Heritage values of the Ginninderra Falls and region

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Presentation Spring Meeting 25 September 2012.For photos see image gallery.

Historical information came from a project to write a history of suburban Belconnen 1966 to 2016. Proved necessary to research early colonial history to allow me to say: - “Belconnen Library has in its forecourt an English Elm that was a remnant from the former Emu Bank Homestead.” “In 1975-75 the then City Manager, Lyall Gillespie was horrified to find that during his holidays scrappers had levelled the site of the St Paul’s cemetery.”  And, “how the influences of the Federal Capital Commission and later the NCDC shaped the built form of the district of Belconnen.” “Where the early residents shopped, went to school or played sport.”

Aboriginal history....(work in progress)

I do not yet know when the creek or falls were named; sufficient to say the falls were recorded, and described as ‘spectacular’ by the early surveyors.

Parkwoodphoto gallery

In 1829 Alick Osborne applied for land in the Ginninderra area; eventually he obtained 987 acres on Ginninderra Creek near the confluence with the Murrumbidgee River.

In 1843 Thomas & Eliza Southwell with 3 children were recorded in a temp residence north of Ginninderra Falls.

Aug. 1854 Thomas purchased 987 acres from Alrick Osborne, naming it Parkwood. He built a new larger slab house.

In 1863 construction of a brick residence commenced.

In 1880 construction commenced on a stone church to replace the slab structure.

In 1881 Edwin Davis purchased Parkwood from Thomas’s estate.

In 1906 the Wesleyan church was closed to the general public. It remains available to the Southwell family for special events.

The Fallsphoto gallery & Lower Falls

In March 1897 Beatrice Southwell married James Kinlock Kilby and they built a property called “The Falls” so named because of its close proximity to the falls. The exact location remains unknown.

Belconnen Farmphoto gallery

In 1835 Charles Sturt was granted land in the County of Murray. He did not take up residence and called the property the Grange, locals referred to it as the Grant.

In 1838 Sturt sold the property to Charles Campbell of Duntroon for 1000 pounds. Local wags claimed it was in consideration of Sturt’s gambling debts to CampbellCampbell named the property Belconnen.

In 1850 Campbell had a stone residence erected. The property was then being run by overseers.

By 1885 improvements such as fences, stables and yards were being erected.

By 1911 a kitchen, stockyards and a pig sty staff housing and a poultry run had been added. A woolshed had also been built but it remained over the border in NSW.

In 1913 a lease was issued for the property Belconnen to Colonel David Miller, Administrator for the Federal Capital Territory. In mid 1913 5,000 acres of the Belconnen property was leased to Selwyn Miller under circumstances that caused serious questions to be asked in Parliament. Hansard indicates King O’Malley approved the lease for up to 10 years; just days after Selwyn’s application was lodged.1

In 1918 Selwyn Miller took over that part of the property that had been leased to his father.

1922 saw the departure of the Millers.

In 1926, under a “Soldier Settler Lease”, Austin Shepherd and his family moved in to the Belconnen portion of the grant (block 16 of 1161 acres) it was occupied by Austin from 1926 to 1962.

In1950 the stone cottage was supplemented by the construction of a concrete brick residence designed by K.H. Oliphant. The Shepherds’ also added a woolshed, machinery shed and shearers’ accommodation.

In 1962 Robert took over his father’s lease which he held till 1976.

Other interesting facts

In 1854 Julia Webb, between acting as a midwife, stitching up some of the injured local farm workers and laying out the deceased, was still running her sly grog shop (The Grant Inn) which she advertised in the Goulburn Herald in September.

The location is accepted as in the area of the confluence of Gooromon Ponds creek and Ginninderra creek.

About 1858 Julia Webb, following a complaint from a Thomas Sayersbury, was raided by police from Queanbeyan and hauled off to court to be fined £30. She seems to have remained in the area for at least eight more years.

On Christmas Eve 1859 Joseph (John) Fletcher drowned attempting to swim the flooded Ginninderra Creek. John had been an assigned labourer for Henry Hall till his term finished in 1858 when he leased a small plot on the edge of the ‘Grant’. John was known to frequent the sly grog shop of Judy the Great.

Around the turn of the century the area seems to have become popular as a picnic area with several trips by the De Salis family (see photos).

In 1931 an attempt was made to have the road to the falls improved but the attempt was squashed by the Advisory Council. [see article]


1 Selwyn Miller was the son of Colonel David Miller, Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, and Administrator of the Federal Capital Territory. (He who was responsible for the issue of leases.)

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