Ngarunga Gurubadu: Stories Of River & Water

Join the team at Fairfield City Museum & Gallery through late June to early September as they present their new exhibition, ‘Ngarunga Gurubadu: Stories Of River & Water’, which is a contemporary Aboriginal response to the rivers and waterways of the Darug language nation.

Please check the poster below or contact the Museum & Gallery on 02 9725 0190 for further details.


Published in: on June 9, 2017 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sydney in 1943

Thanks to SIX (Spatial Information Exchange) Maps, you can browse Sydney in 1943 in the same way you use Google Maps to view the modern world. The photographs were taken from a reconnaissance plane in 1943, and have been carefully ‘stitched together’ to appear as a satellite view. Here’s what Cabramatta CBD and Station looked like in 1943:


To have a look, simply head to SIX Maps, click on Basemaps in the top right hand corner, and then ‘Looking for 1943 imagery?’ An additional menu will open to the left, allowing you to select ‘Sydney 1943 imagery’.

This allows you to toggle between a modern and 1943 view by again selecting Basemaps and choosing between the two.

Use the searchbar in the top left hand corner to find a specific address.

Find anything interesting? Let us know in the comments!




Published in: on May 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lest We Forget

ANZAC Day March [Smithfield, NSW] 1966
“Members of the Smithfield RSL Club take part in an ANZAC Day march in 1966.” ANZAC3

Soldier’s Memorial Bandstand [Cabramatta, NSW] 2004
“This memorial is located at the Cabra-Vale Park. It was completed in 1919 in memory of local soldiers killed in World War I. The monument was deidicated on Anzac Day 1919.”


ANZAC Day Service in front of Cabra-Vale Town Hall [Cabramatta, NSW] 1920s
“Gun is a captured German field artillery gun. Speaker is possibly Alderman Jacob Cook.”


Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

ANZAC Centenary

The Centenary of Anzac 2014 to 2018 is Australia’s most important period of national commemoration. Marking 100 years since our involvement in the First World War, the Anzac Centenary is a time to honour the service and sacrifice of our original ANZACs, and the generations of Australian servicemen and women who have defended our values and freedoms, in wars, conflicts and peace operations throughout a Century of Service.

Anzac Day Poster #23 Flanders.jpg
Centenary of the Flanders Offensive

More than 76,000 Australians became casualties on the Western Front in 1917, including some 22,000 who were killed. No year in Australia’s wartime history has been more costly. In this poster Australians march through Ypres in late October 1917 toward the end of the
massive British offensive known as the Third Battle of Ypres. The Australians fought in five major battles here: Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and Passchendaele. Images from this offensive are among the best known of the Western Front, and the Third Battle of Ypres has come to symbolise the muddy horror and waste of the First World War. The survivors of the fighting here faced another year of war before the Armistice brought an end to hostilities.


Fairfield City Open Libraries will be posting some local ANZAC content over the last week of April, in honour of ANZAC Day.



Published in: on April 10, 2017 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Journeys In Fairfield – Migrant Hostels

Come to Whitlam Library during the month of April to witness our Migrant Hostels exhibition, part of a series titled Journeys In Fairfield. Check our opening hours and come in for a visit!

The exhibition highlights Cabramatta and Villawood migrant hostels, which were operational between the 1950s and 1980s. It shows everyday hostel life, featuring families who made the journey to an unknown land by all methods and means in order to make a new life for themselves, and to enrich ours in turn.


Published in: on April 1, 2017 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Not Just Pin Money: Australia’s Forgotten Colonial Businesswomen


Colonial women are predominantly remembered in history as wives and mothers. Dr Catherine Bishop reveals, however, that many were also family breadwinners running a variety of small businesses to make ends meet.

When: 6:00-7:30pm, Wednesday 8 March 2017
Refreshments will be provided from 6-6:30pm
Where: Whitlam Library, 165 Railway Parade, Cabramatta
Cost: FREE
Contact:                           or 02 9725 0190








Booking can be made at Eventbrite

Published in: on March 7, 2017 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Biographies of Male Orphan School Staff


Edward Gray

In 1817 Edward Gray came to Australia from England as a free settler aboard the Lord Melville. In 1818 he was appointed Overseer of the Orphan School Farm.

“The members heard with much pleasure, from the Minutes of the Local Committee that an engagement had been entered into with Edward Gray the Overseer, for the recovery of Strayed Cattle, at the rate of two Cows for every ten, not calculating any under one year old.”

On 17 December 1820 Edward and his wife Emma had their first child, Charlotte Emma. Gray was in charge of the cattle on the land and also responsible for the School building and a number of apprentices working on the farm. Gray continued working at the Orphan School Farm until 1825, then left to settle on his land grant of 600 Acres at Sutton Forest. He named his property Spring Hill where he later became the inn Keeper of The Black Horse. Edward died on 25 June 1868. His gravestone apparently read: ‘Edward Gray, Gun maker, aged 83, parents unknown, born in UK per Lord Melville 1815, unknown whether he had children.’

Descendant: Nicole Kelly, Wishart, QLD (great, great, great granddaughter)    Researcher: Russell Kelly

William Sadler

William was a convict assigned to the Male Orphan School between 1819 and 1832.82 There, he met Mary Lillis (Lillace), whom he married in 1823 and together, they had a son named Richard. Mary had a son from a previous relationship, named James Lillis, who had come with Mary to New South Wales from England, and was admitted to the School in 1822.

Descendant & researcher: Lesley Cash, Charmhaven, NSW (great, great, great, great grandaughter)

Isaac Simpkins

Isaac Simpkins was born about 1779, probably in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1824 Isaac stood trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, charged with housebreaking in Albany Street, Edinburgh.84 Isaac had five children and was reported to be a good man, but was sentenced to 14 years transportation to Sydney.

He sailed on the Minstrel on 17 April 1825 and arrived in Sydney on 22 August 1825.85 That year, he was included in a list of convicts being forwarded to Liverpool for distribution and assignment to the Male Orphan School. Simpkins was a gentleman’s servant or valet so may have been a servant to the Master of the School at the time, Edward Sweetman. In 1827, the Sydney Gazette mentioned his appointment to the police force, and in 1838 he received his certificate of freedom. In 1847 Isaac Simpkins married Margaret Hays or Hayes. Isaac died in Bathurst in 1851 at the age of 72.

Descendant & researcher: David Mackay Millan, London, UK (great, great, great grandson)

Edward Sweetman

Edward Sweetman and his wife Sarah came from Isle of Wight, England, and were sent out by Lord Bathurst in London for Sarah to be Mistress of the Female Orphan School at Parramatta. Sarah Sweetman was to receive a salary of £100 and her husband would receive £50 for managing the household, farm and garden.

They sailed on the convict transport Albion with their three daughters, and arrived in the colony at the end of 1823. Both immediately fell ill and spent the year at the school ‘languishing under their confinement to their room’.

For a change of air, Governor Brisbane transferred them to the Male Orphan School Farm in early 1825. Sweetman resigned from the Male Orphan School post in March 1825 due to the illness of he and his wife.

“During nearly the whole of the time… our health was such as to incapacitate us from the performance of the arduous duties it involved…. my own health has been so indifferent as to prevent that attention to its Interest…”

Sarah died from her illness in July and Edward in August 1825. They were buried in the cemetery at Liverpool. Their three children thus became orphans, less than three years after they arrived in the colony to administer the Orphan Schools.

Descendant & researcher: Margaret Hatfield, Normanhurst, NSW (great, great, great granddaughter)

James Busby

untitled-design-5Born in Edinburgh on 7 February 1801, James Busby studied viticulture in France and arrived in the colony with his parents on 24 February 1824. He was the son of John Busby who built bores that provided early Sydney with its much needed water supply. Soon after their arrival, James was appointed to teach agriculture and wine making to the boys at the Male Orphan School, and to run the school farm, and the age of only 24. Although not the first to plant vines and make wine in the colony, Busby was a pioneer in colonial viticulture, being called the prophet of Australian viticulture. Among other publications, Busby wrote A Treatise on the Culture of the Vine and the Art of Wine Making, published in Sydney in 1825.

The first wine made at the Male Orphan School was tasted by Busby in March 1830 and he considered it to be excellent. In 1826, when the Clergy and School Lands Corporation took over management of the School, Busby’s agreement of £100 per year and one third of the farm produce, was considered too favourable to Busby, and he was dismissed from the position. Under the later management of Richard Sadleir, the School continued to produced wine. Ten gallons of the 1829-30 vintage were given to Busby, which he took to London in 1831, where it was pronounced very promising. At that time Busby toured vineyards in France and Spain, where he collected hundreds of vine specimens, which he donated to the colonial government who shipped them to the colony. Many of the vines were planted in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney and made available to wine makers, while 365 others were planted at ‘Kirkton’ in the Hunter valley. From 1833 Busby lived in Auckland New Zealand and returned to England where he died in 1871.

