The Small Miserable Hut

“We called at Belkennie on Mrs. Mc.Arthur, with whom we sat for a little while in a small miserable hut”. Governor Macquarie, Journal, 19 November 1810.

Archaeology is now revealing how the Camden Park Estate was established and how it developed in the years from 1805 to 1821. This is the period about which history is almost silent, apart from a few references, a map and a painting.

In 2006 the Belgenny Farm Trust commissioned Dr. Edward Higginbotham to find the site of the “small miserable hut” where Governor Macquarie visited Mrs. Macarthur on Monday, 19 November 1810.

Family tradition has it that the “small miserable hut” stood at the northern end of the ridge at Belgenny Farm. In the first season of archaeological excavation (September 2008), two out of the three buildings shown on the 1840s estate plan were located. The site of a building with a collapsed fireplace was also investigated, as the most likely site of the "small miserable hut". In the second season (May 2009) the whole of this building was excavated.

The building measured 4.3 by 6.3 metres and was divided into two rooms with a verandah on its south side. It is also the only building with a large sample of early ceramics, dated from the 1780s to the 1810s. Two items may be associated with the Macarthurs: a religious medallion obtained in France and a fragment of a stoneware jar, originally containing berry jam, obtained from Gunters, Berkeley Square, London, the first tea-house to serve women unaccompanied. Both these items may have been brought back to Mrs. Macarthur by her husband, when he returned from ‘exile’ in 1817.

The 2009 excavations also revealed four more buildings on the site, bringing the total to eight. The area was clearly an important focus of farming activity from 1805 onwards. – Edward Higginbotham Report, January 2010.