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.

Women at desk signing forms.

Lucy Hicks



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



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.

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.

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.