St Marys & District Historical Society Inc - Quarterly Newsletter

PO Box 640, ST MARYS NSW 1790

Australia Day 2007

Once again our members had a display at the Pwnrith Regatta Centre for the Australia Day festivities.
Norma, Robyn & Lyn with soldiers from the Rum Corps Tom (Samuel Marsden) helps out on our stall

Once again our Society held a stall at the Regatta Centre at Penrith for the Australia Day festivities. Members Norma & Tom Thorburn, Robyn Gorman and Lyn Forde attended in costume. We had a great many inquiries from the members of the Public who enjoyed our photo collection.

Senior’s Week – A few of our members helped out at the Senior’s concert at the Joan Sutherland Centre on the 15th March, 2007. Tom and Norma Thorburn and Lyn Forde dressed in period costume and paraded up and down the isles while the Penrith Senior Choir and the audience sang renditions of old time songs.

Penrith City Library 6th Annual History Conference – Several of our members attended the conference held at Penrith Council on the 17th March, 2007. The theme this year was “River, Roads & Bridges” and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. These conferences are highly recommended by our Society and are certainly worth attending if you are interested in the history of the local area. Research Librarian, Lorraine Stacker announced that they will soon be researching the second series of the history of the area. The first book published was the “Darug to Dungaree” and the new book will carry on from there. Please contact Lorraine at the Library if you require more information.

Thompson Tannery - Our Society was also instrumental in the erection of a plaque at the site of the Thompson Tannery in Saddington Street at St Marys. Our member and Heritage Advisory Committee member Lyn Forde, along with the Penrith Heritage Committee and Penrith Council were sucessful in the placement of the plaque at the site to commemorate a local St Marys tannery that grew to be the largest in NSW and second largest in Australia. It was established on October 14th, 1881 by Andrew Thompson.
Andrew, who became a Master Tanner, was born in St Marys on April 11th, 1852. He was the first child of Samuel & Isabella Thompson who came to Australia from Ireland.

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He entered exhibitions at the Royal Agricultural shows in Sydney and also won first prize in the “Leatheries section” at a London exhibition in 1900 for his light sole leather. The demand for his product brought orders that allowed him to add extensions to his original yard, and by 1898 the tannery was treating 500 hides a week and had 26 employees that produced all grades of sole leather. Andrew was the first tanner in Australia to import the South African “Mimosa” bark which he found superior to the local product, and used “Mimosa” as his brand name.

At 11.30 pm on August 28th 1899, part of the tannery which housed valuable new machinery was destroyed by fire; the damage bill was estimated to be around 8,000 pounds. The tannery was gradually brought back to full strength by Andrew and his family and continued to flourish for the next 19 years, but was to close down shortly after Andrew’s death in October, 1918. In August 1923 the tannery was passed in at auction for 3,300 pounds, the land of about 10 acres with all the buildings, which included two cottages, was offered to the North Sydney Brick & Tile Company for 1,815 pounds and the machinery was sold off to various buyers. The buildings and chimney remained standing until 1946 when a syndicate of three St Mary’s businessmen, including builder Frank Hall, bought them and sold off the timbers. Frank later bought the land from the brick company. Andrew, his wife Lydia and some of his children are buried in the St Marys General cemetery.


For all those family historians who are chasing family ties, a small lesson with regards as to what is written in the print press. Take the life of James Hackett, father of Charles Albert Hackett (of Charles Hackett Drive at St Marys). James was sentenced and sent to Australia as a convict for horse stealing and was assigned to Sir John Jamison at Regentvilla. He was the owner of several land plots at St Marys and the district and was a well loved and renown townsperson, hence the need by his family (at the time of his death) to “embroider” his life story for the Nepean Times. See over:-

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NEPEAN TIMES - OCTOBER 16TH, 1897 - DEATH OF AN OLD RESIDENT - One of the oldest, if not the oldest resident of the district in the person of Mr James Hackett, passed peacefully away early on Monday morning last at a ripe old age. Deceased was born at Froom, in Somersetshire, England on 15th April, 1807, and arrived in the Colony in November 26th, 1826. He resided in this district the whole of the time since his arrival in the Colony some 70 odd years ago. We had intended giving a biography of the old gentleman, but certain particulars are not to hand, so the matter will be fully dealt with next week. His remains were interred at St Marys Church of England cemetery on Tuesday last, the funeral being a very large and representative one. Among those who were present were Mr T R Smith MLA., Member for the Nepean, Hon. S E Lees, and many others from long distances, including relatives from Melbourne.

THE LATE MR HACKETT - Last week we promised to give some particulars of the life of the deceased. Mr James Hackett was born at Froom, Somersetshire, England on the 5th April, 1807. Mr Hackett's father was a butcher, and during his early life he had a good deal to do with the business, as well as doing some business on his own account in the way of horse dealing. During his young days he was a good rider, and was then considered a good judge of horseflesh. One of the earliest purchases was a grey mare which he owned up to the time he left the old country, and a peculiar feature of his life was that the best animals he had were grey mares. Mr Hackett left home at an early age in order to try his fortunes in the new land, Australia, and he arrived in sunny New South Wales at Sydney, in November, 1926. What little harvesting there was at the time was on, and young Mr Hackett - for he was a very young man when he arrived in the Colony - succeeded in getting a billet straight off as jockey to Sir John Jamison, who then occupied the old house at Regentville, Penrith, now in ruins. Sir John was king of the whole district, and Mr Hackett so suited him - he understood horses in every way - that he was soon placed in the position as jockey, trainer, coachman and butler. In connection with these positions, Mr Charles Hackett, his son, has a pair of bottle-green velvet pants, with silver buckles, that his father wore as butler; he also has a pair of Bedford cord-riding pants which his father wore as jockey to Sir John Jamison. Mr Hackett, as a jockey in the early days, was one of the most successful that the world has ever seen. He had two horses belonging to Sir John Jamison, which were his sole charge - viz.; “Abdullah”, an imported Arab and “Benalong”, a three parts bred horse. While on duty with Sir John, Mr Hackett established one of the first stations on the Namoi, and he was one of the first white men that visited there. Deceased too drove the first vehicle over Lapstone Hill Road. He drove Governor Darling and Sir John Jamison. Mr Hackett used to tell a good story of a Government man in the employ of Sir John; this man had been sent for a bucket of water and on his return Mr Hackett was breading in a horse and the man sat down to watch the fun. Sir John, seeing the man "loafing", as he thought, spoke to him, and at the same time struck him with his whip. The man retaliated by going for Sir John. The worthy Knight at once made up his mind to have it out for the man, so ordered that he should go at once with some cattle to the Namoi, thinking probably that the fellow would lose the cattle and he would be severely punished. The man was to go on foot, but Mr Hackett was sent as far as Mount Victoria. The cattle were delivered safely, and the fellow proved to be one of Sir John's best men. When Mr Hackett left Sir John Jamison, he opened a butcher shop on the site now occupied by Mrs Spence in High Street, Penrith. He had a partner named Sackett. Mr Sackett died in a short time and Mr Hackett continued the business. While there he married Miss Mary Ann Bradley (his widow), a native of Penrith. Mr Hackett, while in this shop, met with a very serious and painful accident. A very old identity named Poll Hardy, had got rather "full" that day, and Mr Hackett, who had been for a cask of water - there was no water supply in those days - was stopped by a policeman - a new chum named Donegal - to take Poll to the Police Station. The horse took fright at the attempt and Mr Hackett was thrown off. His leg was broken and cut, nothing being left but the skin, the foot coming back onto the knee. He was at once taken home and Dr Clarke sent for, and Mr Hackett remained on his back for six months. Up to the time of the accident, Mr Hackett had purchased largely of sheep and cattle, and these were left at Chippin. During his illness the number of hoofs stolen was simply alarming. Mr Hackett was a great horse fancier, and he was noted for buying "outlaws", i.e. animals that no one else could do anything with, and breaking them to his own liking. He could ride or drive anything. Up to within a short time before his death, Mr Hackett loved to see a horse that could buck or "play up" well, and he would severely lecture any of his sons if they didn't ride as well as he thought they should. As a jockey at Regentville, he told some peculiar sweating stories. In those days sweating or bringing down in weight, was done in a very primitive fashion - its done now, we believe, sometimes. Mr Hackett, who never rode over 8 stone, would sometimes want reducing in weight. He was stripped all but his skin clothes, the horse manure pit was opened up and he was put there and covered up to his neck for some time. He was then rolled in some blankets and put to bed. Next morning he was put in a number of suits of clothes and an overcoat, and was sent about a dozen times around the course on foot. Mr Hackett left Penrith in 1844 and came to reside in St Marys, at the corner of what is now Princess Street. There he started a butchering and baking business, and rented what is now known as the Tannery Paddocks from Sir Daniel O'Connor. He only remained there for about 12 months, as owing to drought he lost pretty well all his stock. He then left St Marys and went back to Penrith. He established a business in the premises that was last occupied by Ah Say on the banks of the Peach-tree creek. He remained there some three or four years, and had to leave on account of his landlady, Mrs MacHenry, who was also a tenant of the late Captain Woodriff, having refused to repair the fence. The bad fences caused him so much trouble, owing to the "boxing" of his sheep, that he was compelled to leave.

