|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Parramatta, Past and Present|
Visions of the day departed, shadowy phantoms filled my
They who lived in history only, seemed to walk the earth
PEN and picture are to be employed in
the preparation of these papers on Parramatta. What a peculiarly al- literative particle the letter 'P ' is! No wonder that the poet had pre- sented to his mind that perplexing jingle of 'Peter Piper,' for even in the production of a suitable title for this series the persistent 'P ' presents itself with a pertinacity that persuaded us to utilise 'apt alliteration's
artful aid.' A Painter's Pallette on the Parramatta River,' ' Parramatta Pourtrayed with Pen and Pencil,' 'Parramatta, Past and Present,' were among the headings suggest- ing themselves, and of the last of these we made adoption as of a title sufficiently sug- gestive of our purpose. A poet who wrote wisely of old propounded the query, 'What's in a name ?' The biographer of another author eminent in touching the heart-chords of humanity (Charles Dickens) says that the latter often cast and re-cast the names of his dramatis personae - names so indica- tive of their character and disposition - and that, as to the titles of his stories, this was generally a matter for the most profound and protracted consideration with him.
We, in our humbler sphere, have sought to head these pages recording our peregrina- tions along the dusty pathways of the past with a title pithy, plain, and practical.
Having said so much by way of preface, we have pleasure in proposing to you a pilgrimage to Parramatta, more especially the Parramatta of the past. To this end we invite you to etherealise yourselves, and thus, with imagination unencumbered, get back one, two, ay! three, generations in Aus- tralian history; for the pen and pencil sketches we have to present to you are of real historical places and personages. Some of the people who helped to 'make ' early Australian history dwelt on the Parramatta Road, in the old town itself, or in its vicinity - and remember that Parramatta is an old town, - that is, so far as the idea of antiquity
can be associated with our colonisation of this 'new Britannia in another world.'
The settlement of Parramatta is almost
coeval with the foundation of Sydney, the latter only pre-dating the former by a very
The first question that naturally arises is how is our pilgrimage to be made? In order to reach this 'quaint old town of toil and traffic,' are we to journey by land or voyage by water? Well, a curious old chronicler of seventy odd years ago gives us the hint as to what our course should be. Listen to his advice:- ' After the novelty of Sydney is nigh worn off, the first country jaunt you naturally incline to take is to- wards Parramatta, situated at the head of boat-navigation and tide-flow, whither two coaches, a caravan, and two passage-boats daily proceed; thus affording the choice of either a land or a water trip. You will, perhaps, enjoy your excursion most by going one way and returning the other.'
We think so, too; for if we wish to see all that can be seen, and to know all that can be known, this is the only mode by which our desires can be compassed. But we shall not travel in the old stage-coach, or rumble along in the ancient caravan; their progress will be all too fast to suit the object we have in view. We shall have to halt, to examine and ponder over the picturesque pages of the past; and to that end we must go afoot. It will only be a tramp of some fifteen or sixteen miles, and I warrant we shall not find the walk uninteresting.
Neither shall we complain that the Parra- matta Road is a hard road to trave ; albeit the roads three-quarters of a century ago were not such well-formed drives as they are to-day, yet almost a century ago they were good enough to grumble at. The aspect of a thing is always qualified by 'the way we look at it.' More than eighty years ago a foreign visitor to the colony gave this word of praise to the road we are going to trave : "A high road leads from Sydney town to Parramatta; without being paved, it is handsome and well kept, and in almost every part is wide enough to admit three carriages abreast; bridges have been thrown
over those parts necessary, and the progress of the traveller meets with no impediment. Cut through the middle of those vast forests, so long respected by the axe, this high road presents to view an immense avenue ot trees and verdure. Beneath these tufty shades a grateful coolness reigns perpetually, and their silent quietude is alone disturbed by the cries and frolics of shining parroquets and the other airy inhabitants of the forest.' Looked at twenty years later through another pair of spectacles, the road so described seems to have been 'nothing bettered, but rather worse,' for the next recorder says: 'Nearly the whole of our roads have been so unskilfully planned out that a full fourth of the draught is fruitlessly expended upon them. The Parramatta Road, indeed, is a perfect echo of the old nursery ditty, "Here we go up, up, up; and here we go down, down, down." '
Road, indeed, seemed
built on the principle of the famous High-
land roads of Gene- ral Wade, who form- ed them in a straight line, irrespective of hills and valleys; and altering somewhat the couplet compos- ed in his honour, we might say of our early colonia l'ways': 'Had you seen these roads before they were made you would hold up your hands
and bless - not "General Wade," but General Lachlan
Macquarie - who
was about the best
"roads and bridges
man" the world ever
produced; and who, in any colonial Le- gislature, would now
be esteemed as "a
perfect treasure" by
his constituents. ' When he arrived in
the colony in 1810, he gave an imme- diate fillip to build- ing and road-making; and having at com-
mand an almost un-
limited supply of prison labour, his gangs of liveried workers could be
seen busily engaged
on all the arteries
leading West, North and South from the
heart of the settle- ment; and where was that heart?
Come with us and we will show you, for that is to be our starting point. It is a piece of work erected by, or for, that same Governor Macquarie. This relic of ancient days stands on, or very near, the spot where our Australian Pilgrim Fathers landed, and began their work of settlement, just at the head of Sydney Cove. The Tank Stream - then a pellucid run of water - rippled close by.
