Sunday 1 November 2015

The Barracks Veggie Patch - Part 1

Hyde Park Barracks (2013) with its red-pebble courtyard. The building immediately to its right did not exist in 1819, neither did the roads, obviously. The building on the extreme, upper right is the post-1865 St Mary's Cathedral replacing the original which burnt down. Its axis was east-west, rather than the current north-south axis. The veggie patch was to the right of the cathedral.

Left: Click on this to enlarge. It is an aerial shot taken from Sydney Tower. I have circled the area that was the original veggie patch.
Right: Taken from the southern steps of the rebuilt cathedral, looking across to the Museum. College Street runs down the right of the photo. It is a very sloping area, which added to the difficulties that the colonists did not forsee.

For the first quarter-century of the life of Sydney Town, the majority of convicts were not locked up. There was nowhere to lock them into, and just where were they going to run-a-way to? But then in 1810, along comes Lachlan Macquarie (the 5th Governor), who loved design and order. He did things like straightening streets, and constructing what are now called “public” buildings. One such was the Hyde Park Barracks: to lock the convicts up into when they weren’t out slaving in road-gangs. Once locked up, they had to be fed; the cheapest way possible was the mantra. The Governor allocated 11 acres, close-by, for a veggie patch.

Left: "Sydney from Woolloomooloo" (1837)(Robert Russell)(National Library of Australia). On the left is Sydney Grammar School, then the spire of St James, then the gardener's lodge, and in the distance right is the first St Mary's. Hyde Park Barracks is the orange-walled building poking out behind the cathedral.
Right: "View of Sydney from Woolloomooloo, looking West"(1839)(Frederick Garling)(State Library of NSW). Ignore the little building in the left foreground. In the middle-distance, we have another view of the first incarnation of Sydney Grammar, then the gardener's lodge. Still too early for the Museum. However. running down beside the lodge, and heading toward us is William Street, and the stone-bridge over the Yurong Stream. Way over in the background, on the right, stands the spire of St James, and to its right, St Mary's. There are walking paths criss-crossing the relatively steep field.

The first governor, Arthur Phillip, had determined a town boundary in 1792, just prior to his return to England. The barracks were close to the eastern edge of this boundary, an edge that was being rapidly populated with imposing government buildings, and parklands dedicated to both military use, AND the hoi-polloi. The veggie garden was constructed in 1819, after the area was denuded of its “forest” of Angophora costata (a native gum tree) and Eucalyptus pilular (a Blackbutt). It was the eastern limit of the Turpentine-lronbark forests supported by the underlying Ashfield Shale soils. The colonists were deluded into thinking that if the land supported all this natural vegetation, it would grow turnips, and carrots, and parsnips, and pumpkins, as well as potatoes and onions: all the ingredients for soup. By 1831, the experiment had failed, and the land left vacant.

Left: "A Survey of the Settlement" (1792)(Governor Arthur Phillip)(???). This is Phillip's "boundary line" inside which all the land was government land, and NOT to be given in grants to settlers. Typically Australian, future governors and civil servants overlooked this dictat.
Righr: "Plan of the Town and Suburbs of Sydney" (1822)(State Library of NSW). The site of the convict garden is laid out in a grid just off-centre, and numbered "40". To the right is heading east.

We now know this area as Cook+Phillip Park, between St Mary’s Cathedral (foundation stone laid 1821) and the Australian Museum (building work started in 1846) which is bounded primarily by College Street (street constructed in 1832) and William Street (construction commenced in 1836). The veggie garden pre-dates all four of these locators, occupying some of the Sydney Grammar land, most of the Museum land, the start of William Street, and much of the cathedral forecourt. However, it now exists in historic documents only. There is nothing on the ground as evidence that it existed at all.

Left: Photograph of the Gardener's Lodge (1880)(Australian Museum Archives). This is the only knpown photograph. There are artistic interpretations, as I have indicated. The lodge is the octagonal building on the right.
Right: Click on this 2013 photo of the Museum, in an aerial shot from Sydney Tower, I have included a big red X about where the lodge was located. In the 2015 rejuvenation of the Museum entrance, this spot has been overwhelmed by the "floating glass Crystal Hall" which I personally find under-whelming.

