Local history: Fidden’s Wharf Road

The first road in Kuring-Gai

Fidden’s Wharf is named after the convict turned farmer and ferryman Joseph Fidden. 

As early as 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip had identified large reserves of timber resources on the north shore, in the area now known as Kuring-Gai. The next recorded explorer was botanist George Caley who, in 1805, set out to explore the area and found stands of blackbutt and blue gums in the areas now known as Gordon and Pymble. Between 1805 and 1809, a government sawmill and convict timber-getting camp was established on Lane Cove River near a place that became known as “Fidden’s Wharf”, after a convict who gained his freedom by servitude and lived in the area for many years as farmer, and later as ferryman.

Joseph Fidden was born in around 1778 Birmingham, England. He was convicted in 1799 for burglary and stealing two pots of paint and two loaves of bread. The sentence of death by hanging was commuted to 7 years’ transportation. He was one of 296 convicts transported on the Earl Cornwallis in August 1800, arriving in Sydney in 1801.

On gaining his freedom, Fidden first leased land with a partner and farmed it for wheat, maize and pasture. In 1807 he married Mary Clarke, a convict who had arrived in 1806, and together they had 4 children. In 1813 Governor Macquarie granted Fidden 40 acres of land on the Lane Cove River in an area bounded by what is now Pennant Hills Road and Fidden’s Wharf Road, where he lived for many years. In 1821, Fidden sold the land and became a ferry man, shipping goods, timber and passengers up and down the Lane Cove River. He built a timber wharf into the river, some of which remains today in what is now called the “Fidden’s Wharf Reserve”.

Wharf Road
Convict-built steps at Fidden’s Wharf, part of Kuring-gai’s first road.

In the 1820’s, many illegal timber-getters gravitated to the area and set up camp, however the 6 ½ hectares around Fidden’s Wharf was declared wharfage reserve from which no timber could be legally cut. This act helped preserve the blackbutt which remains in the area.

The track from the ridge leading down to the Lane Cove Sawing Establishment (Fidden’s Wharf Road) formed the first road in Kuring-Gai. At the end of this road are the remains of convict-built steps. The Lane Cove National Park Heritage Walk from the Park Office to Fidden’s Wharf Reserve is one which has historical and natural significance such as the earliest surviving European buildings in the Kuring-Gai municipality, as well as a diverse range of plants and flowers.

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Sandra is a staff writer at The Kuringai Examiner. She likes to take on research-focussed articles. Shy and retiring, Sandra likes nothing more than scouring a pile of books and research articles for a morsel of information.