Rydalmere, NSW. The Female Orphan School Survives

Echoes of another time and place

Female Orphan School Parramatta, RG 2019.

How often have you driven over the Parramatta River on James Ruse Drive? If you are heading north you may catch a glimpse of the Female Orphan School which has stood there since it first opened in 1818. As it faces the river at the rear of Western Sydney University South Campus it is largely invisible today, but it is open to the public. Not surprisingly, James Ruse Drive was originally known as ‘Orphan School Lane’ when the river was the main thoroughfare.

Governor Phillip Gidley King was instrumental in having the Female Orphan School (FOS) moved from The Rocks area in Sydney to Parramatta, as it was thought the girls would be less exposed to the vagaries of the fledgling colony. His wife, Anna Josepha King was so intent on rescuing the ‘hordes of neglected children’ in Sydney that it was originally known as ‘Mrs King’s Orphanage’. At Parramatta, the land was originally a 60 acre grant to First Fleet surgeon, Thomas Arndell in 1792, which he called ‘Arthurs Hill’. Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone for the Female Orphan Asylum in September 1813, and the Rev. Samuel Marsden was the superintendent of works in 1814 according to the inscription on the facade’s third storey. It reads: Female Orphan Institution erected under the Superintendence of the Rev. S. Marsden 1814, L. Macquarie Governor. Similarly, the Macquarie’s took a great interest in the building of the new FOS with the Governor’s wife, Elizabeth being credited with adapting the design from her family home in Scotland and became its patroness.

FOS Inscription 1814, RG 2019.

Although Governor King died in 1808, his widow Anna King returned to Australia in 1832 and soon met with Elizabeth Macarthur of Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta. The two families were now related as Anna’s daughter Anna Maria King had married John Macarthur’s nephew Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur in 1812. They lived at nearby Subiaco, which was originally known as ‘The Vineyards’, and Anna lived with them until she died there in 1844. One of Anna’s grandsons, George Macarthur, was also the headmaster at the nearby Kings School from 1869 to 1886. Anna and the King family are buried at St Mary Magdalene Anglican Church at St Marys in Western Sydney, which was near their family property, Dunheved.  An 1822 map shows the proximity of Subiaco  to the FOS, which would have dominated the river and landscape of Parramatta. In 1816,  Governor Macquarie appointed three patronesses to the FOS, including Anna Maria King/Macarthur whose husband Hannibal was also appointed to the Committee of the Female Orphan Institution along with other respectable gentlemen, according to research by Bubacz. 

Map 1822 Roe, Parramatta River. NLA 232531806

One day, I hope to read the stories of Anna by Marnie Bassett in The Governor’s lady, Mrs. Philip Gidley King and Elizabeth Macarthur by Beverley Kingston or more recently, Michelle Scott Tucker which can be found on Trove.

The Reverend Samuel Marsden recognised the need for another church and cemetery on the north side of the river and donated land and money to build All Saints Church shortly before he died in 1838. From this time those who died at the FOS were buried there rather than at St Johns Cemetery, Parramatta. Interestingly, Marsden’s  daughter Martha Marsden/Betts and her husband Josiah Betts became the Master and Matron at the FOS after it became the Protestant Orphan in 1851 and Martha remained there as Matron until 1875. The State Library of NSW has an photo of Martha Marsden/Betts (1811-1894) outside the FOS building. Perhaps, the challenge now is to find the stories of those who lived and work there, especially as the children were from all walks of life and many were not actually orphans in this working convict colony.


Parramatta, NSW. Exploring Parramatta

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.

Photo Dig: Bowning, NSW

Moving Mountains

22A. Trove_NAA_1965_Transport at Bowning_Colour
Road Transport near Mt Bowning, 1965. National Archives of Australia 11962995

Recently, I visited Bowning where Mount Bowning is clearly visible on the Hume Highway just pass Yass, to conduct a building survey for my studies. This involved researching the history of Bowning and the surrounding area and focussing on a number of buildings in the village to determine their architectural style, history and age. In the process, I collected all the photographs I could find to show the evolution of the village, its buildings and people over time. The proprietors of the Rollonin’ Cafe, Bowning Hotel and Bowning Primary School were particularly helpful. A visit to the Yass District Historical Society, library and online searches such as Trove revealed a distinct lack of photographs of Bowning. So can you help?

