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Parramatta History

The History of Parramatta

Thursday 12, July 2012

Although aboriginal people such as the Darug had made the New South Wales their home for generations, it was not until 1788 that Parramatta was founded by European settlers. The British colony in nearby Sydney Cove needed additional food supplies for the soldiers, administrators, and convicts who had arrived in January of that year. The site of present-day Parramatta was selected as the location of a farming settlement that could supply this need. James Ruse, a convict who had arrived with the First Fleet, was granted land in Parramatta with the proviso that he must turn it into a successful farm. He did, and his land became known as Experiment Farm.

Parramatta grew rapidly; the population in 1792 consisted of nearly two thousand people, which was 40% higher than the population of Sydney itself. By the 1790s, Parramatta was producing a steady supply of both grain and wool. Early farms included the Grose Farm, the Annandale Estate and the Petersham Estate.

The first waves of settlers in Parramatta arrived there via river, but by the late 1790s a permanent road had been established. Stagecoach service on this road began in the 1820s, but fell into disfavour when a railway route opened. The road became busy again in the 1920s with the introduction of the motor car.

As one of the earliest settlements in Australia, Parramatta is home to the oldest public building still in existence on the continent, Old Government House. It was used as either a main residence or a retreat by governors of Australia as late as the 1850s. Parramatta is also home to the oldest prison in Australia, Parramatta Gaol, which once incarcerated the infamous murderer Neddy Smith.

Due to the continued growth of nearby Sydney, today Parramatta is a suburb of that city.

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