Friday, October 14, 2011

In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop - The Rocks

Our historical excursions around Sydney would not be complete without following the footsteps of Saint Mary MacKillop in The Rocks area of Sydney.

Guided by the book, A Pilgrimage Through The Rocks, Sydney by Sister Jeanette Foxe rsj 2010, we took a walking tour and came upon parts of Sydney that we had not seen before. The Sisters of Saint Joseph had a presence in The Rocks from 1880 to 1901 where they set up Houses of Providence to minister to the poor and homeless. The Jospehites, as the Sisters were known, also taught at several schools in the area.

Like many of the early historical buildings in The Rocks, several of the Houses of Providence and the buildings housing Josephite schools have been demolished and the sites redeveloped.

However two significant "Mary" sites are still standing in Kent Street.

The first is St Brigid's Church (photo of outside at left and interior at right above).

It was completed in 1835 under the auspices of Governor Sir Richard Bourke "as a Roman Catholic School House to be occasionally used as a Chapel". The building originally housed a school for boys started by the Christian Brothers in 1843. The Josephites taught there from 1884 to 1898.

Today it is a beautiful little Church - a rare find.

The second site is Winsbury 75-79 Kent Street (photo at right ). It was the third House of Providence rented by the Sisters of Saint Joseph from 30 July 1880. Mary MacKillop resided there from February -March 1881.

No longer standing is Cheshunt, the fourth and largest House of Providence, at 3 Cumberland Street, now the site of the Harbour View Hotel. Mary stayed here from December 1882-March 1883 and again from November 1883-March 1884. Next door to Cheshunt was the parish Church of St Michael's built in 1882. It was from here that Mary's Mother, Flora MacKillop was buried following her drowning in the shipwreck of the Ly-ee-Moon off Eden, NSW on 30 May 1886.

Another is St Bridget's Hall School, 89-113 Kent Street, now the site of the Observatory Hotel. The Josephites ran this school for girls from August 1880 until it closed in 1886.

For a History of the Roman Catholic Church in the Colony of New South Wales 1800-1836, go to the Resources link in the website of History Services NSW at

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway - A Discovery

Route of Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway -1883
An interesting afternoon as we traversed the route of the Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway. This was the third and last zig-zag railway built in NSW (after Lapstone and Lithgow).

It was constructed in 1883 by railway contractors, Amos & Co, as a branch line coming off the main Northe
rn Railway Line just north of what is now Thornleigh Station and descending to a quarry some 35 metres below. The quarry supplied "stone ballast (white metal - metamorphised sandstone) for a southern section of the Homebush (Sydney ) to Waratah (Newcastle) railway line" [Historic Engineering Marker 2006, Thornleigh Quarry].

The zig-zag facilitated the steep descent/ascent to/from the Quarry for the railway trucks carrying the stone to the top for use along the route of the railway line.

While much of the route of the Zig-Zag Railway has today been taken over by residential development, we followed the descent from the top point across Pritchard and Wells Streets to the bottom point neat Janet Street. Then entering the bush from a track off Morgan Street, we came to Zig-Zag Creek (photo at left above) and then up a little further up to the Quarry (photo at right above). It is a huge excavation site. We climbed to the top just below to what is now Oakleigh Park.

On our way back we were attempting to ascertain the actual route for the Zig-Zag, when we discovered an old railway sleeper embedded near the creek (photo above and at left below). Its position would suggest that it is probably part of the original line.

Also nearby was a piece of narrow gauge rail line. (photo at right).

So at least we were close to the original route which appears to have run close to the Creek.

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors database has many entries for railway contracts awarded by the NSW Government for the period 1832-1900.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

St Thomas' Church Mulgoa - Two Coincidences

On Tuesday, 13 September 2011, we visited the Mulgoa area and came upon St Thomas' Anglican Church atop the hill. This beautiful sandstone Church was conscrecrated by Bishop Broughton in 1838.

The Cox family, sons of William Cox builder of the first road over the Bue Mountains, had a strong association with St Thomas'. Edward Cox donated the five acres of elevated land on which the church was built. The sandstone used in the construction was cut from Edward's nearby property, Fernhill and from that of his brother, Henry Cox's property, Glenmore (now the Glenmore Country Club).

The graves of Edward Cox of Fernhill, died 18 May 1868 aged 63 years (photo at left) and George Cox of Wimbourne, died 20 August 1868 aged 74 years (photo at right) are found in the cemetery in the Church grounds.

In the following week, on a visit to St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, we came across a stained glass window which was "the Gift of George Cox of Wimborne and Edward Cox of Fernhill, Mulgoa, in memory of their father William Cox of Clarendon Richmond NSW.."

Also coincident with our visit to St Thomas', we received a request through History Services NSW for information on two convicts who it turned out were married there in 1845.

If you are researching a convict ancestor area, you should go the History Services NSW website at: