Historic 1790s military barracks found during construction of the Parramatta Light Rail

Remains from a military barracks that was constructed in the 1790s have been unearthed by archaeologists working on the new Parramatta Light Rail project.

Archaeologists are working at the Robin Thomas Reserve in Parramatta

During August and September 2020 a team of archaeologists, led by Senior Heritage Consultant Sophie Jennings, found bricks and deposits underground at Robin Thomas Reserve — at the corner of George & Harris Streets, Parramatta.

Transport for NSW is currently building a light rail that will operate between Westmead and Carlingford via Parramatta.

According to maps and graphics a ‘green track location’ has been designated on top of the area where the Transport for NSW archaeologists are currently concentrating their work at Robin Thomas Reserve.

This TFNSW graphic shows the light rail vehicle on top of the area where archaeologists are working

The archaeologists have been wet sieving the area and say they’ve found objects like cutlery, tea sets, oyster shells, fish bones, fish scales and pottery.

A quick look at the archaeological site on Sunday 13th September 2020 showed what appeared to be a brick sewage line leading towards the Parramatta River.

Possible sewage line built in the 1790s— Robin Thomas Reserve in Parramatta

In a Facebook post, Transport for NSW has extended an invitation for people to watch the archaeologists at work: “Come down to Robin Thomas Reserve in Parramatta from 7am-3pm Mondays-Fridays to see our archaeological team in action conducting excavation works for the project.”

What happens to the items found?

“In the course of building the new light rail network, historic finds are considered for heritage interpretation as a first priority. This means reusing or preserving the item for a specific purpose or in a place that will evoke and pay tribute to its history. The find is recorded before being very carefully removed” — Parramatta Light Rail website. “Preserving archaeological, environmental and Aboriginal heritage across the Parramatta Light Rail route is a key priority for this major transport infrastructure project.”

The Parramatta Light Rail route is passing a number of historic places — including the grave site of First Fleet convict Eleanor McCabe.

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