John Macarthur was a lieutenant in the New South Wales Corps who arrived with the Second Fleet in 1890. In 1793, he was granted land at Rosehill, later renamed Parramatta. He named the property Elizabeth Farm after his wife. Macarthur was instrumental in the development of Australia’s wool industry. He wrote of the original cottage: “The house is surrounded by a vineyard and garden of 3 acres, the former full of vines and fruits trees, and the latter abounding with most excellent vegetables”.
The original homestead at Elizabeth Farm was a four-room cottage plus kitchen, servants’ quarters and outbuildings. Over the years it was much extended, but the original cottage structure still survives. The building is now owned by the New South Wales Government and preserved as a living museum.
Macarthur was Australia’s first “gentleman farmer” but did not restrict his activities to farming. He was notable for his fiery temperament and for clashes with the early colonial governors. He even fought a duel with his commanding officer.
At Elizabeth Farm, he was the first in the colony to clear and cultivate fifty acres (20 ha) of virgin land. The farm sold produce to the colonial government. Macarthur’s government appointment as inspector of public works also gave him extensive control of the colony’s resources and, with an unlimited supply of convict labour, his farm soon became a profitable enterprise.
Macarthur is most famous as the founding father of Australia’s wool industry. He began his sheep-breeding experiments in 1794 and a few years later acquired his first Spanish merinos. He later procured nine merino rams and a ewe from the Royal Flock of King George III. Macarthur’s wool enterprise was carried on by his wife, Elizabeth, during his various absences in England and later continued by his sons.