Fish eye view of colonial era building.

Front exterior of The Mint. Photo © Douglas Riley for Sydney Living Museums

The Mint

Sunday 3 November

10 Macquarie Street, Sydney

See on map

Built

1811–16

Architect

‘Rum Hospital’ architect unknown

Additional architects

Captain Edward W Ward and Joseph Tricket (1854–55, redevelopment)

Richard Francis-Jones, FJMT; Clive Lucas (conservation architect), Stapleton & Partners; Godden Mackay Logan (archaeologists) (2001–04, heritage conservation and adaptive reuse)

How do you pay for a new civic building when your fledgling colony is cash-strapped? The very Sydney answer, of course, is to sell 45,000 gallons of rum! Constructed in 1811–16, Governor Macquarie’s three-winged General Hospital was built in return for the granting of a monopoly on the importation of rum, hence its nickname, the ‘Rum Hospital’.

Known today as The Mint, the hospital’s historic south wing at the front of the site is one of central Sydney’s oldest surviving buildings. Its first resident was assistant surgeon and former convict, William Redfern (after whom the Sydney suburb was named), who treated convicts in the central building and conducted surgical procedures in the south wing. In a small room (now demolished) at the rear of the site, surgeons conducted post mortems, and dissected convict corpses for study.

From 1842, the building accommodated the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary, where some of the first anaesthetics ever used in Australia were administered; but the discovery of gold in the colony in 1851 changed everything. In 1854, the site was converted into the first overseas branch of London’s Royal Mint. The coining factory’s cast-iron frame was shipped in prefabricated pieces from England. The factory contained the most up-to-date technology in the colony, and eventually produced 150 million gold sovereigns.

Today the Mint site integrates heritage buildings, historic structures and archaeological elements with new buildings designed by architects Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT). When the adaptation was completed in 2005, the renewed Mint – today a favourite of architecture and design students – received a string of awards for its conservation and contemporary design, including the Sir John Sulman Award for Public Architecture.

The Mint now houses the offices of Sydney Living Museums, and a series of venue spaces for hire. It is also home to the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, which holds the only public research collection in Australia dedicated to the history of the home and garden. The Mint’s central courtyard is a tranquil oasis in the midst of bustling Macquarie Street.

Awards

2005 RAIA (NSW) - The Sulman Medal for Public Architecture

2005 RAIA (NSW) - The Greenway Award for Conservation

2005 RAIA (NSW) - Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage

On Sunday 3 November


What’s open?

The Rum Hospital building on Macquarie Street; courtyard; grounds; former coining factory, head office of Sydney Living Museums.


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Need
to know

  • Photography allowed

  • Lines expected

  • Toilets available

  • Pram friendly

  • Accessible
    Please note the upper level of the Rum Hospital building is inaccessible.


Opening hours

9am-4pm

Last entry

3.30pm

Address

10 Macquarie Street, Sydney


Acknowledgements

The Mint’s involvement in Sydney Open has been made possible by Sydney Living Museums.