Convict lodge behind the College Street wing of the Australian Museum, Sydney. Unknown photographer, c1880. Australian Museum Archives

Lost convict lodge rediscovered

 
The recent World Heritage listing of the Hyde Park Barracks celebrates the survival of this elegant Greenway structure, threatened with demolition at various times during the 20th century.

Other associated structures from the convict era have long since disappeared. 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
 

 
 
Watercolour drawing of group of people walking on path through grassy paddock in colonial Sydney with buildings in the background and rocks and shrubs in foreground.
The distinctive pointed roof of the old convict garden lodge can be clearly seen peaking over the wall above the heads of people in this painting 'Sydney from Wooloomooloo [i.e. Woolloomooloo]' by Robert Russell, c1837. National Library Of Australia
 
 

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. 

 
 
Colourful picture of a small stone building behind an iron picket fence with a chimney in the centre. Ther4e are people working in the adjoining garden and trees in the background.
Design no 12: ‘Lodge cottage’ from Novel designs for cottages and schools by John Hall, secretary to the Society for Improving the condition of the labouring classes, London,1825. Caroline Simpson Collection, Sydney Living Museums
 
 
 

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. 

 

Notes

  • 1. 'Government and General Orders', The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 1 May 1819, p2.
  • 2. John Thomas Bigge, Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry into the State of the Colony of New South Wales, London, printed by order of the House of Commons, 1822, p35.

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About the Author

Sydney Living Museums Image
Dr Matthew Stephens
Research Librarian
Collections and Access
Dr Matthew Stephens is research librarian at the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection with a strong interest in the history of books and libraries in New South Wales. His recently completed PhD explored the early history of the Australian Museum Library.