Warren and Bruce Bowden - Heritage Park


Castle Hill Heritage Park

Interview 2a

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) 

What was the reason for the move from Kempsey to Castle Hill (in 1939)?

That we’re not really sure of because nobody asked any questions I don’t think. My mother’s people (the Smiths) has moved to Castle Hill (in the 1920's) and I think that was one of the reasons that Dad packed up in Kempsey and came to Castle Hill. He bought 11 acres on the end of Church Street. He did subdivide it and some blocks were 65 by 200 and others were 65 by 300 and they were sold off at £ 50 per block so as to help him pay the rates as it was all road frontage.

Tell me what do you remember about growing up in Castle Hill? What sort of place was it then?

It was a very nice place to live because everybody seemed to be friendly with everybody else. There was the occasional fight here and there which boys will get into. But at school we had a wonderful time at Castle Hill Public School which still stands here today.

On an afternoon if it were a rainy afternoon like it is today well it would be a game of put your match in the gutter and see who could win the race down the Old Northern Road. We had no curb and gutter but the gutter would run a match along with a bit of rain water in it. There are still some of the trees in the main street, the flame trees they were planted just about that time. When we came to Castle Hill they still had their framework round them to protect them. Tree guards as they were called in those days.

Allan Smith and family eastern corner of Old Northern &
Kerrs Roads Castle Hill c1940

Warren can I ask you about what sort of people were living in Castle Hill? Who were your neighbours for instance and where did you get all your supplies from?

Oh they were magic people. We had a solicitor two doors up who had the only car that I’ve ever known that had two wheel brakes and no metal top on the top just fabric. Those people were and still are lifelong friends. Most of the folk had a background of farming of one description or another indeed a lot of them came off the Hawkesbury River.

Mary Ellen 'Susie' Smith on washing day

They regarded Castle Hill as an ideal place because there was a bit of a bus service and they were content with living on a new subdivision or an old farm. They were peasant people but they were pleasant people. They were a people accustomed to poverty and hardship and I say that sincerely and I don’t defame anybody. It just was the nature of the street and the surroundings. We never knew an aristocrat to speak of maybe the mayor was the strongest sort of connection to that.

Can you tell me the names of some of your neighbours in the street and what sort of occupations they might have had?

Across the road was a citrus farmer (Currell, related to the Booth family of New Line Road). Down from him was a lady that ran a pie shop (Miss Kate Blake) in the main street to provide for the school. Across from there was the famous Adey family with which we had a lot of connections. They were pioneer people they came there early before the subdivision and their livelihood was from a parent who was a road worker on the Baulkham Hills Shire Council as it was then known. The family grew up to be dentists, school teachers out of a hardship situation of trying to grow vegetables on the flats on the upper reaches of the Darling Mills creek system. If you move on from that there was a little lady who was related and she lived there in strange circumstances. We enjoyed her company never understood why there wasn’t a husband about but we accepted that and in time we came to learn what the real story was. Then you had people who worked on the newspaper in Parramatta The Cumberland Argus and then it was essential for them to travel by bus and that’s another story in itself. The people had no means of transport. It wasn’t until after the Second World War finished that small old cars that had been put up on blocks to save them over the five year period of the war. It became available for sale because the husband didn’t come back or one reason or another. Those little cars started the first surge of motor cars on the roads in Castle Hill.

Right Bruce I’ve got some questions for you. Bruce tell me what sort of pursuits were there for a child to do? Where did you play and swim that sort of thing?

Well I’ve only learned recently that the Adey boys were the boys that built the wall across the Darling Mills Creek which was called Cockle Bay.

Driver George Adey on Baulkham Hills Shire Council's
first steam roller 1930

It was a wall about fifteen feet long and about six foot high and it captured the water from the creek and that was what we swam in every year in the summer time. During the winter time we had an access hole at the bottom which was knocked out and we cleaned all the mud out of the base of the pool and then we sealed it up again. Then the next rains filled it up for us for the following summer. That was one of the main activities in there. The other activity was that we did a fair bit of ferreting and catching the rabbits and that type of thing in Castle Hill at the time. We had quite a few meals of rabbit and most people did. There was plenty of them and they were very, very nice to eat if you cooked them up the right way. Mothers seemed to have the ability to do those sorts of things. We played games in the bush most of the time. Occasionally we would play golf up the street with sticks made from the bush. They were hand made there was no such thing as having the luxury of a golf stick. But they were made from what we called suckers off the side of stumps that had fallen in earlier years. We were able to use those as golf sticks. Unfortunately they’re like all sticks that you use even if you use a golf stick you may hit a ball that has a bit of a swing on it. It goes through someone’s window so you were then in a little bit of trouble.

