Tocal Homestead Weddings

Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guide to Tocal Homestead Weddings

Located on one of Australia’s oldest colonial working farms is Tocal Homestead weddings. A historic farm that was built in 1841, that is now also an awesome Hunter Valley wedding venue.

Tocal is a local region in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales at the junction of the Paterson River and Webber’s Creek. The land was occupied by the Gringai clan of the Wonnarua Aboriginal people and in 1822 it was ‘settled’ by the Europeans. Tocal was also once one of the greatest cattle and horse studs in Australia. 

Tocal’s history of human habitation spans thousands of years from when it was home to the Gringai clan of the Wonnarua people. There are signs of thousands of years of human activity at Tocal Homestead. Grooves worn into rocks by grinding seeds and plants day after day, year after year, indicate Tocal was a popular campsite for the Aboriginal people.

Tocal Homestead weddings

‘Tocal’ is an aboriginal word, that simply means ‘big’ or ‘plenty’. The area with its river, creek and natural wetlands would certainly have been a plentiful food source, abounding in birds, fish and other animals.

I’ve shot many weddings there and think it is a wonderful place for a wedding. It has everything you need for an amazing day. So with this guide, I want to walk you through everything you need to know about Tocal Homestead weddings. And also give you a bit of background history about the property and why it is such a landmark in the region.

Tocal Homestead Wedding Venue

Tocal Homestead weddings

If you are searching for a rustic, country wedding venue or a Tocal wedding venue, then Tocal Homestead ticks all of the boxes. It is a historic Australian farm property in the Hunter Valley. There are old barns, historic houses, and pastures that are full of animals. It is a picturesque country location that allows couples to have a beautiful and elegant wedding.

One of the awesome things about having a wedding at Tocal Homestead is that the whole day, from beginning to the end, can take place on this historic country property. This means that when you arrive at your wedding venue, you can relax knowing that you don’t need to travel anywhere else. This really reduces wedding day stress levels.

Tocal Homestead Accommodation

There is accommodation available onsite at The Barracks. A unique, heritage-listed property that has been fully restored with all the modern comforts. The Barracks are over 150 years old and were originally built to house convicts, ex-convicts and free workers that worked on the farm.

The Barracks features four suites which all have beautiful views over the countryside and colonial buildings. And unlike the convicts, you get your own bathroom and air conditioning.

Additional accommodation is available over at Tocal College with motel-style rooms, flats and cottages available, which are also located in a lovely rural setting. There are also a number of beautiful B&Bs around the local Tocal area.

Tocal Homestead Wedding Ceremony

Tocal Homestead weddings ceremony location

For your wedding ceremony, there are a few options to choose from. Although you could probably have your ceremony anywhere you want on the property.

The Homestead Lawn is an elegant garden location held in the front garden of Tocal Homestead under one of the giant fig trees. This is probably the most popular location for weddings. One thing worth noting is that there is no shade for your wedding guests, so if you are having a summer wedding you should probably provide them with parasols or choose a different location.

Blacketts Barn is another wedding ceremony location and a really good wet weather backup. It is also a location worth considering for summer weddings as there will be full shade available for everyone.

Tocal Chapel is also available for wedding ceremonies. It is located over at Tocal College and is a good option for couples needing a traditional wedding ceremony in a church setting.

After the ceremony, there is also an option for your guests to go on an exclusive tour around The Homestead and see the interior of this historic house. A great way to entertain your guests between the ceremony and reception.

Tocal Homestead weddings
Tocal Homestead weddings

Tocal Homestead Wedding Photos

The beautiful thing, from a wedding photographer’s point of view, is that Tocal Homestead is an awesome place for wedding photos. There is a lot of land and a lot of different locations to walk around and explore. The Homestead itself is a lovely backdrop, then there are all the historical buildings, the trees, gardens, the dam, the farm animals, and the countryside. It is just perfect.

One thing I would say is that because it is a farm, you will probably have a better, more enjoyable time if you choose or bring along some flats. Or at the very least a thick heeled shoe. You probably won’t get very far if you are wearing high stilettos.

You should also try to do photos at sunset so that you can get more beautiful light.

