|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (01/08/2007)|
|Place File No||1/12/036/0105|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
Hyde Park Barracks represents a turning point in the
management of Australian convicts.
Before 1819 there was no government accommodation for convicts, who were
required to secure their own ‘lodging and fire’ in private houses and hotels in
areas like The Rocks. The barracks were intended to improve the degree
of surveillance and control over government assigned male convicts, and enhance
their chances of reformation. Their
construction is a reflection of the concerns of the penal reform and
transportation debate in the United
Kingdom. The British Government of the time wanted reemphasis on
transportation as a punishment and a deterrent to crime in Britain. Convicts would be subject to harsh labour and
to strict control and restricted freedom.
By restricting convicts freedom, it was also intended to raise their
productivity. The construction of the
barracks enabled more systematic control of both the convicts and of the work
undertaken. This control facilitated the
continued development of a broad scale infrastructure program that was
commenced in the years following the Napoleonic Wars when the number of
convicts transported escalated. These developments saw the colony of New South Wales
transformed from a penal outpost to a permanent colony aiming towards
Governor Macquarie had a vision for the penal colony becoming a more fully fledged colonial society. On arrival in the colony Macquarie surveyed the existing facilities and became convinced that infrastructure needed to be developed and that this could only be built with an organised workforce and Hyde Park Barracks provided the means for this to occur. The Hyde Park Barracks are evidence of the public works program and the organisation and management of public labour at a crucial time in the development of the colony.The barracks was built as a permanent structure with great attention to placement and design and in this represented a significant departure from previous public building design and construction in the colony which up until the time of Macquarie had been of a lesser quality, both in design and construction terms. It is highly valued for its simple Old Colonial Georgian architecture, its sense of balance and proportion and its skilled workmanship.
Hyde Park Barracks is also important for its associations with Governor Macquarie who governed the colony of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821 and it is a physical manifestation of his architectural and social aspirations for the colony and of his perception of the role of convicts in the colonial society and economy. It is integral to his vision which oversaw the colony’s rapid growth and expansion and its transformation to a society, with its own currency, an ability to provide for much of its own wants and the development of important infrastructure such as permanent churches, hospitals and administrative buildings.
The barracks are also important for their association with Francis Greenway. As the first official Government Architect, Greenway is regarded by many as Australia’s first architect. The Hyde Park Barracks building and complex demonstrates his skills at the height of their powers and is regarded as one of his best works.
Hyde Park Barracks is a three-storey brick building of
simple internal design, with a central corridor and cross corridor breaking up
the spaces into a series of large rooms. There are six large dormitories,
and six smaller rooms. |
The building has a gabled roof with pediment decoration incorporating a clock and inscription commemorating Governor Macquarie’s role in its construction. The Old Colonial Georgian symmetrical arrangement of windows and pilasters gives the building an elegant simplicity.
Hyde Park Barracks contains substantial archives including Colonial Architect, Engineer and Public Works archives which provide vital evidence of estimates and claims of work carried out in the 1820-30s, 1848-50, 1887-89, 1975-82, supplemented by accounts of the construction costs from Bigge (1819), and Harris (1824). Other archives from Colonial Secretary’s correspondence, Magistrates’ Benches, indents, commissions, orders, regulations, accounts, parliamentary papers, letters, etc reveal much about the uses of the Barracks, particularly during the convict period. It also contains substantial pictorial sources, including Joseph Lycett’s 1819 watercolour and other key pictures of the changing exterior from the building’s construction to the end of the 19th century (Historic Houses Trust, 1990).
An open yard which originally surrounded the barracks building has been reinstated. The yard was surrounded by a perimeter wall which incorporated offices, kitchens and rooms for staff, and pavilions at the corners incorporating cells. This perimeter wall has been retained on two sides and one pavilion also survives.
Hyde Park Barracks is situated among associated sites which provide an historical setting for the barracks. These include several adjacent buildings (The Mint, St James Church, St Mary’s Cathedral, and Land Titles Office), the northern part of Hyde Park, the southern part of the Domain, and two roadways (Macquarie Street, and College Street) (Pearson, 1998).
