The Parramatta River with Searle's monument c1915 by GN Wilson, courtesy National Library of Australia (nla.pic-an24616593)

The Parramatta River with Searle’s monument c1915 by GN Wilson, courtesy National Library of Australia (nla.pic-an24616593)

Today, April 18, is International Day for Monuments and Sites, a time when people around the world celebrate historical, spiritual , and cultural heritage. It’s been going since 1983, run by an international organisation called ICOMOS, promoting the conservation, promotion and protection of heritage places.

Listen to  Lisa and Jess on 2SER here 

The theme for this year’s Day is Heritage for Generations. Sharing stories and the transfer of knowledge between generations is a crucial step in cultural development, characterising the human experience since time immemorial. The Dictionary of Sydney plays a vital role in sharing the history and cultural heritage of metropolitan Sydney, so today I thought we’d look at the stories behind three of Sydney’s monuments that appear on the website.

Appin Massacre Memorial

The Appin massacre occurred 202 years ago in the early hours of the morning of 17 April 1816, the outcome of a military reprisal raid against Aboriginal people ordered by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. At least 14 Dharawal men, women and children were killed when soldiers, under the command of Captain James Wallis, shot at and drove a group of Aboriginal people over the gorge of the Cataract River.

The massacre is often said to mark the end of hostilities on the Cumberland Plain, a war that began in the early 1790s when settlers began to take land for farms, and continued in cycles as they expanded into new areas. However violent incidents continued until at least August 1816 and only ceased after Macquarie’s instigation of alternate policies – banishment, and then amnesty for the Aboriginal leaders.

An act of officially sanctioned violence and murder, we need to recognise this history as part of the process of historical reckoning and reconciliation.

Since 2000, people from the non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities of the region have come together at Cataract Dam, downriver from the massacre site, every year around 17 April for a memorial service to remember the Appin massacre. A memorial to the victims was erected at Cataract Dam in 2007, a sandstone rock or plinth, with a bronze plaque.

Read Grace Karskens’ entry on the Appin massacre on the Dictionary here:

Archibald Fountain

Archibald Fountain and surrounds 1930s, courtesy City of Sydney Archives (SRC9320)

Archibald Fountain and surrounds 1930s, courtesy City of Sydney Archives (SRC9320)

Few of the people strolling through Hyde Park today realise that the large elaborate Art Deco fountain at the northern end was actually constructed as a memorial to commemorate the association between Australia and France in World War I.

Known as the Archibald Memorial Fountain because it eventuated from a bequest in the will of JF Archibald, founding editor of the Bulletin newspaper, patron of the arts and committed Francophile, the Archibald fountain took 13 years to organise and complete. Its French sculptor, François-Léon Sicard, never visited the site, which has become one of Sydney’s enduring landmarks.

Read Robin Tranter’s entry on the Archibald Fountain here:

Searle’s monument

A marble broken column in the Parramatta River off Henley Point memorialises world champion sculler Henry Searle, who died of typhoid in 1889 at the age of 23. The monument, which symbolises a life cut off in its prime, is erected on one of the rocks exposed at low tide known as The Brothers.

Rowing was big in the 19th century, both internationally and in Australia. Henry Searle grew up in Grafton on the Clarence River and won a world championship race on the Parramatta River in 1888, then successfully defended his title in London in 1889. A young man in the peak of health, he contracted typhoid on the return trip to Australia and died in Melbourne later in 1889, shocking the Australian public and rowing fans around the world. Following a public subscription, the memorial was erected in his memory in Parramatta River, off Henley Point, at the finishing line of sculling events.

The late H E Searle, Champion oarsman of the world 1889, courtesy National Gallery of Australia (NGA 86.655)

The late H E Searle, Champion oarsman of the world 1889, courtesy National Gallery of Australia (NGA 86.655)

If you head up the river towards Parramatta on the ferry or River Cat, you can see the column on the right, after Chiswick Wharf and before Abbotsford.

The monument appears on the Dictionary here:

Why not have a look through the Dictionary for more monuments and memorials via the ‘memorial’ subject listing here!

Further reading

You can find out more about ICOMOS here:

Dr Lisa Murray is the Historian of the City of Sydney and the former chair of the Dictionary of Sydney Trust. She is the author of several books, including Sydney Cemeteries: a field guide. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity.Listen to the podcast with Lisa & Jess here, and tune in to 2SER Breakfast with Nic Healey on 107.3 every Wednesday morning at 8:15-8:20 am to hear more from the Dictionary of Sydney.With no ongoing operational funding, the Dictionary of Sydney needs your help to survive. Make a donation to the Dictionary of Sydney and claim a tax deduction!

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