Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Wall, Darlinghurst


This is a wall. It is also "The Wall".

The Wall is the most infamous gay pickup strip in Sydney. There are probably others - but this 100m of convinct built sandstone wall has a unique synergy. It runs along the eastern boundary of the old Darlinghurst Gaol commencing at the rear of the Supreme Court of NSW. Street prostitution is illegal in Sydney, whether it be same sex or mixed.

The wall (all four legs of it) was designed and constructed under the aegis of Francis Greenway from 1820 to 1822 but he, being a convict, was removed from the project, no matter his architectural gifts to the colony under Governor Macquarie. Convict markings can be seen in the sandstone blocks all along The Wall. They were used to ensure that each man did his fair share and did not slack off. Progress was painfully slow, however, in 1841, existing prisoners were marched from the original Sydney Gaol near the corner of George & Alfred Streets (the site of the current Four Seasons Hotel) to the partially erected Darlinghurst Gaol on a hill overlooking the colony from the SE.


So, what is the graffiti? It is not actually on The Wall but just around the corner in Burton Street. It is tempting to see it as man and boy - but that is my flight of fancy. And note that the graffiti is on concrete "implants". Maybe the man with the spray can valued the sandstone more than the government who contracted out repairs to this historic structure!

19 comments:

Arija said...

The wall certainly is a beauty ... I pity the poor convicts thogh.

Dina said...

The past and the present, both so interesting.
I never knew about convict marks. I'll look more carefully at stones on my next visit. Thanks for the teaching.

Luis Gomez said...

I had to walk by it many times. It was sort of interesting to also listen to the bats around.

Lois said...

It's nice that the graffiti artist was at least respectful of history!

Lori Skoog said...

Julie...I just caught up with all of your photos. You are something with that camera! I love the reflections, the sky shots, a chance to learn more about your local history and more. No wonder you have such a following.
Thanks for sharing all of this with us.

Denise said...

Hi Julie, beautiful photos of this wall and a very interesting history. I love your blog and all your photos. Thanks so much for stopping by mine.

brattcat said...

What a wall, what a story. You always pop up with something fascinating, funny, fierce. The drawing in the last shot looks more the work of a child than a skilled graffiti artist.

Julie said...

Luiz: the bats are another thing altogether!! Down at Circular Quay it is eeirie to see them flying over at dusk. But where they nest is always a mess and so very noisy.

BC: I agree that there is an element of the naive to this piece of graffiti but I prefer this type to the elaborately swirled anime type. There are some "artists" who pop up over the city with this sort of simple style and it is fascinating to follow their work.

Susan said...

Interesting...I wonder if the gay population feels a kinship with the incarcerated?

Martha Z said...

A very interesting post. The wall has beauty in spite of its history, wonderful craftsmenship in fitting the stones together. I enjoy the irony of its current use.

Joan Elizabeth said...

This wall does so much to show the beautiful honey warmth of Sydney sandstone. Thanks for the history too.

observer said...

"the wall" is referred to Men At Work's song, Touching the Untouchables

Jacob said...

That is quite an impressive wall! And your commentary was most interesting!

ρομπερτ said...

Of much interest to read at close to three in the morning.

Paula said...

Thanks for continuing the Darlington tale. I have a weakness for grafitti artists who travel all over town, as long as they're creative and not destructive, that is.

Ann said...

Interesting. Looks fairly innocuous in the daylight. I also had no idea about the convict marks.

Tulsa Gentleman said...

Your photography is brilliant. I am linking to you from my blog if you don't mind.

Jilly said...

A beautiful shot and so interesting to read your commentary. I remember being so impressed by the Rocks area but can't now remember if that was Darlinghurst or not.

me123 said...

I'm a little suprised no one has picked up on the meaning of that graffiti. Are we a bit naive about some of the seedy things that have gone on at the wall? it wasn't a child that did that graffiti...its made to look like a childs drawing...its a man taking a boy by the hand. Sadly many of the prostitutes who have worked the wall have been well underage. I don't know whether the graffiti was done by a pedophile or whether its some sort of statement, but it's creepy either way.

And susan, the reason why the wall was/is a gay beat is because prisoners often turn to homosexuality. The wall became a staple of the gay community in the old days when it was underground and homosexuality was very taboo. Also young men would get out of prison with no money and no where to go, they would have waited at the wall for someone to pick them up, and for many of them their only option was a "client", without money for even a taxi.