Assorted bottles, broken and whole and stoppers
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Shelter and care

Shelter and care

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Hyde Park Asylum 1862-86

In 1862, a new shelter for infirm and destitute women, known as the Hyde Park Asylum, opened on the top floor of the barracks. The women were part of a growing underclass struggling to survive in a booming, prosperous colony. The Immigration Depot remained on the lower floors of the barracks, but immigrant and asylum women were strictly segregated.

Click the images below to learn more about the objects on display at the Hyde Park Barracks.

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Shelter and care

Asylum inmate clothing

Bodice made from recycled fabric scraps, with 'HPA' Hyde Park Asylum laundry stamp.

Cotton bodice

Bodice made from recycled fabric scraps, with 'HPA' Hyde Park Asylum laundry stamp.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Cotton bodice in purple print marked with ‘HPA’ (Hyde Park Asylum) and broad arrow laundry stamp

This printed bodice is a rare surviving example of common 19th-century working-class clothing. With its mismatched sleeves, it points to a reliance on ‘making do’ and thriftiness in the asylum. Carefully made and maintained, it is hard to imagine why such a practical item of clothing was bundled away under the floorboards.

Other items on display

  • Printed cotton cloth cap
  • Paisley cotton scarf with number ‘2’ laundry stamp
  • Brown linsey-woolsey (linen/wool) skirt
  • Blue and white cotton gingham apron
  • Leather boot with cotton lining

Shelter and care

Keeping busy

Rectangle of cloth with purple floral motif.

Scrap of cotton

Rectangle of cloth with purple floral motif.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Scrap of cotton with purple print

This scrap of cotton is printed with a design in ‘Hoyle’s purple’. Of the thousands of textile scraps discovered under the floorboards at the Hyde Park Barracks, the most common colour was purple, appearing in an astonishing range of patterns and designs. Before the 1840s, purple dye was costly, but breakthroughs in manufacturing by companies like Thomas Hoyle & Sons of Manchester in England saw purple fabrics flood the market.

Other items on display

  • Purple printed cotton scraps
  • Dress sleeve with contrasting printed cotton patch
  • Darned stocking fragment
  • Wool scrap
  • Thimbles
  • Hooks and eyes
  • Buttons
  • Pins
  • Needle case
  • Scissors
  • Cotton reels and paper labels
  • Crocheted cuff and collar
  • Lace fragments
  • Lace-making bobbins

Shelter and care

Religion

Fragment of paper with decorative border and titled 'Are you afraid to Die?'

Religious pamphlet

Fragment of paper with decorative border and titled 'Are you afraid to Die?'
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Religious pamphlet

This is a page from a religious pamphlet, distributed to the asylum inmates by visiting nuns and church officials. Catholic and Protestant inmates of the Hyde Park Asylum were assigned to different sleeping wards, and this division is reflected in the range of printed religious material that fell between the floorboards. Pages torn from prayer books and uplifting pamphlets are most common. Also left behind, accidentally or on purpose, were bound Bibles, rosaries and religious medals.

Other items on display

  • The believer’s pocket companion (inscribed ‘Ann Sarran’)
  • devotional medals
  • rosary beads
  • religious pamphlets

Shelter and care

Pastimes and simple pleasures

Opened matchbox containing skeletal material from mice.

Mouse skeletons in a matchbox

Opened matchbox containing skeletal material from mice.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Mouse skeletons in a matchbox

One of the most touching discoveries made at the Hyde Park Barracks are the skeletons of a pair of mice, placed in a matchbox. Who put them in this matchbox and why it was put under the floorboards will remain a mystery. It is tempting to imagine that they were much-loved pets, laid to rest in a humble coffin.

Other items on display

  • Newspaper with decorative cut edges
  • Music score fragment
  • Mouth harp
  • Pens
  • Pencil
  • Ink bottle
  • Letter scrap
  • Newspaper scraps
  • Trade directory page
  • Spectacle frames and lenses
  • Pawn office ticket (1871)
  • Tobacco pipes
  • Matchboxes
  • Matches
  • Tobacco packet
  • Alcohol bottle with silk strap

Shelter and care

Rations and dining

Three bottle fragments with red label from Worcestershire sauce bottle.

Worcestershire sauce bottle fragments

Three bottle fragments with red label from Worcestershire sauce bottle.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Worcestershire sauce bottle fragments

These are fragments of a broken bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, a well-known English condiment made from vinegar, molasses and anchovies.

Other items on display

  • Standard-issue cutlery
  • Wine glass fragment
  • Tumbler fragment
  • Plates and teacup fragments
  • Foil bottle label
  • Ginger beer bottle fragments
  • Fruit seeds
  • Grape stems
  • Corn cobs
  • Walnut shells
  • Orange peel
  • Sheep, pig, fish and chicken bones
  • Oyster shells

Shelter and care

Medical care

Bottle with label attached over earlier label, Hyde Park Asylum Dispensary, excavated from beneath the floorboards of Hyde Park Barracks

Labelled medicine bottle fragment

Bottle with label attached over earlier label, Hyde Park Asylum Dispensary, excavated from beneath the floorboards of Hyde Park Barracks
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Labelled medicine bottle fragment

The ‘lotion’ in this medicine bottle was prescribed to the Hyde Park Asylum inmate Francis Cunningham, who was among the institution’s first intake of women, in 1862. In the asylum dispensary, rats chewed at the cork lids and sometimes knocked medicine bottles off the shelves. The doubling up of printed labels on this shard indicates that medicine bottles were re-used.

Other items on display

  • Medicine bottles with Hyde Park Asylum labels
  • Rat and mouse carcasses and rat’s nest
  • Glass and cork bottle stoppers (some chewed by rats)
  • Plain pharmacy bottles (some with paper labels, including aconite, digitalis, chloroform and raspberry vinegar)
  • Patent medicine bottles for solution of magnesia
  • Finger bandage
  • Wooden label ‘The ointment for Mrs Harris’

Shelter and care

Institutional regulations

Handsewn cap (front view), plain tabby weave, fine cotton, ruffle around face

Cloth cap

Handsewn cap (front view), plain tabby weave, fine cotton, ruffle around face
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Cloth cap marked with ‘HPA’ (Hyde Park Asylum) and broad arrow laundry stamp

Stamped with the laundry mark ‘HPA’ this plain calico ‘cloth cap’ was the property of the Hyde Park Asylum and would have been issued to one of its female inmates. Regulation headwear like this was worn day and night, inside and outside, to conceal and contain the women’s hair and keep their heads warm.

Other items on display

  • Stocking with HPA laundry stamp
  • Plain calico cuff sewing project
  • Standard-issue belt buckles
  • Belts
  • Shoe sole
  • Door key

Shelter and care

Smoking

White Clay pipe bowl with spur, missing stem, relief decoration, crest with 3 large feathers with motto 'ich dien'

Pipe bowl

White Clay pipe bowl with spur, missing stem, relief decoration, crest with 3 large feathers with motto 'ich dien'
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Pipe bowl with Prince of Wales emblem

This pipe, manufactured in Scotland by the pipe maker McDougall, bears the emblem of the Prince of Wales – three ostrich feathers and a royal coronet. In March 1863, a feast was held at the Hyde Park Asylum to celebrate the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

Other items on display

  • Fragments of decorative and plain clay tobacco pipes