Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

Suffolk Vale, New South Wales, Australia

Suffolk Vale is a homestead and locality seven miles to the northeast of Boorowa in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales.  It is the area east of the Boorowa River adjacent to the Narrawa Road and the Gunnary-Frogmore Road running north from the Narrawa Road.  Gunnary Creek runs through the area to join the Boorowa River.  Suffolk Vale is 208 miles (335 km) southwest of Sydney, and 74 miles (119 km) north of Canberra.  Its location is 34°22'0''S 148°46'59''E.

Population:-  Suffolk Vale is classed as a community.  It has a very small scattered population.  There was a total of 76 people in the 2016 Census for “Godfreys Creek”, which covers Suffolk Vale.  In 2016 the nearby town of Boorowa had a population of 1,227.

How to get there:-

By road: From Sydney, take Metroad 1, then Metroad 5, before heading south & west on Hume Hwy/National Highway 31. Near Yass, turn right onto Lachlan Valley Way/State Route 81 towards Boorowa.  At Boorowa, take the Narrawa Road towards Rugby and Frogmore.  Just before the Gunnary-Frogmore Road junction, take a left turn down a farm track towards Suffolk Vale Farm.  If you go up the Gunnary-Frogmore Road the tracks off to the left lead to various parts of the Suffolk Vale community, including Newhaven Park stud farm.

Alternatively, leave National Highway 31 at Goulburn, take Crookwell Road north until you reach Crookwell, then take Narrawa Road & arrive at Suffolk Vale from the north east.  

From Canberra, head north on Barton Hwy/National Highway 25. At Yass, join Hume Hwy/National Highway 31 & then follow directions to Boorowa as above.

By rail: There is no rail service today.  Boorowa got a branch line from the main line at Galong in 1914, but passenger trains ceased to run in 1974 and the line, then used for wheat shipments, closed in 1987.     

Canberra International Airport is around 80 miles away by road to the south, whilst Sydney International Airport is approximately 200 miles away to the east.

Time Zone: Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT +10 hrs). Daylight saving time in summer + 1hr.

Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

Early Settlement & Derivation of Name

Suffolk Vale – ‘Rivers of Carbon’ Project

Boorowa, Boorowa Shire & King County 

Early Settlement & Derivation of Name

The area was originally inhabited by the nomadic Wiradjuri aborigines, but by 1851 there were only 300 left.  Most of the original inhabitants died from the diseases brought by European settlers.

Early grants around Burrowa (the 19th century spelling of Boorowa) were made to James Hassall in 1827, and the Hassall family soon had extensive landholdings throughout the district, becoming the leading family there.  The first Europeans to arrive in the area where Suffolk Vale is located settled along the Gunnary Creek where there was water readily available.  One of the earliest was Henry Castles from Berkshire, England, who arrived in Sydney in 1818.  He married an Ann Murray in 1835, and that year Henry and Ann Castles moved from Sydney and settled at Gunnary Creek.  In 1852 Henry died, leaving his widow to look after four young children.  The families of Hassall and Castles were indirectly instrumental in the founding of Suffolk Vale by Thomas Wilding.  
John Thomas Peter Wilding (always known as Thomas Wilding) was born in 1813 at Lavenham, Suffolk, England.  He was sentenced to 14 years after being convicted of wounding three horses and one cow, and transported to Australia on the ship “Lloyds” in July 1836.  On arrival at Sydney in 1837 he was assigned to Robert Campbell at Wingello, east of Goulburn.  Thus Thomas Wilding began his career as a grazier, and continued to do so after June 1845 when he was given his “Ticket of Leave”.  This was a parole document issued to convicts who had shown they could now be trusted with some freedoms.  Once granted, a convict was permitted to seek employment within a specified district, but could not leave the district without the permission of the resident magistrate.  Robert Campbell had married Ann Hassall from Burrowa, and in 1850 they moved back to that district where Ann’s family were the leading landowners.  It seems that Thomas Wilding went with them.  He gained his Certificate of Freedom the same year, and he probably continued working for Robert Campbell on his homestead which was on land west of the Burrowa River.  It was because of this Hassall connection that Thomas Wilding arrived in the area.   

In 1852 Thomas Wilding went to work for the recently widowed Ann Castles at her place on Gunnary Creek which was east of the Burrowa River.  With four young children to raise, it came as no surprise that Ann Castles found herself a husband in Thomas Wilding, and they married in 1855.  Ann died in 1860 and from that year the “Wilding Paddock” or “Wilding Station” at Gunnary Creek is recorded.  We next hear of Thomas Wilding in 1862 when he married Susannah Hitchen, a young 18 year old from his old haunt of Wingello.  Over the following 20 years they were to have nine children.

