Monday, March 8, 2010

Suburb No 26: Campbelltown

Maths isn't my strong point but if I'm not mistaken this post marks the half way point of 52 Suburbs.
26 down, 26 to go. To mark the occasion my car threw a little tantie and refused to move an inch
let alone the 51 km required to reach this week's suburb, Campbelltown.

Instead of cursing the wreck-I-call-my-car, I found it quite amusing to ring up NRMA roadside
assistance and say, "I have a flat battery." I half expected the woman to say, "Good god woman, 
not again!".

A couple of jumper leads later and I was back in business, all set for my journey to one of the
furthest suburbs visited so far on 52 Suburbs. (In reality, 51 km isn't that far. But it seems further
than it is because for much of it you're screaming along a major highway in a 110 km zone, pedal
to the metal.)

When I learned that only 30 years ago this far away place was a big country town, the distance
from the city made more sense.

Which leads me to this - it is very hard to imagine a Campbelltown with wide, charming streets
and rolling hills on the horizon. There is now an enormous mall and for the most part the lovely
old buildings are gone. But. On either end of the pretty ordinary main strip, a handful of original
beauties remain - focus only on those and you can almost hear the clickety-clack of horses and 
smell the country air. Aside from the old, there are also a few more recent arrivals that enliven
the place no end.

But first, some history. The Tharawal people were there for zillions of years. Then in 1820 British
Governor Macquarie established a town and named it after his wife, Elizabeth Campbell. Campbelltown
spent most of the 20th century as a big country town until it was designated a centre for massive 
population and residential growth. Now a multicultural mix with a mall - and thankfully a handful 
of surprises...

Part 1: History in pictures

long long-time residents

the first boat people

built on the sheep's back

 33 miles from the city

both Elizabeths, both considered royalty in Campbelltown (Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Campbell)

St. Peters

religion makes its mark

he looks in need of a little pick me up

all god's children

Part 2: Surprise No 1 - the Arts Centre and the Japanese Gardens & Teahouse

Located just south of the city centre - and yet a million miles from it. These striking creations
are just not what you expect to find after wandering down a main street that feels very unloved. 

where the river runs dry (Campbelltown Arts Centre)

a gift from Koshigaya (Campbelltown's sister city in Japan)

both ancient lands :: 1

nice place for a cuppa

both ancient lands ::2

what are the odds? :: 1 (I met Neil, man of Japanese Koi tattoos, looking at the Koi)

both ancient lands :: 3

what are the odds? :: 2

both dramatic spaces

my, what big teeth you have

both from the olden days

in the Sculpture Garden :: 1

in the Sculpture Garden :: 2

fun and funny

Part 3: Random images

school, then and now :: 1

school, then and now :: 2

sunnies and venetians

South Africa coordinates, far from Campbelltown, 34°03′54″S 150°48′51″E

a life etched on flesh

old navy

dotted land

Part 4: Place of roses - and other flora

Elizabeth Campbell was mad about Irises and as a result the suburb is full of them - when in season.
There also seems to be an abundance of roses as well as some fetching native numbers.


the rose and the Japanese chrysanthemum


from the earth :: 1

from the earth :: 2

Part 5: Surprise No 2 - Kerri's corner of Campbelltown

I did a double-take when I walked past Kerri Baxter's Cafe le Chat. Kerri grew up in Campbelltown
and then spent many years living elsewhere. When she returned to the area to live she couldn't
find a cafe to call home - so she started her own. 

I had coffee - and then I had a reading from one of the clairvoyants Kerri organises to visit the cafe.
All I'll say is that Margaret is a scarily accurate woman and should you be in need of another
'perspective', I recommend her.

