Parramatta holds great significance in the history of Australia, being the first inland settlement, and the second settlement overall after Sydney Cove to be established by Australia's British colonists of the late 18th century. As one might expect, Parramatta has some excellent examples of early colonial architecture including Old Government House, Elizabeth Farm, St John s Cathedral, the Lancer Barracks and the Linden House Museum.
Today's Parramatta is a modern city with a range of cafes and restaurants exploring cuisines from around the globe, large shopping centres, cinemas, theatre and the Rosehill Racecourse. Parramatta is best a understood with a visit to the visitors centre which features Parramatta: People and Place, a major exhibition that traces the development of Parramatta, and can then be explored following a walking map.
Located just 6km west of Sydney Olympic Park, Parramatta is easily accessed on a picturesque Rivercat ferry ride up the western arm of Sydney Harbour. Stroll along the Harris Park Heritage Walk that links the Rivercat with historic properties in East Parramatta. The Riverside walk features Aboriginal artwork inviting you to explore the story of the Parramatta river.
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Not long after their arrival of the first fleet in NSW in 1788, plans were formulated to clear and cultivate land in an area known as Rose Hill (Parramatta) which had been explored and found to be fertile by Phillip and a party of Officers and Marines at the end of April 1788. In March, 1789, Gov. Phillip s butler, Edward Dodd, an avid gardener, was sent to Rose Hill with one hundred convicts under his supervision. Land was cleared, crops were planted and buildings constructed. Over the next two years, the colony s agricultural development was concentrated around the banks of the upper Parramatta River. Consequently Parramatta grew so much faster than Sydney, Governor Phillip built a second Government House there and gave serious consideration to making Parramatta the main settlement and maintaining Sydney only as its port in the same way that Fremantle in Western Australia is the port for Perth.
Parramatta holds the distinction of being the only place in Australia to be laid out by First Fleeters. Planned on a grand scale by Baron Augustus Alt and Lieutenant William Dawes on instructions from the Governor early in 1789, its main street (High Street, later George Street) was to be 1.5 kilometres long and 62 metres wide, on an east-west axis from Government House to the public wharf. A second street parallel to the High Street and 33 metres wide was also laid out, called South Street (now Macquarie Street). Wide cross streets at right angles to the main axis were laid out in front of Government House; one by the church, ending at the north end in an open plaza big enough for a Town Hall as its focus (now O Connell Street); another further to the east, which was the crossing point over the river (now Marsden Street).
The town allotments were larger than those in Sydney and were designed to provide gardens which could be worked by convicts and others to supplement the scarce food supplies of the colony. The generous scale of the main street was glowingly described by Watkin Tench during a visit to the settlement in 1790 as being of such breadth as will make Pall Mall and Portland Place hide their diminished heads .
A pioneer colonial farmhouse, now a museum featuring displays on early rural life. Generally accepted as an authentic example of the 18th century colonial homestead, Experimental Farm displays all the hallmarks of the emerging colonial bungalow with its wide verandah, low pitched roof and classic Georgian style cedar panelled door flanked by glazed sidelights and featuring an elliptical fanlight above. The cottage was built by surgeon John Harris on land purchased from James Ruse in 1793.
The land was the first to be granted in NSW, its recipient being Ruse who took possession in 1789 to build a farm. The cottage remained in the Harris family from 1793 to 1923, however sections of the farm were subdivided and sold in the 1870s under the name of Harris Park.
9 Ruse Street Parramatta NSW 2150. Phone (02) 9635 5655.
A typical example of the modest homestead built by farmers in the early 1800s. It follows the pattern set by Lieutenant-Governor Francis Grose, who, when building his cottage in 1793, abandoned the English standard of a narrow porch and steep sloping roof line for a low pitched roof line and a wide verandah. The cottage was built for John and Elizabeth Macarthur by convicts for the governess of their children, Penelope Lucas.
1824 - Hambledon Cottage, Hassall Street, Parramatta. Open Wed, Thurs, Sat, Sun, Public hols. 11.00 am 4.00 pm
The discovery of fertile river flats in the Parramatta/Rose Hill region not only saved the colony from starvation but led to rapid development of the area. One of the pioneer farmers was John MacArthur, a lieutenant in the NSW Corps, and leading member of the pastoral elite. A vocal and powerful opponent to three colonial governors, he was granted 40 ha of land at Rose Hill in 1793, three years after the area had yielded its first successful grain crop. In the following year on the property he had named after his wife Elizabeth, MacArthur built a simple single storey four room brick cottage which forms part of the Elizabeth Farm museum complex today.