Tocal Homestead Reception Venue

The location for your wedding reception is in the old 100-year-old shed. This former hay shed has been totally renovated into a rustic and elegant wedding venue. It features recycled timber and is fully air-conditioned. The lawn area out the front of the venue is an awesome area for guests to hang out and enjoy the countryside views.

Wedding receptions can accommodate up to 130 people seated or up to 300 people stand-up cocktail style. The reception venue is run by Sprout Catering.

Tocal Homestead is one of my favourite wedding venues in the Hunter Valley and it is one of the most popular. I love how the entire day from start to finish can happen at the one place. And weddings here are always super fun and super relaxed. How could you be stressed at a gorgeous farm wedding in the country.

If you have chosen Tocal Homestead as your wedding venue and you are still looking for a wedding photographer, then check out more of my work. If you like what you see then get in contact as I would love to shoot more Tocal Homestead weddings.

The following information is not necessarily related to Tocal Homestead wedding planning but it still could be really interesting for couples getting married there. When I was researching Tocal Homestead I did find some archived history information about the place. How it all began and what it was used for. As you wander the grounds on your wedding day it might be cool to know how historic everything at actually Tocal is.

History of Tocal and Tocal Homestead

Tocal Homestead is one of Australia’s oldest working colonial farms. It is a heritage-listed site and the buildings you see on the property have a long rich history in the region. You don’t need to know about the history of Tocal Homestead to have your wedding there. But some people might be interested to know more about the place they are saying their marriage vows in. Read on if you are interested…

When James Webber moved onto Tocal in March 1822 it was occupied by the Gringai clan of the Wonnarua Aboriginal people.

Tocal has long been a centre for innovation, benefiting greatly from far-sighted farmers.  James Webber first settled the property and tested many crops new to the region; Charles Reynolds became one of the colony’s finest horse and cattle breeders, and Charles Boyd Alexander brought mechanisation and technology to the property. 

The establishment of Tocal College in 1965 brought Tocal to the forefront of agricultural education and environmental management.  Today, Tocal College provides practical learning for full-time students, and a wide range of external courses and short courses. Tocal Homestead is now open at weekends from March to November, providing public access to this premium heritage site in the Hunter Valley

Tocal Landscape

There is a range of landscapes on Tocal.  The regenerating landscape of rainforest and wetlands is interspersed with small areas of agricultural land.  The natural vegetation contrasts with the 19th century European landscape around the lagoon where there are poplars and willows and other planted species on the knoll on which the Homestead is located. 

The area around the Homestead and including the College campus, consists of open grassland with scattered trees. More native species, including tall spotted gums, are being planted for shade but the area will remain open grazing land.  The landscape of the College campus was a major source of inspiration for the prize-winning design by Philip Cox and Ian McKay in 1965.

The College buildings were designed to fit into the hill-top to form part of the landscape with the Chapel as the centrepiece. The rest of the property is a rural landscape comprising a mixture of heavily timbered country, native/naturalised pasture, improved pasture and degraded improved pasture.

The presence of the large lagoon was one of the deciding factors in the use of this area by both Aboriginal people and European settlers, as it provides a permanent source of fresh water for humans and animals.  The proximity of the site to the river was also a factor in settlement by Europeans as the river remained a major transport route for 100 years.

The fertile flats on the banks of Webbers Creek were cleared with convict labour in the 1820s and it is from this land that much of the wealth of Tocal was created.  The area is now being restored, and over 60 species of local rainforest plants have been replanted since 1996.   There is a self-guided tour, the Pumby Brush Walk, that passes through the various stages of revegetation. 

The low-lying area and wetlands at the back of the Homestead was one of the first areas to be cleared by Europeans for building materials, for the grazing of stock and to establish food crops.  It had been an important resource for the Aboriginal inhabitants, who harvested plants and animals for use in daily life.  The diverse ecosystems – from the rainforest along the river to the wetlands and the surrounding paperbark forest – provided a great variety of food and materials. 

The Homestead lagoons and wetlands are temporary homes to many water birds.  Changing water levels provide a variety of habitats, giving an ever-changing spectacle throughout the year.  Common birds on the Tocal lagoon include spoonbills, pelicans, wood ducks, moorhens, stilts, cormorants, ibis, herons, coots, egrets and the graceful black swans who arrive every now and then to raise a family. 

