Finding the perfect Christmas gift is a challenge every year. It is hard enough trying to remember the presents you gave the previous year, let alone trying to be creative.
The good news is that there are several extra Christmas markets on this month to help you on your way, some of which are mid-week twilight markets. This is the perfect way to catch up with friends before Christmas and knock off a few pressies at the same time. You will find some great gift ideas from local artists and artisans and possibly something for yourself too!
It is easy to forget that the markets we visit today have roots back to the early 19th Century. I guess the difference between now and then is that today it is a cool way to spend the day, to talk with farmers and producers and find unique artisan product’s that may tempt you into a purchase. Back then markets were often rough places and were located close to the wharves for transport.
I thought it would be interesting to have a look back and see where and what the original markets in Sydney were. What I did find is that there is a very confusing history as the markets moved from location to location around town.
Governor Bligh opened the first produce market in the Rocks in 1806. By 1809 this had moved to Market Street, described as ‘a paling enclosure around some sheds’ operating from sunrise until noon. The markets adjoined the Old Burial Ground site (now home to Sydney Town Hall) and linked to Corporation wharf at Darling Harbour. This was the centre of fresh produce trade for decades.
More markets existed from the late 1820’s near Pitt, Hay & Campbell St. These included the cattle, hay and corn markets. These later became the Belmore markets (now Belmore Park). The original Paddy’s markets was also located nearby on the site of the now Capital Theatre. It was thought to be named Paddy’s as it was similar to a famous market in Ireland offering everything from animals for sale, sideshows, farm produce and second-hand goods. Given the number of Irish that arrived as convicts and the thousands of immigrants that arrived later in it is no wonder a ‘Paddy’s market’ was started, and now I know possibly why the popular Irish pub ‘Scruffy Murphy’s’ is in the area too!
By the 1860’s the area was also popular with circus managers. During peak times such as school holidays and livestock sales, market stalls were set up alongside the Wilson Circus who offered entertainment such as tests of strength and trick riding.
By the late 19th Century the produce markets up town were becoming deteriorated and they were replaced with the QVB building. Sydney siders were obviously not ready for this type of high-end arcaded shopping and as a result it was unsuccessful. The real focus of markets in Sydney moved to Haymarket and in 1893 the new Belmore markets opened on the site of the Capital Theatre.
So what happened to Paddy’s? After the outbreak of the bubonic plague in the early 1900’s the city council reclaimed land in the area and selected the current location as the new site for markets in the area as it was closer to shipping wharves, and the railway goods line. It became known as Sydney Municipal Markets.
With the focus now on Paddy’s markets, the new Belmore markets were transformed into a Hippodrome and functioned as a circus for 10 years and amazingly the site included a seal pool and an elephant enclosure! Paddy’s markets have been on the site ever since.
Photo of Belmore Markets c1900 – From Powerhouse Museum Collection
References: Dictionary of Sydney, Paddy’s Markets History, City of Sydney –About Sydney / History & Archives