Rectangular in shape, it had a hipped roof made of eucalypt shingles. Elizabeth Farm is the oldest European dwelling in Australia and apart from a handful of gravestones in the old Parramatta cemetery which pre-date Elizabeth Farm, it is the oldest surviving construction from 18th century New South Wales. What must be remembered, however, is that it was remodelled five times during its first seventy years alone, and as records of what the cottage was like when built are sketchy, what parts of the present structure are original, and what parts were added later and when, are a matter of conjecture.
Elizabeth Farm was to be Elizabeth's home for the rest of her life. MacArthur was mostly absent from the property. Until his banishment from the colony in 1809 for his leadership of the Rum Rebellion against Governor Bligh, and after his return in 1817, MacArthur was based at Camden Park Estate where he tended to his wool production and export operations and managed his numerous pastoral leases.
1793 - Elizabeth Farm, 70 Alice Street, Rosehill. Open Tues Sun 10.00 4.30 pm
Parramatta Park plays host to a range of events every year. Events
Tudor Gate House
Tudor style brick Gate house built in 1885 to a design by by George McKinnon at the entry gate to Parramatta Park and the Murray Gardens. The remains of a sentry box are located nearby. The interior is furnished in Victorian style. Open Sun 1.30 4.30pm Entry fee applies. UBD Map 377 Ref E 12 O Connell Street, Parramatta Park, Parramatta.
Converted by Governor Macquarie to a dairy in 1816, the original stone cottage was the home of George Salter, a Second Fleet convict whose crime was the murder of an excise officer. Salter was granted 30 acres on high ground fronting the Parramatta River in 1796 on the opposite bank to where one Edward Dodd had established the colony s first successful farm a year earlier. As the colony was still struggling to provide enough food for its population, Salter's grant was conditional upon him living on the site and improving the land for cultivation.
Salter's sandstone cottage was originally a one room dwelling, probably facing the river, the cottage's brick dividing wall being added later to create two rooms. When Salter leased the property and moved to Sydney in 1802, the farm was fully cleared and cultivated with ten acres of wheat and 20 acres of maize. A woman and three con??Fvicts lived at and worked the farm with him.
In 1810, Governor Macquarie bought back all the land around Government House for a private park and farm. It included Salter's farm, for which he paid 30 head of cattle. Macquarie had the cottage converted to a dairy circa 1816, adding wings to both sides of the cottage, one with a sunken milk room for storing dairy products. These wings echo the side wings he added to neighbouring Government House at that time. The dairy became the home of Elizabeth Eccles, a first fleet ex convict, who lived and worked there as a dairy maid for many years.
The cottage and its surroundings are unique in that they have survived into this century intact without the addition of modern amenities such as bathrooms, kitchens, running water and electricity as a result of the cottage being used as a Counci depot. It retains its original internal and external walls, the window joinery and some plaster finishes. Around the cottage itself is a network of original drains, paths, a well and the footings of old farm buildings, beyond which are Salter s fields, now open park lands, which grew much needed crops to feed the fledging colony.
1798 - Governors Dairy, Parramatta Park, Parramatta
The remains of Governor Brisbane's observatory are located within the Park to the south west of Old Government House near the highest point in the Park. It was constructed privately by Governor Brisbane in 1822 and became government property in 1826 under Governor Darling.
Astronomers at the Observatory included Christian Carl Rumker and James Dunlop. The building fell into a bad state of repair once James Dunlop left his position as Superintendent of the Observatory in 1847 and was subsequently demolished except for the stones still standing in the Park. These are the remains of the original transit circle telescope stones used inside the observatory domes.
The Bath House
In 1822 Colonial Architect S L Harris designed a Bath House for Governor Brisbane which was built the following year. Water was pumped to the Bath House through lead pipes from the nearby Parramatta River which was then pumped out and down hill to a duck pond on the slope below. The Bath House was sophisticated having a heated plunge pool and a domed roof surmounted by a cupola lantern. By 1886 the Bath House had become dilapidated and the Park Trustees converted it into a pavilion. This was used as a picnic shelter, picket-fenced against agisting livestock well into the 20th century.
