In 1806, 600 acres (some of which is now the 'Werrington North' site of the University) was granted to Mary Putland, the daughter of Governor William Bligh. On her marriage to Maurice O'Connell (then Lt Colonel of Lachlan Macquarie's 73rd Regiment) in 1810, the Governor granted her an additional 1,055 acres (427ha, named Coallee) adjoining Frogmore to the south. 150 acres of this would later be incorporated into UWS 'Werrington South'. This brought Mary's holdings to 3,000 acres (1,214ha), which (under the supervision of O'Connell and his agents, who ran bloodstock on the properties) no doubt provided a suitable income to one of Sydney's 'first families'.
On his tour of the colony in 1810, Macquarie, Mrs Macquarie and Gregory Blaxland visited the Frogmore site, before progressing to O'Connell's main farm holdings at Riverston(e). From about 1830 there were certainly house(s) on the site, but the O'Connells were absentee landlords, living in Woolloomooloo or abroad. Whether one of those houses has any relationship to the current Frogmore House is disputed. From 1840, the O'Connell's son, Maurice Charles, and his wife Eliza, lived for some time on the site. After Maurice's death, the site, which had been mortgaged to deal with the O'Connells' financial difficulties, was eventually sold off and subdivided in the 1850s. Sections were bought and reunited first by Caroline Sutherland from 1919, and then by iron merchant Alan Williams in 1935. In the interim the estate hosted uses varying from vineyard, to racing track, to golf course, a joy flight aerodrome, and (in 1954) a home for boys with intellectually disabilities.
Williams had had architect C.D. Leake add a second storey to his 'country weekender' in 1938, and progressive expansions thereafter, transforming the 'original house, low-slung and spreading along the breast of the hill' into 'a more imposing country home' (Liston and Jack, 1991, 35). It was Williams who named the house 'Werrington Park', possibly after 'Werrington Park' in Cornwall, UK. In University parlance, however, it has largely been referred to as 'Frogmore House'. The earliest part of the house may precede 1840, the Penrith Council conservation register describes it as 'a good, but much altered, example of a substantial farmstead of the mid nineteenth century'. The strength of the house is its 'magnificent landscaped hilltop setting offering views to the Blue Mountains and South Creek basin', a site which has tended to elicit visions from those who see it and project on it more importance than in may in fact have had. The assumption that it is a substantially colonial house of the gentry directly attached to the Bligh myth adds to its glamour.
After acquisition by the NSW Department of Child Welfare, a new two-storey dormitory wing was built on the northern side of the house, and 'unfortunate institutionalising' changes made to the house. On the other hand, many of the Georgian Revival 'period' elements of the House were also added during the 1950s alteration under the Government Architect, Cobden Parkes, who reconstructed the house in the spirit of post-war Georgian Revival architecture. Parkes even had the rainheads embossed with 'GR', a deliberate ambiguity playing on the fact that the O'Connells lived on the site during the reign of George III, while Parkes rebuilt it under the reign of George V. New dormitory blocks, an administration block, a principal's residence and new classrooms were added as the residential population grew from the original 12 to 120. A Children's Court and remand centre – Cobham -- was built on a corner of the estate in 1978 (Liston and Jack, 1991, 40).
By then, the local use was already at tension with the overall planning for Sydney's growth as seen by the State Planning Authority. The site was listed as a university campus under the Sydney Region Outline Plan of 1967-68, a factor that would become a key debating point as to its usage in an infrastructure hungry West which grew massively from the mid-1950s onwards. It was this designation which the Penrith lobby used most effectively in arguing (over cases put for Doonside, Campbelltown, Liverpool and Parramatta) for location of the University's headquarters at Werrington. Under provisions for Chifley University College proposed by the first and third Parry Committees, the Chifley University Interim Council was established in offices at Parramatta, while refurbishments to Frogmore house took place and ground works and site planning began. Negotiations for the site were made possible by John Aquilina's de-institutionalisation policy, enabling Ralph Rawlinson (CUIC) and his team the ability to negotiate the land off the 'surplus' list. The Director General of Youth and Community Services (YACS) was 'a shrewd, established bureaucrat, and he got the fences up pretty quickly. That accounts for why there is such a narrow margin between the line of trees, and where the margin for the adjacent community is' (Rawlinson, 2011).
Bob Meyer, who helped design Campbelltown's development and later worked with Phillip Cox, was central to the transport plan. It would be one of his lasting regrets that government would not follow through on the promised University railway station which would have made Werrington North a viable teaching campus.
Colin Still, from the NSW Government Architect's Office, drawing on inspirations from Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia, designed a campus which flowed down the hill towards the Highway on one side, with a long promenade overlooking a lake towards the railway line. Features included a major building precinct aligned in an east-west orientation along the plateau, with the community core of the University in the north-east corner of the building precinct including student facilities. A 'front lawn' would extend from the new building to Werrington Park House. The student centre (the only building for which foundations were ever poured, giving rise to building AD) stood at the top of the hill, flanked on the right by a lecture theatre and hall. The initial 'Student Centre, Lecture Theatre and Hall, and Science teaching areas' were designed to be easily expandable, convertible to staff space, and would eventually act at full development as the Student Centre for the whole university.
The library would act as a portal onto the driveway, flanked by student and executive administration buildings, behind which the Humanities and Social Science, and Science buildings were laid out around two large concentric squares (the 'Quadrangle'), which also acted as the framework for pathways and greenspaces. In order to capture the idea of the open, community-based university, the Quadrangle would act as the centre of a 'community core' – there would be a childcare centre, residences, and facilities such as shops, a swimming pool, sporting facilities etc, which would be open to the public. 'A number' of footbridges would span the barrier of the railway line (Lublin, 1987). The back of the property at the top right-hand side of the driveway would fall down into sporting fields and amenities. Over the highway, on the southern campus, the university would wrap around the TAFE, and extend away across what Still noted in one plan as "R&D" and in another as a "University Study Zone" between the Freeway and the Archives (Still photographs).
Ultimately, government refused to commit the sort of capital required, the 1988 election saw the advent of a Liberal government determined to make savings, Chifley University Interim Council was dissolved, and the new Council of the University of Western Sydney thought the plans far too expensive. Instead, staff and administration inhabited refurbished buildings, many of which were not finished for years after the University was inaugurated in 1989, and the only major new building on the site would be the Humanities Building, built (as an echo of Still's design) on the top of the hill looking down over the lake, towards the railway station which likewise was never built.
In time, as the Chancellery moved out of its small bungalow into Frogmore house, and increasingly outgrew Frogmore house itself, teaching space was shifted from Werrington North altogether, and the Humanities building converted into Building AD, senior administration and the Chancellery. Werrington North's lack of public transport pushed development back towards the already squeezed Kingswood, and the only slowly developed Werrington South.
The tentativeness with which a promised 120ha Werrington "Health Industry Park" was received in the area in 2011 reflected a some disillusionment arising from the failure of similar plans launched by the NSW Government with great public fanfare over the years (see Grimson, 2011, 3). In 2012, however, with the commitment of matching funding from the University and support from the Penrith Business Alliance and Council, the Federal Government committed $13.5m to assist with building on the site linked to employment in the area.