HMS Sirius anchor and cannon, Macquarie Place, Sydney.

Relics of the First Fleet

Contemporary Australia had its beginnings on the shores of Sydney Cove where, in January 1788, the First Fleet of convicts ship arrived from England to establish the British Penal colony of New South Wales.

Surprisingly, very little physical evidence of the First Fleet's arrival and establishment of what became the city of Sydney has survived. There are few official documents - even one as important as the original of King George's official instructions to Arthur Phillip to establish of the colony has gone missing. The only actual relics from the First Fleet voyage are an anchor and a cannon from the fleet's flagship, HMS Sirius, which are on display in Macquarie Place Park (above). The following, however, are buildings, structures or objects which were created by or have a direct link to persons who came to Australia as part of the First Fleet.

First Fleet Farm, Farm Cove

One of many gardens established by Gov Phillip to grow food for the colony was on high ground fronting Farm Cove within an area set aside by Phillip as a public domain in what now is the Botanical Gardens. The location of this farm is commemorated today by a memorial vegetable garden planted with similar vegetables to those sown by the First Fleeters. This farm is commonly believed to have been the first farm of the First Fleeters but it is not marked on a map of Sydney Cove drawn by Lieutenant Bradley dated 1st March 1788. Gov. Phillip's valet for the voyage, Henry Dodd, was placed in charge of the farm. Dodd had been an agricultural labourer and had worked on Phillip's farm in Hampshire.

By the end of 1788, eight acres of cereal crops were under cultivation at Fram Cove but the yield, such as it was, proved disappointing.

Dawes Point Battery

Lieutenant William Dawes, an Officer of Engineers and Artillery built a simple mud redoubt for the storage of explosives near the an observatory he built at the point soon after his arrival in 1788. The battery was extended in 1789 and again during the latter years of the Macquarie era (1810-21), when Francis Greenway was instrumental in re-building the fort. In the 1830s, it was further modified to accommodate five mortars, thirteen 42 pounder cannon, a magazine and quarters for a garrison of soldiers and their commanding officer. This fort remained intact until 1929 when the section above ground was demolished to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Cannon are today mounted on the same spot when Dawes placed his.

Recent archaeological digs uncovered the underground sections of the fort which have been preserved by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. The partial restoration and interpretation of the archaeological remains of the fort, including its powder magazine, gun battery and Officers' Quarters gives an impression of the fort's importance in the strategic defence of Sydney. Central to the revitalisation are low stone walls, which create an impression of the fort as it stood in the 1850s, having been upgraded and re-designed to that state by colonial architect Francis Greenway. Nearby, the footings of the fort's adjoining Officer's Quarters have been exposed, creating a virtual floor plan. One of the fort's five cannon has also been refurbished and reinstated to its original position. The fort's sandstone powder magazine has been fully restored. In June 2001, while restoring the powder magazine, workers uncovered one of the concrete cable-saddles which was used to restrain the two-halves of the bridge during construction. The remains of the redundant saddle have now been incorporated into the project and remain on permanent public display.

Dawes Point Park, known as Tarra by the local Aboriginal people, is recognised as the site of the colony's first attempts at an understanding of this country's original inhabitants. Interpretive panels have been installed to tell the story of a friendship between Lieutenant William Dawes, the Point's namesake, and Patyegarang, a local Cadigal woman. Dawes' historical records of their friendship and exchanges have come to be regarded as the first study of the local Aboriginal people and their culture.

The first Government House

Built on a rise on the east side of Tank Stream, the first Government House was the home, offices and seat of authority for the first nine Governors of New South Wales from 1788. A two storey building of classical Georgian style (symmetrical facade with an even number of windows on either side of the centrally located door), it is believed to have been modelled on Captain Arthur Phillip's former home at Lyndhurst in Hampshire, England. Constructed by convict bricklayer James Bloodsworth, it was poorly designed and had a limited lifespan and had to be demolished in 1845. 5,000 bricks were brought out from England and used in its construction. These were supplemented by some of the first bricks to come from the kilns of Brickfield, the name given to the locality where clay deposits were first found. In all probability, 25 year old convict William Edwards, the colony's only brickmaker by trade, would have been put in charge of the brickmaking facility, with a number of unskilled labourers assigned to work under him.

Foundations of the first Government House are now displayed under glass as part of the Museum of Sydney, Bridge Street, Sydney

On 4th June 1788, a grand opening of the building was held at which time the birthday of King George III was also celebrated. After the building's completion, a number of brick outbuildings were erected nearby and used as barracks, workshops and for storage. Government buildings still occupy this site. In 1983, archaeologists unearthed the original footings of the house, which by a miracle of history, had lain preserved since it was demolished in 1846. These remains are a feature at the Museum of Sydney in Bridge Street which is erected on the site of the building.

Street Names of Sydney

The following streets had their beginnings with the First Fleeters and have remained until this day, though most are known today by different names to those given by the first settlers.

Argyle Street: Named after County Argyle, Scotland by Gov. Macquarie after the place where he grew up. It was first created in 1788 as an un-named track which marked the northern boundary of the grounds of the first Hospital.

Harrington Street: Following the line of a path used by the First Fleeters, it is one of the streets created and named by Gov. Macquarie in 1910 when he did a major reorganisation of street and lane names upon coming into office. The name honours British MP Lord Harrington, Earl of Stanhope.

George Street: Named by Gov. Macquarie in 1810 after George IV (left), the reigning monarch. George Street developed from a rough track alongside the Tank Stream beaten out by the feet of water carriers taking water from the stream to the hospital in what is now The Rocks. It was known as Sgt. Majors Row and High Street before its present name was established. Since 1788 it has been Sydney's main thoroughfare.

Pitt Street: Believed to be named by Governor Macquarie after William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England. Another suggestion is that it was originally named Pits Row because of a series of pits or tanks dug into the banks of Tank Stream, the banks of which the street followed.

Bridge Street: It began as a path from the Governor's house to the Military Barracks. So called because of the first bridge built over Tank Stream, constructed in February 1788 at the spot where the path crossed the stream at the head of Sydney Cove. Gov. Phillip established governmental offices and stores on the high side of the street and the area has remained a centre for government administration ever since. Originally terminating at the original Government House, the street was extended to Macquarie Street when the building was replaced.

Macquarie Place: The short roadway which forms the triangle of Macquarie Place Park with Loftus and Bridge Streets marks the line where the waters of Sydney Cove once lapped. The triangle of garden, which was adjacent to the Governor's Wharf at the end of Pitt Row (now Pitt Street), was thrown open as a public park by Governor Macquarie in 1810.

Spring Street: Thus named because it followed the eastern bank of the Tank Stream. Spring Street grew from a track from the military barracks to the male convicts' tents of 1788.

Richard Johnson Square: Located at the southern end of Blight Street, it commemorates First Fleet Colonial Chaplain Rev Richard Johnson who erected Sydney's first church here. A memorial marks the site.

Bent Street: The name recalls Judge-Advocate Ellis Bent. It began as the path which passed convict tents and led over the hill to the colony's vegetable farm near Garden Cove (Botanical Gardens).

Bligh Street: The path leading from the surgeon's and judge's quarters to the governor's residence in 1788 became Bligh Street. The intersection of Bent and Phillip Streets is where the tents housing the first fleet's female convicts were erected. The row of tents followed the line of Bligh Street. The corner of Phillip and Bligh Streets is the site of the Judge Advocate's house and office.

Hunter Street: John Hunter, Second Captain HMS Sirius, and Governor of NSW 1795 - 1800.

Lang Street: Lang Street has the distinction of being the only street marked on Arthur Phillip's first plan for Sydney in 1788 to have survived, giving it the distinction of being Sydney's as well as Australia's oldest street. The top of the ridge around Lang Street was known as Church Hill because it was here that Sydney's first churches were built.

Barrack Street: Led to Sydney's first military barracks.

Geographical Features

Dawes Point: Lieutenant William Dawes, an Officer of Engineers and Artillery built a simple mud redoubt for the storage of explosives near the an observatory he built at the point soon after his arrival in 1788.

Bradleys Head: Bradleys Head recalls First Fleeter William Bradley (1757-1833), First Lieutenant, HMS Sirius. Brdley led a number of exploration parties in and around the harbour during the colony's first two years.

Clark Island: recalls Ralph Clark, who sailed with the First Fleet aboard the Friendship. In the early days of New South Wales, naval officers were allowed to keep their own vegetable gardens, which were tended by convicts. Clark established one such garden on the island, which was unsuccessful as any produce was soon stolen as a result of the limited rations available at the time. In February 1790, Clark noted that "some Boat had landed since I had been there last and taken away the greatest part & it is impossible for any body to attempt to raise any Garden stuff here, before it comes to perfection they will steal it."

Street Names of Parramatta

Parramatta is the only surviving town in Australia which was laid out by First Fleeters. Planned on a grand scale by Baron Augustus Alt and Lieutenant William Dawes on instructions from the Governor early in 1789, its main street (High Street, later George Street) was to be 1.5 kilometres long and 62 metres wide, on an east-west axis from Government House to the public wharf. A second street parallel to the High Street and 33 metres wide was also laid out, called South Street (now Macquarie Street).

