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Rediscovering Ginninderra:

The 3472 acre property of 'Charnwood', in the Parish of Wallaroo, Ginninderra District, was settled by Henry and Mary Hall only seven years after the first explorers moved through the area, and forty-five years after the arrival of the first fleet. After a complex land dispute with his cousin at Lake Bathurst, Henry was granted the land in compensation (authorised by Sir Richard Bourke), in the Parish of Ginninderra, County of Murray. He named it 'Charnwood' after the forest of Charnwood in Leicestershire, England, location of the Hall family residence. To imagine the property today it ranged from two kilometres north of Wallaroo Road, south almost to Kippax, west to the Hall's Creek/Gooromon Pond junction, and east to Mt Rogers.

The Halls also leased 'The Mullion', a sheep station across the Murrumbidgee River, north-west of 'Charnwood', and a station at Yaouk, where he ran cattle. Yaouk was a long way south - around seventy kilometres from 'Charnwood' as the crow flies, just outside today's Namadgi National Park, and adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River.

Stock kept by the Halls at 'Charnwood' included 3-4000 sheep, cattle, dairy cows, angora goats, donkeys, fox-hounds and horses, including, as it was stated at the time '...the best Arab that ever came to NSW, Abdula...' (Queanbeyan Age). Hall bred high class Arabian horses, not so much for racing, but as utility horses with pace and endurance.

Trees planted at Charnwood included conifers, quinces, olives, oaks, grape vines and an unusual species, osage orange or bow wood (maclura pomifera). This tree, native to North America, was used by native Americans to produce a bow (as in bow and arrow) due to the flexibility of it's wood. It produces a strange looking, grapefruit size green fruit which local kids have called 'brain fruit' for years due to it's wrinkled appearance. Why this species was planted is a mystery - possibly for experiment as a crop? Surviving at the homestead site today are two huge olives, quinces and the osage (all of which still bear fruit), some conifers, oak and others.

Incredibly, in 1935, while ploughing at Charnwood, brothers Keith and Athol Kilby un-earthed two items: a small pair of convict shackles (possibly for wrists) and a shooters badge. The inscription on the shooters badge reads 'Closeburn-Sharpshooters' and includes a crown and thistle. Closeburn is a village in Scotland. There are reports of a burial plot on the Charnwood property, possibly containing twelve people (Smith, Memories of Hall), but this has not been located or otherwise verified.

Henry and Mary spent forty years successfully running 'Charnwood' from 1833 to 1873, raising eleven children, before moving to Yass, where they are both buried. When they departed, 'Charnwood' was sold to William Ralph McCarthy of the neighbouring property Glenwood. Within a few years however McCarthy had to sell, and Charnwood was purchased by Edward Kendall Crace for ₤5,326-10-00. Crace had by then already acquired the Gungahlin and Ginninderra Estates from William Davis (junior) and became by far the biggest land-owner in the district, owning 20,150 acres. At the time of sale in January 1881 Charnwood was described in the following terms:

Charnwood Ginninderra lately occupied by Henry Hall and now by W R McCarthy to be auctioned by order of the mortgager on 11th January 1881. 3551 acres of first class pastoral and agricultural lands etc, residence containing 8 rooms with large kitchen, store, granary, storerooms, four stall stable etc. [Queanbeyan Herald 24.12.1880]

The Charnwood homestead site is located between Shakespeare Crescent and Hall's Creek, opposite Rogers Street, in today's suburb of Fraser. The homestead was demolished in the 1970's due to poor condition and problems with squatters and vandalism. Nothing visible remains of the main homestead, but a number of large trees remain to mark the spot, including conifers, quinces, two huge olives (which still bear fruit), and other trees including a very unusual species from North America - osage orange trees. Some 100 metres or so west, off Binns Street, there are the foundations of an out-building and conifer trees.

In 1922 Eric Bondfield was allocated a Soldier Settlement block at Charnwood and built a house there not far from the original homestead site. Bondfield was a leading sportsman in the Ginninderra district, not only playing rugby league for Hall but also captaining the team to the A Grade premiership in the Federal Capital Territory and District Rugby League Competition in 1927. He was a member of the Federal Territory Lessees' Association and served on its executive committee.

By April 1930, Bondfield was feeling the strain of the Depression and he sold his blocks to Thomas Ianson Gellibrand, the son of Major General John Gellibrand. In 1935, the Kilby Brothers (Athol and Keith) paid £1200 for the 259 acre (105 hectare) Belconnen Block 7.

In July 1930, Bondfield and his family moved to Queanbeyan, NSW. Bondfield Street in Gungahlin is named after him.

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Further information about the Charnwood site can be found at Canberra Tracks

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