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.

Thursday 24 April 2014

Parramatta’s Memorial to Their World War One Soldiers – The Prince Alfred Park Memorial

Prince Alfred Park Soldiers' Memorial, Parramatta.
Photo - Peter Arfanis

Following the end of the Great War thousands of memorials were erected in suburbs and country towns across Australia. The world had witnessed death and destruction on a scale never before seen with many Australian families affected by a tragedy, loss, or wounding of a family member. In response communities and government rallied to create memorials to act as focal point for remembering the sacrifices made and to display pride in the soldiers lost in war.

Thursday 10 April 2014

World War One - New South Wales Lancers and the 1 Light Horse Regiment 1914 - 1915

Men of the 1 Light Horse Brigade before departure from Australia, Official History of Australia and the War,  Vol. 12, Charles Bean, plate 42

The New South Wales Lancers went under a number of different names before the outbreak of World War One and because some of these names are easily confused with the names of other Regiments I thought it would be good to clarify a little of this history before telling their story.

The first points to note are: 

  • The New South Wales (NSW) Lancers Regiment was formed in 1885 as the NSW Cavalry Reserves in 1885 with each group having its own territorial title.
  • In 1889 it became known as the New South Wales Cavalry regiment and in 1908 was renamed the 1 Australian Light Horse Regiment.
  • Finally in 1912 only two years before the war its name was changed again to the 7 Light Horse Brigade (NSW Lancers)

At the declaration of war in August 1914 there was a general call for volunteers to join an expeditionary force officially called the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). This force, once raised, was a completely separate force from the existing Australian Military Force (AMF). The AIF was disbanded at the end of the war.

In 1914 the 7 Light Horse was part of the AMF and was made up of three squadrons these were
  • Sydney A squadron
  • Parramatta B Squadron
  • Windsor Penrith and Luddenham C Squadron

Over the course of the war most of the AMF units, including the NSW Lancers, remained unchanged in organisation and designation but the AIF drained from them those men who volunteered and were fit for war. However a number of experienced veterans remained in the Lancers, while others were taken into the AIF as instructors. Those veterans who remained in Sydney and Parramatta squadrons patrolled coast from Manly to Pittwater and in 1916 sub units were sent to guard the Prospect water supply.


1 Light Horse Regiment of the AIF formed at Roseberry Park, Sydney In 1914 and was made up from active NSW men in militia regiments and men from country districts who could ride a horse. Major George Macarthur-Onslow was appointed to command but after he fell ill with appendicitis, 28 August 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel J B Meredith (Hunter River Lancers) assumed command of the force.

  • A Squadron under Major’s Reid and Lawry the commanding officers from New England Light Horse and Hunter River Lancers
  • B Squadron under Major’s Irwin and Cox the commanding officers from Australian Horse and NSW Lancers
  • C Squadron under Major Ganville, commanding officer from Hunter River Lancers and NSW Mounted Rifles

On the 20 October 1914 the 1 Light Horse Regiment as part of the 1 Light Horse Brigade left Sydney on ‘Star of Victoria.’ However some of the men including it seems Major Cox remained behind as reinforcements and they were drafted into the 6 Regiment of the 2 Light Horse Brigade. This was raised in September and sailed from Sydney 24 December 1914. However both brigades served as infantry at Gallipoli from May 1915 till the withdrawal in December 1915.
On 12 May 1915 the 1 Light Horse Brigade landed at Gallipoli some 200 yards from Fisherman’s Hut, south of Pope’s Hill. The next day the 1 Light Horse Regiment took over front line tranches at Pope’s Hill with 2 Light Horse Regiment. In late May the 2 Light Horse Brigade landed Gallipoli attached to the 1st Australian Division. Charles Frederick Cox and the 6 Light Horse Regiment became responsible for a sector on the far right of the ANZAC line, and played a defensive role until it left the peninsula on 20 December 1915.

Landing at ANZAC Cove, Trenching at Gallipoli, Gallishaw, 1915

On 7 August the 1 Light Horse were ordered to attack at the same time as the soldiers at Walker's and Quinn’s Post at the Chessboard. As a result 15 were killed, 98 wounded and 34 listed as missing. The Casualties included all the officers of B squadron, Major Reid and Lieutenant Nettleton's bodies were not recovered. William Cox (Charles' brother) and Lieutenant Tinson died a day later from their wounds.

On 20 December the 1 Light Horse Regiment were evacuated from Gallipoli.

[Note: from August 3 2014 through to November 11 2018 the research team at the Heritage Centre will be rolling out 100s of posts on its Parramatta and World War One Blog. Each post will focus on a specific event or story relating to Parramatta's soldiers, nurses or local community]

Geoff Barker, Research and Collection Services Coordinator, Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2014

Friday 4 April 2014

John Nobbs - A Granville Pioneer and Soccer Enthusiast

John Nobbs.
Engraving that appeared in the Town and Country Journal March 24,1888

John Nobbs is considered by many a pioneer of Granville. In the early days he was seen as the leading spirit of the district, his heart and faith was in Granville which he believed was the centre of the district. He threw himself into developing Granville to be an industrial powerhouse of Sydney, ensuring the district had the services and employment opportunities required for its population.

