A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now



Invitation to A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, opening by Carol Roberts on Saturday, 15 October 2016, Margaret Whitlam Galleries, Female Orphan School, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus).

Usually, people who live in or near historic towns are well aware of the significance of place in relation to their connectivity and self-identity. They might not phrase their sense of place in formal terms, but nevertheless they know they belong and this is one aspect that jumps out at you repeatedly during conversations with artist Greg Hansell – his sense of place is ‘hard-wired’.[i]

He engages this sense of place and records history as he sees it, often depicting heritage buildings that ‘are second to midnight’ (that is, at risk of disappearing forever, either through development or lack of maintenance).[ii]

Brought up on his parents’ wheat and sheep properties near Goulburn and then Wagga Wagga, Greg Hansell considers he had a fairly unpretentious, very conservative, rural childhood. An award-winning artist, he is currently Fellow, Council member, teacher and Art School Director at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. He crushes rocks and clays to make his own pigments and, with no added binders, creates earth pastels with colour permanence of the highest rating. But his rural background is ‘hard-wired’[iii] and his methods of recording history relate to his country upbringing, his move to the Hawkesbury area and his subsequent career as an artist. His sense of place attachment and understanding of the environment surrounding place are evident in his paintings. His representations of history – his writing down of historic detail – reflect the intangible alongside the tangible heritage. His conceptual experience in relation to sense of place flows through his paintings and through his life and influences the way he delivers public history through his artwork.

I have run several historical tours based on Greg’s artistic representation of heritage sites in the Hawkesbury and we are collaborating on a book that will showcase the artist’s depictions of the Hawkesbury area. I have discovered that to hang around with Greg Hansell and visit the heritage sites depicted in his paintings encourages people to look for new perspectives and ways of interpreting place. That is what the artist aims to do.[iv] He reveals the ‘layers of life’ that revolve around a building where he ‘can exaggerate or highlight things in the architecture, such as the brick coursework and crookedness of the building…where the building has slumped over the years and become tired’.[v]


There is a term, ‘liminality’, that means drawing or inviting the viewer in to a snapshot of the past and Hansell explains that in relation to the term liminality, he ‘almost takes the viewer by the hand’ and guides them through the paintings to discover objects from the past like upturned milk crates, old bits of cars, pieces of rusting iron or farm tools.[vi]

It has been said of Greg Hansell that, ‘as he lives and works in a place he loves and doing what he chooses, Hansell is really one of the lucky ones’.[vii] His footprints are well and truly in the Hawkesbury, but he also immerses himself in the work of other artists who have inspired him on his journey. His new exhibition is a three-part exhibition, showing works from his past, works from the present and works hanging in his house: in other words, works by people who have inspired him.

I will be opening the next exhibition, A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, on Saturday, 15 October in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries at the Female Orphan School, Building EZ, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus), off Victoria Road, Rydalmere, at 2.00pm. Parking is available at $8 per day. The exhibition will continue until 20 January 2017.

copyright Carol Roberts 2016

[Image, part of Hansell’s Homage to bricklayers various, earth pastel]

[i] Gary E. Holmes, James R. Patterson and Janice E. Stalling, ‘Sense of place: issues in counselling and development’, Journal of Humanistic Counselling, Education and Development, Fall, 2003, Vol. 42, Issue 2, p. 239, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/docview/212448339?accountid=17227, accessed 29 September 2012; Greg Hansell, oral history interviews with Carol Roberts, 5 November 2008 and 18 February 2011.

[ii] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012; Carol Roberts, ‘From the ground up: exploring the use of oral history in tourism’, She said: He said: Reading, Writing and Recording History, Journal No. 36, 2014, Oral History Association of Australia, pp. 23-30.

[iii] Hansell, 5 November 2008.

[iv] Jan Dungey, ‘Where arts, imagination and environment meet’, in Heritage Interpretation, Volume 1: The Natural and Built Environment, David L. Uzzell, ed, London, 1989, p. 241.

[v] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012.