Europeans grazed their livestock in the wetland during drought and at one time, an attempt was made to drain the wetlands to make way for permanent grazing land.  This had a detrimental effect on the wetlands and work is now underway to regenerate the natural ecosystem.  The area has been fenced off to stock for a number of years and replanted with native species.

Tocal is subject to regular flooding and the flats surrounding the Homestead may be covered by up to 4 metres of water.  The Kidd family always kept one month’s food supplies on hand as the property could be isolated by flood waters.

Floods have a huge impact on the operation of the property as they make large areas unusable and hinder stock movement.  The establishment of the railway line in 1911 caused further dislocation to the operation of the property, even more so than the irregular occurrence of floods.

While floods cause great inconvenience to farm operations, the sediment left behind as the floodwaters recede has been vital to the fertility of these flats.

Tocal Timeline

Pre 1822

The Gringai Clan of the Wonnarua people used Tocal for many years as a campsite abundant in food and other valuable resources.

1822

James Webber took up a land grant at Tocal. The land was occupied by the Gringai clan of the Wonnarua Aboriginal people.

1834

Webber sold Tocal to Caleb and Felix Wilson (father and son)

1838

Caleb Wilson died

1841

Tocal Homestead built

1844

Tocal leased to Charles Reynolds (the lease continued to 1907)

1865

Felix Wilson died. Tocal willed by entail to his unborn grandson David Wilson (born 1879)

1871

Charles Reynolds died – management and stud stock transferred to his wife Frances and their sons

1907

Tocal sold to Charles’ son, Frank Reynolds

1920

Frank Reynolds died and management of Tocal transferred to sons Darcie and Arthur

1926

Tocal sold to Jean Alexander, who took up residence with her siblings Isabella, Robert and Charles Boyd Alexander

1938

Jean Alexander died, leaving Charles on his own at Tocal

1939

Myrtle and Marguerita Curtis came to Tocal to live with their uncle Charles

1947

Charles Boyd Alexander died and left a complex will which eventually provided for the establishment of the CB Alexander Agricultural College, Tocal

1963

EA Hunt found a solution to Charles Alexander’s will. Work began on the College

1965

The CB Alexander Presbyterian Agricultural College, Tocal opened

1970

Management of the College was handed to NSW Department of Agriculture (now NSWDPI). College named CB Alexander Agricultural College

1985

Myrtle and Marguerita Curtis died and management of Tocal Homestead passed to the CB Alexander Foundation

1987

Tocal Homestead opened to visitors

2002

Tocal Homestead Visitor Centre opened

2006

CB Alexander Agricultural College became the CB Alexander Campus of Tocal College. The College now includes the Murrumbidgee Rural Studies Centre at Yanco. Life as a wedding venue started.

Tocal Homestead

Tocal Homestead is an elegant Colonial Georgian country house with a five bay façade.  Georgian houses were meant to convey a feeling of grandeur when seen from a distance.

The magnificent fig trees and the positioning of the Homestead on a rise play an integral part in that design. Although it has the air of a large mansion, Tocal Homestead functioned as an intimate family home.

Built of sandstock brick with a slate roof, the house is four rooms square with French doors opening out onto a three-sided verandah.  Evidently, much of the building material for the Homestead came from the Tocal property. The sandstone for the verandah was quarried here, the timber – including cedar and hardwood – came from the lush forests and even the bricks were fired on site.  

Caleb and Felix Wilson (father and son) had a home and a large business in Sydney and purchased Tocal from Tocal’s first settler, James Webber in 1834. In 1841 Felix commissioned Scottish architect, Moir to design the Homestead for use as a country residence.

During the time the Reynolds family ran Tocal, from 1844 to 1926, the Homestead was a social hub of the district. A tennis court was located between the fig trees when they were considerably smaller. The family entertained regularly in the Homestead and held tennis parties on the front lawn. Tocal was open to many visitors and locals felt an attachment to the property. 

