The settlement of Windsor (then known as the Green Hills) began in 1791. In 1794, the first farms were developed along the fertile Hawkesbury River floodplain when emancipated convicts were granted land by Lieutenant Governor Francis Grose. Their small holdings were soon producing crops but, without a wharf, transport of their produce to Sydney town was restricted. In 1795, the first Windsor wharf was built, allowing larger ships to dock.
The wharf was primarily used by government vessels to supply Windsor’s first store and the military garrison in the town. David Collins, secretary to the Governor and later Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), wrote that: “Early in February, the storehouse at the Hawkesbury being completed, the provisions which had been sent round in the schooner were landed and put under the care of Baker [the superintendent]…
Unfortunately, the Hawkesbury was subject to flooding. The first flood experienced by the new settlement came the same year the first Windsor wharf was completed and more followed. The wharf was rebuilt or repaired several times until, in 1810, Governor Macquarie decreed that a new wharf be built. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage records that “The wharf was built by John Howe and James McGrath, both early land grantees at Mulgrave (Windsor), who also improved the road from Parramatta to Windsor and searched for an overland route to the Hunter River.”
Macquarie also ordered the founding of several towns – Windsor, Richmond, Pitt Town, Wilberforce and Castlereagh – on high ground along the river, providing refuge for local farmers in times of flood. His order began:
“The frequent inundations of the rivers Hawkesbury and Nepean having been hitherto attended with the most calamitous effects, with regard to crops growing in their vicinity, and in consequence of most serious injury to the necessary subsistence of the colony, the Governor has deemed it expedient (in order to guard as far as human foresight can extend against the recurrence of such calamities), to erect certain townships in the most contiguous and eligible high grounds in the several districts subjected to those inundations for the purpose of rendering every possible accommodation and security to the settlers whose farms are exposed to the floods.
Further floods continued to wreak havoc and, after a particularly severe flood in 1816, the Governor commissioned architect Francis Greenway to design yet another Windsor wharf. It was completed in 1820 and could accommodate vessels of up to 100 tons.
This wharf, too, eventually fell into disrepair. In 1865 a new wharf was constructed but, as good roads to the region were built, the need for a commercial wharf diminished. By the 1950s, little remained of the 1865 construction. Archeological studies conducted in 2020 prior to the replacement of the Windsor bridge discovered remnants of what they believed to be the 1810 Windsor wharf.