THE ROOM ABOVE THE GAOL
The first female factory was in the Colony of New South Wales. It was a room above the men’s goal at Gaol Green, also known as Hanging Green (now Prince Alfred Park), Parramatta.
George Mealmaker was a master weaver convicted for sedition (writing pamphlets for the Scottish martyrs) and, when the Colonial appointed master weaver fell overboard on the way out, he was employed as Parramatta’s first factory superintendent. One can’t help but wonder how this idealist worked, governing the factory women whose rights he fought for in Britain.
Samuel Marsden, who was instrumental in this factory being built described it in its later life:
The number of women employed in the factory under Mr Oakes the superintendent is one hundred and fifty,-they have seventy children. There is not any room in the factory that can be called a bed-room for these women and children. There are only 2 rooms and they are both occupied as workshops, over the goal, almost 80 feet long and 20 feet wide. In these rooms there are forty six women daily employed, 24 spinning wheels on the common wheel and twenty two carding. There are also in them the warping machine etc. belonging to the factory.
In its later years this factory had up to 200 women but could only house about 30 at night. If the women did not have bedding with them they did not get a bed and found either a place amongst the factory fleece or somewhere in Parramatta that would take them.
This factory closed in 1821 when the women were moved to the female factory in Fleet Street.
If you were visiting the ‘online museum you can return on the link: Museum Object Gallery 1