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He then found his way back to St Marys and having purchased a block of land off the Trust Company, on the banks of South Creek, he built for himself a house, the house in which he died. He again started a butchery, but trade was very slack, and he went to the Turon diggings. He did no good at the diggings, but on his return he found that business had so much increased owing to the traffic, that he made another start. There was a regular boom then, in 1858, and he built onto the premises and opened a public house - (Woolpac Inn). He held the license for many years, always investing his spare cash in land, which he invariably bought at bedrock prices. On giving up the business of hotel-keeper, he sold off his liquor to the neighbours. One of them bought a hogshead of rum, which he took home, got the horrors and got an axe and burst up the whole show by allowing the liquor to run to waste. While Mr Hackett kept the hotel, everything was sold by him by measure, and he sold everything of the best quality. He gave up the hotel in 1874. He had previously handed over the butchering business to his son, James - long since deceased in 1862. Mr Hackett, although he bought a large amount of property, never was known to sell and except a piece for a school site and the piece on which Webb's tannery (Mr Andy Thompson's No. 2) stands. On the 17th May, 1895, Mr Hackett, while attempting to dismount from his horse, broke his leg almost in the same place as it was broken in Penrith, the difference being that beside a clean break, the bones were split. Between the two breaks, and many years before the last one, he was horned by an infuriated bullock on the same leg. Through Dr Barber's kind and skilful care, Mr Hackett, after some 26 weeks on his back, during which time he had no solid food, was able to get about again. On the occasion of the death of old Mrs Baxter, Mr Hackett went to the funeral, and besides catching cold he had a severe fright on seeing Mr Baxter paralysed. He was laid up from that until the time of his death. Dr Barber told one of Mr Hackett's sons that had his father not been compelled to lay up, he would probably have lived to be 120 years old. His lungs and heart were perfectly sound, although the lying in one position caused slight inflammation of the lungs. Mr Hackett was always a very temperate man, but was not by any means a teetotaller, nor was he ever known to be the slightest way under the influence. He never smoked either pipe or cigar. Deceased left a large amount of landed property, principally in St Marys.

Footnote: James was the great-great-grandfather of Lyn Forde (Editor & Vice President of the Society).


The St Marys & District Historical Society meets every 4th Saturday at 1 pm - at the St Marys Arts & Craft Centre 2 - 6 Mamre Road, St Marys.


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This Newsletter is a free publication. Articles in this Newsletter may be republished if permission is given by the Society.

Please contact:-


Vice President

Norma Thorburn 9623-2307

Lyn Forde 9673-3506

(While care is taken to ensure that all articles are accurate, the opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society) Any comments on this Newsletter are encouraged


Editor & Publisher: Lyn Forde

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