Wide cross streets at right angles to the main axis were laid out in front of Government House; one by the church, ending at the north end in an open plaza big enough for a Town Hall as its focus (now O'Connell Street); another further to the east, which was the crossing point over the river (now Marsden Street).

The town allotments were larger than those in Sydney and were designed to provide gardens which could be worked by convicts and others to supplement the scarce food supplies of the colony. The generous scale of the main street was described by Watkin Tench during a visit to, the settlement in 1790 as being "of such breadth as will make Pall Mall and Portland Place hide their diminished heads".

Buildings Relating to First Fleeters

Caddie Park: Cattai State Recreational Area off Cattai Road.

The middle section was built in 1804 by First Fleet surgeon Dr. Thomas Arundell of the transport Friendship. The rest of the stone homestead was added in 1821.

Rose Farm House: (McDonalds Farm), 17 - 19 Honour Street, Ermington. A single storey sandstone and sandstock brick Georgian cottage built in 1820 for Alexander McDonald, a Private of the First Fleet.

Old Government House, Parramatta Park, Parramatta

Old Government House, Parramatta Park, Parramatta: This building is a remodelled version of the original building erected by Governor Phillip in 1790 (very little of the original building remains). In 1799, Governor John Hunter made significant alterations and extensions. During Governor Macquarie's tenure, side and rear wings were added (1812-18).

First Fleet initials, Garden Island

A unique relic of the First Fleet is a series of initials carved into an outcrop of sandstone on Garden Island. The three sets of initials - "FM" or "JM", "IR" or "JR" and "WB" - each dated 1788, are located near the tennis courts within the Garden Island Naval Base at the Harbour end of the island. Mystery surrounds the initials as there is no written record of their existence yet there is no reason to believe that they anything but genuine.

Historians who have researched their identity suspect they belong to First Fleeters Frederick Meredith, the Captain's steward of transport ship Scarborough; marine private Joseph Redford of HMS Sirius and William Bradley, first lieutenant of HMS Sirius, a cartographer after whom Bradleys Head is named.

Meredith was one of three persons on the First Fleet to have the initials "F M" and was the only one on the Sirius. 26 known persons on the First Fleet had the initials "WB". Four of these - First Lieutenant William Bradley; William Beard, able seaman; Walter Brodie, Master blacksmith; and William Bryant , master's mate) were crew of the Sirius. This would open up more possibilities. There were two crewman on the Sirius - John Rowley, able seaman; and James Russell, armour's mate/able seaman with the initials "J R".

Meredith, Redford and Bradley have the most in common. All three men were crew members of HMS Sirius during the winter months of 1788 when Sirius was anchored off Garden Island and the ship's crew had planted a garden there to grow vegetables for their tables (hence its name, Garden Island). The men had also all been members of exploration parties in the Sydney region in that year, most of which were led by Bradley, which is the strongest link between them, and provides a logical reason why they may have believed it necessary to carve their initials here.

The carvings could well be location markers used in much the same way as trig points are today, a practice not uncommon in those times. Being located at the Sirius' land base, they would have marked the start and finish points of their expeditions or surveys, the initials themselves serving to identify who led or took part in the survey. If this was their function, there could well be another set or sets of initials somewhere else around the harbour to which this location was cross referenced still waiting to be discovered.

Quarry sites

While the soft sandstone of the Sydney basin was a natural canvas for the art of the native population, to the new settlers it was an ideal raw material for the construction of buildings, and in abundant supply. The first fleet's lone stonemason, Samuel Peyton, a Londoner who was transported for larceny, was put to work training a number of unskilled convict labourers in his craft. He established the first quarry on what was to be known as Bennelong Point, and over a period of some 40 years, the hillside was slowly chiselled away to create the sheer rock face that lines the eastern shore of Sydney Cove today. It is today known as the Tarpeian Precinct after the resemblance of the escarpment created by quarrying to the famous Italian Tarpeian Rock.

A quarry site in Lower Fort Street behind the Garrison Church in Millers Point (above) is believed to have been established by First Fleeters, its sandstone was in all probability used to construct the first stone buildings in The Rocks and Millers Point. When more stonemasons arrived with the second fleet, quarries were established in Kent Street in The Rocks, on George Street near Cornwall Lane and later at Cockle Bay. By the 1860s, Pyrmont would become the main source of sandstone for Sydney and whilst its quarries left deep scars on the area's landscape, its stone was used to create some of Sydney's finest 19th century buildings.