Sometimes, a gem is found such as the recent photo by aussiemobs which was very useful to see which buildings were there in 1906, or the recent article in the Yass Tribune which showed most of the images held by the historical society. It is great when postcards and photographs can be used together to build up a view of the streetscape and the community over a period of time and are invaluable when it comes to documenting their stories. Unfortunately, there are not enough images of Bowning available to illustrate its history so if you are able to dig out some and happy to share your images or stories, it would be greatly appreciated if you made a comment or emailed them to us.

If you visit, some of the buildings include various hotels such as the Bowning Hotel or former Commercial Hotel and the former Rose, Thistle and Shamrock or Cobb & Co Inn, Mayfield House, Steer’s General Store, St James Anglican Church, St Columba’s Catholic Church, the Advance Hall, Bowning  Railway Station and a multitude of cottages together with the old garage, post office, police station and shops. It’s a pleasant outing with coffee or meals available at the hotel or cafes and just a few old photographs if you look closely.



Penrith, NSW. Nepean River & Pedestrian Bridge Update

Nepean River Walk, 6.4km Circuit


So many things have happened in Penrith during the last year. While development is still forging ahead, the Nepean River has benefitted greatly from the opening of a wide footpath and cycleway at Tench Reserve as well as the opening of the Nepean River Pedestrian Bridge, last October, near the railway bridge. It was quite miraculous to see the bridge gradually creeping out of the shed in which it was manufactured and cross the river.


Fortunately, we no longer need to walk or cycle across the original road bridge and have such wonderful views of the river. The Nepean river has always been a destination for serious rowers who regularly ply these waters and there is now a National Women’s Training Centre next to the rowing club, which opened in 2017 as well as the nearby Regatta Centre.

On the Emu Plains side of the river the path continues between the two bridges and Regatta Park is going to be upgraded soon with event areas, picnic spots and restaurants. Emu Hall Bar & Kitchen by the Pedestrian Bridge will also open sometime soon, and there is always the Lewers Gallery which has a cafe or the Arms of Australia Museum nearby.

The massive construction of a new boat ramp and trailer parking by the M4 Freeway Bridge which will also greatly increase the popularity and congestion in the area, although the new restaurants have a large carpark. Hopefully, we will also have provision for kayaks out of the way of the power boats. Meanwhile, the Nepean Belle paddle steamer continues to makes its way into the Blue Mountains National Park as far as Euroka Creek at various times during the week and on weekends.

While, the history of Penrith and the Nepean River is not particularly evident as yet, there is a rich history of the river and its people which I hope to explore in the near future. So, if you have any old photographs of the river and people that you would like to share please send them via the contact page. Finally, even though Glenbrook has a brand new Visitors Centre, Penrith still does not have any tourist information centre or a geographical or historical district map for visitors to the river……..yet.

Penrith, NSW. Signs of the Times

Do History and Heritage Still Matter?

Penrith is fortunate to have the Nepean River. Captain Watkin Tench was the first European to find and name the river, in 1798. Today, the river is the centre of many social and leisure activities which will greatly increase once the Nepean River Pedestrian Bridge is completed in 2018, although its history and heritage are much neglected. Penrith City Council is promoting growth and development in Penrith which will soon be a sea of high rise apartments. While there has been considerable work at Tench Reserve by the river to greatly improve the facilities of locals and visitors to the area there is still no Penrith Visitors Centre, just a website. If you visit the river, there is not even a map to help you explore either the river or its heritage. Instead there are only signs for new developments, such as those above, which are near a popular cafe, and include a map which highlights the current lack of visibility of the river as well as ignoring both its physical and historical significance. It is also incredible to believe that the Panthers Rugby League Club has put a proposal to Penrith City Council to build sixteen buildings which include 850 apartments, not far away.

