Saturday, 16 May 2015

Hyde Park Barracks

Hyde Parks Barracks Museum is now part of the Sydney Living Museums group.
Originally built by early convicts in 1817-19, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site right in the middle of Sydney.

My Top 10 Sydney says:
In Francis Greenway's historic building, this museum uses objects, soundscapes and testimonies to recreate the lives of convicts in early Sydney. Learn about their crimes, their difficult voyage from England and their building of the colony. Then have a look at the dormitory hammocks.
Inspired. Vain. Delusional. No single epithet adequately describes Francis Howard Greenway. In 1809 Greenway...was sentenced to 14 years in the colony. Soon after his arrival in 1814, Governor Macquarie realised that Greenway's architectural talent was equal to his own Enlightenment aspirations, and in 1816 he appointed Greenway as Colonial Architect and Assistant Engineer. Starting with macquarie Lighthouse on South Head, Greenway and Governor and Mrs Macquarie set about transforming Sydney's civic landscape.
Conservation work began on the building in 1979.
It was eventually reopened to the public in 1984.
Various layers of the old building have been left exposed (above).
While some of the artifacts found underneath the floorboards have been put onto permanent display (below).
The Barracks were used by various Government departments and as a Courthouse from 1887 - 1979.
It was an Immigration and Asylum Barrack from 1848- 1886.
And from 1819 - 1848 it was a Barrack for the convicts.
The musuem is designed to to highlight these three distinct eras.
The bottom floor focuses on the history of Sydney and the building & its renovation.
I loved this panorama of early Sydney on the ground floor.
A 360° view painted by Major James Taylor from Observatory Hill around 1821.
It featured a way of life and landmarks no longer in existence. I loved seeing my suburb (Balmain) in all its former leafy glory.
Double click on this image to see it properly.
The middle floor features displays from the Immigration period.
The renovation stripped back the walls, floors and ceilings to the conditions of the time.
Whilst the top floor highlights the times and conditions experienced by the convicts.
Over 50 000 convicts were housed in the Barracks.
A room of convict silhouettes was slightly creepy, but a great photographic opportunity!

I also had lots of fun photographing the hammocks.
Outside the barracks were several buildings housing bakeries, stores, offices and the solitary confinement cells. The walls of the batrrcks were lit up beautifully on the day I visited, by the late autumnal sunshine.

I found it extraordinary to think that these poky little rooms were used as court rooms up until 1979.
Incorporated into the wall nearest Hyde Park is this Monument to the Great Irish Famine.
In honour of the large number of young Irish lasses who emigrated to Australia during the famine years (1845-1848), 420 names were selected to be etched into the glass.

The solitary confinement cells have now been converted into a cafe restaurant.
A lovely way to end a visit!
This post is part of Saturday Snapshot


  1. \we saw Greenway's lighthouse when we were there in March. I'm still annoyed we missed the Irish Famine monument!! This looks like an amazing museum, but I guess there's never enough time to see everything on a first visit.

  2. Frontier and settler museums are always so interesting. Here's Mine

  3. I've visited Hyde Park Barracks a few times, it's especially meaningful for me as at least one of my great-great (I actually forget how many greats) grandmothers came through there as one of those young girls fleeing the Irish famine of the 1840s. They look to have done it up a bit since my last visit.

    1. I hadn't been since about 1998, so I couldn't remember what was there then, except the hammocks and the room with all the info about the immigrants.
      It's certainly a fascinating place. Did you find any info on your great, great?

  4. Awesome! So many impressive moments to share....thanks! Here's MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST

  5. What a wonderful museum and beautiful photos you've taken!

  6. This looks like a fascinating museum that I'd enjoy visiting. Another sight to add to my things-to-see list for Australia.
    Thank you for visiting my blog.

  7. I often wonder just what many of those convicts did to warrant being shipped so far from their homes ... were they really all murderers and low-life ? I think not ... what a fascinating look at that era of Aussie history! Love the hammock shots!

    1. Not at all Susan. Most of the convicts were transported for pretty minor offenses. One of my ancestors was sent out for 7yrs for stealing a copper pot & another for stealing and eating a sheep (but of course with the distance involved, a 7 yr sentence meant a lifetime in the colony as it was too hard to get back to England. Not that many of them actually wanted to go back).
      England had a major overcrowding/unemployment/poverty problem at the time. The easiest way for them to deal with all these unfortunates was to put them in gaol and then send them overseas!

      Greenway was sent to NSW for the crime of forgery.

  8. Wonderful post! I love museums and am going to a few in St. Augustine, Florida in a few weeks.

  9. What a great museum. If I ever get to Australia (it is on my bucket list), this would definitely be one of my stops!

  10. I love your Saturday Snapshot posts as you find all the great places in Sydney. I will definitely pay the barracks a visit when we are in Sydney again.

    Sean at His and Her Hobbies

  11. What an interesting place to visit. I really like those old paintings.


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