Picton is about 80 kilometres south west of Sydney. At about the geographical centre of the Wollondilly region, it is also the main town and administrative centre of the region.
First explored by Europeans in 1798, it remained 'beyond the pale' - declared a 'no go' area by the Governors who sought to restrict settlement closer to the colony at Sydney, until 1821.
In the meantime, the 'Cowpastures' - roughly equivalent to the Macarthur Region today, and comprising the area to the north and east (from Camden through to Campbelltown), had been settled and developed by pioneer John Macarthur and others.
With the discovery of good land in the interior and the settlement of Bong Bong (Southern Highlands) and Argyle County (Goulburn area), the area around Picton was also opened for settlement.
One of the earliest grants (1822) was made to Major Antill, and it is on part of his land that most of Picton is situated today.
In its earliest days the area was known as Stonequarry, then Picton (1841) and was on the new Great South Road from Appin (first town in the Wollondilly) through to Bargo, Mittagong and inland. Apart from the large farms in the area, its inns and stores catered mostly to travellers going further inland.
There were three attempts to form townships here. The first, a government village (1821)- south of the present town (about half way to the High School today); a private village on Antill's land (1841, where the town centre is today); and another private village around the railway station (1860s).
More favourable development in the second of these led to its becoming the town centre.
Picton developed when a new line of the South Road was cut over the Razorback Range from Camden, and especially after the railway arrived in 1863. After the building of a viaduct over Stonequarry Creek, this line continued (along what is known as the 'Loop Line') through Thirlmere to the Southern Highlands and beyond.
Picton thrived as a pastoral centre, with light industries, and was a major railway service town well into the 20th century - especially as extra steam engines had to be coupled here to take trains up the steep gradients on the original line. Many of its grandest buildings date from this era.
Declared a municipality in 1895, Picton grew slowly over the next few decades. It began to decline in importance with the opening of a new line of railway through Bargo to Mittagong in 1917 (which no longer needed the extra engines), and during the motoring age (1930s to 60s) became just another stopover on the Hume Highway inland.
Colonial house, Picton (c.1840s)
By the 1980s the freeway had diverted even this traffic past the town. However, in the 1990s, with the ever expanding growth of Sydney catching up with it, it became a favoured home for people outside the city.
Today Picton has that special charm which attracts people in a fast age.
It still retains that peace and tranquility of a country town, yet is close enough to the city that its residents can commute.
It also allows city people escape to a better lifestyle - even if only for a short visit.
And the surrounding countryside, with its farms and villages, spectacular natural attractions and vast wilderness areas, are a haven and a delight to explore.
Picton is rich in colonial and late Victorian architecture. Information for self-guided tours of the town are available from the Visitors Centre, and a tour service offers guided walks throught the town at night.
If you are interested in history, there are some important buildings and engineering structures to be discovered.
Railway viaduct (c.1866)