On a site once occupied by a blacks’ camp

stmatthew2

The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 December 1935.

S. MATTHEWS, GUNDY.

A Lovely Little Bush Church.

(BY REV. C. L. OLIVER.)

Twelve miles from Scone, on the main northern railway line, Is the bush village of Gundy. In the centre of the village, on a site once occupied by a blacks’ camp, is the Church of S. Matthew, the mother Church of a parish which extends for 70 miles along the back road from Scone to Tamworth, and ministers to the spiritual needs of 12 centres.

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There was a pub at Gundy from the early 1850s, but the design of the village itself was only approved by the Minister for Lands on 11 November 1871. The plan for the subdivision of the land was published in 1872. (I have written about this ambitious plan in an earlier post on Gundy cemetery.) The primary school was opened in that year but Gundy was not proclaimed a village until 20 March 1885. I don’t know why it took so long.

Back in 1867, however, the Church of England decided it wanted to build a church at Gundy. The land selected for the new church was the place where the remaining Aboriginal people still lived. Throughout the Hunter Valley, the places where the white people ‘settled’ were the very places where Aboriginal people lived and had always lived. It is not known how many there were but it would most likely have been an extended family group.

The Aboriginal people refused to move when they were told to clear out.  So some of the white residents implemented an ingenious plan that was guaranteed to force them from the land. The whitefellas went and brought back to the blackfellas’s camp the body of a recently deceased Aboriginal person from where it had been buried further up the valley.

And so the Aboriginal people were driven out of their camp, their own customs and beliefs having been used against them.  The church took the land and on it built St Matthew’s in 1868.

The church that stands on the site today is not the original church. It dates from 1902. The stone foundations of the original brick church are clearly visible in the ground beside the larger timber church. For a time the old church was used as the parish hall, as the photograph below, from 1920, shows. I don’t know when it was demolished.

I’ve only ever been to one service at St Matthew’s, my father’s funeral in 2008. The interior is unpainted, raw timber. It is quite plain and beautiful.

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foundationsWhat happened to the Aboriginal people of Gundy?

Having left immediately, they set up a new camp 2 km north, further up the Page River, near the foot of Willis’s Hill, on crown land which today remains a Travelling Stock Reserve, part of the network of stock routes and reserves that still survives throughout the bush.

willishill

This is Willis’s Hill.

It is exactly opposite my mail box and the road leading to my property.
I pass it every time I come or go from my home.

The more I know of the history of these places, the more I am disturbed by them.

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7 Responses to On a site once occupied by a blacks’ camp

  1. What a beautiful church. Sad that it has quite a horrible history! It is interesting learning these things though.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jess! Yes, it is interesting to learn of these things in the hidden history in our landscape. These painful but important things. Deb

  3. Clifton (George) Rossington says:

    Just found your article and I love these stories. My Mum and Dad were both born and raised at Gundy so I am familiar with the place and still go back there when I can. Mostly on Anzac day. My ancesters on Dad’s side were also the Willis family and I was wondering if you knew were the name of Willis’s Hill originated. Thanks for publishing the stories.

    • Thank you George, it’s great to hear from you, as someone who knows Gundy! Yes, ANZAC Day is the biggest day of the year here. I’m sorry I don’t know the history of the name Willis’s Hill but I’ll let you know if I find out in future.

  4. Pingback: Baiame – The Maker of All Things | Country Life and Death

  5. Greg Jacobs says:

    Gundy, Roswell, Camden were used in 1960s films Smiley and Smiley Gets A Gun

    • Thanks Greg, yes you’re right! I loved those movies when I was a kid! I always meant to do a post on the films that have been shot around Gundy and the surrounding district. But, as you can see, I stopped writing my blog…my internet connection was so poor it became almost impossible to upload photos.

      It was lovely to get your comment. It inspires me to think about taking it up again now that satellite NBN was installed last week!

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