Thursday, March 5, 2009
Cadman's Cottage - One of the Oldest Buildings in Sydney
In Australia, being the young country that it is, settled only in 1788, one finds "history" and "historical" buildings quite young, relatively speaking. However we made a detour to visit one of these, Cadman's Cottage on our recent visit to Sydney.
One of Sydney's oldest surviving buildings is situated on the harbour front in The Rocks area and freely open to the public. Built it 1816, close to the water's edge, Cadman's Cottage formed part of the Government Dockyard and was meant to accommodate the Government Coxswain, the officer responsible for the government boats, their operations and crews. The changed foreshore of the harbour now finds the cottage more than 100 metres from the shoreline at Circular Quay.
Since there were few roads, Sydney's waterways provided the main means of transport for early settlers and a small fleet of 20 vessels linked the settlements and Cadman's Cottage was the hub of this activity.
John Cadman was the third and longest serving Government Coxswain and Superintendent of Boats. In keeping with the fact that Sydney began as a penal colony, where convicts were transported from England, John Cadman had been convicted of stealing a horse, but his death penalty was commuted to a 14 yr transportation sentence and he arrived in Sydney in 1798, when the colony was a mere 10 years old. Having worked on the boats in England he was eventually set to work in the government dockyards and received a conditional pardon in 1809.
In 1827 he became the Government Coxswain and moved into the cottage. With his wife, Elizabeth Mortimer, a seven year transportee for stealing some brushes and knives, he lived there until his retirement in 1845 and the position of coxswain was abolished since new roads were carrying goods and people.
Cadman's Cottage continued as headquarters for the Sydney Water Police for a time, then a Court of Petty Sessions, with the addition of cells to house prisoners. It then became a home of sailors in port under the Sydney Sailor's Home Trust and it continued its checkered career housing assorted sea personnel until the nineteen sixties when it had been left vacant and derelict.
In April 1972, with its historic significance recognized it was declared a historic site and restoration and conservation work was commenced under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Nowadays the lower half houses an historical exhibition highlighting the history of the cottage itself as well as life in early Sydney. The upper part is home to the Sydney Harbour National Park Information Centre.
A small taste of Sydney's past and we enjoyed our visit to this tiny cottage, nestled among the modern buildings of this bustling city.