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BILLESDENE  pursing scant research has revealed the following





Built on a grant of land given to Pierce Collits for compensation for loss of trade when his inn was by

passed in 1832


Pierce Collits dies and leaves property to Joseph Collits


Joseph Collits  leases house to Magistrate Neale -the last magistrate to sit at Hartley Court House.


Joseph Collits agrees to sell 7 acres to Thomas Neale and the remainder of the 200 acres to Mr Lewington


 Joseph Collits sold the property to Thomas Henry Neale -Police Magistrate


Court of Claims… When Mr Joseph Collits contracted the sale of his 200 acres near the foot of Mt Victoria he made a claim for the Deeds. RAHS Paper p409 "Mr W L Harvard-"'Been in possession since 1839 and my father before me. The land was promised to my father by Sir Thomas Brisbane"


Leased to Harris family


The property consists of 700 acres when purchased by Ralph Harris


Sold to James Harris


Kitchen block and servants quarters demolished


Small shop operated at front of property


Bulk of property sold to Michael and Laurence O'Connell


9.5 acres pass on to current owner by Marcia Osterberg-Olsern  by her sister-Yvonne Harris


The shop at the front leased to Double Circle Resorts p/l operating as Billesdene Gallery.



James Albert Harris was born in 1870 and married Violet Morris in 1900 at Forbes. While living at Forbes they had  had two sons, Ralph  born 1902 and Max .born 1908   James died in 1936 aged 76.

Walter Ralph Harris and Henry Max Harris.

.Billesdene  was purchased by James Harris in 1916 from  the Neale family . It soon  became a leading  apple orchard in the valley. The Hartley Valley rivaled the apple produce of Tasmania.

For 35 years from 1916 to 1941 the property was  operating as a produce garden. Ralph Harris along with his brother Max operated Harris Brothers Orchards.

The property was  later operated by Jack Ireland of the Mt. Victoria General Store.

Yvonne Macewan had married  Ralph's brother Max Harris, and her sister Marcia Osterberg-Olsen still  resides at Billesdene.


Rise & fall of the apple industry in Hartley

Apples were grown in the Hartley district before the 1900's. Early in the 1900's it was discovered that the fruit grown here was of a particularly high quality - this quality resulting from the terrific soil and cold climate. The fruit quickly gained a reputation and several Hartley landowners decided to plant large numbers of trees.

Some of the larger orchards were Cripps 'Cranbrook' orchards, Pieres orchard 'Forty Bends' Bowenfells and George Pitts at Hartley Vale. Later came the Birds, Baaners, Harris, Facchina and Morris families. It is worthy of note that some of the Morris family were involved in the earlier orchard plantings. There were also many smaller orchards throughout the district.

In the 1920's a number of growers got together to form the Hartley District Fruit Growers Association. This group decided to show their produce at the Sydney Royal Show entering in the pyramid classes against other districts. They were very successful, many times winning their class and individual growers from Hartley also won major prizes with their entries.

On one occasion a case of Delicious Apples from Harry Bird's orchard won a major export prize. When Harry's produce arrived in England it was presented to the late King George V - this event in itself provided a major boost to the apple industry in Hartley and 'Hartley Apples' earned an enviable reputation overseas and with NSW householdes. England thereafter took many shipments of Hartley apples; the apples were also traded to Europe and Asia.

WWII caused disruption to the Hartley industry due primarily to the shortage of labour. Soon after, the Apple and Pear Board was formed and severe restrictions were imposed. These restrictions broke the hearts of many growers in the Hartley District and no more plantings took place. In fact, trees in many of the older orchards were simply pulled out. Over the following years fewer and fewer trees remained and flocks of sulphur crested cockatoos and other birds began to take their toll on the survivors. No commercial crops remain in Hartley today.

[excerpts from 'Hartley Big Backyard Book']