Sydney is Australia’s oldest European settlement and has a rich and fascinating history. Aboriginal people have lived in the Sydney area for at least 50,000 years. Known collectively as the Eora people which means ‘here’ or ‘from this place’, there are 29 clan groups in the Sydney metropolitan area.
Sydney was founded in 1788 when the first fleet arrived in Australia from England. With them, they took seeds, farm implements, livestock such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and chickens and 2 years supply of food.
Sydney was named after Thomas Townshend – Lord Sydney (1733-1800). He became British Secretary of State in 1783 and recommended the British establish a colony in Australia. At first things were difficult for the colonists and food was short although Phillip sent a ship to South Africa for more provisions which returned in May 1789. Food was rationed and the rations were anything but generous. However, things gradually improved. A second fleet arrived in Australia in 1790 and a third fleet came in 1791. At first, the settlers in Sydney lived in simple wooden huts but later convicts made bricks for houses. The first church in Sydney opened in 1793.
The oldest surviving building in Sydney is Cadman’s Cottage, which was built in 1815-16 as a coxswains barracks. It was named after a John Cadman who once lived there.
Furthermore, in 1806 William Bligh was made governor of Australia. Bligh is famous for provoking the mutiny on The Bounty. After arriving in Australia Bligh managed, typically to alienate the settlers. At that time rum was used as a currency. Bligh tried to stop this but a group of officers overthrew him declaring he was unfit to rule. They imprisoned Bligh and he eventually agreed to leave Australia.
Sydney grew at a phenomenal rate through the 19th century even though transportation to New South Wales ended in 1840. By 1861 the population of Sydney was 56,000 and it was a flourishing town. By 1881 the population of Sydney had grown to an amazing 221,000.
As Sydney exploded in size many new buildings were erected. Government House was built in 1845. Sydney Observatory was built in 1858. Another famous 19th-century building in Sydney is Vaucluse House, which was once the home of the statesman William Charles Wentworth (1790-1872). St Mary’s RC Cathedral was built on the site of a previous church, which burned down in 1865. St Mary’s Cathedral was consecrated in 1905. However, the twin spires were not added until 1999. Meanwhile, St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney was consecrated in 1868 and the Great Synagogue was consecrated in 1878.
During the 20th century, Sydney continued its rapid growth. By 1900 Sydney had a population of 481,000. By 1921 it had reached 981,000 and by 1950 it was almost 1.7 million. By 1975 Sydney had a population of nearly 3 million.
However, there was an epidemic of bubonic plague in the poor parts of Sydney in 1900, which killed 103 people.
In the 21st century, Sydney continued to flourish. Aurora Place was built in 2001. The Olympic Games were held in Sydney in 2000 and Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre opened in 2007. Meanwhile, The Rocks Discovery Museum opened in 2005.
Today Sydney is a multicultural city with many immigrants both from Europe and Asia. It is easily the largest city in Australia.