Australia in the 1810s

Crossing the Blue Mountains

An increase in the numbers of convicts and free settlers arriving in Sydney put pressure on the government stores and small-lot agriculturalists who had to provide enough food for all. Grazing land for sheep and cattle was limited to the coastal strip around Sydney, which was bordered by the immense Blue Mountains to the west, so called because of their colour.

A number of expeditions between 1790 and the early 1800s had tried to find a way across the Blue Mountains but failed. Three wealthy landowners, Gregory Blaxland (1778–1853), William Wentworth (1790–1872) and William Lawson (1774–1850), set off in May 1813. They took a local Indigenous guide, four convict servants, four packhorses laden with supplies and equipment, and a few dogs to find a way by following the high ridges. This was in contrast to the previous expeditions, which had travelled along the valleys. They marked their way by cutting the bark of trees on both sides of their track. By June they saw a high hill shaped like a sugar loaf. From the top of the hill they saw stretching out below a forest or grassland large enough to support the stock of the colony for a long time. Indigenous groups have lived in the area for more than 40,000 years and there is evidence in this area today of camp sites, axe-grinding grooves, rock engravings and other art sites, and stone tools. The Three Sisters rock formation is a significant site to the Gundungurra people.

As a reward for the success of their journey, Governor Macquarie granted the three men 445 hectares each of this newly surveyed country. Macquarie sent surveyors to mark out a road from Parramatta to the other side of the mountains. Under the direction of William Cox (1764–1837), a road engineer, the road from Sydney to the west was built in six months. A new town called Bathurst was established in 1815 and was the first colony west of the Blue Mountains. This settlement assisted inland settlement and is close to where Lawson took his land grant. Blaxland moved to Brush Farm, establishing himself as the first viticulturalist having planted grape vines. Blaxland documented the expedition and a report was published in 1823.

Other explorations of this decade include the Phillip Parker King (1791–1856) expedition of 1817 to explore and make a rough survey of the northern and north-west coasts of Australia. In 1818, Throsby, Hume and Meehan surveyed an overland route to Jervis Bay and John Oxley left Bathurst to trek along the Macquarie River.

Bundle was an Eora man who was well known for his tracking skills. In 1812, he accompanied George William Evans on an exploration to Jervis Bay on the Lady Nelson. In 1818, he accompanied Charles Throsby on an exploration south, interpreting for Throsby in his dealings with the Gundungurra people.

Crossing the Blue Mountains_1810

A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.


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