Guides at Darling Mills Creek near
Excelsior Avenue Castle Hill c1947

What was your Dad’s occupation while you were at Castle Hill what did he do?

Well the war years again were an instrument in that. Went there in 1939 and by 1945 he was discharged from the military. As he was of an age where he wouldn’t have been an overseas member of the AIF his latter years of the war were spent guarding the Japanese, Italian and German prisoners (at Hay in the Riverina) and whether that term means soldier prisoners or not. I’m not able to say.

Bruce: They were all the interns from the war. The people that lived here they weren’t allowed to do anything. They were put into what they called interns and put them there. As our Dad said when he came back he said “those people would have fought for us if we wanted them to” they were here to make their own life and they weren’t concerned what Germany was doing. They would have fought for our country if we’d have needed them. Not the Japanese ones that were prisoners of war of course. That was what he did.


Leslie Bowden at his Church Street
Castle Hill property

Were they mostly Italian farmers?

They were in the Riverina, they’re still there their descendants are still down in the Riverina.

But also in Castle Hill at that same time when we first came here. There was three sawmills there was one that was in Church Street but it had finished when we came. There was Russell Brothers sawmill at Baulkham Hills which cut the first house that we lived in. They cut the timber Dad felled it off the block of land and then there was one at Rogan’s Hill which the Robinson boys owned later in their time.

Archie was a very good policeman some people mightn’t have thought so but as young people we found him very tolerant with young people. He was able to speak to you and put you in your place where necessary but if you needed him he would help you if you needed help. On one occasion I can recall riding my pushbike at night without a light. I happened to run into Arch walking in the same street he enquired of me personally calling me by name “what are you doing here Bruce and where’s your light”? So I promptly told him that I didn’t think I needed it to ride just up the street and all he had to say was “well see that you walk home”. Strangely enough I did. He was also a man he did stick by the law but he also was tolerant in the presenting of the law. I can remember four boys getting into trouble one time for ferreting rabbits up in the Heritage Farm area where they were ferreting. They also had some guns with them and it was a Sunday. In those days you weren’t allowed to shoot of a Sunday. They rode their bikes up to the heritage place in Banks Road and hid their bikes under the bridge. When they came back they found the seats of their bikes were all missing. So they thought “well what do we do now, has someone pinched these or what”? “Is there somebody in the bush around or what’s going on? So we thought, they thought to themselves the best idea “we’ll go to the police and report it”. So they got rid of their guns on the way back to the police station which was on the corner of Showground Road at that time. When they got there they went in and they reported the incident. Anyway Arch sat them down and talked to them and give them a little bit of a discussion on what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing on a Sunday. He said “are you sure you weren’t shooting”? “Oh no, no we weren’t shooting”. “Oh well” he said “see that you don’t shoot but make sure if you go ferreting again you don’t take any guns with you on a Sunday”. “Wait a minute he said. He went back inside the station and he threw the seats out on the lawn. “There you are” he said “I don’t know who belongs to who” he said “but you can sort it out”.


Keith Stephens & Doreen Bowden at Scout & Guide
picnic at Castle Hill Showground c1942 with Army tents behind

Warren what do you remember about the war years in Castle Hill?

They weren’t very pleasant we were constantly reminded that there was a war on. We lost our postman who was called up. We lost other individuals, young men that we knew by name and enjoyed their company and meeting them socially. It had an affect upon the families. The news on the radio, such as the radios were, was never very pleasant. They gave reports which we associated with some of our members in that division and that battalion. So everyone was thinking about “I wonder how my boys are over there” and the girls because they were involved in the nursing ships that were torpedoed.

We were constantly reminded of air raids which I know didn’t take place over Castle Hill. But never the less we were provided with all the essential things that air raids would require. We put brown paper over our windows to stop our light from falling to the outside and collectively having the village bombed for some reason or another. We also responded to the siren, of all things, which was on a huge pole at the top of the Rogan’s Hill area. That was never pleasant when it went off we all went white and wondered what was going to happen. So to assist us in our build of confidence the school authorities required open trenches to be dug at the bottom end of the school paddock. That was quite an undertaking. There was no such thing as backhoes it was all shovel and pick. So the parents were invited into this clay fest of digging which filled with water rapidly and really was just another reminder of the unpleasantness of the war years. We didn’t like what was happening, we didn’t like the sense that it was getting closer and closer. We could hear the explosions when the Japanese came inside The Heads and took out several of our ships and a number of our personnel. So we also knew that they were standing off the coast. Not a very pleasant thought. I mean it took your mind off all the extraneous things of life. You just settled down to the war years.