The Governor's residence stood not very far away, and as the line of residences began to edge the road-way to the Cove a somewhat triangular piece of ground stretched away in front of the houses, between them and those noble-looking Scotch firs, which the vandalism of an extending trading com- munity has since devoted to destruction. Here, on the spot which the Governor facile in name-bestowing - dubbed Mac- quarie Place,' this antique piece of architec- ture known as The Obelisk' was constructed. In form it is a tapering four-sided shaft of stone-standing on a moulded plinth-the base surrounded by a low ring of masonry surmounted by a plain circular iron railing, A grass plot stretched about this old land- mark, and a little nearer Bridge-street was erected a dome-roofed fountain-just at the
rear of where the statue of Thomas Sutcliffe
Mort now stands. Speaking of the Obelisk a writer of forty years ago says: 'It wil
doubtless be soon swept away, by the tide of improvement, which in this, as in every other part of the city, is beginning to make great alterations. Its very site will soon be a matter for conjecture.' Happily forty years have passed away without the above pre- diction being fulfilled. The old Obelisk still stands, blackened by the smoke and dusmt of seventy years; almost hidden from view by the dark umbrageous grove of Moreton Bay fig-trees which surrounds it. It stands in a sort of triangular plantation or enclosure, and on the face of the plinth nearest to the iron railings is still recorded the fact that it was erected by Governor Macquarie in 1818, and that its purpose was to form a starting point from which all the great roads of the colony could be measured. Wherever we find ancient mile-stones with figures chipped into indistinguishable hieroglyphics - al- though we cannot interpret their, language
THE OBELISK IN MACQUARIE PLACE.
we can still rejoice in the knowledge that the distance-whatever it be - is computed from the old Obelisk in Macquarie Place.
Toeing the line here, we start on our pil- grimage for Parramatta, and passing up Bridge-street and entering George-street we come across such an old mile-stone at the corner of Liverpool-street. It measures the first mile of Australian extension of settle- ment inland. We must not pause here, nor at the site of the old Haymarket - not so many years ago the resort of bushrangers but passing up the steep incline of George- street towards the Benevolent Asylum, we reach the spot where the Parramatta-road proper began. Here-where the lofty shingled spire of Christ Church marks the apex of the hill - on the spot now occupied by the Police-station, stood the first toll-bar
ever erected in Australia. It was a hand-
some Gothic gate with a cottage in the same style, for the keeper; but the toll-bar has departed, the Gothic cottage has been pulled down, and the old turnpike keeper has disappeared in that mysterious fashion in which (according to Charles Dickens) all 'pike-men vanish from our ken.'
The exact spot where it stretched across the road and virtually ended George-street, is marked now by that ancient hostelry-the
Wheat Sheaf Inn.
For generations after the old toll bar had ceased to exact its tribute, settlers passing in and out of Sydney paid a voluntary toll to the Wheat Sheaf-for what more natural than that such travellers entering with their produce, and departing with their cash, should enter the inviting portals of a 'house of call' that stood just where the city ended and the country began. Especially would this be the case in drought and heat, and agriculturists are proverbially a droughty class. What tales were told - what songs have been sung in that old bar parlour! During the last half century what wonderful ears of romance and reality have been bound up in that ancient Wheat Sheaf. The walls of the old inn within three feet of the kerb-stone, make that narrow strip of pathway a very Pass of Ther- mopylae to pedestrians meeting from op- posite directions. Not that the old inn has encroached on the public way, but that the tide of street improvement has swept up to its very doors. Fifty-five years ago it was kept by William Shepherd. At that time there were scarcely any houses to mark the line of road leading to Parramatta. When a traveller passed out of the turnpike gate he truly felt that he was 'going up the country.' A writer of the period says:- 'From near the bottom of the Brickfield Hill the line of George-street inclines some- what more to the eastward, and at the same time gradually ascends the plane of the Surry Hill range until it reaches the site of the old turnpike, at which place this street may be said to terminate. Between the bottom of the Brickfield Hill and the old Sydney turnpike, Greorge-street is occupied only on the south side by houses, some of which are highly finished both as regards their external appearance and their internal accommodation; the whole ground along the eastern side of this part of the street being still retained by the Government. From the old toll bar the street converges considerably to the westward, and is called Parramatta-street, from its being the direct road by which people leaving Sydney must
travel towards that town. Almost all the
houses in this vicinity have been erected during the last four years (1839) - the greater part have, in fact, sprung up since the close of the year 1835.'
At that time, looking from the vantage ground of the Wheat Sheaf, one could see, south and west, ' sweet fields stand drest in living green.' The paddocks were dotted with cattle, and fringed with forests, that
took you by the hand and led you at once into the country. But we must travel farther to-day for some indication of vege- tation - for the Cleveland paddocks have been tunnelled - their hollows embanked, and cuttings made through their hills; railway stations and 'blue metal' have ex- punged the green sward; the growth of smoke-begrimed engine-houses has displaced the trees, and locomotives with glowing throats and signal-lamps, like the jewel blazing on the forehead of some evil beast, creep about instead of cattle.
One of the oldest buildings in this neigh- bourhood is the Benevolent Asylum. It is that block-shaped yellow-tinted structure which almost faces the Wheat Sheaf. There was enough social wreckage drifting about the infant colony in 1818 to call for the establishment of such a port of refuge; consequently we find that on the 4th of June of that year the society was founded. Governor Macquarie had the building erected (on its pediment you may see the record inscribed), and he became the first patron of the institution. Even as late as fifty years ago the Asylum is described as 'one of the handsomest edifices in Sydney. It is situated on the south-west side of the burial ground, in an airy and pleasant (?) situation.' There was a grim suggestiveness in locating such decrepit and infirm people next door to the graveyard - not far to 'rattle their bones over the stones,' you know.
'Airy ' enough the situation might be - placed
in the direct course of southerly busters but it would tax the powers of our most persuasive modern house agent to convince that the site was a pleasant one - the back windows having a fine and uninterrupted
view of tombs and sepulchres.
(To be continued.)