Camden Township Heritage Study

Click here to access the study:  Camden Heritage Study April 2016

The community, including the business community, rightly understands that the Heritage Conservation Area of Camden,  provides economic benefits, including significant opportunity for tourism and competitive advantages for businesses. Many businesses rely on the special ambience of Camden in their business models.

Camden has a remarkable sense of place and character. Many colonial town centres have been completely rearranged by later planning and although other towns close to Sydney may retain substantial buildings of the colonial period, whatever spatial relationship their town centres had with the surrounding land is being or has been developed away.

As available above, Camden Residents’ Action Group has undertaken a heritage study of Camden bringing together the wealth of writings that its character has inspired.

In summary Camden is special and unique because:

  1. It was an unofficial town founded in 1836 on Camden Park land, first granted in 1805;
  2. Camden was laid out to the first town planning principles of NSW established in 1829;
  3. The grid pattern of streets remains exactly as laid out, which if unusual for a town of the pre-gold-rush period;
  4. Camden is the only existing original private town in NSW, and probably Australia;
  5. Camden is associated with the prominent historical figure of John Macarthur.
  6. It was designed by his sons who had a highly developed sense of landscape aesthetic. Their use of vistas and symbolism, such as St John’s Church overlooking the town, provided a degree of social sophistication rarely found in Australia. The human-scale of the town presents an inviting village profile of rare character.
  1. Although close to Sydney, Camden exemplifies the agricultural way of life
    1. Picturesque rural landscapes tell the story of the Cowpasture patriarchs
    2. the town itself interfaces abruptly on three sides with rural open land including the town farm
  1. Adjacent to Camden are two listed endangered ecological communities in good condition. Kings Bush was originally part of the St John’s Church estate, and intergrades into endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland.

In both cultural and economic terms Camden is an extraordinary asset and one that should be treasured not threatened by inappropriate development.

Proposed developments such as the Milk Depot and the decked car park suggest a lack of  understanding of the significance of Camden and arguably are contrary to the spirit of its Heritage Conservation Area, as legislated through the Camden Local Environmental Plan  (LEP) 2010 and heritage policies in the Development Control Plan (DCP) 2011, which requires that new work be of compatible scale with sympathetic architectural elements.

Eminent historians who contributed to the Heritage Study agree:

Professor Emeritus Alan Atkinson Sydney University states

…to introduce buildings and structures of a different scale would seriously compromise in an overall physical sense the original harmony of the town within itself and within the surrounding landscape.  It ….shows an ignorance as to what the whole really signifies.

Associate Professor Grace Karskens University of NSW states

Camden is an astonishingly intact survival of early colonial Australia. Camden and its surrounding rural landscape clearly have national as well as state significance because of their links with vital developments in the early colony, including foundational contacts between Aboriginal people and settlers, early breakthroughs in the cattle industry, the strong association with the illustrious Macarthur family and the wool industry. ….Its historic, natural, social and aesthetic significance should be acknowledged and protected from unsympathetic development.

CRAG is fighting to retain Camden Township’s heritage and amenity in the face of Council’s new Vision for the old town which sees the heritage protections as constraining development.