Now, it would be great to have an artistic and informative map of the area which features the Nepean River and the various points of interest (besides businesses) for both visitors and locals whether picnickers, walkers, cyclists, kayakers or history enthusiasts. In fact, such a map could be a mural on the side of a building or amenity and become a feature of Tench Reserve and the area in its own right. While travelling to Kakadu in the Northern Territory I came across a terrific map at the Bark Hut Inn which was designed and printed by Sign City in Darwin that highlights the immediate locality but also extends into neighbouring tourism areas and shows the main routes. Surely, Penrith could do this and at least link to the Blue Mountains, Windsor and Richmond to make the most of both their separate and combined histories and geography, especially as the Greater Blue Mountains Drive which briefly includes Penrith Valley and features some historic sites, canoeing, picnics, the connection to the Lapstone Zig Zag and also has an interactive map.

Bark Hut Inn map

If you have any comments, maps or murals which may provide further inspiration, please let us know. You never know, it might just happen!

Trove Detective: Craig Baynes’ 1950 film ‘Undertow’

Have you visited the National Film & Sound Archive either online, or at their offices in Canberra or elsewhere? While investigating further research on the ballet dancer Queenie Royal, I came across an interesting article on her husband Craig Baynes, who was a film producer. This film review was intriguing and meant I had to visit the Sydney Office of of the National Film & Sound Archive, at Pyrmont. If you are interested in surf life saving or surfing history you might like to visit & view it at the NFSA in Canberra or elsewhere. It’s not digitised or online yet but there is some great vintage footage.


The review said: Craig Baynes, who produced the film, claims it is in the screen-dream class and is a new sort of documentary with an emotional instead of an intellectual appeal. His approach to the documentary film is as unorthodox as, say, a contemporary artist’s attitude to painting compared with that of a disciple of the old masters.

After viewing the film, I wondered about these comments as it seemed fairly typical of modern documentaries. However, the article also mentioned that Baynes had originally been a news reel camera man. As this was soon after World War Two this may explain the changes that we take for granted today.

Undertow focussed on Baynes’ impressions of Surf Life Saving Clubs in Sydney and Australia. The article said he had arrived here from England about 1948. The film was both informative, even technical, as well as descriptive and picturesque, and entertaining.

  1. What is an ‘undertow’ & why we need surf life savers & clubs.
  2. Detailed explanation of how life savers rescue ‘bathers’ in trouble with a tow rope followed by resuscitation. The life savers are skilled volunteers who have to train & even pay membership to save lives. The drilling is very militaristic but the reasons why are explained. It’s simply that marching is the easiest way to cross the sand, although you can’t help but be aware of the recent shadow of war. This footage is excellent from a historical perspective as it shows exactly what was done & how.
  3. An interlude which highlights the power and majesty of the sea, especially if people hadn’t swum before or visited the sea. There is both a narrator and a soundtrack which reflects the pace and mood of the images. Craig Baynes actually introduces the film himself and describes the surf and man as the principal characters in this film. The narration includes wonderful language such as ‘wind & wave combine in wild majestic fury’ or ‘when the irresistible force of the surf meets the immoveable mass of this rocky coastline, the sea has almost met its match’.
  4. Surf boats are described and their use is demonstrated both on land and in heavy seas which is an interesting comparison to modern day power boats. Here the viewer is drawn into both the drama of the surf lifesaver’s rescuing bather’s and even the battle against sharks which are supposedly chased away with harpoons! Defending the nation against sharks has strong military overtones as it talks about casualties, the front line of defence and the need for keeping a constant lookout & patrols. Once again, excellent historical footage.
  5. Even surf boards are featured to show the athleticism & lighter side of being a lifesaver. Another historical delight!
  6.  The competitive side of Surf Life Saving culture & the camaraderie between men (no women here). Their carnivals are competitive and tough but at the same time are likened to ‘all the fun of the fair’. Their motto of ‘Vigilence & Service’ is considered worthy of these noble life savers.
  7. Here are the credits:
    Cinematographer/Director of photography: Peter Dimond
    Director: Craig Baynes
    Music director: Leo White and His Orchestra (The Sydney Philharmonic Orchestra)
    Narrator: Bill Eldridge
    Producer: Craig Baynes
    Production company: Commonwealth Film Laboratories
  8. Sorry, no pictures from ‘Undertow’ as yet but I am checking out the copyright. I wonder what Baynes’ brief was from the Commonwealth Film Commission. If the film was shown at the Savoy Theatre in Sydney, has a poster survived somewhere?

