William Lawson

William Lawson (1774 – 1850) explorer, pastoralist
In 1813 Lawson, with Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth, led an expedition westwards from Sydney to cross the Blue Mountains. St. Bartholemew’s Church of England, Blacktown was built by pioneers of Prospect with funds collected from 1837. William Lawson was one of the trustees of that church. A generous supporter of the Presbyterian Church, Lawson took an active part in the establishment of both Scots Church, Sydney, in 1824 and Scots Church, Parramatta, in 1838.

Like many of his fellow officers Lawson quickly began to acquire agricultural interests. About 1807 he bought a small property at Concord, where he kept 6 horses, 3 bulls and 14 cows. By 1810 this property had extended to 370 acres (150 ha). As an officer he also acted on several courts martial, including those of D’Arcy Wentworth in 1807 and of John Macarthur on the eve of the rebellion against Governor William Bligh in 1808. In the interregnum after this, Lawson was appointed aide-de-camp to Major George Johnston and received a grant of 500 acres (202 ha) at Prospect; here his wife lived when he was sent to England in 1810 as a witness at Johnston’s court martial. Lawson was not very enthusiastic in the cause of the rebellion, and in January 1812 returned to Sydney in the Guildford. He accepted a commission as lieutenant in the New South Wales Veterans Company. From this circumstance, when his grant at Prospect was confirmed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, Lawson named it Veteran Hall. Here he built a fine 40-room mansion in early colonial style.

In 1813 Gregory Blaxland invited Lawson to accompany him and William Charles Wentworth on what proved to be the first successful attempt to find a route across the Blue Mountains. Lawson’s knowledge of surveying made him a particularly valuable member of the expedition. His journal, with its accurate record of times and distances, enables the route to be precisely retraced. Macquarie rewarded each explorer with a grant of 1000 acres (405 ha) on the west of the ranges. Lawson selected his on the Campbell River near Bathurst. In 1819 he was appointed commandant of the new settlement of Bathurst, occupying this post until 1824 when he retired to Veteran Hall.

During his years at Bathurst Lawson undertook three journeys of exploration to find a practicable pass through the ranges to the Liverpool Plains. In this he was unsuccessful but his journeys helped to open up the rich pastoral district of Mudgee. Lawson attributed the discovery of the Cudgegong River to James Blackman, but claimed that he himself discovered the site of Mudgee some ten miles (16 km) beyond the farthest point reached by Blackman. On Lawson’s advice George Cox occupied extensive lands in the Mudgee district, and his own family took up 6000 acres (2428 ha) on the opposite side of the Cudgegong. Here Lawson built a homestead at Bombira Hill, which became one of the main centres for his pastoral activities, although he had many other extensive estates, including 25,000 acres (10,117 ha) on the Talbragar River, 6000 (2428 ha) near Bathurst, 3000 (1214 ha) in Roxburgh, 1500 (607 ha) near Springwood, his Veteran Hall property, and 160,000 acres (64,750 ha) in various other leases. He imported merino rams and ewes from England, as well as Shorthorn cattle and blood horses. His horses were famous throughout the colony in the coaching days.

Lawson not only helped to blaze the first pathway to the west, but he also had a leading role in opening up this country. He is reputed to have taken the first stock across the mountains in July 1815; he escorted Freycinet’s party of naturalists and botanists over the ranges in 1819; and in September 1822 he made the first discovery of coal to the west of the mountains at Hartley Vale. After his wife Sarah died on 14 July 1830 aged 47, Lawson spent most of his later years at Veteran Hall, leaving his sons Nelson and William to develop the inland stations.

