Explore with our explorers at Parramatta

AUSTRALIA’S first qualified pilot William Ewart “Billy” Hart made one of the earliest and longest flights in NSW, when he flew a Bristol Boxkite aircraft from Penrith to Parramatta Park — Sydney’s first aerodrome — on November 4, 1911.

Parramatta’s flying dentist, as he was nicknamed, is one of six famous people celebrated in a new exhibition about journeys now showing at Hambledon Cottage.

According to historical records, Hart was presented with Australian Aviator’s Licence Number One by the Aerial League of Australia on November 16, 1911.

He followed this with a 76-kilometre flight from Penrith via St Marys to Sydney.

His achievements are commemorated by a stone memorial and flagpole in Parramatta Park, overlooking Old Government House and The Crescent.

‘‘But there is another man in part of Mr Hart’s story, Sydney Staff, who built an aeroplane in Rosehill,’’ Parramatta and District Historical Society president Trevor Patrick said.

Mr Staff, whose story is also told through this exhibition, built the wooden propeller that was used on Harry Houdini’s biplane.

‘‘The [Parramatta] Council just last year bought his property and they have a park there now, right opposite Rosehill Public School, called Biplane Park,’’ Mr Patrick said.

‘‘The council have had a climbing gym for children made in the shape of an aeroplane installed.’’

Journeys also tells the stories of:

■ Parramatta-born explorer Hamilton Hume (1797-1873), after whom the Hume Highway is named;

■ Surgeon John Harris (1817-1904), after whom Harris Park is named;

■ Winston Hills’ Antarctica explorer Andrew Patrick (living); and

■ Lord Howe Island explorer Lidgbird Ball (1756-1818).

‘‘In 1824, Hume along with William Hovell walked with their horses and provisions from Sydney all the way to Geelong,’’ Mr Patrick said.

‘‘They crossed rivers that were in flood and discovered farmland we now know as Victoria.

‘‘It took them 16 weeks to make this journey. They had no maps, no goods; they just went.

‘‘Harris was the medical officer in the expedition led by John Oxley. He explored the land north of Parkes and discovered and named Port Macquarie.

‘‘His house is still there — it’s called Experiment Farm in Harris Park.

‘‘Patrick explored all the huts that are there now in Antarctica. That was in 2012.

‘‘Ball journeyed to Lord Howe Island in 1789.’’

Mr Patrick said journeys is a 2014 Australian National Heritage theme, upon which new book The National Trust 2014 Heritage Festival — Journeys is based.

The book is available to buy at Parramatta Heritage Centre.

Journeys — stories of historic journeys by famous people is at Hambledon Cottage, 63 Hassall Street, Parramatta, Thursdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm, until the end of June.

There are illustrated talks at 12.30pm on Thursdays and guided walks from Hambledon Cottage to local historic sites, Sundays from 11am. Cost: $5 includes morning tea.

Details: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 9635 6924.

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