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Observations on Sydney





Sydney from earliest time had portable houses that were wheeled to new suburbs. Poor people lived in these portahomes.


Silent Night


It is said Sir Edward Hallstrom heard a young girl singing the carol. He named his new refrigerator after the song.
   Reported Woman’s day June 1957



1848 periodical

May Day was ushered in with the usual festivity. The murky sons and daughters of the soot bag, with their faces and handed washed, and their outward furniture glittering like a rainbow, attended by fife and drum, danced through the streets of Sydney to the delight of many a native. There are but few chimney sweeps in Sydney; but of sweeps of another sort, not clean-handed, there are too many; and we could not help thinking that if they were all decorated and dancing through the streets, we would have considerably more sweeps than chimneys.



Smh May 4 1891

Cast in England in 1890 “the castings have come out remarkably successful, possessing very rich tone, especially the 5-ton tenor bell. Its fine, full resonance being greatly admired. Canon Cattley (Worchester Cathedral who blessed it) expressed high approval. He said they are certainly the best bells ever sent out of England. The first quarter bell is 2ft 9in in diameter, the note C sharp, and weight 81/2 cwt.; the second, 3ft in diameter, B 111/4cwt; the third, 3ft 4 in diameter, A 143/4 cwt., the fourth, 4ft 4in in diameter, E 30cwt, and the tenor bell, 6ft 6in in diameter, A weighing 5 tons. Each bell has the imperial crown and monogram VIR with the words ‘General Post Office, Sydney 1890.

The following lines from Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ are inscribed on the bells, one line on each, commencing with the largest.
Ring out the false, ring in the true
Ring out the feud of rich and poor
Ring in redress to all mankind

Ring out false pride in place and blood
Ring in the common love of good

Cast by John Taylor of Loughborough designs by lord Grimthorpe.

The initials of Henry Parkes also appear H P

Epitaph St John’s Parramatta

Grave of Benjamin Burrow

View me all you that pass by
As you are now once was I
But as I am so you must be
Prepare yourself to follow me.

To which someone added
To follow you I’ll not consent
I am not sure which way you went!


Recorded 1905.

1830-1913 was daughter of Commissary Thomas Walker,
his wife, ANA, daughter of John Blaxland.

Tom Walker’s happiest days were spent at Rhodes Hall, with his two bachelor cousins, the de Brokes, who, being too poor to marry, remained in bachelorhood. Here at Christmastime, as in other old-fashioned homes, the wassail cup, which was a large silver one, was passed round amongst the guests, and the mummers came into the kitchen.

General and Mrs. M were an amusing couple. Rumour said he was a very bad tempered man and was in the habit of speaking roughly to his lady, so it was arranged between them that when he was in his study and she wished to ask him a question, she would go to the door and throw in her bonnet. If he were in good humour he would let it be, but if a bad one he would kick it out!



Memoirs of David Kennedy
London 1887

David Kennedy was a well-known Scottish singer born 1825 and toured Australia 1873

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F Fowler 1859

The ‘cutty’ is of all shapes, sizes and shades. Some are Negro heads, set with rows of very white teeth – some are mermaids, showing their more presentable halves up the front of the bowls, and stowing away their weedy fundaments under the items. Some are Turkish caps – some are Russian skulls. Some are Houris, some are expressions of the French, some are Margaret Catchpoles. Some are as small as my lady’s thimble – others as large as an old Chelsea teacup. Everybody has one, from the little pinafored schoolboy to the old veteran who came out with the second batch of convicts. A cutty-bowl, like a Creole’s eye, is most prized when blackest. Tobacco, I should add here, is seldom sold in a cut form, Each man carries a cake about with him, like a card case; each boy has his stick of Cavendish, like so much candy. The cigars usually smoked are manilas, which are as cheap and good as can be met with in any part of the world. Lola Montez, during her Australian tour, spoke well of them. What stronger puff could they have than hers?

What first took my attention in Sydney, after I had sufficiently recovered from the bites of mosquitoes to show myself in public, was the air of well-to-do-ness, which characterized every thing about me. The carriages passing through the streets were quiet and elegant; the people were well and soberly dressed; the cabs on the ranks looked more like private carriages than public conveyances; even the cabmen swore and swaggered less, and chinked their money more – having, I suppose, more money to chink – than I ever noticed the fraternity chink, swagger and swear elsewhere. It was London in good spirits, as if every man had tuned up a nugget or two in his back garden.

(this was when I arrived: when I left, the roseate light had somewhat mellowed.

The Adventures of a Kettle


written by itself
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J R Godley – 1853:

We observed nothing very remarkable in our walk, except that there were two tamed Emus at the gate of the Domain, which the soldiers at the guardhouse were feeding with bread, and all the people, especially the women, whom we met, seemed to be smartly dressed.

