Join us for a live stream of the Winter Solstice

 

Whether by accident or design, Elizabeth Bay House was built in direct alignment with the sun’s rays at the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the moment when the sun rises at its furthest point north on the horizon. Join us on Sunday 21 June for a live stream of this year's Winter Solstice.

Shortly after sunrise on this day, when the sun is just above the horizon, the central axis of the house is evenly flooded with sunlight from the front door to an area of the cliff face at the rear of the property. This dramatic effect, as the architraves and stone flooring along the central corridor are evenly illuminated, lasts for less than a minute. For over two weeks before and after the winter solstice, the effect may be observed with varying luminance and duration as the elevation of the sun and its position on the horizon gradually change.

Elizabeth Bay House was completed in 1839. Its design is attributed to architect John Verge on the basis of his office ledger. The house's owner, Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay was well versed in matters of taste, architecture and landscape design. There appears to be no direct reference to this aspect of the house's siting in early documentation.

The creation of the site of Elizabeth Bay House involved removing the foot of the Darlinghurst ridge after nine years deciding on the location. The entire plan of the house and its kitchen block at the rear (demolished in 1927) emphasise the axis of the central corridor. A straight viewing line occurs through the doorways aligned along it and the house's staircases are set to one side. The height of this corridor above sea level must also have been precisely determined to properly accommodate the sun's rise over the landmass to the east.

Macleay had the scientific interest, contacts, and the time required for such a rational and ordered astronomical alignment. The symmetry and precision of this annual occurrence certainly sit well within the house's more celebrated design elements.

With Elizabeth Bay House still closed to the public, we invite you to experience this phenomenon at dawn this Sunday 21 June through our Facebook live stream. The live stream will be accompanied by insights from Ed Champion, SLM's head of house museums, and Dr Andrew Jacob, curator of astronomy at Sydney Observatory.

 

 

Group of people in front of historic house.

Rouse Hill Estate

Play along with us: House Music at Your HouseMonday 17 August 2020

We invite you to join us in a new musical experiment, bringing the music of the 19th century into the 21st century. We’ve delved into the hundreds of popular songs that survive in the collection at Rouse Hill Estate and we’ve also asked some brilliant musicians to help you explore these pieces of music from their homes and in our historic houses.

Men surrounding diver in iron diving mask and suit.

Exhibition

How to engage with the A Thousand Words websiteFriday 4 September 2020

Row of people.

Hyde Park Barracks

Commemorating the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park BarracksMonday 31 August 2020

On Sunday 30 August 2020 the Annual Famine Commemoration was held at The Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park Barracks.