Lady Fitzroy Memorial
This memorial was erected in 1888 near the site where Lady Mary FitzRoy, wife of Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy, was killed in a carriage accident in December 1847. As the newspaper reported at the time: The awful tale can be told in a very few words: His Excellency and Lady FitzRoy were about to visit Sydney. The horses being fresh, ran away the moment their heads were let go the carriage was dashed to pieces and Lady FitzRoy [was] so much injured that she died almost immediately, and Mr Masters, the aid-de-camp, survived but a few hours. The Governor, although much shaken, is not supposed to be seriously injured.
William Hart Memorial
Over one hundred years ago, on 4 November 1911, William Ewart Billy Hart, made one of the earliest and longest flights in New South Wales, when he flew a Bristol Box-kite aircraft from Penrith to land at Parramatta Park. Hart made his first solo flight on the 3 November, and on 4 November he undertook an historic flight from Penrith to land in Parramatta Park. In this first cross country flight in New South Wales, Hart astonished the community by travelling a distance of 18 miles (29km) in under 20 minutes, and his aircraft reached an altitude of 3000 feet. This flight was acclaimed as a remarkable performance and Parramatta celebrated his achievement, which was credited with taking Parramatta a leap into the future .
By 16 November 1911 Billy Hart completed flying tests conducted by the Aerial League of Australia. He was presented with Australian Aviator s Licence Number One and became the first qualified pilot in the country. He followed this achievement with a remarkable 47 mile (76 km) flight from Penrith via St Mary s to Sydney, and in January 1912 he opened Hart s Aviation School in Penrith, taking on student aviators.
The field where Hart landed in Parramatta Park remains to this day much as it was in 1911. Hart s achievements are commemorated by a stone memorial in Parramatta Park overlooking Old Government House and The Crescent.
Governor Phillip named this place "the Crescent" because of the alluvial flats contained in a bend in the river. He named the hill above it Rose Hill in honour of George Rose, a Secretary of the English Treasury. At one end of the Crescent stands Old Government House and at the other end, the Governor's Dairy.
The Crescent's natural ridgeline once framed a billabong and it was the location for fruit, vegetable and horticultural specimen experimentation for the growth of imported plant species under Australian conditions. These plants were a valuable source distributed to the early colonists to assist their agricultural efforts.
Before European cultivation however, the Crescent was home to the local clan of the Dharug, the Burramattagal who had occupied the area for thousands of years. There is evidence of their occupation in the area in the form of scarred trees and artefact scatters.
This building is a remodelled version of the original house built by Governor Phillip in 1790 at a time when he was seriously considering moving permanently from Sydney to Rose Hill (Parramatta). Due to the success of farming activities around the upper reaches of the Parramatta River, Rose Hill was quickly becoming a centre of commercial activity and therefore Phillip felt it imperative he establish a presence there. He did this with the construction of a simple sandstone cottage around which Old Government House as we know it today was progressively built. Whilst still maintaining Sydney as his home base, Phillip spent much of his time in the Rose Hill district, the cottage becoming his home away from home.
Like Elizabeth Farm, little of the original 1790 structure remains and most of what we see today are later additions. In 1799, Governor John Hunter made significant alterations and extensions, the elegant brickwork of the new section being plastered to resemble stone. During Governor Macquarie's tenure, side and rear wings were added (1812-18). Supervision of these additions was a joint effort by Mrs Macquarie and Lieutenant John Watts, a free settler with some architectural training who had arrived in Sydney in 1814 and gave Macquarie help and advice on a number of projects. The Doric porch, constructed in 1816, is attributed to Francis Greenway and is believed to be his first major project for the colony and the one which convinced Macquarie that Greenway was the best man for the vacant post of Colonial Architect.
1790, 1799 - Old Government House, Parramatta Park, Parramatta
A highly popular ghost tour was begun in the early 1990's. The tour still runs today on Friday nights. One of the first reported ghost sightings in the house was by a workman who was along in a semi darkened room. He was installing a chandelier when he was confronted by a disembodied face at one of the windows, he looked in the window to the left of this one and saw the same face. The centre of all the ghostly activity seems to revolve around the Blue Room located at the top of the original wooden staircase. The Blue Room is a bedroom painted blue (of course) and every haunted house seems to have one, along with the standard blue lady . Of course the Blue Lady of Government House has been seen in and around the blue room. One answer to who the Blue Lady is could be a young girl named Mary Bligh. There is a small picture of her on the wall near the blue room. Staff have reported seeing her ghost walking the short hallway outside the Blue Room with her dog in her arms, just as depicted in the painting outside the room.
