Mint Building and Hyde Park Barracks Group | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Mint Building and Hyde Park Barracks Group

Item details

Name of item: Mint Building and Hyde Park Barracks Group
Other name/s: Rum Hospital; Royal Mint - Sydney Branch; Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary; Queen's Square Courts; Queen's Square
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Other - Government & Administration
Location: Lat: -33.8692672839 Long: 151.2127509620
Primary address: Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St James
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT42 DP47116
LOT43 DP47116
LOT44 DP47116
LOT45 DP47116
LOT46 DP47116
LOT47 DP47116
LOT48 DP47116
LOT49 DP47116
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Macquarie StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
Queen's SquareSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Historic Houses Trust of NSWGeneral 

Statement of significance:

Hyde Park Barracks
The primary significance of Hyde Park Barracks is its unique evidence of the convict period of Australian history, particularly in its demonstration of the accommodation and living conditions of male convicts in NSW 1819-1848. They also provide evidence of the conditions experienced by immigrant groups between 1848 and 1887. The site is important for its significant archaeological record, both excavated and unexcavated, relating to the convict and immigrant periods of occupation.

The barracks is one of the finest surviving works by Francis Greenway, the essence of his design persisting through various adaptations. They provide major evidence of Governor Macquarie's vision for Sydney and the relationship with the Domain, the Mint, St James' Church and Hyde Park demonstrate patterns of early 19th century planning in NSW (Historic Houses Trust 1990:5).

The Mint
The Mint is of State significance as evidence of two important phases in New South Wales history - the development of the Colony under Governor Macquarie and its progress towards independence. The Rum Hospital, built between 1811 and 1816, is evidence of early colonial architecture and building techniques, much of the original fabric and form of the building has been retained. The buildings demonstrate the evolution and adaptation of architectural forms to Australia, including colonial army buildings. The Coining Factory is an early surviving example of a pre-fabricated cast-iron structure in New South Wales.

The site became the Royal Mint, Sydney Branch and began coining in 1855 as the first mint to be established in a British colony. The place is important as one of the three Australian mints at which the Commonwealth government minted the first Australian coins following the federation of the Australian colonies. The minting of Australian coins at the Sydney Mint commenced in 1916 and continued until the closure of the building as a mint in 1927. The Mint is uncommon evidence for manufacturing during the mid 19th century in central Sydney.

The site retained its importance as District Courts and Government offices, before becoming a museum. The site is also significant for the archaeological potential to reveal further information about the Rum Hospital and the minting process during the 19th and early 20th century.
Date significance updated: 12 Jan 07
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Mint: unknown; Captain F.C. Ward & Joseph Trickett; Hyde Park Barracks: Francis Greenway
Builder/Maker: Mint: Garnham Blaxcell, Alexander Riley and D'Arcy Wentworth; Hyde Park Barracks: Francis Greenway
Construction years: 1811-1819
Physical description: Hyde Park Barracks
The Hyde Park Barracks are located in Queen's Square on the corner of Macquarie Street and Prince Albert Road, Sydney. The complex is bounded by high walls on the south and western sides. The northern and eastern boundaries are marked by ranges of structures. Located in the middle of the enclosure is the Principal Barracks or Dormitory Block. Near the north eastern and north western corners of the Dormitory Block are two weeping lillypillys (Waterhousia floribunda). The remainder of the gravelled courtyard is interspersed with sandstone pathways to facilitate disabled access. The major elements, namely the Dormitory Block, Northern Perimeter and Eastern Perimeter structures are discussed separately below in more detail.

Principal Barracks/Dormitory Block
The main building is a three storey sandstock brick, gabled former convict barracks of Georgian style. It has sandstone foundations, sills and string courses, while the pedimented gable is decorated by a shaped stone panel containing an early colonial clock. (Sheedy 1978). The clock is surmounted by a crown and inscribed 'L.Macquarie Esq., Governor 1817'. (State Planning Authority 1965:7) The pendimented temple form of the front is divided horizontally by a string course at the first and attic floors, and vertically by simple piers or pilasters, finished by Greenway's distinctive 'double string course' beneath the eaves; relieving arches implying an arcade to the basement storey; shallow overhanging domes to the roof ventilator, lodges and corner pavilions; shaped blocking courses of the cornices of the pavilions and circular niches. (Broadbent & Hughes 1997:56-57)

The facade is simple but elegant and divided by brick pilasters and arched recesses to the ground floor. The central door has a semi-circular fanlight above, while the windows, 24 panes to ground and first floors and 16 panes to the second floor have flat lintels (Sheedy 1978).

