A Community and Recreation Site

Latin derivation: Silva meaning forest or wood & Plana a plain or flat area.

This site in Mt Wilson did not receive the name officially until it was generously given by Mrs Esme Burfitt to the community after the First World War. In 1893 Edward C. Merewether died and in the following year, James Elliott Mann purchased the Merewether Estate and this included the Merewether Paddock and Dennarque now at the top of Church Lane. A small house which was named by the Mann Family, Silva Plana, after a house they had owned in Springwood stood in the Merewether Paddock of which Silva Plana today is also a part. The area of Mrs Burfitt's gift was 4 acres, 2 roods & 2 perches.

The sub divisions surveyed by E.S. Wyndham in 1868 in Mt Wilson were not bought in 1870 when put up for auction at Windsor. However later in 1875 and 1876 these same blocks were sold with comparative ease. This portion of land was no exception. Crosbie Blake Brownrigg was granted 10 acres in this area in June 1875. Interestingly he became an assistant to E.S. Wyndham after the survey of Mt Wilson was completed.1 He was also the son of Captain Brownrigg who was Superintendant of the Australian Agricultural Co. from November 1852 to July 1856. This company has more than one link with Mt Wilson. Like many of the first landholders in Mt Wilson, C.B. Brownrigg did not undertake any building activities following his purchase. No one has really provided a full answer to that particular question i.e. why so many first landholders failed to stay.

However in 1876 Edward Merewether visited Mt Wilson and reported that he had viewed land belonging to C.B. Brownrigg  - 10 acres priced at 100 pounds but it will cost 15 pounds to 20 pounds per acre to clear it of big timber and undergrowth, leaving all the tree ferns. Thus we know it was covered with forest and Silva is therefore entirely appropriate. Edward Merewether was also a Superintendant of the Australian Agricultural Co. He purchased this land and soon it was being called Merewether's Paddock or, when it was flooded (and this occurred after heavy consistent rain), as Merewether's Lake. The last time this writer remembers Silva Plana being flooded was in the late 1980s. In April 1988 we had over 500 mm of rain!

On this land Merewether built a small house for his immediate needs while his major home was being constructed on Dennarque Hill. He had purchased the land for Dennarque (18 acres) from Sir Alexander Dean.

Another story is interwoven with Silva Plana but cannot be told here in detail. Between 1876 and 1888 there was continued pressure to improve the postal service to Mt Wilson. Silva Plana played a role in that.

In 1886 Henry John Wynne, the only surviving son of Richard & Mary Ann Wynne of Yarrawa (Wynstay) and Herbert Merewether, a son of Edward Merewether cleared land here for a cricket ground, the pitch being near the small house built by Merewether.


Miss Helen Gregson described it in the following way:  It became the social event of the year. A local team played against one got together by the Postmaster at Mt Victoria. The visitors drove out 17 miles in a 4 horse drag and lunch was served.2 From the Lithgow Mercury of January, 1898 there is a description of the match held that year, exactly 100 years ago. Sadly on that occasion Mt Wilson only managed one innings. We were soundly defeated by Mt Victorians and Blackheathens, as they were so charmingly named.

In 1888 in December a major, indeed, dramatic change took place in the postal arrangements for Mt Wilson. A lady, Mrs Ada Elizabeth Mahoney was appointed to a Receiving Office in Mt Wilson and that office was in that small house in Merewether's Paddock. However Mr Richard Wynne had asked that this office be called Irvine as this was the name originally given to the parish of Mount Wilson by Sir James Martin's Government. This proposal aroused the Hon. G.H. Cox to protest against the change of name in the strongest terms. He stated that it was altogether against the wishes of the residents! Note what he wrote:   With the exception of Mr Wynne all the other residents without exception Justice Stephen, Mr Merewether, Mr Gregson and the members of my own family strongly deprecate the change of name, and which we trust will not be sanctioned.3 This statement raises some interesting questions. Were the above the only residents at that time? Sydney Kirk and his wife, Mary (nee Marceau) were certainly living here; their eldest son, Sydney was born on 27th January 1889. Mr Charles Sharp was the caretaker at Beowang at the same time. Were you only a resident if you owned property or was there some other more subtle criterion?

The Hon.G.H. Cox's protestations over the change of name were successful. Irvine was changed to Mt Wilson on 9th January, 1889 and the old office at the Mt Wilson Railway Platform became Bell; this was also a suggestion of the Hon. G.H. Cox.. A mail service between Bell and Mt Wilson was established with John Hall winning the contract and carrying the mail on horseback six times a week between October and April, and once a week for the rest of the year.

Mrs Mahoney was the R.O.K. (Receiving Office Keeper) until January 12th 1890 when she wrote "I don't wish to have anything to do with the letters----". She went off to Sydney and to the consternation of the residents, particularly Mr Richard Wynne, did not tell her husband, James, but worse still did not tell the residents! This in effect ended the link between the postal service and Merewether's Paddock. Our friend, the Hon. G.H. Cox stepped into the breach and the postal service commenced at Beowang in the charge of his daughter, Miss Lucy Cox.

We know that after the death of Edward Merewether in 1893 this land was bought by James Elliot Mann and the small house on it was then named Silva Plana. There is little doubt that the cricket matches continued on New Year's Day and then James Mann's daughter, Esme, realising the great community benefit this land provided gave 4 acres, 2 roods & 2 perches of it for community recreation after the First World War just as her mother gave the land in 1919 for the War Memorial.

The idea of a Sports Day evolved after the establishment of the C.W.A. in Mt Wilson/ Mt Irvine in 1929. In October, 1932 it was recorded in the minutes of the C.W.A meeting of that month the following:  'that the C.W.A. hold a Sports Day on January 1st 1933.' This motion was proposed by Miss Helen (Nellie) Gregson, seconded by Mrs Draper. It was then implemented by appointing Mr Valder, Mr Gregson & Mr Wilson as the Sports Committee to organise the programme of races!  Miss Gregson, Miss Sloan & Mrs Draper became the Catering Committee. Miss Joshua was to conduct the Soft Drink & Sweet Stall. The Younger Set was to clean the grounds & make it ready for the races! Oh for those days when everyone knew his or her role without ambiguity! This recreation area was used through out the thirties and forties and possibly the early 1950's not only for cricket matches, but wood chopping contests, gymkhanas and of course the lively and versatile C.W.A. Sports Day.

In the 1990s the Mt Wilson Progress Association re-established Sports Day on New Year's Day, organised very ably by Michael Pembroke and Libby Raines and others. It continued for some years.

While we enjoyed the spirit created in our return to the past and it adds another dimension of our own to the experience, think of all those who played, laughed and established that sense of continuity and community in the 100 or more years before us and enriched this very special place.

[1] 'Mt Wilson New South Wales' Dr C.H. Currey 1968 A&R

[2] C.H. Currey  Mt Wilson NSW

[3] Australian Archives Postal history Mt Wilson and Bell

Mary B Reynolds Research Officer Mt Wilson & Mt Irvine Historical Society Gratefully acknowledges the assistance for this information from the following sources: 'Mt Wilson N.S.W.' C.H. Currey; The Australian Archives - Post Office History of Bell & Mt Wilson; Material from Mr Michael Mann; Records of the Mt Wilson/ Mt Irvine C.W.A. ( H. Naylor ); Archival material collected by the Society from members of the Kirk family.