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Eccleston Du Faur, founder of Ku-Ring-Gai-Chase National Park

By ALEC SMART


Eccleston Du Faur is credited as founder of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park in 1894, Australia’s second national park after the 1879-established Royal National Park in Sutherland shire, south of Sydney. Eccleston, an influential public servant, explorer and cartographer was also a passionate environmentalist.


Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP Trustees On Cowan Creek 1899 (Du Faur steering boat). Photo: Mitchell Library

 

So how did one man persuade the authorities to set aside 13,500 hectares (in later years expanded to 14,977 ha) on Sydney’s then-remote Upper North Shore for protection from powerful interests in the forestry and urban development industries?

 

It took many years of lobbying to preserve the natural landscape, which Du Faur feared was vulnerable to destruction by timber merchants and settlers. He had little support in government for his initiative, unsuccessfully petitioning the Minister for Lands, Sir Henry Copeland, who firmly rejected him.

 

It wasn’t until he settled in the area in 1888, on 10 hectares of land near Eastern Rd in a newly created northern Sydney district Eccleston persuaded authorities to call ‘Turramurra’, that he could properly survey the region and make his case.

 

The suburb was derived from the Dharug Aboriginal word for ‘big hill’, the term used by the Indigenous Durramuragal clans that roamed the region prior to British colonisation. Turramurra is one of only four suburbs in the Upper North Shore region that adapted existing Aboriginal names, including neighbouring suburbs Warrawee (‘stop here’ - a campsite), Wahroonga (‘our home’) and Killara (‘permanent place’).


Du Faur sat on Bobbin Rock at Bobbin Head and the same view today. Photos: KCNP + Alec Smart

 

After Du Faur paid for the construction of a road down to Bobbin Head by Apple Tree Bay (now the main fire trail) and invited the Governor of NSW to visit the region, Du Faur found an ally in his mission.

With the Governor’s support, park status was confirmed for the bushland around Cowan Creek (and its bays and tributaries), protecting its native flora and fauna from Sydney’s rapid expansion.

 

According to NSW National Parks and Wildlife, “Ku-ring-gai Chase … established largely through the work of one man, Eccleston Du Faur .. was the first national park in Australia to be established primarily for nature conservation…”

Du Faur was subsequently appointed as the managing trustee and during his 10-year tenure, he developed many waterside picnic areas, including Bobbin Head, and walking trails.

 Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. Photo: Anton Leddin / Wikimedia


The latter were explored by his daughter, the pioneering mountain climber Freda Du Faur (whom Neighbourhood Media has previously featured), who went on to ascend most of New Zealand’s snow-capped peaks, some of which she named.

 

Australia today has around 650 national parks – more than any other country in the world. Over 28 million hectares of land is designated as national parkland, which accounts for almost four per cent of Australia's land mass – about the size of Italy.

With a recorded 4.40 million visits in 2022, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park counts as the third-most visited national park after Blue Mountains and the Royal National Park.

 

Who was Eccleston Du Faur? Born in England in 1832, of French immigrant parents, he arrived in Australia in 1853, and took up work as a draftsman for the New South Wales Railway Department, followed by the Surveyor-General's Office and the Crown Lands Office.

Over a 10-year period Eccleston mapped the state of NSW.

Tragically his original cartography, stored in the Botanic Gardens, was incinerated in the infamous Garden Palace fire of 22 September 1882. This heinous arsonry, for which no one was ever charged, also destroyed countless Aboriginal relics, survey maps and priceless artworks.


Du Faur and team exploring Grose Valley, Blue Mountains, 1875. Photo: Blue Mtns Historical Society

 

Exploration was one of Du Faur’s keen interests. He co-founded the Geographical Society of Australia and became its first chairman in 1883.

As well as sponsoring expeditions (including Douglas Mawson’s 1911 Antarctic expedition), he owned property at Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains, and from there he undertook many treks into the Grose River Valley and beyond, working with artists to sketch and photograph the region.

 

The Du Faur Rocks, Du Faur Creek and Canyon in the Blue Mountains, were named after him, as well as Du Faur St. in North Turramurra and the Du Faur Wetland in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

 

‘Pibrac’, Eccleston Du Faur's 1888-built house at 11 Pibrac Ave Warrawee, Sydney. Photo: Alec Smart


His Federation Queen Anne-styled house Pibrac, at 11 Pibrac Avenue, Warrawee, is still standing. The property, designed by distinguished Canadian architect John Horbury Hunt, is characteristic of many Heritage houses around Warrawee and Turramurra.

His daughter Freda name a mountain peak in New Zealand after her childhood home: Mount Pibrac.

 

Du Faur died in Turramurra on 24 April 1915, aged 82, and was buried in the Anglican churchyard at Gordon.

 

 Eccleston Du Faur c1910. Photo: Mitchell Library



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