The Female Factory at Parramatta

The Ryde District Family History Society have a meeting once a month on the second Saturday of the month. Every year they ask a bunch of people to speak at these meetings about things that will be of interest to Genealogist and to Local Historians alike. This month they had a representative of the Female Factory at Parramatta to come and talk to them.

It appears that the Female Factory is once again in danger of being built upon or being damaged in some way and so the ‘Friends of the Parramatta Female Factory’ are doing their best to get people to fight for its survival. As a result of this fight the ‘Friends of the Parramatta Female Factory’ have set up a petition to have the Female Factory declared a National and World Heritage site in the hopes that this will stop the repeated attempts by the Parramatta City Council to build on the site, build smack up next to the site, drill holes through the walls to turn the buildings into IT storage area’s, and stop access to the site by people who are interested in the very meagre offerings Australia has in the way of historic buildings, because the buildings are used in some way by the Government. So for anyone who is interested in signing that petition it can be accessed here at Friends of the Parramatta Female Factory Petition.

So what is the Parramatta Female Factory?-It was the first purpose built Female Factory in Australia. It was designed along the lines of the Poor Houses in England and it was both gaol and home to many of Australia’s convict women and to some of our free settler women as well when they first arrived in Australia. If that wasn’t enough the Female Factory had other functions as well. It was a place where Free Settler men and Convict or ex-Convict men who were able to get married, would go to find a bride. It was a public laundry, it was a home, a work house in particular for spinning, weaving, the breaking of rocks etc and finally it was sort of a day care centre as children under the ages of three were allowed to stay with their mothers until they reached three years old at which stage they were sent to one of the orphanages around.

It is estimated that one in seven Australians are descendent from the convict women who were housed in the Female Factory. To my knowledge I am not one of them as my convict women all arrived too early. The Parramatta Female Factory was commissioned in 1816 with the foundations stone being laid in 1818 by Governor Macquarie.

The Female Factory built in 1821 was designed to take over from a previous building that had done the role of housing women for a number of years. This building was known as the “Factory above the gaol”. The first Female Factory was tiny with room for only 30 women. Considering the number of women convicts who needed a space to live and work and also protection for both themselves and their children, this very small building was soon woefully inadequate for the job. Thus the new building was built to address the need of the female convicts of New South Wales.

The convicts in my family all arrived prior to the 1820’s in the second fleet and in 1801 on the Cornwalis. Both of these were well before the Factory was built. So unfortunately I do not have a link to the Female Factory at Parramatta, but it is important that this structure be saved.

For more information about the Parramatta Female Factory here is a link that describes the life of the Factory and the other uses that the Factory buildings have been put to over the years, including as an asylum for the insane and as an orphanage.

Parramatta Female Factory

And for those who are interested in the the Female Factory in Tasmania-

Cascade Female Factory, Tasmania



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