Artefacts of the People

Thompson Square is recognised as being a rare surviving example of a planned town square dating from the colonial period, one of the oldest public squares in Australia.

During archaeological excavations carried out in 2016-2020, over 30,000 artefacts were recovered from the river and within Thompson Square and its surrounds. These ranged from Aboriginal stone artefacts, such as tools for hunting and fishing, to maritime objects, including remnants of a boat; as well as every day, discarded items of colonial life, such as china and glass bottles. The archaeological finds relate to more than 27,000 years of human history.

Sections of a brick drainage system dating to 1814-1816 were one of the more substantial discoveries. The system comprised of a central drain (the barrel drain) running down to the river. It was fed by box drains constructed at a higher level.

The drain system channelled surface water from George Street, to protect Thompson Square from erosion, with additional waste water designed to be conveyed through the drain from six separate locations – 3 in the government precinct and 3 in the developing private frontages.

The section of the barrel drain that was disturbed during the project was protected, preserved and left in situ for future generations.

The Thompson Square Conservation Area, including the buildings, streets, and open spaces of Thompson Square, is included on the NSW State Heritage Register. The archaeological record provides evidence of the daily lives of early European settlers, as well as the lives of the Darug, particularly the Boorooberongal, who lived in the area for millennia.


When the British established the Port Jackson colony in 1788, all lands were claimed for the British Crown, without recognition of Aboriginal land rights. Governors of the colony of New South Wales were given authority to make land grants to free settlers, emancipated convicts, members of the civil administration and the military.

The area in which you stand is the traditional home to the Boorooberongal clan of the Darug – the people to first encounter the new settlers along the banks of the Hawkesbury River.

The District of Mulgrave Place, later known as Green Hills and later still as Windsor, is the third oldest colonial settlement on the Australian mainland.