During the late 1980s concerted efforts were made to return the Barracks to their appearance c.1820. External doorways made to access the now demolished court buildings have been carefully in-filled and it is now difficult to determine where some of these openings were. The stone string courses and sills are replacements, as is the shingling on the roof. By necessity, new joinery for doors and windows was constructed.

Internally, partitions have been removed, again in an attempt to reveal Greenway's original design. The floor plan of all three levels is essentially identical, consisting of four rooms opening off two corridors forming a cross, the two rooms to the west being slightly smaller. Two stairwells provide access between the levels, the first in the north eastern corner and the second, also abutting the northern wall, in the hallway crossing the Barracks north/south.

Restoration works were unable to remove all evidence relating to District Court - some fireplaces, doorways and transom lights are now "unusually placed" (Walker & Moore 1990:38). The door joinery shows evidence of the successive adaptations to the building during its use as a Court. The skirtings, architraves, doors and windows represent two periods - c.1884-7 and c.1980. The upper flights of the staircases are thought to be original, the lower flights being interspersed with Victorian repairs. The internal structure of the stair cases has been augmented to ensure visitor safety.

Based on a paterae block (an ornamental device) and mortice openings in the floor, uncovered during conservation works, together with documentary evidence, one room has been fitted with hammock frames. Given the evidence, it is thought this mirrors the sleeping arrangements during the convict era. The frames have a rough adzed appearance and consist of half-round architraves, skirtings and plain paterae blocks.

Paint and plaster wall finishes have been incorporated into the aesthetic, including signage, which remains exposed. The removal of later false ceilings and linings in some sections has revealed earlier finishes, including the original roof structure on the second level. In others, parts of the later ceilings have been used to conceal track hangers and display partitions. Track hung spotlights and recessed down-lights have been introduced to illuminate the museum displays.

Perimeter Wall and Outbuildings (Barracks Square)
The northern boundary of the Barracks site is lined with six structures of both one and two storeys. Constructed of brick, those of two storeys have had the second storey rendered in imitation of ashlar and painted off-white. In the north western corner the original cell block remains, as does the Superintendent's Apartment midway along the boundary. In the eastern corner remnants of the original corner pavilion is visible from outside the Barracks Square. The north western corner pavilion, originally used as a cell block, has been substantially altered during its use by the District Court. Further alterations were undertaken to convert the cell block and part of the structure to the east into a cafe. Sections of the ground floor are open to visitors. A wooden platform has been constructed to allow the exposed archaeological features to be viewed. The interior walls have had various layers of paint and plaster removed in sections, so as to display the multiple renovations the interior underwent. The effect created is that of partially completed restoration - a work in progress.

The Southern Perimeter is marked by a wall constructed of stone from the Gladesville Mental Hospital c.1963. It follows the northern extent of Greenway's original structure, which was demolished in 1909. The wall is also marked by the Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine. The Monument consists of a plaque on the wall and a metal table, set with a dinner plate, protruding at a 45 degree angel from the wall. The memorial was opened by Governor-General of Australia, Sir William Deane on 28 August 1999.

The Eastern Perimeter is marked by a conglomerate of three buildings, the northern two are of two storeys, while a small southern section has just one level. Central to the structures is a set of external stairs, which dominate the western faade. The stairs lead to a balcony running the length of the buildings, which provides access to the series of unconnected first floor rooms. On the ground floor, public toilets are provided in the southern section, while the remainder of the building provides office space to the Museum.

The Western section is comprised of a wall with a central set of gates, flanked by a lodge on each side. The southern lodge was altered during the realignment of Prince Albert Road. The northern lodge is accessible by visitors, having a wooden platform to protect the exposed archaeological deposits. A fireplace is evident in the northern wall. The interior walls also display the various internal treatments, the plaster having been removed to expose the brick construction.

Formal archaeological investigations began at the Hyde Park Barracks during the 1980s restoration work. Originally Carol Powell, who was employed to research the archival material, was also asked to catalogue artefacts exposed by the conservation works. It quickly became apparent that the magnitude and preservation of the archaeological deposits required more attention and Wendy Thorp was employed in September 1980.

Thorp excavated a series of test-trenches before recommending a larger scale program was needed. Patricia Burritt completed what was known as the Stage II excavations. Trenches were located to over all aspects of the Barracks. Small scale trenches were excavated near the entrance to the Dormitory Block and in the northern perimeter buildings, formerly the bakery. A large open-area was excavated in the courtyard east of the Dormitory Block. Extensive excavations were also undertaken in the underfloor spaces between levels one and two and levels two and three. The last of these excavations exposed a remarkable artefact collection of paper and fabric, items not commonly preserved in archaeological deposits. In 2006 a publication was released by the Historic Houses Trust that interprets these artefacts (Crooks & Murray 2006).

Since the completion of the 1980s restoration works any disturbance of the ground has been preceded by archaeological excavation, seeing a number of smaller excavations carried out for the laying of pipes etc and the construction of the Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine. There remains the potential for further archaeological materials to be uncovered.

The Mint
There are four structures relating to the current Mint curtilage. Located at the front of the allotment, facing Macquarie Street, is a wing of the original Rum Hospital. Originally, the Mint buildings were constructed behind the Hospital to form a courtyard. The building on the northern boundary, which had been demolished has recently been replaced by the foyer to the new theatrette in the eastern range.

Hospital Wing
The original Rum Hospital is a two storey sandstone structure with a double-tier verandah around northern, western and southern sides. Sandstone columns supporting the verandah and timber roof shingles are replacements, as is the 'Chinoiserie' timber lattice balustrade on the upper verandah. The verandah has been enclosed on the eastern side to form toilet and washrooms on ground floor and bathroom and kitchen on the first floor, for what was the Deputy Mint Master's residence.

Internally, the main building is been divided into seven spaces on the ground floor and six on the first floor. Two of these are stairwells with associated hall/lobby, located one third from both the northern and southern ends.

Attached to the south east corner is a one storey rectangular room with a bay window facing Macquarie Street, formerly the Library for the Deputy Mint Master's residence, now part of the Historic Houses Trust office space.

Coining Factory
The Coining Factory buildings extend in a rough L from the former Library to form a courtyard with the Rum Hospital. The structure is iron-framed, with a sandstone-facade and corrugated iron roof. On the southern boundary, separated from the former Library by a covered breezeway is a one storey building, originally the fitting shops and carpenters' workshops, now security centre and plant rooms for air-conditioning. The eastern reach of the quadrangle, the former Factory, has been recently renovated into offices for use by Historic Houses Trust staff. Works also included the construction of a theatrette and facilities in the north-eastern corner, forming an extension of the eastern quadrangle boundary. Central to the northern boundary, with covered breezeways on either side, a foyer/gallery completes the new works. The new sections are constructed of steel and glass box protected by cedar louvres and boarding, designed to mirror the Superintendent's Office. The theatrette allows an opportunity to view the eastern elevation of the Hospital in the context of Sydney's skyline (De Manincor 2005:82).

The central courtyard has been landscaped with a raised grass area, highlighted by a single tree in the south east corner.

Carol Powell, who was employed to compile archival information relating to the Mint and Hyde Park Barracks, also undertook the recording of archaeological deposits exposed by the renovation works between 1977 and 1979. Like the Hyde Park Barracks, it became apparent that the deposits were larger and more intact than expected and required a dedicated archaeologist. Wendy Thorp undertook test excavations during 1980, which focused on three areas. The first of these were cellars located under the Hospital, probably dug following construction and filled between 1854 and 1868 when the premise was converted into the Mint. The second focus was on the courtyard, where the Hospital's kitchen had been located. The third and final area of investigation was the under and between floor spaces in the Hospital building. Unlike the Hyde Park Barracks these spaces were barren, having been cleaned out in the mid-19th century and again when the Mint was moved to Canberra.