Monday 31 March 2014

Parramatta Gasworks and the Australian Gas Light Company

Parramatta Gasworks

The Australian Gas Light Company was established by private interests in New South Wales on 7 September 1837 to light the streets of Sydney with coal gas.  This is Australia’s second oldest company to be listed on Australian Stock Exchange. Australian Gas Light Company has expanded businesses in all Australian states, as well as in Chile, China and Poland. The lights were turned on in 24 May 1841 to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria. Within next two years there were 165 gas lamps in the city - 14 Government lights, 11 Corporation lamps, 106 Publicans’ lights, and 34 Private lamps.

Friday 21 March 2014

Boer War Memorial, Parramatta Park, 1904, by W. Hanson

Soldiers' Memorial, Parramatta Park, photographer unknown, 1904-1950, Parramatta Heritage Centre, LSOP00438

The Memorial to Parramatta’s involvement in the South African Boer War was unveiled 30 April 1904, by the Colonel James Burns, and Alderman William Noller along with J. Arundel and Walter Gates. 

Present at the ceremonies were Colonel Cox, who would ten years later garner even more fame in Palestine during World War One, Major Hiillard of the Lancer Regiment, Captain’s Mackenzie, Guyot and Dr. G. E. Rundle (father of the late Captain W. J. S. Rundle, of King’s School. Also there was the Honorable Joseph Cook and between four and five hundred public school cadets under Major Dove.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Annual Meeting of the Aborigines at Parramatta

Earle, Augustus, 1793-1838.
The annual meeting of the Aboriginal tribes at Parramatta, New South Wales, the Governor meeting them [picture]
[1826?] 1 watercolour ; 17.1 x 26 cm. (National Library of Australia)

On the 28 December 1814 Governor Macquarie organised a meeting with local tribes at Parramatta to discuss the enrollment of children in a newly formed "Asylum for Native Children". At one o'clock Macquarie and his wife, accompanied by a number of civil and military officers, arrived at the market place adjacent to St John's Cathedral. After talking for an hour to overcome the suspicions of the local aborigines three children were finally yielded up to the project and a meal of roast beef and ale was provided to those in attendance.   

Friday 28 February 2014

Wine, Tabacco, and Maize, 1791, Schaeffer's Farm, Parramatta

A later view of the original site of Schaeffer's farm showing 'Subiaco'

December 7, 1791, ... Went to Schaeffer’s farm. [see history of this site] I found him at home, conversed with him, and walked with him over all his cultivated ground. He had one hundred and forty acres granted to him, fourteen of which are in cultivation, twelve in maize, one in wheat, and one in vines and tobacco. He has besides twenty-three acres, on which the trees are cut down, but not burnt off the land. He resigned his appointment, and began his farm last May; and had at first five convicts to assist him: he has now four. All his maize, except 3 acres, is mean.

Monday 24 February 2014

Old Church Street, Parramatta (Part 3), by James Jervis, Parramatta Historical Society.

Old Church Street Parramatta, from early etching
… a continuation from Part 2

The section at the south-eastern corner of Church and Phillip Streets was granted to Captain Phillip P. King on June 30, 1823. A substantial cottage stood on this site hence the issue of a grant. On July 31, 1823 this building was advertised as to let. It was then said to be occupied by the Rev Thomas Hassall, son of Rowland Hassall. The property was advertised as for sale in the "Herald" of March 15, 1838, and it was then occupied by Dr. Bute Stewart, a well-known medical man of early Parramatta.

Monday 17 February 2014

Old Church Street, Parramatta (Part 2), by James Jervis, Parramatta Historical Society

Sketch of courthouse and St Andrew's Church, west side Church Street, Parramatta Heritage Centre, LS00164
… a continuation from Part 1

Between George and Macquarie Streets stood the old Court House, the old building used as a school by John Tull, and at the Macquarie Street corner the house in which the Rev. S. Marsden lived, and later the school of John Eyre. Across the road was the land now occupied as a park, then came the church.

At the north-western corner of Church and Argyle Streets Hughes had a lease in 1823. The railway line is built over a portion of this land. In 1830, one, Hugh Hughes, had an inn known as "The Golden Lion”, which doubtless stood on this site, as the land was granted to the, individual mentioned. 

