A Brief History
Stroud stands in the heart of the Karuah Valley on land occupied by the Aboriginal Worimi people before the Europeans came. It lies within the original 1826 land grant made to the Australian Agricultural Company (AAco) between the northern shore of Port Stephens and Taree.
AAco had been formed in 1824 in London with one million pounds’ capital and a mission to transform one million undeveloped acres. Henry Dangar explored the Karuah Valley for the company in 1826. Robert Dawson, the company's first superintendent, soon followed and as early as November that year chose the site for Stroud. He named it for Stroud, Gloucestershire, because the park-like scene evoked for him the Gloucestershire countryside. Farming began in the Booral district, 8 km south of present-day Stroud, while areas further north were used for grazing. Stroud grew to become the company’s inland capital, complementing the main coastal base, Carrington, on Port Stephens.
Sir Edward Parry, Arctic explorer for the Royal Navy, replaced Dawson as company commissioner (1830-34). With a zeal for education, moral training and religion he set about building for Stroud St John’s Church (1833) and the school now known as Quambi House. His other building projects included redesign of Stroud House which he had judged to be “a wretched habitation”. These, with numbers of original tradesmen’s cottages, today present a compelling image of early Stroud.
Under Parry, AAco, finding much of the Port Stephens grant unsuitable for sheep, negotiated a surrender of coastal region lands in exchange for prime pastoral acreage on the Liverpool Plains - a portent of the company’s final withdrawal from Stroud in 1873.
By 1836 Stroud housed most of AAco’s convict labour force of more than 400 and served as the principal storage site, a largely self-sufficient centre with its own tradesmen and gardeners.
In 1847 Dr C. Buchanan used ether for the first time in NSW (and possibly Australia) at the Stroud hospital, which stood opposite St John's Church.
In 1849 the first Stroud subdivision occurred, with allotments sold to private buyers who began to arrive from England in 1850.
In 1851 the renowned early Australian Presbyterian leader, J.D. Lang, observed that “Stroud is decidedly one of the finest villages of inland towns in the colony”.
Coal deposits were located on AAco land north of Stroud in 1855. Pits were established in 1858 The quality was high but the cost of extraction prohibitive. Attempts to re-establish the venture in the 1870s came to nothing. Today, however, open-cut mining north of Stroud township is well established.
Twenty-six years after the building of St John’s, AAco gave land for the building of a Catholic church, originally St Malachy’s but later dedicated to St Columbanus, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2011. Stroud’s three other churches are the Uniting (formerly Methodist) originally founded about 1860 but since rebuilt; Prebyterian (1887) and Baptist (1912).
Sir William Edward Parry RN
Lady Isabella Parry