The next event at Wilding Station was widely reported in the NSW press.  On the evening of 22 September 1863  two bushrangers, James Murphy (better known as Jemmy Blackguard) and Frederick Phillips , came to the homestead, collected together at gunpoint the six men and three women of the station, and proceeded to rob the settlement of what it had.  Thomas Wilding was tied up whilst this was going on but managed to free himself.  Meanwhile, the bushrangers had found a bottle of rum and were soon the worse for wear.  This enabled Thomas and his overseer, Jones, to overpower the two.  In the struggle, Jones smashed Murphy over the skull which killed him.  Since “Jemmy Blackguard” had been subjecting the territory to his activities for seven or eight years, his passing was not regretted, and the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.  

The first record of “Suffolk Vale” occurs in September 1873 when a Catholic school was established at Gunnary “near to Suffolk Vale”.  From this time onwards there are reports of people being born and living at Suffolk Vale.  It appears that Thomas Wilding probably built the present homestead to the south of Gunnary Creek in about 1869 and named it after his home county in England.  The original “Wilding Station” was the stone building at Gunnary Creek that Henry Castles had built.  In 1863 his son, Henry John Castles, married and moved away from the area, leaving Tom Wilding in possession.  However, the son remained the legal owner, having inherited the property, and it is known that in 1869 he was back living with his family in that building.  

Thomas Wilding and members of his family held a number of plots mainly just south of Gunnary Creek and down to the Burrowa River, although a few plots were held north of the creek.  Other graziers held neighbouring plots and there was much intermingling of properties.  There seems to have been competition over land, and there are stories in the newspapers of the day of the burning of hay and destruction of property with neighbours accusing each other.  The main occupation of the grazier in the Southern Tablelands is farming sheep.  However, Thomas Wilding was obviously not as competitive as his neighbours since in April 1886 he was declared insolvent and was forced to sell his homestead.  His property was sold to the more successful neighbouring Alston family.  Nevertheless, by this time the name of Suffolk Vale had become entrenched in this part of the Burrowa district. Thomas Wilding died in May 1889 at Burrowa.   

The merging of various landholdings into Suffolk Vale Farm continued into the 20th century under new ownership.  In the 1920s and 1930s James Barnes built up the farm as part of his flourishing meat-packing business.  Although it was mainly sheep farming at Suffolk Vale, another interest of James Barnes would establish itself of importance in the district.  This was the breeding of thoroughbred horses.  Horse racing had been part of Burrowa sporting life since 1842.  The lush pastures and rolling hills were ideal habitats for raising horses.  However, it was the Kelly family not James Barnes that brought the breeding of thoroughbreds to its height.  

In 1920 the Kelly family bought part of the Suffolk Vale farm north of Gunnary Creek and established their now famous Newhaven Park stud farm there.  In 1945 the family business became a fully-fledged thoroughbred venture, and Suffolk Vale Pty Ltd is recognised as one of the leading breeders in the southern hemisphere with a number of sprinting champions to its credit.  It continues today and is now run by the fourth generation Kelly family.  
The original Suffolk Vale Farm south of Gunnary Creek continued to flourish with notable owners in James Barnes and Nick Burton Taylor, both holding senior positions in the agricultural societies of Australia.  In October 2009 Nick Taylor sold the farm of 2,185 hectares (5,400 acres) for in excess of $A 7 million to London-based MH Premium Farms.  This is the trading name of the agricultural investment entity in A
ustralia of the Michael Hintze Pension Fund, the beneficiary of which is the Hintze family.  Sir Michael Hintze AM* is an Australian resident in the United Kingdom.  His grandparents fled from Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and he was actually born in China. His refugee parents came to Australia and Michael Hintze was brought up in Sydney.

* AM = Order of Australia  

He is the founder of CQS Management, a London-based hedge fund with assets of $US 10.5 billion.  MH Premium Farms has acquired a diverse portfolio of properties in New South Wales.  These are long term investments and all properties acquired are being developed and improved with careful attention to sustainable production practices and environmental responsibility (see Suffolk Vale - ‘Rivers of Carbon’ Project, below).

Suffolk Vale remains a mixed farm with sheep and cattle, but sheep farming continues to be its mainstay.  
Although still a small community, there was sufficient population at Suffolk Vale to justify a rural school.  On the road between Frogmore and Boorowa is a boulder with a bronze plaque attached.  This indicates the site of the now vanished Suffolk Vale Public School that functioned here in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Suffolk Vale – ‘Rivers of Carbon’ Project

The ‘Rivers of Carbon’ project is an initiative based in the southern tablelands of New South Wales.  The aim is to create “living corridors of riparian vegetation”, i.e. the area of interface between the land and a river, by restoring this zone to its natural state.  The trees, shrubs and reeds along the riverbanks stop erosion, filter and trap sediment, and ultimately provide habitats so that the native animals of Australia can thrive.  This project is supported by the Australian River Restoration Centre through funding from the Australian Government’s Biodiversity Fund which encourages “carbon farming”.  Since 2009 this latter concept has begun to develop in Australia, and Suffolk Vale is among the early pioneers.  For the landowners, the project will provide multiple benefits, including future tradeable carbon credits, agricultural productivity, biodiversity and healthier rivers.  Credits can be awarded to companies which take action to measurably reduce carbon emissions, e.g. by planting trees; reduce by a certain amount, and you get a carbon credit.  This can then be traded on the international market and sold to an industrial producer so that he can increase his emissions quota by that amount of credit.

