Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Cuppacumbalong Station in today's Australian Capital Territory has a long history beginning with it's establishment as a "squatters run" by James Wright in 1841. James Wright arrived from London and first established "the L'anyon Estate" (post here) on the Murrumbidgee River in 1833.

National Library of Australia (here)

A prosperous and self-sustaining 'community" developed that consisted of over 40 convicts who were assigned to work (slave) for him. The total population of Lanyon numbered 60 people.  Wright established Orchards, planted wheat, grew beef cattle and sheep and maintained a dairy herd. In 1841 unfortunately Wright was experiencing "debts he could not bear" and was forced to sell the Lanyon Estate. Wright actually lost Lanyon by the combination of a number of factors:- a general depression, the loss of free convict labour with the end of the assignment system, drought, debt and probably his own mismanagement.

View from nearby Lambrigg Station (originally part of Cuppacumbalong)

This financial blow forced Wright to move across the river and establish a new station that he called "Cuppacumbalong". He however only stayed a further 12 years and sold "Cuppacumbalong Station" to the 39 year old Count Leopold Fabius Dietegen Fane De Salis (1816-1898)(bio) in 1855. Cuppacumbalong Station was then truly developed by De Salis. The property became known for it's fine wool and magnificent draught-horses. De Salis was also noted for his pioneering work with establishing farm dams and his implementation of irrigation sourced from the Murrumbidgee River to water Cuppacumbalong.

The Maitland Mercury - 30 December 1875

National Library of Australia (here)

De Salis consolidated his "squattocracy" when the free selection of lands (Robertson Lands Act. here) came into force in 1861. By using family members and "dummies" (trusted people) to acquire portions of the more productive land of Cuppacumbalong, on the river flats, in their names, De Salis secured the extensive lands of Cuppacumbalong by denying new "selectors" access to arable land and water.

The Sydney Morning Herald - 28 December 1876

National Library of Australia (here)

After a successful pastoral and political career spanning nearly 40 years De Salis fell victim to the economic depression of the 1890's that was sweeping the country and to settle debts he lost most of his land-holdings in 1892. He stayed at Cuppacumbalong until 1894 finally bankrupting with the unbelievable (for the day) debt of over 100,000 pounds.

The Sydney Morning Herald - 22 November 1898

National Library of Australia (here)

Cuppacumbalong's next owner was Colonel Selwyn Campbell who in partnership with Mr. George Circuitt ran the property from 1898 until 1911. These were prosperous years with the Australian economy well and truly "riding on the sheep's back". The newly federated colonies of Australia also weathered the shearing strikes around the turn of the century (info here). Industrial relations decisions were apparently distributed by a local magistrate under the ruling's of the "Master's and Servants Act".

The Sydney Morning Herald - 27 November 1901

National Library of Australia (here)

Good water and feed saw a boom in introduced species such as rabbits and foxes. Methods were being developed to try and reduce if not eliminate pest species. Rabbits were initially introduced from Europe in 1859 and foxes in the late 1860's. The Pasture Protection Board of New South Wales paid a bounty on fox and dingo scalps in the early 1900's.

The Sydney Morning Herald - 9 September 1908

National Library of Australia (here)

As with the entire Australian Federal Territory, Cuppacumbalong Station was resumed in the early 1900's by the Commonwealth of Australia to become part of the new Federal Capital. The areas to be relinquished by New South Wales were listed as follows: The Parishes of Yarrowlumla, Narrabunda, Tuggeranong, and Gegertane in the County of Murray and the Parishes of Colguarra, Tharwa, Cuppacumbalong, and Yawara in the County of Cowley... etc...

The Advertiser - 1 October 1909

National Library of Australia (here)

A time of change for Cuppacumbalong and the district occurred after Alan Thomson took control of the station in 1911. Thomson solved the existing homestead's flooding problems, caused by the nearby Murrumbidgee River, by building a new homestead on higher ground and demolishing the old homestead. Cuppacumbalong Station is then sold and transfers into the hands of Mr. A. G. McKeahnie.

The Sydney Morning Herald - 29 August 1911

National Library of Australia (here)

The Sydney Morning Herald - 17 March 1915

National Library of Australia (here)

The Snow family takes control of the station in the 1920's. Frank Snow completes extensive renovations to the homestead at this time.  Wool remained the mainstay of the 7,700 acre (3117 hectare) property with Cuppacumbalong running 7,000 head of Merino sheep and 300 head of Hereford cattle. Cuppacumbalong was one of the largest properties still operating in the Australian Capital Territory in the 1960's.

The Canberra Times - 11 February 1939

National Library of Australia (here)

In closing, Cuppacumbalong was to entertain Princess Elizabeth (bio), the future Queen of England, and her husband Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburgh (bio), on the occasion of her birthday during their 1952 Australian tour, unfortunately  Elizabeth's father King George VI  (1895-1952)(bio) died in the February, Elizabeth became the Queen of Australia and the tour was cancelled.

Princess Elizabeth 1952

The Argus - 11 January 1952

National Library of Australia (here)

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  1. A good read Dave, thanks.
    Can I assume that rabbits were introduced for food and sport and the fox for fox hunting? Or was the fox introduced to try and control the rabbits?!

  2. I thought that about foxes and rabbit control Le Loup but apparently 24 European rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859 by a Thomas Austin in Victoria for hunting purposes. It does not appear to be known who introduced the fox but it is known that it was imported and released to kindle the sport of fox hunting in Australia.
    Cheers, Dave


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