Treasuring the Old Amongst the New
Parramatta has always been an interesting and historical place. Even though the skyscrapers are now overwhelming, there are still plenty of historical gems hidden away, including Experiment Farm Cottage, Hambledon Cottage, Elizabeth Farm at Harris Park as well as the National Trust’s Old Government House in Parramatta Park, which make an excellent walk and excuse for lunch. Nowadays, we can hardly recognise Parramatta from the bird’s eye view map above from the Illustrated Sydney News in 1877. The Parramatta River was the main focus and the Female Orphan School is in the foreground. It was built under the supervision of the Rev. Samuel Marsden from 1813 and was recently restored as part of Western Sydney University Parramatta South campus. Here’s a map to help you explore Parramatta which shows the historical buildings and landmarks.
By the river in Church Street is the Parramatta Heritage Centre which offers a variety of heritage walking tours in the area, which are both informative and fun. In August, the Science of Archaeology Tour I joined was exceptional and included a walk and talks by a variety of archaeologists who had actually worked on the sites in Parramatta. Having had a long association with the area, I was surprised to hear of the Phillip Ruddock Heritage Centre which opened in December 2017. Somehow, I had missed it! It was fascinating to walk through and hear about the archaeology and history of this piece of early European Parramatta with artefacts from a convict hut; bakery and wheelwright’s shop; the cellar of the Wheatsheaf Hotel built in c.1801; a colonial cottage and well, all as they were found. It is now a feature of the new hotel which occupies the site on the corner at 45 Macquarie Street and best of all its free! Here is more information and a self-guided Parramatta CBD archaeology tour.
At the Heritage Centre there is also an archaeology display to visit and their website has information on local sites as well as details of their current 3D scanning project which includes objects such as shoes, pottery, medals and furniture together with their research library, archives and online photograph collection. So, if you have relatives from the Parramatta area, it’s definitely worth checking it out to see what you might find.