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Image Female Orphan School, near Parramatta, 1825

TLF ID R3315

This is a hand-coloured aquatint print, measuring 23 cm x 31.5 cm, showing a view of the Female Orphan School near Parramatta, New South Wales. The large buildings stand on a hill, with a background of trees. A green park drops down to a tree-lined river in the foreground. On the river are two boats - a rowboat containing three men and a woman and, in the distance, a small boat with a white sail. The original print was made by Joseph Lycett (1775-1828).

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows the Female Orphan School, an orphanage for girls commissioned by Governor Lachlan Macquarie (1761-1824) and opened in 1818 - it was the first purpose-built charitable institution in Australia, and was a substantial investment in the welfare of girls from the ages of five to 13 who had been left orphaned or destitute.
  • It depicts an orphanage where girls were accommodated and trained in sewing, spinning, weaving, cooking and laundry - by 1829 this orphanage housed 152 girls, most of whom had convict fathers or mothers; girls were accepted from two years of age (lowered from the original age limit of five) and, once they turned 13, were usually apprenticed as domestic servants.
  • It shows the earliest three-storey building in Australia to have been built of brick rather than of local stone - Elizabeth Macquarie (1778-1835) was a key figure in getting the orphanage built, and its design was an adaptation of her family home 'Airds' in Appin, Scotland; built in the Palladian style, the main building is three storeys high, linked by corridors to two side wings, each of two storeys; the building, one of Australia's most significant heritage buildings, is now part of the University of Western Sydney.
  • It may depict a public building designed to assert the Governor's power over the rebellious free settler John Macarthur (1767-1834) - Macarthur was the main instigator of the 1808 Rum Rebellion against Macquarie's predecessor, Governor William Bligh (1754-1817); in 2004, Carol Liston, Associate Professor of History at the University of Western Sydney, suggested that the orphanage was deliberately designed and sited to overlook Macarthur's principal family home at Elizabeth Farm in order to annoy Macarthur.
  • It shows the Parramatta River, which was the main means of transport and communication between Sydney Harbour and Parramatta at the time - Parramatta (25 kilometres west of present-day central Sydney) was the seat of government for the colony of New South Wales in the early 1800s.
  • It illustrates the tendency for many early artists to idealise the harsh Australian landscapes, making them look more like the landscaped gardens of English country gentry - in some cases this was intentional, as it made paintings and prints easier to sell back in England; this particular work would have been completed after the artist had returned to England.
  • It is an example of the work of convict artist Joseph Lycett, who was transported for 14 years for forgery in 1811, and who painted in Australia from 1814 until his pardon in 1822 - while serving his sentence in Australia, Lycett forged hundreds of five-shilling bills in Sydney and was sent to the tougher penal settlement of Newcastle where, under the patronage of Captain James Wallis, he designed a church and painted the altarpiece.
  • It is plate number 12 from a book entitled 'Views of Australia', published in 13 parts between July 1824 and June 1825 after Lycett's return to England - the folios were subsequently bound into a single volume that sold for seven shillings plain, and ten shillings and sixpence coloured; volumes such as this helped to publicise the new colony and support growing interest in immigrating to Australia.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Joseph Lycett
  • Description: Author
  • Person: J Souter
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements