George & Charles Street, Parramatta

Excavation site, George & Charles Streets, Parramatta. In the background is Harrisford, the original King's School building.

The Project

Archaeological work was undertaken on the corner of George & Charles Streets in Parramatta , a site of previous  colonial British occupation from the late eighteenth century. The focus of the work by Casey & Lowe and a team of archaeologists and volunteers was to excavate and record the remains of the post-1788 occupation. This work was funded by Meriton Apartments as part of the redevelopment of the site. The NSW Heritage Council has given approval for this work to be undertaken.


Historical Background


In 1790 Governor Phillip and Surveyor Augustus Alt laid out a town plan with High Street (George Street) running between the planned site of Government House and the Landing Place to the east of this site. As set out, George Street was 205 feet (63 m) wide and a mile (1.6 km) long. On either side of the street huts were to be erected, each capable of containing 10 persons, and at a distance of 60 feet (18.5 m) from each other, with
a garden area allotted at the rear of each hut. The huts were to be built of wattle and daub and the roof thatched and were to be 12 by 24 feet (4 by 8 m). The new street and the huts were built by the convicts from July 1790. By September 1790 bricks were being fired for a barracks and store house, a wharf was built just to the east of this site and 27 huts were being built along High Street (George Street). The archaeological remains of three convict huts aligned along George Street should survive within the study area. These three huts and three other early buildings along Charles Street were still standing in 1822.


In June 1823 Governor Brisbane formally made leases of land in Parramatta. The householders residing on a property they had previously acquired unofficially could now apply for an official title. In the late 1830s James and William Byrnes acquired most of the land within the study area. William Byrnes purchased Lot 69 in 1853. The two brothers were pioneers of steam ferry transport on the Parramatta William Byrnes’ father was a soldier from Northern Ireland who volunteered to come out to New South Wales and arrived in July 1808 with his family on the

William Byrnes married Anne Oakes, the daughter of a prominent local resident. They built a large two storey house with various outbuildings on George Street. They resided there for the rest of Byrnes’ life (1899). His two unmarried daughters continued to reside in the house until their deaths in the 1920s. Living with William Byrnes in 1841 were 13 males and 8 females. This includes four domestic servants as well as his family.

Twentieth Century

Emmeline and Marion Byrnes continued to live in the Byrnes’ house. In 1921 it was described as a twostorey brick house, roofed with slate, with 14 rooms, plus detached stables, coach house, kitchen, laundry, man’s room, store-room, fuel shed and pump house. About 1903, a small weatherboard shop and residence were erected on the eastern part of the land (Lot 69), which was subsequently let to Chinese tenants. Lots 18, 13, 14 and parts of Lot 70 were leased for market gardens. In 1921 Lot 69 had a weatherboard cottage of three rooms lined with wood and roofed with iron which was let to Ah Chee, as was all of the market garden on the various lots. In the 1960s warehouses were built on the site. These were recently demolished.

George & Charles Streets, Parramatta - A staircase into the cellar.
George & Charles Streets, Parramatta - A brick cistern with feeder drains.


This work is being funded by Meriton Apartments as part of the redevelopment of the site.


This project was funded by Meriton Apartments. The Heritage Council was the statutory approvals authority. Images Casey & Lowe and Shylie Brown.

Archaeological Assessment

Excavation Report


George & Charles Street, Parramatta