Monday 16 June 2014

Parramatta Post Office - a history

The Joint Stock Bank and Post Office in Church Street, Parramatta, circa 1930

The first post office was opened in Australia in April 1809 but it took nearly twenty years before the first post office was built in Parramatta, in 1828.

The first post master in Parramatta was James Orr, who carried out his business from a hole in the wall at the back of the Court House.  Orr also hired a postie to deliver letters around Parramatta, and postage was paid at the time of delivery.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

The Anderson Fountain, Parramatta - A Surgeon's Gift

The Anderson Fountain, photo Peter Arfanis

Many who have seen the Anderson Fountain, located at the north west corner of Prince Alfred Park, could be forgiven for thinking the fountain was constructed on that spot in 1882. In fact the Anderson Fountain was originally located on the site of Centennial Fountain in Parramatta Mall, near the old Town Hall.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

The Demolition of the David Jones Building, Parramatta. Time Lapse Video

In August 2013 work began on the demolition of the David Jones building in Parramatta. The building was located on the south eastern end of the Lennox Bridge, Church Street, Parramatta. With the office of the Parramatta Heritage and Visitors Information Centre located directly across from the David Jones building we thought it was an ideal opportunity to record the demolition using time lapse video. We purchased a GoPro camera and set it to take a photograph every 1 minute for a few hours each day.

The images used to create this video were recorded between August 2013 and January 2014. The video above is a shortened 4 minute version. 

This is a high definition video so it is best viewed on a full screen.

For further information regarding the history of David Jones Building visit our blog post.

 Peter Arfanis, Archivist, Parramatta Council, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2014

Monday 19 May 2014


The three storey Church Street Murray Bros building that soared above surrounding businesses

In 1889, five years after the brothers' amalgamation, a towering new edifice arose, at a cost of 10,000 pounds, on the site of the Murray Bros store, signalling the arrival of the town's first shopping emporium.  A range of household items were sold including furniture and furnishings, crockery, pianos, organs, clothes and jams. In the 1890s Murray Brothers received a Certificate of Merit for colonial made furniture from the Royal Agriculture Society.

During 1903 Murray Brothers was divided into two companies, Murray Bros Ltd. and Murray's Limited, maintaining separate but adjacent businesses.  Drapery and furniture was under the control of Murray Brothers and the hardware section under the control of Murray's Limited.  W. R. Murray became sole proprietor of Murray Bros.  The plumbing section was taken over by T. H. Harvey and E. N. Murray and became Harvey and Sons Pty. Ltd.

The Murray's Ltd store next to the Town Hall, erected in 1926
In 1923 fire guttered the furniture factory at the rear of the Church Street store damaging stores of furniture and expensive cabinet making machinery. The damage bill ran into many thousands of pounds.

Two new stores were built in 1926. A Murray Bros store was built on the north west corner of Church and Macquarie Streets on the former site of the National School.  A Murray's Ltd store, which sold hardware, was constructed on the northern side of the Town Hall facing Macquarie Street. All three buildings still stand to this day. 

During the Second World War Murray Brothers donated 1000 pounds to the war effort. 

The Murray Bros store built in 1926, corner of Church and Macquarie Streets

In 1947, Murray Brothers manufactured their last consignment of Blind and Curtain.  Also that year the business was purchased by Burns Philp and Co. Ltd.

Murray Brothers in August 1958 expanded at the rear of their store, constructing a four storey building with a Marsden Street frontage.  

Murray Brothers purchased the land the Murray Bros store was erected on from the Church of England for 250,000 pounds in May 1954.  The store was built on the site while the land was still under the lease from the Church.

Murray Bros were a regular participant in Foundation Week parades

Murray Brothers became Parramatta’s oldest and highly respected departmental store with a policy of supplying the needs of residents in and around Parramatta. In 1978, Murray Brothers closed their doors, after 102 years of trading in Parramatta.  

  • T Kass, C Liston and John McClymont, Parramatta: A Past Revealed, Parramatta City Council, Parramatta, 1996
  • Murray Brothers, Vertical File, Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre
  • Photos from , Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, Parramatta Council Heritage Centre, 2014

Wednesday 14 May 2014

The Parramatta River 1848 to 1861 - Personal Observations by W S Campbell

Parramatta Riverboat, looking towards Queen's wharf

In 1919 W. S. Campbell, a Parramatta resident for many years, gave a wonderful talk to the Royal Australian Historical Society recounting his early memories of life on the Parramatta River in the mid-1800s. The account begins with his first trip up the river in early 1848 with his father Dr. F. Campbell who at this time was in charge of the Lunatic Asylum at 'Tarban Creek', a small community made up of a few houses scattered around the asylum. Most of these were occupied by officials and the little hamlet close to Parramatta contained no more than 20 houses.

Sunday 11 May 2014


J.H. Murray came to Australia in 1856 and ten years later was teaching at the National School in Parramatta.  On 29th April 1876, his son E. N. Murray, opened a small hardware business in Church Street Parramatta. In 1877 his brother William Richard acquired Charles Tuke’s general store next door.  In this store you could buy ... Pianofortes and American Organs on easy terms and sewing machines on time payment, no interest

Wednesday 30 April 2014

World War One - Red Cross Society, Parramatta Branch

Joseph and Mary Cook at a stone laying ceremony commemorating the 125th anniversary of Government House in Parramatta, Nov 1913.  Source: National Archives of Australia

The Australian Red Cross was established in 1914 by Lady Helen Munro Ferguson when she formed a branch of the British Red Cross.  The Parramatta branch was formed in early 1915 when a meeting was called in the local newspaper.

Source: The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 6 February 1915, page 12

Many prominent people were involved in organising assistance for the war effort.  Mary Cook, wife of Joseph Cook (Prime Minister 1913-1914 and Leader of the Opposition 1914-1917)  was very active in the Red Cross and in Cook’s electorate of Parramatta.  She was elected President of the Parramatta Red Cross at the inaugral meeting, and continued to be active throughout the war and afterwards.