The Female Orphan School opened on 17 August 1801 in George Street, Sydney. It first housed 31 girls aged between seven and 14 years old, but by 1803 there were 103 inmates. In 1818, the girls were relocated to a new building on Arthur's Hill (now Parramatta), and in 1819 the George Street site became the Male Orphan School. In 1850, the Female Orphan School and the Male Orphan School together became the Protestant Orphan School located at the site of the Female Orphan School.
The Female Orphan School was opened in Lieutenant William Kent's house on George Street, Sydney on 17 August 1801 with 31 girls. By 1803 the school had 3 times the number of girls and the need for bigger, purpose built premises was already apparent.
The demand for places continued to grow and Governor Macquarie realised that the Female Orphan School required new, larger premises. The Governor laid the foundation stone for the new building of the Female Orphan School in 1813, in Parramatta. It was thought here the girls would be away from the 'moral corruption' of the workers in the city.
In 1818, the girls were relocated to the new building on Arthur's Hill (now Parramatta) overlooking Parramatta River, away from the moral turpitude of Sydney Town. The original George Street site became a Male Orphan School in 1819.
By 1829 the female orphanage housed 152 girls from a cross-section of colonial society including Aboriginal communities. Girls were accepted in the Home from two years of age, with most girls having convict parents or mothers and many one living parent.
Education at the Female Orphan School was limited with girls being taught spinning and sewing and just a few taught reading and writing. The aim of the orphanage was to give the girls enough skills to become a domestic servant around the age of thirteen.
The orphanages originally operated under the supervision of a select committee comprising leading members of the clergy (including Reverend Samuel Marsden), government officials and prominent settlers. Funding was raised by donations and public revenue from government. In 1826, the newly formed Clergy and School Lands Corporation took over responsibility for the management of orphan schools, until 1833 when the schools came under control of the Colonial Secretary.
In 1850, the Male and Female Orphan Schools were amalgamated to form the Protestant Orphan School which operated until 1886. The Protestant Orphan School was located in the same building as the Female Orphan School in Parramatta (Rydalmere).
Sources used to compile this entry: Orphan schools, State Library of New South Wales, 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20160201172256/http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/discover_collections/history_nation/religion/charity/opphan_schools.html; '27 September 2013: Female Orphan School', in Scratching Sydney's Surface, Rob D and Laila E, 2013, http://scratchingsydneyssurface.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/27-september-2013-female-orphan-school/; 'Female Orphan School', in University of Western Sydney, University of Western Sydney, 2 September 2014, http://www.uws.edu.au/femaleorphanschool/home.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 26 April 2012, Last modified: 16 July 2015