Bennett Road Public School

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Telephone02 9623 2018

Bennett Family and Business

At the end of the 19th and into the 20th centuries, one of the industries for which St Marys became extremely well-known was the building of coaches and wagons.
The Bennett wagon business began in 1858 when James Bennett opened a wheelwright shop opposite Victoria Square, now called Victoria Park.  Two of his sons, James William and George Thomas, worked there with him and later took over the business when James died in 1908. George extended the business with a wheelwright and blacksmith shop in Queen Street and the two brothers worked together.
They came into conflict when a horse was maimed when being shod and the owner demanded £70 in compensation. George would not pay the amount but James William did, and then for twenty-five years the brothers operated separate businesses in competition.


Bennett Road History - Number 1

Photograph presented to school by the late H.V. Bennett.
It is also in the Penrith Regional Library Collection

 At the height of its trade, the James Bennett business employed twenty-five men, with five men usually working on one wagon: wheelwright smith and apprentice, two body builders and one painter. The wagons cost £150 to £250, and they were sent mainly by rail from the goods yard at St Marys railway station.  After James William Bennett died, that business was conducted until 1954 by his sons, H.V. Bennett and Ernest (Pat) Bennett. The daughter of the late H.V. Bennett helped us with our information.

Bennett Road History Number 2

Photograph presented to the school by the late H.V. Bennett

The wagons varied in size and were sold to farmers for transporting goods, mainly wheat and wool; for minerals e.g. silver ore in the Burragorang Valley, and for town transport. The wagons were pulled by horses, usually fifteen. If the owner requested it, a box called a "coffin" was built at the back of the wagon for the driver's supplies. James Bennett wagons were painted red and blue, and had James Bennett, South Creek and the year painted on the side. Wagons were given names, such as "The Maxina" (in South Creek Park now), "King of the Road", "The Pioneer". George Bennett wagons were green and red and he took great pride in exhibiting his wagons at Agricultural Shows, including the Sydney Show where he won a first prize in "Best Collection of Vehicles".

Bennett Road History Number 3

            Photograph of wagon at South Creek Park, St Marys    (Barry  2002)

In 1923 a world record of wheat was hauled at Calleen, near West Wyalong by Mr Con Hildebrand on a 15 tonne Bennett wagon pulled by fifteen horses. The load was 32t net (most loads were 10 – 20t), and in 1927 a life-size photo of this wagon and its load was shown at the London Exhibition.
The smaller "town lorries" were made for many Sydney merchants, including Tooth and Co (beer), and Colonial Sugar Refinery, or CSR.

Bennett Road History - Number 5

Photograph of "Bronte"   (Barry  2006)

Bronte House, built in 1889, was lived in by the Bennett family for three generations, until it was sold in 1942. It has had many uses since and was not always well maintained. It is now owned by Sydney City Mission, used as Bronte Child and Family Centre, and has received some care and attention. It is classified by The National Trust.
One of the Bennett family, Bertha (daughter of James William and Mary Barclay Bennett) married Harry Desborough, who worked in the Bennett wagon business, in 1918. Their son is Mr Jack Desborough. Our school is on the corner of Bennett and Desborough Roads. Desborough Road was named after Robert Desborough, who conducted a tannery on Desborough Road, near Bega Crescent.
Some Bennett wagons are on display at South Creek Park, St Marys; Shear Outback at Hay; the Jindyandy Grain Mill at Nowra; and paint scrapings from one at Gulgong Museum indicate that it is also a James Bennett wagon.

Bennett Road History - Number 6

Bennett wagon on display at Arms of Australia Inn, Emu Plains   (Barry 2002)
This is a shortened version of the research information, including photographs and
a family tree, taken from our wall display which is in the foyer of our school.

Penrith City Regional Library has local history photographs for sale.

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