Convict Huts, Western View of Toongabbie, published by Cadell and Davies, 1798
For tens of thousands of years the Toongabbie area has been used and managed by the local indigenous Darug tribes. The family groups usually camped alongside the creeks to provide drinking water and they also hunted kangaroo, possum and other wildlife. They fished and collected aquatic life and utilised the native vegetation for food, tools, art work and bark canoes.
On 22 April 1788 twelve men led by Governor Phillip sailed up the Parramatta River from their settlement at Port Jackson until they could no longer travel by boat. They marched west alongside the Toongabbie Creek looking for arable land to plant crops and establish farming communities to support the fledgling colony. Later, that same year, Governor Phillip devised plans to expand the colony around the Parramatta area and on 2 November the second settlement was established on the Crescent alongside the river in what is now Parramatta Park.
The first supplies started being shipped up river from the 4 November 1788 and the settlement of Rose Hill was born. Rose Hill was later renamed on 2 June 1791, to Parramatta as it was mistakenly called, as the local Aboriginal people called the area Burramatta, or Place where the eels lie down.
On 1 April 1791 Governor Phillip established a large scale government farm 3.5 km to the north west at ‘Tongabby’ the meeting of waters. The ‘Tongabby’ farm run by Superintendent Thomas Daveney, soon became the main food supplying area of the struggling colony after the Second Fleet arrived. Pronounced Toon-gab-be, now known as Toongabbie, the farm grew into Australia’s third settlement and sustained the growth of Sydney Cove and Rose Hill.
Often referred to as ‘Government Farm’, life here was cruel and harsh. It employed up to 500 convicts; most from the Third Fleet. The ‘Government Farm’ ran from 1791 to 1803 and was bounded by Hawkesbury Road (Old Windsor Road), Junction Road and Gibbon Road with the main settlement adjacent to the bend of Toongabbie Creek.
In 1794 Governor Francis Grose gave the first grants of land to Thomas Daveney (100 acres/40.4 hectares), Andrew Hume (30 acres/12 hectares), Charles Grimes (100 acres/40.4 hectares) and John Redmond (60 acres/24 hectares). These were made as the new Hawkesbury Road was built.
In 1805 The Hawkesbury Road was renamed Old Windsor Road. A prosperous township flourished around the intersection of Fitzwilliam Road and Old Windsor Road until the railway line from Parramatta to Blacktown was completed in 1860.
This led to the establishment of a new Toongabbie station and this new site about 2 km to the west attracted most of the new business.
Oakes reserve was part of the land (121.4 hectares) purchased by George Oakes purchased in 1861. It is believed George Oakes added the rock slab steps to the old carved out steps and to have constructed the weir that crossed old Toongabbie up until 2006.
Today Parramatta City Council with the support of volunteers from Dananggara Corridors Bush care and Baxter Healthcare are restoring the creek bank ecosystem by bush regeneration, weeding/removing exotic plants and replanting with the original native plant community. The site is now listed on the State Heritage Register and the area can be a place of tranquil reflection of the past that was.
Parramatta, Dictionary of Sydney, http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/parramatta
Mary McGuinness, 2012, ‘Convict History in Old Toongabbie and Winston Hills’, History Services Blog, http://historyservicesnswblog.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/convict-history-in-old-toongabbie-and.html
B. H. Fletcher, ‘Phillip, Arthur (1738-1814)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/phillip-arthur-2549, published first in hardcopy 1967
Old Toongabbie, Dictionary of Sydney, http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/old_toongabbie_and_toongabbie
Toongabbie Government Farm Archaeological Site, State Heritage Register, NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5061406