In 1809 Lachlan Macquarie (1761-1824) was appointed governor of NSW to replace William Bligh who had been deposed by the mutinous NSW Corps. Macquarie and his party entered Port Jackson on 28 December 1809, and the new Governor was sworn in on New Year's Day 1810. Addressing the citizens at the ceremony he expressed the hope that the recent dissensions would now give way to a more becoming harmony among all classes. Privately he had been pleasantly surprised to find the colony thriving and 'in a perfect state of tranquility'. He was also pleased with the setting and the climate and hoped 'we shall be able to pass five or six years here pleasantly enough' (McLachlan, 1967).
Macquarie and his second wife Elizabeth arrived in Sydney with a vision for the colony that elevated it well beyond a simple penal settlement. He saw it as a place of reform not punishment, as a permanent settlement not just an isolated colonial outpost. Macquarie, asserting a complete personal control, set out to convert New South Wales from a rebellion-torn penitentiary to a settlement of substance. In his personality were mixed a broad sense of justice and a humanity far ahead of the Georgian concepts of the day (Bennett, 1966). By the time the first anniversary of his government arrived, the characteristics of his twelve-year administration had emerged.
One was the new modelling of the public departments. From his earliest days, he reformed the police force and increased night patrols in an effort to curb the growing crime rate. The commissariat store and the Police Fund were remodelled to form the basis of colonial revenue. Here he was able to draw on his experience as a staff officer, expertise the previous naval governors had largely lacked (McLachlan, 1967). In July 1813 the colony at last obtained a coinage in place of the notes of hand and barter previously used. At the end of 1816, despite the opposition of the British Government, he encouraged the creation of the colony's first bank, the Bank of New South Wales.
Public works were another of Macquarie’s continuing concerns. Soon after his arrival in the colony, in April 1810, he had conducted a ‘General Survey on the Buildings etc’ which included recommendations and costings for remediation. A public works program was developed based on the needs identified in the survey and the resources at hand. The planning and execution of public works would impose social order and encourage a civilised society. Despite Castlereagh's injunction about economy, Macquarie was convinced that a new army barracks, a new general hospital, and a turnpike road to Parramatta and beyond, could not be postponed. The barracks were completed by the end of 1810, and the Parramatta Road in April 1811. The hospital was built by the principal surgeon D'Arcy Wentworth, and two other colonists, under a contract dated 6 November 1810. This contract funded the hospital by giving them a limited monopoly of importing spirits, the consumption of which Macquarie had found impossible to prohibit. This was clearly a cheap way of obtaining an urgently needed building during a period when convict labour was scarce, but it ran contrary to Macquarie’s own earlier suggestion that spirits should be freely imported and it was strongly criticized in London (McLachlan 1967). In 1811, Macquarie requested more convicts because the prosperity of the colony depended on them. It, however, was not until after the cessation of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 that the number of convict transports were increased. With the de-mobbing of troops and subsequent rise in crime under deteriorating economic and social conditions in Britain, the numbers available for transportation increased dramatically.
Between 1814 and 1820, some 11 765 convicts arrived (Bigge as quoted in Shaw, 1977: p.92) and this presented Macquarie with a huge problem of control and social stability. The population of the colony during the majority of his governorship almost trebled from over 10 096 in 1810 to 29 665 in 1820. Convicts and ex-convicts made up over 73 percent of the population, peaking at 79.7 percent in 1820 at which time they represented 94.4 percent of the male workforce (Butlin, 1985: pp.4; 19).
It was because of the large supply of convict labour that Macquarie was subsequently able to implement many of the larger infrastructure needs identified in the 1810 survey. This extensive building program transformed Sydney, Parramatta and established the new townships of the Hawkesbury River valley. Macquarie ordered the construction of roads and bridges to link Sydney with the new townships, and was responsible for the erection of over 200 churches and public buildings, many of which still stand as monuments to his far-sightedness, pragmatism and management skills. As the strongest inducement to reform Macquarie decided that ex-convicts, when they had shown that they deserved the favour, should be readmitted to the rank in society they had forfeited on their conviction. He recognised that this was a new approach, though he believed it to be 'the benign Spirit of the Original Establishment of the Colony, and His Majesty's Paternal Instructions as to the mode of its Government' (McLachlan, 1967). Macquarie was clearly conscious of following the colony's founder, Arthur (now Admiral) Phillip, who he admired and with whom he corresponded. A conscientious Freemason, he was probably also influenced by his admiration of the anti-slavery campaign of Wilberforce, who he regarded as 'a true Patriot and the Real Friend of Mankind' (McLachlan, 1967). He believed in appointing reformed convicts, known as emancipists, to positions of authority and influence. Francis Greenway, who he appointed Colonial Architect, and William Redfern, Colonial Surgeon, are two such examples. Macquarie characterised his liberal attitude to the administration of a penal colony thus,‘(n)o people in the world live better, or have less to complain of, than the convicts, both male and female, in NSW, as long as they conduct themselves with Common Propriety…’ (quoted in Kerr, 1984: p.58). This policy was approved in London by Liverpool, as well as by Wilberforce and the Select Committee on Transportation in 1812, but it aroused immediate indignation among immigrant settlers and military officers, and alienated the very classes whose co-operation Castlereagh had advised Macquarie to foster (McLachlan, 1967).
Early in 1810 the senior chaplain, Samuel Marsden, refused outright to serve on the turnpike board for the new Parramatta Road with the emancipist Justices of the Peace, Simeon Lord and Andrew Thompson. There was further controversy between Marsden and Macquarie in 1814 despite Wilberforce's attempts to mediate, and finally in January 1818 Marsden was summoned to Government House and denounced by Macquarie as a 'secret enemy'. Since the chaplain had more influential friends in England than any other colonist he proved a dangerous antagonist (McLachlan, 1967). So did Jeffrey Hart Bent, brother of Deputy Judge Advocate Ellis Bent and himself Judge of the Supreme Court created under the new Charter of Justice granted in 1814. He kept his court closed rather than admit ex-convict attorneys to practise even though there was only one free lawyer in the colony. The Governor's growing rift with both Bent brothers led to their recall. Ellis Bent died before this decision arrived, but his brother returned to England and assisted H. G. Bennet in mounting the campaign against Macquarie in the House of Commons which led to the appointment of a select committee on gaols, and of John Thomas Bigge as commissioner to enquire into the affairs of the colony.
Bigge's commission sprang from Lord Bathurst's decision in 1817 to examine the effectiveness of transportation as a deterrent to felons and was undertaken in the context of the penal reform and anti-transportation debate. The British Government was keen to avoid the cost of constructing a penitentiary system within the UK. It was determined to establish the reputation of transportation to NSW as a more cost effective means of punishing, deterring and reforming criminals than the penitentiary as was then being advocated by penal reformers. His commission, issued on 5 January 1819, authorised an investigation of 'all the laws regulations and usages of the settlements', notably those affecting civil administration, management of convicts, development of the courts, the Church, trade, revenue and natural resources. In three letters of additional instructions Bathurst suggested the criteria on which the inquiry should operate. Transportation should be made 'an object of real terror' and any weakening of this by 'ill considered compassion for convicts' in the humanitarian policies of Governor Macquarie should be reported (Bennett, 1966). Where existing administration was too lenient the commissioner could recommend the establishment of harsher penal settlements (Bennett, 1966). Bigge prepared three reports which were printed by the House of Commons: The State of the Colony of New South Wales, 19 June 1822; The Judicial Establishments of New South Wales and of Van Diemen's Land, 21 February 1823; and The State of Agriculture and Trade in the Colony of New South Wales, 13 March 1823. These collectively prompted the insertion in the New South Wales Act (1824: 4 Geo. IV, c. 96) of clauses to set up limited constitutional government through a Legislative Council, to establish Van Diemen's Land as a separate colony, to enable extensive legal reforms and to make new provisions for the reception of convicts from England (Bennett, 1966). Bigge's first report canvassed four principal themes: general colonial conditions, the convict system, relations between social classes, and Macquarie's programme of public works. He strongly censured the governor's building programme as wastefully expensive and used his authority to discontinue some projects and to make changes in the construction and intended use of other buildings (Bennett, 1966). In this report, he failed to account for the very real achievements of government. His analysis was unfairly prejudicial of an administration superior to any previously known in the colony which, in addition, enjoyed popular support among the colony’s inhabitants generally (Bennett, 1966).