[vi] Greg Hansell, ‘Australian landscapes: techniques in pastel’, Australian Artist, Chatswood, New South Wales, undated, pp. 20-23.

[vii] Greg Hansell: Survey catalogue, 30 October – 6 December 2009, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor, pp. 4-5.

One Voice on the Hawkesbury: Una Voce at Lower Portland

Bruce King’s Una Voce Tourist Resort at Lower Portland was one of the most renowned guest houses on the Hawkesbury River from the 1920s right through to the 1960s. King purchased the property from George Gosper in about 1915, and in 1947 King comments that he ‘bought property on the Hawkesbury at Lower Portland over thirty years ago’ and it is recorded ‘that Mr George Gosper has sold his property, the buyer being Mr Bruce King of Ashfield’.

Una Voce launch c1930s

Photo of Bruce King’s Una Voce launch c1930s, courtesy of Juniors on Hawkesbury Resort at Lower Portland.

Ted Lawler, a former licensee manager, comments that Bruce King and Frederick Robert McKinlay bought the property in partnership. Bruce King married Jessie May Dunstan in 1908 and Fred McKinlay married Elizabeth Jane Dunstan in 1910: both were daughters of William Dunstan and Mary Lamb and granddaughters of John Lamb and Alice Wall from Lower Portland, so they had connections with pioneer families on the Hawkesbury.

Lawler records that ‘disagreements arose, so King purchased McKinlay’s share – and aptly named the guest-house ‘Una Voce’, meaning ‘One Voice’. King’s 28-foot boat, the Signet, equipped with a steam engine, was sailed out from England – and used for ferrying guests across the Hawkesbury’. Extensive renovations were carried out on the guest house in 1937 and by 1945, guests had access to ’60 acres fruit trees, bush trees, recreation hall, tennis, riding, boating, swimming, Greens and Putting Greens’ all for fourteen shillings per day and sixteen shillings a day over Christmas and Easter holidays. The entrepreneurial Bruce King ran a bus from Sydney to Una Voce for people staying at the guest house.

Bruce and Jessie and their two daughters, Phyllis Dunstan King and Elva Dunstan King took an active role in community life on the river and there were many concerts, receptions and tennis parties held at Una Voce. Bruce King was active on various committees, such as President of the Lower Portland Agricultural Bureau, Secretary of the Hawkesbury River Cooperative Transport Company, Vice-Commodore of the Sackville Motor Boat and Water Ski-ing Club, Hawkesbury delegate to the Fruitgrowers’ Association and on the Hawkesbury-Nepean Tourist Region Association.

Always generous, Bruce King supplied citrus fruit to many local families during the Great Depression and through the war years and the family collected nearly $2,000 from holiday-makers at Una Voce for the Prisoners of War and Patriotic funds through World War II. Bruce King died in 1965 aged 79 and is buried in Lower Portland Cemetery. Nearby, a plaque commemorates Jessie, his wife, who died in 1971. Una Voce was then bought by South Sydney Juniors Rugby League Club. The guest house was demolished in 1972 and the 33-room Souths Juniors Tourist Hotel was built at a cost of $500,000. Now known as Juniors on Hawkesbury, the resort continues to operate as a guest house and is popular with groups of all ages.

copyright Carol Roberts


Carol Roberts, ‘River Guesthouse Thrived’, Hawkesbury Gazette, Wednesday, 6 July 2016.

New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages, https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au, accessed 23 June 2016.

Ryerson Index http://ryersonindex.net/search.php, accessed 28 March 2015.

Information and photograph from Juniors on Hawkesbury, 251 Greens Road, Lower Portland NSW 2756.

Ian Heads, The Juniors: The Best for the Best, Playright Publishing, PO Box 548, Caringbah NSW 2229.

‘Lower Portland’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 26 February 1915, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 85860498, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85860498, accessed 28 March 2015.

‘The Hawkesbury River Cooperative Transport Co., Ltd.’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 1 June 1923, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 85873976, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85873976, accessed 22 June 2016.

‘Fruitgrowers’ Apathy’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 12 June 1925, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 85903302, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85903302, accessed 23 June 2016.