In 1926 the property was sold to Jean Alexander, the eldest of the four surviving unmarried Alexander siblings. All four took up residence at Tocal. The youngest and last private owner, Charles Boyd Alexander left Tocal and his other properties to establish homes for ‘destitute, homeless and orphan children’. It took many years to find a way to meet the conditions of the will but eventually Charles’ nieces, Marguerita and Myrtle Curtis, saw the completion of the CB Alexander Agricultural College while still living in the Homestead. The Alexanders were a far more private family than the Reynolds. The departure of the Reynolds left a void in the social life of the district and led to the misconception of the Alexanders as snobbish.

Tocal Homestead is now cared for by the CB Alexander Foundation; its contents were bequeathed by the Alexanders and the Misses Curtis.

Tocal Homestead Entry and hall

The hallway is unusually wide. It easily accommodates the elegant staircase but at the expense of the adjoining rooms. 

The staircase is a beautiful example of a geometrical, self-supporting stair with no centre landing. It stands out as one of the more traditional features in a house employing many contemporary design elements for 1841.

After the Alexanders came to Tocal in 1926 they made significant changes. They installed a lift in front of the arch for less agile family members. 

The lift was in service for a number of years until Miss Alexander spent several uncomfortable days trapped inside. With no one at home to rescue her, she had no choice but to stay put until one of the domestic staff came to work. The lift was removed soon after and stored in one of the back sheds where it remains today.

Drawing room

This room was originally the drawing or morning room for family use. In the original design of the building, visitors were to be entertained upstairs in the ballroom. When the upstairs area was converted to a bedroom and a library, this room became the reception room.

An outstanding feature is the fireplace surround with its unique design and workmanship. The mantle is neoclassical with a French Empire wreath and ribbons carved below it. The Indian head tobacco motif and bunches of grapes either side of the surround recall the tobacco and wine grown on Tocal. 

The region supplied over half of Sydney’s needs for tobacco and wine in the 1840s. The dark timber here suggests this room could also have been intended as a dining room.

Dining room

The dining room was used for entertaining in the Reynolds’ time at Tocal, but it was converted to a bedroom during the Alexander era for the elderly Alexanders and later the Curtis sisters. Part of the verandah was enclosed and an ensuite installed. The ensuite was removed during conservation work on the house in 1986. 

The elegant fireplace surround is made of unusually light-coloured marble with a Colonial neoclassical design. It suggests that this room may have been intended as the drawing room, as traditionally dining rooms had a dark fireplace surround.

The large piece of furniture in the far right corner is a dumb waiter made of Australian cedar, an important and stylish dining room accessory in the 1850s and 60s. A system of gut strings enable it to be transformed into a side table.

Ballroom

Many Georgian houses were designed so the upstairs room could serve as a reception room or ballroom. At least five other houses in Maitland follow this design. Originally the wall joining this room to the one next door was made of cedar panels that could be dismantled when space was needed for entertaining. 

An outstanding feature here is the number and size of the windows, which are echoed through the rest of the house. As glass was very expensive, large windows were not only a design feature but an indication of the owner’s wealth.

Bedroom

This bedroom is furnished much as it was in the Curtis era from the late 1940s to the 1980s. A picture of Miss Myrtle Curtis hangs above the fireplace. 

The fireplace surround is Marulan stone, which was popular at the time of construction. Its elegant design matches the architraves and rondels on the timber surround in the ballroom. 

The Misses Curtis were trained as beauticians, and an electrolysis machine, recalling this stage of their lives, is on display in the room.

Kitchen

This kitchen replaced the original that we believe was destroyed by fire. It was built in 1880. The centre of activity on the property, it was a meeting place for owners and staff and a place where instructions were given for the day’s work. 

At the height of the Reynolds era, the property would have had many employees who, as part of their earnings, received a midday meal. The kitchen, with its particularly large wood-fired stove, could easily cater for up to 25 people daily. 

It was commonplace in the 19th century for entire families to live and work on a property; with male members labouring outdoors and female members working in domestic roles such as cleaning, serving and preparing food. On Tocal, this was true for generations of the loyal Kidd family. 

The coke-fuelled boiler and the copper hot water storage tank are housed on the wall in the kitchen. The scullery, off the kitchen, was used for food preparation. The large stone slab on which food was prepared slopes towards a drainage outlet through the wall.

