The Campbelltown area is not the first that comes to mind when considering vineyards and winemaking. Although the Macarthur family was producing wine throughout the first half of the 1800’s at Camden Park, and indeed, took wine to the Paris Exhibition of 1955, other winemakers in the Campbelltown area were also busily trying to grow grapes and produce good wine.
Dr William Redfern was transported to New South Wales, arriving in 1801. His good reputation as a doctor gained him a free pardon in 1803. He eventually became physician to Governor Macquarie and his family, and also to the Macarthur family. He was granted 1300 acres in the Airds district near Campbelltown in 1818, naming the property Campbellfields, in honour of Mrs Macquarie.
In 1821 William Redfern went to England, and on his return voyage, spent some time at Madeira, studying the vineyards and wine industry there. He engaged vine dressers and procured vines at considerable expense, and returned to New South Wales in 1824, receiving a further grant at Campbellfields, where he introduced the white grape variety ‘Verdelho’ to Australia from Madeira.
He lived at Campbellfields and devoted more and more time to his farming activities, which included cultivating the vine as well as fine wool and cattle, gradually withdrawing from his medical practice, which he entirely gave up in September 1826. Two years later he took his son William to Edinburgh to be educated. Though he intended to return, he died there in July 1833.
1811 Dr Robert Townson was granted 1000 acres at Minto and called it 'Varro Ville', after the Roman agriculturalist Marcus Terentius Varro, whose only complete work to survive is the Res Rustica (“Farm Topics”), a three-section work of practical instruction in general agriculture and animal husbandry, written to foster a love of rural life.
Dr Townson was living off his capital since arriving in Australia, and, fearing financial ruin, devoted himself to developing Varro Ville to the exclusion of everything else. Varro Ville became a showpiece and its vineyard was 'second only to Gregory Blaxland'. (Gregory Blaxland had a vineyard at Brush Farm on the Parramatta River, taking wine to England in 1822, and again in 1827, the latter earning him a Gold Medal from the Royal Society of Arts.) After the death of Dr Townson in 1827, Varro Ville was advertised for sale and described as follows “The Estate was the Residence of the late Dr. Townson, and possesses one of the first Vineyards in this Colony, planted with the choicest Grape Trees, together with an Orchard, having a great variety of the best Fruit Trees in it.”
The original 50 acre grant to Mark Millington was enlarged to 1,300 acres by Thomas Clarkson, who also erected a house on the property in 1817. After changing hands again, it was sold to William Fowler in 1858. He originally named it Eshcol Park after the Promised Land of Eshcol in the Bible, but it was continually misspelt, and is now known as Eschol Park. William built the existing main house, and in about 1860 erected a three story winery and adjoining still room. He also established a 15 acre vineyard, and within a decade or so, it was producing 2000 to 3000 gallons of award-winning wines. William Fowler sold the property to a Mr Milgate, who continued the vineyard with Fowler acting as agent for selling the wine. The property changed hands again, and was again listed for sale in 1885, with the listing boasting ‘15 acres of valuable and well-cared-for vineyards in full-bearing’ and ‘in the cellars are nine 700 and one 1,100 gallon casks, besides a large number of lesser capacity; these together with the valuable plant and about 15,000 gallons of wine, varying in age from six years downwards’. Vineyards across the region were badly hit in the 1890s when the Phylloxera disease struck, and Eschol Park was devastated. The suburb bearing the name Eschol Park has its streets named after varieties of grape grown in Australia, as well as wine types, methods and terms, and the early vigneron of Eschol Park himself is remembered by William Fowler Reserve.
|Eshcol Park c1870. Photo courtesy of Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society
Written by Claire Lynch
Wineries in Macarthur – A Historical Perspective by Steve Greaves
Vineyards of Sydney – by Dr. Philip Norrie
Australian Dictionary of Biography http://adb.anu.edu.au/
Campbelltown City Council www.campbelltown.nsw.gov.au