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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Lands End

[based on edited extracts from ACT Heritage Council. Background Information, Old Lands End (Part Block 1591 Belconnen, September 2017]

William ('Bill') Kilby (1812-1903), widower, with his only son Robert, joined his sister Mary in Australia in 1856. Mary had married Edward Smith in England, then settled in Ginninderra in 1852. Both families selected land at Ginninderra and built homesteads – the Kilby's being Lands End. William did not re-marry after coming to Australia, and in his sixties became a very devout Methodist.

The Old Land's End property comprised portions 52, 53, 54, and 73, each of 40 acres, in the Parish of Weetangera, County of Murray. Portion 73 was selected by Robert Kilby in 1871 and the remaining portions by his father, William, shortly after. Their immediate (titular) neighbours were Edwards Smith's sons Ellis (Portion 77) and George ( Portion 62), Levi Plummer (Portion 55) and to the south and east, George Palmer

Robert married Jane Webster and they added four to Jane's earlier child Ann. Ties with other local settler families were cemented through marriages; sons Sidney and James married Southwells and Edith married Evan Cameron. Methodism was a strong bond, the Weetangera church close to them all.

Robert Kilby and his wife, Jane, built a slab house on Portion 52. The portion plan from 5th September 1871 shows a garden and hut on the block. The family legend is that, lamenting belated news of a friend's death, Jane Kilby said, "We never hear anything in this land's end of a place." Husband Robert picked her up quickly and said, "Land's End, that's the very name for our place".

It was usually a high priority for settlers such as the Kilbys to establish themselves as self-sufficient. Land was quickly cleared and crops and gardens were established with wheat, oats, maize, fruit trees and basic vegetables providing some of the staples of life alongside livestock such as cattle. Wheat was an important crop with flour being an essential commodity. Sheep were the main livestock on most of the large holdings in the area, although cattle and horses were also common (Navin Officer, 2010).

Unlike many others the Kilbys did not expand their farm beyond their initial 160 acres, though James bought land of his own close by at The Falls. When the Commonwealth resumed Lands End Robert was seventy-six and opted to leave. He died a few months later. A new rural lease was taken up by Evan and Edith Cameron in 1917. They built a new Lands End homestead in 1926, and the original was demolished.

With the exception of the dairy, the buildings of Old Land's End were said to have been built of timber slabs, cut and shaped by Robert Kilby. Timber post and beam structures form the majority of Australian vernacular building construction. 'Post and beam' describes only the main structural frame; buildings are more typically described by their walling system, e.g. slab hut. Logs used in the construction of the structural frame were invariably obtained in the immediate vicinity of the building, usually within 1km. Trees were felled using either a standard axe or crosscut saw; once on the ground the crosscut saw was the preferred means of cutting logs into the required lengths.

Vertical slab construction was developed in the early 19th century subsequent to the introduction of log and horizontal slab construction. Vertical slab construction was more common than drop slab (horizontal) construction. It rapidly gained predominance and by the 1820s it was recommended to new settlers as the construction method for their first homes.
Old Land's End represents one of 28 known properties with slab constructions in the ACT. The majority of these were constructed in the nineteenth century, with just three constructed after 1900. The earliest were constructed in the late 1830s/40s at Lanyon and Oaks Estate. Good examples of slab construction within the ACT can be seen at Well Station, Orroral Homestead, Rosebud Apiary and Elm Grove, all of which are entered in the ACT Heritage Register. Often, slab constructions within the ACT were part of a larger complex of buildings, with uses including stables, gardener's cottages, sheds, school rooms, and kitchens. However, a number of slab constructions within the ACT were also used as cottages or small homesteads. Slab buildings are vulnerable to water and termite damage, and many do not survive owing to the ease with which slab buildings could be dismantled, with timber used elsewhere.