A generous supporter of the Presbyterian Church, Lawson took an active part in the establishment of both Scots Church, Sydney, in 1824 and Scots Church, Parramatta, in 1838. As a magistrate he entered freely into public life and on 10 October 1825 signed a letter approving trial by jury. In 1841 he brought some labourers from Chile to work on his estates but found them unsatisfactory. He entered politics in 1843 as a member for Cumberland in the first partly-elective Legislative Council; he attended regularly until 1846, but took little part in its debates. At first he opposed the government, but did not share Wentworth’s extreme views and in 1845 opposed him on several occasions. He did not support the squatters in 1844, and opposed a reduction of the price of land in 1846. After this his attendances became irregular and he did not seek re-election in 1848. On 16 June 1850 ‘Old Ironbark’ Lawson died at Veteran Hall, and was buried in the churchyard of St Bartholomew, leaving most of his estates to his son William. His property at Prospect eventually passed into the hands of the Metropolitan Water Board, and is now largely covered by the Prospect reservoir. The house itself was demolished in 1926.

Complete article :  http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020081b.htm

Further information
In 1813 Lawson, with Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth, led an expedition westwards from Sydney to cross the Blue Mountains.

They departed on 11 May 1813 with four servants, five dogs and four horses. The route they traversed is, with some slight variations, still the one used by travellers today. On 31 May 1813 they reached Mount Blaxland from where they could see the plains to the west. Beyond the mountains the explorers found a great expanse of open country, which they surveyed.

Lawson was rewarded with a grant of 1,000 acres (4 km²) of land, he subsequently became one of the largest land-holders in Australia. He was made a magistrate and was appointed commandant at Newcastle. In 1819 Governor Lachlan Macquarie established a new settlement, Bathurst, in this new country, and appointed Lawson as commander of the Bathurst settlement, a position he held until 1823. From Bathurst, Lawson explored as far north as Mudgee.

After leaving the army, Lawson was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1843 to 1848. He died at Vereran Hall on 16 June 1850, he had married and left descendants. The town of Lawsonin the Blue Mountains is named for him.

After Lawson’s death, Veteran Hall eventually became acquired by the Metropolitan Water Board. The house was demolished in 1926 and most of the property is submerged by the waters of Prospect reservoir.

In 1963 Lawson was honoured, together with Blaxland and Wentworth, on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post depicting the Blue Mountains crossing

Complete article : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lawson_(explorer)

St.Bartholemew’s Church Blacktown
Prior to 1836 the building of churches in New South Wales had been a haphazard responsibility of the government. In 1836 the Church Act came into force to promote the building of churches and chapels and provide for the maintenance of Ministers of Religion. The Act immediately led to a spate of church building.

St.Bartholemew’s Church of England was built by pioneers of Prospect with funds collected from 1837.

In August 1838 tenders were called for the construction of St Bartholomew’s Church. The contract was won by James Atkinson of Mulgoa who was building three other churches at the same time: St Peter’s at Richmond, St Mary Magdalene at St Mary’s and St Thomas’ at Mulgoa. His contract was with the trustees, William Lawson, Robert Crawford and Nelson Simmons Lawson. The original contract sum for the building was 1250 pounds, half of which was borne by private subscription and half by the Colonial Treasury. Henry Robertson is thought to have been the architect for the building although it is highly possible that William Lawson, a surveyor by training, was designer of the church.

Lawson (1774-1850) who crossed the Blue Mountains with Gregory Blaxland and W.C.Wentworth in 1813, lived in a house in Prospect called Veteran Hall (Lawson was a lieutenant in the NSW Veterans’ Company, hence the name). Built in 1810 as a small cottage, it was extended to a forty-room mansion in 1822. Lawson’s descendants continued to improve the house until the 1880s. It was demolished in 1926 and its site is now within the Prospect Reservoir grounds. Lawson married Sarah Leadbeater on Norfolk Island while serving there and they had 11 children between 1803 and 1826. William Lawson was buried on 16 June 1850. One of their daughters, Sophia, was born at Prospect, and when she died in 1906, was the last surviving child. The family vault at St.Bartholemew’s shelters the remains of several members of this large family (Pollon & Healy, 1988, 210).


Many early settlers are buried in the St Bartholomew’s Church, Blacktown, graveyard. Among them are William Lawson, one of the first European settlers to cross the Blue Mountains and Thomas Willmot, the first Shire President of Blacktown.




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