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Family history: Lawries at Halton

I have put a map along with aspects of the history of Halton in the Family History section of this website but I have had a few comments from a relative that have made me think that it would be a good idea to write an explanatory blog post.

James Lawrie, his wife Jean (nee Greig) and their five children came out to NSW as Assisted Immigrants from Scotland in 1849, on board the "Kate". They settled in the Hunter Valley, and gained employment on the "Caergule" estate. A few years later they bought "Halton" and parts of the property remained in Lawrie family possession for the next 150 years.

Jimmy Lawrie, the last remaining Lawrie descendant to live at Halton, had in his possession a newspaper cutting that was an advertisement for the sale of Halton, from the Maitland Mercury in 1855, which Deirdre Llewellyn photographed when she visited him in the 1990s (shown at left). So it appeared that the family had bought the property at the advertised sale.

On modern maps, Halton is the name of a locality on the Allyn River Rd, north of Paterson in the Hunter River Valley in NSW, and has always been easy to find.

The original Halton property boundaries are shown in a number of maps in the Parish of Avenal in the archives at the NSW government website, but I wanted to compare them with Google maps to see where the property actually was. This was where the map-making project began.

Comparing old maps to Google maps showed that the property had been sub-divided, which raised the question of when? Prior communication with Jill Rodgers had made it clear that the property was divided into four parts when James 2 (son of James and Jean above) died in 1917, and left it to his four sons but the modern day boundaries of the Halton property didn't seem to reflect this.

There was also a mystery about another property called "Combwell" which some of the Lawrie descendants thought had actually been the first to be acquired back in about 1852. "Combwell" was inherited by Robert Graham Lawrie in the sub-division of Halton after James 2 Lawrie's death in 1917 and remained in the family until it was sold by his sons in 1944. How did "Combwell" fit into the Halton story?

There was a copy of part of an old map, circulating in the Lawrie family that had the name "Combwell" circled just across the Allyn River from Halton.

A number of early newspaper items referred to Combwell. These are summarized in the "Timeline of early newspaper articles" on the Halton map in the Family History section of this website. It was bought and sold at least twice and had a number of different owner/occupiers - not Lawries.

Then, sometime between 1869 and 1872 its name changed to "Ballington", at a time when it was occupied by William White. It was still called "Ballington" in a newspaper item in 1907, when it was supposedly occupied by Robert Graham Lawrie.

However, in later years it reverted to its original name and became "Combwell" once again.

Jill Rodgers solved part of the mystery when she visited the lands office in Sydney. She wrote:

"On 27 February 1857 the Lawrie family bought two lots of land, with the boundary between each being the Allyn river, that had been originally granted to George Townsend as 640 acres in the Parish of Holywell (west of the Allyn river) and 640 acres in the Parish of Avenal (east of the Allyn river)."

This made it clear that James Lawrie and Jean (nee Greig) had actually bought two properties, both "Halton" and the "Combwell/Ballington" property at the same time, in 1857, not in 1855 as suggested by the newspaper cutting.

But if the Combwell/Ballington property had been purchased at that time and was still in family possession in 1944, why were there newspaper items referring to other occupants after 1857? The answer has to be that the property on the western side of the river was leased to tenants, perhaps until it was taken over by Robert Graham Lawrie after his marriage, in the early 1900s.

So the Ballington/Combwell section of the property was included in the division of "Halton" into four parts following the death of James 2 Lawrie. But which part of the property did each son inherit, and where were the new property boundaries? Again Jill Rodgers provided information from her visit to the lands office:

"By the time the land was divided legally between the four sons of James Lawrie Jnr, both the Allyn River and the Allyn River Road had become boundaries. The sons had acreages that reflected their birth order.

Alexander Greig Lawrie had Lot 1 346 acres in the North West in the Parish of Holywell plus Lot 2 14 acres in the North East in the Parish of Avenal on the other side of the Allyn River. I suspect both together were known as Kinross.

James Crawford Lawrie had Lot 5 South East in the Parish of Avenal, 403 acres which later became 402 (a bit was grabbed when the road was realigned). I know of no house or property


Robert Graham Lawrie got Lot 3 302 acres in the South West in the Parish of Holywell plus Lot 4 23 acres on the other side of the Allyn river SE in the Parish of Avenal. I know both together were known as Combwell.

Frederick Hector Lawrie got Lot 6, 165 acres North East in the Parish of Avenal, east of the Allyn River. This was Halton."

Comparing the descriptions of the Lots above, with the modern day divisions shown on Google maps ennabled me to plot the boundaries of each of the four properties on the map (see the Halton map in Family History section).

James Scott Lawrie, son of Frederick Hector, re-acquired the "Kinross" section, in 1968 and left it to the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) when he died in 2005. The HMRI included this tribute to him in a newsletter in 2007:

"HMRI would like to pay tribute to Mr James Lawrie who chose to leave a generous bequest of $875,000 to HMRI childhood cancer research through the sale of his property, “Kinross”, on the Allyn River."

The "Halton House" part of his property was left to the Presbyterian Church, thus ending the Lawrie occupation of land at Halton.

The map in the Family History section details aspects of the history of "Halton" and the other property purchased at the same time on the western side of the Allyn River. On the old maps there are only one or two small blocks further to the east that were purchased in the name "James Lawrie" (which one is not specified) that are not shown on this map.

Please note that the map does not include the history of "Bonnington Park" which was a separate property further along Chads Creek Road, formed from an amalgamation of a number of small allotments purchased in the name of "Alexander Greig Lawrie".


Many thanks to Jill Rodgers and Deirdre Llewellyn for their contributions to this article.

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