Of course your own parent was away doing the same thing. We were being conditioned as young men to form up another battalion or something or other. My brother was away with the Air Force and he was really only a kid. So the war years are indelible and they don’t go away and the worst memory of all, the worst memory of all without any doubt was when the Japanese capitulated. They released the prisoners and they came home to Castle Hill. You were looking at walking skeletons of men. It was shocking beyond belief. What it did to you as a person and to a parent was unbelievable. But the powers that be as my Dad would say made sure that they went into employment and were cared for as best we could. There was hardly a household that wasn’t affected by loss of soldiers particularly in the Pacific theatre.

Early fence remains on Castle Hill Heritage Park 2007

Bruce what was your first contact with Castle Hill Heritage Park?

Castle Hill Heritage Park was a place for people to catch rabbits. Here again we were very good at the rabbit business. Also after the rabbit farm that was on the top of Rogan’s Hill near Hastings Road, when it closed. We had an influx of different coloured rabbits. I myself would have been about fourteen at the time this was quite a challenge to be able to catch a few rabbits of different colours. There was yellow ones and black ones and piebalds and all the things you could think of. If you could catch them with a ferret, getting them coming out of their burrows and the nets you were able to keep the rabbit quite safely because he had no injury. The thing I noticed when I was up there some of the remains of the heritage, the original farm that they made back in the 1800’s. There was a couple of building there that had just the ends of the buildings still left. But no roof or anything in the walls you could see sections where they had rings left in the walls for chains to be fastened to. There was quite a few little spots around the farm where you would find a couple of spots of these nature where little huts had been. But I never ever saw any thing of big buildings while I was there. I covered a fair bit of the area around Banks Avenue (Road) and up to the Old Northern Road from that area. Towards what is known as Devil’s Gully. A lot of people don’t know the section of that, Devil’s Gulley come up right where Hastings Road joins the Old Northern Road. In 1939 when “Black Saturday” went through there that’s where the fire crossed the Old Northern Road and headed towards Pennant Hills. It funnelled the fire up through what they called this Devil’s Gulley.

Convict picked stone at Castle Hill Heritage Park 2007

Warren, could you tell me what was there on the site when you were young, what building remained?

The buildings on the site, firstly the evidence of what was available to judge whether it was from a convict period or from a farming period or part of a church, were all suffering they’d had the stone work robbed and used for other things, even on the park.

Used by the farmers on other allotments taken away. So the buildings which remain that were important was the one that we could not discover firstly and that was the convict barracks. We could not discover where it was. Views were held and as kids we weren’t tutored to the extent that we are now. You’d have to say that we were just looking at what we thought were farm sheds. But on reflection I now know from the aerial photographs and from other drawings of importance that those little old remains were in fact the remnants of the convict period. They’d been put to good use by the farmers. A farmer has to shelter his stock and so we found that the base of those were in fact still intact. The archaeologists have assured us that these are the remnants and they’ve marked them down and they're formally recognised. There was houses where people lived on the allotment. It was approximately 200 odd acres went out into the bush parts on the fringes. But right on the cleared zone that we call the convict area there were houses of the Stiff family. There was a family that we knew as the Pursers and he was a councillor indeed he was a mayor during the early part of Castle Hill’s life (Bruce Purser was actually the first Shire President, 1906-08). There was a family on the corner which we knew nothing about.

The other exciting house that we were very interested in as kids and we gave it a wide berth. We knew that they weren’t fazed about us being there chasing rabbits and enjoying the park and being kids and there were no girls involved. So that made it very pleasant. What happened to this house is an interesting record. You’ve got to depend on several memories to get this right and I’m a contributor. The house was of Georgian style, the house was in stone and it had that symmetry of design that belongs to the Georgian style. It was roofed in iron and verandahed to the front and there were columns. That’s been agreed to by a number of people now who sited it as youngsters. However I’m told immediately after its sale to the Landcom people in much later days. We don’t know the birth date of that house, we just don’t know it, nor do we know at this stage the original occupant. The house did belong to a family group called the Moore family. Now we have no records in photograph other than aerial but they sought permission from Landcom who indicated that they didn’t really want the house. They sought permission to move the house and it was loaded onto a truck or trucks and transported to place called Maroota and I understand that that house is standing in Maroota today. Of course we would love to have it back on the park. But the authenticity of it all is not yet researched and not yet established. The houses were important because they were only transitory to the whole thing. A farmer comes onto the property puts up a house. He might rent it later on and so on it was over a long period of time.

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