1804 Castle Hill Convict Rebellion Re-enactment tomorrow

220Th Anniversary Of The 1804 Castle Hill Convict Rebellion
The hills shire council is gearing up for the 220th anniversary of the 1804 castle hill convict rebellion © hills shire council

Participate in the 220th Anniversary of the historic Castle Hill Convict Rebellion at the Castle Hill Heritage Park Reserve on Saturday, 2 March 2024.

The 1804 Castle Hill Convict Rebellion will be brought to life by the collaborative efforts of the Hills District Historical Society and Castle Hill Heritage Park Advisory Committee, with the support of The Hills Shire Council.

Residents can enjoy various activities during the commemoration, which will run from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. There will be old-fashioned children’s activities, live music, Castle Hill Heritage Park Reserve tours, a BBQ by the Castle Hill Rotary Club, and ice cream and coffee.

Information stalls from The Hills District Historical Society, The Convict Trail, the Council’s Bushcare Team, and the Hills Library Team will be present. The Council advises live blank shots will be fired during the re-enactment.

Before the big day, a Library Talk covering “Australia’s first convict uprising in today’s Rouse Hill” was held at the Castle Hill Library on Friday, 1 March 2024.

Led by Pam Wilson from the Hills District Historical Society, she will cover topics on the history of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the Castle Hill Rebellion, and the Battle of Vinegar Hill, as well as why the area was named Vinegar Hill.

Days before the re-enactment, ticket sales ended as slots were sold out.

Unveiling The Spectacular Hills News Break-Out Event
A watercolour painting of the 1804 castle hill convict rebellion, made by an unknown artists. Image from the national library of australia

In commemorating the Castle Hill Convict Rebellion’s 200th Anniversary and The Battle of Vinegar Hill, the Hills Shire Library Service shares the 10-minute short film Death or Liberty, depicting the historic battle.

Produced by the Baulkham Hills Shire (now Hills Shire), it was filmed and edited by Alex Marks of Skram Productions and narrated by Roger Climpson OAM.

The main cast included Ian Nowland (Governor Phillip Gidley King), Matthew McDonell (Major Johnston), and Paul Osborne (Phillip Cunningham).

“On the 4th of March 1804, Philip Cunningham led more than 200 mostly Irish convicts to escape from Castle Hill Government Farm,” according to The Hills Shire Library Service.

“New South Wales Governor Philip Gidley King declared martial law, and Major George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps organised troops and civilian volunteers to pursue the rebels.”

“The troops caught up with the convicts on the hills near Windsor Road in Rouse Hill on the 5th of March. Soldiers opened fire upon the rebels, with 15 killed in the skirmish. Cunningham was hanged with many of the other convicts, sentenced to 200-500 lashes, placed in irons and exiled to the Coal River chain gang.”

Pam Wilson of the Hills District Historical Society said the event will offer history tours, children’s activities, live music, and a barbecue, allowing residents to learn about the region’s early colonial past

“It was the first and only time that Martial Law was declared in the Colony of NSW. It was also the first European rebellion against the Government. The next rebellion was 50 years later in Ballarat, Victoria, at the Eureka Stockade, where the password was ‘Vinegar Hill’,” Ms Wilson said.

“This is a very important moment in our history, and I believe it’s a wonderful opportunity for residents, school children, history buffs and visitors to learn more about it.”

Castle Hill Convict Rebellion
Castle hill convict rebellion actors © via the hills shire library service

The Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Peter Gangemi, emphasised the significance of the commemoration as a time to reflect on a pivotal moment in the early years of NSW and the Shire’s establishment.

“The planned commemorations allow us to reflect on a significant moment in history – the rebellion launched by Irish convicts in an attempt to overthrow the NSW Corps [British Army] and return back to their homeland. I encourage our local residents to attend these commemorations, which will share the story of this historic event,” Mayor Gangemi said.

Elaine White of the Castle Hill Heritage Park Advisory Committee sees the influx of new residents in The Hills as an excellent chance for them to discover more about their new home.

“It’s important to us as locals, as well as so many newcomers to this district who don’t know our history or how Castle Hill started,” Ms White said.

Castle Hill Heritage Park Reserve is located at 22Z Heritage Park Drive in Castle Hill, NSW 2154.

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