History, but not as you know itBuy tickets
Where tradition meets cutting-edge innovation
This self-guided experience immerses you in the real lives of people touched by the Barracks.
The convict impact on Aboriginal people
People of the Barracks
Convict, immigrant, inmate, matron – meet some of the people whose lives were touched by the Barracks.
From convict to colonial architect to destitute, Greenway's short career left its mark on Sydney.
Francis Greenway, the colony’s civil architect from 1816 to 1822, was critical to realising Macquarie’s vision for New South Wales. A talented architect from Bristol, Greenway arrived in Sydney in 1814 with a 14-year sentence for forgery. A month later he received a ticket of leave, allowing him to work for himself and support his wife and children, who had followed him to Sydney. When the Hyde Park Barracks was completed, Macquarie granted Greenway an absolute pardon. Greenway’s career was marked by a prolific output but plagued by clashes with colonial officials, chief engineers, influential settlers and military officers. As a result, he was dismissed as civil architect in late 1822. In debt, socially and professionally shunned, and resentful of his perceived mistreatment, Greenway died in 1837 at the age of 59 in a simple cottage in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney. He was buried in East Maitland, far from the elegant buildings that sprang from his talents.
Sarah, only 16, was one of the wealthier immigrants, but stayed for three months, an unusually long time to spend in the Immigration Depot.
Sarah Wood, a 16-year-old immigrant from Staffordshire, England, came to New South Wales in 1861 to join her older sister. Sarah was one of 75 single women and teenage girls on board the Queen Bee. Her passage cost £9, paid by her brother-in-law, who then took three months to collect her from the barracks, an unusually long time to spend in the Immigration Depot. Together they travelled by horse and wagon to Tenterfield, 700 kilometres north of Sydney, to be reunited with Sarah’s sister.
Sarah was one of the wealthier immigrants who passed through the depot. Before leaving, she found her trunk had been broken into while in storage. Her missing possessions included a riding habit, three dresses, a silver brooch, petticoats, a gentleman’s scarf, a parasol, stockings, nightdresses, china plates, a china mug and a glass jug. In Tenterfield, Sarah married Erasmus Styles. She died in 1868, aged only 23, soon after giving birth to her second son.
Vigors had never been ‘in a place where so much crime and rascality was carried on as in Hyde Park Barracks’ ...
In 1844, suffering chronic heart disease, 39-year-old George Vigors was one of several invalid convicts lodged at the Hyde Park Barracks, where he worked in a shoemaking gang. Along with a record of 31 criminal convictions and more than 1100 lashes on the flogging triangle, Vigors had also served four stints in leg-irons and two terms of banishment to a secondary settlement. In late May, he and two other convicts left the barracks and robbed a house in Clarence Street, where Vigors fatally stabbed the homeowner with his shoemaking knife. Vigors and one accomplice were captured a week later. The crime stirred up public outrage, with newspapers railing against the barracks, ‘that nest of infamy and corruption … where there exists a most appalling degree of wretchedness’. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to hang on the gallows at Darlinghurst Gaol. While awaiting execution, Vigors told his keepers that he had been in many prisons but never ‘in a place where so much crime and rascality was carried on as in Hyde Park Barracks’.
Macquarie led a decade-long ambitious building program, which included the construction of the Barracks.
Major General Lachlan Macquarie was sworn in as governor of New South Wales on 1 January 1810 and immediately ordered new military quarters to be built, followed by a hospital. This was the beginning of a decade-long public works program to provide churches, courthouses, hospitals, schools and properly laid-out streets, all signs of the colony’s moral improvement and civic progress. Macquarie’s ambitious building program required a more disciplined workforce. This meant taking control of government convict men and increasing their working hours. This was difficult to achieve while convict numbers were relatively low and labour was scarce. But the situation was reversed after 1815 when a surge in crime and social unrest in Britain following the end of the Napoleonic Wars brought increasing numbers of convicts to the colony.