"I have much
satisfaction in being able to state that I have also succeeded in
finding a very favorable descent from the Blue Mountains , by a
ridge nearly parallel to that of Mount York, but more in a direct
line...The part of hill by which this descent may be effected... I have
named for the sake of convenience Mount Victoria"
"I have considered it
expedient to place the two gangs employed at Mount York,
which are very weak, on the new descent by Mount
Victoria, and I would recommend the following
The two gangs
in question were at work on Lockyer's Pass which had already been
constructed from the valley floor near Collits Inn to about the mid-way
point on the western escarpment of the Mount York Ridge.
by firmly forbidding Mitchell to proceed with work on his new Pass.
Mitchell was displeased. On July 27 he wrote to McLeay:
“I defy any man to point out any
material improvements in the lines laid down by me ... The Secretary of
State has been pleased to place the Road Department under my directions;
and although the addition to my duties makes no addition in my salary, I
cannot conscientiously sit down in Sydney and pocket that salary without
caring whether roads be made right or wrong and I trust that the work I
have begun, on no vague report of any illiterate clown, but after a
general survey by myself and assistants, may be suffered to proceed
… I"and instructed his on-site Supervisor
Elliot, to "labour with vigorous activity' on the new pass. Mitchell
was referring to James Collits who was granted land as a reward for
finding an alternate route down from Mt York.
After a further
refusal to sanction his work, the dispute laboured on until
September, 1830, when Mitchell demanded his case be put in
London. Mitchell went to Parramatta and from an
unwilling Governor Darling and a defeated Colonial Secretary won
a grudging consent for the work on the new pass to proceed.
An interview with the Governor finally resolved matters and
Mitchell won the approval for work to continue
the new pass came also from Peirce Collits, the host of the Red Garter,
formerly called the Golden Fleece at the foot of Mt York Traffic
using Mitchells planned descent would by-pass his inn and his trade
would be ruined.
In November 10
1830 Supervisor Elliot reported to Mitchell that 79 men were
employed on the Pass of Victoria in grubbing and rolling off the timber,
39 men in quarrying rock and six masons were engaged in building
workers, their military guards and other workers were housed in a
stockade located at the western end of todays Mount Victoria township,
then called One Tree Hill, near where Mount York intersects Balmoral
Road. The forked stump of a dead tree used as a flogging triangle
survived on the site into the late 1920's but has since disappeared.
John Skeen was
employed as and overseer of one of the workgangs. Overseer. John Skeen
had married Amelia Collits and he was disliked by Mitchell. On Skeene’s
resignation, Surveyor General Mitchell, who had a very low opinion of
him, wrote to the Colonial Secretary:
The conduct of the Road party No.9 stationed near Mt Victoria and,
until lately under Overseer Skeene, has been much complained of; drays
have been robbed, and cattle slaughtered in the neighbourhood of this
gang ... there is every reason to believe that prisoners in that gang
have been concerned in these depredations.
[The behaviour] ...of the gang is mainly attributable to this overseer
who holds a ticket of leave, but which I consider it would be justice to
deprive him of, although he has left the department, considering all
circumstances connected with the conduct of the gang lately under his
charge, for he has built a house on the road side, and, so situated, it
can scarcely be doubted that he will encourage drinking and disorder
amongst the men employed in that neighbourhood.
Mitchell planned to use the No.9 Road Party to test the new wooden boxes
as a means of accommodation and containment for road parties rather than
the slab huts then in use. The Quaker missionary Backhouse described the
boxes as being so cramped when fully occupied that not all men could
either stand upright or sit down at the same time with their bodies
fully stretched. Only 18 inches breadth per person was allocated and 28
men could be locked in one of these from sunset to sunrise.
Backhouse also supports Cook’s view of the overseers, saying that the
convicts were likely to be flogged for trifling offences and were
subject to capricious conduct by the overseers. In Backhouse’s opinion,
death was preferable"
In January 1831
Assistant surveyor John Lambie took over as Supervisor from Elliot.
The pace of work picked up in this year.
On August 5 the
Sydney Herald reported: On Monday morning last 62 men were
dispatched to the iron gangs of the interior under strong military
escort., and on September 5 that "Major Mitchell is proceeding with
expedition in the new road in the Mountains, which cuts off the toilsome
road at present in use , by way of Mount York."
1832 John Lambie reported that 216 convicts in irons, and 60 out of
irons, were at work on the Pass, while the stockade housed a Bridge
party of 62 convicts in irons and 33 out of irons.
reported on November 16 1832
of the 4th Regiment will march from Parramatta on Monday next to relieve
the detachment of the 17th Regiment stationed at Mount Victoria"
appointments of men as Superintendents of iron-gangs and as Constables
were notified in contemporary newspapers.
