There is a lot of history in Liverpool. It's not entirely obvious on the surface when looking at the giant Westfield shopping centre or the monstrous hospital complex that dominate it today. The remains of colonial Liverpool are scattered here and there to be discovered like some kind of treasure hunt.
Liverpool was the fourth town to be established in New South Wales. It was the first of the 'Macquarie' towns founded by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810 and named in honour of the Earl of Liverpool.
Frontier Liverpool was essential in servicing the convict based economy of the expanding early colony. Convict labour built the roads, bridges, buildings and farmed the land.
Unlike neighbouring Parramatta which has retained many of its 19th century buildings and has many of Australia's oldest houses, there are very few early colonial buildings to be seen in Liverpool. Those that have survived intact today, all date back to the convict days of old Liverpool.
Unfortunately, none of the heritage buildings listed below are open for regular tours or inspection by the general public although it costs nothing to look. Liverpool Historical Society run occasional tours and you are free to walk around the grounds of the old hospital and attend church services at St. Luke's church.
Easily the oldest building in Liverpool is the charming Collingwood House. Built by the American whaling Captain Eber Bunker, the main part of the house dates back to 1810. The estate undertook various farming activities for the benefit of the early colony. Collingwood farm grew wheat, grazed cattle and operated a flour mill.
Collingwood is a classic example of early colonial Georgian architecture. The house passed on to various notable owners over the years and ended its useful life as the Liverpool Golf Club House until it closed in 1971. It fell into disrepair before being acquired by Liverpool Council. The restored house was opened by the Prime Minister of the day Gough Whitlam in 1975. Tours of the house are by appointment only.
2. St. Luke's Church
Australia's oldest continually used Anglican Church
St Luke's is the oldest continually used Anglican Church in Australia. Building of the church commenced in 1818 but took six years to complete due to arguments between the renowned convict architect Francis Greenway and its builders. There were also a few tragic accidents. The first builder Nathanial Lucas was found drowned in the nearby Georges River in 1818. A convict was found hanged in the tower while three were killed by lightning while sheltering in the tower during a storm.
You can view the interior of the church during any of its three Sunday services or by appointment.
Located a few kilometres out of Liverpool is Glenfield Farm. The house and two storey barn date back to around 1817. They were built for explorer and colonial officer Dr. Charles Throsby whose family lived at the farm for over 100 years. It was famously a hippy commune of a kind during the ownership of Boer War veteran James Leacock, who died there aged 95 in 1974.
Like many ageing and expensive to maintain properties, it fell into disrepair before being bought and restored by the Historic Houses Trust in 2007, who lease out the property. Under the terms of the lease, the property is to be open for inspection to the general public twice a year but I have yet to see it open.
Now the home of the South Western Institute of TAFE, this is another of the busy ex-convict architect Francis Greenway's creations. Parts of the impressive building were completed in 1822, however, the tablet above the entrance reads 1825 indicating the second storey was not completed until then.
After being constructed as a purpose built hospital, it functioned as an Asylum for infirm and destitute old men from 1850 until 1961. The sometimes overcrowded facility held up to 900 men. There is a small cabinet inside the main building displaying convict paraphernalia as well as some 19th century photos.
The administration of law and order in convict era Liverpool was centred around what is nowadays known as the old Liverpool courthouse at the corner of Moore and Bigge streets. It was once flanked by Liverpool's gaol and soldier's barracks and dates back to the late 1820's (although debate rages about the construction date). It served as a working court house until 1972. Its interior still retains its character including the judge's podium, jury and court recorders boxes and creepy underground holding cells.
The court house premises were recently leased out to a private company and it is unavailable to be visited.
Great article. Having grown up in the area, I'm familiar with all of those apart from Glenfield House. In fact, I'm pretty sure I visited all 4 on school excursions. Another historic colonial structure nearby is Landsdowne bridge; being on the Hume Hwy practically everybody drives over it but few realise how significant it is!