Two children inside the Hyde Park Barracks
Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

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.

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

Sarah Wood



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.

Front and back of same coin, stacked.

Joseph Smith (Smyth)



With a sentence reduced from 'cast for death' to transportation, Joe found work as a brickmaker on the building of the barracks

Locked up in the ‘salt-boxes’ or condemned cells in London’s overcrowded, squalid Newgate Prison in July 1817, prisoner Joseph Smith expected that he would soon be hanged. Following a Newgate tradition, Smyth had an engraver mark a smoothed George III halfpenny with the words ‘JOSEPH SMYTH/CAST FOR DEATH/4th July 1817/AGED 33’, and the name ‘Mary Ann Smyth/Aged 27’ engraved on the reverse, which he would give to his wife as his final token of love for her. But Smith was saved from the gallows, his death sentence reduced to transportation for life. Smith arrived in New South Wales in April 1818, while Hyde Park Barracks was under construction. As a master brickmaker, Smith was most likely put to making bricks that were built into the Barracks walls. Not long after Joseph sailed away to the colony, his wife Mary Ann was herself convicted and arrived in Sydney in 1820, probably bringing this love token with her.

painting of grey haired man wearing military uniform with high collar and gold epaullets.

Lachlan Macquarie



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.

Faded sepia-toned man's head and shoulders, wearing high-necked collar.

Francis Greenway



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.