History, but not as you know it

History, but not as you know it

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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.

A row of bottles, jars and lids on white background.

Honora Keilly

Inmate

Inmate

The Hyde Park Asylum sheltered some women who had previously passed through its door as immigrants including Honora, who died here.

The Hyde Park Asylum sheltered some women who had previously passed through its door as immigrants. In 1850, Honora Keilly, a 16-year-old servant girl from Cork, left Ireland under the Earl Grey scheme. She spent her first night in Sydney in the Hyde Park Barracks, along with 253 other orphan immigrants. During her apprenticeship as a household servant on an estate south of Sydney, Honora met William Irwin, a groomsman, whom she married in 1861.

However, throughout the 1870s Honora and her five young children were repeatedly abandoned by William, who faced several charges of deserting his family before dying in an asylum for destitute men in 1877. Honora herself faced charges of vagrancy, theft, obscene language, drunkenness, and finally prostitution. With their mother in and out of prison, Honora’s children were shunted through charitable institutions and reformatories.

Finally, in the early 1880s, Honora returned to the Hyde Park Barracks – this time as an inmate of the women’s asylum. She died here of tuberculosis in 1885, aged 51, and was buried in a pauper’s grave. Like thousands of fellow travellers, Honora left her old world behind to carve a bright new future in colonial New South Wales; but her journey ended in destitution.

Women at desk signing forms.

Lucy Hicks

Matron

Matron

Matron for over 25 years, Lucy was responsible for supervising shiploads of immigrant women as they arrived in the depot and for the daily operations of the asylum

Lucy Applewhaite (later Hicks) was matron at the barracks for over 25 years. In 1861, Lucy’s husband, John Applewhaite, fell on hard times, and at age 27 Lucy became matron of the Immigration Depot, one of the few respectable positions available to her. When the Hyde Park Asylum opened the following year, she took on combined responsibility for both institutions. She and her family lived in two small front rooms on the second floor. When John died in 1869, Lucy had six surviving children aged between 18 years and 11 months. She married William Hicks a year later, and had five more children, two of whom died in infancy.

A highly respected matron, Lucy was responsible for supervising shiploads of immigrant women as they arrived in the depot and for the daily operations of the asylum, including overseeing food preparation, the inmates’ hygiene, cleanliness of the wards and discipline. Lucy’s daughter Mary became sub-matron in 1875; a kind woman, she was mourned by the inmates when she died ten years later.

Matron Hicks moved with the inmates when they were transferred to the freshly built Newington Asylum in 1886, and retired a few years later. She died in 1909, aged 75, survived by only five of her 14 children.

Severe looking woman in white blouse and dark high waisted long skirt, leaning on low brick wall on balcony.

Kate Stein

Immigrant

Immigrant

Kate Stein spent less than a week in the depot in 1886 before finding employment

Kate Stein, a 30-year-old domestic servant from Perth in Scotland, spent less than a week in the depot in 1886 before finding employment in a household in Liverpool, southwest of Sydney. Two years later, she married fellow Scotsman Robert Bremmer Scott, and shortly afterwards gave birth to the first of their three children. Kate died aged 80 at her family home in Balmain in 1936, not long after Robert’s death the previous year.

Studio portrait of two women, one seated, one standing to right, both wearing hats and full skirts.

Sarah Wood

Immigrant

Immigrant

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.