1819 Emu Plains Agricultural Farm

Richard Fitzgerald, superintendent of Emu Plains Agricultural Farm – watercolour by Edmund Edgar - National Portrait Gallery

The Emu Plains Agricultural Farm was established to provide work for an influx of convicts after the end of the Napoleonic wars. It initially accommodated 270 convicts and 11 overseers. Wheat, maize and tobacco were the main crops cultivated. The first superintendent was an ex-convict, Richard Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had some experience of farming and had been associated with previous public farms in the new colony.

Between 1814 and 1820, the number of convicts sent to New South Wales more than doubled. Many of the new arrivals were former soldiers in the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) who had found no employment after they were demobilised and turned to crime. Their arrival placed new demands on food supplies.

In response, Governor Lachlan Macquarie established the Emu Plains Agricultural Farm, on the western side of the Nepean River at the foot of the Blue Mountains. This government farm provided employment for convicts and produced additional food for the colony. As Emu Plains marked the beginning of the road across the Blue Mountains, the farm also played an important role in overseeing the movement of settlers, convicts and stock along the route.

Richard Fitzgerald successfully established the farm. Under subsequent superintendents, it continued to be productive.  In July 1826 there were 392 bushels of wheat in the granary, 4000 bushels of wheat in stacks, and 6256 bushels of maize in the stores at the farm. During a severe drought from 1827 to 1829 produce from the Emu Plains Agricultural Farm supported many other agricultural and penal settlements in New South Wales.

The farm was closed in 1832. At this time there was increasing pressure to end the transportation of convicts to New South Wales. On 22 May 1840, an Order-in-Council was issued, removing New South Wales from the list of places to which convicts could be sent.

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