St Marys & District Historical Society Inc - Quarterly Newsletter
PO Box 640, ST MARYS NSW 1790

Phone: 0450132181


Our headquarters at 2 Mamre Rd, St Marys was officially opened by Mayor Greg Davies on the Saturday, 9th February, 2008. Members, guests and many of the public attended even though it threatened to "rain on our parade".

"Oh Happy Day" said Norma Thorburn our President as she thanked Penrith Council and many of the people who have helped in the restoration of our lovely building which was once the home of the St Mary's Municipal Council. After the opening our headquarters was unlocked and everyone came to see our first pictorial and visual display in the new building.

Mayor Greg Davies & Norma Thorburn
unlock our new headquarters
Our permanent feature wall of picture of WW1 of Service Men & Women from the St Marys area

Our building will be open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm (excluding some public holidays) so we encourage all those interested in our local history to come along. If you are researching your family from the St Marys area, we are happy to help with any family information we might have available or any photos available within our collection. Please contact us on our website at or phone us on 0450132181 and leave a message.

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National Service Anniversary

Norma & Tom Thorburn and Lyn Forde represented the Society at the 2nd Anniversary of the National Service wreath laying ceremony at Victoria Park in St Marys on Saturday, 3rd February, 2008.

Annual Penrith History Conference

Some of our members attended the 7th Annual Penrith History Conference weekend of the 9th & 10th March, 2008 at Penrith Civic Centre and our Society held a stall on both days. As usual the speakers were excellent and the historical information informative and we would like to congratulate al those involved in making the weekend such a success, especially the Nepean Family History Society for the history fair on Sunday.

Two of the interesting speakers were Paul Brunton who is the Senior Curator at the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW who spoke on the Rum Rebellion and Dr Carol Liston from the UWS who was the Keynote Speaker and spoke about the early land grants in the Penrith District.

Photos Courtesy Lyn Forde


Our Society will also have a photographic display at our headquarters for Anzac Day on Monday 21st, Wednesday 23rd & Saturday 26th April, 2008. We hope you will check it out.


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HMAS SYDNEY - Lest We Forget

It seems fitting with ANZAC Day coming up in April that we pay tribute to the 645 men who lost the lives on the 19th November, 1941 in World War 2 and whose resting place has so recently been found off the coast of Western Australia.

As the research is underway to find out why this ship sunk so suddenly, we can only feel for the families and loved ones of those men who now begin the process of healing as the information is made available, thanks to modern technology some 66 years later.


WERRINGTON HOUSE - By John King Lethbridge - 1961
Werrington House is situated on the eastern fringe of the Nepean Valley overlooking the village of Werrington that was named after the Werrington Estate and was originally included in the acreage of the Estate. Werrington House was built by Robert Copland Lethbridge - third son of Christopher and Mary (Nee Copland) Lethbridge of Madford, Launceston, Cornwall, England. He had two brothers and seven sisters, none of them came to Australia except Harriet, wife of Admiral Phillip Parker King. Robert Copland Lethbridge was born in Cornwall in the year 1798 on the 25th July, 1826 he married, in England, Mary the youngest daughter of Captain Philip Gidley King (Governor of New South Wales 1800 - 1806). In coming to NSW he was no doubt influenced by the fact that his wife's mother and family returned to Sydney to take up grants to the King family at South Creek (St Marys), these grants having been confirmed by Governor Bligh. Mary King's grant was adjacent to the Estate established by the King family and was named Dunheved. The pioneer Lethbridge family sailed from England in the "Cumberland" in 1826 and after a long voyage arrived in Sydney Harbour on 24th January, 1827. Robert Copland Lethbridge was promised around the 23rd October 1828, 2,560 acres of land as a primary grant in the County of Georgiana and the Deed of this Estate afterwards called "Leighwood" was not executed until 30th May, 1840. An adjoining area of 640 acres was also granted to him on the 29th February, 1840. In the meantime, Robert Copland Lethbridge decided to build on the grant to Mary Lethbridge and acquired some 600 odd acres adjoining this grant making an Estate of 1,291 acres all told.

