Bloom Hill Cob Cottage c1858 is the only surviving early settlers’ residence of the historic locality of Bloom Hill. The cottage stands on a 40-acre allotment purchased from the Crown in 1858 by Thomas Rea.
Bloom Hill Cottage provides tangible evidence of the early small farm settlement of the area and the pioneers’ reliance upon earth as a practical and economic building material.
The earliest settlers’ first concern was to establish shelter for their families and animals. They had to build quickly and efficiently from whatever materials were at hand and found the most readily available and durable construction element beneath their feet – earth!
Australian hardwood was difficult for the early settlers to work with as it twisted, shrank and cracked. Suitable timbers were scarce on the pastoral plains and lightly wooded areas of the O’Connell area. Transport of building materials via the steep terrain of the Great Dividing Range to an isolated place was a major and expensive task.
Former early days’ resident, Mrs Shirley Scutt (formerly Shirley Seymour) remembers that all the small acreage farms of Bloom Hill had earth houses. “There were a lot of mud walls."
Bloom Hill cottage, Shirley’s youth and childhood family home, tells a story of an age of self reliance, perseverance and optimism for the early settlers many of whom struggled to survive on small mostly freehold farms, some no larger than 40-acres as apportioned by the Crown for early land releases of the area.
Families of a dozen or more children were common. Children walking bare-foot to and from school was a familiar sight along Bloom Hill Road and nearby Bosworth Falls Road.
Bloom Hill School was located near the corner at the top of Bloom Hill Road where part of an old timber school building is still standing. Shirley recalled that Bloom Hill School had one teacher and was packed to capacity in the early days. “There was a mighty long cane. Half the children had no shoes.”
Numbers at Bloom Hill School (1869-1939) had significantly declined by the late 1920s.
Born in 1935, Shirley is the daughter of Aubrey Isaac Seymour and Doris Josh. Shirley’s brother, Jack, was 11-and-a-half years her senior.
The following information includes recollections of early 1900s life on Bloom Hill and details of family history kindly passed on by Mrs Scutt during several conversations between 2004 and 2019.
Aubrey Seymour was one of 13 children. Aubrey’s father was Stephen Seymour who settled on Bosworth Falls Road where he was granted a 40-acre land allotment. He married Edith Rebecca Wardrop of Bathurst. All the children attended Bloom Hill School.
Shirley’s father and his brothers and sisters attended the Bloom Hill Church and Sunday school when they were children, walking several miles to and from both the morning and evening services.
Aubrey Seymour married Doris Josh on 14th October 1922. They settled at Bloom Hill Cottage on a 240-acre farm comprised of six 40-acre 1858 crown land allotments. The property extended from the Bloom Hill Cottage 40-acre lot to the school house fence near the top of Bloom Hill on the northern side of the existing road.
Aubrey Seymour paid for the land with his War World 1 service entitlement of 330 pounds, 19 shillings and 40 pence received after four years away including two-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Germany.
Bloom Hill Cottage and farm was previously owned by Sarah Alice Rea who used her residence to conduct the Bloom Hill Receiving Office (Post Office) from 1st February 1919.
In August, 1920, Mrs Rea stated that the Repatriation Board was to take over her property and that the property was to be claimed by William Henry Josh, a soldier. (This paragraph is from information from the Australian Post Office Historical Office).
According to Mrs Scutt, her uncle, William Josh, could not afford to pay for the property and thus it was purchased by her father.
The Bloom Hill Methodist Church (formerly the Wesleyan Church) had only one marriage – that of Shirley’s parents.
There was only one christening – that of Shirley’s brother, Jack. Shirley has a small bible given to her mother when she was married, a gift from the ladies of the Methodist Church of Bloom Hill.
The site of the Bloom Hill Church is marked by the lone gravestone of Henry Stapley which is in a paddock alongside Bloom Hill Road, a short distance down the hill from the school site. The grave was classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) in 1997.
It is significant because it is the final resting place of a local identity who was a trustee of the Methodist Church. There are a number of unmarked graves in the same location. Quince trees grew in the church surrounds and the fruit was used to make jam and jelly.
Nearby, Kentish cherries growing wild along Stoney Creek were picked and preserved. Blackberry bushes grew prolifically by the old timber Bloom Hill bridge crossing Stoney Creek and were an excellent source of fruit for Shirley’s mother’s blackberry jam. Shirley recalled that “a bag of sugar made a lot of jams and jellies.”
Life was simple and frugal for the hard working early settlers on the small acreages of Bloom Hill.
Survival depended upon growing vegetables, crops and fruit, milking a cow, churning cream for butter, baking bread and preserving nature’s fruitful bounty.
It was a life dependant upon resourcefulness and thrift in the home and on the farm, building and making essential items from furniture to farm implements using available materials and mending things.
It was an era of waste not, want not. They had to be mostly self sufficient and penny wise to survive.
Shirley remembers her mother complaining that one of their monthly grocery bills of 13 pounds, 16 shillings and 26 pence was too much and would have to be reduced.
It included flour and sugar and a four gallon tin of kerosene (for the household lamps) purchased from the local store at O’Connell. Candles were used in the bedrooms.
Shirley’s father used to say that “all they lived on was potatoes, pumpkins and rabbits”. Shirley grew up setting rabbit traps for pocket money, a finger freezing job on frosty mornings, although perhaps not quite as cold as early winter mornings for Shirley and brother, Jack, who slept beneath an open lean-to construction at the back of the house.
