Old Sydney Town theme park where children watched convicts being flogged is for ...

For several generations one of Australia's most beloved tourist attractions was a colonial theme park where parents sent their children to watch convicts being flogged.

Another highlight of this heritage experience was for boys and girls to be placed in a pillory so their heads and hands were restrained, or locked up by their ankles in stocks.

Old Sydney Town, near Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast, was the scene of countless school excursions and family diversions off the Pacific Highway for almost 30 years.

Children could attend mock convict trials and funerals, watch pistol duels and fist fights, and recoil from the roar of cannon and musket fire.

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The pillory was a favourite experience for children at Old Sydney Town near Gosford in NSW

The pillory was a favourite experience for children at Old Sydney Town near Gosford in NSW

A highlight of Old Sydney Town for school children was to watch a convict being flogged

A highlight of Old Sydney Town for school children was to watch a convict being flogged

'Had my school excursions there,' one person said on Facebook. 'Today's kids are missing out'

'Had my school excursions there,' one person said on Facebook. 'Today's kids are missing out'

Mums and dads bring their children along to watch a convict being flogged for his crimes

Mums and dads bring their children along to watch a convict being flogged for his crimes

Children could experience brutal convict punishment for themselves at Old Sydney Town

Children could experience brutal convict punishment for themselves at Old Sydney Town

But after a reported six million visitors had walked through its gates the park closed in 2003 due to falling attendance. It has sat decaying for the past 15 years.

Now the site and surrounding land is being sold with many hoping that Old Sydney Town will rise again, albeit likely without some of its brutal exhibitions.

A Facebook page called Bring Back Old Sydney Town is filled with hundreds of pictures and fond memories of 'the biggest heritage park in New South Wales'.

'I'd loved it as a child and would love my kids to live the joy too,' one nostalgic contributor wrote.

'I too feel our children/grandchildren have missed out on something truly wonderful,' wrote another.

A third said: 'I remember going there for a school excursions year 6 and buying some chewing tobacco and hurling my lugs up when the nicco kicked in. You have to love the seventies.'

And one more: 'I cant believe they shut it down.' 

Generations of school children made the bus trip to Somersby to visit Old Sydney Town

Generations of school children made the bus trip to Somersby to visit Old Sydney Town

A program shows the daily events at Old Sydney Town including three sessions of floggings

A program shows the daily events at Old Sydney Town including three sessions of floggings

A soldier chats with a maiden while another convict is flogged with a mock cat o' nine tails

A soldier chats with a maiden while another convict is flogged with a mock cat o' nine tails

Near the end of a day at Old Sydney Town a funeral and burial would take place at Church Hill

Near the end of a day at Old Sydney Town a funeral and burial would take place at Church Hill

Old Sydney Town was opened by then prime minister Gough Whitlam on Australia Day, 1975, as a living museum of life in the NSW convict settlement from 1788 to 1810. 

Representing an area now bound by Macquarie, Hunter, York and Argyle Streets in modern Sydney, the attraction was billed as 'the world's first faithful re-enactment of the birth of a nation.'

'The people who inhabit the town are living out the lives of the colourful early settlers,' a sign at the front of the park stated. 'Feel free to question them about their lives.' 

Among the attractions were a 'recreation' of Sydney Cove as a man-made lake with the replica brig Perseverance at anchor and more than 30 stone, brick and wattle and daub buildings. 

There was the firing of a cannon twice a day, the storming of the Perseverance and the re-enactment of a convict rebellion. For many wide-eyed youngsters it was truly thrilling stuff. 

'Still can't believe they shut it down,' one person wrote of Old Sydney Town on Facebook

'Still can't believe they shut it down,' one person wrote of Old Sydney Town on Facebook

Children such as this girl were encouraged to mingle with the actors at Old Sydney Town

Children such as this girl were encouraged to mingle with the actors at Old Sydney Town

These school girls enjoyed the stocks experience during an excursion to Old Sydney Town 

These school girls enjoyed the stocks experience during an excursion to Old Sydney Town 

A bullock team worked through the streets and children could catch a horse-drawn ride. 

Actors portraying soldiers conducted drills, while others played convicts working on road gangs. There were street musicians, shop keepers and vagabonds.

By far the most memorable spectacle for most was the punishment of convicts tied to a triangle and flogged.

At 10.15am there was a 'welcome, muster and flogging' at Church Hill and at 11.15am a 'magistrate's court and flogging' at the gaol. A third flogging was held at 2.20pm. 

Audiences would be shown a real cat o' nine tails which would then be substituted for a whip with cloth strands soaked in red dye.  

A promotional pamphlet promised 'The Greatest Adventure in Living History - unique experiences you'll always remember.'

'Old Sydney Town is more than an authentic recreation of Sydney as it was in 1788; it's a living adventure where you will feel the charm of the past mixed with the harsh realities of colonial life,' the pamphlet said. 

This girl regularly visited Old Sydney Town with her family and would stay for an entire day

This girl regularly visited Old Sydney Town with her family and would stay for an entire day

This pillory pictured in 1978 was set up in front of the stone gaol, which was never completed

This pillory pictured in 1978 was set up in front of the stone gaol, which was never completed

The ambitious building program at Old Sydney Town at Somersby was never completed

The ambitious building program at Old Sydney Town at Somersby was never completed

Old Sydney Town featured several places to eat and drink including the First Fleet Tea Shoppe

Old Sydney Town featured several places to eat and drink including the First Fleet Tea Shoppe

'See soldiers on parade and hear the thunder of the daily cannon salute. Thrill to the excitement of a pistol duel or boxing match.

'Be part of a typical trial of the day as colonial justice takes its course in the Magistrate's Court. See convicts tried and punished.'

Another pamphlet said: 'Old Sydney Town has something for the whole family. You can occupy front seat at the Magistrate's Court, and if the scoundrel's found guilty (he usually is), you can wince as he receives a dozen lashes with the cat o' nine tails.'

Another popular experience was to try out the stocks and pillory placed around the town. Sadly, the sale of the site seems unlikely to see those simple pleasures return.

Old Sydney Town was developed by architect and entrepreneur Frank Fox with the assistance of the federal government and what was then the Bank of NSW (now Westpac).

In this picture a body is taken to the cemetery in a wheelbarrow for a burial as children watch

In this picture a body is taken to the cemetery in a wheelbarrow for a burial as children watch

Actors dressed as soldiers fired Old Sydney Town's cannon on the parade ground twice a day 

Actors dressed as soldiers fired Old Sydney Town's cannon on the parade ground twice a day 

'Hear the thunder of the daily cannon salute,' an Old Sydney Town promotional pamphlet said

'Hear the thunder of the daily cannon salute,' an Old Sydney Town promotional pamphlet said

The cannon fell silent at Old Sydney Town 15 years ago due to falling numbers of visitors

The cannon fell silent at Old Sydney Town 15 years ago due to falling numbers of visitors

Heritage architect Robert Irving, a senior lecturer at the University of NSW, was responsible for research into what should be erected and where. The town was to be built with as much historical accuracy as possible. 

About 130 of Irving's first year architecture students were involved in the design and construction of the first 13 buildings as part of their studies.  

Some buildings, such as the gaol and church, were never completed. Among the most impressive structures on the site was a windmill and the park was supposed to keep expanding. 

Shortly after the Whitlam government was dismissed in November 1975 the federal investment was taken over by premier Neville Wran's state government. 

Later the park was leased to a private company, Warwick Amusements, run by Paris-based multi-millionaire

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