St Marys & District Historical Society Inc - Quarterly Newsletter

Society members on the verandah of Experimental Farm at Parramatta

The Society enjoys a bus trip to Experimental Farm & Old Government House at Parramatta

Experimental Farm Cottage and the first years of European settlement in New South Wales are linked when in 1789 Governor Arthur Phillip gave a former convict, James Ruse, the chance to see how long it would take for a man to be able to support himself, free of Government stores. By 1791, James was self sufficient and was awarded with a grant of thirty acres of land, the first grant in Australia. The property known as “Experimental Farm” was purchased by Surgeon John Harris in 1793 and he erected the homestead seen above. The homestead was built along the lines of an Indian bungalow and contains a fine collection of Australian Colonial furniture, while the cellars house a museum on the life of James Ruse, Australia’s first private farmer.

Members at the front entrance to Old Government House

Old Government House is Australia's oldest surviving public building. It was built by Governor’s John Hunter and Lachlan Macquarie between 1799 and 1818. The general tour taken by our members explored the life and times of the people who lived in the house from the Governor and his family down to their servants. Faithfully restored and furnished to the Macquarie period (1810-1821), Old Government House boasts the nation's most important collection of early Australian furniture.

Photos courtesy of member Caroline Volkiene

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Page No. 1

Growing up in St Marys
I remember .......
Fly paper hanging from the ceiling......home made ice-cream at birthday parties.....fresh cream from a neighbour’s cow......Sunday drives with the family......falling asleep in my Aunt’s bed while listening to the crowd playing cards in the lounge room.... bringing in the scuttle of coal for the “cozzie” in winter.......cutting fire wood for the fuel stove
I remember ......
Running out to eat the ice before it melted from the sky......leaving a saucer of water out in winter and eating the ice it became..... making toast from the fire under the boiler in the washhouse...........waiting to turn the wringer on our new washing machine... doing acrobats on my bike down the dirt road in front of our house.......playing with my sister and cousins in Victoria Park (our second playground)
I remember......
Listening to my uncle Reg sing in the local bar on balmy summer evenings........cracker night when all the kids from the neighbourhood built the biggest bonfire and let off the loudest crackers...Beacroft’s meat - our family butcher ......Sandy Lang - our local shop owner.....Tom Mummery - our travelling “vegyman”...... Mr Andrews - our local “postie”.........public phones at the Old Post Office.......Mr Blake - our local bootmaker......Lamming’s - our local retail store.......Mr Little - our corner store for lollies before uncle Bert who mended our shoes....... “Pan day” at Christmas when we left a bottle of beer for the “sanny man” I remember ..... if I was sick..... “Sal Vital” for stomach problems......”Cure-Em-Quicks” or lemon juice and sugar for a sore throat........warm Olive Oil for ear aches.......”Sulphur Digene” those little pink pillow pills when chewed just tasted good.......”Irish Moss” for coughs.....Nepean Cottage Hospital for tonsil removal.......Dr Day up on the hill who, with his daughter Prue, was our family doctor
I remember.........
Twirley skirts and rope petticoats........ my first high heels and stockings.........a transistor radio from Japan....... being the “Milton” girl in my class...... learning to write with “slope cards” and pens with nibs and blue ink... that chip of ice from the block the “ice man” brought for our ice chest........ the “Crown Theatre” where I saw my first film and had my first kiss... the War Memorial in Victoria Park where us kids climbed up the sides and jumped off......the tang of the onion weed bulbs picked in the park and the local “footy” and cricket team matches on that park.......the cricket stand where we watched the games
I remember ......
Ballroom dancing lessons at Memorial Hall..........waving to the buses that came for the “Head of the River” along the highway each year.......marching in the street parades from the station to Victoria Park on “Empire Day”.........trying not to look at the coffin of a school friend as it made it’s way past us to the cemetery........getting hit in the nose by a “rounder” ball at a high school game (ouch!).........finally able to wear a school uniform instead of my regular clothes......seeing the tip of Dad’s cigarette in the dark as he watered the front lawn in summer......digging up our garden for pieces of pottery that come from another era........waiting for Mum as she came home from work..........playing “dress ups” in Mum’s old clothes and shoes
I remember......
Riding my bike with a girlfriend all the way down Mamre Road to the “pipeline” and back.....selling my school calendars to the scattered houses along Victoria Road at Werrington.... picking mushrooms and collecting “cow pats” with my family in the fields along Mamre Road....playing at local creeks like “the duck pond” and “South Creek”....swimming at “Red Bank” and picnics at the “Reservoir”....floods at South Creek that flooded up Putland and Saddington Streets.... my Aunty Dot who pulled a “dilly” up the shops and back almost every day...Ernie Evans on his bike, peddling furiously to the fire station.....”The Runner” who ran daily past our house up Pages Road....”Lancy” and “Tessie” Thompson who came past on Putland Street....”Gassy” who lived next door and was a best friend to my Nanna...Aunty Mary who lived at “Mimosa” where I played with cousins
I remember.... a wonderful childhood, full of laughter and fun - happy memories that last forever......

Submitted by Lyn Forde “Baby Boomer”
Page No. 2

St Mary Magdalene Church of England - Sketch dated 1890’s Artist Unknown

St Mary Magdalene Anglican church celebrates it’s 165th anniversary.

The land that the church stands on was the original grant to John Oxley and later acquired by Phillip Parker King. His family donated the land for the church and cemetery and a foundation stone was laid in November, 1837. The church was consecrated on the 23rd April, 1840. The church was built with bricks made on the site of “Dunheved” the King family property. The first clergyman to officiate at St Marys during 1839 was the Rev. Thomas Mackinson of St Thomas’ at Mulgoa but after the consecration the church was attached to the Parish of St Stephens at Penrith.


The St Marys & District Historical Society meets every 4th Saturday at 1 pm - at the St Marys Arts & Craft Centre 2 - 6 Mamre Road, St Marys.


Website -

This Newsletter is a free publication. Articles in this Newsletter may be republished if permission is given by the Society.

Please contact:-



Norma Thorburn 9623-2307

Lyn Forde 9673-3506

(While care is taken to ensure that all articles are accurate, the opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society) Any comments on this Newsletter are encouraged

Page No. 3

Life in the 1500’s - The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be in the 1500’s. Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children and last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.

Houses had thatched roofs which consisted of thick straw piled high with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof and when it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and slide off the roof. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed, so a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection and that’s how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt as only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying “dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until you opened the door and it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way. Hence the saying a ‘thresh hold”

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old”

Sometimes they could obtain pork which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off because it was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and they would all sit around and “chew the fat.”

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach into the food causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or “upper crust.”

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky and the combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a “Wake.”

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a “bone-house” and reuse the grave When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would sit out in the graveyard all night (the “graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a “dead ringer.”


Editor & Publisher: Lyn Forde

Page No. 4