This week I had the privilege of a private tour through the Old Dairy and Ranger’s Cottages in Parramatta Park. These historic buildings are not open as yet to the public as they are currently being prepared for tours. It was by the thoughtfulness and generosity of a dear friend who I went to primary school with that I was able to go in to have a look and take a mountain of photographs. As you may know I truly value our past whether it be good, bad or ugly and enjoy capturing it all with my camera to share.
A bit of modern history and the reason why I was able to get a sneak peek behind the scenes; Rhonda Pearce, my friend Lea’s older sister, lived with her husband in the Ranger’s Cottage in the 70s and 80s and raised their family there. Keeping with tradition they had a few sheep, a horse and a number of chooks living inside their white picket fenced yard that backed onto the Parramatta River. Ideal? I bet it was!
Lea would spend a lot of her growing years in this cottage and it was wonderful to watch her face as all the memories came flooding back. Time with her family and her twenty first birthday celebrated in the sitting room which still bears the old fireplace and faded murals above the picture rail. All that was missing was the “god awful clock” she tells me 😉
Many a family has worked and grown up within these walls. The original dairy was built on what was once called Salter’s Farm. This section of Parramatta was originally known as The Crescent, where Governor Phillip established Australia’s first inland settlement on 2 November 1788. When emancipist, and convicted brandy smuggler, George Salter, a Second Fleet convict, was granted 30 acres of farmland in 1796 he built what is now the earliest surviving worker’s cottage in Australia. The front two rooms of the existing Dairy Cottage were the original Salter’s Cottage built between 1798 and 1805. In 1813, Salter sold his cottage to Governor Macquarie and took up an appointment as Superintendent of Crown Stock in Hobart. Governor Macquarie then added another two wings around 1815 and turned the original cottage into the Government Dairy.
Beside the Dairy Cottage stands the Ranger’s Cottage, built in 1875. This was built directly over the top of the dairy’s sunken milk room and was uncovered in 1993 when archaeologists removed the floorboards in the front bedroom. Lea tells me that this room always felt damp and now they know why. When the sunken milk room was uncovered it was subject to flooding from the nearby river and there has since been a pump installed. When the milk room was no longer being used by the dairy it became a cellar for the Ranger’s Cottage. Stout bottles were found in this room dating back to this period.
The cottages are being kept in their state of decay so that people can see how they were constructed and how methods have changed over the centuries. I personally love the crumbling clay walls, the faded murals, the well trodden stones and the general atmosphere and will definitely return to see the progress of the museum.
Many thanks once again to Lea Pearce and her family for giving me this opportunity.
For more information and tours go to the Parramatta Park website