By MICK ROBERTS ©
BULLI has many long-lost geographical names.
One of the more interesting is “Smedley’s Hill’, just north of Bulli Public School.
Convict, Samuel Smedley made his wealth through his artistic skills, and has largely been forgotten for his pioneering efforts.
Born in 1807 he arrived in New South Wales to serve a life sentence from Derby England in December 1829.
At the age of 32 Smedley was granted a pardon in 1839, and the following year he married Margaret Brown. They had one child, John, who went on to become a celebrated architect and artist.
Smedley opened a painting and glaziers business in George Street, Sydney in 1840, and he soon became a skilled shopfront sign writer and commercial artist. By 1851 his business, ‘John’s and Company’s Patent Stucco Cement and Paint’ was well-established and profitable. Smedley more than likely named the business after his son.
The “oil and colourman”, also sold a range of paper hangings from his shop on Brickfield Hill, near the intersection of Liverpool Street.
During the 1850s, the Smedleys were visiting Woodlands Cottage at Bulli – a small homestead built in the early 1840s by Captain Robert Westmacott, also handy with the paintbrush and pencil.
Although there are no records of Smedley producing artwork while at Bulli, there’s little doubt he would have expressed his creativity from the scenic cottage, overlooked the spectacular ocean and escarpment panoramas.
Smedley’s wife, Margaret died at Woodlands Cottage on November 9 1856. She was 52. Smedley, 50, remarried Jessie Cameron the following year and the he purchased Woodlands Cottage from Captain Westmacott.
While it’s not known if Woodlands Cottage influenced Smedley and his art, there’s no doubt his South Coast property impacted on his son’s creativity, who produced at least one collectable artwork from Bulli.
John Smedley would become a noted painter, draughtsman and architect.
His architecture during the late 19th century was influenced greatly by East Asian modes of painting and drawing. After marrying Annie Casement in 1877, he travelled and lived much of his life throughout Japan, Hong Kong and China, learning from and contributing to these communities through his artistic and architectural practice.
Meanwhile, Samuel, his father, lived-out his final years at Woodlands Cottage. But he wasn’t idle during his Bulli retirement. He was on the inaugural Bulli Public School board in 1869, and was on the Bulli Road Trust, which managed colonial government funding yo maintain the main road between Bellambi and Bulli Pass for over a decade. He died “after a long and painful illness” at Woodlands Cottage, Bulli on July 30 1873 aged 66, and was buried in the Wesleyan burial ground, Wollongong.
The hill, which the Princes Highway crosses between Woodlands Creek at the foot of Bulli Pass and Bulli Public School, was known as ‘Smedley’s Hill’ in his honour for almost 80 years after his death. Today the name has unfortunately been lost, and has been replaced by the locally recognised name of ‘Bulli Hill’.
Smedley’s widow, and second wife, Jessie remarried and died in Auckland New Zealand in November 1896.
John Smedley, Samuel’s only child, died in 1903 in Shanghai, China. The Sydney Mail reported on December 30:
Mr. John Smedley, Shanghai, formerly a well-known Sydney architect and engineer. He was born in Sydney in 1842, and served his articles with Messrs. Mansfield Brothers, architects. His artistic training he received from Mr. Dexter, R.A. He spent a good many years in the East, and has left numerous architectural memorials in Hong Kong, Japan, and Shanghai. Mr. Smedley leaves a widow and family.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2015