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The nearest run thing you ever saw: the Battle of Waterloo

New South Wales

New South Wales, Britain’s first Australian colony, had been founded as a penal settlement in 1787. By 1868, when penal transportation came to an end, over 160,000 men, women and children had been transported as convicts from Britain to the Australian colonies. From the outset, however, New South Wales also attracted free emigrants – a handful of free emigrants had accompanied the 750 convicts of the Frist Fleet in 1787 – although the numbers remained low for some time.

After Waterloo the British government began actively to encourage free emigration to New South Wales, recognising the colony’s vast potential to become a major wool producer and the consequent need for it to attract emigrants skilled in sheep farming.  Fortunately, a ready supply of such potential colonists was at hand:  younger sons from landowning families who were deprived of military careers by the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Fold-out plate showing Field Plains and the Lachlan River, with trees in the foregroundField plains from Mount Amyot, with the Lachlan River in the backgroundAs New South Wales’s settler population grew and its pastoral economy expanded, so it became important to penetrate the interior of what had hitherto been largely a coastal colony and to open up more of the hinterland to sheep grazing, cattle farming and colonial settlement.  A number of officially sponsored expeditions took place, including surveyor-general John Oxley’s journeys of 1817 and 1818.

Oxley (1785–1828) traced the courses of the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers in the hope of finding the inland sea then widely believed to lie at the centre of the Australian land mass. Although Oxley failed to find an inland sea, his expeditions helped to identify valuable agricultural land and to fill in some of the blank spaces on the map of New South Wales.

The image shown here depicts Field Plains and the Lachlan River.

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