Lost convict lodge rediscovered
Now a previously unknown photograph of a convict gardener’s lodge built near Hyde Park Barracks in the early 1820s has come to light to remind us that new stories about our convict heritage still remain to be told.
In May 1819, as the building of Hyde Park Barracks was nearly complete, Governor Macquarie proposed the construction of a large kitchen garden adjacent to the barracks - an area now occupied by the Australian Museum and Cook and Phillip parks - to ensure a supply of vegetables for the resident convicts.1 The site was cleared and a brick wall built around three sides. The garden’s eastern side was protected by the stone wall that marked Governor Phillip’s Sydney boundary. By 1821 a two-room gardener’s lodge had been constructed near the entrance to the convict garden.2
Until now, one of the only clues we have had to the architectural character of the garden lodge was an octagonal footprint on early maps of the site. This curious building was one of a number of hexagonal and octagonal structures erected in Macquarie’s Sydney, including tollhouses built by Richard Rouse, a lodge (c1810) near First Government House, Fort Macquarie (1817- 1821) on the site of the Sydney Opera House, and a watchtower (c1822) at La Perouse. Octagonal brick lodges were later built at Brownlow Hill near Cobbity and Winbourne near Mulgoa.
The garrison town of Sydney may well have needed to be protected with forts and entrance lodges, but critics questioned Macquarie’s commissioning of picturesque structures they considered more fitting for the estates of British gentry than for a penal colony.
The recent identification by our library staff of a photograph of the convict gardener’s lodge, taken in about 1880 at the rear of the Australian Museum, reveals a simple octagonal brick and stucco structure, its chimney protruding from a shingled roof. This photograph better informs us about the building than its appearance in early paintings. Precedents for its design are found in the collection of early architectural pattern books in the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection. It is clearly related to the picturesque cottages illustrated in these works, and also resembles patterns for lodges for estate labourers in the recently acquired Novel designs for cottages, small farms & schools (1825) by John Hall.
The convict garden was abandoned in the late 1820s, the poor-quality soil too great an obstacle to its productivity. A stone wall at the rear of the car park at 19- 21 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo, is a tantalising remnant of the garden’s eastern boundary wall. The lodge was demolished in the mid-1880s; we hope to uncover further details of its use.