During his administration, Macquarie was successful in reducing the average annual per convict expenditure by about two-thirds. However, the total cost of convict administration doubled during the same period as the number of prisoners increased about tenfold (McLachlan, 1967). Macquarie also tried to restrain the excessive use of corporal punishment by magistrates, tightened up the pass regulations, built convict barracks in Sydney, Parramatta and Windsor for the better control of the 'government' convicts and issued new regulations for the granting of tickets-of-leave (McLachlan, 1967).
In 1822 Macquarie returned to England, after the Bigge Commission had criticised both his liberal policies and the extent of his public works program. He attempted to vindicate his actions and restore his reputation, and was eventually granted a pension in 1824. However, he died shortly afterwards on 1 July 1824 (Mitchell Library website).
Architect Francis Greenway (1777-1837) was Australia's first Government Architect. He was born at Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England, son of Francis Greenway and Ann, née Webb. The Greenway’s had been stonemasons, builders and architects in the west country for generations. Greenway was in private practice as an architect in Bristol when in March 1812 he was found guilty of forging the signature of a local solicitor on a document to his own advantage. He was sentenced to death but the penalty was later changed to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 in the transport General Hewitt, and was followed in July by his wife Mary, whom he had married about 1804, and three children in the Broxbornebury. Greenway was apparently allowed much freedom after his arrival for he began private practice immediately, with an office at 84 George Street, Sydney, declaring that he was open to commissions of all kinds. He was self-confident, temperamental and quick to take offence, but his artistic abilities were great and he had a full command of the techniques of his profession. In March 1816 he was appointed the first government architect and assistant engineer at a salary of 3s. a day, with quarters for himself and family, a horse and forage. For seven years he realised the Governor's public works program, helping to raise New South Wales from a convict outpost to an established colony (Herman, 1966).
His first work for the government was the design of the lighthouse, known as the Macquarie Tower, on the south head of Port Jackson. The stonework of the building was finished in December 1817 and Macquarie was so pleased with it that he presented Greenway with conditional emancipation (Hermann 1966). By 1819 he had designed a large female factory at Parramatta and a large barracks and compound for male convicts in what is now Queen's Square, Sydney. Macquarie opened the barracks on 20 May 1819 with great ceremony and a special feast for the prisoners, and used the occasion to make Greenway's pardon absolute (Hermann 1966). The building exists as ‘Hyde Park Barracks’, and the dignity of the original design is still discernable. The great compound surrounding it has been reinstated in large scale conservation works undertaken in 1980-84, allowing the original design to be interpreted and are reminders of Greenway's one example of planning in the grand manner. In 1817 Greenway began St Matthew's Church, Windsor, probably his masterpiece. Its large bulk of beautiful brick-work still compels admiration with its commanding position on rising ground overlooking the wide valley of the Hawkesbury River (Herman, 1966).
1819 marked the turning point of Greenway's career. He was an important citizen but unfortunately his arrogance caused him to misjudge his authority. He made many enemies, and fell out with Macquarie. The last building which Macquarie and Greenway supervised in their old spirit of amicability was the court-house at Windsor. Though only a minor building, it is the nearest approach to a complete Greenway design that has survived (Herman, 1966). Commissioner Bigge cancelled many of Greenway's projects as being too extravagant, and he interfered with other Greenway projects. Later Bigge began to issue building directives to Greenway as though Governor Macquarie did not exist, and in the tense atmosphere this engendered Greenway acted with his usual lack of tact, sometimes siding with the Governor, sometimes with Bigge in a long series of quarrels. The temperamental architect, not politically astute, was concerned only with the spoiling of his designs by the political manoeuvres that marked the disputes between Macquarie and Bigge. In his report Bigge commented favourably on Greenway's abilities and sought to put the blame for extravagant buildings on the governor rather than on the architect. The reverse was perhaps nearer the truth (Herman 1966).
