Tocal Stud and Charles Reynolds

Tocal Stud and Charles Reynolds

Featured Image: Frank Reynolds Sydney Mail 1920

There is little doubt that the original pioneer leviathans of thoroughbred breeding in the Hunter Valley were Charles Reynolds (1806 – 1871) and his son Frank Reynolds (1848 – 1920). The latter was a close confidante of the ‘Gentle Giant from Clarence Town’ Bruce Lowe. Together they formulated the seminal tome ‘Breeding Racehorses by the Figure System’. No-one tells the story better than Ian Ibbett; so I’ll leave the detail to him.




The Hunter River district has this week sustained the loss, by death, of one of its most valuable and respected residents – Mr. Charles Reynolds, of Tocal.

On Wednesday afternoon (as will be seen fully de-tailed below), Mr. Reynolds rode out to see to some work that was being done, and was returning homewards his horse being then noticed to be restive, when he appears to have been thrown from his horse on to the road, and to have been dragged from that point for about fifty yards, when the horse got free, and went off home by himself. This excited alarm at Tocal House, and messengers instantly hastened off to see if anything was wrong, but just before they reached the spot Mr. Fry, the carrier, had come up in his cart, and saw Mr. Reynolds lying there, alive, but insensible, covered with dust, and apparently fearfully injured. With the Tocal messengers came up Mr. Edward Lee, in his buggy, and Mr. Reynolds was carefully lifted into the buggy, taken home, and placed on his bed. Two medical men were sent for, and on Thursday morning a third, but human aid was of no avail, and on Thursday night-or at three on Friday morning, Mr. Reynolds died – never having quite recovered consciousness.

We should, perhaps scarcely err if we said that the district could not have sustained a greater loss than the death of Mr. Reynolds. He was in many senses a most valuable public man in his own special pursuit, horse breeding, of high-bred, first-class horses, his long experience had rendered him equalled only by two or three gentlemen in other parts of the colony. In the hands of previous occupiers, the Tocal Estate, on the Paterson River, had been but one of many similar large estates, rather a doubtful gain to its owner,-the cost of keeping it up nearly equalling the proceeds from it. But in the hands of a skilful and persevering horse breeder, like Mr. Reynolds, its valleys and hills, its flats and brushes, became the scene of a profitable and celebrated industry. It was in fact the repetition in Australia of a tale “as old as the hills”. Thoroughly understanding horses, and the scientific pursuit of horse breeding, Mr. Reynolds devoted the prime of his life and very large sums of money realised by his skilful energy, to the creation of a magnificent breeding stud .No

Australian horse-breeder, we believe, had previously laid out so many thousands of pounds as he did in the purchase of successive sires of the purest blood, or had so carefully accumulated a stock of mares of equally pure descent. Such a costly enterprise, in the hands of a less skilful man, or a man of less business capacity, would have doubtless ended in heavy losses or even in insolvency-as similar attempts, in other branches of industry, have repeatedly done in this colony. But in Mr. Reynolds’ hands it led to fortune, happily for this district.

For the successful example of Mr. Reynolds here, and of a few other enterprising breeders to the West and South, has once more led to the practice of breeding horses of a superior character, which at one time had nearly been abandoned, the demand having fallen off. How many winning race horses Mr. Reynolds has sold, to various owners, in his long and useful career, we cannot tell, but they must have been a numerous body. And in addition, his stud was constantly a favorite place for gentlemen of means to visit, in order to purchase, at good prices, superior horses for their own use.

Mr. Reynolds was not, however, only a skilful horse breeder. He was also a breeder of horned stock of pure blood-principally of the Devon breed. And in this capacity he was also very successful, as all the agricultural shows for years past have testified. We do not know who was the originator of the modern custom of fattening cattle in paddocks in the Valley of the Hunter but Mr Reynolds many years ago took up this industry and pursued it with remarkable success. It seems, now that so many eminent fatteners of paddocked cattle are around us, absurd to recall it, but it is the fact that many years ago, when first paddock fat cattle, in small lots, were sold in the Maitland markets, the pursuit of thus fattening cattle was laughed at as a mere hobby, which would certainly cause losses in any but very fine seasons.

