Economic base of Liverpool
Liverpool began as a refuge from floods for the settlers already living along the banks of the Georges River. Governor Macquarie, concerned by the plight of settlers along the Georges and Hawkesbury Rivers in the floods of 1806 and 1809 set about, in 1810, to set up towns on 'the most contiguous and eligible high Grounds' to provide 'Accommodation and Security to the Settlers, whose Farms are exposed to the Floods'. Liverpool and the other 'Macquarie Towns' were also to be depots for the shipment of produce to the Government Stores. Liverpool was also to be an administrative centre for convicts working on government projects such as road building and clearing of land. Military and convict barracks were set up in 1811 for this purpose.
Some of the wealthier landholders concentrated on wheat and cattle. Eber Bunker, sometimes known as 'the father of Australian whaling' continued in whaling for some time but also worked his property Collingwood along the Georges River. In September 1814 he sold 3000 pounds of meat to the Sydney Commissariat Stores and continued selling meat and produce to the stores.
Joseph Holt and his son held a total of 210 acres and held grazing rights on the nearby Common so they were able to get into the local cash economy by selling surplus meat and wheat. Many of the landholders, however had 40 acre blocks, often subject to flooding, on which they grew wheat, corn, barley and vegetables and raised domestic livestock. When they had a surplus, they could sell to the Government Stores. The early floods often affected the farmers.
The General Muster in 1814 showed that the district had 1,088 acres under wheat, 919 under maize, 59 under barley, 15 under oats, five under peas and beans, 60 under potatoes, 63 acres of garden, 1,020 acres lying fallow and 20,592 acres of pastures, the total number of acres held amounting to 23,821. The stock in the district consisted of 239 horses, 3,743 horned beasts, 8,554 sheep, 59 goats and 1,090 hogs. The population was 832, of whom 55 were free and 69 prisoners victualled by the Government. By the end of 1817 there were 2,989 acres sown with wheat, 12,667 sheep, 7,291 cattle and 2,613 hogs. The population had risen to 1,500 most of whom were free people not victualled by the Government.
Wheat growing in the area declined rapidly in the 1860s largely because of rust in the crop. One area particularly affected was Greendale which by 1860 was a thriving community of about 4,000 people. After the crop was affected by rust in 1861 and again in 1863, the population dwindled.
Other early industries included a tanning pit on Orange Grove Road, brick fields there and also along Brickmaker's Creek and one steam mill and one windmill. One of the earliest shipbuilding yards was built on the river near its junction with Williams Creek, where ships of up to 40 tons were built. A quarry almost opposite this property provided stone for the building of the Lansdowne Bridge.
The arrival of the railway in 1856 encouraged locals to start businesses in the area. J.H. Atkinson bought the estates of Collingwood and Sophienburgh and made the necessary improvements on these properties to induce teamsters to unload at Liverpool and send their loads to Sydney by rail. Towards the end of 1856, knowing that the slaughtering of cattle in the city was to cease by 1st January 1857, Atkinson established modern slaughter houses and constructed a railway siding to the abattoirs at his own expense. He next established a wool-wash and fell-mongering business, making Collingwood a busy commercial centre. During this time, possibly as early as 1856, the Collingwood Cottages were built to supply accommodation for employees. They consisted of four blocks of five stone and brick cottages. Later they fell into disuse and were demolished in 1900 during the Bubonic Plague.
In 1864 the Australian Paper Company bought a portion of Collingwood to set up what may have been one of the first large-scale paper mills in Australia. The mill was operational by 1868 when 50 women and girls were paid two to three shillings per hundredweight to cut rags for the paper. The mill was open continuously with men and boys working twelve hour shifts.
One unusual business enterprise was that of Thomas Holt who decided to import alpacas, llamas and vicunas. Charles Leger, a Peruvian merchant was commissioned to look for suitable animals. It was a difficult and sometimes dangerous task but after five years he arrived in Sydney with a mixed herd of 275 animals. These were lodged at Sophienburgh but failed to sell at auction. The vicunas all died by 1861 and eventually the remaining alpacas and llamas were given away to squatters or to various lunatic asylums for the amusement of the inmates. Leger was never paid or given the promised land grant and died in poverty in 1905.
Further information on industry and commerce in Liverpool and information relating to the 20th century may be found on the library's web site at 'www.liverpool.nsw.gov.au'.