THE BARDENS OF COOKS RIVER TEMPE

A Family Business

The Levi Barden family was obviously a close one. The brothers worked together throughout their lives. Even when Mary sold her land and a house they were sold to members of the family.

The eldest son, Alfred, was a butcher by trade. In 1857 he purchased one hundred and twenty acres of land for two hundred and fifty pounds. It had once belonged to Simeon Lord in an area called Lord's Forest. This land was on the original one thousand nine hundred and fifty acre grant of John Townson. It was in the Parish of St George on the Illawarra Road at what is known today as Hurstville.

There must have been some desire to graze livestock as shown in his next purchase.

According to the elector's list of Canterbury in 1859 to 1860, Alfred Barden was shown as 'freehold', Georges River. This land was on the south side of Georges River and consisted of forty Acres on the Woronora River. The mortgagee was landowner, Thomas Hold. This area was located in the Parish of St George until 14th January 1921 when it was gazetted into the Sutherland Shire.

This Woronora River area was named Bottle Forest by surveyor Mitchell in 1843 when extensions were being made to the Illawarra Road on the south side of the Georges River. To traverse the Georges River a hand-pulled punt was installed to allow Mitchell's party with convict labourers to cross the river and survey and clear the line of road.

Major Mitchell's son Roderick Mitchell became assistant surveyor and was placed in charge of the survey of the Illawarra Road. However, he was replaced by the 'vigilant Superintendent Darke', who was to have more control over the convict labourers.

The story is told that a worker on the road, Gillie Sheldon, had placed a bottle in a tree and when Mitchell saw this sight he named the area Bottle Forest.

When Alfred Barden arrived in this area it was called Bottle Forest. In 1887 it was crown land known as Bangor. In 1896 it is noted that this land was called Menai and was opened for free selection. The only remnant of the name Bottle Forest today is a road in the Heathcote area.

Both Alfred and brothers Frederick and Albert squatted on an additional seven hundred and eleven acres of Crown land a few miles to the west of Bottle Forest at Holdsworthy on Duncombe's grant. This land was on the Georges River but in the Liverpool area. It enlarged their spread for grazing stock. In 1889 they purchased the land for four hundred pounds when the Crown Lands Act of 1889 was enforced.

'Alf' Barden as he was known was mentioned in reminiscences in a local newspaper in 1907. 'The Late Alfred Barden lived in Bottle Forest in the early sixties'. He employed the services of 'Farmer Jim' a well known 'bullocky'.

To use this land for grazing much of the timber had to be removed. No doubt it would have been 'Farmer Jim' and 'Charlie Smith' another 'bullocky' whose teams would have removed the timber. 'Dave Baker' and 'Ted Blake' were 'sleeper splitters' in this area. The sleepers were most probably for the new Illawarra rail line.

Other activities in this area of Woronora at the time of Alfred Barden was honey-getting, oyster gathering and fishing.

To this day this section of Menai has a Barden's Creek, Barden Lane and there is a Barden Trig Station. A Barden Road runs along the southern side of what was their property. 'Their' would refer to the brothers. This grazing land has almost disappeared today. The expansion of the population has descended on the area with the developing of many new suburbs as Illawong and Alford's Point. In 1995 the area of Lucas Heights was renamed Barden Ridge.

It was on these properties the brothers grazed their cattle. Use was made of the Woronora and Georges Rivers to ship the livestock to the Village of Tempe where there was a wharf situated on the southern side of the dam. Brother Joseph George Barden was a shipowner and it may have been his ship that was used to transport the livestock.

Brother, Edwin Barden had purchased five acres of land on Wolli Creek which was a branch of Cooks River. This land was on Reuben Hannam's land grant subdivision. Here was an abattoir and rendering works where the livestock were processed. Another wharf was situated on this land by the creek.

Brothers Frederick, Alfred, James, Sidney (our ancestor), and Edwin owned butchers shops in the Newtown, Cooks River and Enmore areas, where the meat was sold.

Frederick Barden's butcher shop was between Union and Unwin Streets, Tempe. One of Alfred and Frederick Barden's butcher shops was at the corner of Holt Street and Newtown Road, Newtown. Another was next to the Congregational Church on Newtown Road.

Edwin's shop was situated at the intersection on Enmore Road and Sidney Barden's shop was at St Peters, Cooks River Road.

It was the abattoir and rendering works on Wolli Creek that led to a residents' outcry in 1872. At this time the population of Arncliffe had increased and people were living closer together on smaller blocks of land. there were regular complaints of the 'boiling down works'. A doctor's certificate was produced at a Council meeting in November or December 1872 stating:

"...the effluvia arising from decaying animal matter on these premises is highly injurious to health."

This picture is far removed form the pleasant picnic spot of the past.

Alfred Barden ( see chapter ‘Men of Mark’) also became a squatter and landholder on the Castlereagh River. This land consisted of sixty four thousand acres. The properties were called 'Yalcogrin' and 'Tooloonogo'. This man was also a Justice of the Peace and an Alderman on the St Peters Municipal Council. His term was from 10th July 1876 to 20th March 1882 when he resigned. St Peters Municipality which included Tempe was formed in January 1871 and was absorbed into the Marrickville Municipality in 1948.

Frederick Barden, became a publican possibly when the abattoir and rendering works ceased. He bought thirteen acres of land on Forest Road Arncliffe circa 1889. It was here he had his public house 'The Highbury Barn'. He also built his home 'Highbury Heights' on Arncliffe Hill on this land. It had an uninterrupted view of Botany Bay. Unfortunately it was to succumb to the modern trend of demolition when flat development became popular in the mid 1900's. It was situated in today's Queen Street, Arncliffe.

The site was described in 1894 as:

"There is considerable elevation above the station, on the highest point of which is the handsome residence of Mr Barden, surrounded with some enchanting views including Botany Bay and Cooks River."

Brother Charles Barden was a produce merchant and was listed as a gardener, Tempe in 1868. Albert was a blacksmith as well as running cattle on the Holdsworthy property. Henry had sought the country life. The latter went north to live on Wild Horse Plain in Hughenden, Queensland.

Spencer and Sophia Barden may not have been as ambitious as other members of the family in their quest for land holdings. It appears that they were content to serve the requirements of the public in their public houses, inns and hotel. Sophia was known to pull a draft of ale for a thirsty traveller.

As well as the memorials to the pioneer Barden family in the Menai area, there is also a Barden Street, Tempe in which Mary Barden had lived. This street was originally called Campbell Street. The name was changed to Barden Street in 1905. It is situated almost opposite to where Frederick Barden's butcher shop had been.

A Barden Street also exists in Arncliffe, off Forest Road. It was on the corner of these two streets that Frederick Barden had his public house 'The Highbury Barn' on his thirteen acres of land.

A School of Arts was built in Barden Street Arncliffe on Frederick Barden's land. He was one of the original trustees. The hall was rebuilt in 1926 and is called the Coronation Hall.


Acknowledgements | Origins of the Barden Surname | The Earliest Bardens | The Reasons for Migration
The First (Barden) Arrivals | The Bounty Migrants | Down to the Beautiful Valley
Publicans, Butchers, Produce Merchants and Landholders | A Family Business | The Barden Hotels
Items from Newspapers | Australian Men of Mark | Sidney Barden | Joseph Thomas Barden
Cooks River - A History


©2007 Peter Noone