Tocal was self-sufficient in produce so everything grown on the property was processed in the kitchen or nearby. The kitchen contains a milk separator and a butter churn that were used in the milk room for making butter from the rich Tocal milk. A drip safe for keeping food cool in the days before electric refrigerators is also on display.

Tea room

Attached to the kitchen, the tea room was probably constructed around 20 years after it to give workers a place to eat their mid-day meal. Workers would have been summoned to this meal by the large bell that hangs on the apex of the stone barn outside.

Stone barn

The Stone Barn is one of Tocal’s oldest buildings and was constructed in stages. The first stage was 1830, the date marked on the lintel above the door. At this time about 34 convicts were living and working at Tocal, including a convict stonemason named Dennis Long who would have played a vital role in the barn’s construction.

The barn reflects the changing focus of agriculture through Tocal’s history. During James Webber’s time, the barn was probably used for drying tobacco and making wine. Following the success of the Reynolds’ livestock breeding, it became a horse stable and stock feed store, with one section used as a store for property provisions. 

When the Alexanders bought the property in 1926, it was converted to a garage for their Rolls Royce. The service history of the Rolls is recorded in pencil on the wall.

The barn also contains a butcher shop for processing meat killed in the slaughter house and houses a kerosene-powered tractor that was made in America in 1928.

Stables

Tocal’s horse stables were home to some of Australia’s most famous thoroughbred sires, including Goldsborough and The Drummer. Between them, they amassed a huge amount of prize-money for the Reynolds. Goldsborough sired countless mares and fillies. He died in 1903. 

The already substantial stables are reinforced with bolts on the doors and secure windows. These high security measures are an indication of the value of the stock they once housed. 

The Alexanders brought electricity to the property in 1927 when they installed a Lister generator in the end stable and converted the adjacent stable to hold 60 batteries for power storage. Charles Alexander told friends that the system had the ability to generate and store enough power to run the Homestead for one month, including the operation of the lift.

Blacksmith’s shop

We believe this is one of the oldest blacksmith shops in Australia. The building probably started life as a stable, indicated by the three doors along the front and the mortices in the posts to separate the bays into stalls.

The blacksmith was an essential craftsman on properties like Tocal. He manufactured many items including horseshoes, chain hooks and hinges. He would sharpen ploughshares and mattocks, and fire-weld broken pieces of machinery. 

Several of Tocal’s assigned convict servants were blacksmiths and it is possible they worked in this building.

The blacksmith’s shop is still used to fashion items for conservation work at the Homestead. The large braces in the Visitors Centre were fabricated here.

Thunderbolt’s cottage

Thunderbolt’s Cottage was built about 1835 and derives its name from the oral tradition which says that Fred Ward lived in this cottage while working at Tocal in the 1850s. Ward went on to become the notorious bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.

The cottage was probably built as the overseer’s quarters to replace accommodation burnt in a fire at Tocal in 1835. Its design follows the design of some farmhouses in England and Europe, where animals were housed in the same building as the farm family, for warmth and security. There are two separate rooms on the far side, which were probably accommodation for other workers.

The cottage gradually fell into disrepair but fortunately was never demolished. (Note: until a few years ago the cottage was thought to have been built by James Webber about 1822 but new research has enabled a more accurate dating).

Blacket barn

Blacket Barn is one of Tocal’s most important buildings. It was designed by noted colonial architect Edmund Thomas Blacket (1817-1883) who is primarily known as a church architect. Tocal barn is therefore unique among the many buildings he designed, its elegant and detailed roof trusses reflecting the inspiration Blacket drew from his usual work on churches and public buildings in Sydney, Goulburn and the Hunter Valley.

It is the second Blacket barn on the site. Blacket was well known to Felix Wilson, the owner of Tocal at the time, and the plans for Tocal’s first Blacket barn survive in the Mitchell library. In June 1865 tenders were called for its construction, as follows:

TO BUILDERS.- Tenders are invited for a building 93 feet by 40 feet, on Tocal Estate, Paterson River. Plans and specification to be seen on application at Tocal House; at Messrs. Penders, West Maitland; or to Mr. E.T. Blacket, Architect, Pitt street, Sydney, to which latter party tenders are to be sent on or before the 10th day of July 1865. (Maitland Mercury, 19 June 1865).

