Cement History, Family History, Social Life

Hunting Harleston

I learnt about Harleston from my aunt, Meg. She was the family historian until I grew into it. It was she who fostered my interest. Drew up charts of names and generations scattered with question marks. Cut out and pasted into exercise books every family item that made it into a newspaper. Recorded in a purse-sized diary, the date of each birth, marriage and death. Drove me down country roads naming places, people and events. And told me stories of our family’s claims to fame.

Mind you I didn’t learn very much about Harleston from Meg. Just that it was my grandparents’ property at Rylstone before they moved to Lue.

I came to live in Kandos and was getting to know the area when my interest was piqued by a Mudgee Guardian article that mentioned Harleston. Ah, I thought, that’s my Pop’s property. But where was it? I already had a bunch of topographical maps and the next time my cousin Tracy came to town we went looking for it.

He said, I know the spot of my father’s old school, so we drove along Cudgegong Road and searched among Carwell tussocks for evidence of it. Nothing much there except the ghosts of children laughing and yelling, their ponies nibbling the grass and waiting for the bell to ring, and for the children to climb on and ride them home.

We made our way back to an old cemetery and Horner’s property and sure enough, we were assured, Harleston was down through the paddocks, follow the creek. But we put it off for another time and regretfully, I still haven’t walked those paddocks. However, I discovered them on-line in parish maps, through the Land Titles website: portions 131 and 132 Parish of Wells and portion 68 Parish of Mead, all fronting Carwell Creek, all in the name of W T Brown, a total of 1,280 acres. I discovered too that some of the land bordered Kandos quarry.

The turn of the century was a time when young rural men in particular, hungry for their own bit of land, raked among the hills, dales and gullies to identify and secure a portion of crown land. They then applied to the Local Land Board for purchase, which was conditional on paying a deposit of one quarter of the purchase price, at (or up to) £1 an acre, adding improvements to the value of £1 an acre and occupying the land for 3 years.

So when William Thomas Brown married Minnie Batten on 8 June 1910 he was a man on the land and Harleston became their home while they established a family.

Luckily my family saves letters. Note the pride, ownership and practicality in this printed letterhead:
Mail Days – Tues & Sat

Letter writing became a pastime of the ordinary classes when, in 1911, one penny postage was introduced throughout Australia. It is my grandparent’s letters to Minnie’s father that give some insight into their early life together. Her father loaned them £1000 at interest, to set up the farm. Bill ran both sheep and cattle, fenced the property, enclosed roads, baled hay, grew tomatoes (as long as the frost didn’t kill them), hunted for bees, bought and sold stuff, visited relatives, and built a house. He had to pull down the old kitchen in order to make room for it – “talk about a heap of timber…it will be a joke if I can’t put it up again.” He contemplated the cement company’s offer to buy portion 131 but in the end sold them only a small section.

I wondered about the name Harleston (spelt in various ways including Harlestone, Harlstone, Harlston and Hurlstone). There is a small village called Harlestone in Northhamptonshire England and a suburb Hurlstone Park in Sydney but I can find no family connection with either. A racing link seems more obvious – Hurlestone, a grey stallion was an impressive Adelaide race horse at the turn of the century, before going to an Indian stable.

And guess who was a “mad horseman”, who chased wild horses, liked to show off his know-how and whose family was into horse racing? In July 1915 the Mudgee Guardian announced that Mr WT Brown had purchased the well-known thoroughbred stallion Orator, bred by Hunter White at Havilah, “considered by many good Judges to be one of the best sires of hackney horses ever in these districts”. In spring 1915 Bill advertised Orator and a second horse “the Cob Stallion Wizard”, as sires “to stand the season at Harleston, terms £2.15.0, good paddocks, every care taken but no responsibility, all mares proving empty will be taken free next season”. But there were no advertisements the following season!

In fact W T Brown turned his sights on the new mode of transport, cars, and in January 1918 he purchased a Model T Ford. Loneragans sent it out with a driver who stayed a week and taught him to drive. It was the beginning of our family’s romance with cars.

It seems Bill and Minnie never felt entirely committed to Harleston, as their parents had felt about Mt Brace and Glenangle. It wasn’t as if the pair hadn’t improved Harleston. ‘For Sale’ advertisements in the Mudgee Guardian in 1915, 1917, 1920 and 1922 highlighted an eight-room house, dairy, hayshed and stable, three miles frontage to a never-failing creek, seven miles to rail, good farming and grazing land, securely fenced. It seems the property sold in lots, but the main part went to J R Perram, who sold it to his brother G Perram, who sold it to Mr C J Campton of Tucklau, who sold it to Stephen Malone, who sold it to Arthur Guerney from Canowindra, who sold it to E W Mulholland, who sold it to Charles Horner.

There is no longer a property called Harleston but the name lives on in Hurlstone Creek which, according to the Geographical Names Board, rises in Long Mountain and flows for six kilometres in a north-easterly direction into Carwell Creek.

Bill and Minnie gave up life on the farm, bought the store and Post Office in Lue and turned their energies to a village business. It was November 1919. Meg was almost five at the time, my father two, her older brothers 8 and 7, and a baby sister was born a month later.

Thank you Angela, niece and bee-keeper, for suggesting this topic.

To all you lovely readers out there, I appreciate your interest and feedback in 2018. The blog will continue in 2019 but, I regret, only monthly, to give me more time for other writing projects.

The featured image is of Bill and Minnie and adult children in 1938.


(from left) Meg Hughes, Arthur Brown, William Thomas Brown, Father Harry Brown, Minnie Brown, Bruce Brown and Bessie Miller

10 thoughts on “Hunting Harleston”

  1. Loved Hunting Harleston. Well done Meg for setting Col on the family history track.Meg would have loved reading your blog.


  2. I really look forward to your ‘piece’ every month, I love to know more about the history of the area. When I lived in Lithgow I joined the craft etc group and learnt a lot about the history etc. I see the name of Coomber around Rylestone & wonder what his part was. My family was centred around Ryde/Eastwood but – well – there’s me & ?. Would there be a chance that a group of history nuts could explore any public areas like cemeteries etc? Thank you for your interesting writings, …. best wishes Judy Crofton.


    1. Thank you Judy. I love to hear from other history enthusiasts. I don’t know of any Coomber people in the area. Coomber was the name of the area where Kandos is now built. It was named after the mountain range above Kandos, now officially spelt Cumber Melon by the Geographical Names Board, and taken from the Aboriginal name Combimelong (approximate). I like your idea of exploring local cemeteries. There is an article under Publications>Articles called “A Local Cemetery: for the living and the dead” – about the Rylstone Kandos cemetery. I did a cemetery tour there during the Centenary Celebrations in 2014 and would be happy to take you for a walk around and discuss the possibility of a little cemetery group getting together. Colleen


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