J Askew – 1857:

Goats are also very frequent in Sydney, but more especially in Sussex Street, where they may be constantly seen bounding about, with their kids bleating and skipping after them.



B358 handwritten 1900
H Huntington
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Francis Greenway (Architect)
1825 Dixson private manuscripts and letters.

The Greenway documents tell of Sydney street names, Sydney characters and also of his personal fight with the Government over fees.

  • In the chronology he mentions the death of John Justice who was the colony’s Town Watch for 11 years. Died 27/04/1804
  • William (Billy) Blue is advertised as the Port’s only licensed Waterman –
  • Under 16/8/07 he details how jams Underwood, Henry Kable and Sam Lord were sentenced to a month in gaol for sending Governor Bligh an insulting letter.
  • Under 1/12/1810 he provides the original street names at the time of changeover:

    High St
    aka Old Spring Row
    aka Sgt Major’s Row George St Windmill Row


    Barrack St York

    Pitt’s Row

    Pitt Chapel Row

    Castlereagh Back Row East Phillip Bell St Hunter Bell Row


  • It was also at the time that Hyde Park was so named. It was originally The Common, Exercising Ground, Cricket Ground and Race Course
  • The Main Sydney Court was built on public subscription.
  • 20/2/1819 The Macquarie Place obelisk was completed by Edward Cureton who was paid forty-five pounds.
  • 21/4/24 Dollars and Dumps. ‘We understand the pierced dollars, with their children the dumps, now safely lodged in the Military Chest, amount to about five thousand pound sterling. What is their destination has not yet transpired, but we believe the pierced gentlemen are not to be permitted to resume their travels in the Colony.’
  • 15/05/1830 The corner of Kent and King street was commonly known as ‘Dust Hole Run’ – being a very steep slope to the cliffs at the waters edge where refuse is dumped.’
  • 19/11/34 The New South Wales Temperance Society held its first public meeting on the 17th – 200 souls present. It was called for 7pm about which time a heavy thunderstorm commenced which lasted two hours’.

Greenway had a very public fight with Major General Macquarie over the architectural agreement. The following is an extract from a FG letter.

The town of Sydney, in the course of a few years, will most likely extend round Woolloomooloo by Surry Hills to Anson’s Point and join the land of Captain Piper. If we are not crippled by the narrow and contemptible notions of false economists, which proves more destructive to society than ever extravagance with all its evils, real economy I admire, because it is only another name for liberality, which defines every ‘private individual’, and is the basis of the real glory and success of every nation.

Greenway was given 800 acres of land as ‘remuneration for his service’ however Greenway claimed this ‘a mockery that wouldn’t even cover his travel expenses of 150 pounds. The land was at Coal River – near Newcastle.



Ltn Col. Godfrey Charles Mundy
Published in 3 volumes, London

“A man must be leading in Europe a very sad, solitary or unsatisfactory existence, who can, without many a pang of regret, many a sigh of painful separation, gird up his loins, shoulder his wallet, and clutch his staff, for a pilgrimage to Australia.”

“That picturesque animal, the goat, by-the-by forms a conspicuous item of the Sydney street menagerie – amounting to a pest little less dire than the plague of dogs. Nearly every cottage has its goat or family of goats. They ramble about the highways and by-ways, picking up a haphazard livelihood during the day, and going home willingly or compulsorily in the evening to be milked.

Bread 4p

Fowls 2/6 or 3/- for a pair
Turkeys 7/–9/-
Bottled English beer – 14/- a dozen.
Mention is also made of Van Diemen’s Land hay

The day-labourer of Sydney are notoriously idle, drunken, and dissolute. Earning 3/- or 4/- a day, they will work perhaps four out of the seven, and during the remainder squander their gains in drink and riot, leaving their wretched families to fend themselves as they can.



scrapbook with clippings and hand-written entries.

The Cabbage-Tree Mob


There are to be found all round the doors of the Sydney Theatre a sort of loafer known as the Cabbage-Tree Mob. The Cabbage-Tree Mob, are always up for a ‘spree’ and some of their pastimes are so rough an order as to deserve to be repaid with bloody coxcombs.”

Female factory

One of the great yards of the factory was devoted to laundress work. Squads of women were up their elbows in suds – carrying on the cruel process of wringing. The townsfolk may have their washing done here at 1/6 per dozen, the money going to the expenses of the institution.>

Street Cry

Stich, stich, stich,
In poverty, hunger and dirt,

Sewing at once with a double thread
A shroud as well as a shirt.

Mention is made of a storm known as ‘The Southerly Burster’ (his spelling)

Oysters were extremely popular. ‘Every inch of rock from Sydney to the Heads is thickly colonized by the delicate shellfish that is, every inch would be so peopled, but for the active extermination incessantly going on”