History and images of an historic Hunter Valley homestead

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The history of Skellatar House - the Bowman Era

Between 1846 and 1848 a family named Bowman gradually purchased the entire Skellator estate. The patriarch of the family was George Bowman of Richmond. He was born in Scotland in 1795, but at the age of three he was brought to the colony of New South Wales, where his father, John Bowman, received a land grant on the Hawkesbury River near Richmond. John Bowman is interesting because he commissioned the famous 'Bowman flag', shown here, to celebrate Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The flag was on display at the Mitchell Library in Sydney during 2005, to coincide with the Trafalgar bicentennial. It's important because it's the earliest evidence of the use of the symbolic Australian fauna, the kangaroo and the emu, and it's widely regarded as the inspiration for Australia's national coat of arms.

When George was a young man, about the year 1818, he decided to do some exploring. According to various sources, he either joined an overland expedition led by John Howe of Windsor from Richmond to the Hunter River, or he later followed in Howe's footsteps along what is now the Putty Road. He is thought to be the first European to follow the course of the Hunter River from Singleton to Muswellbrook. He was very impressed by the fertility of the land he saw, so he decided to buy as much of it as he could afford, in the areas we now know as Singleton, Muswellbrook and Scone, and he received land grants as well. He was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1851, and in 1872 he became Mayor of Richmond.

Here's a portrait of George Bowman,
looking very much like the patriarch he was.

George Bowman needed plenty of land because he had 9 sons and 2 daughters to provide for. In 1848 he took the 12,560 acres of land he had purchased as the Skellator estate, and divided it into three portions.

The western side of the property was given to his third son, William, who was 25 years old, and this became the estate known as 'Balmoral', on the Denman Road out of Muswellbrook. Andrew and Edward, the 8th and 9th sons born in 1840, were twins. Their share was the eastern and central portion of the estate, for which the name, Skellator, given by Sir Francis Forbes, was retained. But they began to spell it with an 'a-r' at the end, instead of an 'o-r'. George Bowman also settled other sons on Hunter Valley properties, including Archerfield and Oaklands in Singleton, and Arrowfield and Strowan in Jerrys Plains.

Andrew and Edward were only 8 years old in 1848 when they received their property settlement, and so of course they were much too young to farm their lands themselves. After completing their secondary schooling they both went to study law at the University of Sydney, and then they went to England to continue their legal studies.

Here's a photograph of each of them looking like dashing young men about town. Andrew is on the left, and Edward on the right.

Andrew was apparently completely deaf, so perhaps his twin helped him with his studies. They both obtained their bachelor degree in law from the University of London, and returned to New South Wales in 1869.

Click here to continue reading about the Bowman Era of Skellatar House, and the architects who designed it

Click here to jump straight to the Education Era of Skellatar House

Click here to return to the Skellatar House home page

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