Apparently, there was a ‘film making boom in Australia’ during 1950 and although, Craig Baynes also worked on a 1950 full length feature film about two boys with a prize bull at Sydney Show called “Bonza the Bull”, he is not yet listed on the NFSA’s heritage listing of people or titles at ASO-Australian Screen.  Perhaps, this may change in the future. The NFSA also have the script for Bonza but that’s all. Baynes also has a short film that I’m sure car enthusiasts will love to hear about in the future. Please let me know if you have any other information about Craig Baynes or any of his other films, as only a few seem to have survived.



Photo Detective: Patrick Pound Exhibition, NGV Melbourne

Winter is a great time to visit Melbourne. Recently, I travelled to  Melbourne for the Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria and was extremely pleased to find myself in the middle of the Festival of Photography. What particularly caught my attention was Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition at the NGV Australia in Federation Square, nearby. Patrick Pound is a collector not a photographer. This exhibition features a vast assortment of photographs which are organised according to themes. They were discarded or sold by their owners and have been reinvigorated and join this conglomeration of unwanted photographs to reveal many interesting aspects of our daily lives. Some feature celebrities but the majority are unknown. Great care and attention has gone into the selection, arrangement and presentation of these photographs which are also accompanied by artworks from the NGV’s Collection.

(Sorry, awaiting permission for photos)

This inspiring exhibition provides many intriguing ideas of how to display and organise your photographs, even those that would seem worthless with shadows, mishaps or missing parts or writing on the back.

At a recent NGV talk Patrick Pound said that “to collect is to gather your thoughts through things”. There was also an interesting exhibition in 2008 called Order and Disorder- Archives and Photography which sounds worth exploring if your interested. If you are in Melbourne, Patrick Pound’s exhibition is running to the 30 July 2017 and is well worth a visit, especially if you also get to visit the nearby Hopetoun tea rooms.

Photo Detective: Keepsakes or Clutter?

Preserving and Sharing Family Photographs

Now that winter is here, it’s an ideal time to think about that mysterious shoebox (or pile) of family photographs and documents that you’ve been wondering what to do with. Before you decide to declutter or downsize, please take the time to explore the contents of your shoebox to see what you actually have. There may be family photographs which bring back vivid memories or provide dates and details to enhance your family stories. Photo Detective will help you with ideas and guides for preserving and sharing your most precious photographs, but first you need to investigate what you have and consider what to keep, pass onto someone else, copy or discard. It’s your choice.

Shoebox full of photos and papers
A shoebox overflowing with family photos and documents*

When space is a premium we are forced to make some hard decisions. Best selling books on Decluttering like Nagisa Tatsumi’s The Art Of Discarding: How to Get Rid of Clutter and Find Joy or Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing have sold millions of copies but consider what your collection means to you and your family before you permanently rearrange or remove anything. Marie Kondo does recommend doing something with your old photographs NOW so they can be shared and enjoyed, sooner rather than later (or never). However, I would not follow Kondo’s suggestion to separate photographs from their albums or context, for now, as you may lose some valuable information or the ‘feel’ of an album or collection as the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. Why not search for clues and consider these questions first.

Step 1: What’s In The Box?

Where did the shoebox come from?

Do the photographs and papers seem to be from the same or different times?