MH Premium Farms decided to become involved in the ‘Rivers of Carbon’ project be
cause they felt they had a responsibility to be proactive about managing the environment and protecting their on-farm resources.  Accordingly, a five kilometre stretch of the Boorowa River which runs through Suffolk Vale has been fenced off and will be revegetated.  The river corridor has been fenced wide enough to prevent the fence being lost if the river floods, and it has been erected according to the contours of the land to remove any artificial man-made obstructions (see photograph right).  This will enable the natural regeneration of reeds, shrubs, grasses and trees.  The project provides alternative water sources for livestock, and troughs are installed, along with lengths of poly pipe so that the river water can be accessed.  Farm manager Allan Munns points out that “It fits with our production goals of reducing labour costs and improving stock management.  Fencing off creeks and riparian areas has provided significant cost savings in running our farms.  The stock losses were time consuming and these days you don’t have the labour to be always fixing flood gates or getting stock back from neighbouring properties or across the river.”

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Boorowa, Boorowa Shire & King County

Boorowa is situated on the Boorowa River, a tributary of the Lachlan, and it lies among rich volcanic soil surrounded by rolling hills.  The name Burrowa, by which the region was known by the aborigines, is their word for the native bird, the Plains Turkey.  The last remnants of the local Wiradjuri tribes were herded onto government reserves around 1851.

The first European to travel through what is now Boorowa Shire was surveyor George Evans in 1815.  Unofficial occupation of the district began in 1821 with Irishmen Rodger Corcoran and Ned Ryan, both former convicts who had received their ‘ticket of leave’ from the Governor.  The first land grants along the Burrowa River were issued in 1827 and 1828 to James Hassall and William Broughton respectively.  Both families soon had extensive landholdings or “squattings” in the district, and many of their  employees also gained early holdings.  The term “squatter” was applied to tho
se who occupied Crown land under a lease or licence and grazed livestock on a large scale.  These early settlers formed a “squattocracy”, made up of families who knew each other, and who often intermarried, and through these means greatly extended their grants.

These holdings grew rapidly in the Burrowa district and within a few years many had become large pastoral holdings, grazing cattle and sheep.  However, Burrowa flourished mainly as a prime sheep grazing area – by 1850 shipping wool and meat to world markets.  This heritage is still celebrated today in the annual “running of the sheep” through the main street.

A mill was operating on the future site of the town of Boorowa by 1837 along with an inn and several houses.  However, there was yet no commercial settlement in the district.  Governor Gipps proposed the creation of a village named ‘Burrowa’ in 1842, to be located 9 km north-e
ast of the present location.  However, that spot proved unsuitable and the village was established on its present site in 1843 around a main crossing of the Burrowa River.  In 1850 Burrowa was surveyed and officially established.  This allowed the first allotment of plots to be auctioned in 1851 so that commercial businesses could be established to serve the surrounding farms.  The early years saw much lawlessness as a result of long running boundary disputes, theft of livestock and arson, and even murders.  Bushrangers roamed the surrounding remote land, making raids into the town and on stations of the district, as evidenced by the incident at Wilding’s Station in 1863 (see above).

It was not until the railway arrived that the spelling of Burrowa was changed.  On 2 February 1915 the railway station was commissioned under the name of Boorowa, and this now became the official designation of the community.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Anzac War Memorial, Boorowa

Boorowa is the birthplace of jazz multi-instrumentalist James Morrison (b 1962), best known for his trumpet playing. His recording career began in 1984 with his brother John in The Morrison Brothers Big Bad Band.  He composed and performed the opening fanfare at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Boorowa Shire: In 1888 Burrowa became a municipality.  In 1906 the country surrounding Burrowa was made into Murrungal Shire which was named after a local hill.  In 1944 the municipal council was incorporated into Murrungal Shire to form Boorowa Shire.  Boorowa is the only town in the Shire, and there are only four small villages of Rye Park, Rugby, Frogmore and Reids Flat.  The remainder of the population is to be found in isolated homesteads that form 22 officially recognised communities, including Suffolk Vale. On 12 May 2016, Boorowa Shire was abolished and merged with the Harden and Young shires to establish the Hilltops Council.

King County: Historically, Suffolk Vale was in King County;  one of the original nineteen counties in New South Wales, which was was named in honour of Governor Philip Gidley King (1758-1808). Today the counties of New South Wales have little official function other than for land titles and geographic surveying.

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