Commissariat Store Foundation Stone | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Commissariat Store Foundation Stone

Item details

Name of item: Commissariat Store Foundation Stone
Other name/s: Museum of Contemporary Art
Type of item: Movable / Collection
Group/Collection: Monuments and Memorials
Category: Monuments
Location: Lat: 33' 51S Long: 151' 12E
Primary address: First Fleet Park, The Rocks, NSW 2000
Parish: St Philip
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
First Fleet ParkThe RocksSydneySt PhilipCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney Harbour Foreshore AuthorityState Government 

Statement of significance:

The foundation stone comes from the second Commissariat store built in 1812 under Governor Macquarie. This store was completed just before changes to the organisation and running of the Commissariat occurred, taking control from the Governor and placing it with the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury in London as part of the army commissariat.

The function of the Commissariat was to supply and store foodstuffs and goods for the population and was for a time the only market available for the produce of the colony. The Commissary Stores Receipts and Bill of Exchange were used as currency in the Colony, until the introduction of enough circulating cash. Therefore the foundation stone has historical associations with the development of the economy in Australia and with the development of agriculture.

The Commissariat Store Foundation Stone has historical associations with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, it is also associated with the development of the economy and agriculture in the early colony.

The Commissariat Store Foundation Stone is a rare surviving example of a very early foundation stone from a government building.
Date significance updated: 30 Aug 04
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Construction years: 1812-
Physical description: Foundation Stone of Commissariat Stores: "ERECTED (new line) IN THE YEAR 1812 (new line) L. MACQUARIE ESQR (new line) GOVERNOR" in front of former MSB Building (See also: AM067; AR017; AR055).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The Stone is in good condition and on display in the park between the MCA and Circular Quay. It is enclosed by a chain link fence and positioned behind a statue and memorial to Captain Arthur Phillip.
Date condition updated:23 Aug 04
Modifications and dates: The Commissariat Store was demolished in 1939 to make way for the (former) Maritime Services Board Building (now MCA). The stone came from the Commissariat store and was rescued when the building was torn down.
Further information: The stone may require some protection from the elements in the future.
Former use: Government warehousing

History

Historical notes: The storage and supply of food, liquor, hardware and other goods was initially in the hands of the Commissariat Department. The Commissariat was an arm of the Civil Administration responsible for the supply of goods to colonial establishments of the British Empire. It held a strategic role in the economy of the early colony. Supply of food and other necessities was under the direct control of the Commissariat, particularly in the early years. It was a role which, though it diminished through time, was a significant function within the Town of Sydney and the Colony for many decades. The Commissariat had access to credit in Britain via the use of Treasury Bills to pay for overseas purchases, this was an important avenue of finance which aided the development of commerce, banking and even agriculture.

Due to the lack of ready cash in the Colony, and the high 'credit rating' of the Commissariat Store, receipts issued by the store had a ready circulation throughout the colony, and along with the barter system, became the currency of the colony as it moved from a convict to a market system.

By 1815 the role of the Commissariat was changing. Macquarie abolished the custom of supplying the needs of the inhabitants from the Commissariat on credit. Not only did this protect the government from a large number of bad debts, but he felt that 'All their wants may now be fully supplied by the Free Merchant Shipping, frequenting this port from England and other countries.' The 1812 Commissariat Store was built as part of the rearrangement of the store's function and role. In 1813 the Commissariat was reorganized as a branch of the army commissariat in London, a sub-division of the English Treasury. Thereafter the Commissariat was controlled by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury whose instructions were superior to those which the Governor might give in his capacity as Captain-General. Until these changes the Governor directed the Commissary, was dealing with each situation as it arose. There were no full and complete set of rules for procedure, a situation that the Governors up to Macquarie seemed to struggle with.

There were two buildings which were used as Government stores, the first appears to have been designed in 1809 and built in c1810 this was the 'U' shaped building constructed next to the shoreline. The other building was constructed in 1812 to the west of the first, next to George St and it is this building that the stone came from. This building was a long rectangular structure and is almost covered by the footprint of the MCA building, although it appears that there may be archaeological evidence of this 1812 building still extant.

The 1812 building appears on various plans as Naval stores, Ordnance stores and is referred to as the Taxation building in the 1930s. It is possible that both these buildings had the convict stonemason's initial carved into every sandstone block. These blocks may have been purchased by St Philips church to build a church hall (Sydney Morning Herald July 6 1939) the hall has been subsequently demolished and it is not know the whereabouts of these blocks.

The foundation stone marked the foundation date of the building and it was located over the doorway. There were protests about the demolition of the buildings and when it became obvious that they could not be saved the Historical society requested the preservation of the foundation stone and the keystone. The foundation stone was placed in the park as part of the landscaping works for the Maritime Services Board Building.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The foundation stone comes from the second Commissariat store built in 1812 under Governor Macquarie. This store was completed just before changes to the organisation and running of the Commissariat occurred, taking control from the Governor and placing it with the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury in London as part of the army commissariat.

The function of the Commissariat was to supply and store foodstuffs and goods for the population and was for a time the only market available for the produce of the colony. The Commissary Stores Receipts and Bill of Exchange were used as currency in the Colony, until the introduction of money. Therefore the foundation stone has historical associations with the development of the economy in Australia and with the development of agriculture.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Commissariat Store Foundation Stone has historical associations with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, it is also associated with the development of the economy and agriculture in the early colony.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Commissariat Store Foundation Stone has social value that is evidenced by the fight in 1938/39 for the salvation of the buildings and finally when that could not be achieved the Historical Society fought for the foundation stone itself.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Commissariat Store Foundation Stone is a rare surviving example of a very early foundation stone from a government building.
Integrity/Intactness: Stone complete but moved from its original position
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Above and below ground archaeological remains: An archaeological conservation plan is recommended. (See also: AR055)

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerSydney Harbour Foreshore Authority    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
SCA Register 1979-19981998AR054Sydney Cove Authority (SCA)  Yes
(untitled)  (not given)  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Management Plan  (See also: AR055)
WrittenHigginbotham, Kass & Walker1991the Rocks and Millers Point Archaeological Management Plan Vol 2 History and Archaeology
WrittenJohn Ritchie1971The Evidence to the Bigge Reports
WrittenSJ Butlin1953Foundations of the Australian Monetary System 1788-1851

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4500322


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