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Old Treasury building, 1899

NSW Badge with Crown in Waratah Wreath over portico of Old Treasury Building, 1899

The crown and waratah wreath encompassing the badge on a shield were familiar emblems of public authority in NSW by the turn of the 20th century. This fine example adorns, in partnership with a similar representation of the Royal Arms, the portico of the Treasury Building in Macquarie Street which housed the offices of the Premier and Treasurer.

A striking feature of this representation of the Badge of NSW is the finely carved ribbon that forms a true lover's knot at the top, with the tails streaming out below the encircling band of egg-and-dart motifs. A true lover's knot is traditionally used in heraldry as a crest above a woman's coat of arms, while the egg-and-dart motif alludes to classical (including Etruscan) concepts of birth, life and rebirth.

This carving was made just after Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Many celebratory events were held across the colony, and commemorative postage stamps were issued, to mark this auspicious occasion. The poet Rudyard Kipling hailed the Queen as the Mother of the Empire, and she was also known as the Grandmother of Europe, as several of her children and grandchildren occupied European thrones, notably in Germany and Russia. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations emphasised these maternal attributes which are reflected in the true lover's knot and the egg-and-dart motifs. This representation of the Badge of NSW with the usual crown and waratah wreath is unique in NSW for being surrounded by symbols of femininity and maternity.

Compared to the confused restraint of the badge on the GPO and the confident newness of the badge on the Colonial Secretary's Building, this badge has an air of serenity and certainty that suggest a NSW that had finally been able to move beyond the old concerns of the convict stain. Or had it?

Some questions to research:
  1. Are there other examples of official symbols and emblems being ornamented to reflect particular events and celebrations?
  2. what connections might there be between the emblems of maternity and femininity surrounding the badge, and the leadership and fiscal functions of the building to which it is attached?

Image Source: Bruce Baskerville, Heritage Branch, 17th June 2006;
SHR item Treasury Building

Page last updated: 01 September 2012