‘The Residence of Phillip Parker King during his surveys in Australia from 1818 to 1822’, signed “P.P. King”.

A watercolour by the great hydrographer, the only surviving record of an architecturally and historically important house of the period.

SKU SF000712 Category


Phillip Parker King, son of the third Governor of New South Wales, was born on Norfolk Island in 1791. In 1807 he entered the Royal Navy. In 1817 after his marriage to Harriet Lethbridge, he left England for Australia with instructions “to explore, with as little delay as possible, that part of the coast of New Holland…not surveyed or examined by the late Capt. Flinders”.

In the lower left margin of his watercolour King has noted that his residence during his Australian coastal surveys of 1818 to 1822. His detailed and important coastal explorations, four surveys in all, were described by him in his ‘Narrative of a Survey of the Inter tropical and Western Coasts of Australia’, which was illustrated with his own drawings. King went on to consolidate a formidable career as explorer and hydrographer. He sailed with Darwin in 1826 on the BEAGLE voyage to chart the coasts of Peru, Chile and Patagonia; Darwin described him as “my beau ideal of Captain”.

Harriet obviously spent much of her time at their Church Street residence without her young husband, but three of their eight children were born there: Philip Gidley in 1817, John in 1820 and William Essington in 1821. King records their births on the drawing itself. Parramatta was rapidly becoming an organised community by the 1820s. In 1822 Surveyor James McBrien’s map showed fewer than 300 dwellings, mainly on the south side of the river, with less than sixty houses across the river. It was the centre of agriculture in the colony and in some respects as important as Sydney.

With Macquarie’s presence at Government House and his continuing building programme, the town was notably handsome. The King residence stood at the junction of Phillip and Church Streets both of which were part of Macquarie’s original street plan. King’s symmetrical residence captures the very essence of Australian Georgian architecture. Very few domestic examples of this period survive today.

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Phillip Parker King


Paper, Watercolour