My holiday snaps: Hyde Park Barracks Museum

After visiting St Mary's Cathedral, we visited the Hyde Park Barracks.  The Barracks is Australia's first government-built convict barracks, and the only remaining barracks building and complex from the Governor Macquarie era of convict administration.   In the early days of the colony of New South Wales, convicts were assigned to government service or private masters, and while the master was responsible for providing rations, convicts were responsible for their own 'lodgings and fire' in private houses and hotels. In order to pay for this accommodation they were permitted to work for themselves after hours. Convict men and women and soldiers associated freely in public houses after working hours, often resulting in disorderly public behaviour and robberies, and leading to increasing demands for greater control of convict living arrangements.  This is one such place.

From 1814, the number of convicts being transported increased greatly, with the yearly intake doubling over the next five years. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain experienced deteriorating economic and social conditions, resulting in an increase in crime and more convicts subject to transportation. Between 1814 and 1820, 11,765 convicts arrived in the colony, presenting Governor Lachlan Macquarie with problems regarding control and social stability. The population of the colony during the majority of his governship 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. It was because of the large supply of convict labour that Macquarie was able to implement many of the identified larger infrastructure needs of the colony.

From 1887 to 1975 the Barracks was used as accommodation by various NSW government departments. It is now a museum administered by the Historic Houses Trust of NSW.
Source:  Link

Even though these photos give the impress of a light and clean structure.  Life during the convict period in early Sydney would have been very tough.  Punishment was swift, life expectancy was short, the climate was alien and the chance of ever seeing your homeland and family was pretty much non-existent.  Australia had only been settle for a few decades by the time for first convicts arrived - it was a land of the unknown and must have felt so frightening.
Life as a convict - the wooded frame in the centre is a replicate "rack" for punishment. The paintings on the walls depict early life, including the arrival of the convict ships from Britain.
The clothing worn by the convicts - you would be noticed if you ran away!
 Tools used by the convicts.  I wonder how many injuries were caused by these pieces of equipment.
Models of the building of Hyde Park Barracks - Holly and Clara have a closer look.
The beds
The children trying out the beds.  They were quite comfortable, just imagine a fully grown man in one.

After its closure as a convict barracks in 1848, Hyde Park Barracks was used as a female asylum until 1887. To remedy a domestic labour shortage and gender imbalance in the colony, many single or orphaned young women emigrated from Britain and famine-racked Ireland for the opportunities for employment in the growing colony. When 200 orphan girls arrived on 6 October 1848 on the Earl Grey, the building started to be used as a reception and labour exchange for 'unprotected female' assisted immigrants. These young women resided in the lime washed brick dormitories. In 1848 the Barrack was especially adapted to accommodate them. 

This is the list of clothing given to each girl.
Remains from the Irish girls
Mending equipment
Items that have been found in and around the building - however I feel the can of Fanta was not left from the time of the convicts.
Remains of a religious book

More of Sydney next weekend.


Syndey Cove when the British first arrived in 1788.
The room below has a lovely painting of Sydney Cove by the mid 1800's - a bustling town.


A view through the modern window.  Those early convicts would have never dreamed of this view. 



  1. Enjoying the story! You sure had lots of educative fun!

  2. It's a lot of fun seeing our adventures through your eyes and your camera - and love the research! :)

  3. Thanks for the history lesson:) I love reading your very informative posts!

  4. Jo - What a fabulous museum - My husband and I love to visit things like this - we would have ben there all day. Your photos are fabulous! I have so enjoyed seeing all of your photos - you do a wonderful job of showing this great city!



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