| Although the location of the
vineyard had always been known to scholars and historians, thick
scrub, lantana and wild olives had effectively hidden it from
view. Dr Broadbent, a curator with the NSW Historic Houses Trust
said the the fires had revealed a whole gully, carefully terraced
with river boulders up both sides and an early dam at its foot.
"The terraces are about a metre wide by half a metre high.
For years, they have been so heavily overgrown, you couldn't see
anything. Now they have been revealed."
The land had been owned by Sir John Jamison, who, at one
point, "owned half of Sydney", was one of the founders
of the Bank of NSW and of the Sydney Turf Club, first president of
the Australian Patriotic Association, and master of extensive
agricultural holdings. These included lands on the Namoi and
Richmond Rivers, at Bathurst and at Capertee.
According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, his mid
1820s Regentville Estate became a famous country house and model
property, "with vineyards, an irrigation scheme and a woollen
mill built about 1842". He even had his own racecourse at
| Colleen Morris, a heritage
landscape consultant, had previously studied the site for the
National Trust with colleague Geoffrey Britton, and for their
draft study, Colonial Cultural Landscapes of the Cumberland
Plain and Camden. She says that in 1829, Jamison claimed to
have been cultivating grapes in the colony for the past 12 years.
In 1830, he reported that he had employed a German, Frederick
Meyer, to lay out a vineyard along the latest German and French
lines - the first terraced vineyard in the colony. "The
terraces ought to be carried from the bottom, horizontally along
the hill," he wrote, "...and fronted with a dry stone
wall if possible." The "most appropriate part of the
natural soil" should be applied, "carefully avoiding
manure...where the vines are to be planted. Afterwards, attention
must be paid to keep the vine-yard clean of herbage and grass, by
light hoeing of the surface, as frequently as may be
She quotes an early description of the vineyards as
"enclosed by hedges of the chine rose and lemon" (roses
are still used in vineyards as an 'early warning system' for
|diseases) and containing
30,000 to 40,000 vines representing over 200 varieties.
Among those who laboured in Jamison's vineyard, Ms Morris
reports, was Sir Henry Parkes, who worked there for a year from
1839. "It was his first employment in Australia, and he
didn't think much of Sir John Jamison's treatment of his
workers". The vineyard appears in a pencil sketch and an
early 1835 painting by Conrad Martens, with the latter clearly
showing the terraces, a small house (or winery), a dam, and a road
skirting the crest of the hill to the north of the vineyard.
Meyer also laid out several other vineyards in the colony,
including one Ms Morris believes was near Paddington's Scottish
Hospital site. But Baron von Hugel was less than impressed with
Meyer's work. He wrote that the Jamison vineyard "has been
laid out according to mistaken notions current in the colony:
wherever there is very arid, cold, sandy soil, the settlers think
this is the best place for grape vines." The terraces, he
said, were "none of them wide enough for the (vine) roots,
with retaining walls of stones. The grape vine cuttings were then
stuck into the sand here, without any soil or manure. The whole
thing certainly looks like a vineyard, as these are painted in
pictures - any child can recognise it instantly as such - but the
results will not be satisfactory."
Ms Morris said the discovery at Regentville posed an
interesting management dilemma for the future. "Previously, I
would have thought getting rid of the weeds was quite important
but they seem to have protected the fabric." If the National
Parks Service were to promote native vegetation on the site it
would have to be carefully managed to preserve the terraces.
Geraldine O'Brien is the Heritage Writer for the Sydney
Morning Herald. Story reproduced with the permission of Geraldine
O'Brien and courtesy of the Hearld.