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Archaeological excavation revealed evidence of trenching for vine cultivation at 52 O’Connell Street,
North Parramatta.

50-52 O’Connell Street and 6-12 Grose Street,
North Parramatta
     

Evidence of Cultivation

 

Archaeologists frequently find evidence of historical cultivation. One more startling case was at 50a-52 O'Connell Street and 8-10 Grose Street, North Parramatta, where excavation uncovered evidence of cultivation by trenching.

 

Research indicated that George Suttor purchased the land in 1838 and planted a vineyard. So the evidence of trenching may indicate the husbandry of the vine, with the north-south alignment allowing the sun to get to both sides of the plant equally.

 

A historical reference for planting a vineyard on his land "near Parramatta" in 1835 is unlikely to refer to this property, since it was not purchased by Suttor until 1838. He was overseas from 1839 until 1845, during which time the land was let. The most likely date for the planting of a vineyard at O'Connell Street is between his return to New South Wales in 1845 and his death in 1859.

 

More common on archaeological sites is evidence of hoe or spade cultivation, which can usually be seen as numerous small ovoid patches of darker topsoil, cut into lighter subsoil. Many instances of hoe or spade cultivation can be found on sites related to convict labour or penal settlement, particularly in Parramatta, but also at Port Macquarie.

 

 

George Suttor (1774-1859)

 

George Suttor was born at Chelsea near London to a Scottish market gardener. He married Sarah Dobinson in London in 1798 before sailing for New South Wales. Suttor earned a free passage for himself and his wife by accompanying a consignment of plants sent out by Sir Joseph Banks. On his arrival, he initially lived at Parramatta before selecting land at Baulkham Hills, which was granted to him in March 1802. On that land, he cultivated oranges, and was ever grateful for the gift of three young orange plants from Colonel William Paterson, who had shipped them from San Salvador. He also planted a small vineyard though it failed. His farm did not prosper as much as he had hoped and his early years were insecure.

 

George Suttor (cont"d)

 

A firm supporter of Governor Bligh, he was imprisoned by the rebel administration after the "Rum Rebellion". George then accompanied Bligh back to England in order to give evidence in Bligh"s favour at his trial. After Suttor's return to the colony in May 1812, he was appointed as the superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum at Castle Hill in August 1814. He was dismissed in 1819 after an inquiry showed neglect of the patients. He obtained further land in western Sydney as well as land on the Bathurst Plains, where he finally founded a prosperous property at Brucedale.

 

He was a keen gardener and experimented with the cultivation of oranges and with grapevines. In 1835, he again planted grapes on his land "near Parramatta". On a visit to Europe in 1839, he obtained information about cultivating vines and the making of wine. In his book, "The Culture of the Grape-Vine and the Orange in Australia and New Zealand", published by Smith Elder & Company in London in 1843 (p. 17-18, 24), George Suttor strongly advocated the cultivation of the soil by trenching before planting the vine. He also recommended land with a northerly aspect, to catch the sun and avoid frost.

 

He returned to Australia in November 1845 after the death of his wife in Europe. He bought the property of Alloway Bank near Bathurst in 1851. He published "Memoirs Historical and Scientific of the Right Honourable Sir Joseph Banks" in Parramatta in 1855.

 

In spite of his lowly background, this son of a market gardener was a sensitive and cultivated man, who read widely, had an interest in the theatre and could respond to the beauty of the scenery around him.

 

He died at Alloway Bank, near Bathurst, on 5 May 1859.

 

Original text and research by Terry Kass, historian, edited by Edward Higginbotham.

     
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Distinct signs of hoe or spade cultivation were located behind the Overseer’s Cottages,
built in 1823 at Port Macquarie.
       
     
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This web site last updated – 20 April 2010
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