Rydalmere, a suburb of Sydney on the north bank of the Parramatta River, is approximately 21 kilometres north-west of the Sydney central business district. Rydalmere currently consists of residential and commercial developments. The western side of Rydalmere is commercial consisting primarily of light manufacturing industry and service industries. The eastern side is mainly residential.
Transport: Rydalmere is well serviced by buses, trains and the Parramatta ferry. The railway station is located on the Carlingford line of the Sydney Trains network. Rydalmere ferry wharf is on Parramatta River and has services run by the Sydney Ferries network. The next wharf west is at Parramatta and east is Meadowbank. The ferry primarily services tourists on weekends and city workers during the week. RiverCat catamaran type ferries work the Parramatta River route due to shallow waters, particularly during low tides.
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Oatlands House was built in the 1830's by Percy Simpson, former Officer in the Royal Corsican Rangers and one time Governor of the Greek Island of Paxos. In 1840 Oatlands was sold to James Brindley Bettington, who reached Sydney in 1827 and became involved in Merino sheep breeding with William Lawson, the explorer, whose daughter he married. It was originally a low sandstone cottage with flagstone verandahs and courtyards as they exist today. In 1840, the two storey addition was built by convict labour, the floors are made from cedar grown on the property and the sandstone quarried nearby. Oatlands' cellars were reputedly used for the storage of rum during Rum Traffics Era.
The ghost of Oatlands, which reputedly walks the golf course at night, is known as Rebecca. According to locals Rebecca was a beautiful young woman who fell under the wheels of the horse and carriage she used to travel to the house on her wedding day. The ghost is also said to appear in the upstairs part of the house in a furnished low ceiling room in which voices mysteriously echo and in the garden where she makes a dramatic exit by passing through a spreading purple bougainvillea that divides the garden from the car park. Public transport: train to Parramatta, bus Nos. 545, 546, alight cnr Bettington Rd and Niblick Cres. Entry via driveway to golf course in Bettington Rd.
UBD Map 191 Ref N 10. Off Bettington Road, Oatlands.
The Female Orphan School is a major public building from the Macquarie era (1810's) designed for a specific purpose and with its original fabric almost intact. It has a long and controversial series of historical associations starting with the Reverend Samuel Marsden. A Georgian building of Neo Palladian plan with the foundation stone laid in 1813 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, it featured a Victorian landscape garden of exotic trees beside the Parramatta River. The building's function as the first charitable institution in the country, and its later use as a psychiatric hospital for almost a century make it a site of immense heritage significance. The site became part of the Parramatta campus of the University of Western Sydney in 1995. The University of Western Sydney saw to the building's restoration in a painstaking adaptive reuse project undertaken in three stages.
Public transport: train to Rydalmere station, walk south down Brodie St. to Alan St; or walk through grounds of University campus to river foreshore.
Site of Australia's First Privately Owned Vineyard
The Rydalmere manufacturing plant of Rheem Australia occupies the site of Australia's first privately owned vineyard. Sydney's first privately owned vineyard was planted along the banks of Vineyard and Subiaco Creeks by Thomas Schaeffer in 1792. Schaeffer acquired 56 hectares of land between the two creeks and on this property, which he called The Vineyard, he established a vineyard. Schaeffer was an ex-soldier who had fought for the British in The American War of Independence. Schaeffer, who had come out to the colony on the ill-fated relief ship HMS Guardian which sank off Cape Town in 1789. He arrived a year later aboard the Lady Juliana on the second fleet. Schaeffer had been sent out to NSW as the new Supervisor of Convicts whose task was to establish the Toongabbie Convict Farm. Upon his arrival it was found that the German born Schaeffer couldn't speak sufficient English to be deemed suitable for the task. He was persuaded to abandon his post and become a free settler and to help him along he was granted 140 acres of land on the northern banks of the Parramatta River near Parramatta. Schaeffer had knowledge of grape growing and was given assistance by the Governor in the planting of 900 vines.
Schaeffer's vineyard was the first vineyard to be established in the colony. In 1798, he sold this property to Captain Henry Waterhouse, but not before creating the first wine to be exported from the colony. Captain Waterhouse was the man who first brought Spanish merino sheep to Australia, and began to breed them on the property. The Vineyard went through a succession of owners and lessors whose names read like a who's who of early colonial Sydney - Captain Waterhouse; William Cox; Gregory Blaxland; Hannibal Macarthur; and the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, J.B. Polding. When Polding bought the property in 1851, he converted the mansion Macarthur had built there into the Benedictine Monastery of Subiaco run by Benedictine nuns. The convent was eventually demolished in 1961 after Rheem Australia took over the site for the erection of a manufacturing plant. The vineyard and convent are remembered in the names of Vineyard Street and Vineyard and Subiaco Creeks, which flowed through the original property. UBD Map 211 Ref M 3. Alan Street, Rydalmere.
Rydalmere was named in 1866 by land speculator Thomas O'Neill when he subdivided Hannibal Macarthur's old Vineyard Estate. 'Rydal' comes from Rydal, Cumbria, in the Lake District of England where O'Neill was born, while 'mere' means a lake. The earliest grant in the area was to Phillip Schaeffer who settled in 1791. Soon after Governor Phillip's arrival with the First Fleet (of convicts from England) in 1788, Parramatta was developed as a farming settlement to feed the new English colony. This led to the immediate and tragic displacement of local Aborigines from the land they had lived off for thousands of years. Local Aboriginal groups led a resistance against the new settlers.
The most prominent warrior was Pemulwuy. Once when he tried to spear a soldier in retaliation, he was shot in the head and body. Despite being held in chains in the hospital where he was sent to recover, he managed to escape. In retaliation, the British ordered that any groups of Darug Aborigines be attacked, and a reward was placed on Pemulwuy's head. In 1802 he was shot and killed, and his head was cut off and sent to England. The conflict continued on and off until 1805 when the first recorded act of reconciliation occurred between Indigenous people and the British settlers. The introduction of foreign diseases was the most debilitating trend and many of the Barramatagal clan disappeared in the Small Pox epidemic during early European settlement. However against the odds others survived and their descendants live in the region to this day. In the early 19th century, more positive developments occurred and the region became a meeting place for tribes from surrounding regions. An annual feast was held by Governor Macquarie to encourage Aboriginal people to leave their children at a local school, but this focus later shifted to Blacktown area.
Subdivision of the area for residential and industrial use began in 1866 and it was the land speculator who organised this - Thomas O'Neill who used the name Rydalmere as the name of the subdivision. The name recalls his birthplace - Rydal Water, in the Lake District of England.