Happily Mr. Reynolds and his brother stock agriculturists were rather obstinate men, and confident in their own judgment and they persevered; the practice gradually spread, and now the many immense Hunter cattle paddocks send the finest fat cattle in the colony to Maitland and Sydney, and many thousands of pounds are thus yearly added to the money circulated on the Hunter.

Mr. Reynolds was also an earnest advocate of agricultural associations and of periodical shows. A skilful farmer and stock-breeder and fattener himself, he spared no pains to make others as skilful also, and the Hunter River Agricultural Association had hardly a more earnest, persevering, and energetic member than Mr. Reynolds. How largely his splendid animals have contributed to adorn the shows of that Association, of the Singleton Association, and also the Sydney shows, all our readers know. In other parts of the farm industries Mr. Reynolds was an adept also, but not equally as successful in excelling his neighbours. His earnest spirit largely helped to stimulate the good farming of the tenant farmers on the many rich estates of the lower Hunter and Paterson, but his own crops only competed fairly with theirs. He was fond of trying new products-flax, and other articles – but we do not think he devoted so much time, energy, and money to this particular form of farm improvements as some others of the members of the H. R. Agricultural Society have done.

In due time our Paterson correspondent will no doubt inform our readers how Mr. Reynolds fulfilled on the Paterson the duties of a local public man, but we have always heard him well spoken of in that capacity. Again and again he has been elected without opposition a member of the Paterson District Council, a pretty fair proof of his deserved personal popularity.

Our Paterson correspondent’s report of the sad occurrence is as follows, as received yesterday.


At an early hour yesterday evening news reached Paterson that Mr. C. Reynolds had met with a fearful accident, and that his life was despaired of. The news soon spread, and caused quite a sensation, and nothing else was talked of during the remainder of the evening. On proceeding to Tocal we obtained all the particulars that were known of the sad affair.

It appears that Mr Reynolds left home, on his pony that he usually rides, about three o’clock in the afternoon, to go down the Maitland road to where the road party was engaged repairing the road, in his capacity as a member of the Paterson District Council, to examine the work going on there. Having performed this duty he was returning home, and had nearly reached the top of the hill, before descending into the avenue near the Tocal boundary, when from some cause unknown he appears to have been thrown from his horse, and was dragged some distance from the appearance of the ground. The horse was seen galloping along the road riderless, and at once caused a suspicion that something was amiss. The horse was immediately caught, and messengers dispatched to see if anything was the matter.

The messengers sent, Mr. Edward Lee, who was proceeding to Maitland in his buggy, and Mr. Fry, in his spring cart, all met at the scene of the occurrence at the same time. Mr. Reynolds was found lying on his side in the middle of the road, and blood running from his ears and mouth, and he was totally insensible. He was at once lifted into Mr. Lee’s buggy, and brought down to Tocal. Dr. Newbury was at once sent for, and promptly attended, and a messenger was at once dispatched for Dr. Gordon, the family’s medical attendant, from Maitland, who was soon at Tocal. From the first it was found to be a very serious and critical case, various parts of the head were very much bruised about, as well as other parts of the body, and one of his arms was found to be broken at the elbow.

All the exertions of the medical attendants failed to bring the lamented gentleman to consciousness up to a late hour this evening, although Dr Morson, who was sent for at an early hour this morning, tried every means in his power to do so. Throughout last night and today Mr Reynolds has lain in a state of torpor, once or twice during to-day it was noticed that he opened his eyes and had a vacant stare around, and then closed his eyes again, this is all that has occurred to this moment to mark in any way the signs of returning life and we regret to learn that the medical attendants consider there is but little hope of his life being spared. A large number of visitors have called at Tocal House during the day, many from Maitland, and all the gentry of the surrounding neighbourhood,-to enquire as to Mr. Reynolds’s state. The utmost anxiety prevails.

Paterson, Thursday evening, Sept 14: Friday Morning.

We regret to, announce that Mr. Reynolds died (from the effects of the sad accident recorded in our communication of last evening) at three o’clock this morning. He remained unconscious to the last. The coroner’s inquest will be held during the day.