John Oxley's former Apsley River campsite is now home to his private papers at Langford in Walcha

Barry Marshall in the Oxley room at his home Langford with an original John Oxley journal published in 1820 and the reproduction copy.
Barry Marshall in the Oxley room at his home Langford with an original John Oxley journal published in 1820 and the reproduction copy.

As part of the Walcha John Oxley bicentenary celebrations on September 9 the doors to the historic home ‘Langford ‘will be opened to allow entry to the Oxley room. The room which showcases an irreplaceable collection of John Oxley’s papers, his silver-topped walking cane and a lock of his hair. And it may be one of your last chances to see it locally.

Langford was built in 1903 on the site where John Oxley camped by the Apsley River in September 1818. Current resident Barry Marshall said he became interested in finding Oxley’s journal after buying Langford. However he found Oxley memorabilia was hard to come by.

Eventually, Mr Marshall acquired an official copy of John Oxley’s ‘Two Expeditions Into the Interior of New South Wales’ reprinted in the 1950’s by the Adelaide University, for ‘a lot of money’. Then a twist of fate brought a rare collection into his hands.

According to tradition Oxley’s possessions had been handed down to the eldest son for five generations. That stopped when the bachelor Arthur Oxley died in 1982 leaving his estate to his sister Eleanor. In 1984 Miss Oxley was killed in a car accident outside her flat in Cronulla, and her possessions were auctioned off.

Not realising the significant Oxley connection, the executors sold off the silverware at a fraction of its worth (it was subsequently chased up and purchased by the Powerhouse Museum) however, what was missed was a locked cedar chest containing Oxley’s papers. This was bought by a local who was unaware of its contents and did not even open it until 2001. Luckily when he did, he realised it was something worth selling.

I feel now that it should go to the John Oxley Library in Brisbane.

Barry Marshall on his rare collection of John Oxley's private papers

Mr Marshall saw an interview with Leo Berkelouw, who had been asked to assess and catalogue the collection from the box, that showed an image of a painting depicting an aboriginal burial site. Immediately recognising the picture from Oxley’s journal Mr Marshall drove down to Bowral with his wife to give his name as a potential buyer of the papers once the assessment was completed.

“It was a lot of money, but at that time we were ‘gone’ and very enthusiastic about John Oxley,” Mr Marshall said.

“I don’t know how much people in Walcha are interested in John Oxley and I feel now that the collection should go to the John Oxley Library in Brisbane. Oxley is the founder of Brisbane, and he is celebrated every year. I’ve been in touch with them, and they have nothing.- just photocopies.”

This story Collector opens his doors as part of bicentenary celebrations first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.