Descendants: Busby family, Sydney, NSW and NZ

Reverend Robert Cartwright

Born in 1771 in Wellington, Shropshire, Reverend Robert Cartwright was curate at Bradford for fourteen years, when visited by Samuel Marsden, who told him of the need for chaplains in New South Wales. With some reluctance, Cartwright consented and sailed for Sydney with his family, arriving with the Reverend and Mrs Marsden on the convict ship Ann on 27 February 1810. He was appointed to the Hawkesbury and the new town of Windsor became the centre of his chaplaincy. He remained there with his wife and children until December 1819, when he was transferred to Liverpool. Cartwright was an early advocate of Governor Macquarie’s measures to protect Aborigines and for reserves for Aboriginal settlement.

During this post at Liverpool he became Master of the Male Orphan School, where he lived in the Master’s Residence with his wife Mary Boardman, whom he had married in England in 1796, and their eleven children. Cartwright remained Master between 1825 and January 1829 during which he won the commendation of the Archdeacon Scott. He resigned from his position due to ill health, but secured the position for his son-in law Richard Sadleir, who had married his daughter Anne. He remained as Chaplain for Liverpool until 1836, when he was posted to St James Church, Sydney and in 1838 moved to Collector (Gunning) where he remained until his death on 14 December 1856. He was buried in Liverpool Cemetery near St Luke’s Church, Liverpool.

Descendants: Martin Carney, Stanmore,

Robert Cooper

Robert Cooper was born in 1760 in Newbold, Derbyshire to George Cooper and Faith Stephenson. In 1781 he married a Hannah (Susannah) Martin, but in 1783 he was drafted into the British Army, and his regiment was sent to fight the French in the West Indies during the Napoleonic Wars, never to see his wife again. Cooper also served on Grenada and St Kitts, and in 1796 he returned to Plymouth. In 1798 Robert married Ellen (anonymous) and they had a daughter they named Ann. Robert was then posted at Cornwall, then on prison ships. In 1806 Robert transferred to the New South Wales Corps. He then transferred to the 73rd Regiment and in autumn 1809 he travelled to Sydney on Ann 2, with his wife Ellen and their three children.

Robert’s discharge certificate describes him as 5 foot 6 ½ inches, with light brown eyes and a fair complexion. Robert and his family arrived at Sydney Cove on Tuesday 27 February aboard the Ann 2 in 1810. Cooper was part of a detachment of the Royal Veterans who set up headquarters at Parramatta in 1814. The Veterans were disbanded in 1823, but it appears Cooper stayed living in the area. In 1820 he wrote a petition on behalf of the son of Ann Thomas for admission to the Orphan School, but the child was reported to have a father-in-law and mother alive and therefore not an object for the Male Orphan School. In 1824 he was working as a blacksmith/whitesmith at the Male Orphan School, where he worked until 1826 and was transferred to Liverpool. During work at the school he was probably involved in teaching the blacksmithing trade to the boys. Robert Cooper later settled in Wollombi, NSW, and died in 1837.

Descendant & researcher: Ralph Hawkins, Thornleigh, NSW (great, great, great, great grandson)

Lieutenant Richard Sadleir RN

Richard Sadleir was born on 6 May 1794 in Cork, Ireland. The British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar inspired Richard to join the navy, which he did in 1808 at the age of 13. He spent many years on the British naval ships and spent time at Portsmouth, Spitzbergen, Halifax in Newfoundland. In 1819 he was awarded the rank of Lieutenant. He was eventually transferred back to England and then to Ireland and became involved with helping Irish families to migrate to Canada. Inspired by W.C. Wentworth’s writings, he migrated to Australia, sailing on the Thames, and arrived on 11 April 1826. In 1829 Sadleir took the post of Master of the Male Orphan School, and was paid £150 per annum. and remained at the school until its closure in 1850. At the same time he took the post of catechist to the Liverpool Parish. On 12 December 1830, Richard Sadleir and Anne Cartwright, the daughter of Reverend Robert Cartwright, were married by her father in St Luke’s Church, Liverpool. Anne gave birth to their children in the Master’s residence, including Mary (1831), Robert (1833), Matthew (1836) and George(1835) and Richard(1838).

When the Male Orphan School was closed in 1850, Sadleir worked at Liverpool as a road surveyor and engineer, and in 1853 he was made Justice of the Peace and Magistrate. He then became Secretary to the Benevolent Society, Sydney and was a long-standing committee member of the Bethel Association. He purchased land near Liverpool in 1864 and lived in the original Warwick Farm house,  where Anne died in 1870. In later life he moved regularly and was involved in many community organisations. He became Liverpool’s first mayor in 1872. Richard died at Liverpool on 6 March 1889, in his 96th year. He is buried with his father in law, Rev Robert Cartwright, and wife Anne in the Pioneer Cemetery, Liverpool.