"The Old Land's End site is in very poor condition, with almost no remaining heritage fabric. In addition to the scatter of dressed stones (see Image 6), isolated brick and metal fragments were found at the site in 2016 (see Image 7). Some exotic tree species remain at the site (see Image 8), including fig trees (Ficus sp.), Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), a cypress tree, (Cupressus sp. see Image 9), and blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)" (ACT Heritage Council, 2017, p.9)

After touring the site in 1981 Heather Shakespeare [nee Cameron] observed:

"A heap of stones and rubble is all that remains of the huge kitchen fireplace, in which we used to stand at full height to warm ourselves in the winter. A strip of lino was put across the hearth so that we wouldn't damage the whitewash. The brick oven, where all the bread was baked, was attached to it.

The dairy, made of pisé, boarded up and nailed with hand-made nails, stood until recently, but now lies in ruins on the ground.
A short way from the house is the site of Robert Kilby's blacksmith shop. I remember being fascinated watching him shape the horseshoes from the red-hot metal to fit whichever horse was being shod. We sometimes helped pump the bellows for him.
There is no longer any sign of the long slab shed, the stables, thickly thatched with straw, which housed vehicles, harness, grain and many other things.

Behind the shed there was a small chaff-cutter. A horse was attached to a pole connected to the harness, and as it jogged round in circles and the hay was fed in and cut.

When my twin sisters turned six they started going to the Weetangera School about two miles away. Our grandfather mapped out a route for them to follow, built stiles over the fences and whitewashed the trees along the way so that they would not get lost. (ACT Heritage Council, 2017, p.9)

It was determined in 2017 that the old Lands End site would not be placed on the ACT Heritage Register. With regard to 'its importance to the course or pattern of the ACT's cultural or natural history', the report concluded:

The place, when considered in association with the 1915 Territory Features Map, provides insight into the physical linkages between places in this period of the ACT's cultural history. While these linkages may demonstrate the interrelationship between pastoral places in the Weetangera area, they are not demonstrated strongly enough to meet this criterion at this time, however the Council acknowledges that future research may change these findings.

The Old Lands End site marks the beginnings of a longstanding network of family farming properties associated with churches. Its connection with the Weetangera Cemetery and church site, with the 1920s' Lands End homestead which includes material from it, and with the Parkwood homesteads and church, is evidence of a pattern of family settlement that exemplifies the culture and values of small rural landowners closely associated with the Methodist Church from the 1860s into the Federal period.

While it may be argued that the Old Land's End Site has an association with patterns of rural European land use and vernacular building techniques used by selectors during the late nineteenth century, there is insufficient physical fabric remaining to demonstrate the place's importance to the course or pattern of the ACT's cultural or natural history.

Slab construction was adopted as a result of availability of timber, enabling settlers to build homes from inexpensive, abundant materials, demonstrating the resourcefulness of settlers and the environmental and economic demands of the era and location. While most of the buildings at Old Land's End were of vernacular slab construction, there is no remaining evidence of the building techniques or materials at the place, which was divested of slabs once it was no longer occupied. Similarly, there is insufficient heritage fabric at the site that would enable interpretation of the process of dismantling and abandonment.

Pisé was adopted as a result of economic conditions, enabling settlers to construct homes from inexpensive, readily available materials. This demonstrates the resourcefulness of settlers and the environmental, social, and economic demands of the era and location. However, nothing remains of the pisé dairy that once stood at the Old Land's End site. As such, the place does not meet the threshold for inclusion under this criterion.  
Remnant exotic landscape elements at European settler sites can reveal patterning of orchards and domestic and rural yards, however there is insufficient remaining structure or formality to the planting systems at the Old Land's End site that would allow the place to meet the threshold for inclusion under this criterion.
[Heritage (Decision about Provisional Registration of Old Land's End, Belconnen) pp.3-4]

Related Photos


'Lands End', Kilby family home, Weetangera ⧉

'Land's End' 2017 ⧉

Click on the caption (⧉) to view photo details and attribution.

References

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