Redfern Visions 10: Pitt Street and the Redfern Estate to George Street

A020324 When you cross Redfern Street you find yourself in the heart of Dr Redfern’s estate. The Australian Dictionary of Biography account of his life is linked to the picture on the right.

In June 1797 after passing the examination of the London Company of Surgeons, the predecessor of the Royal College of Surgeons, he was commissioned surgeon’s mate in the navy. He joined H.M.S. Standard, whose crew a few months later took part in the mutiny of the fleet at the Nore, which followed the success of the mutiny of the Channel Fleet at Spithead. In the course of the trouble Redfern advised the men ‘to be more united among themselves’, so he was included among the leaders to be tried by court martial. On 27 August a scrupulously fair court sentenced him to death, but because of his youth he was reprieved. He was kept in prison for four years until sent to New South Wales in the Minorca, on whose indent his name is bracketed with thirteen others as ‘Mutineers’. On board he helped the surgeon and reached Sydney on 14 December 1801…

Redfern always took an active part in the life of New South Wales. He was an honorary medical officer of the Benevolent Society, a member of its committee and that of the Aborigines’ Institution. He was one of the first directors of the Bank of New South Wales. He and his wife had an estate of 100 acres (40 ha) which gave the name of Redfern to the Sydney suburb which later developed about it. In 1818 he was granted 1300 acres (526 ha) in the Airds district. This he called Campbell Fields in honour of Mrs Macquarie, and it was praised by Bigge as one of the best developed properties in the colony…

Thus is Redfern linked with Sydney’s south-western suburbs.

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Redfern Street from Pitt Street.

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The old Rachel Foster Hospital in Pitt Street, awaiting redevelopment but still housing a Health Centre, is on the site of Redfern’s home.

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Wilson’s, just across the road, is one of Sydney’s oldest Lebanese restaurants. When M and I were living in George Street Wilson was still around. Perhaps he still is, but that was 18 years ago…

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M and I lived in the room opening onto that balcony in late 1990-1991. More on George Street next time.

— original photos by Neil Whitfield 2008

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