Convicts & Colony

Botany Bay occupies an important place in the Australian historical consciousness.

Botany Bay was initially chosen by Captain Cook in 1770, as the site of the future colony that would become New South Wales. However, upon the arrival of the First Fleet, Governor Phillip decided that Botany Bay would not be an appropriate location for a permanent colony.

From the beginnings of European settlement, our City has had an industrial character. The origins of industry in the Botany Bay region were with Simeon Lord, a former convict who became a merchant, entrepreneur, auctioneer and manufacturer. In 1815, Lord erected a fulling mill (for textile treatment) powered by a water wheel. His interests expanded into cloth weaving and he later built a flour mill. Through Lord’s various entrepreneurial undertakings, Botany Bay became a well-known industrial district with a working class population. Infrastructure in the area was again expanded in 1818 by the construction of a paper mill and the presence of leather workers and tanners throughout the 1830s. The gold rush hit New South Wales in the 1850s and more than doubled Sydney’s population. The prosperity of this period lasted until the global depression of 1890. During this time, Botany continued to serve Sydney as a centre for industry, water supply and food production, particularly through market gardening.

The other major industry for our region during the colonial period was tourism. Visitors from the early Sydney Colony would take day trips to Botany Bay to swim, paddle in the water or bushwalk. The focus of this tourism trade was the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel. Opened in 1844 by Thomas Kellett, the hotel became a major resort for the people of Sydney. The popularity of the Hotel was demonstrated in 1852 when, on Boxing Day, 5,000 people spent their day at the Hotel grounds. This was a sixth of Sydney’s population at the time. The Hotel was famous for its pleasure gardens that featured sports grounds and later a zoo. The Hotel was also the site of the Botany Gift, a footrace which attracted runners from all over the world.