Dairyman’s cottage, Parramatta Park, view of front exterior of single storey building, ca. 1950s. Local Studies Photograph Collection/Local Studies Library.
The Dairy Cottage in Parramatta Park is of significance on many levels. The cottage is one of the earliest domestic structures in Australia and is the most unaltered structure of its type. It has historical, social and architectural importance and its continuous use shows the changing needs of Parramatta Park and those in the Parramatta area.
The story of the Government Dairy Cottage starts with George Salter. Mr Salter arrived on the Second Fleet on The Neptune. He had been convicted of smuggling and given 7 years transportation. Salter was then assigned the task of looking after the Government Stock of Horned Cattle in the Colony.
In 1796 after his sentence had ended George Salter was granted 30 acres of land on Parramatta Creek. Later found to be part of what would become Parramatta Park. This became known as Salter Farm, as the condition on the Land Grant meant that Salter would ‘reside upon and cultivate the land’. The colony was in need of increased cultivation of crops at the time and by 1800 the farm was successful with the growing of wheat and maize.
Salter along with Winne Marsh, a ex-convict and his partner built a small two roomed cottage on the property using local materials. It was situated high above the banks of the Parramatta River. This was thought to have happened between 1796 and 1800. The bricks were made in a brick yard near the river, the mortar was made from river muds with shells from Aboriginal middens and the timbers were local hardwoods including blue gum. The use of imported materials would have been restricted to the window glass and the iron nails. Salter, Winnie and three other convicts labourers worked there and were supported by government stores. Salter also owned a horse, which was rare at the time and shows how much he prospered as well as pigs and chickens.
In 1802 Salter moved to Sydney but he kept his farm in Parramatta until 1813 when it was bought by Governor Macquarie for 30 head of cattle. Governor Macquarie had taken up his post in 1810 and he bought the farm to be re-purposed for government use. This land was now part of the ‘Domain’ a private park and farm. Macquarie wanted to have more consolidated land for cultivation to provide for Government Stores. He also transformed some of the area into a Gentleman’s Park.
In 1816 Salters, ‘old farm house’ was renovated into a dairy. A sunken milk room was constructed on the southern side by 1823. The milk room was described at the time as “19 feet by 14 feet, sunk to a depth of five feet with fixtures and steps, a circular sewer and cesspool. This was one of the flanking pavilions on either side of the cottage with side additions being made to original farm house. This then became the main residence of the dairy. Products such as milk, butter and cream were bought up to Government House using a road that still existed today. The dairy played an important part in the life of the colony. For example in the period June- December 1823 lists show that is supplied 1608 gallons of skimmed milk to the Female Factory for 107 pounds, 16 shillings and 2/3 pence. This amount increased in 1824 and in 1825.
One of the first dairy maids employed at the new Governor’s Dairy was Elizabeth Eccles, a convict, who remained there until her death in 1835. She also worked as housekeeper occasionally for Governors King and Bourke in Government House. It was thought that she was 105 years old when she died but this has been disputed as her convict records show that she would have been about 93 at her time of death.
In 1858 the Government Domain became a Public Park and the Dairy Cottage was now made the home of the Park Ranger. It stayed as the Ranger’s residence until the adjacent house was constructed in about 1875. It was then that the Dairy cottage became a store room.
The Dairy Precinct served as a residence and office from the late 1850’s until the 1970’s and it was from here that they managed Parramatta Park. In keeping with the tradition of the park the rangers kept a cow, chickens, a horse and a pig, and did this up until late this century. From the 1850’s there were more building constructed to accommodate machinery, shed, and stables. All used by the Ranger and his staff. The Chief Ranger and his family lived in the old Dairy Cottage up until the 1920’s when it was moved entirely to the new Rangers Cottage
The first ranger was John William Bartlett. He had worked previously as the superintendent of the Government House Domain before it became a public park. He was ranger at Parramatta Park until approximately 1864.
During George James Giles’s time as Ranger, approximately, 1875, the new Rangers House was built and the dairy became a store room. In 1878 there was a fire in the Dairy which was reported in the Evening News newspaper. The roof was destroyed and the stables behind the Dairy were damaged but the building was saved.
There were Rangers in the park up until the 1970’s and the Dairy cottage was used for various Council activities. The significance of the building was re-established in the 1980s and conservation and interpretation works were funded by the State Government in the mid-1990s. Today it is it is on the NSW Heritage Register and is an unique part of Australia’s and Parramatta’s history.
Dairy Cottage, Parramatta https://en.wiki2.org/wiki/Dairy_Cottage,_Parramatta
“OLD” PARRAMATTA PICTURES. (1901, December 14). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), p. 21 (The Cumberland Argus AND FRUITGROWERS’ ADVOCATE). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85830974
The Dairy Precinct Parramatta Park, Revised Conservation Plan, vol 1 conservation analysis & conservation policy, prepared for Parramatta City Council by a team co-ordinated by: DESIGN 5 Architects, 1994.
The Governor’s Dairy, David Cornell, 1998.
Individual Report of George Salter. 17th July 2007.
The Dairy Precinct, Parramatta Park, Brochure Parramatta City Council 1994.
Parramatta Park Trust, Heritage and Conservation Register, (s170 Register), Parramatta Park Trust September, 2009.
Parramatta. (1878, August 19). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107943324
“OLD” PARRAMATTA PICTURES. (1901, December 14). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), p. 21 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85830974
Dairy Cottage. Heritage Places and Items. Office of Environment and Heritage. 2003, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=4681041
Emma Stockburn, Research Facilitator, Parramatta Heritage Centre, City of Parramatta, 2016.