Descendants: John Sadleir, Glebe, NSW;

[Exerpt taken from ‘…vicious and rebellious’?: Life at the Male Orphan School, 1819-1850 by Fiona Starr & Rebecca Wheller, pp. 19-22]


Published in: on November 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Masters of Male Orphan School


Published in: on October 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Westacott Cottage


Westacott Victorian Cottage

Westacott Cottage is a fine example of a late Victorian period, rendered masonry cottage that is rare in the Fairfield area. It has an unusual combination of parapet and verandah form in the one building. It is still in good condition and with much interesting original timber and rendered detail. It has a historical and local significance for its association with William Westacott and the close by railway station at Canley Vale.

Physical descriptions of Westacott Coattage:

westacott-plan-1A Victorian period cottage with rendered brick walls. It has a corrugated iron roof and gable at the north end and a hip at the south end with close eaves. It also has a wing walled verandah to street façade, rendered brick chimneys with cornices and an original tile decoration to the faces of the wing wall at the ends. The verandah has two chamfered verandah posts and three pairs of French doors, with highlights.

The parapet wall to the southern half of the street façade with a shop-front has a panelled entry door with highlight, there is also projecting architrave and segmental arched on the top frame to the shop-front. There are two matching four-pane sash windows with raised rendered architraves (triangular at top) to the north façade and four pane double-hung window with segmental arch to the south façade. A picketed balustrade and side fence skirts the property.

westacott-stable-planModifications and dates:

The southern or parapeted part of the building is possibly a later addition to the northern half of the building, with the verandah. In any case, both parts of the building were constructed in the late nineteenth century. A recent major modification is the skillion roofed addition at the rear. The picket fence is also new.


The Cottage was built by William Westacott in 1886, eight years after the creation of the nearby railway station. It was the home of Williams Westacott, his wife Ellen Mary and their children. Bill Westacott conducted a wood , coal and coke business for many years (on the site of the present car park). The two daughters also turned the front of the house into a thriving little sweet shop. Bill Denton then used the premise as a hairdressing salon and then it became a general store. In 1979, the cottage was purchased by Fairfield City Council. It was later renovated and transformed,with the assistance of a grant from the Cultural Division of the Premier’s Department, into the permanent home for the Fairfield City Arts and Crafts Group, at a cost of $30,000.

The Westacott Cottage provided a venue for the Cabramatta and Districts Art Society, the Cottage China Painting Group, the Westacott Potters Group and the Hand Spinners Weavers and Dyers Guild to meet and create art works and handicrafts. It also enable the public to purchase some of these finished handcrafted goods from the cottage.

Visit the Westacott Cottage Arts & Crafts Centre and discover programs and classes that are on offer!

[Source: Office of Environment and Heritage – Westacott Cottage ]

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Westacott Family


William Westacott

William Westacott, the son of James and Elizabeth Westacott, was born in about 1855. He married Ellen Mercy Smith at Glebe in 1881. There were six children registered to William and Ellen M. , three registered at Waterloo, between 1881 and 1885, of which only Victoria was mentioned as being alive in 1920, and three registered at Liverpool between 1887 and 1893, with William J and Bessie mentioned in 1920.

In 1886, William Westacott built a house in Railway Parade directly opposite Canley Vale railway station. Several generations of the Westcotts resided in this property and the house became a distinctive landmark. William Westacott was a timber merchant who owned and operated a sawmill in Canley Vale, opposite the railway station.

William Westacott was elected to council in February 1893 and took his place in council in March. He was absent in October and November 1893. He served on the finance and works commitees from 1894 to 1897, being chairman in 1984. When works was separated from finance in 1898 he continued on the works committee from 1891 to 1900 and served on the parks committee in 1899.

westacottHe contacted influenza during the epidemic of 1919 and never recovered completely. He was confined to bed for the last seven months of his life and died on 19th November 1920 at the age of 65. The funeral moved from his home in Railway Parade, Canley Vale for the new Methodist cemetery at Liverpool, where the rev. CE Godbehear conducted the service. Ellen Mercy Westacott stayed at the family home and died there on 8 March 1923 at the age  of 62.

Three generations of the Westacott Family



[Source: Shaping Fairfield: the aldermen of Fairfield and Cabra-Vale Council 1889-1948 / Beverley Donald]



Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment