Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes – Cumbrae – Part II

Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes – Cumbrae – Part II

Cumbrae, Burnside, Parramatta. Digital Order Number: a106154

The opening of Cumbrae, No. 2 Cottage and second of the Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes

Lady Gertrude Denman, affectionately as Trudie, arrived in Australia in July 1912, alongside her husband and newly appointed Governor General,  (more…)

The Monument to Lady Fitzroy, Parramatta Park

The Monument to Lady Fitzroy, Parramatta Park

This monument was unveiled on Centenary Day (Australia Day) 26 January 1888 in remembrance of the accidental death on 7 December 1847 of Lady Mary Fitzroy aged 57 years, wife of the then governor of NSW Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy. Lady Fitzroy, born 1790, was the eldest child of Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond.

In August 1846 Fitzroy replaced Sir George Gipps as Governor of NSW. The Fitzroy family moved into Government House at Parramatta in April 1847 following extensive renovations to the building by James Houison. The house and grounds known as the Government Domain had remained vacant for several years and had fallen into disrepair.

Prior to the occupancy by the Fitzroy’s, the Domain had been a place of recreation and enjoyment for the citizens of Parramatta. The closure of the Domain provoked an indignant response which was published in the Parramatta Messenger at the time. Governor Fitzroy determined that as he was occupying the house and grounds at his own expense, then it was within his rights to exclude public access.

Despite taking umbrage, most citizens were proud that the vice-regal status afforded by the residency of the governor of the colony had returned to the town and were genuinely affected by the tragedy which had taken place in their midst. Over the short period of her residency at Parramatta, Lady FitzRoy, described as having ‘dignified and unaffected manners and an amiable disposition’ had endeared herself to the people of the colony and was very widely mourned.

The much anticipated happy occasion of attending a wedding in Sydney soon turned to tragedy. The Governor and Lady Fitzroy accompanied by aide-de-camp Lieutenant Charles Masters had set out from Government House and were travelling down the long tree-lined driveway towards the Macquarie Street entrance to the Domain.

The four horses pulling the carriage were reportedly already skittish before leaving the stables and rather than being well trained carriage horses, were spirited and easily startled young blood stock. Shortly after leaving the house the pace of the horses surged and when nearing the Macquarie Street gateway, the horses bolted they galloped out into the street coming to a halt some distance away near the corner of Church and George Street. The carriage was overturned and the occupants were thrown violently to the ground. Lady Fitzroy and Lieutenant Masters died shortly after as a result of their injuries, however Governor Fitzroy suffered only minor wounds.

An official inquest was held at 5 o’clock the same afternoon and the testimony of eye witnesses was heard including local wine and spirit merchant Mr Joseph Walford who stated that the Governor had tried to keep the horses on the carriage road but they were galloping at full speed and were out of his control.

The verdict was read by the coroner ‘ Lady Mary Fitzroy came to her death in consequence of being accidentally thrown from her carriage’. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners and Lady Mary was laid to rest in a sandstone vault surrounded by a wrought iron palisade fence within St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. Also interred in the same location was Lieutenant Charles Masters. Following her death, a lengthy poem was written to her memory by Mr John Rae, the Under-Secretary for Works.

Death sudden – awful death!

Death in the midst of life!

While scarce had ceased the sounds of mirth,

And all with health was rife,

Before a son’s and husband’s eyes,

A lifeless wife and mother lies!

Later assessments of the tragedy indicated that the accident could have resulted from the interplay of two contributing factors. The particular team of horses chosen for the journey that day were unsuitable for the task, coupled with the ineptitude of Fitzroy in handling such a lively team of horses.

A marble memorial tablet was placed on the wall of St James’ Church, Sydney, however, it was forty-one years before a monument was erected at the accident site in Parramatta Park. Mrs Wainwright of Parramatta who was present at the time of the accident was still able to identify the oak tree where the accident took place forty years after the event.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald of November 1886 remarked that the site of the death of Lady Mary Fitzroy was ‘but faintly marked by a cross on the old oak tree against which her carriage was said to be dashed’. The article suggested ‘Would it not be well to affix a plate?’