Governor Brisbane, Macquarie's successor, confirmed Greenway in his office as government architect but sought to curb him by imposing restrictions on his activities. Greenway, whilst agreeing to them, paid only lip-service to the new conditions. He continued to design buildings: the Supreme Court in King Street (little of the original design being built), a hospital at Liverpool, stores at Parramatta and a police office in York Street, Sydney (the latter two now demolished). However, with the loss of the strong patronage he had previously enjoyed from Governor Macquarie, public servants and builders paid less and less attention to Greenway. They even at time altered his designs without telling him (Herman 1966). His position was becoming untenable and he could not have been surprised when he was summarily dismissed from government service on 15 November 1822.
Greenway produced some of the finest colonial buildings Australia.. Macquarie's patronage and protection provided the atmosphere in which the architect could give free rein to his genius. Alone, his status crumbled away under the attacks of less competent men (Herman 1966). Through buildings such as St Matthew's Church, Windsor, St James' Church, Sydney and the Hyde Park Barracks, all of which remain today, Greenway has become the most respected and widely known of New South Wales's early colonial architects (Broadbent, 1997, Freeland in Dupain, 1980).
Hyde Park Barracks:
1817-1848: Convict barracks
Before 1819 there was no government accommodation for convicts. Instead, convicts secured ‘lodging and fire’ in private houses and hotels in areas like The Rocks. They were permitted to work privately after their day’s work for the government in order to pay for this. In public houses of The Rocks, however, convict men and women and soldiers associated freely after working hours. Disorderly public behaviour and frequent robberies led to increasing demands for greater control of convicts’ living arrangements (Eureka 2006). As early as April 1814, Macquarie proposed the building of a barrack to house male convicts as a way of exerting government control and providing the foundation of their reformation. However, the British Government refused to meet the expense. This attitude was in part a concern to keep the cost of convicts transported to NSW below that of their confinement in a penitentiary at home – a recurring argument put forward by opponents to transportation in the UK and a pressure under which all governors of NSW laboured until the abolition of transportation to NSW in 1840. It is a telling sub-theme running across Australian convict history. Macquarie did not abandon the idea and the building of a convict barracks was on his ‘List of essentially necessary Public Buildings’ of January 1817 (Broadbent, 1997: p.56). At this time, over one thousand convicts were landing in Sydney each year. He commenced the building in 1817 without authority, finally obtaining approval in 1818 when Lord Bathurst wrote to him ‘If the object of the Establishment of New South Wales be the Reform of the Population, I am aware that it must fail, unless means are provided for lodging under proper Superintendence and Control those who may be sent there’ (Shaw, 1977: p.81).
Hyde Park Barracks was constructed by skilled convict labour between 1817 and 1819 to a design specified by convict architect, Francis Greenway. In Greenway’s original Georgian design, Hyde Park Barracks was comprised of a central dormitory building ‘set in a compound’, enclosed by perimeter walls with corner pavilions, ‘two detailed as cells, and with guard houses either side of wooden gates’ (SHI, 1997: 2). Buildings also lined the northern and southern perimeter walls, which provided housing for the Deputy Superintendent and his family as well as amenities such as a kitchen and mess (Crook et al., 2003).
As the first convict barrack in the colony, it marked a major change in the living and working conditions of male convicts in New South Wales, and the development of more systemised control over convicts. The barracks were intended to improve the degree of surveillance and control over government assigned male convicts working on Macquarie’s ambitious public building program (Eureka 2006). From a penal reform perspective Hyde Park Barracks restricted freedoms and in doing so served as a deterrent. It also enabled the classification of prisoners by providing another option in the penal repertoire of NSW and thus could be argued to be addressing criticisms of British penal reformers. It was designed to provide basic housing for a labour force of 600 male convicts (a third of the male convict population at that time). The barracks introduced some formality between convict and overseer and it was hoped would raise their productivity. The previous arrangement meant that after working hours they had not been under any formal supervision.
The central barracks building acted as a dormitory, with the men sleeping in canvas hammocks strung from wooden rails in all 12 rooms. Convicts were also given an increased ration of food, but lost some of the opportunities for private earnings; and were required to work longer hours for the government than previously (Eureka 2006). At times the barracks is believed to have housed at least twice the 600 originally intended (Pearson, 1998). Shortly after its opening, however, Francis Greenway observed that the barracks routines and rations had promoted an unenthusiastic and institutionalised workforce (Eureka 2006).
