdivisions of the Heritage Park?

There were a group of people who bought land in the 1890 period. It came on the market from the Church of England from the glebe, what they called the glebe. It was no longer of any significance to them everything had been moved off it including the barracks. People such as the Banks, the Banks were not the pioneer people in the orchard area. They came onto it from Epping and they were there. They were fully entrenched, the Banks, they knew all about the industry. They had a neighbour who was an eastern European importee and they must have known something about citrus growing too because they were very successful. They were still on the left hand side of the property. Then you moved across to those that were living in Castle Hill and they saw the opportunity. People like the Benns wonderful family of children grew up from the Benn family they just date from the period of a slab home to a weatherboard home which was very craftily built and very pleasant and they lived and died there that type of people. Up on the hill a bit was the family of the Greenwoods. Greenwoods were people who had a grant of land very early in the piece. They were pleasant enough we never had too many social dealings with them but we did have interesting times on the park with these original people who bought parcels. There were twelve or fourteen major parcels sold and I’m sure they changed hands a number of times before due to failure of crop or due to moving on or old age or whatever.

Home originally built by Greenwood family Old Castle Hill Road 1993

Bruce can you recall the dog racing track I believe that you saw on the heritage property?

On numerous visits to the farm where we were looking for our rabbits of course we noticed this strip of, it was fenced in and it ran uphill. I thought that was a bit strange to run the dogs uphill but as I got older of course I realised why they run the dogs uphill to make them stronger to enable them to participate in the racing of the greyhound. The gentlemen had a little box up the far end where there was a bicycle set up and this chap would pedal the bike and he would run the hare up the side of the run. The greyhound would chase the hare and it was a training track for dogs. It was quite a length and it was definitely a raised area. On a recent visit up there you can still see the raised area and the line of the track where they went up there.

Who owned the actual greyhound racing track?

I didn’t have any idea of who owned it at that stage.

I can help out there. The Stiff family were the principal family and they lived in one of these houses that we talked about earlier. They had two quite magnificent greyhounds Mirrabooka Miss and Mirrabooka Lad. They did extremely well and they went off and bought a (haberdashery) shop in Round Corner Dural which they stayed in for some years. What was important about all that was nobody knows who built this easement. It is on all our drawings and archaeological digs as nothing other than a causeway. It’s an all embracing word to mean some structure that’s made in the earth or a depression. However I’d like to put on record, for the first time I’d like to reveal that I was told by an old citizen of the Banks Road area that in 1941 the military commissioned a rifle range to be put in. The military came and did such in the interest of a training spot for servicemen. At this time as everyone will know the Japanese were halfway across the Owen Stanley Range. So we were training young men. That can’t be verified but that’s the story that I’d like to record.

Cumberland Plain vegetation

What was the original vegetation on the site and what were the natural features what were they?

Naturally growing on site were some of the best stands of hardwood timber that you could wish to see. They formed the basis of popular usage by the farmers generally. You couldn’t say that they were grazing paddocks, they weren’t grazing paddocks. If you couldn’t grow grain or you couldn’t grow crops then you wouldn’t have stock. There were too many dry periods, the terrain was quite different. There were things like blackberries how they ever got there one wonders. But blackberries flourished that’s why Bruce’s rabbits flourished because they gave protection to the small rabbits and they were always there.

Did they also establish a plum tree orchard?

Ah yes the plum tree orchard a sight to see. It was on the slopes of the upper reaches of the park. It stood on a plateau which levelled itself out in a slopey region. Fine quality fruit let me assure you. We always visited there when it was at his peak because as boys we found that the plums were good for you. It was a nice thing to witness we never saw anybody really working it. That’s probably because we went at the weekends and they were there through the week. But what we did notice was to assist them to get from this plateau to the top of the reach about 30 metres they put in a small rail line. I assume they used horsepower to take the fruit up from the level where it was growing to the top of the hill. So you can see the initiative of these farmers. That was a valuable crop, plums were a valuable crop.

Now in the 1960’s the Commonwealth government got involved in buying certain sections of land?

Yes the Commonwealth government took an interest in the section that you might see as that portion which does have the barracks on it or the foundations. The Commonwealth government saw that as a pretty good purchase. They’d got it very, very inexpensively and they saw it as not too difficult to build on. But I think they overlooked the two or three important elements which were revealed later on and had a part to play. But that was their plan.

Normal Kentwell above orange orchards near
Tuckwell Road Castle Hill c1920

So what did the Commonwealth government want to use the land for in the 1960’s?

They would have built soldier settlement houses on that.

As late as the 1960’s?

Yes there were commission homes being built all over the extremities of Parramatta and this was a similar…not for use just for residential purely residential.

Tell me about the Billyard Groups involvement in the land?

Yes Billyard was and is a respectable builder in the entire western network. He saw in a company name, he saw the opportunity to have possession of the real entrance to the park off Banks Road. He had the wisdom to know that it would be OK for him to hold it long enough for it to develop in value and he’d be able to…it was a family building organisation and he’d employ the family in that way. He did build one cottage on the corner and his son lived there for some time. Purely a residential opportunity he did nothing to develop it. He nevertheless was an interesting player in us being able to acquire the total piece of forty acres.

Now what can either of you tell me about Tom Uren’s contribution to the park?

We took an interest in Tom Uren to some extent. We realised that he had parliamentary habits he had some very successful years. Then of course with the Whitlam government he came into complete power for a period of three years. He was sensitive enough to the requests of numerous council officers and some of our own local politicians and I refer to Fred Caterson who was an excellent man in that area. They sought his assistance to convince the Commonwealth government to grant this land to the shire in order that it could be created as a heritage park. That’s the way Tom Uren saw the deal. He said “this is not for further development this is a creation of a heritage park”. He was the principal driver behind it. He wasn’t the only person that had a say. The Commonwealth are on side to some extent but the state were offside. State owned the other section of the land.


Entrance to Castle Hill Heritage Park

So there were all these different land holders. You had the Commonwealth owning some of it, the state (NSW) and the Billyards and other private people. How was it all consolidated into a heritage park?

We sought to achieve consolidation through getting the state and federal to gift the land. It wasn’t an entire gift it was a compromise. Money did change hands between the commonwealth and the state but we were not privy to that actual amount or how it was negotiated. Tom Uren was at the head of the drive and we saw some success in the future. We were absolutely despondent about ever achieving this thing. Then when we had achieved it we still had the Billyard block of five acres in the bottom corner. In the most principal place of the whole lot on which as it happens the barracks and some of the school yards have since been recognised archaeologically. So here we were in deep water we were fourteen years before we turned the sod in this fight to get hold of the land. The small parcel holders still existed on the upper reaches of the park. They still do to this day. Progressively Council acquired three of those small parcel holders but there’s one or two seven acre pieces that still exist. Now we’re going to see more domestic dwellings on those within the next foreseeable months.

As it happens we were visited by an Irish contingent. The Irish contingent came out and they were greeted by our Councillors and we walked them over the park and we explained our plans…By this time even the Council officers were sketching up the landscape work and making preparations. Not that they knew where we were going to finance it from. At a small almost informal dinner, lunchtime actually the officers and the mixed overseas Irish contingent were chatting away and the general manager stood and announced that he believes he had found a way of funding the 2.2 million that it was going to take. It was basically by sale of unwanted properties that the Shire had and funding it out of that sort of process.