Are there any labels or notes?

Is it the same or different people and places?

Is there any obvious themes, order or dates?

Are there postcards or letters with dates, names and addresses?

Do you know who, when or where any of them are?

Is there any kind of obvious order?

Who else might know something?

Take the time to think about things before you make any irreversible decisions.

When Clutter is Good News

 It’s incredible what people throw away. Unfortunately, photographs are often discarded after a death in the family and are lost forever, but not always. Here is a marvellous newspaper article about an English garbage worker who rescued 5000 World War One photographs  and other paraphernalia from the garbage over 36 years, mostly after the veterans had died. Similarly, a treasure trove of 3000 World War One photographs were found in an old farmhouse in France, in 2010, and these are now part of the Australian War Memorial’s Thuillier’s Collection. Finally, there is the recent exhibition of the ‘Lost Photographs of Marilyn Monroe’ which were found in a forgotten shoebox.

We might not be famous but our photographs and memories are still priceless. If you have any other marvellous stories of unearthing photographic treasures please leave a comment and share your story or pictures with us.

*Also, while the photo above is from the State Library of Western Australia‘s website they are unable to trace any copyright owner. If you recognise the photo or have any knowledge of its copyright, please contact me so any necessary changes can be made.

ADB: Australia’s First Three Fleets 1787-1791

While having a quite coffee at the National Library of Australia cafe I came across an article in their June 2016 magazine on the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB). My blog on Parramatta Cemetery contained information on first fleeters buried there, some have headstones but most don’t so it was exciting to discover that the ADB is going to ‘trace the fates of all the people -convicts, crew, naval officers -who set off from England in the first three fleets to New South Wales in 1787-1901’. They also intend to include their children and grandchildren who were born or settled here, will map their movements and use Trove for information from Australian newspapers.

The Borrowdale c. 1786, Francis Holman ANMM9033
  • Here are some links to ADB for St John’s list of 17 first fleeters with headstones. Let me know if you find that the others have been updated or have some information on them.
    Augustus Theodore Alt  (1731–1815)
    Frances Hannah Clements (alias Dalton)
    Henry Edward Dodd(?-1791)
    Mary Kelly
    Thomas Eccles
    Edward Ellett
    Thomas Freeman
    Deborah Herbert
    John Herbert
    Hugh Hughes
    David Killpack
    Isaac Knight
    John Martin
    Jane McManus
    Christopher Palmer
    John Palmer (1760–1833)
  • and James Wright

In the meantime do a simple search of the ADB in case they have someone your interested in. In the advanced of faceted search you can search for people with by:

  • birth town, birth state or birth country
  • Death town, state or country
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • occupations
  • religion

I simply searched for Bowning and found two entries. Check the links if you want more detail but here are the summaries .

Fred March (1891–1977)

March, Frederick Hamilton (Fred) (1891–1977)

Birth: 6 August 1891 Bowning, New South Wales, Australia

Death: 30 October 1977 Khartoum, Sudan

Occupation: adventurer (general), heroic civilian, road contractor, soldier


Oberg, David Olof August (1893–1975)

Birth: 24 September 1893 Coolamon, New South Wales,

Death:15 February 1975 Bowning, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage: Swedish

Occupation: company manager,employers’ organiser, government adviser, timber merchant

Spring Clean Up: Photo Rescue



Welcome to September and the first week of Spring. Where do we start our Spring Clean up? What about your family photos? Are they languishing in a box unloved and unsorted like this? Their prospects look grim unless they are sorted and labelled or passed onto new owners, family, friends, local libraries or family history societies. Someone was cleaning up and found some wonderful old photos of Adelaide in the 1920’s as this ABC article shows. I love to see them scanned and recycled into photo books or slideshows that can be shared with all & sundry.

I’m working on my next series of workshops, consultations and get togethers and would appreciate your input on what you would like or need help with in regard to your family history and photos. If you would like to contact me and share your thoughts that would be great. In the meantime, spring cleaning is a good start!