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Paterson River history

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three of Benjamin Lee's blocks of land

Above: The land on which Leeholme stood. Paterson Road is at right, with Iona Lane branching from it. Leeholme was in the orange portion, near the river.

Leeholme gates now in Bolwarra

Above: Leeholme's gates, now in Bolwarra (photo: Cameron Archer).

Leeholme being demolished in 1919

Above: Leeholme being demolished in 1919 (photo: Cultural Collections - John Turner Collection).

'Leeholme' was a stately residence that once stood on the banks of the Paterson River in the locality known as 'Old Banks', the eastern side of which is part of the Woodville district (see photo of house at bottom of page). It was built by John Leonard Lee who was one of the sons of Benjamin Lee snr who had purchased the land decades earlier.

Benjamin Lee snr was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars who arrived in Sydney in 1829 as a bounty immigrant on the ship Mary with his wife Lucy Ann, nee Poulton. He was initially indentured to TP Macqueen and managed his Segenhoe property for a year before moving to Parramatta where he bought town allotments. He was the licensee of several hotels and acquired land on the Paterson River.

In 1834 he purchased 76 acres, shown in purple at right, that was originally part of John Reynolds' farm although Lee was the first to gain official title. Lee purchased an adjoining 56 acres, shown in brown, from George Poulton, that was originally part of Reynolds farm and included a little of Richard Binder's farm. He added the 82 acres shown in green, also originally Binders'. Benjamin Lee snr owned other blocks of land nearby as well.

Cecily Mitchell takes up the story:

Benjamin Senior left the Paterson and lived in affluence in Parramatta, dying there in 1879, aged 91. He left 15 children, many of whom became distinguished in politics and the army. His eldest son, Benjamin Lee Jr., represented West Maitland in the Legislative Assembly from 1864 to 1874. Another son, Charles A. Lee who moved to Tenterfield, also entered the Legislative Assembly in 1884... It is his name that lives on for ever in the town of Leeton, named in his honour for the valuable work he did for the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

John Lee, who had Leeholme built, was the fourth son of Benjamin snr. He was born at Parramatta in 1834 and came to Maitland in 1847. In 1857 be began his own grocery and drapery business in West Maitland which grew to be one of the largest retail businesses in the northern districts at that time, employing about 20 people. He held the office of major of West Maitland in 1867, 1868 and 1878, and flood gates for protecting low-lying parts of the shire were constructed during his term in office.

In 1882 John Lee commissioned architect John W Pender to draw up plans for his 'villa residence' that he would name 'Leeholme'. Tenders for its construction were called in the Maitland Mercury on 4 November 1882 (page 1) and the construction contract awared to Robert James the following month. On 31 January 1884 the villa was nearing completion and a highly detailed description of it can be found online in the Maitland Mercury.

Leeholme was demolished in 1919.

Pender's design for Leeholme 1882

Above: The design for Leeholme, drawn by architect John W Pender in 1882 (photo: Cultural Collections).


Above: Leeholme shortly after completion in 1884 (photo: State Library NSW - HB Ballard).

See also

Map of Patersons Plains 1821 showing landholdings.

Australian Dictionary of Biography - Benjamin Lee jnr.


Old Parish maps, NSW for Butterwick Parish.

Cannon, Geoff. The First Title Holders of Land in the Counties of Camden, Cook, Hunter, Durham and Gloucester, 2004 (CD).

Galbraith, Sheila. Errat & Co - Chronicles of the Store, Walcha. Sydney: by the author, 2012.

Hunter, Cynthia. The Settlers of Patterson's Plains. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 1997.

Mitchell, Cecily. Hunter's River. Sydney: 1984.

Walsh, Brian. European Settlement at Paterson River 1812 to 1822. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 2012.