Civic Place to Parramatta Square
In the coming years the old ‘Civic Place’ precinct in Parramatta will see some dramatic changes as it transforms into Parramatta Square. Work has already begun on a part of the site selected by the University of Western Sydney for a new flagship campus tower and more works are in the pipeline. With all this change we thought it would be a good time to provide some background history on ‘Civic Place’ since it’s inception in the late 1950s. Our stop-motion camera videos at the bottom of the page will also let you see changes happening to the overall site week-by-week.
Read More About the History of Civic Place
Civic Place covers some parts of seven allotments granted prior to 1823. The southern half of the area, fronting Darcy Street, comprised two allotments and was leased to D’Arcy Wentworth and John Piper in 1799.
Having built a house and made improvements, Wentworth’s lease was renewed in 1806 and in 1819 he was granted both allotments. Following his death, the land and its ‘dwelling houses and premises’ were transferred to D’Arcy’s son, William C. Wentworth, in 1827. William mortgaged the property in 1829 and by 1844 a series of buildings had been constructed on the Church Street frontage (south of the local markets, now the site of the Town Hall). Any structures fronting Darcy Street may have been affected by the introduction of the railway and station, which was opened in 1860. After William’s death in 1861, the property was transferred to his son, Fitzwilliam, who subdivided it into 73 allotments in 1873. The northern allotments were comprised of residences, public houses and the local market and pound.
The earliest-known dwelling house on this part of the site was on the north-eastern allotment (Allt 32) and was listed for sale in 1819. In 1833, this allotment was subdivided and the ‘White Horse [Inn]’ built on the western portion. (The Inn’s buildings and yard were described in 1851 when it was up for sale.) The eastern half (fronting Smith Street) seems to have been used for residential purposes and by 1875 had a substantial house known as Myall Cottage (probably built after 1857 when John Neale bought the property, but perhaps earlier). The Cottage was offered for sale and sold to a haberdasher in 1876. The other allotments fronting Macquarie Street also held residences, some shown on maps as early as 1823 (Allt 30) and 1835 (Allt 28). The dwelling on Allt 28 (often including Allts 27 and 1), probably the house ‘Wynerne’, was occupied by doctors, merchants and dealers between 1852 and 1901 – i.e. those considered to be ‘middle class’.
The allotment fronting Church Street and in the middle of the Civic Place Area was marked out by Governor Phillip for a market in his plan for Parramatta. A market fair was held here in 1813. It was later the site of the annual feast for Aborigines, first held by Governor Macquarie and continued from 1816 to 1830. A building labelled ‘Market Place’ is identified on an 1823 map.
By 1844 it had been extended and was replaced sometime between 1850 and 1870. In 1879, this area was set aside for the Town Hall and at some point the later Market building was relocated to the Western Road [sic]. The Town Hall was designed by GA Mansfield and built by Hart & Lavors. Construction began in 1881 and it was opened in 1883. A new building at the rear of the Town Hall now houses the council administration. A complex of drains has been investigated through excavation that suggests the laying, or repair to, the drainage system in different phases, perhaps a result of different ownership of each allotment. The drain within the portion of the original pound is brick with cement mortar and north of this line it is a sandstone box drain.
Reference: Archaeological Test Excavation for Indigenous Sites Civic Place, Parramatta: FINAL REPORT October 2004
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Images of Civic Place from our collection
Videos of Civic Place before and into the future
Time Lapse Video Civic Place Parramatta
Since 12 February 2015 our team has been creating weekly time lapse videos of the demolition and construction work being carried out in Civic Place. A GoPro camera mounted on top of the Council Chambers Building captures a panoramic view looking east over the Civic Place car park, Arthur Phillip High School and beyond. The camera records changes not only at the Civic Place site but also on its peripheries. An image is taken each minute for approximately three hours each weekday and then converted into a weekly time lapse or stop motion video. You can view each video in chronological order by clicking the video below or go directly to our YouTube playlist page and choose the week you are interested in.