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Copy of pages from

The Memoirs of Obed West – A Portrait of Early Sydney,

by Edward West Marriott (mentions Thomas Rose & The Rose and Crown.)




On the eastern side of this block from Hunter to King streets most of the properties ran back to Elizabeth Street and had fine fruit gardens.  One of these houses, later rented by the Government for the Audit Office, had been built over fifty years ago by an American merchant, Mr Pittman, who had also built and owned a wharf nearly opposite Billy Blue’s Point.  At the corner of King Street there was a small brick public house known as “The Fox and Hounds”, an unpretentious structure compared with the hotels of today which are designed by architects.  The principal corners in the city in those days were occupied by small public houses, which have now been adorned with buildings equalling more than ten or fifty times in value the buildings they supplanted.


One of the occupants in Chapel Row was a baker, John Whittier, better known as “Jacky Muslin”, or “Jacky Dough”.  It might be mentioned here that all the well-known persons of the town were better known by their nicknames;  in fact, in some cases the persons were known only by their sobriquets.


Mr Taber, clerk of St James Church, had his school in Chapel Row within reach of St James, as also was Thomas Rose’s inn “The Rose and Crown”, with its adjoining bakery and large brick granary fronting on to King Street.  In fact Mr Rose’s land went through to Elizabeth Street and he later gave the land for St James’ School in exhcnage for a farm near Appin, where he subsequently died.  Another occupant of a small weatherboard cottage on that land was Mr Handshaw, a silver smith and gun smith.  I recollect him making one of the silver cups which was to be run for on the old Sydney Racecourse.


The “Rose and Crown” used to be the scene of much activity and bustle, for it was here that the stage coaches used to start for the “interior”, circumscribed as it was in those days.  The “Rose and Crown” was also one of the principal rendezvous for the patrons of the turf when race meetings were held in Hyde Park.


Between King and Park streets there was a number of scattered cottages and houses including “Kiss’s Bazaar” and the inevitable public houses.  One occupant was Mr Limeburner who was a “First Fleeter” and could relate some curious incidents connected with the adventures and hardships of the pioneer colonists.  I have often heard him boast that he was the first person, out of those who landed with Governor Phillip, who killed a kangaroo.  It was shot in Farm Cove on what is now the Botanical Gardens.  The land from the Gardens across the Domain and away towards the Railway Station, whin in its primitive state, was all forest ground, covered with tall trees and quite unlike the sand hills surrounding it and covered with scrub.


Nearby lived Mr Belcher, a nailer, who lived and worked on his premises, charging only 1 shilling and 6 pence per 100 for nails, and 1 shilling and 3 pence per 100 for shingles – different prices from those today.


At the south-east corner of Market Street and  Chapel Row was a public house kept by Mr Hazard, in completion with the “Rose and Crown” but kept by one of the best-known and most genial bonifaces of the old days.  Here, most of the frequenters of the old Sydney Racecourse would adjourn to talk and argue about the events of the stirring day.


Turning from Chapel Row, or as I should call it, Castlereagh Street, into Elizabeth Street, the property was very little built upon and it is unnecessary that I should particularise it.  However, it may be of interest to the reader if I furnish a short report on the old Sydney Racecourse, now called Hyde Park, which was inaugurated by Governor Macquarie.


The course commenced from a point opposite Market Street, went round St James Road, passed the front of the Prince Consort’s statue*;  thence along College Street to about Stanley Street where it took a semi-circular turn towards Liverpool Street, and continued the turn until it reached the “Obelisk”.**  There in began (in racing parlance) the straight running.  At about the corner of Park Street – which at that time had not yet been cut through – stood the “distance stand”, and from there to the judges’s box at the corner of Market Street, was the struggling ground.  This ground was roped off from the excited spectators, just as the saddling paddock with the weighing scales adjourning the judges’s box, which in fact was a semi-circular brick structure, about ten yards from Elizabeth Street, was roped in.  On the other side of the judges’s box was the wooden grand stand which, when packed to its utmost limit, was capable of accommodating 50 or 60 people.


What a sorry sight this old erection would present if put against the grandstand which now graces our racecourse at Randwick, or attempt to cater for the multitude which now throngs every racecourse.  It will be observed that everything about the races was most rudimentary, with legs being there to stand upon, and ropes serving as fences.  Indeed, at the time no racecourse was fenced in, and Mr William’s ropewalk from his shop in Elizabeth Street, where even ships’ cables were made, was borrowed for the occasion.


*The Prince Consort was the husband of Queen Victoria, and was popularly and deservably known as Albert the Good.  He died in 1861, leaving Victoria as widow at 42.  The statue was originally placed at the northern entrance to Hyde Park and unveiled in 1866.  For Sydney’s Centenary it was planned to have a similar statue of Queen Victoria and to place them both in what was known then as Chancery Square, now Queen’s Square.  This was done in 1888 but in due course Albert was deemed to be inappropriate and related to the Royal Botanic Gardens.