A guardian on duty in the old dining room met a ghostly servant girl called Mary Bligh standing by the dining table. The ghostly figure dressed in costume appeared quite content to chat. No one knows what the two said to each other the guardian is now deceased and can no longer tell the full story. One of the managers of Government House often heard voices coming from the old dining room. The voices always stopped as soon as she entered the room. On a ghost tour one night a group with a guide were gathered in a room when a wraith circled around the outside of the group and exited out the doorway into the long dark hallway. A guide was letting a couple out one of the back doors, as he was saying good bye he could see a ghostly figure of a man standing in the hallway just near him.
Government House is also the site of the first reported UFO sighting in Australia. In the early 1800 2s one of the workers was out in the field just near Old Government House he reported of seeing an ark in the sky. He said he was abducted by this ark taken up into it and later woke up back in the field. This was before planes were invented. Organised by the NSW National Trust , Ghost Tours run every Friday night between 8.00 pm to 10:30 pm. Bookings are essential (02) 9635-8149.
One of three bridges across the Parramatta River in Parramatta itself, it replaced the first bridge built over the Parramatta River. Designed in 1833 by David Lennox and completed in 1839, it is one of the oldest bridges in Australia. Lennox Bridge is a single sandstone arch spanning 91 feet (27.73m), the clear span of the arch being 23.16 m across the Parramatta River with approaches on the line of Church Street. In 1912, the parapet on the western side was removed to provide a cantilevered pedestrian way; this in turn was removed in 1934-5 with the further widening of the western side in concrete faced with sandstone.
The original balustrading was replaced with an open concrete type. It was named in 1876 in honour of its designer as it was the last bridge built by him in NSW. Lennox moved to Victoria where he supervised the construction of many bridges, including the original Princes Bridge in Melbourne.
Lancer Barracks (1818) is Australia's oldest continuously used military establishment. Built by Gov. Macquarie, two of the three original buildings remain - the two storey sandstone brick accommodation block which housed 100 British redcoats until they were recalled in the 1860s, and the single storey officers quarters;The other buildings on site chart the history of the Barracks since the formation of a troop of Lancers at the site by George Burns (founder of Burns Philp) in 1891 to the present day.
Linden House Museum displays artefacts, photographs and documents covering the history of the Royal New South Wales Lancers (from 1935), the Australian Light Horse and the Armoured Corps, including a collection of operational armoured vehicles. 2 Smith Street, Parramatta.
The museum documents the history of the Australian Light Horse and Armoured Corps, housed in the historic 1820 Lancer Barracks. The Commonwealth Heritage listed Lancer Barracks is mainland Australia s oldest military barracks. Experience Australia s oldest and most decorated surviving Regiment, both on the battlefield and in its ceremonial duties.
With a retired Lancer as your personal guide, the Museum of the 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers walks you through the Regiment s history on the battlefields of the Boer War, at Gallipoli, Beersheba and Jerusalem in WW1 and El Alamein and the jungles and beaches of New Guinea and Borneo in WW2. As the Vice-Regal escort from 1885 to 1948, you will follow the Mounted Escort to Queen Victoria s Diamond Jubilee procession in London in 1897, the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament in Australia and the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
See the development of uniforms, weapons, military communications and equipment from 1885 to the present day, from horses and lances to main battle tanks and armour piercing shells; hear the stories and live the lives of Lancers, through photographs, scrapbooks and diaries and see the world from the inside of an armoured fighting vehicle.
If you travel by car, there is onsite parking; by public transport we are across the road from Parramatta railway station and bus interchange and an easy walk from the river ferry terminal.
