Saturday, June 1, 2024






Denham Court is a suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia located 44 kilometres (27 mi) south-west of the Sydney central business district, in the local government areas of the City of Campbelltown, City of Liverpool and City of Camden. It is part of the Macarthur region.

Name origin:

The suburb of Denham Court was named after the 202-hectare (500-acre) land grant of 1810 to Judge Advocate Richard Atkins, this in turn being named after his father's estates in Buckinghamshire in England.

The land grant of 500 acres made to Richard Atkins was lost to Richard Brooks when he became indebted. Brooks increased the holding and enlarged the house to become a grand homestead for his large family.


Richard Atkins (1745-1820), deputy judge advocate, was born on 22 March 1745, the fifth son of Sir William Bowyer, baronet, and his wife Anne, née Stonhouse. He assumed the surname Atkins in recognition of a legacy from Sir Richard Atkins, of Clapham, Surrey, England.

He procured a military commission and by the 1780s became adjutant to the Isle of Man Corps. Addicted to liquor, immorality and insolvency he led a thoroughly dissolute life. Principally to evade his creditors, he resigned his commission and sailed for Sydney, arriving in February 1792. He made much of the fame of his brothers, Sir William Bowyer, Lieutenant-General Henry Bowyer and Admiral Sir George Bowyer, and of being a close friend of Samuel Thornton, judge-advocate of London, and the governors were impressed by his connexions.

Soon after he arrived, Governor Phillip made him a magistrate at Parramatta and in March 1792 appointed him registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court; this enabled him to enhance the aura of influential prestige behind which he sheltered from existing creditors while engaging fresh credit locally on the security of his family name. It was soon commonplace knowledge that his bills were not met.

Upon instructions from England, Governor Huntter appointed Atkins acting deputy judge advocate during the absence of David Collins on leave. The judge-advocate was the senior judicial officer in the colony, the president of both the civil and criminal courts, 'committing magistrate, public prosecutor and judge'. Atkins also served as registrar of exports and imports, assistant inspector of public works at Parramatta and temporary superintendent of police.

Atkins, although he had neither knowledge of the law or fair character, remained the colony's principal legal officer for years. Of commanding stature and fine presence, when sober he was impressive enough to delude creditors and governors alike; but he was ignorant and merciless, an inveterate debauchee, leading a life which Surgeon John Harris called 'worse than a Dog's' in a squalid dwelling described as 'a perfect pigstye'. Lieutenant-Governor William Paterson remarked on 'his character for low debauchery and every degrading vice as well as a total want of every gentlemanly principle'. Governor William Bligh deemed him 'a disgrace to human jurisprudence', who 'has been the ridicule of the community: sentences of death have been pronounced in moments of intoxication; his determination is weak, his opinion floating and infirm; his knowledge of the law is insignificant and subservient to private inclination; and confidential cases of the Crown he is not to be entrusted with'. Bligh found it necessary to take legal advice from George Crossley an ex-convict attorney, whom Atkins himself employed as counsellor for many years.

He eventually retired and returned to England. His attorney in 1817 offered a composition to his creditors in New South Wales, but Atkins remained insolvent until his death in London on 21 November 1820.

As noted above, Richard Brooks received Richard Atkins’ landholding to settle debts owed to Brooks by Atkins.


For Captain Richard Brooks of Denham Court, the desire to be "master of all he surveyed" was probably a strong one. It has been suggested that he wanted to recreate the typical English country estate - with himself as the lord of the manor. Certainly it's true his panoramic hillside estate was one of Sydney's most vibrant social centres of the 1820s and 1830s. And for good reason - Captain Brooks had six beautiful daughters. The proud squire did his utmost to make Denham Court a name to be noticed.

That makes it all the more ironic that a more recent owner - Miss Gowan Flora MacDonald - fought tooth and nail to prevent Denham Court from being used as the official suburb name in 1970.

Miss MacDonald made special representations to Liverpool Council asking that the name only be applied to the historic Denham Court house and farm which she owned. Any use of the name for surrounding areas was unauthorised, she argued.

Miss MacDonald suggested the "Edmondson" be used instead, honouring locally-bred John Edmondson who won the first Australian Victoria Cross medal for bravery of World War II. Unfortunately, it had been awarded posthumously in 1941 as he had been killed in action. Liverpool Council, regarding it as a fine tribute to the local war hero, offered no objection.

But the suburb in question straddled the council boundary. And the support of Campbelltown was needed prior to any name change - support that was hard to find. Hostile aldermen claimed the "Parish of Denham Court" was a historic name applying to the whole area, and not just the house or farm. Council advised Liverpool that it objected.

In November 1970, the NSW Geographical Names Board attempted a compromise. It decided to name part of the area within Liverpool territory as "Edmondson Park", while the remainder would simply be "Denham". But this dumping of the word "Court" only drew unanimous criticism from Campbelltown Council, and the war of words continued until 1976, when the full title was finally approved.

At first Brooks and his family lived in Sydney, but by 1825 the family had moved into a home at Denham Court. And within years the famous colonial architect, John Verge, had added elaborate wings and new central section.

Ruth Banfield says Cpt Brooks' "grand vision" of being the English squire was such that he ordered a private chapel to be built on the estate. Church Road now leads to this "St Mary the Virgin" Church, which is supposedly based on a similar structure at Denham in England.

However the Captain barely lived long enough to see his dreams come to fruition. After being gored by a bull, he died at the age of 68 in 1833.

Denham Court was inherited by his daughter, Christiana, who had married an army lieutenant in the 48th Regiment - Thomas Valentine Blomfield. By the late 1830s, the property was becoming the nucleus of a small village, with a mill, church and hotel. Christiana and Thomas both died in the 1850s.

After some years as a ladies boarding college run by Miss Sarah Eliza Lester, it became the home of the Blomfields' son Richard.

In turn, his son, Andrew Blomfield, took charge and oversaw a huge subdivision of the Denham Court property in 1884, creating 444 blocks and leaving the old house standing on only 26 acres (10.4ha). Yet few blocks were sold.

John Mayne bought the property in 1890 and 11 years later the widower married local lass, Maud McDonald. It was their niece, Miss Gowan Flora MacDonald, who inherited the historic holding and sparked the debate with Campbelltown Council in 1970.

In 1974, Dr Keith Okey bought the house (which was classified by the National Trust in 1978) and carefully restored it as a private home.


The suburb is one of the most affluent in south-west Sydney, with the median property price standing at $1.60 million in January 2015, over three times higher than the median of properties in surrounding suburbs. The median income also stands noticeably above the average of surrounding suburbs at over $1,900 per week, while the median of surrounding areas stands at $900 per week.

The area is most well known for its luxurious properties, including a colonial era compound from which the suburb takes its name It is sometimes referred to as 'the south-western millionaires' row'] in reference to the row of mansions along Denham Court Road, where a prominent ridge allows views all the way to Sydney.


Denham Court House (ie house, not court of law)

Denham Court Anglican Church

Ottimo House, wedding reception venue

Ottimo House

Some residences:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.