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Today in History - October

Glance through the history of New South Wales and the State archives day by day and month by month.

October 1

On this day in 1850 an act to endow the University of Sydney received royal assent. The University is Australia's oldest university. The NSW Government granted the University land at Grose Farm, three kilometres from the city, which became the main Camperdown campus.  Teaching commenced on October 11, 1852 in the Big Schoolroom of what is now the Sydney Grammar School, before moving to Camperdown in 1859.

October 2

On this day in 1964 the new Gladesville Bridge in Sydney was officially opened by Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. The new six lane catenary arch designed bridge replaced a single lane bridge and tramway across the Parramatta River.

October 4

On this day in 1935 Luna Park opened in Sydney for the first time. The amusement park was constructed at Milsons Point on land formerly used as workshops for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Park was built over three months and the rides came from Luna Park Glenelg in Adelaide. Luna Park operated for a nine-month season every year until 1972 when it opened all year round.

October 5

On this day in 1789 the convict built ship, the Rose Hill Packet, was launched. The Rose Hill Packet was the first vessel built in Australia and it weighed 12 tons, earning it the nickname of 'the Lump'. It operated a ferry service between Sydney Cove and Parramatta, taking up to four days to sail up the river. This service did not survive past 1800.

October 6

On this day in 1886 champion swimmer Bernard Bede Kieran was born in New South Wales. Better known as Barney Kieran, he went on to be a swimming sensation, winning races and breaking world records before his untimely death in 1905, aged 19. His story is all the more remarkable because he was a former Sobraon boy.

October 7

On this day in 1916 Taronga Zoo officially opened on the shores of Sydney Harbour in Mosman. Taronga Zoo was NSW's first public zoo and initially opened in 1884 at Billy Goat Swamp in Moore Park, on the site now occupied by Sydney Boys High and Sydney Girls High.  The NSW Government granted 43 acres for the new bar-free zoo in Mosman. The new zoo was home to monkeys, seals, elephants and over 500 birds.

October 8

On this day in 1818 explorer John Oxley reached the NSW coast after following the Hastings River and named this area Port Macquarie. A penal settlement was established in 1821 to replace Newcastle as a site for convicts to go if they re-offended in the Colony. The Port Macquarie region was opened up to free settlers in 1830.

October 9

On this day in 1829 emancipists (former convicts) became eligible for jury service in NSW. At this time a jury consisted of 12 men only. Before the 1823 Charter of Justice if both parties to a civil action agreed a jury could be appointed while in criminal cases all trials were to take place before judge and jury of seven military or naval officers.

October 11

On this day in 1906 the Coat of Arms of New South Wales was granted by Royal Warrant. The Coat of Arms depicts a rising sun, with lion and kangaroo supporters and a shield with blue (azure) field with silver (argent) cross voided red (gules). The cross has a gold (or) star on each arm and a gold (or) lion in the centre. There are golden fleece in the first and fourth quarters and a wheat sheaf in the second and third quarters of the cross.

October 13

On this day in 1933 the first traffic lights in Sydney began operating. The lights were installed at the intersection of Market and Kent Streets in Sydney's CBD. They were switched on by the then Minister for Transport, Colonel Michael Bruxner at 11am. It was another four years before more traffic lights were installed.

October 14

On this day in 1829 Governor Darling proclaimed the Nineteen Counties of NSW which redefined the 'limits of location'. Settlers were only allowed to take up land within these Counties but from the earliest time there was always some unauthorised occupation (or squatting) of Crown Lands both within and outside the 'limits of location'.

October 18

On this day in 1909 New South Wales agreed to surrender approximately 2400 square kilometres of the state to the Commonwealth for the creation of the Australian Capital Territory. The agreement was signed by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and NSW Premier Charles Wade.

October 19

On this day in 1872 the Beyers and Holtermann nugget, the largest single piece of reef gold ever discovered in the world was found by workers of the Star of Hope Mining Company at Hill End. Hill End was a gold mining township in central-west NSW and in the town's heyday there were more than 200 companies working there.The Beyers and Holtermann nugget weighed about 286 kg and was 150cm by 66cm.

October 20

On this day in 1973 the Sydney Opera House was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Work had began on the building in 1959 and was completed in 1973 at a cost of $102 million. The official opening was celebrated with fireworks and a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

October 21

On this day in 1920 the two-day trial of Eugenia Falleni concluded with her conviction of murdering her 'wife'. Falleni for many years dressed and lived her life as a man and she was unmasked when she was arrested. Falleni caused a sensation in the news media in Sydney.

October 22

On this day in 1864 the Rookwood Cemetery Railway Line opened. The land that became the Rookwood Cemetery (officially called the Rookwood Neocropolis) was purchased by the Government in 1862 from the estate of Edward Cohen. As the site at Haslem's Creek was some distance from the centre of Sydney it was decided to build a spur line and eventually four railway stations were built in the Cemetery grounds. Services ran twice a day for mourners and coffins until the late 1930s but was revived during World War II. The service was officially terminated in 1948.

October 23

On this day in 1811 Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone of the Rum Hospital in Macquarie Street in Sydney. The Hospital was completed in 1816 (see August 10 entry below). The central block was eventually demolished in 1879 whilst the two surviving wings now form Parliament House and the Mint Museum.

October 24

On this day in 1889 Sir Henry Parkes, then Premier of NSW, made his famous speech, the 'Tenterfield Oration', in favour of Federation. The speech was given at the Tenterfield School of Arts in northern NSW in order to promote free trade across colonial borders and called for "a great national government for all Australia". Sir Henry Parkes has become known as the 'Father of Federation'.

October 26

On this day in 1811 William Charles Wentworth was appointed to the post of Acting Provost Marshal by Governor Macquarie, thereby becoming the first native-born Australian to hold an official government position. The position of provost marshal was a often a military officer in charge of the military police.

October 29

On this day in 1841 the first executions in Darlinghurst Gaol took place. Robert Hudson and George Stroud (or Stroode) were hanged for murder. Coincidentally, the last hanging in Darlinghurst occurred on the same date 66 years later in 1907. Nicholas Baxter was also hanged for murder.

October 31

On this day in 1894 two trains collided near Redfern Station in one of the worst train crashes in NSW. At 9:31 in the morning a suburban train heading from Strathfield to Central was hit by a country train heading for Goulburn when a signal box failed. Fourteen people were killed and 27 passengers were injured. Among the dead were several prominent Sydney-siders, including Edward Lloyd Jones, Chairman of David Jones & Co and Father Callaghan McCarthy of St Mary's Catholic Church.