Holsworthy was gazetted as a suburb on the 7 April 1972. It is partly in the Liverpool LGA.
Holsworthy falls within the Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council Area. More than 500 significant Aboriginal sites have been identified within the restricted access areas of the Australian Army firing range at Holsworthy, with little or no damage from visitors, as the area has been closed for public access since the early 1900s. Axe grinding grooves and rock platform engravings with motifs, animals, figurines and tracks have been found throughout the Holsworthy area. There are known to be charcoal and red and white pigment drawings of wombats, macropods, fish, eels, turtles, bats, emus, birds, lizards and other animals.
What’s in a Name?
Holsworthy is named for a village in Devon, England, where Governor Lachlan Macquarie married his second wife Elizabeth in 1807. It was spelt as Holdsworthy until after World War II.
Previous Names for Holsworthy
A village named Eckersley was situated in the area that later became the Holsworthy military range in 1913. Today, the remains of Eckersley’s buildings, stills and wells can still be found on the site.
The northern section of the Holsworthy Military Area was portioned off as land grants by Lieutenant Governor Paterson in 1809 for grazing. Small vegetable farms, as well as cattle and sheep grazing, were subsequently established. The southern section of Holsworthy was opened for settlement in 1884 under the Crown Lands Act. By 1891 more than thirty small farms existed in the area. This area became a unique settlement of European vignerons who primarily grew grape vines, almonds, figs and olives.
From the 1830s, some of the earliest industrial enterprises of the colony were established along the Tucoreah-Georges River at Holsworthy. In 1832 the Brisbane watermill was built by John Lucas and a shipbuilding yard was established on Williams Creek. During the 1860s Joseph Pemmell set up a paper and cardboard mill at Holsworthy near the junction of William’s creek and Harris creek. This mill was converted to a flour mill and later a woolwash run by Thomas Woodward until it was destroyed by a fire in the 1880s.
A large army base was established in Holsworthy during World War I after Lord Kitchener visited Liverpool in 1910. In 1912, 883 acres were acquired by the Commonwealth government at Holsworthy for a remount depot and veterinary hospital. In 1913, the army took possession of a further 16,868 acres of land in the area. The small farms were lost as the army built permanent barracks, an artillery range and a training camp.
Kitchener House is a private residence associated with Holsworthy military camp, located on 208 Moorebank Avenue, Moorebank. Kitchener House is a Federation bungalow constructed between 1895-1905. The property is named after Lord Kitchener, who stayed at the residence in 1910 during his visit to review the Australian Army.
In 1973 the Federal Government announced that 7000 acres of army land would be transferred into residential housing.
Holsworthy Barracks and Holsworthy Military Airport now cover an area of 49,000 acres.
Holsworthy Internment Camp
Fritz Going Home', newspaper clipping, circa 1919. Source unknown.
The largest internment camp in Australia during World War One was at Holsworthy. The camp held between 4,000 and 5,000 internees and was managed by the Australian Army. Most internees were either from the Austro-Hungarian empire, staff of German companies temporarily living in Australia, crews of vessels caught in Australian ports or naturalised and native-born Australians of German descent. The internment of migrants in Australia followed Britain’s foreign nationals policy during World War I.
Prisoners were interned without trial, often without knowing their ‘crime’, and without the knowledge of their families. The internment camp grew from a collection of tents to a small town of huts complete with theatres, restaurants and cafes, other small businesses, an orchestra and sporting and educational activities. The internees built their own barracks and furniture, the administrative buildings and watch towers, and all but the first 2.2km of the railway line from Liverpool. The camp remained open until the last internees were deported to Germany in 1920. Ninety-four men had died in the camps, many from contracting influenza during the influenza epidemic of 1919.
The surviving guard buildings and structures are rare in demonstrating the guard’s section of a World War I internment camp in Australia.
Sydney’s Second Airport
Holsworthy was first evaluated as a possible site for Sydney’s second airport in 1985. In May 1996, the Commonwealth Government put forward a proposal for “the construction and operation of a second major international/domestic airport for Sydney at either Badgerys Creek or Holsworthy on a site large enough for future expansion of the airport if required”. A ‘major airport’ was defined as one “capable of handling up to about 360,000 aircraft movements and 30 million passengers per year”.
