This post is from our friend, Geraldine Mills from Australia. Enjoy!
Over 20 kilometers from Sydney CBD, there’s a second thriving buoyant district – Parramatta. The name ‘Parramatta’ (Burramatta in the language of the native Darug people) itself means “the place where the eels lie down.” and refers to the eels which flock to the intersection of the Parramatta River and Port Jackson. Parramatta was settled at the same time as Sydney, so it has a rich and colorful history on its own. It is a vibrant peaceful place that boasts rich spots of arts, leisure, and entertainment. It is home to a fascinating collection of colonial heritage sites in both city center and surrounding areas.
Before moving in to Parramatta, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Parramatta Accommodation. Their front desk helped me through this heritage tour and I must say, it was absolutely fantastic! It’s always the locals’ recommendations that work best in these times. After two years, I moved in to Parramatta!
Parramatta’s rich collection of heritage sites tells the stories of its struggle and survival. These sites in Parramatta have been retained as museums, churches, protected parkland and monuments and many are now open to visitors. Visiting these places will do good for your head and soul, so you can start brushing up again on your knowledge of history, culture and arts while enjoying its phlegmatic atmosphere.
Here are the 5 famous heritage sites in Parramatta you can visit from my heritage tour:
- St. John’ Cathedral
St John’s Cathedral is of Parramatta’s significance as the oldest church site and continuous place of Christian worship in Australia. This site located just a few minutes from the train station is a significant component of the evidence of the early township of Parramatta. The foundation stone of the first specifically designed church is thought to have been laid by Governor Hunter in 1799 and opened by Reverend Samuel Marsden in April 1803. From then, with the church’s growing congregation, the cathedral had undergone significant renovations and reconstructions.
The Cathedral is open each weekday with guides on duty between 10am and 2pm. Guided tours can be arranged for tour and school groups. Services are held in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Farsi. Listen in by tuning to 103.2 FM at 7pm on Sunday.
- The Dairy Cottage
Located in Parramatta Park in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta. Built in 1798, it is one of the earliest residences in Australia and the only 18th Century convict-built cottage from materials that can be found in the surrounding environment. The Dairy Cottage history encompasses three distinct phases: first, as the residence of a Second Fleet convict who established the property into a thriving farm; second, as a dairy which supplied milk products to the Governor’s household and surrounding population; and third, as a ranger’s cottage. The cottage today is an insight into the history of not only Parramatta but of Sydney, functioning first as a home for Salter and later as a dairy processing room when the area was taken over by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
- Elizabeth Farm
Begun in 1793, Elizabeth Farm holds the oldest surviving European building in Australia. This farm has witnessed major events in the growth of the colony, from the falling of governors, and convict revolt to the birth of the Australian wool industry. The farm was originally built for the young military couple John and Elizabeth Macarthur and their growing family. The house is one of the most reminiscent houses relating to the earliest period of Australian European history and is one of the most aesthetically pleasing of colonial bungalows.
You can enjoy a guided tour in the farm or you may wander at your own pace. The farm allows visitors to experience life in the early 1800s through open rooms and ‘hands on’ experiences. It is open every Friday to Sunday at 9.30am – 4pm. Daily in January, NSW school holidays and public holidays.
- The Female Factory
Photo taken from arc.parracity.nsw.gov.au
The Parramatta Female Factory is the largest and oldest surviving convict women’s site in Australia. The Female Factory housed convict women waiting for assignment, their children, re-offenders, emancipated women, or others requiring maternity, medical care, destitute invalid emigrant women, staff and administrators. This was the second Female Factory established at Parramatta and it is located approximately three kilometers north of the Parramatta CBD on 56 acres (approximately 23 hectares) of land. The factory’s surviving buildings are found off Greenup Drive and Fleet Street, North Parramatta, just five minutes walking distance from Parramatta Gaol with which it shares a long history. In 1850 the old ‘female factory’ officially became the ‘Parramatta Lunatic Asylum.’ The site is now currently used by Cumberland Hospital and is managed by the Western Sydney Local Area Network. The site has evolved over time, with some buildings demolished with little remaining of the original Factory.
You’re free to wander around the site and imagine the grim life of the hundreds of women who lived here. Check out the self-guided map on their website.
- Old Government House
Located in 200 acres of the parkland overlooking historic Parramatta is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and the Australia’s oldest surviving public building – the Old Government House. It was the residence and offices of 12 prominent governors of New South Wales, from 1788-1856. Today it houses the nation’s premier colonial furniture collection amongst parkland and other heritage sites.
Old Government House is open for guided tours, Tuesday to Sunday and most public holidays, 10am-4.30pm. The house is open for group bookings only on Mondays.
If you want to experience a glimpse of history at your fingertips, Parramatta is the place to be. With major heritage sites and attractions, you’re unlikely to have to leave Parramatta in your bucket list at all.