‘River News’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 22 October 1937, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 86049281, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/86049281, accessed 6 June 2016.

‘Una Voce’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Wednesday, 28 February 1945, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 86025777, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/86025777, accessed 28 March 2015.

‘Bus Routes’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Wednesday, 15 October 1947, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 85792783, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85792783, accessed 23 June 2016.

‘Bus Routes’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Wednesday, 29 October 1947, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 85793513, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85793513, accessed 22 June 2016.

‘Macquarie Memorial’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Wednesday, 13 June 1951, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper, Article 86058512, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/86058512, accessed 23 June 2016.

Runaway ferries on the Hawkesbury

I came across this rather interesting piece of more recent Hawkesbury history while researching in our local library. There is also an extract of an oral history associated with this account on the Roads and Maritime Services website (see reference below). My article was published in the Hawkesbury Gazette on Wednesday, 1 June 2016, but I thought I would publish it in its entirety on this site.Reserve Ferry @ Webbs Creek

Photo of spare ferry at Webbs Creek by Geoff Roberts.

During the week before Easter in 1978, three days of constant heavy rain combined with floodwaters from the Colo, Grose and Macdonald Rivers, was enough to cause severe flooding along the Hawkesbury River. Although regulations have changed over the years, in those days once the river reached the seven-metre height of the bridge at Windsor the Sackville and Lower Portland ferries were taken off their cables, followed by the ferries at Webbs Creek and Wisemans Ferry.

The flow of the water was so strong on this occasion that ferries Nos 8 and 55 at Wisemans had pushed together with debris collected all around them. Webbs Creek ferry (No 26) was stranded in the middle of the river after being hit by a one-metre tidal wave coming from the Colo River: ‘the water was like a surf wave and it hit the Webbs Creek ferry full on’. Soon after, ‘a small wooden ferry that had been up on the slipway…floated off in the flood’ and collided with No 55.

These three ferries were then lashed together but soon after, the force of the water and the buildup of debris against No 26 forced the cable to pull out of the bank and the ferry was forced around the bend in the river where it collided with the other three ferries: ‘These ferries were broken away from their moorings by the force of the collision and the four ferries…were carried downstream on the flood’, with Russ Mitchell, Robin Pawsey and Allen Curran on board. As they floated past Laughtondale, the wooden ferry began to sink and had to be cut loose. Webbs Creek ferry was eventually secured in some mangroves.

The combined weight of the ferries and debris was estimated at 650 tonnes, travelling at about 18 knots and there were fears that the ferries would not be able to be stopped before colliding with the bridge at Brooklyn. Two tugs from the Church Point Ferry Service were brought into service to try and control the ferries and the larger ferry was finally secured on Peat Island, while the smaller one was caught just fifty metres before the bridge.

There was constant radio and telephone contact with the Acting Shire Clerk of Colo Shire Council (Garry McCully), the Police and Fire Brigades throughout the drama, but the men on the ferries really owed their lives to a Gosford Council employee who parked his ute on top of Mangrove Mountain to act as a relay station so everyone could maintain radio contact. The men who rode the ferries and other Colo Shire Council employees stayed on Peat Island to help repair and float the ferries back up the river after the flood receded and within a week the Wisemans and Webbs Creek ferry services were back to normal.


Bottomley, Bill. ‘When the ferries got away’, Bill Bottomley’s Cyberfiles, http://www.billbottomley.com.au/, accessed 29 May 2016.

NSW Vehicular Ferries Sound Files, Part 3, Hawkesbury River ferries, the 1978 flood, http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/about/environment/protecting-heritage/oral-history-program/nsw-vehicular-ferries.html, accessed 29 May 2016.

copyright Carol Roberts

My submission against the NSW State Government merger proposal of Hawkesbury City Council and The Hills Shire Council (part)

 I have submitted my response to the merger proposal prepared by the NSW Government concerning the proposed merger of Hawkesbury City Council and part of The Hills Shire Council. My submission ended up being over 2,200 words but my covering letter reads:

‘I am a professional historian and I own and operate Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours, based in Windsor. This submission comments on several matters outlined in the merger proposal document that are of concern to me and these matters relate to the issues of heritage and agriculture in the existing Hawkesbury Local Government Area. The Hawkesbury is a semi-rural or peri-urban area and it consists of a number of rural localities, communities, villages and townships with two main commercial centres – Windsor and Richmond.