I wasn't around on Saturday to see the live jazz show at the cafe but I imagine it fills the street
with vibrancy and much needed life.

create your own fun (Kerri)

a refreshing breath of city air

i like it a lot ("I like it" image from Campbelltown Arts Centre)

Margaret's in touch with the other side

performance places

Part 6: Surprise No 3 - a blue tree

Actually in Mount Annan Botanic Garden, about 10 minutes drive from Campbelltown. You drive
around past fields of green, green, green and then all of a sudden - a blue tree.

dead but blue

Part 7: Surprise No 4 - a lone white house

A little while ago a 52 Suburbs follower asked me if I was going to visit one of the suburbs I mentioned
in my very first post - Blair Athol. As it's just around the corner from Campbelltown I thought I'd take a
look. Well. Blair Athol used to be a green hill - it is now a 'new suburb' covered from top to toe with 
McMansions. However, there remains amongst the blond-brick, double-garaged, triple-bathroomed
homes, a single survivor of a former age (1879) - a house aptly named Blair Athol.

one of these things is not like the others

Part 8: Speaking of survivors...

On a hill looking over Campbelltown's older residential area I stumbled on the oldest surviving
Catholic church in Australia, St. John the Evangelist Church, and its neighbouring graveyard.
Why I love spooky old places when I detest spooky horror films I do not know - but I do.

high on the hill




1875 - that is old

Beauty? Long-time locals told me that present day Camden, a suburb a little further west, reminds
them of the Campbelltown from 30 years ago. Intrigued, I drove over. What I found were the wide
streets and charming streetscape you wish still existed in Campbelltown. But at least there's a handful
of lovely old still in Campbelltown and a few striking new - and a cafe-curios-jazz venue to liven the 
place up.

See you next week.

You might like to visit:

Campbelltown Arts Centre and Japanese Gardens & Teahouse, Art Gallery Road,  

Cafe le Chat, 2-3/143 Queen Street, Campbelltown

Mount Annan Botanic Gardens, Mount Annan Drive, Mount Annan


  1. Wow! Louise, well done. This certainly dispels the ideas i had of Campbelltown! I love your work and am so glad you decided to continue with the project. Thanks for the weekly dose of inspiration!
    Jen x

  2. Still loving it Louise! I plan to forward this on to all of the lovely friends I've met whilst travelling so they can see the beauty of my (our) home. Thanks again!

  3. Wow! I really enjoyed this one, I went to Campbelltown High School way back in 1958, we lived in the Army Married Quarters on the top of the hill just outside Ingleburn (the Army has long gone), an army bus would drive us to Ingleburn station and we caught the train to Campbelltown then walked to the school. I haven't been back in 52 years! Omigollygosh! Needless to say... Nothing looked similar to what I remember :-)
    Thanks Louise. cheers Pennie

  4. There is beauty in Campbelltown :). As a local girl, I guess I tend to focus on the rough rather than the pretty. The main street in particular.
    The graveyard pics sure took me back to a few teenage memories.
    Also, I didn't know there was a koi pond at the Art Centre! I'll have to visit again!
    Thanks Louise. Look forward to next week as always!

  5. lovely,just lovely.

    I can't wait to visit myself.

    Thank you for inspiring me to see more of this city I was born in


  6. Jen and Claire - When I hear that I inspire people it makes the project even more worthwhile.

    Pennie - How interesting - 1958 - do you remember what the streets were like? Was it the country town atmosphere the locals talk about?

    Simone - Graveyard memories sounds interesting! Yes, go see the koi pond. Don't think I've ever seen so many koi in one place.

    Glad you all like the post - and if you're in the area and drop in to Cafe le Chat, say hi to Kerri from me.


  7. The koi photos are so beautiful, such lovely markings, you really caught them. The little girl in polka dots in front of the Aboriginal dot paintings. And so many more...great photos again Louise.

  8. Gorgeous - please come to Ashfield at least once, I'd love to see my home suburb through your eyes!

  9. Fascinating to see a place (I have to admit I've always turned my nose up at) from a different perspective!

  10. Love, love, LOVE ALL your photos!!!

  11. Helen - Koi are amazingly varied in their colours and markings - but quite tricky to get the perfect shot - especially with the reflections from the sky. But I think I got a few that as you say, show the markings.
    Anon - Ashfield huh? Maybe...!
    Nat - Glad to show you a different side maybe.
    Fer de Argentina - Thank you!

  12. Wanna really test your skills out?

    Try and find some beauty in Bella Vista. North West Sydney. This is the real Sydney.. for some.. hrmmm.