There had been physical evidence – once upon a time. The gardens were laid out as one would expect from those accustomed to English gardens: a large square divided by walkways into four (smaller) squares, with a central circle, and in this central circle, stood the gardener’s lodge. The octagonal lodge was located at the NE corner of the first Museum building which was opened in 1857. The lodge was constructed c. 1820 when hopes for the success of the venture were high. It was demolished between 1880 and 1885, in preparation for major remodelling of the two existing Museum buildings, and the construction of the third (southern) wing. It had been occupied by a police constable and his family in the 1840s, and then used by the Museum as a taxidermist’s workshop until c. 1865, when it was converted into a kitchen and wash-house. It was single storey, with a central chimney, made from brick and stucco, with a shingle roof.

Left: Frontispiece to "A History of NSW: From its Settlement to the close of the Year 1844" (1844)(Braim, TH)(Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, SLM/HHT). This appears to be a view from College Street, looking north-east over Woolloomooloo Bay. the Potts Point ridge, with Garden Island and Port Jackson.
Right: "Panoramic View of College Street and Hyde Park" (1867-1870) (Johan Nepomuk Degotardi)(State Library - NSW). The western swathe of the Convict Garden is, at least, fenced it, and appears to be hosting a couple of goats.

The convict garden was no more, but the "parkland" remained in government hands, being hived off for a range of uses until 1998. Sydney Grammar was allocated the southern-most portion beside the Francis Forbes allotment. Beside that, land was ear-marked for the Australian Museum, and behind that, one of a number of National Schools. A strip was used to widen the top-half of William Street, some temporarily given to the Blind Institute, some to the Hyde Park Nursery, and some allocated to a lawn-bowling club. Not only did the garden go to rack'n'ruin, but Hyde Park Barracks did not fare much better, until the 1970s, when a new civic awareness, and a respect for our convict heritage blew through the town.

"Looking south-east from the tower atop St James" (1871)(Supplement to Illustrated Sydney News)(State Library - NSW). The cathedral is a burnt shell. The northern side of the Museum is obscured by dense brush. The diagonal walking track through the convict garden is now a road for carts and gigs.

The Barracks Veggie Patch - Part 1
The Barracks Veggie Patch - Part 2 (coming soon)


"Lost Convict Lodge Rediscovered"

"The Convict Vegetable Garden that never really was"

Research Skills in Practice (2013) (Matthew Stephens, SLM)(Museum of Sydney)

The Sydney Gazette (8 May 1819)(P1-2)

Heritage Assessment: Cook and Phillip Parks (March 1997)(Lawrence Neild and Partners, Australia Pty Ltd)(Spackman & Moss Pty Ltd)(University of Sydney)

Etheridge, R., 1919. The Australian Museum—fragments of its early history. Records of the Australian Museum 12(12): 339–400, plates xlv–xlix. [4 December 1919]

The Domain: Volume 2 - Cultural Landscape Study (Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust)(Rosemary Annabel)

Cook+Phillip Park(City of Sydney)(March 2013)


William Kendall said...

How things change when you look at period photographs and drawings. That vegetable patch at the time would have been big!

Julie said...

It would be big if they tried to reproduce it now, William. Of course, we are talking pre-photography for the patch itself, when sketches come into their own.

Joe said...

Such a great Study Julie. It is amazing how fast our urban centres develop. I do admire your aerial shots. Do you have a private helicopter?

Julie said...

As if, Joe ... as if. My aerial shots are from the viewing platform way up on Sydney Tower. I was up there in spring 2013. Nearly time for another visit, although I might wait until winter and capture a different ambience.

diane b said...

Thanks for the very interesting history lesson.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I am back posting and visiting but still a bit too time pressed to read your research. Your blog will be a treasure for others to use.

Bob Crowe said...

That second set of paintings is almost unimaginable. We stayed in Woolloomooloo during our one visit to Sydney years ago. (Our travel agent, who was Egyptian, kept calling it WOOL loo MOO loo.) These make it look like the 18th Century English countryside, if a little dryer.

freefalling said...

Hope you are keeping well. Best wishes of the season - hope you had a happy Christmas with your little girls.