Monday, 23 February 2015

Hdden agendas - Lyons Terraces

Left: George Edwards Peacock's 1849 painting showing Lyon's Terraces along south Hyde Park
Right: A photograph of the same terraces just before their demolition c. 1910
Last week I took you on a nostalgic meander through "Brickfields Hill", part of Sydney that exists only through the swirls of time. The brick-fields existed from early 1788 and stopped - abruptly - in 1841. Yes, the reserves of the right type of clay could have been depleted after 53 years of hard scrabble. Yes, the township was burgeoning, stealthily creeping up the slope from Sydney Cove, and down into the swmp leading to Cockle Bay (now Chinatown and Darling Harbour). In the late 1830s, the barracks housing the military between George/Kent/Clarence Strrets (now Wynyard, after the last commandant), was moved out to the Paddington sand-hills because the inner-city land was too valuable. In July 1842 an act was promulgated by Governor Gipps, declaring the town to be a city. Transportation unofficially ceased in 1840 (officially for NSW in 1850). The colony was established, the inhabitants wanted their own say. Have you heard the expression "NIMBY" - "not in my back yard"?

The closest I could come to reproducing the angle of thge original Peacock painting
The early brick fields were one city block down from Hyde Park, which Governor Macquarie officially set aside not long after his arrival in 1810. It was a hodge-podge of wire-grass and rubble and even the hoi-poloi used it. However, in 1841 Samuel Lyons, a developer and auctioneer, built a series of terraces on the SE corner of Hyde Park. Three storey terraces. Terraces of such a quality, according to Joseph Fowles, `without exception the best in the city, (that) would not disgrace the Regent's Park in London'. Can you see where this is heading?

Lyons was not the only developer with his eye on the main chance. Thomas Burdekin, an iron-mmonger and serial-real-estate-acquirer, built another row of terraces along College street diagonally across the way from the Lyons row. The smart set were not slow to acquire all these addresses. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, judges - the usual culprits - Dr Wallace and Chief-Justice Stephens, being but two.

Any Sydney-sider of the 21st century will agree that the landform is prone to southerly-busters, not that they cause much damage, and after a swelteringly humid day, they bring blessed relief. However the brick fields were holes in the ground devoid of trees. The winds - known then as "brick-fielders" - would howl up the slope and across the barren Hyde Park, quite upsetting the learned gentry. So, of course, the brick makers were shafted and moved to all points west, like Pyrmont, and Newtown, and Camperdown.

More on Hyde Park as the week progresses.
Left: Hyde Park is no longer a race-track, nor a cricket pitch. This southern end houses the State War Memorial, and hence treated with more respect than the northern section of the park.
Riht: These green plaques are all over the city. They give minimal info, but help to pin down a site.


Cloudia said...

Nice post. Thanks

ALOHA from Honolulu

William Kendall said...

Vastly different from then to now!

Julie said...

Indeed, William, quite different. But it has been over 150 years.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Like people that buy near an airport then agitate to stop the aircraft noise.