At a meeting of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council on the 16th of July 1997, they resolved that they were strongly opposed the development of a second Sydney Airport in Badgerys Creek and Holsworthy. This was “due to the size and complexity of the development and the devastating impact [of the airport] on the cultural and natural environs of the Badgerys Creek and Holsworthy areas.”
The site was not selected after successful community mobilisation to protect the site. Badgerys Creek is set to become the site of the Western Sydney International Airport, or Nancy-Bird Walton Airport, and Aerotropolis in 2022.
Georges Pierre Frere, a French immigrant in the late eighteenth century, became mayor of Albury in 1913. George tried without success for many years to grow grapes at Eckersley, thinking that the sandy soil would grow vines resistant to Phylloxera.
AXIS Environmental/Australian Museum Business Services Consulting (1995), Holsworthy Training Area Environmental Audit, Main Report and Appendix 1. Report for the Department of Defence;
Burke, Colleen et. al.. The heart of a place : stories from the Moorebank Women's Oral History Project : covering the suburbs of Moorebank, Chipping Norton, Hammondville and Holsworthy in the Liverpool City Council area (Liverpool: Liverpool City Council), 1992. Catalogue Access: https://liverpool.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/ENQ/WPAC/BIBENQ?SETLVL=&BRN=139704
Gunther, Barry and Thomas, Jamie. “Appendix I: Aboriginal Site Survey for the proposed Second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek NSW”, in, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage: Proposal for a Second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek or Holsworthy Military Area, (Sydney: PPK Environment and Infrastructure, 1997), p.8. Access: https://www.westernsydneyairport.gov.au/sites/default/files/Draft_Environmental_Impact_Statement_1997_Second_Sydney_Airport_Proposal_Technical_Paper_11_Aboriginal_Cultural.pdf
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Liston, Carol, Campbelltown, the Bicentennial history, Sydney : Allen & Unwin, 1988.
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McDonald, J, (1994), Dreamtime Superhighway: An Analysis of Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric Information Exchange. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra.
McLoughlin, L. (1988). 'Landed Peasantry or Landed Gentry: A Geography of Land Grants' in Aplin G (ed) 1988 A Difficult Infant: Sydney before Macquarie.
Navin Officer Heritage Consultants and PPK Environment and Infrastructure Pty Ltd, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage: Proposal for the Second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek or Holsworthy Military Area. Prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Development (Sydney: PPK Environment and Infrastructure, December 1997), p.2. Access: https://www.westernsydneyairport.gov.au/sites/default/files/Draft_Environmental_Impact_Statement_1997_Second_Sydney_Airport_Proposal_Technical_Paper_11_Aboriginal_Cultural.pdf
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Aboriginal Sites Register
Officer KLC (1984), From Tuggerah to Dharawal: Variation and Function Within a Regional Art Style. Unpublished BA Hons thesis, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra.
Sydney Prehistory Group (1983), In Search of Cobrakall: A Survey of Aboriginal Sites in the Campbelltown Area South of Sydney, Parts 1 and 2, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Graham, Deirdre and Raszewski, Christine. History of our suburbs: Holsworthy’s European Heritage [Fact Sheet] Liverpool City Council.
Gerhard Fischer, 'Botany Bay Revisited: The Transportation of Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees to Australia During the First World War, Journal of the Australian War Memorial, no 5, October 1984
Don Godden, Beverley Johnson, Matthew Kelly and Dominic Steele, 'Archival Recordings', First Field Hospital Site, Holsworthy, vol II, Godden Mackay, Sydney, 1995
Anthony Splivalo, The Home Fires, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, WA, 1982
Migration Heritage Centre, New South Wales (2011), The Enemy At Home: German Internees in World War 1 Australia. Website. Source: https://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/enemyathome/holsworthy-internment-camp/index.html [Accessed 25/01/2022]
Donald, Beverley, Holsworthy Internment Camp during World War I, Dictionary of Sydney, 2014, https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/holsworthy_internment_camp_during_world_war_i Viewed 25 Jan 2022
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