A bullock roasted entire

Illustration of a prize shorthorn

Shorthorn illustrated in Mrs Isabella Beeton, Beeton's book of household management, Ward, Lock & Co., London, 1907.

In an act of political defiance, William Charles Wentworth hosted a ‘grand fete’ at his home at Vaucluse on October 21, 1831. A ‘fatted ox’ was paraded around Sydney, adorned with ribbons, with a promise that it would be barbequed next day on a spit, for all to enjoy! 4,000 Sydney-siders of all ‘descriptions’ joined the party.

The mood was electric!

Wentworth was celebrating the departure of his nemesis, Governor Ralph Darling (hence Darling Point, Darlinghurst, the Darling Downs and many of Sydney’s Darling Streets), who was due to return to England aboard the Hooghley, next day. Wentworth had campaigned long and hard to oust this unpopular governor, through the independent newspaper The Australian (no association with the current Murdoch version) which he co-founded, and by challenging Darling in court over cruel treatment of convict prisoners.

Rejoicing for General Darlings departure from New South Wales – Splendid Fete at Vaucluse – Brilliant Illuminations and other Joyous Festivities

On Wednesday last, upwards of 4,000 persons of both sexes and of all grades, assembled at Vaucluse to partake of Mr Wentworth’s hospitality and to evince their joy at the approaching departure…

The scene of the fete was on the lawn in front of Mr Wentworth’s Villa, which was thrown open for the reception of all respectable visitants, while a marquee filled with piles of loaves, and casks of Cooper’s gin, and Wright’s strong beer, was pitched a short way off, for the refreshment of all who preferred to bend their steps that way. On an immense spit, in another direction, a bullock was roasted entire. Twelve sheep were also roasted in succession; and 4,000 loaves completed the enormous banquet.

‘An indescribable air of fascination’

The night being exceedingly fine, and the full orbed moon in all her majesty, an indescribable air of fascination was spread over the whole scene. By 7pm two immense bonfires were lighted on the highest hill. The blaze might be seen from Sydney, and the illuminations had a most brilliant and imposing effect.  Surmounted by a Crown, and flanked by two stars of the first magnitude, there appeared the words, “God save the King” and “Down with the tyrant.” beneath. The last lamp was lighted up amid deafening cheers – several rustic sports of various sorts, speeches, &c.&c. whiled away the night, and morning dawned before the hospitable mansion was quitted by all its guests.

Ghost town

Sydney might be said to have been almost deserted; as in various directions not a soul was to be met with during the whole of the afternoon… Almost from day-break till dark, the South Head road was crowded by numerous parties in every sort of vehicle and on foot.

As part of our Eat your history SLM FOOD programming, we hosted a Colonial gastronomy Farewell Darling! dinner at Vaucluse, to mark the historic event. After sampling a Young Henry’s peach braggot bellini on the lawn, and a tour of Vaucluse House, guests proceeded to the Vaucluse House Tearooms for a talk by Andrew Tink, Sydney Living Museums’ Trustee and author of William Charles Wentworth: Australia’s greatest native son who spoke about the original event. Dinner followed with an 1830s style banquet which included elements of the original feast. It was a fabulous way to revive an all-but-forgotten story from Vaucluse and Wentworth’s illustrious but colourful past.