**The so-called obelisk ornamented with Egyptian motifs stands in Elizabeth Street opposite Bathurst Street.  The inscription says that it was erected by the Sydney Municipal Council in 1857 but fails to say what it commemorates or marks.  It is commonly though to be an imitation of Cleopatra’s Needle but is obviously a sewer vent, such worked being authorized in Sydney in 1853.


The Carnival, as it was called, used to be held once a year, generally in August and lasting for a week.  No charge was made for admittance and the good conduct prisoners were always allowed some recreation at this festival time to attend the races.  The town was very busy, parties were held late into the night, and the military band played at the races.


The settlers used to come in from all parts of “the interior” which in those days meant the Hawkesbuury and as far south as Campbelltown.  The great interior was then practically a “terra incognita” about which the people had the most absurd and erroneous ideas, numbers of them thinking that if only they were able to get over the mountain ridges they could walk to China.*


*Both Governor Phillip and Governor Hunter were plagued with desertions from the ranks of the convicts.  Many of them died of hunger in the bush and others were speared to death by the Aborigines.  Eventually Hunter invited the convicts to select four of their number to accompany a party of experienced bushmen and four soldiers, guided by JohnWilson, to explore the country to the souoth.  That was in January 1798.  The party had gone only as far as about Bargo when the convicts decided they had had enough and retraced their steps, still accompanied by the four soldiers, guided by John Wilson, to explore the country to the south.  That was in January 1798.  The party had gone only as far as about Bargo when the convicts decided they had had enough and retraced their steps, still accompanied by the four soldiers.  Wilson and his two companions continue their exploration as far as Mount Towrang near Marulan before running out of provisions and being forced to return.  One of them, a youth called John Price, fortunately had kept a diary recording the first exploration of the southern Highlands, and this blazed a trail for Hume, Throsby and Meehan.


To furnish sufficient sport for the races, the contests were generally three miles in length, and in nearly every case they were run in heats, the course being one mile round.  The horses were not exactly high bred, and it was not uncommon to see regular cart horses engaged in the contest;  indeed they were often taken out of the carts on the ground, saddled up there and then, and started off in a race, creating;rale ould fun’.


The animals, too, did not bear the classical and historical names that are now given to them, the owners of the time being content with such familiar and homely titles as Tom Rose’s Mulberry, Emmett’s Rob Roy (a Tasmanian horse and a crack of the time), Mr Robert Campbell’s Speedy, then Scratch, Criiping Jenny, Boshy, etc.  Captain Piper used to run two horses which he imported, but strange to say, they could not compete with the :Stringbarks” or colonial ones. 


Among the best riders were Fisher, Kearns, Phil Thorley and Will Kiss.  No public booths were allowed upon the ground, but the sporting sparks of the day used to adjourn, when the races were over, either to Hazard’s Hotel in Castlereagh Street, Rose’s at the corner of King Street, or Wild’s, which was kept in a house now standing in Macquarie Street, opposite the old Infirmary.


The last races were held.  I believe in 1819 or ’20, as immediately after that date Macquarie Street was cut through to Liverpool Street.  The street would have been where the centre walk is now, but the inhabitants had it closed up afterwards.  I recollect that it was when the street had been cut and a bank thrown up on each side of it that Governor Macquarie handed over the reins of government to his successor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, and I was present when the latter read his commission at the same time.


In the old days the principle of racing for cups was not unrecognized, and at the present time there is in the possession of Mr J.T. Roberts of Braidwood, one of those which were won on the old course.  It was 63 years ago by a horse named Rob Roy, bred by and then the property of Mr James Badgery of South Creek, and it was ridden by Fisher.  The quaint insciption of it smacks of the olden days, when anything of any note was sure to be embellished by a little of the poetic art, and even in an event of this kind the poet’s genius was brought into requisition.  The inscription is as follows:


Fortidune et Celeritas

Pledge from the cup this first Australian price;

May each revolving year the races bring,

That training horses from these sports may rise;

Health to the patron, and long life the King!

Sydney, 31 May 1819.  Given by the inhabitants to the proprietor of the winning horse.


In the old colonial days, loyalty to the King was a predominating feature in every movement, and in such an event as the presentation of a sulver cup, it would not be allowed to pass without giving expression to the colonists’ loyalty to “Good old King George.”


At the time the races were held the park was all unfenced and across it were cart tracks in all directions.  The only outlet eastwards was by the South Head Road (Oxford Street);  William, Park and the other streets being unformed.  Subsequently the ground was enclosed with a three-rail fence of sawn timber and planted with a single row of ornamental trees.  Intersecting walks were laid out and a proclamation issued at the same time prohibiting wood carts from crossing over it.  It was where these old cart tracks crossed each other they they used to bury suicides, and I could point out spots now where some of those who did away with their lives were buried, and, in accordance with the custom of the times, had a stake driven through their bodies.

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