In light of Macquarie’s instructions from Prime Minister Lord Castlereagh on improving the morals of the colony, on Sundays the convicts washed, shaved and dressed in clean linen before attending Divine Service. They were mustered and inspected by the superintendent before being marched by overseers across the road to church. The church, St James’, was constructed by convict labour to Francis Greenway’s design and still stands in Queen Square today.
While the barracks provided shelter and provisions, there was also some emphasis on self-sufficiency for the occupants within the overall framework of regulations and routines. This self-sufficiency was demonstrated by the presence on site of bakeries, kitchens, pantries, store-rooms and garden plots all maintained by the resident convicts (Historic Houses Trust, 1990: p.23).
When it was first opened, Hyde Park Barracks also housed convict boys, one as young as nine (Bogle, 2006). The boys slept in a separate room, but this was accessible by the men. In a protective move, the boys were moved to Carters Barracks shortly after it was constructed in 1819-20 (Kerr, 1984: p.53). Carters Barracks accommodated 150 juveniles and was part of a suite of convict barracks constructed by Macquarie. In 1820, there was a smaller barracks in Sydney accommodating 250 convicts, another accommodating 150 in Parramatta with another one under construction in Windsor (Shaw, 1977: p.81).
The Bigge inquiry into the penal colony and its administration from 1819 to 1822, had a considerable impact on the convict system over the next decade and a half. Macquarie’s emphasis had been on rehabilitation. Bigge, in accordance with Bathurst’s instructions, focused on the need for transportation to provide such a severe punishment as would render it an ‘…object of real terror to all classes of the community…’(Pearson, 2006). Bigge approved of the barracks architecturally, referring to the main building as ‘simple and handsome, and the execution of the work…solid’ (Broadbent, 1997: p.57). He was, however, critical of the extravagance of using skilled convict workers to build a place designed to limit the convicts own freedom of work and movement (Emmett & Collins, 1994: p.19), stating of the barracks that ‘the leading object of security has been sacrificed to that of exhibiting with advantage and effect the regular proportion of the building that they enclose’ (quoted in Kerr, 1984: p.40).
As part of his commission, Bigge was required to pay particular attention to the possibility of providing buildings appropriate for the reception of convicts. If he did not think the present settlements capable of undergoing the change required to ensure that transportation was a deterrent, then they should be abandoned as receptacles for convicts and distinct establishments formed along the coast or in the interior (Kerr 1984: p57). Bigge recommended that Hyde Park Barracks be limited to 400, that a further 100 convicts be accommodated at Parramatta and the rest of the convict population be assigned to private individuals or sent to new settlements. During the 1820s and early 1830s, the construction of convict barracks along the lines of Hyde Park Barracks were limited by the colonial administration to new settlements: Hobart Prisoner Barracks (1824), Moreton Bay (1827-1830), Kingston, Norfolk Island (1828-1831), Maria Island (1830). Of these, only the convict barracks at Darlington, Maria Island and Hyde Park Barracks remains. Convict barracks related to assignment to agricultural or pastoral properties were also built during this time and some remain in private ownership. However, they were not of the scale or subject to the same control as those operated by colonial administrators. Hyde Park Barracks however established the precedent for this type of convict administration and remains the most substantive and intact example.
After 1830 with the implementation of the Bigge recommendations, Hyde Park Barracks became a place of secondary punishment and a depot for reassignment and trial. The Office of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts was established on the site, overseeing the changes in convict treatment and work recommended by the Bigge Commission (Eureka 2006). After 1830, a Court of General Sessions established at Hyde Park Barracks administered punishments for barracks men and other government-employed convicts. Penalties included days in solitary confinement, a sentence to an ironed gang, walking on the treadmill at Carters Barracks or a maximum of 150 lashes. The court could also extend convicts’ sentences by up to three years with hard labour and transfer men to other penal settlements in the colony or Norfolk Island and Port Arthur (Eureka 2006). By 1833 floggings took place in a yard behind the barracks rear wall. In response to colonial and British concerns about brutality, the maximum number of lashes ordered by a single magistrate was then limited to 50, and in 1833 a new regulation lash was designed by Superintendent Slade (Eureka 2006).