The movement to commemorate Lady Fitzroy’s tragic death in a more permanent fashion was taken up by the Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly for Parramatta and Alderman for the Borough of Parramatta Mr Hugh Taylor, who was instrumental in the erection of a suitable memorial at the scene of the accident. The Colonial Treasury also contributed £60 towards the cost of the monument.

Taylor was also successful in overcoming opposition from other aldermen to the erection of the Centennial Memorial Drinking Fountain in Centenary Square. The celebrations in 1888 which cost £500 also included a street procession, children’s picnic in the park, sports carnival, citizens’ banquet in the Town Hall, fireworks display and dinners for the inmates of the various institutions in the town (the Industrial School, the District Hospital, the Macquarie Street Asylum, the George Street Asylum and Newington Asylum).





Kass, Liston & McClymont, Parramatta: A past revealed, pps 140, 165, Parramatta City Council (1996)



SMH 8 Dec 1847 p 2 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12893742

SMH 20 Nov 1886 p 9 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/13620719

Freeman’s Journal 22 Oct 1887 p 20 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/115448945

Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser 1 Nov 1887 p 4 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/101716030

SMH 20 Jan 1888 p 5 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/28346888

Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate26 Oct 1933 p 8 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/107800928


Cathy McHardy, Research Assistant, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2016

Parramatta Gaol: Building, prisoner’s routine and employment

Parramatta Gaol: Building, prisoner’s routine and employment

There were a number of sites owned by the Department of Corrective Services situated on over 10 hectares of land around the Parramatta Gaol. These included the Parramatta prison, the Parramatta linen service and the Merinda Periodic Centre. 

Parramatta Correctional Centre. Source: James Semple Kerr, commissioned by NSW Public Works for the Department of Corrective Services, 1995.

Merinda Periodic Detention Centre – is a single story timber building used to house maximum of 19 female inmates from Friday to Sunday. During the week, it was a conference centre and overnight accomodation for staff.

Motor maintenance and stores complex – repair and maintenance was carried out here for all the vehicles associated with Parramatta Gaol and Parramatta Linen Service 

PWD compound – consists of a group of nine galvanised iron sheds that were used to store lawn mowers and other garden tools used by the prisoners.

 Parramatta Gaol rooftops, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012
Parramatta Gaol rooftops, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Area East of the Parramatta Gaol 

Between the Dunlop St. and Barney St., there are two timber residences to accommodate officers. These residences were built in early 1900s. One of the residences on the southern side was used as officers mess hall, while the other one on the northern side was used as recreational hall. The northern residence was used as male detention centre to house 22 inmates on the weekends.

 There are two single story cottages between the Barney St. and Board St. One of the cottages was occupied by ten parole officers, one welfare officer and administrative staff of the Parramatta Probation and Parole Service. The second cottage was used for administrative functions on 24 hours basis e.g. handling of emergency situations, movement of prisoners for Parramatta, Malwa, Silverwater, Norma Parker centre and Emu Plains Gaols.

Prisoners spending – According to Parramatta Gaol Study conducted by NSW Department of Public Works in 1980 – prisoners in Parramatta Gaol earned between $12 to $32 per week. Collectively all the prisoners were earning $500,000. Many prisoners were sending all their money at home where as $48,000 annually was spent on radios, record players, tapes, books and art craft material. According to 1974 prison census, 53.7% of Parramatta gaol inmates were aged between 26 and 34, with 32.4% under the age of 26.

The Gaol Complex

Parramatta Gaol complex cover is spread in approximately 4.4 hectares – from Dunlop St. in the south to the banks of the Darling Mills Creek in the north. The Gaol area is rectangular in shape (345m x 130m) and has three defining areas: the Gaol, Linen service, and the sports yard, which was surrounded by 6 meter high secure walls. 

Linen Service– the Parramatta Linen Service had an industrial laundry, landscaped lawns, a gatehouse, and vehicle lock connecting the zone with the Gaol. Linen service used to provide laundry service to the range of state institutions and provide employment to the inmates. 

