Francis Greenway: 200 years of the NSW Government Architect

When Francis Greenway was appointed Civil Architect by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in March 1816, he became the first government architect of New South Wales, a post which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2016. 

Francis Greenway (1777 - 1837), the architect of Hyde Park Barracks, was born in England and came from a long line of architects, builders and stonemasons. He arrived in the NSW colony as a convict, in 1814, after being found guilty of forging a document. His skill as an architect quickly caught the eye of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, an enlightened thinker who had grand building plans for the colony.

The collaboration of Greenway and Macquarie transformed Sydney from a penal colony into a civilised Georgian town. Their architectural mark can been seen clearly in the surviving colonial buildings at the southern end of Sydney’s Macquarie Street – Hyde Park Barracks, St James’ Church and even the General ‘Rum’ Hospital. 

Completed in 1819, Hyde Park Barracks was the first building Greenway designed in his role as Civil Architect. Through the extensive and diverse range of buildings he designed in the role, Greenway sought to improve urban planning and the quality of design and construction in the colony.

The role Greenway began in 1816 has endured for 200 years, with the position renamed Government Architect in 1890.

The 23rd and current NSW Government Architect, Peter Poulet, considers the aim of government architects has been:

to design public buildings and places for the good of the public … [promoting] the value of investing in good design to develop healthy, liveable and prosperous communities …

In this bicentenary year, we celebrate the significant and innovative contributions made by Greenway and his successors.

Francis Howard Greenway. State Library of NSW ML 482

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About the Author

Fiona seated in hammock in Hyde Park Barracks.
Dr Fiona Starr
The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Fiona claims her love of Australian history, genealogy and world history is hereditary – passed on by her mother and grandmother.