This large body
of men was , by this time, housed in a stockade at the foot of the pass,
in the vicinity of todays Little Hartley Farm.
In the years
1832,1833,and 1834 Michael Flannagan, who had received a 50 acre land
grant near the base of Mount Victoria, held a license for an inn which
he called the Harp of Erin, but there is no license in his name in
Members of the
convict workforce regularly required the services of the resident
scourger. They absconded from work gangs they held up passing travellers,
they went to sleep when supposedly at work, they were insolent to
overseers and military guards, they helped themselves to the contents of
passing drays - ad their rum casks - they enjoyed an occasional feast
from a stolen bullock.
John Nicholson replaced John Lambie in July 1832, he reported to his
Department Heads that: " ...the side cutting to finish the descent and
render it practicable for traffic can be finished by three weeks from
this with the present force. In other words Nicholson expected
that the Pass would be practicable for traffic " by the end of the first
week of August 1832.
On Friday 26th
October, 1832 a geographical confused reporter wrote in the Australian "
"His Excellency the Governor set out for Sir John Jamieson's hospitable
seat at Regent Ville on Friday last, accompanied by Miss Bourke, Mr
Richard Bourke, Captain and Mrs Westmacott, Major and Mrs Bouverie, and
several others meaning to proceed onwards to Bathurst beyond the
plains to Mount Victoria, so as to be present at the opening of the new
road in that direction. The gay cavalcade was expected to reach
Collits Inn on the mountain road on Tuesday night last"
October 23 1832, Governor Richard Burke performed the official opening
ceremony of what Mitchell called "the opening glory of my road" - the
Pass of Victoria. He was escorted on a tour of inspection by Surveyor
Road which continued on to Bathurst was under construction from 1830 to
1835. Unlike the earlier roads which had been little more than cleared
bush tracks for most of their length Mitchell's Road was intended as a
permanent highway to the western inland. It proved to be just that.
coach services which came into existance as the road was pushed on to
Bathurst took two days from Emu Ford to Bathurst. Some earlier
travellers had spent 18 days to cover the same journey by bullock
dray over the old road.
The Pass of
Victoria, with its big side cuttings and its convict Bridge , built from
the valley floor with rock quarried from the mountain-side to bridge
a deep narrow gulch between two hills, was built in the days when
traffic consisted of the occasional bullock dray, hors e drawn carriage
or party of horseman. Source: S Williams of the Mt
Victoria Historical Society 1982 undertook considerable research and a
booklet was produced in 1982 to commemorate 150 years
177 years has
passed and the Convict Bridge and the pass withstands the
continuous daily movements of thousands of motor cars, tucks and
Mt Victoria Pass in 1831
Travel in the early years was
closely regulated by the Government. “Gentlemen or other
respectable free persons” desiring permission to travel over the
Mountains were required to make written application and were
issued with a special pass if approved.
The late Rev. James S. Hassall, a son of Rev Thos Hassal
and a consequently a grandson of Rev. S. Marsden
describes his trip in his book, “In Old Australia”
recorded his recollections on traveling down the pass
“When I was
eight years old (this would be in 1831) My father took
me with him on a trip to Bathurst. We rode from
Parramatta and shortly started over the Blue Mountains.
The first days stage was one of 28 miles to the Pilrim
Inn on top of Lapstone Hill. The New Pass was in course
of construction over Mt Victoria and my father decided
to try it instead of going the old road by Mount York.
When we arrived at the Pass it was seen that we would
have to take the horses along the top of a wall
(recently erected of large blocks of cut stone) not
more than four feet wide. It was a great risk to take
as the declivity on both sides was perpendicular and of
great depth. We did not, however care for a day’s
journey back, in order to go by the other road, so my
father led his horse over, as did the members of the
party theirs. Mrs Samuel Hassal, my uncles widow, was
one of our party. For fear I might slip over, I was
told to keep my seat on my pony. It was not pleasant to
see the treetops immediately below me as I rode, and to
know that a false step would result in our going over
the precipice. Fortunately we all got over safely. At
night we arrived at a station on Cox’s River. The
dwelling was of slabs and occupied by a little Irishman,
known by the name of ‘Terrible Billy” who gave us
shelter for the night and made us comfortable as
circumstances allowed. ...
The Bathurst-road was simply a dray-track, very rough
and in places hilly. At the foot of the long hills a
great number of trees lay scattered, which had been
brought down behind drays to steady them. At this time
(1831) brakes were not in use: probably they were