Hyde Park Barracks

Address: Queens Square, Macquarie St Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 8239 2311

Tags: museum, history, jazz, live music, archaeology

Built in 1819, the Hyde Park Barracks was purposely made to give shelter, feed and clothe convicted boys and men who used to roam the streets and cause street crime especially at night. The remarkable brick building and enclosed compound was designed by architect Francis Greenway, one of the premiere Australian architects of his era who was also once a convict himself.

The Hyde Park Barracks is a three-story building situated in the center of a walled compound. The building is considered a prime example of Australia’s distinguished architecture during that period. Each floor of the Hyde Park Barracks has four big rooms. About seventy convicts lived in each of the large rooms, sleeping in hammocks. There are also several smaller rooms inside the main building occupied by about 30 people each. It was said that about 800 convicts inhabited the Hyde Park Barracks at any one time. Inside the compound’s walls was a bakery, a cookhouse, soldiers’ quarters and some cells.

After 1848, after which convicts were moved to Cockatoo Island, the Hyde Park Barracks was home to female immigrants . The Immigration Office managed the barracks and some government agencies used the barracks’ surrounding buildings.

In 1862 the barracks’ third level was used to house destitute women and the place was known as the Hyde Park Asylum. Government offices continued to occupy the barracks very well into the early to mid-20th century.

The Hyde Park Barracks is now a museum about itself. Sydney convicts’ daily lives are shown in the museum through artifacts, photos, video, and much more. A live rat display can also be seen in the museum as they give tribute to a group of rats which were responsible for preserving personal and everyday objects of those who lived in the barracks. Around 100,000 items were collected and are now held on display in the archaeology store of the museum.

Hyde Park Barracks, as seems fitting, was built by convict labor. It was designed by architect Francis Greenway, an emancipated

convict who became well known as one of the

premiere Australian architects of his era.

The three-storied main building, a prime example of Australia’s refined architecture of that period, sits in the center of this walled compound. There’s also a cookhouse, bakery, cells and soldiers’ quarters located within the walls.

Records note that the Barracks’ primary purpose was to house the large working convict population, which, until this project, roamed the streets at night causing street crime. Each floor was divided into four large rooms with hammocks. About seventy convicts were stuffed into each of these large rooms, with about half that number occupying several smaller rooms within the main building. At any one time, about 800 convicts occupied the Hyde Park Barracks.

After it closed, it served as an immigration depot for single female immigrants awaiting a reunion with their family and was later used as a female asylum. Government offices occupied the barracks in the early to mid 20th century.

After many decades of decay, concerned citizens stepped in to renovate Hyde Park Barracks, which now serves as a museum. Exhibits educate visitors as to the daily lives of Sydney’s convicts through video, photos, artifacts, and much more.

Guided and group tours are available upon request or visitors may tour on their own. The museum is open daily and a small entry fee is charged.

During the summertime Sydney Festival, enjoyable evening jazz concerts are held on the grounds of the Barracks.

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