One of my resolutions on my 2017 visit to Sydney was to make the most of the network of ferries across the harbour, and I decided to take one of the two longest trips, to Parramatta.
I had no great hopes of Parramatta – a settlement founded in the same year as Sydney itself, 1788, in the hope of establishing a farm away from the unproductive soil of the coastal area. I enjoyed the ferry, and on the strength of a free street-map of Parramatta I walked up river to find St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral which was a great surprise.
From the outside it looks an entirely conventional Gothic revival church of parochial size dated 1854, distinguished only by its tower and spire which is later, 1880. The entrance is located at the east end, and within is a breathtakingly modern chapel with brilliant white walls, built within the original shell and the nave arcade. The old cathedral was burnt down in 1996, and the shell now serves as a prelude for the new cathedral, designed by Romaldo Giurgola of MGT Architects, built at right angles to the liturgical north, an open-plan space with much modern sculpture and glass, and a Norman & Beard organ brought from St Saviour’s, Knightsbridge and rebuilt here in 2005. Outside is a monument to Pope John Paul II, a sculptural group featuring the Pope with four young people by Linda Klarfeld.
I walked to the opposite end of Church Street, where stands the Anglican Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, built in 1852-5 in Romanesque style – unusual in Australia – and distinguished by earlier twin towers with spires of c1820 based on the ruined church of St Mary at Reculver in Kent, which was reputedly the last English church the Governor’s wife, Elizabeth Macquarie, saw as she set off for Australia. Almost all the woodwork in this dark, warm building is in the Romanesque style, except the font, which is a gift from the Māori people of New Zealand, carved by the Māori craftsman Charles Tuaru in 1966-9.
I returned to Sydney by train from Parramatta station, on a suburban double-deck train which gives good views of the passing suburbs. When the train drew into Lidburne station I remembered it was where on a previous visit I’d got off to explore Rookwood Cemetery, the destination of trains from the Mortuary Station next to Central. And sure enough, as we drew out of the station I spotted a siding that turns away from the main line and points across the road to the gap in the graves where the trains used to run.