20 members of the Wyong Family History Group and their friends met mid morning on Friday 24th October to travel down the M1 to the Parramatta Female Factory's "It's a Riot" Open Day. The day started off with a bit of a glitch as the bus wouldn't start but after a quick visit from the NRMA and a shuffling of the pick-up times we eventually got under way. After a slight detour, caused by an errant 'No Right Turn' sign we made our first stop at Lake Parramatta where we enjoyed our home made lunches and drinks, some members even managed to obtain a coffee from the cafe in the park.
All too soon we were back in the bus and on our way to the Parramatta Female Factory.
Our visit to the Factory included a walking guided tour of the grounds complete with descriptions of the standing buildings and their uses during the period the Female Factory was in operation. Following is a brief history of the factory courtesy of the almighty GOOGLE and a couple of websites therein:-
"Designed by emancipated convict, Francis Greenway the Female Factory was the destination of all unassigned convict women sent to the colony of New South Wales. It played an important role in the provision of medical care for the wider female population and was an assignment depot, refuge, workhouse, a marriage bureau, hospital and prison. This multiplicity of roles made it difficult to administer and it quickly evolved from a place of refuge to that of a prison.
The foundation stone was laid on 4 May 1818 by Governor Macquarie in the presence of builders, Mssrs. Watkins and Payten, Chief Engineer Major George Druitt and convict work gangs. Building work was completed in early 1821 and on the 30 January 1821 the first women convicts were transferred from the nearby factory above the gaol.
(reprinted from http://www.parragirls.org.au/female-factory.php)
"There were 24,960 women transported to the early Australian colonies. An estimated 9,000 convict women went through the factory system of which approximately 5, 000 went through the Parramatta Female Factory. An estimated 1 in 5 to 1 in 7 Australians are related to the female factory women.
With the first Female Factory above the Parramatta Gaol (now demolished), this factory was the model for other 11 female factories in the colony. These women went on to help make the nation as the pioneer mothers, business women, farmers, teachers and so much more. It was built by convict men, for convict women and the children who were with them. It was commenced in 1818 and the first women were transferred there in February 1821. It is also the site of possibly the first female workers riot in Australia (1827) and one of the earliest factories in the Colony. The factory closed in 1848."
(reprinted from http://www.parramattafemalefactoryfriends.com.au/history/)
Our 3:15 tour got under way at approximately 3:30 but despite the late start our guide, Gay Hendriksen, gave us a very informative and entertaining tour of the precinct. Unfortunately the tour took place in the hottest part of the day on a unusually warm day and several members felt the effects of the heat and one by one retired inside to the comforts of the air-conditioning and fans. However all turned out well and by the time the Keynote speaker began everyone was back to their usual bright and bubbly self.
The keynote speaker was Babette Smith, author of several books on the subjects of early Australian history and the role of female convicts within that history. If you are interested in this side of our history I would recommend you read Babette's books, I believe we have several of her books in the WFHG library.
After a pleasant day at the Parramatta Female Factory we adjourned to the Rosehill Bowling Club for a tasty smorgasbord dinner before heading back up the M1 to home. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ken Cooke, our driver for the day, for making the trip enjoyable and comfortable.
All in all a very enjoyable bus trip.
Martin Fisher, member 653