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Castle Hill Coffee

Did you know that coffee was grown in Castle Hill in the early days of the 19th century by a Frenchman?

Chevalier Verincourt de Clambe, a French colonel, arrived in Sydney on the Minorca in 1801 as a free settler. He received a land grant of 100 acres (40 hectares) from Governor King on 1 February 1802 in the District of Dundas, now part of Baulkham Hills Shire around Rogans Hill at the corner of Castle Hill and Old Northern Roads. With the assistance of convicts, De Clambe planted cotton, grapes and coffee trees and he supplied vegetables to a shop in the village of Castle Hill. His original home now forms the core of The Hermitage which is still standing at 342 Old Northern Road. It was restored in 2005.

De Clambe’s property stretched north to present-day Oakhill College and the Governor King lookout with its view of the Castle Hill Heritage Park, the site of the original Castle Hill Government Farm. De Clambe died suddenly in June 1804 when he was attending a dance at Government House. The Sydney Gazette of 10 June reported ‘an inquest was held at which the medical gentlemen who attended the deceased at the approach of death gave it as their opinion that the event was occasioned by an apoplexy’. [Apoplexy: a haemorrhage of the brain]

Governor Arthur Phillip created different districts in the fledgling colony such as the District of the Field of Mars, Eastern Farms, The Ponds and Northern Boundary. The District of Dundas, which encompassed Rogans Hill and West Pennant Hills, was named after the Colonial Secretary, Henry Dundas. With an increasing population more suburbs were created and some district names disappeared. The District of Dundas was abolished in 1889 although the name still survives in the suburb of Dundas.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, is available at Pennant Hills Pharmacy.

Castle Hill Coffee
The first fleets to Australia brought with them coffee beans from Brazil but they made the mistake of planting them on the lowlands near the beaches around Sydney and the plants did not survive.
This was the mistake made with many early crops introduced into New South Wales.
Only when James Ruse ventured in land did the first success come with crops of wheat in 1789, for which he was rewarded with a 30 acre land grant, with chickens and pigs for his farm.
Later Chevalier Verincourt de Clambe collected coffee beans from Rio De Janeiro in Brazil on his way to Australia as a free settler in 1801.
The colourful Verincourt De Clambe - a decorated and temporarily exiled French Colonel was granted 100 acres in Castle Hill by Governor Phillip King.
From the many reviews of his time it appears that he grew Wheat, Maize, Cotton, Grapes and Coffee and supplied vegetables to a shop in the village of Castle Hill, NSW.
The Baron became somewhat of a hermit and died in June 1804, possibly of a stroke, though it was widely known that he suffered from wounds sustained in an attack by escaping convicts from the Castle Hill Prison Farm.
His home now forms the core of the restored cottage “ The Hermitage” at 342 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill, though the location is better known as Rogans Hill to locals.
The Pine family have grown a small crop of coffee in their backyard in Castle Hill for over 30 years just 550 metres south of the location.
The seedlings were obtained from an early character of the coffee industry Max Hines who lived in St Ives. Max had brought the seeds back from New Guinea 50 years ago.
Max was secretary of the Australian Tea & Coffee Traders Association ATCTA for some years in his retirement.
I planted the trees in Castle Hill with the advice of former Zimbawean Coffee Grower, and former Chairman of ATCTA, my good friend and golf partner for many years Tony Witham.
Tony said, “plant them on a slope so the frost will drain, and plant them in groups of three so they will develop their own micro climate.”
It was good advice and the crop has grown into a small forest in the corner of our yard providing good quantities of beans each year.
Clayton Pine

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