Belgenny Farm's 'small miserable hut' to attract history buffs

The hut as painted by Conrad Martens.
The hut as painted by Conrad Martens.

A replica of one of the oldest dwellings in Camden is being planned on the site of the historic Belgenny Farm.

The Camden South farm has a long colonial history and was built by the famed Macarthur family – the namesakes of the region.

Historians and archaeologists believe a small timber and bark hut was built on the property prior to 1810, but was lost to the weather in the years after.

However, the Belgenny Farm Agricultural Heritage Centre Trust wants to bring it back.

They currently have an application (lodged by Can Ercan and Eric Martin and Associates) before Camden Council for the reconstruction of the hut with a steel-framed canopy.

Trust chairman Dr Cameron Archer said reconstructing the hut had been a “long-term project”.

“It started well before I became the Chair of the Belgenny Trust,” he said.

“We’ve got the timber and bark cut and the application is before the council.

“We expect it to be up in the next year.”

Dr Archer said the replica hut would serve as a great educational tool for local students and would also draw interested tourists to the region.

“We want a cover over the top to protect it from the elements, so that would work well for shading school children visiting to see what colonial life was like in Camden 200 years ago,” he said.

“It would be a special and unique addition to Belgenny Farm as – there are no other known sites in Australia that will have such a complete history.

“It will certainly attract history buffs and we plan to have visiting groups once it’s constructed.”

The original hut got its rather depressing name from Governor Lachlan Macquarie, Dr Archer said, who was visiting Elizabeth Macarthur.

Macquarie wrote in his diary about sitting with Mrs Macarthur “for a little while in a small miserable hut” on November 19, 1810.

Mrs Macarthur, who lived in Parramatta at that time while her husband and sons were overseas, frequently visited the Camden farm in that era, but would have stayed at Belgenny Cottage, not the hut.

Dr Archer said the hut would have been utilised by shepherds and other visitors.

He said archaeological digs had uncovered a fireplaces and the foundations of the hut at a site on the northern end of the ridge at Belgenny Farm.

“There wasn’t much to find as the timber and bark had all rotted away,” Dr Archer said.

“The site of the new hut will be planned for the ridge north of Belgenny Farm and we believe it will be an excellent addition to elevate the development and operation of the estate.”

The design of the hut is based on a painting by colonial artist Conrad Martens, who depicted the dwelling in his painting The Old Bark Hut.