Although a small military contingent set up camp at Albany in 1826, the first permanent residents did not settle there until 1831. The Swan River Colony, which was to become Perth, was pioneered by free settlers who were required to show that they had ‘improved’ their land before being granted title. However, beyond the immediate margins of the Swan River, the soil proved poor and the colony struggled for some decades. More
Damper, the traditional bushman’s bread originally made from flour, water and salt and cooked in the campfire, was first mentioned in Memoirs edited by Barron Field, judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 1817 to 1824. According to the Australian Dictionary Centre the name is derived from a Lancashire expression meaning “something that damps the appetite”. Modern recipes often include baking soda or self raising flour, beer, butter or powdered milk.
James Busby (1801-71) was a pioneer of viticulture in New South Wales, emigrating with his family from Britain in 1824. He had studied viticulture in France and took up property in the Hunter Valley. He brought a collection of vine cuttings with him and worked to encourage settlers to plant vineyards. He published several works that were influential in the development of the wine industry in the new colony. He became British Resident in New Zealand in 1833, where he was involved in drafting the Treaty of Waitangi.
Around 1823, ex-convict Bartholomew Broughton planted vines and fruit trees at Prospect creating what became Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard. By 1827 he was advertising “grape wine made in imitation of champaigne”. After Broughton’s death, a new owner, Captain Swanston, produced wines that were recognised internationally and on the mainland.
In his paper A History of the Tasmanian Wine Industry, Anthony Walker traces its beginnings in the island state. Although wine was being produced from various fruits and grapes early in the colony’s history and Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard was planted as early as 1823, these first attempts to establish an industry failed. The modern wine industry in Tasmania dates back only to the 1970s.
Bartholemew’s farm, on the banks of the Derwent River, was producing wine by 1826 and advertised in 1827:
FOR SALE, at MR BROUGHTON’S at Newtown, 200 Gallons of GRAPE WINE, made in imitation of Champaigne, from the last year’s Grapes, in Casks of 20 Gallons each; also, between 2 and 3 cwt. of RASPBERRY JAM, made from this Year’s Fruit. Wanted to Purchase from 50 to 60 Dozen of Wine Bottles.
At the time, prospects for the wine industry in Tasmania appeared high, with The Colonial Times writing:
TASMANIAN WINE – The first attempt to make wine from the grapes in this Colony, to any extent, has been made by Mr. Broughton of Prospect, New-town. Our readers will notice his advertisement in last week’s paper. Several Gentlemen, among whom are Mr. Colonial Secretary Burnett, Dr Sherwin, Mr. Bryant, the Wine Merchant, and several others, have tasted this wine and all pronounce it very little inferior to Champaigne; and have recommended him to distribute the produce of one Vintage throughout the two Colonies, and in England, in order that various opinions might be formed upon it.
Broughton died in 1929 and for some time thereafter wine-making at Prospect Farm ceased. It was later revived by a new owner, Charles Swanston. According to Walker, these were the only vignerons who produced commercial quantities of wine in the early years. Many other estates included vineyards, but there is no evidence that their wines were sold commercially. However, Tasmanian estates did provide cuttings which were used to establish vineyards in Victoria and at Reynella in South Australia.
Although vines arrived with the First Fleet, Gregory Blaxland (one of the conquerors of the Blue Mountains) made the first wine exports from Australia. The red wine he sent to London in 1822 was awarded a silver medal by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, later the Royal Society of Arts.
Blaxland was among the earliest of the free settlers to arrive in New South Wales, most likely drawn by the possibilities for commercial success. He became something of a thorn in the side of various governors, always seeking more land grants that could be worked by the convict labour force. Most famous as one of the leaders of the party that first crossed the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, he was also one of the colony’s first wine makers.
Previous attempts to make wine in the area had failed. Even the 12 000 vines planted at Parramatta by two French men, who claimed to have experience in the business, were troubled by blight. In the four years to 1804 they produced only about 40 gallons of wine, described as “of a very indifferent quality”.
Blaxland arrived in New South Wales in 1806 and bought Brush Farm at Ermington on the Parramatta River. He had brought vines from the Cape of Good Hope and the species he planted seemed to be resistant to blight. By 1816 he was making commercial quantities of wine, taking a sample to London in 1822 where it was awarded a silver medal, the first of Australia’s wine exports.
The wine Blaxland exported had 10 per cent of French brandy added to allow it to endure the voyage to England. In 1928 another of Blaxland’s wines received a gold medal from the same Society. Fortifying even table wines with brandy was not unusual at the time. Blaxland even petitioned the Colonial Office to obtain a refund of import duties paid on brandy if it was used in the manufacture of wine.
Blaxland committed suicide in 1853 after personal tragedies and financial difficulties caused him to retire from public life.
The Agricultural Society of NSW was formed in 1822, holding its first Show the following year. The Shows, known originally as ‘Exhibitions’, were initially held at Parramatta, then moved to Prince Alfred Park. The Society became the Royal Agricultural Society in 1891, an honour bestowed by Queen Victoria.