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Horticulture and viticulture

William Macarthur, son of John, was a keen horticulturist. He brought German vinedressers to the estate and imported the first camellias into Australia. By 1840 he had established a commercial plant nursery at Camden Park and catalogued 3,000 plants growing there.

Fruit was grown on Camden Park from the estate's early days, and in 1889 the orchard was greatly expanded.

The orchard was damaged by flooding in 1890 and two years later an extra 2,500 fruit trees were planted, the majority of which were peaches. By the mid 1890s the orchard covered over 60 hectares, from which a large variety of fruit was sent to the Sydney market.

In its prime in the 1900s Camden Park's legendary orchard had 7,200 fruit trees, 56 varieties of apples, 31 varieties of pears, 23 of citrus, and apricots, plums, cherries, figs and quinces. Even the windfall fruit did not go to waste – pigs housed nearby were allowed into the orchard to eat the fallen fruit.

When William toured Europe with his father and brother James in 1816 they collected cuttings for vines and olives. On their return in 1817 they planted extensive gardens and the first vineyard on Camden Park in 1820.

Even though the vines thrived, there were not ‘true to type’ and produced disappointing wines. In 1830 a second vineyard was planted by the river with good results, and in 1832 the Macarthurs produced the first Australian brandy for export. In 1840 a third vineyard was planted south of Camden Park House close to the winery.

William Macarthur brought six families of German winemakers to Camden Park, and in 1844 'Pure Camden Wine' was being advertised for sale in Sydney. In 1849 Camden Park was producing 70,000 litres of red and white table wines and brandy a year.

On the mural in the granary you can see an 1852 Camden Park wine label for Muscat produced by James and William Macarthur. In the 1880s the vine insect pest Phylloxera devastated the vineyards and production ceased. William, however, had been generous with his advice and had supplied cuttings of his vines to vignerons in the Hunter Valley, South Australia and Victoria.

A lithograph of the third vineyard in 1878

A lithograph of the third vineyard in 1878

It is laid out on the contour just below Camden Park House.