1790 - 1930

The Dairy and Rangers Cottages at Parramatta Park 

Parramatta Park Trust

Explore the unique features of the Dairy and Rangers Cottages – two of Australia's last intact 18th Century colonial settlers' buildings – and catch a rare glimpse into Australia’s multi-layered history.

Parramatta Park and the Dairy Precinct
Parramatta Park is one of Australia’s most significant cultural landscapes. It contains over 100 archaeological sites relating to Aboriginal and early colonial history, as well as monuments and buildings in a rare combination of cultural and natural landscape features.

Located within the park, the Dairy Precinct is a site of great significance at a national and world level. It contains rare and intact structures dating from the earliest years of European settlement in the colony of New South Wales. As a result, the Dairy Precinct has an extraordinary ability to demonstrate its entire history as well as the technology and materials used by early settlers.

The Dairy Cottage
The Dairy Cottage was constructed between 1796 and 1805 originally as a two-roomed cottage by George Salter – an ex-convict turned cattleman. In 1813, Salter sold his land to Governor Macquarie and moved to Hobart. Today, Salter's original cottage is one of the earliest intact buildings still standing in Australia - its many early construction features still visible. In 2010, it became one of the 11 Australian Convict Sites on the World Heritage list.

Convict brick-makers marked bricks with thumbprints to keep count of production numbers. Bricks were made by convicts at the Government Farm. The brick kilns were located on the river opposite Dodd’s Farm near Old Government House.

This very unusual dovetailed joint in a doorframe of the Dairy Cottage is a good example of the transplanting of skills, culture and techniques from rural England to New South Wales with the convict artisans.

The lath and plaster ceiling dates to 1823. Lath and plaster was a traditional building method used in England for centuries and came to New South Wales with convict artisans after 1788. Lath and plaster was used for interior partition walls and the construction of ceilings.

Glue was added to the roof as part of conservation treatments in the 1990s. However, today, conservation practices specify that treatments must be low impact and reversible.

This stencil was applied when the Dairy Cottage was used as an agricultural depot, possibly in the 1930s. The cottage contains various items of graffiti recording the happenings of everyday life in the 20th Century. "Edney" was a horse belonging to Ranger Sims.

Wallpapers in the Dairy Cottage date from the 1850s to the 1860s. They were added when the cottage was converted from dairy to residential use, to house the ranger's family while the Rangers Cottage was constructed next door.

These windows date from 1823 and are unusual, as the glazing bars are much smaller than examples from the same time period found in New South Wales. This particular type is only found in rural England and is a good example of the migration of ideas and culture that arrived with the convict builders.

These English bond bricks were made by convicts at the Government Farm, dating to the 1790s. The brick kilns were located on the river opposite Dodd’s Farm near Old Government House. All of the material used to build the cottage was made locally by convicts. The mortar is of shell lime mixed with a loam earth typical of the early colonial era.

These sections of timber date to the 1790s. All of the timber in the cottage was sourced locally and cut by convict workers with axes and pit saws, evidenced by the hand-hewn axe markings which are visible on the rough beams.

This fireplace was built in the 1790s and later adapted in the 1820s to serve the room. This can be seen in the top curved top plate and the lower straight top plate. Later the fireplace was plastered with cement render, which was removed in the 1990s during work to modernise the cottage. The kitchen fireplace on the other side of this wall serviced the sunken dairy next door.

Termites have taken their toll on wooden sections of the cottage. New support beams have been installed to support the roof structure next to original 1820s beams. The new support beams have been painted grey to clearly identify them as a later 20th Century conservation measure.

These sections of timber date to the 1820s. All of the timber in the cottage was sourced locally and cut by convict workers with axes and pit saws, evidenced by the hand-hewn axe markings which are visible on the rough beams.

The Sunken Milk Room

By 1815, Governor Macquarie had purchased George Salter’s land and had the cottage converted to a dairy. He constructed a sunken milk room adjacent to it, which measured 5.8m by 4.3m. Inside was a single room that was excavated to a depth of 1.5m below ground surface to keep dairy products cool. A staircase along one wall led to the floor of the sunken milk room and the other walls were lined with stone work benches. This sunken milk room is still visible today as a cellar beneath the Rangers Cottage.

The sunken milk room was used to store milk, cheese and butter. Cheese was made from milk curd, wrapped in cloths and left to mature on shelves which ran along the wall of the sunken milk room. Butter was made by churning cream that had been separated from scolded milk. A dairy cart carried the milk, butter and cheese to Government House, the Female Factory and to Parramatta's dock, from where it was shipped to Sydney.

The Rangers Cottage
After Parramatta Park was opened to the public in 1858, the Dairy Precinct became the home of the Park Rangers. In the 1870s, the Rangers Cottage was built on top the sunken milk room, which was soon forgotten, buried deep beneath the cottage.

The Rangers Cottage was built specifically for accommodation of the ranger's family. Here the domestic fireplace has survived. All of the family's cooking, boiling water and heating requirements was supplied by this fireplace.

Ranger Sim's brother-in-law, Horace Melville, painted murals above the picture rails in the Rangers Cottage. Melville was a tailor for New Zealand and his hobby was painting. The murals depict landscapes from his homeland and date from the late 1920s to early 1930s.

The Rangers Cottage is typical of late Victorian houses with its double brick walls, solid large doors, high ceilings and hung windows. This is in contrast to the Dairy Cottage next door.

Conservation and Archaeology at the Dairy Precinct
Since the mid-1980s, conservation works aimed at restoring and maintaining the park’s heritage significance were undertaken. In 1993, a small team lifted the floor of the Rangers Cottage. The few artifacts they recovered indicated that the sunken milk room was filled with industrial slag between 1890 and WWI. Beer bottles from the 1880s cellar and the steps and remains of the sandstone shelves were discovered.
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For more information, visit the Parramatta Park website.

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