Halton is a locality and a rural property on the Allyn River about 17 kilometres north of East Gresford, NSW.
Halton began as a rural estate in 1835 when George Townshend purchased several blocks of Crown land on the Allyn River including the two 640 acre blocks shaded blue and green in the image below. The blocks were opposite each other, with the Allyn River running between them to form the eastern boundary of one and the western boundary of the other. In mid 1841 Townshend sold the eastern block, named "Halton", to Captain Gilbert Champain along with 205 acres from another block. Townshend also sold the western block (later named "Combwell" and then "Ballington") to Robert Ramsay.
In 1842 Gilbert Champain was described as a gentleman farmer residing at Halton with his wife. Champain was born in London in 1802, married in Malta in 1835 and pursued a career as a British army officer, rising to the rank of captain in the 5th Fusiliers. He immigrated to New South Wales in late 1839 or early 1840 with his wife and children. Just a few months before purchasing Halton from Townshend he was granted 640 acres of back-country to the east of the Allyn River on Chad's Creek.
Gilbert Champain's purchase of Halton in 1841 comprised 640 acres (shaded green above) plus 205 acres from another of Townshend's blocks (location required). Champain's grant of 640 acres was to the north east of Halton.
In 1853 Gilbert Champain began to sell his Allyn River land prior to leaving the district. He advertised his 640 acre back-country grant, known as "Champain's Farm", in August 1853 and again in November.
In 1855 Champain put Halton on the market, described as "854 acres of rich agricultural and pasture land ... with a mile of river frontage and a tributary creek running through the entire property". This was the 640 block on the Allyn River and the additional 200 odd acres that he purchased from Townshend in 1841, the slight difference in acreage due to survey after 1841. The 200 odd acres was back-country, as the 640 acre Halton block accounts for the advertised mile of river frontage. Champain also advertised his livestock for sale at this time.
Gilbert Champain's departure in 1855 marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Halton. James Lawrie senior apparently leased Halton at first, then on 27 February 1857 he purchased both 640 acre blocks, namely "Halton" and "Combwell" (the extra 200 odd acres advertised in 1855 was not part of the purchase).
James Lawrie senior was born in Dumfermline, Fife, Scotland about 1811 and married Jean (Jane) Greig in 1834. They arrived in New South Wales on "Kate" in September 1849 as assisted immigrants with their five children – James junior (13), Elizabeth (10), Alexander Greig(8), Margaret (4) and Magdalene (infant).. James' senior's occupation was recorded on the passenger list as "farm labourer". They came to the Hunter Valley where James senior was initially employed on William Barker Boydell's property "Caergwrle" at Allynbrook, before Lawrie leased and then purchased Halton.
The homestead at Halton, built by James Lawrie senior (photo courtesy of Fiona Park).
During the 1860s James Lawrie senior, with the help of his now adult sons James and Alexander, built Halton into a well known tobacco manufacturing business. They processed tobacco that was grown along the Allyn River which was, by the early 1870s, the largest tobacco-producing district in the colony. In 1874 the Maitland Mercury wrote The fame of Mr. Lawrie's nailrod and twist tobacco, manufactured at Halton, Upper Allyn River, is now so widespread throughout New South Wales that there has long been a greater demand for it than can by supplied by the firm.
The Lawrie's farming and tobacco manufacturing was focused on the Halton block east of the Allyn River. They leased out their western block that was initially named "Combwell" and then "Ballington", probably until Robert Graham Lawrie took it over after his marriage in the early 1900s when it reverted to its former name of "Combwell".
The Halton homestead and farm buildings nestled on a bend of the Allyn River (photo courtesy of Fiona Park).
James Lawrie junior married Flora Sherwood in 1866 and Alexander Greig Lawrie married Louisa Alice Sivyer in 1868. With the two sons now establishing families of their own, a succession strategy evolved to allow both sons to continue farming in the district without splitting Halton. Alexander accumulated a large quantity of land along Chad's Creek, to the north east of Halton. He named the land "Bonnington Park" and established his family home there shortly after his marriage. When he advertised Bonnington Park for sale in 1916 it comprised 10,400 acres. Lawrie ownership of Bonnington Park ended when it sold privately in 1919.
With Alexander established on his own land at Bonnington Park, when James Lawrie senior died in 1892, James Lawrie junior inherited all of Halton, thus keeping the original estate intact. After James junior's death in 1917, Halton was divided between his four sons as shown in the image below.
The division of Halton between James Lawrie junior's four sons after his death in 1917. Note that Allyn River Road and Chad's Creek Road now formed part of the boundaries along with the Allyn River.
Alexander Greig Lawrie (son of James junior and Flora) received "Kinross"; Robert Graham Lawrie received "Combwell"; Frederick Hector Lawrie received the block known as "Halton House"; James Crawford Lawrie received the unnamed south east section but apparently never lived there.
Frederick Hector Lawrie's son James Scott Lawrie (Jim) inherited the Halton House block from his father. In 1968 Jim re-acquired the Kinross section. When he died in 2005 Jim left Kinross to the Hunter Medical Research Institute to be sold in aid of childhood cancer. He left the Halton House block (165 acres) to the Presbyterian Church. His passing in 2005 ended 148 years of Lawrie ownership of Halton.
1. George Townshend and Trevallyn, Paterson River by Jack Sullivan, Paterson Historical Society, 1997, pages 30 and 42. Re Champain's purchase of 845 acres ‐ Maitland Mercury, 25 April 1846 page 2 and a more detailed report in the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 1846 page 2. Re naming of Combwell and Ballington ‐ Jenny Grogan research and Jenny Grogan map.
3. Champain family tree on ancestry.com.au [$ubscription required] compiled by Roger Goldfinch.
8. from Land Titles Office per Jill Rodgers, reported by Jenny Grogan, see note 1 above. Combwell is in the parish of Holywell; Halton is in Avenal parish. James Lawrie senor probably leased the land prior to purchase as he is listed as leaseholder of Halton in the 1859/60 NSW Electoral Role for Paterson (the role was probably not updated immediately after the purchase).
9. Passenger list, Assisted Immigration NSW per ancestry.com.au. Also family tree on ancestry.com.au [$ubscription required].
Thanks to Fiona Park, Janece McDonald, Ivan Skaines, Roger Goldfinch, Jenny Grogan, John Lawrie and Cameron Archer for information provided.
George Townshend and Trevallyn, Paterson River by Jack Sullivan, Paterson Historical Society, 1997.