During the first decade of the penal colony at Port Jackson attempts to support itself with local agriculture were disappointing due to the poor nature of the soils surrounding the immediate area of the first settlement. Gradually the population expanded into the surrounding more fertile regions where increasing numbers of ex-convicts and a few free settlers were given land grants to set up their own pastoral and business activities. In order to avail themselves of this opportunity, a meeting was convened in John MacArthur Jr’s rooms in Lincoln’s Inn, London in 1824 with the view of establishing a company which would seek a land grant on which merino sheep would be raised, as well as other agricultural pursuits, using a convict labour force. The meeting resolved to seek support of the British Government for their proposal to establish a company with a capital of £1,000,000. This approval was soon forthcoming and, on 21 June 1824, an Act was passed which granted certain powers and authorities to the company which was to be incorporated by charter and called the Australian Agricultural Company. In subsequent negotiations with the Colonial Office, the Company was to be given a grant of one million acres of waste land for its cultivation and improvement in the Colony of New South Wales.

So were the humble beginnings of Australia’s oldest company whose proud heritage was based around the Port Stephens area all the way to Stroud and beyond. The Companies first office was located at Tahlee House near Carrington on the northern shores of Port Stephens. The area of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens was part of the initial one million acre grant so there is a lot of Australian history at our doorstep.

The unique history of the Australian Agricultural Company in our area and the challenges that the early settlers faced is certainly a good read. The AA Company’s vision back then was daring and bold to say the least and even in our modern times of telecommunication and industrial knowledge we would still need to look back and admire those early pioneers.

Excerpts above have come from the publication called “Tea Gardens – Hawks Nest and Northern Port Stephens” A worthy read of our history and available at the Hawks Nest Newsagency.

© Tea Gardens – Hawks Nest and Northern Port Stephens – Brian A Engel, Janis Winn, John Wark