A Report to the Heritage Council of New South Wales on Test Excavations

 at Greenhills, Nowra, NSW. Report undertaken on behalf

of Shoalhaven City Council, Nowra, New South Wales.


By Jenny Lambert Tracey and Michael MacLellean Tracey



Archaeological test excavations were conducted on Graham Lodge ~ Greenhills, Nowra, New South Wales from 15th - 24th December 1999 in accordance with the conditions of permit issued by the Heritage Council of New South Wales.


The excavation programme has contributed archaeological evidence relating to the Aboriginal - European contact period, the development of an early land grant using 1840s Bounty Immigrant labour, and later 19th and early 20th century associations of the Graham and subsequent families with the farming property Greenhills.


The test excavation programme followed recommendations by Heritage Archaeology, Canberra, to Shoalhaven City Council on 7th September 1999 in the report An Initial Assessment of the Archaeological Heritage of Greenhills, Nowra, NSW. The report detailed an archaeological assessment of the property conducted from 7th -11th September 1999. Archaeologists monitored the demolition of remnants of the Nowra Bomaderry Leagues Club, Prague Lodge and other cement constructions surrounding the Georgian / Victorian residence Graham Lodge. It was agreed that further investigations would assist future planning and development for the Graham Lodge property and Greenhills environs. Heritage Archaeology developed a research design proposal that sought to establish physical evidence of early settlement at Greenhills and phases of occupation of Graham Lodge.


  Graham Lodge - extract from the Samuel Elyard paining c1860s.


Graham Lodge after demolition of the Nowra Bombaderry Leagues Club.



Graham Lodge 

Graham Lodge is an extant historical building on the original 100-acre pastoral land grant Greenhills, taken up by William Graham in 1827. The house, Graham Lodge, was constructed c.1860 for James Graham [son of William Graham] and his family. An estimation of the position of outbuildings associated with the early development of Greenhills was been made using the paintings of the watercolourist Samuel Elyard These structures are considered to be dwellings erected by the indentured 1840s Bounty Immigrant workers. Test excavations were conducted as closely as possible to these sites, and in other areas where demolition of structures had broken the ground surface.

Eighteen test excavations were undertaken by hand methods. Artefacts recovered from the test excavations relate to the early European occupation of Greenhills, the marginalised presence of Aboriginal people on the property, domestic and farming activities and the construction and occupation of Graham Lodge.

The assemblages comprise several hundred transfer-printed ceramic and glass fragments considered to date to the mid-late 19th century to early 20th century . English blue-printed wares of both geometric and floral patterns predominate. While the majority of the ceramic fragments were from tableware, several distinctively thicker fragments were probably from bedroom sets, i.e. basin, ewer and chamber pot, and from double-glazed jars.

Several of the excavations presented bases of stoneware jars and metal domestic items. Bowls and stems of clay tobacco pipes were recovered from several sites.  Fragments of 'Garibaldi' and 'Baltic' style pipes may have been imported from Scottish manufacturers. Fragments of Australian manufactured pipes were identified as being made by Penfold in Sydney. A variety of hardware, hand wrought fencing nails, imported rose-head Ewbank nails, a gate hasp, fencing wire, and other building materials was included in the artefact assemblages.


 Samuel Elyard, recorded the presence of Aborigines on Greenhills during the late 1860s - early 1870s. 


Excavation during the demolition of isolated structures to the west of Graham Lodge revealed both Aboriginal stone and modified glass tools. The watercolourist, Samuel Elyard, recorded the presence of Aborigines on Greenhills during the late 1860s - early 1870s. Elyard's depiction shows the people in European dress including head covering, seated by campfires near the Wooragee Swamp to the east of Graham Lodge. Further sites presenting Aboriginal artefacts were located within the extended western curtilage. These sites are outside the residence boundary, however close enough to consider that these may have been camp sites for Aborigines who had an association with the property, possibly as workers. Liaison with the Aboriginal Liaison Offer from Shoalhaven City Council, the Nowra Aboriginal Land Council and NSW National Parks and Wildlife archaeologist was maintained during the excavation program.

The archaeological investigation of the structure of Graham Lodge structure was largely restricted to the external features. Several important aspects of the building were identified. These included an earlier [1860s] phase previously unrecognised and an 1870s renovation, including external plastering and addition of decorative iron lacework, possibly following the marriage of James Graham [Jnr].


The 'rear' of Graham Lodge. During the Bourn occupation the entrance to the Lodge was form the rear.


The cement slabs associated with the tourist facilities of the Nowra Bombaderry Leagues Club.


To minimise the destruction of archaeological potential ground the test excavation were mainly conducted in area where demolition had already impacted upon the site.


Removal of the cement with the end loader.



Excavation revealed the presence of an outbuilding of Graham Lodge at this location.



The excavation  revealed that the remains of a building was present as well a early contact with Aboriginals.



Test excavations continued during the demolition of building contemporary with the old leagues club.


The vista from Graham Lodge - to the immediate front of the Lodge is a private family cemetery.




Shoalhaven City Council has demonstrated rigorous determination in the protection of these valued archaeological recourses and fully realises their potential and importance to tourism both local and interstate.  Shoalhaven City Council in close association with The Heritage Council of NSW, Peter Freeman Conservation Architect and Planner, Heritage Archaeology, The Friends of Graham Lodge and 3D Exhibitions is adapting Graham Lodge as an historical interpretative centre in association with the Nowra Tourist Information Centre.

Through their continued commitment to the understanding and protection of the natural landscape and Aboriginal and European heritage Shoalhaven City Council has established an important educational resource that will do the Shire proud. In realising the tourist potential of eco and heritage tourism the groundwork has been completed to exploit the rapidly growing tourist industry.


The excavation programme met the objectives of the research design proposal. Analysis of the archaeological evidence has assisted to:


 confirm the history of occupation phases of Graham Lodge;
 establish an earlier, previously unrecognised, phase of construction in Graham Lodge;
 establish the presence of Aboriginal stone artefacts;
 establish the use of glass for the making of tools by the Aboriginal occupants;
 establish the presence of an Aboriginal - European contact site within the Greenhills environs in close proximity to Graham Lodge, and provide an insight into social marginality of the period;
 establish the presence of considerable artefactual material related to domestic activity in the western curtilage of Graham Lodge; this area was also known to be the location of huts and outhouses associated with the Bounty Immigrant families indentured to James Graham from c.1840;
 confirm oral history that the front entrance to Graham Lodge was altered from its original alignment i.e. east - west, to be west facing in the 1930s;
 provide an understanding of the construction methods and materials used in Graham Lodge;

provide an insight into the domestic and social behaviour of the various occupants;

establish the significance of Graham Lodge within the Greenhills landscape. 




HERITAGE ARCHAEOLOGY acknowledge the valued assistance during this project of Shoalhaven City Council,  Wayne Brighton (Property Manager), Paul Jennings (Architect), Peter Freeman (Architect), Robyn Jenkins (Historian), Chris Carter (Archaeologist) and Elizabeth Tracey (Field Assistant).




Heritage Archaeology ~ Historical, Archaeological & Genealogical Research Consultants

 (Copyright 2013)

Saturday, 09 May 2015