The barn was completed in mid 1866 and burnt down a year later. The Maitland Mercury reported the fire on 10 August 1867 as follows:

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT TOCAL

Yesterday (Wednesday) the splendid barn recently erected on the Tocal Estate, with all its contents, was totally destroyed by fire. On the alarm being given all hands at once hastened to the spot; a few slabs were removed in the vicinity of the fire, the flames at once burst forth, and in a few moments the whole building was enveloped in flames. The building was a large one, being about 100 feet in length and 40 feet in width, and was a very substantial building, it having been completed only about twelve months ago; it was nearly filled with hay…

It is… surmised that the fire was caused by the heating of some of the hay in the building, as it was first discovered in the centre of the part where the hay was stacked, and a considerable distance from where any person could have been to enable the building to have been accidentally set on fire. Paterson, August 8th, 1867.

(Extract from the Maitland Mercury 10 August 1867).

We believe the current Blacket Barn was built shortly after the destruction of the first barn in 1867.

Architect Philip Cox dubbed this building the ‘cathedral of barns’ and with Ian McKay carried this feature through to the design of the EA Hunt hall on the College Campus. It is probably the most important old barn in Australia, because it was unusual for a barn to be designed by an architect.

Dairy

The Homestead dairy building differs from the other timber buildings in that it sits on horizontal bed-logs rather than having posts in the ground. This is an old European method of construction that appears now and then in the Paterson area. It is not common because once the bed logs rot, there’s not much that can be done to save the building. 

The dairy was where Tocal’s Jersey cows were milked daily, providing rich milk, cream and butter for the families who lived on Tocal. Milk from up to three Jersey cows also provided a supplement to fatten show bulls. This common practice can lead to a false impression of a bull’s genetic value.

The present College dairy was established in 1965. It is now operated by NSW Department of Primary Industries and is used to train students in dairy operations. The dairy has herringbone bails with a viewing platform for group tours.

Bull barn

Tocal’s unique bull barn housed the best of the Reynolds’ famous Hereford stud bulls. The bulls were hand-fed and completely pampered. They exercised during the day and rested at night in their own stall. 

The Royal Easter Show in Sydney was the annual highlight for the Reynolds and Kidd families. The bulls were prepared for the show throughout summer and autumn by grooming and training them to lead. When show time came, they were loaded onto drays and taken to Paterson where they would board a train for Sydney. On arrival in Sydney they were walked from Central railway station through the city streets to the Showground in Moore Park. 

After the Royal Easter Show, people came to purchase the magnificent breeding stock. Lower ranking bulls were run in the paddocks towards the back of the property. Buyers came from as far away as Queensland and some would walk their bull home.

Slaughter House

The slaughterhouse was reconstructed in 1992 using authentic building methods, including bridle joints in the posts and top plate. The heads of the bolts on the gates face out to prevent animals from bruising themselves and damaging their hides.

Animals were slaughtered in the late afternoon and left to hang and set overnight. The carcass would be divided into quarters just on daylight before the day got too hot and flies became a nuisance. It would then be carted on the dray up to the butcher’s shop where it was cut up and distributed to the owners and other families living on the property.

In the days before refrigeration, meat was consumed fresh for a day or so after the kill. After that, meat had to be preserved by immersing it in large tanks of brine or salty water. 

The skin was removed and hung on the fence to dry. Sometimes the fresh hide (greenhide) was used for making whips and hinges and the tanned hides were used for saddlery.

Pig sty

Pigs were an important part of the food cycle as they were fed scraps from the house, ate vegetables in oversupply and drank skim milk from the dairy. Following the slaughter of other animals, pigs were fed the waste or offal. In Australia it is now illegal to feed waste animal products to livestock because of the risk of disease.

This pigsty was reconstructed in 2000 based on remnants of the original sty and old photographs. The pigs were housed here overnight and allowed to run onto the flats below the Homestead during the day. 

Old-style pig troughs were traditionally made from hollow logs. Hollow logs were also used on farms as water and feed troughs, garden pots, dog kennels and culvert pipes.

Silos

There are three underground brick silos on Tocal probably built in the late 1830s to store grain. They are unusual in that they are bottle-shaped and constructed of dry laid, hand made bricks. The base of the silo is approximately 3 metres across and rises to form a narrow entrance.

