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Remains of two bread ovens, 8 Grose Street, North Parramatta.

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

John Downey’s Bakery, a suburban industrial site


Archaeological excavations in late 2004 revealed a small suburban industrial site, formerly used as a bakery at 8-10 Grose Street, North Parramatta. The complex comprised the baker's cottage, the bakery itself, with two semi-Scotch ovens, stables and other buildings. The buildings reveal all aspects of the business, including the doubling of the capacity of the bakery and the method of delivering the bread by horse and cart.



John Downey (c. 1844-1924)


John Downey was born in Ireland in c.1844, the year before the devastating Potato Famine. By 1874 he was in Parramatta, working as a baker at the Roman Catholic Orphanage, later the Girls' Industrial School. In 1875 John Downey married Margaret Downey. The couple had two children.


By putting savings aside, John Downey was able to set up as a baker in his own right. In 1880 he purchased 10 Grose Street and erected a house upon it. By 1883 he had purchased 8 Grose Street, erecting a semi-Scotch oven on the land.


As his business thrived, so John Downey improved and extended his property. In 1889 he purchased 6 Grose Street, adding 12 Grose Street with the house upon it in 1905. By 1908 he had built a second bread oven and completed the stables. He had also built a house on the frontage of 8 Grose Street.


Downey's business prospered under his careful management and he was reputed to conduct a "big trade". He retired in 1911 and left his bakery business to his son, William Patrick Downey. John Downey was not interested in public life, but he was later described as "one of the most upright and charitable of men and many families have reason to remember his beneficence" He would "let no person starve for the want of bread." If you had seen the starvation years of the Potato Famine, would you deny anyone food!


After several years of retirement, he died on 12 June 1924. He was remembered by his colleagues in the trade as "one of the oldest master bakers in the N. S. W. trade".


Original text and research by Terry Kass, historian, edited by Edward Higginbotham.
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The brick floor of the stables reveals four stalls. Note how the floor has been worn where the horses habitually stood.
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