From Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Residence in New South Wales and Victoria (1863)

The Irish-born judge and politician Roger Therry reflects on how Sydney has grown since he arrived in 1829:

Besides the two large theatres constantly open, there are phil­harmonic societies, a public library, a philosophical society, and a mechanics’ institute, where scientific and literary lectures, as at similar institutions in England, are periodically given. In the new University a double first-class man (Dr. Wooley) of Oxford University; a senior wrangler of his year at Cambridge (Mr. Pell); together with an accomplished scholar of the Edinburgh University (Dr. Smith), occupy the professorial chairs in the respective depart­ments of Classics, Mathematics, and Natural Philosophy.

St. Phillip's Church, Sydney, ca. 1852-1853 / possibly Rev. Alberto Dias Soares (State Library of NSW)

St. Philip’s Church, Sydney, ca. 1852-1853 / possibly Rev. Alberto Dias Soares (State Library of NSW)

Two morning principal papers, “The Sydney Herald” and “Empire“, both conducted with superior talent, and several weekly papers, supply the usual political and literary news. Churches – some of superior architectural design – of the various religious denominations are well attended on Sunday. A Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, in Sydney and Melbourne, sit for many months in the year, occupying (especially in Melbourne) spacious halls as brilliant and almost as commodious as the Houses of the English Parliament. Courts of justice are established, where the forms of Westminster are as closely observed as the circumstances of the Colony will admit; and there is as well regulated a police as in London. A few years ago, a large body of trained policemen were brought from Birmingham and Manchester to Sydney. There are besides in Sydney three well-established clubs, five or six banks in full business, insurance offices, and some superior hotels. These then are the principal ingredients from which persons may judge of the social advantages which New South Wales presents as inducements to emigrants who may be disposed to settle there.

In the arts which polish life, and the accomplishments which adorn it, the towns and cities of these distant colonies for a considerable time must of course rank secondary to those of the parent country. Of that class which constitute the high aristocratic circle of society in England there is as yet no representative circle in these colonies; but the class that comes next to it, and that consists of the gentry of England, and from it downwards through the several subordinate grades of life, society is creditably repres­ented in New South Wales, and is quite on a par with corresponding classes in England.

William Nicholas, [Lady and child], c.1847 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (National Gallery of Australia)

William Nicholas, [Lady and child], c.1847
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
(National Gallery of Australia)

The society of Sydney of late years has received a valuable accession to its improvement by the arrival of young ladies whom the recently acquired wealth of their parents supplied with the means of providing for their daughters a first-rate English education. The well-known seminaries of London, Paris, and Brighton have sent forth pupils qualified to adorn the best circles of society in any country. And it is not a bold assertion to predict that soon the city of Sydney, and other cities of Australia, through the means of similar educational institutions to those in England, now established in the Colony, will have as much cause to be proud of the models of female accomplishments they can exhibit as any of the old and long-settled chief cities of Europe.

–Roger Therry, Irish, 1800-1874


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