Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Century & a Half of History at Woodlands, Pambula.

After more than a century & a half, the original allotments that started Pambula’s Woodlands farm remain in the ownership of direct descendants of the first purchaser.

Born in London on July 31, 1827, the son of Henry, a chemist, John Martin married Louisa Jefferey on August 14, 1852, at the Parish of Stepney, County of Middlesex. On their marriage certificate, John’s occupation was given as a carpenter, so it is likely that he made use of those skills after moving to Australia, at least in the construction of the Woodlands homesteads. Just after marrying, the couple arrived in Melbourne, settling at Echuca for two years where their first child, a daughter, was born & died.

Moving to Pambula on the NSW far south coast in 1854, John joined the police force, dealing with the typical drunk & disorderly, livestock theft & neighbourhood disputes. In 1858, he was involved in the capture of mutinied crew members from the American whaler Junior in nearby Merimbula & was one of those who conveyed them first to Pambula & subsequently to Eden. Soon after, in March 1858, John resigned from the police force & took up a life of agricultural & farming pursuits, a tradition that was to be followed by ensuing members of the family.

Purchasing two blocks of land on the corner of Munjie & Bullara Streets in August 1855, this saw the beginnings of what was to become the Woodlands farm. From personal correspondence, he appears to have commenced construction of the house at 6 Bullara Street soon after. Richard Gwynne, in an 1859 letter, asked “What are you doing with your stone house?” It is likely that the sandstone used in this structure was extracted locally from the old quarry behind the present-day Pambula District Hospital.

The home at 6 Bullara Street, October 1974.
© The Estate of A. C. (“Bubby”) George.
In 1871, when Mr J. H. Bennett recommended John Martin for the position of post master, it was stated that “His residence is in the township (stone building & free from floods).” The same year, a newspaper report on the district commented “…The residence & orchards of Mr John Martin at Pambula are worthy of mention. The former is a well-built stone residence, & there are two orchards – one three acres, & the second 15 acres in extent. Pears & apples are principally grown, & find a ready sale on Monaro…”

The home at 6 Bullara Street, C. 1970s.
© The Estate of A. C. (“Bubby”) George.
These orchards were noted on numerous occasions in reference to the district. In conjunction with Richard Gwynne, brother of local Anglican minister, John is reputed to have planted the first two orchards in the district, & in 1858, Gwynne wrote to “…thank you very much for informing me all about the orchard…”, also instructing “You had better pluck all the apples off the trees in the orchard should there be any on the trees.” In May the following year he asked “What is the orchard about?”, & “What would you advise me with regard to it this next season?” December 1885 saw a writer to the Candelo & Eden Union remark “Speaking of Mr Martin reminds the writer of the famous orchard owned by that gentleman, the equal of which is to be found in few districts in this part of the Colony, & provides a great source of profit to its owner…”

Rear of the house at No. 6 Bullara Street, C. 1960.
© The Estate of A. C. (“Bubby”) George.
When Sir John Robertson’s Land Act (known as Selection) came into being, John Martin took up part of the Ayredale property, necessitating three years’ residency on the land. Apart from this period, he resided in Pambula continuously for fifty years. Being an early settler of the township, he was often mentioned in reports about the district. In 1888, an account of the pioneers of the township stated “…Mr John Martin arrived some 35 years ago & began to invest in land, then to be had for a song, but he always held to the belief that it would ultimately become valuable, & his theory proving right he is now enabled to lead the peaceful life of a country gentleman.”

The year after John & Louisa arrived in Pambula, their son John Henry Martin was born. In 1878, he married Emily Augusta Baddeley, & the couple had three children. Sadly however, only one was to survive into adulthood. Elsie L. was born in 1890, & died the following year; Charles was born 1891, & also died the same year; while John Arthur was born in 1898, & lived to a good age, passing away in 1975 at 77 years.

John, John Henry and Louisa Martin, C. 1865.
Both John Henry & John Arthur followed the family tradition of agricultural & farming pursuits, taking over the continually expanding property to build it into one of the best in what was then the Colony of NSW. It eventually covered an area extending from the Pambula racecourse road (Merimbola Street) back to the recreation reserve (old racecourse) & through to Dingo Street & Bullara Street, along with additional paddocks on the Pambula Flats & at Pambula Beach.

It is probable that the homestead at 8 Bullara Street was constructed around 1890. In 1885, a writer to the Candelo & Eden Union, discussing stone structures in the Pambula township, refers to “…a cottage of Mr Martin’s…” in the singular, giving the impression that the second home had not yet been erected. The report stated “… Besides the church named, there are several other structures in Pambula built of stone – all of the new ones are composed of wood in chief – amongst which are the Public School, a cottage of Mr Martin’s, the Commercial Hotel, & others, & besides their solid appearance, they always strike one as being new, consequently the town has a strong fresh cast about it.”

No. 8 Bullara Street early in its life, C. 1890.
Located as it was near the flood plain, the Woodlands property faced the problem of periodic inundations over the years. During the 1919 floods, John Henry was among those that lost produce & so bad was this particular torrent that the Pambula Voice reported a total of 1,361 points of rain fell in just two days & "The flood waters rose to…within an inch of the floor of Mr J. H. Martin’s home, all his verandahs being covered.”

No. 8 Bullara Street, C. 1900.
Although John Henry struck out on his own, managing the Lyndhurst Estate at Burragate, he returned to the family farm at Pambula in 1899. It was reported  that “At Burragate last week, the employees on the Lyndhurst Estate met together for the purpose of making a presentation to Mr J. H. Martin JP, who is about to retire from the management of "Lyndhurst" & take up his permanent abode in Pambula. The present, which was accompanied by good wishes for Mr & Mrs Martin's future welfare & happiness, consisted of a handsome watch pendant in the form of a silver match-box inlaid with gold, & inscribed with the initials of the recipient. Mr Martin has been in charge of Lyndhurst for 10 years & was much esteemed by the employees of the estate, who learned of his departure with sincere regret.”
No. 8 Bullara Street, C. 1910. The silo and dairy can be noted in the background.
John Henry was also operating an auctioneers business by the late 1880’s & in 1898, went in to partnership as “…auctioneers, estate & general agents…” with Mr A. W. King, formerly manager of the local branch of the A. J. S. Bank. In July that year, they announced themselves as “…auctioneers, valuators, stock & station agents etc. their address being Pambula & Burragate. Mr King & Mr Martin are well known throughout the district; the former has had considerable experience in connection with landed property etc., while the latter is a first-class authority on all matters pertaining to stock; both admirably qualified for the business upon which they are entering.” The following year, the partnership was dissolved, with the business being carried on in the name of J. H. Martin & Co.

Although John Henry had also been managing Woodlands for some years, it was not until 1906 that he took over ownership. That year, his father passed away as a result of pneumonia at 77 years of age. His mother Louisa passed away in April 1918, at 89 years of age, remaining on the property until that time & having resided in Pambula for 65 years at the time of her death. John Henry was to continue the tradition of growth, expansion & improvement of the Woodlands property established by his father.

Jack Martin (L) & Allan (“Bubby”) George (R) C. 1964, in front of one the weatherboard homes that once stood on the Woodlands farm. This particularly building stood in between the two stone houses that continue to stand today.
© The Estate of A. C. (“Bubby”) George.

By this time, dairying had become a main stay on Woodlands, & it is believed that the dairy building, the collapsed remains of which can still be seen today, were constructed around 1900. In 1903, John Henry had sheds erected to house the dairy herd during winter nights, & he also took active steps to improve the quality of the property’s dairy herd. In both 1904 & 1905, he was able to secure leases of government stud Guernsey bulls for breeding purposes & by 1930, the pure bred Woodlands jerseys were all registered in the herd book.
In 1903, John Henry also became one of the first in the district to use ensilage to avoid winter fodder shortage. It was reported in August that year that “Mr J. H. Martin of Pambula, who has gone in for ensilage this year (corn & sorghum), opened his stack a few days ago, & he informs us that it was a great success. The cows did not seem to like it at first, but now eat it greedily.” His concern for fodder conservation continued & in 1906, it was announced that “J. H. Martin intends to construct a silo to conserve feed for his herd during the winter.” The completion of the structure was noted in March the following year, when local media stated that Mr W. J. Wright had completed the work & “…the owner intends commencing filling operations in the course of a week or two.” In 1906, he purchased the Pambula Dairy Co-operative’s old boiler, which he used for chaff cutting, as well as utilising the additional plant in his dairy for cutting greenstuff for ensilage. In 1914, a windmill was added to the list of his many farm improvements.

Dairy and silo on Woodlands, C. 1950’s.
© The Estate of A. C. (“Bubby”) George.
The third generation of the family, John Arthur (better known as “Jack”) successfully passed the Banker’s Institute examination in 1914, but there is no evidence that he ever followed this as an occupation. Following the death of John Henry in October 1922 at 65 years of age, “Jack” took over management of what was by then regarded as one of the best farming properties on the South Coast. Jack was to marry twice, firstly to Aileen Severs in 1924, & the couple had two daughters, Joyce Aileen, & Betty. Following Aileen’s death from tuberculosis in 1930, Jack married Elsie Severs in 1935.

Jack & Aileen Martin.
By 1930, Woodlands comprised of 170 acres, 100 acres of this being rich alluvial flat with frontage to the Pambula River, the remainder being 70 acres of hill land. The property also grew crops such as Lucerne, oats & maize, whilst pure bred Berkshire pigs were also raised, the output being sent to the bacon factory in nearby Merimbula.

Experimental agriculture became something of a feature on the Woodlands farm even in its initial stages of development, with indications that it was being undertaken as early as the 1850’s. In 1859, Richard Gwynne wrote to John Martin “I will send you a parcel of Egyptian wheat which I wish you to distribute in equal portions to Mr Wren, King, Gowing, Carragher & Chappel. The wheat is much pinched having been grown on the Billabong in a dry season, but I think that at Bega or Panbula it may prove advantageous to the growers.”

