Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow (1840-1911)

Elizabeth Onslow, born at Camden Park in 1840, was a remarkable young woman who became the head of the Macarthur family and the huge Camden Park Estate. Elizabeth married Captain Arthur Onslow in 1867 and her father, James Macarthur, died in April the same year. Her husband died in January 1882. After the death of Sir William Macarthur in December 1882, Mrs. Elizabeth Onslow inherited the Estate. In 1892 she was granted by Royal Licence the right for her and her issue to use the surname Macarthur-Onslow, in order to retain the family name of Macarthur for future generations.

Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow

Captain Arthur Onslow

Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow was mother to six children, community leader, pastoralist and property manager. She suffered the loss of the wine industry through a phylloxera epidemic and weathered the financial crashes during 1885-1895 by selling of unpayable tenanted lands. In 1887 she took her children to England and studied developments in the dairy industry, returning to Camden in 1890. Elizabeth applied the fruits of her own study of British dairying methods and the French system of landlord tenant operation to put the property on a largely share-farm basis. Its new model dairies sold their output under a common brand through their own Camden Vale Co-operative Milk Company. This company in 1925 was merged into the Dairy Farmers’ Co-operative Milk Company which is still the Estate’s distributor. In 1899 Mrs. Macarthur-Onslow formed the business of the Estate into a limited liability company with her six children as the shareholders. She retained Camden Park House and 960 acres (388 ha ) as her own private property.

In 1865 a railway line was built through the eastern farms and a railway station set down at Menangle. The Estate’s headquarters were then moved from the Old Homestead to Menangle where a village school was opened in 1867. In the 1890s the model dairies and creameries of Camden Park were served by 12 co-operative farms and 40 leased farms, while the products which included butter and cheese were taken by road to Sydney.

When she returned from a visit to England and Europe in 1890 her staff and friends had a beautiful framed hand-painted and hand-inscribed illuminated address made and presented it to her. It can be viewed in the dining room of the house today. It is difficult to explain today just how important Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow was in the Camden district in the 1880s-1900s and how widely admired and loved she was. The extensions to the house to create additional bedrooms above the west wing were made by her.

Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow died unexpectedly in 1911 at the age of seventy-one while on a visit to England and she is buried in the Onslow family church plot at Send in Surrey, England. With the development of websites in recent years it is now possible to view the poignant gravestone of this prominent Australian who was buried far from her beloved homeland. Camden residents who have taken the time to visit the grave have described the location as peaceful and serene. The weathered stone monument is tall with a prominent cross on the top and it has some natural moss and lichen decoration indicating its more than 100 years presence in this quiet English churchyard.

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