settlement history
aboriginal spear thrower

Parramatta derived its name from the local clan group the Burramattagal (burra=eel; matta=creek; gal= people) - the Eel Creek people. 

Precinct Timeline

1788 - Area explored & settled

1792Smith's 30 acre grant

1806Marsden acquires Smiths grant; Gov Bligh granted adjacent 105 acres

18164 acres of Bligh's grant for Female Factory (FF) site

1818 - FF Foundation stone laid

1821FF occupied

1824 - Sleeping quarters for FF 3rd class women built

1827 - FF women riot, break out 

1838FF 3rd class penitentiary built

1839 - Sisters of Charity arrive at FF

1840work starts on Roman Catholic Orphan School (RCOS)

1844RCOS occupied

1848FF proclaimed a Lunatic Asylum 

1859 - Sisters of the Good Samaritan take over Mg'mt RCOS

1886Orphan School vacated 

1887 RCOS site occupied as Girls Industrial School - first  riot takes place

1961 - Hay Girls Institution est as GIS/PGH annex 

1974GIS/PGH officially closes

1975 - PGH renamed Kamballa & Taldree Children's Shelter

1980Norma Parker Detention Centre established in former GIS/PGH buildings

2003 - Parramatta Girls reunion


Settlement History

In April 1788 four months after the First Fleet anchored in Sydney Cove, Capt'n Arthur Phillip led and expedition up the Parramatta River in search of arable lands. Arriving at a point where a fresh water stream trickled across a platform of broad flat stones into the river, the party set up camp in the lee of a Crescent shaped beach on the river foreshores. From a gentle rise in the land above the river Phillip surveyed a lightly wooded landscape of open grasslands and it was here he decided to establish a gaol town and farm later to be known as Parramatta.

A Woman's Place

A short distance from the campsite a small stream fed by a billabong spring entered the river on the opposite shore. This wedge of land had been used by the Aboriginal people for thousands of years as a women's site. 

Governor's House

Phillip would later build a hut - the foundations of what today is Old Government House  the residence of the first 10 governors of the colony on the rise overlooking the settlement. Work began on the settlement in November 1788 and within a decade the township was the flourishing centre of the colonial administration of New South Wales. By the 1790's many of the first arrivals had served their time, now free the authorities provided land grants to deserving emancipated convicts. Among the earliest of these was a 30 acre grant to Charles Smith bounded  by the stream on the northern side of the river a little way across from the Governor's House.  This grant forms a portion of what today is the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct. 

Government Water Mill

A water mill was constructed near the juncture of the river and stream in 1798 - both have long since disappeared with only a remnant trace in the form of a barrel drain on the river's edge near the present day footbridge crossing into Parramatta Park from the northern side.

Samuel Marsden & William Bligh

In 1806 Rev. Samuel Marsden purchased Smith's grant together with an adjoining 6 acres. In the same year Governor William Bligh was granted 105 acres on the southern boundary of the Marsden property. 

Convict women

In the early years convict women were assigned as hutkeepers to work gangs. Their position was perilous and many co-habited with male convicts in order to obtain food and shelter. By the late 1790's 'women's huts' had been built in Parramatta  one of which was located on the north bank of the river where Parramatta's first gaol was built. in 1796.

Old Parramatta Gaol

Factory above Gaol Parramatta

Factory above the Gaol

The first gaol in Parramatta was built in 1796 and was  a 100 ft long log walled structure enclosed within a high paling fence.  In 1799 it was damaged in a fire and building work was not completed until early 1804  at which time weaving looms were established at the site with Master weaver, George Mealmaker appointed to oversee operations.

Factory above the Gaol

The weaving establishment was known as the Factory above the Gaol and it was here in two upper rooms each measuring 80 feet by 20 that convict women worked and slept among the bales of wool.

The second gaol was a rough shod construction built from locally quarried sandstone and was structurally and functionally inadequate. Overcrowding was a problem with up to 200 women crammed into rooms meant for 60. In remedying the situation Governor Macquarie selected a 4 acre portion of Bligh's former grant as the site for a new Female Factory in 1816 and two years later the foundation stone was laid.

Once completed all unassigned convict women were sent to the new Female Factory. The old Parramatta gaol continued to be used for some years as a place for Felons and prisoners awaiting trial; fines and confines (persons serving sentences in lieu of discharging obligations laid on them); emancipated or non convict females; and debtors). The old Gaol site was used as a dumping ground until 1874 when it was gazetted as Alfred Square (Prince Alfred Park). No trace of its buildings or structures remain.

Parramatta Gaol

Parramatta Gaol

Plans were drawn up for a new gaol in 1835 and in 1836 work commenced on a 250 feet square perimeter wall at its present location on the corner of Clifford and Dunlop Sts a short distance from the Female Factory. Building progressed through 1836 to 1842 and resulted in a perimeter wall, governor's house cum chapel and three of the intended five wings. The Gaol was proclaimed on the 3 January 1842 and the prisoners were transferred to the site on 15 January.

 Burial Places

Australia's earliest cemetery St John's is located in Parramatta. It contains many convict graves together with those of free settlers including that of the Rev Samuel Marsden.

The Roman Catholic Cemetery (St Patricks) is located on the opposite side of the city, north of CBD and also contains convict graves together with those of children who died at the Roman Catholic Orphan School. This cemetery has recently been listed on the State Heritage Register. A PFFP Memory Quilt now records the names of 130 orphan children buried in this cemetery.  

Reference Sources

Parramatta Correctional Centre its past development and future care. Kerr, J. DPCS, Sydney, 1995

Out of Sight, out of Mind - Australia's places of confinement, 1788-1988, Kerr, J. S.H. Ervin Gallery,Sydney, 1988

With Just but relentless discipline - a social history of Corrective Services in New South Wales, Ramsland, J. Kangaroo, Kenthurst, 1996

A Merciless Place - the story of Britain's convict disaster in Africa and how it led to the settlement of Australia. Christopher, E. Allen & Unwin 2010