Thursday, March 6, 2014

Old Sydney Town - the Memories

The recent fire at the site of Old Sydney Town at Somersby, New South Wales, evokes memories of this iconic historical venture in its heyday.

Early guide book and brochure of Old Sydney Town , printed in 1974.
Photo taken January 2014
Old Sydney Town was the dream of architect Frank Fox who wanted "to achieve a re-creation of the birth of our nation" . 

Fox purchased the land at Somersby in 1969. Old Sydney Town was officially opened by the then prime minister, Gough Whitlam on Australia Day, 26 January 1975. At that time it was a joint venture with the Federal Government and the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac).

Old Sydney Town  was the was a faithful reconstruction of Sydney town between the years 1788-1810. Based on extensive research, it reflected the life of the convicts, the military and the emanicipists of the era as well the infrastructure and buildings.

Official guide to Old Sydney Town - 1974
showing key to the buildings
Photo taken February 2014

Map of Old Sydney Town - 1974
Photo taken February 2014

View of Old Sydney Town from Google Earth 2013
showing the remaining structure of the
Brig Perseverance at bottom left.
Among its features were:
  • Convict hut of William and Mary Bryant;
  • Government Windmill;
  • Dawes Observatory;
  • Rose Stablers' Eating House;
  • HM Brig Lady Nelson.
Its most significant contribution was in making Australian history popular. Old Sydney Town was an invaluable resource for school groups to gain a general knowledge our early colonial history in Sydney. It was also a fun place for a family outing to enjoy the same.

Original signage at Old Sydney Town.
Photo taken June 2012

Family fun Day at Old Sydney Town - In the stocks
Photo taken May 1986
Coach ride at Old Sydney Town
Photo taken May 1986

Like similar historic villages (Australian Pioneer Village at Wilberforce, Lachlan Vintage Village at Forbes)  Old Sydney Town had a chequered history. It was leased to Warwick Amusements in 1987 and was subsequently bought by that group in 2000. 

Old Sydney Town was closed down in 2003.

In February 2013 it was reported that Peter and Michael Fox (sons of the founder) were in discussions with the park owner, Richard Chiu, to investigate a sustainable and viable future for the Old Sydney Town site [Daily Telegraph, 19 February 2013].

On a visit to the site in 2012, some vestiges of the original layout still remained.

A Redcoat at Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012

View of Entrance to Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012
View of Entrance to Old Sydney Town
Photo taken June 2012

View of entrance to Old Sydney Town after the fire
Photo taken February 2014

View of entrance to Old Sydney Town after the fire
Photo taken February 2014

It was with a certain sadness then that we revisited the Old Sydney Town site after the recent fire in February 2014, realising that it had been robbed of a little bit more of its history.

The fight to save Old Sydney Town is not over. Maybe something good can come out of the ashes!

If you are interested in researching Australian history, go to our website at:

Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken and dated from my collection.

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