Explore the unique features of the Dairy and Rangers Cottages – including one of Australia's last remaining intact 18th century colonial settlers' buildings – and catch a rare glimpse into Australia's multilayered history.
Parramatta Park and the Dairy Precinct
Parramatta Park is one of Australia’s most significant cultural heritage landscapes. It is part of the former domain of Old Government House and is rich in archaeological sites relating to early Aboriginal and early Colonial history. The history of the Park is important in the history of Australia as a developing nation. The Park was one of the earliest gazetted public parks in Australia. The buildings, monuments and pavilions of this time tell the story of a People’s Park with an early Colonial cultural landscape setting that is still in place today.
The Dairy Precinct (2016)Parramatta Park
Located within the park, the Dairy Precinct is a site of great significance at a national and world level. It contains evidence of Aboriginal occupation for over 40,000 years as well as rare 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 not only the technology and materials used by early Colonial settlers, but almost 200 years of continued agricultural-related use.
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 oldest intact buildings still standing in Australia and its many early construction features are still visible. In 2010, as part of the Domain to Old Government House, it became part of the eleven Australian convict sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 1 - Convict BrickParramatta Park
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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 2 - DoorParramatta Park
This very unusual dovetailed joint in a door frame 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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 3 - The RoofParramatta Park
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 in the Dairy Cottage.
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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 4 - StencilParramatta Park
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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 5 - WallpaperParramatta Park
Wallpapers in the Dairy Cottage date from the 1850s and the 1860s. They were added when the cottage was converted from a dairy to residential use.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 7 - WindowParramatta Park
These windows are unusual, as the glazing bars are much smaller than examples from the same period found elsewhere 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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 8 - BricksParramatta Park
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 and lime, mixed with a loam earth, typical of the early colonial era.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 9 - WoodParramatta Park
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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 10 - The FireplaceParramatta Park
This fireplace was built in the 1790s and later adapted in the 1820s to serve the adjacent 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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 11 - Roof TimbersParramatta Park
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.
Dairy Cottage: Feature 12 - Roof JoistsParramatta Park
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 Dairy (2003)Parramatta Park
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 Dairy (2003)Parramatta Park
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 scalded 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.
Rangers Cottage: Feature 1 - The FireplaceParramatta Park
The Rangers Cottage was built specifically to accommodate the ranger's family. Here the domestic fireplace has survived. All of the family's cooking, boiling water and heating requirements were supplied by this fireplace.
Rangers Cottage: Feature 2 - MuralsParramatta Park
Ranger Sim's brother-in-law, Horace Melville, painted murals above the picture rails in the Rangers Cottage. Melville was a tailor from New Zealand and his hobby was painting. The murals depict landscapes from his homeland and date from the late 1920s to early 1930s.
Rangers Cottage: Feature 3 - Door FramesParramatta Park
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 artefacts they recovered indicated that the sunken milk room had been filled with industrial slag, somewhere between 1890 and WWI. Beer bottles from the 1880s cellar and the steps and remains of the sandstone shelves were discovered.
For more information, visit the Parramatta Park website.