First Fleeter Graves

Grave of John Merritt, St. Matthews Anglican Church graveyard, Windsor

Except where stated, the following are the only remaining marked graves of First Fleeters buried in or around Sydney. Most convicts were buried in Sydney's early unmarked burial grounds, for which records were not kept. It is therefore not possible to identify the burial places of the majority of First Fleeter convicts. Of the non-convicts of the First Fleet (officials, officers, marines and seamen), most returned to England after their term of duty in Sydney and are buried there or in other places overseas.

St Thomas, Sackville Reach:
Owen Cavanough b. 20th June, 1762 - d. 27th November, 1841, per Sirius.
Margaret Cavanough (nee Dowling) ~ b. 22nd October, 1766 - d. 24th Sept., 1834, per Prince of Wales.

Banks of the Hawkesbury River:
John Brown, Marine. Died August 1839 or 1840, aged 78 years. Per Scarborough.

St. Peters, Richmond:
Catherine (Smith) Bishop d. 24th August 1835, aged 62 (inscription) d. 28th August 1835 (FF plaque). Per Lady Penrhyn.
Elias Bishop, d. 26th September 1835, aged 65 (inscription) d. 11th November, 1835 (FF plaque). Per Alexander.
Mary (Davis) Bishop, d. 1st January 1839 (FF plaque) NB: plaque attached to headstone of Charlot Pently. Per Lady Penrhyn.

St. Johns, Wilberforce:
Phillip Devine (alias Thomas Hilton Tennant) d. 9th February 1821, aged 57. per Alexander.
Matthew James Everingham, d. 25th December 1817, aged 48. per Scarborough.
William Field, d. 22nd October 1826, aged 64. Per Friendship.
Catharine (Johnson) Moore, d. 18th May 1838, aged 67. Per Prince of Wales.

St. Albans (old cemetery):
William Douglas, d. 27th November 1838, aged 81, Per Alexander.

Laughtondale Cemetery, Wiseman's Ferry:
Peter Hibbs, d. 12th September 1847, aged 90. per Sirius.

Elizabeth (Pulley) Rope, d. 9th August 1837, aged 80. Per Friendship.
Anthony Rope, d. 20th April 1843, aged 89. per Alexander.

St. Peters, Richmond:
Thomas Spencer, Marine. d. 3rd February 1821, aged 61. Per Scarborough.
Robert Williams, d. 8th July, 1811 (aged 53). Per Scarborough.

St. James, Pitt Town:
Joseph Wright, buried 30th August 1811, in old Sydney Burial Ground (Town Hall)
Remembrance plaque at St. James, Pitt Town. Per Scarborough.

St. Luke's, Liverpool:
William Broughton, (1768 - 1821), servant to Surgeon John White. Died 26th July 1821. Gov. Macquarie, who attended his funeral, ordered a tombstone to be placed on his grave.

Waverley Cemetery:
Lieut-Col. George Johnston of Annandale who arrested Gov. Bligh in the Rum Rebellion.

St. Matthews Anglican, Windsor:
Thomas Arndell d. 2nd May 1821, aged 69. per Friendship.
Elizabeth (Dalton) Arndell d. 31st January 1843, aged 75. Per Lady Penrhyn.
Daniel Barnet d. 15th February 1823, aged 68. Per Friendship.
Ann (Green/Cowley) Bladdey d. 3rd September 1820, aged 65. Per Lady Penrhyn.
Benjamin Cusley d. 20th June 1845, aged 98. Per Friendship.
John Cross d. 25th December 1824, in the 69th year of his age. Per Alexander.
Robert Forrester d. 14th February 1827, aged 69. Per Scarborough.
Henry (Cable) Kable d. 16th March 1846, aged 82 (inscription). d. 16th April 1846. Per Friendship.
Susannah (Holmes) Kable d. 8th November 1825 (age 63). Per Friendship.
John (Marrott) Merritt d. 7th May 1812, in the 69th year of his age. Per Alexander.
Edward (Moyle) Miles d. 19th August 1838, aged 88. Per Scarborough.
William Roberts d. 14th February 1820, aged 65. Per Scarborough.
James Freeman, a labourer, died a pauper at Windsor on 28th January 1830, aged 67. He escaped a death sentence for stealing flour by agreeing to be the colony's first public hangman. His grave is unmarked.
John Best was buried on 9th March. 1839, age 82. His grave is unmarked.
Edward Pugh, transported for stealing a goat, became a respectable farmer, living west of Parramatta. He died a pauper on 30th November 1837.
Ann Huxley (nee Forbes). Transported at the age of 15 for stealing material. She married Thomas Huxley and they settled near Windsor. Died 28th December, 1851, aged 80, she was the last of the first fleeters to die. Per Prince of Wales.

