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                     Hyde Park Barracks

Located on Macquarie Street, Hyde Park Barracks has been home to convicts, single female immigrants, Irish orphans, government offices, and a resident ghost.The Barracks are the work of Francis Greenway, who, until recently, had his portrait on the Australian $10 note, the only currency in the world to pay tribute to a convicted forger.

Convict Quarters: 1819 to 1848

Hyde Park Barracks was built in 1817 to provide lodging for male convicts, who until that time had been forced to find their own lodging after their day's work. The first occupants moved into the  Barracks in June 1819 and the central building served as a dormitory for an average of 600 men who slept in hammocks in 12 rooms. The Barracks were the scene of brutal floggings, inflicted on the convicts to maintain discipline. During the day the inmates would work at various places in Sydney, and return at night. They worked from sunrise to sunset Monday to Friday with a half-day on Saturday. They had to attend church on Sundays and for this they had to appear in their best clothes, their hands and faces washed and their boots cleaned. Liquor was forbidden and lights had to be out by 8.30 in the evening. In 1848 the inmates of the Barracks were relocated to Cockatoo Island due to changes to the penal system.

Immigrant Women's Depot and Asylum: 1848 to 1886

In 1848 Hyde Park Barracks became the Immigration Depot and offices for the Immigration  Department. The building was considerably altered inside. The main building housed offices on level 1, single female immigrants on level 2, and Irish orphans and families of convicts on level 3. The surrounding buildings were renovated as offices for the government Printer, the Vaccine Institute, District Courts, and the Volunteer Rifle Brigade. By 1862 additional government offices replaced the accommodation for Irish orphans and convicts families on the third level. In 1867 a separate building was built in the courtyard for aged and infirm females.

Courts and Government Offices: 1887-1979

In 1887 a major program was undertaken to convert all the buildings for the Supreme Court and other legal and government agencies. Level 1 housed the Land Evaluation office, a small court, judges, jury and witness rooms. The Master in Lunacy offices expanded into level 2 and the Curator of Estates shared level 3. Two large courtrooms were attached to the eastern end of the main building and the other perimeter buildings were remodeled for the District Court and other government offices.

Modern Museum: 1979 to present

Refurbished in 1990, the Barracks reopened as a museum on the history of the site and its occupants. The displays include a room reconstructed as convict quarters of the 1820s, as well as pictures, models, and artifacts. Many objects recovered during archaeological digs at the site and  now on display had been dragged away by rats to their nests; the rodents are acknowledged as valuable agents of preservation. The Greenway Gallery on the second floor holds temporary exhibitions on history, ideas and culture. From the Barracks Café, which is located in the original confinement cell area, you can look out over the gravel courtyard, which was once the scene of brutal convict floggings. The museum shop has an extensive range of merchandise relating to convicts, immigration and colonial life. Hyde Park Barracks is open daily, from 10am to 5pm, and is closed on Good Friday and Christmas.


 

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