The growth of the colony
On arriving in Sydney Harbour, Captain Arthur Phillip wrote that Sydney Cove was one 'in which ships can anchor so close to the shore, that in a very small expense quays may be constructed at which the largest vessels may unload'. Some were not so enamoured, such as Lieutenant Ralph Clark, who wrote in 1788: 'This is the poorest country in the world...overrun with large trees, not one acre of clear ground to be seen.'
After 24,000 kilometres and eight arduous months at sea, the Australian continent was overwhelming and indeed shocking to a people used to a European climate, geography and well-established cities.
Early maps show no prison buildings; the punishment was 'transportation' not incarceration, and the land itself acted as an outdoor gaol. Convict men and women were housed in separate camps they built for themselves, normally with wood and mud.
The first dwellings and early 'official' buildings were crude huts fashioned from wood that warped and shrank as it dried out. Bricks were poorly fired, there was a lack of lime to make mortar, and structures often collapsed in heavy rain.
It would be 30 years before the Hyde Park Barracks building opened in 1819, and some convicts were housed there overnight, although it too was not a gaol. Eventually a gaol was built on George Street where The Four Seasons Hotel now stands. When hangings took place, people would watch from the higher ground known as Gallows Hill and now the location of Essex Street.
A map drawn up in 1802, shows approximately 70 huts, two windmills for grinding grain, storehouses, a Government wharf, a church and military battery. George Street was clearly visible on maps as early as 1791, and its alignment in The Rocks has not altered since 1788.
Today there are more than 100 heritage sites and buildings in The Rocks and the oldest house is Cadman's Cottage, built in 1816. The Dawes Point Battery is the oldest remaining European structure, built in 1791, and three remaining walls of Fort Phillip, still standing on Observatory Hill, were built 1804.