Green Hills Burial Ground, Windsor:
Though there are no marked graves, this burial ground holds the remains of many convicts who died in the early decades of the 19th century. These include the following First Fleeters:
Edward Whitton. Per Scarborough. Buried 1802.
Anne Slater, wife of Edward Whitton. Per Lady Penrhyn. Buried 1806.

St. Johns, Parramatta:
The grave of first fleeter Henry Dodd is the oldest known undisturbed grave in Australia
Australia's oldest surviving cemetery and the most intact Georgian cemetery in NSW. In use between 1789 and 1824, it contains the oldest known undisturbed grave in Australia, marked by a slab of river sandstone which bears the inscription: "H.E. Dodd 1791." Henry Edward Dodd was Gov. Phillip's butler. He was buried there on 29th January 1791, a year after the opening of the cemetery. The gravestones of a number of other first fleeters are to be found in the cemetery including NSW's first Surveyor-General, German born Baron Augustus Alt; Surgeon John Harris; John Palmer (Purser of HMS Sirius); John Irvine, convict, assistant to the Surgeon, per Prince of Wales.
Also buried here are pioneer churchman Rev. Samuel Marsden; merchant Robert Campbell after whom Sydney's Campbells Cove is named; bridge builder David Lennox (no headstone remains); explorer and schoolmaster of the Government school, John Eyre; pioneer local settler Rowland Hassall; colonial doctor D'Arcy Wentworth, the founder of Melbourne, William Batman.

St. John's, Campbelltown:
James Ruse, Australia's first land grantee who in 1789 took possession of land in Parramatta for a farm. Ruse was the first convict to be emancipated, completing his 7 year sentence within a few months of arrival in NSW (right hand gravestone in photo left).
St Anne's, Ryde:

James Bradley, transported for 7 years for stealing a handkerchief with a value of 2 shillings. He arrived aged about 23 and died in 1838, a free man and farmer in the Ryde district. Per Scarborough.
Edward Goodwin, sentenced to transportation for 7 years, aged about 22, for stealing material with a value of 100 shillings. Died January 1839, a free man and resident of the Ryde district. Per Scarborough.

Watkin Tench Memoirs

Lieutenant General Watkin Tench (6 October 1758 - 7 May 1833) was a British marine officer who is best known for publishing two books describing his experiences in the First Fleet, which established the first settlement in Australia in 1788. His two accounts, Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay and Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson provide an account of the arrival and first four years of the colony.

In October 1786, the British Admiralty called for volunteers for a three-year tour with the newly-forming New South Wales Marine Corps for service at Botany Bay. Tench's offer to enter the corps was accepted in December 1786, and he sailed on the transport ship Charlotte in May 1787. Before sailing with the First Fleet, Tench arranged with the London publishing firm of Debrett's to write a book describing his experience of the journey and the first few months of the colony. His manuscript was taken back in July 1788 by John Shortland and published as "A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay by Watkin Tench", published by Debrett's in 1789. It ran to three editions and was quickly translated into French, German, Dutch and Swedish.

Tench's accounts were influenced by the liberalism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the idea of the noble savage. He ridicules Rousseau's notion of the noble savage and details the brutal treatment of Aboriginal women. His writings include much information about the Aborigines of Sydney, the Gadigal and Cammeraygal (whom he referred to as "Indians"). He was friendly with Bennelong, Barangaroo and several others. He stayed in Sydney until December 1791 when he sailed home on HMS Gorgon, arriving in Plymouth in July 1792.

View Larger Map

Foundations of the first Government House, now displayed under glass as part of the Museum of Sydney, Bridge Street, Sydney

Parramatta Park, 1792

First Fleet initials, Garden Island

The gravestone of First Fleeter, Peter Hibbs, Laughtondale Cemetery, Wiseman's Ferry

Remnants of the Dawes Point fort

Remnants of a quarry in Lower Fort Street, Millers Point

Grave of Henry Dodd, Arthur Phillip's butler. It is the oldest undisturned gravein Australia

Lang Street appears to be Australia's oldest street. It is the only street from the first map of Sydney that survives today. It follows the same line as shown on the map.

Bradleys Head, named after First Fleeter William Bradley (1757-1833), First Lieutenant, HMS Sirius

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