Within these localities, communities, villages and townships there are thriving family networks that go back seven, sometimes eight, generations to the very early convicts and settlers who came to the area from 1794, when European settlement of this area began. In addition, there are families who have farmed in the area for many years, sometimes on original grants made to their ancestors. There are also newcomers to the Hawkesbury who have bought existing farms and who are working them and making their living from the produce. There is a special uniqueness and sense of place existing in the Hawkesbury which the proposed merger does not satisfactorily take into account.

As explained in the attached submission, part of this genius loci, or sense of place, can be attributed to the number of heritage sites extant in the Hawkesbury Local Government Area and the emotional engagement felt by members of the community who act as volunteers and participate in planning and activities in and around those heritage sites and rural districts. The proposed merger of Hawkesbury City Council with part of The Hills Shire Council does not take into account the existing historical and traditional values in the existing areas, nor the impact of change on those areas.

For these reasons and based on the evidence outlined in the attached submission, I wish to register my opposition to the proposed merger on the basis that The Hills Shire Council has not satisfactorily demonstrated that it has the understanding or ability to conserve, preserve or respect State and locally significant heritage items in either The Hills Shire or the Hawkesbury, particularly as the Hawkesbury is one of the most heritage rich local government areas in the nation.’




Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours and the NBN

A few days ago I was contacted by Solstice Media to see if I was willing to appear on a short video about the use of NBN by Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours. Well, the lovely Theresa and Stuart arrived and searched for a place with good lighting away from traffic noise, so we finally settled in our fernery. After filming, Stuart and Theresa accompanied me on a pre-arranged tour (with permission from the tour organisers) and we visited Ebenezer Church for their traditional, delicious Devonshire Tea. After enjoying their visit to Ebenezer, they were driven back to Windsor by Geoff to catch some final shots of historic Windsor and St Matthew’s Anglican Church. I continued the tour with my group, who were very interested in farming in the Hawkesbury, as well as hearing about the pioneer settlers, the floods and the history and heritage of the area.

Since their visit, Theresa and Stuart very quickly got back to us with a copy of the short video. Check it out below.


Join Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours on special-interest tour of Hawkesbury

Keep the date free – Friday, 31 October 2014. Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours will be running a relaxed, full day coach tour through the most historic areas of the Hawkesbury in conjunction with Hawkesbury-based artist Greg Hansell’s annual studio exhibition. Accompanied by Greg on the tour, we will showcase selected locations depicted in Greg’s current portfolio. This is an opportunity not to be missed as we visit the UWS Riverfarm on the Richmond Lowlands which is not usually open to the public. The Riverfarm was first acquired by the old Hawkesbury Agricultural College in the early 1900s. You will also enjoy a walk through the gardens of historic ‘Tara’ (Greg Hansell’s home on the Hawkesbury River at Windsor) including a visit to the artist’s studio, a visit to Tizzana Winery and several other heritage sites in the Hawkesbury. Join this fantastic trip with me (a sixth-generation Hawkesburyite), Greg (a highly-regarded local artist who has lived in the area for more than 35 years and who is Art Director of the Royal Art Society in Sydney) and Geoff (who has also lived in the area for more than 35 years and has training in heritage architecture). Check out our notice at Historic Windsor Guide http://www.historicwindsorguide.com/blog.html. Details: 9.30am to 5.00pm. Adults $75, Concession $67.50. Morning tea, lunch, cheese & wine-tasting at Tizzana and glass of wine at Greg Hansell’s studio all included. Departure details provided on booking. Leave a comment or Email info@hawkesburytours.com.au. Website www.hawkesburytours.com.au. #Hawkesbury73rd regiment 2Clint barn 01