    The suburb reminds me of The Truman Show,+sydney&sll=-33.737795,150.955024&sspn=0.023376,0.051584&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Bella+Vista+New+South+Wales&ll=-33.737331,150.955024&spn=0.023376,0.051584&t=h&z=15

  13. Thanks Louise. When the tree died nobody looked at it. When it was painted blue it become a landmark. Sadly Campbelltown can be a landmark for all the wrong reasons - until you live there. The people have time for a chat. The community is vibrant and we are so proud of our own.

  14. Thanx Louise I think we are on the same page here. You photographs are beautiful

  15. Anon - Bella Vista sounds interesting, shall look into it!
    Captain Pat - Like the story about the Blue Tree. It is hard to miss and strangely beautiful. I think places like Campbelltown are impossible to know unless you live there as you do - easy to make false assumptions I guess. Nice to hear you love it.
    John Mc - Thank you, glad you like them.


  16. I was born in that house in Blair Athol. As in, THE Blair Athol. My parents rented it with some of their friends, which I imagine was a nice environment for a baby. Back then it was just a green hill, our neighbors were the Johnson & Johnson factory! Alas, we moved to Newcastle when I was 2. That was 18 years ago and I've only ever seen it a few times since, mostly from the highway when we were driving to see friends in Camden. I really like knowing about my past and so I collect as much proof that it existed as I can. It's really very hard to find a nice picture of Blair Athol, especially since it's now surrounded by all those vile houses. So thank you!

  17. south-2nd - Wow, it must have been amazing when it was just a house on a hill. Thanks for sharing a part of your former life.


  18. Hey Louise, I came onto your site after I met you today in Paddington when you took some photos at the café. I was surprised to see my hometown of Campbelltown here and wasn't sure what to expect so I took a look and was amazed at the beauty you managed to capture. As you said only a bit of beauty remains, in my opinion also, but you make me feel proud to be from there with these photos!! Good job and can't wait to see the rest to come (especially Paddington :) )

  19. Huckleberry - Nice of you to drop by! And so glad you weren't dismayed at my portrait of C. There's always beauty don't you think, just have to search hard for it sometimes!


  20. Great pictures Louise. Lived in Campbelltown 1958 to 1991. New much of the old history. When married lived with the view of Old St Pats from myback patio
    Nice to see familiar pictures. My sister in law when to school there and I had a friend who actually lived there in the 1970s.

  21. Hi Louise, great stuff!

    I lived in Campbelltown from 1966 to the late 1970s and my mother and some of my sisters and their families still live there. Just to take issue with one point, I don't think it could have been considered a "big country town" 30 years ago (1980). It was declared a "city" in 1969 or thereabouts, with the extension of the electric railway there, whereupon it was proudly announced that Campbelltown would become a dormitory suburb for people working in Sydney. This was followd by the construction of the Sherwood Hills housing estate, but there were already large areas of Housing Commission housing already in existence round Leumeah and Campbelltown North. When I started university in 1976, I caught the train every day with commuters who had spent years taking the train in and out every day. There were country trains (diesel) coming through from Moss Vale and Picton, also filled with people who commuted to Sydney every day, 2 hours each way. There was a strong sense of being attached to the greater Sydney area, not a country town.

  22. Just stumbled across your blog/book - love the concept, and congrats on getting published :)

    Mount Annan is actually part of Camden Council, as huge as the area is now. I was born in Camden, grew up in Campbelltown for the first 6 years of my life, then back to Camden till I was 24. Gorgeous area, and such a variety of landscapes: river, farm land, wineries.... and not to mention the gorgeous and historical Elizabeth Macarthur Farm. Highly recommended suburb to photograph :)

  23. I really enjoyed your look at my old suburb. I lived in Campbelltown from 1975 to 1989. I agree with Campbelltown through this time becoming a city 'on the edge of the city'. I do remember the Good Intent Hotel, it had a very imposing staircase to a 7 year old, and always loved the Fisher's Ghost Parade every year. It is a complete shame that most of the characteristic buildings were demolished, it could have been a charming main street.
    I really look forward to reading about other suburbs.