They are the only cluster of their kind on private land in Australia. Two silos retain their original shape while one has been modified to an open cylindrical pit – for reasons unknown.

The silos probably fell into disuse in the 1860s when wheat was no longer successfully grown in the area due to disease. By this time, materials such as galvanised iron were used to construct sheds and granaries.

Barracks

These barracks were built to house convicts, ex-convicts and free workers. It’s difficult to know exactly when the barracks were built. Records indicate that they were probably built after James Webber’s departure, very likely following the 1835 fire that destroyed most of the workers’ original accommodation.

This building was part of a three building complex: another building behind this was both a residence and a store, and towards the bull barn was a timber and iron kitchen. Kitchens were built away from houses as they regularly caught alight – a hazard of cooking on open fires.

Some time in the early 20th century, the roof blew off the barracks and this building was abandoned. They were not used for the next 80 years but are now being conserved and restored.

Here is some information of some of the early settlers who first established in the Tocal region.

James Phillips Webber

Tocal’s first European settler, James Phillips Webber, is one of Tocal’s more enigmatic characters. In 1821 this wealthy, well-educated and well-connected young man sailed from London to try his hand in the colony of New South Wales. 

He was only 24 years old when he was granted 2,000 acres at Tocal in 1822 on the condition that he feed, clothe and maintain 20 convicts. 

Three years later he was appointed a local magistrate, and this role required him to sentence convicts to be flogged for various misdemeanours such as neglecting their work.

Under Webber’s ownership, the Tocal estate expanded to 3,300 acres by 1828. At that time Webber employed 34 convicts to tend his sheep and cattle and grow wheat and tobacco.

James Webber was one of the pioneers of the wine industry in Australia, and the mounds of his vineyard can still be seen at Tocal. In 1834 he sent vine cuttings from Tocal to George Wyndham’s vineyard at Dalwood, which in the 20th century became the well-known Wyndham Estate winery.

Webber’s library at Tocal held one of the largest private book collections in the colony, including many titles in French and Italian. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Webber sold Tocal in 1834 he established his main residence in Italy and became a successful merchant who travelled widely.

In about 1850 James Webber settled on the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia, where he built a magnificent villa which survives to this day. This talented pioneer agriculturist, vigneron, merchant and connoisseur of art and literature died in Pisa, Italy in 1877.

Charles Reynolds

Charles Reynolds signed a lease on Tocal in 1844 and continued to run the property with great skill until his death in 1871 (the Reynolds’ tenure at Tocal continued through his family until 1926).  In his time Charles changed the estate from a sheep and tobacco farm into an expansive and prosperous stud-breeding enterprise.

Charles Reynolds has been described as a ‘genial man of dignity and intelligence’; he was well respected by his staff and by those he associated with in regional and state agricultural circles.  Charles made a conscious effort to improve the standard of livestock in the Paterson area and was on the committee of the inaugural Hunter River Agricultural Association in 1844.

By 1870 he was recognised as an authority on horse and cattle breeding in New South Wales and was part of a committee to formulate the first Stud Book for New South Wales.

Without a doubt Charles Reynolds’ time at Tocal was the height of the famous studs that excelled in the breeding of Thoroughbred horses and Devon and Hereford cattle.

Tocal Homestead Wedding & History References

The following references were used in the preparation of the ‘Guide to Tocal’:

Brouwer, David (2002) Captain Thunderbolt – horsebreaker to bushranger, CB Alexander Foundation, Tocal, Australia.

Hunt, Edward A (1972) The Tocal Story, Wesley Stacey, Australia.

Tocal History Notes Volumes 1 to 8 (1996 – 2002), particularly research by Harry Boyle and Jack Sullivan.

Meehan, Esme (2000) The Kidd Family in Australia 1829-2000

Threlfo, Shirley (1999) James Phillips and Bona Vista, Paterson River, Paterson Historical Society Inc.

Walsh, Brian (1999) Tocal’s First European Settler – James Phillips Webber , CB Alexander Foundation, Tocal, Australia.

White, Judy (1986) Tocal – The Changing Moods of a Rural Estate, The Seven Press, Scone, Australia.