Australia's oldest surviving cemetery and the most intact Georgian cemetery in NSW. In use between 1789 and 1824, it contains the oldest known undisturbed grave in Australia, marked by a slab of river sandstone which bears the inscription: H.E. Dodd 1791. Henry Edward Dodd was Gov. Phillip s butler. He was buried there on 29th January 1791, a year after the opening of the cemetery. The gravestones of a number of other first fleeters are to be found in the cemetery including NSW s first Surveyor-General, German born Baron Augustus Alt; Surgeon John Harris; John Palmer (Purser of HMS Sirius). Also buried here are pioneer churchman Rev. Samuel Marsden; merchant Robert Campbell after whom Sydney s Campbells Cove is named; bridge builder David Lennox (no headstone remains); explorer and schoolmaster of the Government school, John Eyre; pioneer local settler Rowland Hassall; colonial doctor D Arcy Wentworth, the founder of Melbourne, William Batman.
Lesser known is convict Sarah Darke whose headstone remains to this day. Sarah was only 18 years of age when sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing 4 pairs of women s stays with another girl. She arrived in Sydney on the convict transporter Indispensable on 30th April 1796. Sarah married another convict, Andrew Snowden, in March 1812 at St Johns Church and lived happily with him until her death on 13th July1828.
Another 18th century convict buried here is Susannah Nairne, transported to NSW on Kitty in November 1792. She died in March, 1814, age 58. Andrew Snowden was sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing goods, and arrived in NSW aboard the Pitt in February 1792. He married Sarah Darke, a convict, on 21st March 1812 at St Johns Church. He was buried in St John s Cemetery in November 1833 but no headstone remains. Convicted of assault and theft, convict George Clarke arrived Royal Admiral in October 1792. He was sent to Toongabbie to work in the fields, removing stumps, clearing timber and planting crops. He enlisted as a volunteer with the NSW Corps. April 1800 and served as one of the eight personal body guards of Lachlan Macquarie. He died on 14th January 1811 and he was buried at St John s, but no headstone remains.
St Patrick s Cemetery, Cnr Church St and Pennant Hills Rd, Parramatta.
A little out of town, Parramatta Lake is a popular picnic, swimming and fishing hole with families and nature lovers in the area. The lake offers three well-signed walks, of varying length and difficulty, though none of the walks are very challenging. Dogs are welcome on a leash and there are picnic tables, bbqs and toilets near the main car park, where the lake s three walks start.
There remains evidence today of the regular usage and occupation by the aboriginal clan, Burramattagal within Lake Parramatta Reserve and Hunts Creek in the form of shelter caves, hand-stencils, stone flaking, tree scars and midden deposits. It s possible that other sites were inundated with the construction of the dam in the 1850 s. The dam across Hunts Creek, which created Lake Parramtta as a water supply for Parramatta, was completed in September 1856. The single arch design of this dam was only the second constructed in modern times and the twelfth since Roman times 100BC.
During the 1880 s depression unemployed labour was used to build a road network the remains of which can be seen on the western edge of the lake. Lake Parramatta remained the major water supply for the district until 1909 when the Nepean became the preferred water supply facility as it had much greater storage and supply capacity. Lake Parramatta remained a very popular swimming spot right through until the 1950 s; hundreds of locals used the reserve on hot days and until the 1930 s Australia s largest Freshwater Lifesaving Club oversaw the safety of swimmers. By the late 1970 s the water in Lake Parramatta had declined to such an extent that it was not suitable for swimming. Much work has been done in recent years to address this decline in water quality.
Duration of walk: 30 mins to 4 hours return. Distance: 1.5 - 4.2km. Grade: easy
Built in 1821, Brislington is the oldest house in the inner city of Parramatta. Now in the grounds of the Parramatta Hospital, it houses a Museum devoted to Sydney s medical and nursing history.
Cnr George & Marsden Streets, Parramatta. Open Sun. 10.00am - 4.00pm Entry fee applies.
Public transport: train to Parramatta, walk north along Church St, left into George St.
Parramatta Farmers Market
Church St Mall Parramatta
Trading: Every Thursday & Saturday 9am 2pm
Type: Farmers, Produce, Organic
Phone: (02) 9806 5050
air Friendly, Music, Food, Recycle
Phone: 0424 940 614
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A trip to Parramatta on the Rivercat make for an enjoyable leisurely day out. We recommend returning to the city by train, unless of course you d prefer a return journey on the ferry. The ferry leaves from Circular Quay; the station is on the Western Line.
Parramatta is taken from from an Aboriginal word meaning 'head of the river' or 'place where the eels lie down'. Most likely the name means 'place where the eels lie down' and refers to the head of the river, which is modern day Parramatta.