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.
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’.
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.
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.
Margaret Hurley’s trunk, as supplied to the Irish orphans fleeing the Great Famine, is the only one known to have survived
Like many of the Irish ‘orphans’ selected for the scheme, 17-year old Margaret Hurley from County Galway was not an orphan, but her widowed mother was too poor to care for her. After staying briefly at the Immigration Depot in 1850, Margaret was apprenticed as a house servant in the town of Yass, south-west of Sydney. In 1852, she married Irish shepherd Joseph Patterson, and the couple had seven children. She died in 1922, aged 90. Margaret’s is the only trunk supplied to the Irish orphans known to have survived.