search web this site
Paterson River history

search web this site


Stradbroke is a rural property on the Paterson River about six kilometres north of Dunmore Bridge at Woodville. Its first European occupier was Anthony Dwyer in 1815, and he named the block "Macquarie Farm". First title to the land, set at 60 acres, was issued to William Montagu Manning in 1845.

In 1848 William Munnings Arnold purchased the 60 acres from Manning. By January 1850 Munnings Arnold was calling the place "Stradbroke", apparently after the Earl of Stradbroke who was a great friend of his father. Arnold then extended the estate by purchasing an adjoining 782 acres (see image below).

the Stradbroke land

Stradbroke is in the Woodville district. The area highlighted is the original 60 acres fronting Paterson River. The larger block outlined is an additional 782 acres purchased by Arnold. The house is arrowed (GPS 32° 38.292'S 151° 36.363'E). Paterson Road is shown in Orange, and Butterwick Road is at the far right.

There is some confusion about when Arnold began to build Stradbroke. The NSW Heritage Database and Cecily Mitchell claim the first section, in brick and stone, was built in 1840 but they are wrong[1] – Arnold did not purchase the land until 1848. Court cases involving Arnold and various brickmakers and bricklayers indicate building started about 1848. In June 1849 William Munnings Arnold advertsed for brickmakers to make one hundred thousand bricks, and for a competent carpenter joiner to complete the inside work of the house.[2]

Stradbroke House was built in three stages. The first portion, called the old house and completed about 1849, comprised a living room, kitchen, verandah and larder on the ground floor, and one large room and one small room upstairs. Today it is the left portion of the house when viewed from the front. The second stage, which today makes up the main portion of the house was completed about 1855. In 1911 the two stages were joined together by a narrow middle section (see photo below).[3]

Stradbroke in the 1960s

Stradbroke in the 1960s (photo: by Athel D'Ombrain, held by Paterson Historical Society).

Stradbroke in 2015

Stradbroke in 2015 (photo: Brian Walsh).

William Munnings Arnold died in 1875 and EW Sparke acquired Stradbroke from the Arnold estate in 1920 or early 1921.[4] The estate had previously been operated by a resident manager under the guidance of Alfred Cory until his death. His wife, Charlotte Ellen, was the eldest daughter of WM Arnold.

EW Sparke established a dairy and Guernsey Stud at Stradbroke, with a resident manager. About 1927 his son FV Sparke assumed management and took up residence, acquiring the property upon the death of his father in 1930. He mainly run dairy and beef cattle. FV Sparke subdivided and sold Stradbroke in many portions in about 1971.[5]

Stradbroke stables

The stables were built by WM Arnold in the mid to late 1850s, at about the same time as the second stage of the house. The bricks were made on site, at a brick pit about 500 metres east of the house. Arnold designed the stables in the shape of a church to commemorate his father, the Rev. Richard Arnold, who was a clergyman in Suffolk, England. On the southern wall of the stables is a dummy chimney (with no fireplace) to reflect Arnold's father's Suffolk church that had a fireplace and chimney.

Stradbroke stables in the 1960s

Stradbroke stables in the 1960s. They were built in the shape of a church (photo: by Athel D'Ombrain, held by Paterson Historical Society).

Stradbroke stables in 2015

Stradbroke stables in 2015 (photo: Brian Walsh).

Les Darcy's birthplace

Legendary boxer and folk hero Les Darcy was born at Stadbroke in 1895. His family lived in a workers' cottage on Paterson Road at Stradbroke. In about 1931 the cottage was moved from its Paterson Road site to the Stradbroke homestead complex and attached to Stradbroke cottage.

Stradbroke cottage in the 1960s with Darcy home attached

Stradbroke cottage in the 1960s with the Darcy home attached at left. The Darcy home was moved from Paterson road about 1931 (photo: by Athel D'Ombrain, held by Paterson Historical Society).

In 1968 the Les Darcy Memorial Wattle Grove was opened on the site of Darcy's birthplace on Paterson Road by Sir William McKell, a former Governor-General of Australia and former Premier of New South Wales.[6] Decades later the memorial was demolished. It stood at approximately GPS 32° 38.621'S 151° 36.685'E, see photo below.

Les Darcy Memorial Wattle Grove on Paterson Road at Stradbroke

The Les Darcy Memorial Wattle Grove that used to stand on Paterson Road at Stradbroke, photo probably taken in the 1970s. The memorial is not there now (photo: Paterson Historical Society).

Stradbroke cottage in 2015

Stradbroke cottage in 2015. The Darcy family home that was formerly attached to the cottage has not survived (photo: Brian Walsh).


1. NSW Heritage Database - entry for Stradbroke. Also: Cecily Mitchell, Hunter's River, 1984 p171.

2. Maitland Mercury 27 May 1848, 12 May 1849, 9 June 1849.

3. Notes by Jim Sparke on Athel D'Ombrain's Stradbroke album, held by Paterson Historical Society.

4. Maitland Daily Mercury 7 January 1921 page 8 and 21 March 1921 page 5.

5. "Recollections of Stradbroke by Jim Sparke" in Tocal History Notes vol. XI, 2002, unpublished, Tocal College archives, Paterson NSW.

6. Maitland Mercury 28 October 1968 page 4.


Boyle, Harry. William Munnings Arnold 1819-1875. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 1993.

Old Parish maps, NSW for Butterwick Parish.