For almost 30 years, through several administrations differing in severity, up to 1400 men assembled nightly at the barracks, while many others were brought to Hyde Park Barracks for trial, punishment and reassignment. Convict transportation to New South Wales ceased in 1840 but the barracks continued to operate as convict accommodation. In 1844, Governor Gipps referred to the inmates as the refuse of the convict system in New South Wales and the crime wave in Sydney was blamed on the prisoners confined there. From Macquarie’s optimism that the barracks reduced the incidence of crime and protected both the free and convict populations increasing the chance of the latter to move back into society, it had now become regarded as a blight on the city and ‘a demoralising influence’ (Sturma 1983: p.41). The worst convicts were relocated to Cockatoo Island and the barracks was finally closed as convict accommodation in 1848, by which time 8 000 convicts had passed through it (Pearson, 1998).
1848-1887: Female asylum
To remedy a domestic labour shortage and gender imbalance in the colony, many single or orphaned young women were encouraged to emigrate from Britain and famine-racked Ireland by the opportunities for employment in the growing colony. The arrival of 200 orphan girls on 6 October 1848 on the Earl Grey launched the building’s new role as a reception and labour exchange for ‘unprotected female’ assisted immigrants (Eureka 2006). ‘Unprotected’ female assisted immigrants, women from the poor houses of Britain and other young women seeking new prospects in the colony resided in the dormitories until they were reunited with their families, or their services were hired out (Emmett & Collins, 1994:p.5). The women were supervised by a matron and they resided in the barracks until ‘hiring day’. The thousands of women who passed through the depot were subject to a strict regime of domestic duties, moral management and religious instruction. The women were confined for their own protection and ministered to by clergy (Eureka 2006).
These young women resided in the lime washed brick dormitories, and in 1848 the Barrack was especially adapted to accommodate them. The building was redesigned, and the convict hammock rails were dismantled. It fulfilled this role from 1848 to 1887.
In the early 1850s the ‘Immigration Depot’, as it was then known, also housed the wives and children of convicts brought to the colony at government expense to be reunited with their husbands and fathers.
In 1862 the government established Hyde Park Asylum on level 3. It was not a lunatic asylum but a refuge for infirm, destitute women who had no relatives to support them. As well as elderly women, there were many young women in their twenties and thirties who were physically disabled. Terminal patients from the nearby Sydney Infirmary sheltered in the overcrowded asylum with the other social outcasts. As their numbers increased, the asylum gradually took over most of level 2 (Eureka 2006). The asylum was completely segregated from the Immigration Depot and had its own entrance and fenced recreation yard. The only paid servant was the head laundress. Able-bodied inmates were expected to clean, cook and assist in the laundry (Eureka 2006). The women were renowned for their sewing and mending skills and made most of the clothes worn in the asylum. Sewing and repairing clothes and bed linen helped with the economy of the institution (Eureka 2006). In 1886 the inmates were transferred to the newly built Newington Asylum near Auburn.
These uses of the barracks continued until 1886, with outbuildings being occupied by small government departments.
1887-1975: Government departments
Government departments had gradually appropriated the perimeter buildings of the barracks from 1848, and sprawled through the courtyards until eventually a string of courts and government offices were established in the dilapidated dormitories vacated by the women. Room partitions, new joinery, windows, doors, stairs, wall and ceiling finishes transformed these spaces into offices for various functions of the Attorney General’s Department (Emmett & Collins, 1994: p.5), which remained there until 1979 (Eureka 2006). Building gradually in-filled the yard space between the barracks and the perimeter wall. New court and administrative buildings replaced the perimeter walls to the east and south-east, while part of the southern wall was removed to make way for road widening (Pearson, 1998). Courts occupied rooms in the northern perimeter building from 1830. In the prosperous 1880's new social policies created legal specialisations which spawned departments of registrars, clerks and typists (Eureka 2006).