Work commenced on the house in 1829 and the building was completed in 1832 after many set-backs from contractors and others. The material for the house was quarried from the sandstone deposits in an adjacent paddock of Dunheved owned by Mary's brother, Admiral Phillip Parker King. The timber used for wall plates, rafters, shingles, etc were ironbark, imported cedar doors, wainscoting, moulding etc were supplied without stint. The sandstone was said to have run out before the out-buildings were built, these were therefore built either in wood (stables) or pise. It may be of interest to note how some of the delay to the building operations came about. In 1829 the first sawyer at Werrington cleared off because he could not get one of Harriet King's servants to marry him, the second sawyer was soon jailed for cattle stealing from adjacent properties. These men were hard to replace as skilled labour was in very short supply at that time. A further story relates that Mary Lethbridge when visiting to see how the building was progressing discovered that the stairway, by oversight, had been omitted and that is said to be the reason why the stairs are so steep. The home was occupied in 1838 and remained in the possession of Robert Copland Lethbridge and his wife Mary until his death on the 5th October, 1865 and was then in the possession of Mary Lethbridge until her death on 17th December, 1872 when the Estate passed to her eldest son, Christopher.

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In 1860, the property and house were leased to Sir Henry Parkes of Cessation of Transportation fame and later of Federation for which he is honoured by History. Lady Parkes farmed at Werrington until 1871. During occupation of the Parkes family considerable trouble was the usual experience when collecting the rent. Apparently Sir Henry was noted as a "non payer" and records show his total disclosed debts in his various bankruptcies totalled 146,000 pounds. However, the fact of Sir Henry Parkes' residency gives the old home much historical value, according to all authorities. The whole property was sold by Christopher Lethbridge in 1882 to one Mr. Montgomery who quickly sold to - or was dummy for - a Land Syndicate who sub-divided the land into blocks of one, five and twenty acres. Werrington House, together with some 120 acres - including reserved roads, was purchased by John Harris of Harris and Shanes Park, South Creek and deeded by him to Phillip Gidley King and on the death of Phillip Gidley King passed to his wife, Mabella Winton King who occupied Werrington House until 31st May, 1910, when the house and its contents were purchased by William Baron Lethbridge, grandson of Robert Copland Lethbridge. He lived there with his wife Lillian until her death in 1945 and then up to the time of his own death in May 1948, when the property passed to John King Lethbridge who now occupies the home and grazing area, the latter at the time of writing (1961) is used under lease to William Cooper and Nephews of the Welcome Trust for experimental and research work in parasitical diseases of sheep, the Senior Research Officer being a Mr. Downing of Berkhamsted, England. Whilst the house is classed as convict built, some of the workers were in reality assigned servants (ex-convicts) and were housed in small pise huts adjacent to the building. The larger building was used for storage purposes and was locked by bars and a heavy door to keep the assigned servants out, not in. Free workers were also employed on the construction of the house. During 1848 at the time of the Bank crash, Robert Copland Lethbridge who was a fairly large shareholder was required by the Bank of Australia to pay calls on the uncalled capital of his holding and was nearly forced into bankruptcy, owing to the general collapse of prices. All his stock was sold - cattle averaging around 10/- (ten shillings) per head and sheep 2/6 (two shillings & sixpence) per head. Eventually pressure by the Bank forced the mortgaging of Werrington House property to his brother in England and the subsequent sale of furniture, plant, etc to his brother-in-law Admiral Phillip Parker King. However, the Admiral immediately handed over these effects to his sister, Mary Lethbridge. The saving of Werrington House at the time must be conceded to Admiral King who was of extreme help to Robert Copland Lethbridge, both financially and personally, and his advice was considered paramount. The original furniture and content have been dispersed as was to be expected from so large a family, however, some good bits and pieces have found their way back to their old home. Regarding "Leighwood", this property was saved from foreclosure during the Bank crash as it was fortunately made over to Mary Lethbridge sometime before, but all stock had to be sold. "Leighwood" was left by Mary Lethbridge to her family and was eventually sold by Christopher Lethbridge.



The St Marys & District Historical Society meets every 4th Saturday at 1.15 pm
(except December & January) at "The Chambers" (Old Council Chambers) 2 - 6 Mamre Road, ST MARYS.
(entry from carpark side)


Website -

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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