Highlands History | The Waites of Browley

The family of John and Mary Waite were one of the earliest to settle in the local district.

As told previously, John Waite arrived in Sydney as a convict in 1804. He was assigned to Dr Charles Throsby and accompanied him to Newcastle and then to Minto in 1809, where Throsby established his property Glenfield. For explorations to the south and west, in 1819 Throsby was granted land at Bong Bong, where his estate was named Throsby Park by Governor Macquarie. Having assisted Throsby, John Waite and another servant, Joseph Wild, were each granted 100 acres at Sutton Forest.

John and Mary settled on their grant. In April 1823, he sought permission to occupy, until required by Government, an adjacent 500 acres. Throsby endorsed the request to the Colonial Secretary: “the better to enable him (Waite) to keep a dairy and supply him with the means of educating his children, the land not being occupied or fit for any other purpose than to graze a few cattle. I certify that he served me as a Government Servant and after he was emancipated faithfully, honestly and with perfect sobriety more than 18 years and that his industrious habits as a settler entitles him to the best recommendation. Charles Throsby JP.”

Waite’s request was granted. The land is measured out as 699 acres on the Parish Map. Waite had already acquired Wild's 100-acre grant and, in 1825, again with Throsby's endorsement, purchased an adjoining 700 acres.

Waite would have grieved in April 1828 when Throsby committed suicide, aged only 51. Having no children of his own, Throsby had brought out a nephew (also Charles) to be his heir and it was Charles Jr's family that carried on at Throsby Park.

Waite's enterprise burgeoned, as by 1828 it appears he was working 1600-1700 acres. This land extended west of today’s Illawarra Highway, between Berrima Road and Oldbury Road, to a line near the Cement Works. It now encompasses a major part of Moss Vale, there being a Waite Street and Browley Street.

On Browley, his original land grant, Waite built a brick house, workers’ huts, coach house, meat works and other outhouses. At the census of 1828, of the 1000 acres Waite owned, 170 were cleared and 50 cultivated and his stock comprised 20 horses, 300 cattle and 650 sheep. Working for him were 13 men of various categories, free and assigned.

He and Mary had five daughters and three sons. Apart from the oldest, Elizabeth, all were under 12 years of age. Their mother employed a servant and her sister Maria also lived with them, as did Thomas Saw, aged 55, free by servitude. In total there were 24 adults and children at Browley in 1828, with Elizabeth away at school in Parramatta. By 1838 another daughter and three more sons would be born.

NEXT GENERATION: Maria and Charles Waite, c1900. He was the family’s first local-born child in 1821. Photo: BDH&FHS

NEXT GENERATION: Maria and Charles Waite, c1900. He was the family’s first local-born child in 1821. Photo: BDH&FHS

In the 1830s Waite had a barn/granary built on the property. It was large, being 60 x 40 feet in size, 30 feet high, with a 13 feet skillion at the back, used for shearing and grain storage. The barn had a timber frame, with 2-feet thick sandstock brick walls, and was provided with a cobblestoned floor. It had splayed vertical openings to provide ventilation for grain and large doors to allow easy access for wagons. It remains an impressive building today.

FINE LEGACY: The Browley property in mid-20th century, with the barn an impressive feature. Photo: BDH&FHS.

FINE LEGACY: The Browley property in mid-20th century, with the barn an impressive feature. Photo: BDH&FHS.

James Atkinson of Oldbury, who wrote a guide for prospective settlers in 1825, reckoned “a spacious barn floor is very useful, as threshing is sometimes the only work the men can be employed upon in wet weather, and is also particularly useful for the purpose of shearing sheep upon”.

Wheat grown on Browley was milled at Oldbury with power from a waterwheel.

Waite also erected a schoolhouse, probably around 1826, to be as well “a place of worship and occupied as such until one has been built by the Government”. It was considered a Church of England school and a forerunner of All Saints Church, Sutton Forest. The intention of using it for divine service was in keeping with the Waite’s long-standing religious affiliations.

Mary Waite died in 1850 and John passed away in 1863. The property was then sold to the prominent Morrice family, who owned it for around 50 years. The land was sub-divided into rural and town allotments. In the 1920s the Cowley family purchased the homestead block and restored the old house, being owners until 1960.

Browley is still a working farm.

  • Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 2-part series.


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