In 1902, John Henry, together with J. C. Behl, conducted a manural experiment using burnt oyster shells obtained from Aboriginal middens around the shores of Pambula (or Broadwater) Lake. It was reported that “About 130 bags have been procured & several kilns have already been burnt. We are informed that the heaps from which the shells are being obtained are from 6 to 10 feet deep & are believed to have been placed there by generations of Aborigines in years gone by when the blacks evidently assembled regularly at specially selected spots on the river to have ‘oyster feasts’ & threw the emptied shells into mounds about them...”

By 1913, John Henry was also conducting an experimental plot on his land on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, featuring variety & manural trials, as well as experiments to ascertain crops suitable for local conditions. Described as “…the first of its kind conducted here…” samples of the different varieties were forwarded to the Department of Agriculture for exhibition at that year’s Royal Show. Late in 1913, Mr Makin, Inspector under the Department of Agriculture, visited Pambula to plant strawberry clover plants on the plot, & by October, potato, grasses & maize trials were also being undertaken. John Henry’s efforts did not go unnoticed & in December, he received a “…very nicely lithographed letter of thanks from the Department of Agriculture for his trouble & enthusiasm in connection with the Government Experimental Plot at Pambula.” The Pambula Voice continued to report on the results of the plot & in September 1916, it was stated that “Pambula is becoming noted as a district for growing seed maize. The Department of Agriculture has purchased all the seed maize grown by Mr J. H. Martin on the experimental plot.” Demonstrations were another aspect of John Henry’s experimental farming activities, & as an example, he gave a paddock for an exhibition of disc ploughing in 1903. “Jack” continued his father’s experimental agricultural work, also operating such plots on the farm at least up until the late 1920’s.

Harvesting and storing maize in a crib on Woodlands C 1930s
Woodlands won an array of awards over the years, including many through the local A. H. & P. Societies. At the inaugural 1903 Pambula A. H. & P. Society Show, John Henry won a five guinea medal for the champion bull whilst in 1914, the property took out first prize at the Candelo Show for a collection of 12 varieties of potatoes. In 1927, Woodlands jersey cow, Nancy, won the home milking competition in connection with the Pambula Show. John Arthur won first prize in 1928 in the local section of the Royal Agricultural Society maize competition & the same year, took first prize for field maize at the Pambula Show. 

The most prestigious of the many awards & prizes won by the property, however, was the 1930 fodder conservation award. Run through the Pambula A. H. & P. Society on behalf of the Royal Agricultural Society, Woodlands was described as a “…well-stocked, well arranged property.” The win was a first for the Pambula A. H. & P. Society, made all the more exciting because at that time, John Arthur was also President of the organisation. Woodlands again took out the fodder conservation award honour 1936.

Cup presented in 1930 by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW to J A Martin for fodder conservation on Woodlands
Apart from their commitment to the management & improvement of their own farming property, members of the Martin family maintained a strong connection with & support of a wide & varied assortment of community activities, projects, organisations & institutions over the years. Both John Henry & John Arthur were Justices of the Peace, Honorary Magistrates & Coroners; served as office bearers & committee members of the Pambula A. H. & P. Society;  Farmers & Settlers Association; Agricultural Bureau; Pambula Co-operative Creamery & Dairy Company; Merimbula Co-operative Bacon Factory; South Coast Oyster Lessees Association; the Anglican Church; Eden–Pambula District Hospital (later Pambula District Hospital); Pambula Public School; Pambula Progress Association; Pambula School of Arts; Lodge Baddeley; Pambula Recreation Reserve trustees; Pambula River Aquatic Club; Pambula Surf Life Saving Club; Pambula District Jockey Club; Far South Coast Racing Association; Pambula Proprietary Racing Club; Pambula Athletics Club; Pambula Cricket Club; & Pambula Football Club.

Fodder barns on Woodlands C 1964


This commitment to local sporting organisations led to the family’s donation of the land in Narregol Street still used today for recreational purposes. In 1923, the Pambula Voice reported “For some years, those who take an interest in sports such as cricket, football, etc. have found great inconvenience by the present ground (which is on the Recreation Reserve) being so far from town…Some little time prior to the death of Mr J. H. Martin, he generously donated the use of about three acres in front of his residence & adjoining the tennis courts, for the use of as a sports ground…” Although the transfer had not been finalised prior to John Henry’s death, his son “Jack” completed the process & around 1937 ownership of the land was transferred to the township of Pambula for sporting & recreation purposes. It is now known as “Jack Martin Park”.

Also involved in the local political arena, John Henry was elected to the Imlay Shire Council in 1917, & occupied the position of Shire President for at least one term.

Over the last half a century of so, the Woodlands property has gradually become smaller, until today, all that remains are the two stone homes, a silo, one of a number of hay barns & the collapsed remains of the dairy. These are but a fraction of the associated buildings that once stood on the property.

Nonetheless, even today the older of the two remaining houses is still in direct family ownership, John Martin’s great, great grand-daughter & her husband retaining that connection with the estate. 

No. 8 Bullara Street just prior to the restoration project.
© Allan George.

Above: The restoration of No. 8 Bullara Street.
© Allan George.

Above and below: After the restoration of No. 8 Bullara Street.
© Allan George.

No. 8 Bullara Street, 2009.
© Angela George.

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