In the first two decades of the 20th century, federation and the separation of state and commonwealth powers meant statute books had to be progressively rewritten. The barracks saw much of this activity. Offices were adapted and rooms were subdivided and spruced up as outbuildings expanded. Two large corrugated iron courtrooms were attached to the rear of the main barracks building, which was also connected by overhead bridges to the northern complex. The southern area, occupied variously by the Immigration Depot and the Volunteer Rifle Corps, was altered in 1887 for the City Coroner and demolished by 1909 to make way for the Registrar General’s building (Eureka 2006).
Industrial issues dominated government business through the early 20th century. With the creation of the Australian arbitration system, Queens Square courts became a focus for the struggle for workplace reform in New South Wales. Landmark decisions handed down here include the basic living wage in 1927 and equal pay for women under State awards, rejected when heard in 1921 but granted in 1973.
The judicial use of the barracks complex lasted until 1979, despite some calls for its demolition in the early 20th century (Crook el al., 2003: p.13).
As early as 1935, the restoration and use of the dormitory building and compound as a museum had been suggested. In response to mounting public concern the New South Wales Government decided to retain the barracks complex, and instigated a conservation program for the barracks in 1975 (Eureka 2006). When it was decided to recycle the main building for a museum with modern services and facilities, conflict arose amongst architects, archaeologists, museologists and heritage bodies on how the adaptation should proceed (Emmett & Collins, 1994: p.8). By 1979 conservation and museum adaptation works were planned by a multi-disciplinary team drawn from the concerned professions (Eureka 2006).
In 1980-81, a substantial archaeological excavation was mounted, and yielded significant evidence of the three main phases of occupation. A major conservation works programme was conducted by the Public Works Department in 1980-84. The twentieth century accretions were removed and the original fabric revealed and conserved. A museum on the site was opened in 1984 (Emmett & Collins, 1994: p.8).
The museum, operated by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences featured displays celebrating the lives of the people of Sydney, and presented aspects of the convict experience which centred on Hyde Park Barracks. A diverse range of temporary exhibitions, both local and international, also featured (Emmett & Collins, 1994: p.8).
1990 to present: Historic Houses Trust
The Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales assumed control of the Hyde Park Barracks in June 1990. Old displays were removed, and extensive conservation works were undertaken to reveal where possible the original fabric, form and function of the barracks in the convict era. The Historic Houses Trust had a charter to make the barracks ‘a museum about itself’ (Root, p.9). While the museum has the convict period as its primary focus, the other layers of use are also interpreted (Historic Houses Trust, 1990).
Hyde Park Barracks now also contains the Australian monument to the Great Irish Famine. A sculptural installation by Hossein and Angela Valamanesh entitled ‘An Gorta Mar’ (The Great Hunger), symbolises the experiences of young Irish women fleeing the Great Irish Famine of 1845 to 1848, during the period that the barracks was used as the female asylum. The project was initiated by the Great Famine Commemoration Committee and the first stone was laid by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, during her state visit to Australia in September 1998. The monument was launched on 28 August 1999 by the then Governor-General of Australia, Sir William Deane (Eureka 2006).
|Condition and Integrity|
The conservation policy for Hyde Park Barracks is to
conserve and interpret the site as an historic and social artefact. Whilst all periods are respected as part of
its story, the primary significance is its unique evidence as a convict
barracks and female immigration depot and asylum. Both conservation and interpretation works
concentrate on the fabric of this period.
It is also policy to reduce the physical intervention of modern works
into the building and to differentiate historic fabric from museum/service
The Barracks is managed for its heritage values, and for public display. While substantial parts of the surrounding perimeter walls and related buildings have been removed over time, sufficient remains on the northern and western sides to provide an understanding of their original design, and the main building has been conserved in its original form by the use of traditional techniques and workmanship, and the unobtrusive introduction of modern stabilisation techniques where necessary for the long term protection of the structure. Some of the rooms in the northern perimeter wall section have been converted for administrative and catering purposes, having been extensively modified by previous adaptations of the building (Government of Australia, 1999: p.70).
Street, corner Prince Albert Road, Sydney,
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Report Produced Sat Dec 7 09:15:22 2013