The Arthur Phillip High School and Parramatta Public School construction site continues to offer an Aladdin’s cave of archeological treasures providing a rare insight into the nation’s colonial and Aboriginal histories. In the latest discovery announced today, archaeologists working on the site have unearthed the cellars of Edgeworth House, the famed estate that once encompassed a considerable section of Parramatta CBD, complete with gardens, stables and servants quarters.
Edgeworth House was built in 1848 by the Parramatta Colonial Hospital chief surgeon and from 1850 was home to James Byrnes, several times Parramatta mayor and member of the Legislative Assembly. A historically significant frontier settlement, Parramatta was the axis of European and Aboriginal culture in the late eighteenth century. Because of this unique significance, archaeologists have been teeming over the dig site since early convict barracks and Aboriginal artefacts were first found last May.
Education Minister Rob Stokes believes that these discoveries afford us a priceless insight into a period when Parramatta stood at the edge of western civilisation. “It is a fitting, poetic and splendid coincidence that the state’s flagship school of the future is being built on foundations producing so many lessons from our nation’s past,” Mr Stokes said.
So far the new find has unearthed buttons, pins, children’s toys, coins, a bullet and other items believed to be associated with James Byrnes, who occupied the commanding Edgeworth estate from 1850–1886. “The importance of an archeological site containing Aboriginal, Georgian, and Victorian artefacts located altogether cannot be underestimated,” Mr Stokes said.
Mr Stokes said the latest discovery of the cellars of the Edgeworth House, and the requirement to uncover and catalogue finds, underlines the complexity and challenges of delivering the Arthur Phillip High School project, the state’s first high rise high school, on such a complex urban development site.
The prolonged wet weather experienced last year, together with the discovery of two separate major archaeological finds last May and again early this year, has presented the construction team with significant challenges. Despite this, the project remains set to be completed in 2019.
The schools have been designed for the teaching and learning styles of the future, with flexible teaching spaces and adaptable furniture and room configurations able to maximise the benefit of technology-rich teaching resources.
Lead archaeologist Abi Cryerhall said the latest discovery is one of the most exciting finds in recent times. “Highly significant and rare, it’s an extremely valuable resource for Parramatta and Australia’s cultural heritage, as well as for future research,” Ms Cryerhall said.
Progress is currently being undertaken to assess the viability and potential options for preserving the artefacts permanently on the site. Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the new high school and public school will be valuable assets for the local community. “Respectful handling of Parramatta’s past is essential, so the archaeological team is recording and cataloguing the items under strict guidelines,” Mr Lee said.
This NSW Government is investing more than $4.2 billion to deliver more than 120 new and upgraded schools, which will provide more than 3,000 new permanent classrooms over the next 4 years. This is the biggest investment in public school infrastructure in NSW history.