The Beginnings of the Hills District
The History of the Hills District begins shortly after the foundation of the colony of New South Wales. An excursion left Rosehill in April 1791 under the leadership of Governor Arthur Phillip. They travelled first in a northerly direction for a couple of miles and then turned to north 34'W. This course would take them through a portion of the Hills District.
Governor Phillip communicated his intention of setting up a stock farm in this locality but he was unable to do so. It was another 10 years before necessity drove Governor King to set up a farm and stock station in the locality of Castle Hill.
In 1801, a site was chosen for a settlement at the head of the Castle Hill Creek.
Convicts and livestock were transferred from a similar public farm at Toongabbie which was eventually closed by King in 1804. The Castle Hill farm was actively involved in the growing of crops and in the breeding of stock.
The erection of a stone barrack for convicts at Castle Hill commenced in 1803. The structure was 100 feet long, 24 feet wide and two storeys high. At this period the greater number of convicts employed at public cultivation were engaged at Castle Hill. Their hours of labour were from sunrise til 8am and from 9am until 3pm, and on Saturday from sunrise until 8am.
Sketch by Beth Williams
Foundation of Stone Barracks
In 1810, the Government Farm at Castle Hill was closed on the grounds that it was totally inadequate By March 1804, considerable progress had been made at Castle Hill. Seven hundred acres were cleared and durable stone buildings had been erected to its object and expensive to run.
Clearing around citrus trees c.1880's
Settlement of the Hills District began on the Hawkesbury Rd (now Old Windsor Rd) with the first land grant being issued on 1st December 1794 to William Joyce, who was followed in 1795 by Matthew Pearce, a free settler. The most prominent pioneer was George Suttor, who received a land grant on 31st March 1802, which was soon known as 'Chelsea Farm'. One of his earliest acts was to plant three orange trees. These formed the beginnings of the orangery. Although the Rev. Richard Johnson planted the first orange trees grown in the colony, George Suttor was the first to produce fruit on a commercial scale.
In 1810, the staple industry of the District was wheat, when the Darling Mills were established in 1826, the wheat of the District was ground into flour. But the crops were frequently ruined by attacks of blight and rust.
George Suttor success as an orchardist compelled other settlers, the McDougalls, Messrs, Pyes and Bests to plant trees. The District became noted for it's orangeries and one of the most striking features of the landscape of Castle Hill was the tree-covered hills.