Gaol and Sports Yard – The Gaol zone is divided by Bootshop building into two sectors – the northern and southern sectors.

Northern Sector:

Gatehouse – the purpose of this was control the access of prisoners, visitors, staff, and vehicle access to the gaol. Gatehouse was also the communication centre for calling prisoners to the visits. CCTV cameras were also controlled from the gatehouse. 

Three radical accommodation wings

Wing 1 – approx 10.8m2 and accommodate 30 long term inmates

Wing 2 – app 9.3m2 and accommodate 30 cookhouse staff

Wing 3 – app 10.0m2 and accommodate 92 houses remand and reception inmates

Parramatta-Gaol Sports Yard, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Parramatta Gaol, Sports Yard, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Administration buildings



Cookhouse – used to provide cooked food for Gaol inmates. Food was prepared in the cookhouse building and was taken to all the wings by trollies for distribution.

Chapel – this was used for services conducted by the Salvation Army and for band practice, meditation and prisoners weddings. 

Parramatta Gaol Chapel, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Parramatta Gaol Chapel, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

 Sports Yard 

Bootshop – The bootmaker or Tinsmith building separate wings 1, 2 and 3 from wings 4, 5 and 6. The bootshop is been used for various things over the years. Tailor shop was at the first floor whereas ground floor was used for office, building maintenance workshop, prisoners canteen and television repair shop. 

Southern Sector:

Three accommodation wings 

Wing 4 – app 6.9m2 and accommodate 78 long term prisoners and prisoners under observation

Wing 5 – app 7.2m2 and accommodate 82 long term prisoners

Wing 6 – app 8.0m2 and accommodate 83 segregated and protected prisoners


Parramatta Gaol, six Wing, Geoff King, digital born, 2012

Parramatta Gaol, six Wing, Geoff King, digital born, 2012

Boilerhouse – used to generate the power for the prison complex. Later the building was used as printing workshop, light metal workshop, boiler room and store.

Stores and Ablution block building

Employment – 170 to 240 prisoners were involved in prison industry:

Parramatta linen Service: 100 – 120

Cookhouse: 15 – 20

Building maintenance: 10 – 20

Tailor shop/bootshop: 4 – 14

Light metal shop/Boilerhouse: 3 – 12

Blacksmith: 1 – 7

Ground maintenance: 6

Printing workshop: 3 – 6

Store: 3

Auditorium sweepers: 3

Wing sweepers (3 per wing): 18

Wing storemen: 7

Garbage truck: 1

There were various activities in which prisoners could participate:

Sports: athletics, boxing, volleyball, football, cricket 

Leisure: reading, debating, yoga, music, creative writing

Arts & craft: glass painting, copper craft, woodcraft, veneer inlay, oil and water painting 

Daily routine of the prisoners

7am – 8am: Breakfast

8am – 11.45am: Prisoners are housed in the circle or in the protection yard.

11.45am – 12.45pm: Lunch given in their cells

12.45pm – 3pm: Prisoners are housed in the circle or in the protection yard.

3pm – 3.30pm: Prisoners are secured in their cells

3.30pm – 4pm: Dinner

4pm – 7am: Prisoners locked up in their cells

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2016

Jervis, James, The Cradle City of Australia: A history of Parramatta; 1788-1961
James Kerr, Parramatta Correctional Centre: Its Past Development and Future Care, Commissioned by the NSW Public Works for the Department of Corrective Services. Sydney, 1995
Public Works Department, Historic Building Group, Parramatta Gaol Historical report, October 1980
Planning & Environment Commission, NSW and Council of the City of Parramatta – Historic buildings and sites: Parramatta; 1975
Terry Kass et al, Parramatta, A Past Revealed, Parramatta City Council, 1996
Parramatta Gaol, Vertical File, Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre.
Photos taken by Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2015
Photos taken by Peter Arfanis, Parramatta City Council, 2015
Photos from Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre

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