Thursday 13 February 2014

Old Church Street Parramatta, (Part 1), by James Jervis, Parramatta Historical Society

Old Church Street Parramatta, from early etching

Let us walk, in imagination, along Church Street in it’s early convict period. Reference has already been made to the huts erected for the women and for married convicts. They probably lay between George Street and the river. Between George and Macquarie Streets, on the eastern side, stood a number of buildings owned by the Crown. Near the George Street corner there was a barrack, erected either by Governor Phillip or Governor Hunter, which was demolished in 1818. On the southern side of this building the barrack of the Superintendent of Stock stood, but it also was demolished prior to 1823.

Friday 7 February 2014

Ghostly Tales of Parramatta

Murray Brothers store windows, George Street, about 1930
Parramatta Heritage Centre Collections, LSOP 572

Come on, ye lads and lasses;
Come on ye civic host,
Let's form ourselves in masses
And lay low Murray's Ghost,
Let's catch this weird specter,
With hideous grin and yawn,
That no longer he may hector
In the midnight and the dawn.

Monday 3 February 2014

John Irving - Australia's first emancipated convict

Parramatta River looking towards the land once owned by John Irving, photo Neil McGrath, c.2005

John Irving was Australia’s first emancipated convict who made his home in Parramatta.  He was born in 1760 and arrived in Australia on the 26th January 1788, on the convict ship Lady Penrhyn.  He was convicted of larceny at Lincoln, England in 1784 and sentenced to transportation for seven years.  Apparently, Irving had medical training and the literature indicates that he had been recommended to assist the surgeons on his voyage to Australia.  This seems to be supported by the fact that he was employed immediately upon his arrival to assist the hospital surgeon at Port Jackson.  On 28th February 1790, Governor Arthur Phillip appointed him Assistant Surgeon on Norfolk Island.  The remainder of his sentence was remitted resulting in John Irving being the first convict to be emancipated.

In 1791, Irving was posted to Parramatta where he assisted the surgeon Thomas Arndell.  On 22nd February 1792, he was granted thirty acres of land on the north side of the Parramatta River.  During this time, while assisting Surgeon Arndell, he was involved in the building of the new brick hospital. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014

The Parramatta Volunteer Fire Brigade

Parramatta Volunteer Fire Brigade, 1871, mla5743165h3

The Parramatta Volunteer Fire (PVF) Brigade was formed in 1859 at the instigation of Mr. Menser, who went on to become its first Treasurer. The Empire from November 1860 contained the following article on the PVF’s formation by a Mr. Shackles … it will be remembered that on the 17th October, I859, some fourteen or fifteen gentlemen met together at the Union. Inn kept at that time by Mr Nathaniel Payne for the purpose of taking the necessary steps for forming themselves into a volunteer fire company, for the protection of life and property in this town.

Thursday 16 January 2014

The Rivoli. Parramatta's Bygone Entertainment Venue

Advertisement for Skating at the Rivoli. The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 7 April 1930 p. 4.

The nondescript, bureaucratic facade of the fourteen storey office block located at 130-134 Church Street, near the old Parramatta Fire Station, betrays the site of what was once a lively social hub for residents of the Parramatta district. Prior to the erection of the multi floored building in 1973 there stood on the same site the Rivoli Dance Hall. The “Riv” through its life attracted large crowds as a major entertainment venue. At various times it operated as an open air picture theatre, cinema, skating rink, boxing and wrestling stadium, dance hall, and markets.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Frederick William Birmingham

Frederick William Birmingham was born in the Irish town of Westport, County Mayo. Frederick’s father was a civil engineer named William Birmingham (1791-1848) who probably helped him get his first job, aged 17, assisting with a major project to survey the West of Ireland. He then spent the next eight years surveying Ireland and England before moving to New York.

Friday 3 January 2014

Lennox Bridge, Parramatta, 1836-1839

Lennox Bridge, looking south down Church Street,
Parramatta Council Heritage Centre Collection

David Lennox was born in Ayr, Scotland, and was trained as a stonemason. He was experienced in bridge 
building under the famous engineer Thomas Telford having worked on a stone bridge across the Severn in 
Gloucester and the Menai suspension bridge in north-west Wales. After the death of his wife, he sought 
employment in the colony arriving as an unassisted migrant in 1832. His talents were soon recognised and he 
was appointed as Superintendent of Bridges; became the first skilled bridge builder on the mainland. Any 
doubts about his ability were dispelled after his design and construction of a horseshoe shaped bridge at 
Lapstone (1833) and the 110 feet clear span bridge at Lansdowne over Prospect Creek (1834-1836).[55]

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Parramatta High School celebrates 100 years!

Parramatta High School c1910 - 1930
Before the year draws to a close, we should wish Parramatta High School happy 100th birthday!  This historic school began its life in 1913 and has been an important educator of the young adults of Parramatta ever since.  On 28 January 1913, the school opened in temporary accommodation at Macquarie and Jubilee halls where five classes were held, each separated only by calico curtains. Student fashion was quite formal with men wearing suits and hats, and women wearing long skirts.