The corrugated roof was unlined and there were no walls. There was guttering around the lean-to roof which collected water into a 44-gallon drum: “Mum used the water for the pot plants.” Shirley recalled that “in the old days houses were a series of rooms and small outhouses.” Typically, kitchens were built separately to the main dwelling in case of fire.
Shirley remembers her childhood home as two separate buildings.
Still standing and in good order on a solid stone foundation is the 1850s constructed cottage of two cob walled rooms one of which was Shirley’s parents’ bedroom and the other the dining room with an open fireplace and front door opening onto a verandah. The now demolished lean-to was attached to the back of the cottage.
Separated from the cottage by a two metre walkway, a second earth building contained the kitchen and pantry and family living area. This dwelling also contained a combined bathroom and laundry.
The kitchen had a big fuel stove which was connected to the hot water system. There was a drip safe. (A drip safe is a low-tech evaporative cooler for perishables.
It consists of a metal or timber frame with wire mesh panels. The walls of the drip safe are hessian which acts as a wick soaking up water from an iron tray. A drip safe was a common household item in Australia until the mid-twentieth century).
A washing copper heated by a log fire was located outside the building for safety. There were big heavy round iron tubs in the laundry/bathroom and a big bath. Ground level lime and coarse sand flooring is evidence that this building once existed.
A remnant of an underground tank is evidence of its location near the kitchen building. Shirley recalled the story of her brother falling into the tank one day. “Mum grabbed a long length of wire and hooked him out by the trousers!” Farm buildings in Shirley’s day included a big raised shed for housing their Dorset Horn stud sheep in cold weather.
There was more snow then. There were sheep yards, a chook house and an area for pigs.
Bloom Hill Cottage was used continuously as a home for about a century. There was no electricity until it was connected in the mid-1900s.
The cottage was utilised as a farm building for a while before becoming a basic weekender for city people for a short time.
It was restored by the present owners in the late 1980s to retain the essence of yesteryear’s old world charm and simplicity for a self-contained accommodation business spanning 30 years.
The old lean-to at the back of the cottage has been replaced by an addition which includes a second bedroom, bathroom and spacious kitchen. Old fashioned charm and simplicity is the essence of this comfortable, cosy and peaceful place without clocks and digital clutter where one can relax by an open log fire in winter and do nothing more energetic than watch the figs grow and eat them in season.
Two very old fig trees at the front of the cottage still produce an abundance of delicious fruit. One of the trees is believed to have been planted around the time the cottage was built in the 1850s.
The other tree grew from a sucker transplanted by Shirley’s mother. Shirley’s delightful childhood memories include her swing beneath the old fig tree and her flower garden in an old tractor tyre beneath a big gum tree.
Bloom Hill is a beautiful cultural landscape and an interesting historical link between early European settled Australian life on the land and what we see today with many homes built on the early apportioned small acreages which now provide a rural residential lifestyle.
Bloom Hill Road forms an important part of the historical rural landscape and links many aspects of life of the original community including the school, the church and the Bloom Hill Receiving Office (post office).
The route of the original 1814-1815 constructed Cox’s Road crossed what was to become Bloom Hill Road near the intersection with O’Connell Plains Road. This point is signposted at the western end of Bloom Hill Road.
The meandering nature of Bloom Hill Road, flanked by remnant mature eucalypts, suggests that the road has not significantly deviated from the tracks carved by the early European settlers.
Bloom Hill School
The following report regarding the Bloom Hill School was written by J.Huffen, Inspector, dated 21.8.1876.
It is interesting to note the instruction that “the building should be constructed of clay.”
The original earthen school building and a teachers’ residence were in time replaced by timber structures. Part of one of these buildings is still standing on the site of the old school grounds.
The report read as follows ...
A teacher’s residence of three rooms and a kitchen has been erected by a local committee but it still needs flooring and ceiling.
Numbers of pupils attending local school: 15 boys, 18 girls.
Expected to attend: 36 boys, 27 girls.
There is reason to believe that the population of the school district will be permanent but it is not likely to increase. Cost per child of the actual attendance is six pounds.
The building should be constructed of clay, the roof shingle.
Note, there are workmen in the district who have had considerable experience in erecting buildings with clay and buildings properly erected of such material are certainly very durable.
The residence already provided by the committee is constructed of clay and the walls are now nearly as substantial as stone walls would have been!
The charges by a local contractor for erecting clay walls of this proper thickness are at the rate of about two pounds for 10 feet square.
I estimate the cost including out offices, water supply, fencing and furniture at about 200 pounds (of this amount between 40 and 50 pounds have been raised and already expended by the local committee and I estimate that an additional outlay of 160 pounds will be required).
Miss Jelbart is the teacher of the Provisional School. The school is still carried on in the Wesleyan Chapel about ¼ mile from the site of the proposed buildings. Questions to be answered by Inspectors when reporting upon application for establishment of Public Schools.
1. Where is proposed school situated?
At Bloom Hill (late Cow Flat) near O’Connell.
2. What is the population of the school district?
3. Is the district likely to have permanent inhabitants?
4. State permanent interest etc.
The people are in moderate circumstances. The majority of them are small free holders and hence they have a permanent interest in the locality.