Parramatta Town Hall & Centenary Square: Market Day.
By Carmel Liddell. The Parramatta Town Hall site, the oldest in Australia, was established in 1792 by Governor Phillip who set aside the land in his plan for Parramatta. He designated the area as a market place in the early 1800’s and it was there in 1816, that Governor Macquarie initiated the ‘Annual Meeting of the Aboriginal Tribes at Parramatta’ which continued until 1833. The site remained a market place until 1878 when it was prepared for the construction of the Town Hall.
Parramatta Town Hall, a two storey, Victorian, Free Classical style building designed by architect George Allen Mansfield, was built by Hart and Lavors in 1880. Completed in 1883 at a cost of A£2,300, the building bears the City of Parramatta Coat of Arms, featuring Aboriginal people spearing eels from the river, and the inscription ‘Town Hall, CJ Byrnes, Mayor, 1880’. Though the Heritage Listed town hall has had several additions over the years, it remains a unique and beautiful, civic building.
The Town Hall’s faithfully restored Main Hall, has high ceilings, elaborate interior and tallow wood flooring. It can accommodate up to two hundred guests for receptions, weddings, exhibitions, fairs, product launches, conferences, seminars and general meetings. It has a side kitchen entry which allows catering access to both the Main Hall, and the smaller Jubilee Hall, also available for hire. The building houses three additional rooms, the Charles Byrnes Room and two smaller meeting rooms.
In 2014 the area in front of the town hall, formerly the Church Street Mall, was renamed Centenary Square. After many long years, this bustling, colourful heart of Parramatta City is once again a market and meeting place for local people. Every Friday, it comes alive with the Parramatta Farmers’ Market, a showcase for fresh produce sourced from the Sydney basin and regional NSW. Regardless of the surrounding redevelopment- musicians, chess players and table tennis players, carry on. Lunch time crowds tempted by tasty treats, mingle or settle at tables beneath colourful umbrellas. Children play in the fountain. Or chase pigeons. Or both. And all the while, Parramatta Town Hall, the centre piece of Centenary Square, presides over the fair- like atmosphere of market days. reference: Parramatta Government & Parramatta Heritage Centre websites.