Patricia Burritt's Stage II excavations revealed further cellars under the eastern verandah, which were probably filled at a later date than the first set. In the courtyard some evidence was found of the foundations of the Hospital kitchen, along with the base of the 19th century fountain and post-Mint additions. No evidence was found of the Hospital's outbuildings adjacent to Hyde Park Barracks, or of the southern industrial buildings. Excavation was limited, in comparison to the Hyde Park Barracks, as minimal documentary evidence was available to direct the location of trenches (Crook & Murray 2003: 14-15).
Current use: Museum, café
Former use: Mint: Hospital, Royal Mint, Courts. Barracks: Convict accommodation, Courts


Historical notes: Hyde Park Barracks
Governor Macquarie, after his arrival in Sydney, had become increasingly disturbed by the male convicts behaviour in the streets after work. Convicts had been allowed to find their own lodgings, however, Macquarie thought that barracks accommodation would improve the moral character of the men and increase their productivity. To this end Macquarie requested convict architect Francis Greenway design barracks for 600 men. Constructed by convicts, the foundation stone was laid by Macquarie on 6 April 1817 and the barracks were completed in 1819. Macquarie was so impressed by Greenway's design that he granted him a full pardon shortly after its completion.

Internally, the four rooms on each floor were hung with two rows of hammocks, with a 0.9 metre (three feet) passage. The room allowed for each hammock was 2.1 by 0.6 metres (seven by two feet). In this way the long eastern rooms could sleep 70 men each, while 35 men slept in the smaller western rooms.

Macquarie was happy to note that since the confinement of the male convicts to the Barracks at night "not a tenth part of the former Night Robberies and Burglaries" occurred (Cumberland County Council 1962:6). Commissioner Bigge, however, complained that the congregation of such a large number of "depraved and desperate characters" in one area had just condensed the problem (Cumberland County Council 1962:6). Stealing was rife within the Barracks, items being passed over the walls to waiting accomplices for disposal. In an attempt to curb the thefts convicts were searched at the gates and broad arrows were painted on items of clothing and bedding.

The accommodation soon proved inadequate and up to 1400 men were housed in the Barracks at any one time. It has been estimated that perhaps 30,000 men and boys passed through the Barracks between 1819 and 1848 (Collins 1994:19). The convict response to the Barracks was somewhat mixed: those that were able to pay for lodgings by working on Saturday were not happy about the confinement; others were happy to have a roof over their heads. In 1820, in order to ease the pressure on the crowded Barracks the reward of being allowed to live outside the Barracks was extended. Convicts found gambling, drunk, engaged in street violence, or other unseemly behaviour had this freedom revoked and were sent to live in the Barracks - it had become a form of punishment. Loitering or idling on a Saturday was also punishable by confinement to the Barracks. Convicts had a peculiar mix of detention and freedom, convicts had to work for the Government during the week, but were allowed to work for their own benefits on Saturdays. This was a privilege Governor Macquarie did not like to see abused.

From 1830 convicts were brought to the site for sentencing and punishment by the Court of General Sessions sitting in northern perimeter buildings. Punishments handed down included floggings, which were carried out onsite, or terms on the treadmill or chain gangs. While one of the first agencies to encroach on the Barracks, they were not the last - the Board for the Assignment of Servants operating from the Barracks between 1831 and 1841.

The cessation of convict transportation in 1840 saw a dwindling number of convicts to house. By 1848 the numbers remaining did not warrant the use of such a large premise and the remaining convicts were removed to Cockatoo Island. The Barracks became instead the Female Immigration Depot. Occupying the first two floors, the Depot had the purpose of giving temporary shelter to newly arrived single females while they were found positions. Depending on the arrival of ships, the Depot could be overcrowded or almost vacant. Single women were encouraged to immigrate to address labour shortages, particularly for maids and servants, and the gender imbalance evident in the Colony. Women from Ireland, devastated by the Famine, were particularly targeted for immigration, coaxed to leave their homeland by the promise of a better employment prospects and life. Additionally, the Barracks also housed the Orphan Institution until 1852, though which many more Irish famine victims passed. The perimeter buildings were taken over by a variety of government agencies including, but not limited to, the Government Printing Office (1848-1856), Stamp Office (1856), Department of the Chief Inspector of Distilleries (1856-1860) and the Vaccine Institute (1857-1886).

The Asylum for Infirm and Destitute Women used the top floor, between 1862 and 1886, to provide accommodation and care to 150 women with terminal illnesses who could not afford medical treatment, the senile, insane, and generally destitute women. Both the Asylum and the Immigration Depot were managed by Matron Lucy Applewhaite-Hicks, who lived on the second floor with her family. Overcrowding was a constant problem, and the Barracks ceased to provide accommodation in 1886 when the women were moved to new purpose-built facilities at Newington (Crook & Murray 2006:19)

The Courts continued to expand their use of the former Barracks buildings and by the early 19th century had almost exclusive use of the site. Courts were shuffled between buildings on the site and moved elsewhere in the city as more appropriate facilities were found or as pressures on space requirements grew or shrank. The new social policies of the 1880s saw the creation of a raft of legally specialised courts, which, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary Queen Victoria's accession to the throne (1887) and 100 years of settlement in Sydney (1888), were consolidated in the Hyde Park Barracks (Collins 1994:24). The facility became known as Chancery Square, later the Queen's Square Courts. Extensive modifications were undertaken to accommodate the courts, including the addition of fibro buildings in the courtyard and internal divisions to the Principle Dormitory to convert it into courts.

The courts occupying the site represent "all facets of the new phases of state intervention in personal and property relations" (Collins 2006:24), a sample of which includes: the Court of Requests (1856-1859), the Sydney District Court (1858-1978), the City Coroner (1864-1907), Supreme Court Judges (1887-1970), Bankruptcy Court (1888-1914), Clerk of the Peace (1888-1903, 1915-1961), Curator of Intestate Estates (1888-1913), Probate Court and Offices (1893-1915), Court of Review (1901-1938), Court of Marine Enquiry (1901-1979), NSW Registrar & Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court (1908-1914), Industrial Court (1911-1914), Industrial Arbitration Court (1912-1927), Legal Aid Office (1919-1944), Profiteering Prevention Court (1921-1922), Land and Valuation Court (1922-1956, 1976-1979), Court Reporting Branch (1944-1964) (Collins 1994:7).

During the early 20th century industrial relations dominated proceedings at Queen's Square. Two landmark decisions were handed down by the Courts while in the buildings: in 1927 the basic living wage was approved; in 1921 a case for equal pay for women was presented and rejected, to be granted only in 1973 (Collins 1994:24).

In 1975 the Department of Public Works began extensive conservation works on the buildings. During these works, one of the first Permanent Conservation Orders, under the 1977 Heritage Act, was given to the Barracks in 1981. The conservation works were completed in 1984 and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences opened a museum of Sydney. This museum operated until 1990, when ownership was transferred to the Historic Houses Trust of NSW. The museum underwent refurbishment and further conservation works were undertaken, becoming a museum of the site, dedicated to interpreting how the site has developed, been used by multiply occupants and the physical evidence of their presence.

The Friends of the Historic Houses Trust have been responsible for fundraising through interpretive tours and events to acquire the Neville Locker collection of convict artefacts for Hyde Park Barracks (Watts, 2014).

The Mint
Governor Macquarie signed an agreement with Garnham Blaxcell, Alexander Riley and D'Arcy Wentworth to build a new convict hospital in November 1810. In return, the three gentlemen received the monopoly on the purchase of spirits for three years. As a result, the building became known as the Rum Hospital.

While the architect is unknown, inspiration for the form of the buildings is thought to have come from Macquarie's time in India, especially the Madras Government House. The Hospital, however, is constructed to the standard institutional army plan of the time - as seen at Victoria Barracks. The Hospital was originally constructed with three wings, the northern wing is now part of Parliament House, the central wing has been demolished and the southern wing became the Mint.

The foundation stone was laid almost a year later, in October 1811, but the hospital was not ready for patients until March 1816. This was largely due to the constant inquiries into claims of poor quality materials and construction. Henry Kitchen wrote to Commissioner Bigge "that one would really imagine that they had been built for the very purpose of exhibiting a striking effect which such a structure would produce when in ruins" (Walker & Moore 1990v.2:10). Architect Francis Greenway also criticised the buildings, drawing up plans to strengthen the roof. Greenway's official report on the workmanship found that the joints in the structural beams were weak, the foundations poor, that corners had been cut during construction, there was rotting stonework and dry rot in the timbers. Even though Macquarie ordered the contractors to remedy these faults, many more did not come to light until the restoration works of the 1980. Despite all this it is the oldest extant building in central Sydney (Walker & Moore 1990, v.2:10).

Commissioner Bigge's main complaint, however, was regarding the size and grandeur of the buildings, rather than anything else. These may have been justified in the early years of its existence as the Hospital could not be sustained on such a large scale. As a result, other Government agencies occupied various sections - the Legislative Council moved into the Principal Surgeon's Quarters in 1829, pushing the Principal Surgeon out by 1848. This wing today forms the northern faade of Parliament House. Other rooms were given over to the Principal Supervisor of Convicts and Sydney's first museum.

This early uncertainty over tenure of the buildings effected the growth of the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary, as it was known from 1844 until 1881, when it became Sydney Hospital. The southern wing was first used for the treatment of convict patients and also housed the assistant surgeons and the medical store. From the late 1843 until 1848 the building was used by the Dispensary. The Dispensary was created in 1826, occupying a variety of buildings around the city before being given the southern wing. The purpose of the service was to treat, as outpatients, the free poor who could not afford medical care. In 1848 the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary gave up the southern wing to ensure ownership of the current site of the Sydney Hospital. Little seems to have occurred with the buildings until 1853.

The Legislative Council of New South Wales had began petitioning the British Government for the establishment of a Mint in 1851. The gold rush had brought in to circulation large amounts of unrefined gold that was threatening the official currency. The British Government finally approved the establishment of a Mint in 1853, sending equipment and twenty staff.

Captain F.C. Ward, appointed as Deputy Mint Master, designed the required buildings and stayed in England to order the equipment. C. Trickett as Superintendent of Coining, was sent to Sydney in 1853 to direct the erection of the factory buildings and machinery and to ensure adequate security. Ward, who had worked with Joseph Paxton on London's Crystal Palace, employed similar techniques in the construction of the Mint - prefabricated cast iron columns and trusses. It was Trickett who selected the site and modified Ward's plans to incorporate the southern wing of the Hospital as accommodation and offices with the remaining factory buildings forming the other three sides of a quadrangle. The short southern reach consisted of Carpenter's and Fitting Shops. To the east were the coining and rolling rooms and the Superintendent's Office. Attached to this block, further to the east, was the engine and boiler rooms. The northern block consisted of the melting house, an office and a store room. The courtyard created was geometrically landscaped around a central feature. The Factory buildings necessitated the demolition of the hospitals kitchen and outbuildings. Construction of the pre-fabricated buildings was undertaken by a contingent of trained Sappers and Miners (Royal Engineers).

The Mint began operation on 14 May 1855. Now known simply as The Mint, its official title was the Royal Mint, Sydney Branch. The first five years of operation saw exports of gold fall sharply as over one million pounds worth of gold was converted into sovereign and half sovereign coins each year. In 1868 Sydney's coins were recognised as legal tender in all British colonies, but it was not until February 1886 that they were accepted in Britain. The coins were identical to those produced in Britain, except for a small mint mark.

The Sydney Branch expanded its production in 1868 to bronze coins and again in 1879 to issue Imperial silver coinage. After federation, it was one of three mints to strike the new Commonwealth coins.

Small alterations continued to be made to the buildings throughout the occupation of the Mint. In the early 1860s a new assay office and crushing room were added. In 1870-5 a series of residences were constructed facing Hospital Road. The chimney was renewed in 1889. The Mint continued to struggle with the deterioration of the buildings and in 1909 the Royal Commission for the Improvement of the City of Sydney recommended the Mint be demolished as Macquarie Street was increasingly seen as the seat of government. Federation encouraged the consolidation of minting activities in Canberra, Melbourne and Pert, the facilities in Sydney deteriorated to such an extent that the Mint was closed in January 1927, due to aging equipment and unprofitability (Abrahams, 2016, 9).

During the operation of the Mint it formed the unofficial headquarters of the Philosophical Society of New South Wales. The majority of senior staff at the Mint were founding members. With the blessing of the Society's president, Sir William Denison, also Governor of New South Wales, the Mint building and equipment was used for a number of experiments and became the heart of the scientific community in Sydney. Experiments included the investigation of the strength and elasticity of native timbers and on the combustibility of coal from Tasmania and Bellambi. The Philosophical Society also fostered other important research into weather and seismic patterns.

On the departure of the Mint a series of government departments sought office space in the buildings. Similar to the Barracks next door, with no security of tenure there was little incentive to maintain the buildings and, instead fibro buildings filled all available spaces to meet the requirements of the Family Endowment Department (1927-1940), State Headquarters of National Emergency Service (1940-1950s), Housing Commission of NSW (mid 1940s) and the Land Tax Office (mid 1940s). The Court Reporting Branch, District Courts and Parliamentary Library moved in during the 1950s. Fibro-lined courtrooms were created within the former Coining Factory for use by them.

In the 1930s with increasing use of the motor car, and demand for parking spaces, the Mint's Macquarie Street gates were removed, a common fate for the gates of public buildings at the time. They were eventually acquired by Barker College at Hornsby in 1937 following the efforst of its Council Chairman, Sir John Butters. This was not the first time a school had acquired significant city gates: St. Joseph's College at Hunters Hill had bought the Sydney Town Hall gates and fencing when they became redundant with construction of Town Hall Railway Station (Abrahams, 2016, 9).

Construction of a new District Court in 1956 had the greatest impact on the Factory buildings. Offices replaced the residences on Hospital Road, the Assay office and stores, as well as the eastern perimeter wall. In 1968 the quartz crushing room and associated shed, melting room and rolling room were also demolished to create a car park.

Restoration of the buildings, announced in 1975, were undertaken in 1977-79, with the intended purpose of utilising at least the Mint as a Museum. In 1982 the Mint opened as a branch of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

In the 1980s an attempt was made to purchase the original gates back from Barker College, but they were by now firmly part of the College's history. Instead, copies of the gates were cast in iron for reinstatement at the Mint. This reconstruction came more than 40 years following their initial removal. It inspired restoration of similar entry gates at Trickett's cottage, 'Banksia' in Double Bay, to introduce a new entrance and gates sympathetic to the house's style. Joseph Trickett worked as an engineer at the Sydney Royal Mint in 1855 and 'Banksia' was built at the same time as the Sydney Mint building. The moulds used in the 1980s to reconstruct decorative parts of the gates of the Mint in Macquarie Street were located, and re-used to cast decorative parts of 'Banksia's new gates, not only stylistically appropriate, but one which the original owner Trickett himself would have participated in (Abrahams, 2016, 9).

In 1998 ownership of the site was transferred to the Historic Houses Trust, who continued to operate a small museum, plus a cafe. In 2004 restoration and construction was undertaken to enable the HHT to use the site as a Head Office. The former Coining Factory was sympathetically remodelled into offices and the Superintendent's Office to hold the Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection. A new theatrette and foyer were also added. The work was overseen by architect Richard Francis-Jones, of FJMT Architects; Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners as conservation architects and Godden Mackay Logan as archaeologists.

In July 2016 the Mint celebrated its 200th anniversary of continuous civic function with a symposium 'A future for the past' as part of a programme of events (Liebermann, 2016, 6-7).

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 Providing health and welfare facilities-
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 Administering the convict system-
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 Working for the Crown-
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 Demonstrating convicts' experiences and activities-
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 Housing convicts in communal or shared accommodation-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Mining-Activities associated with the identification, extraction, processing and distribution of mineral ores, precious stones and other such inorganic substances. Processing copper-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Accommodating convicts-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Accommodating migrants in hostels and camps-
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. Developing roles for government - providing museums-
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. Developing roles for government - providing health care facilities-
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. Developing roles for government - administering migration programs-
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. Developing roles for government - managing the convict system-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Dispensing justice-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Francis Greenway, emancipist architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Muron Bolot, architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
There is a diversity of structures which document the evolution of the Hyde park Barracks complex from the late Georgian era to modern times: from the era of convict cell blocks and enclosed penal institutions, through to judicial courts and offices and present day museum.

It contains two fig trees on Macquarie Street which are symbolic of a number of significant town planning schemes throughout the 19th century, such as the creation of Chancery Square. (now Queen's Square)

Within the complex are structures associated with the first purpose built government institution for the housing of convicts.

It is associated with the development of the legal system in NSW being the location of the first meeting in 1830 of the bench of magistrates for the Court of General Sessions and the first location of the Metropolitan District Court established under the District Courts Act, 1958.

It is associated with other historic landmarks in the area such as the former Rum Hospital, St James' Church, Hyde Park, the Domain, St Mary's Cathedral and Macquarie Street.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
It contains elements such as the perimeter walls, parts of the two gate lodges, one former pavilion and parts of another, some external and probably internal walls on the northern range of buildings which are associated with the convict architect Francis Greenway's design. Together with the central barracks building, the place possesses a rich architectural history from the earliest days of European settlement in Australia.
(Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1996:73)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It contains a museum which is a centre of tourist and cultural activity in Sydney
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site contains areas of potential archaeological significance which are likely to provide a significant insight into the establishment of the place and its subsequent developmental history. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1996:74)
SHR Criteria f)
It is the oldest example of a walled penal institution in Australia. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1996:73) The barracks provide rare evidence of the standards and skills of building practice, architectural design and urban planning in eary 19th century Sydney
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977


I, the Minister for Planning, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act, 1977, do, by this my order:
(1) revoke the existing exemptions made to the Historic Houses Trust under section 57(2) of the Heritage Act; and
(2) under section 57(2) of the Heritage Act grant an exemption from all section 57(1) activities to properties owned or managed by the Historic Houses Trust and listed on the State Heritage Register as outlined in Schedule A with the following conditions:
(a) that the Historic Houses Trust provide an annual report to the Heritage Council on future works proposed for its properties;
(b) that the Historic Houses Trust advise the Heritage Office archaeologists of any proposed works requiring major excavation at its properties to allow due consideration of the need for additional archaeological work;
(c) that the Director of the Historic Houses Trust must lodge all archaeological monitoring or excavation reports prepared with the Heritage Office library on completion after review by Heritage Office archaeologists;
(d) that the Historic Houses Trust employ as required a consultant historical archaeologist with appropriate archaeological qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience and the Director of the HHT must obtain the advice of that person about the heritage significance of the archaeological resource and/or the impact of the development proposal on the heritage significance of the archaeological resource, and take that advice into account;
(e) that the Director of the Historic Houses Trust must take into account as far as practicable the cumulative effect of approvals on the heritage significance of the item and on the heritage resource of its area;
(f) that the Director of the Historic Houses Trust must ensure that approvals are in accordance with any requirements, guidelines, regulations and general conditions issued by the Heritage Council. The Director of the Historic Houses Trust may impose additional conditions which do not conflict with any Heritage Council conditions.

The Hon Frank Sartor MP
Minister for Planning
Minister for Redfern Waterloo
Minister for the Arts

11 April 2008


Item State Heritage Register Listing Number

1. Elizabeth Farm 00001
2. Rouse Hill House 00002
3. Elizabeth Bay House 00006
4. Glenfield Farm, Casula 00025
5. Hyde Park Barracks and The Mint 00190
6. Exeter Farm (Meurant's Cottage) 00205
7. The Rose Seidler House 00261
8. Wentworth Mausoleum 00622
9. Justice and Police Museum 00673
10. Meroogal, Nowra 00953
11. Vaucluse House 00955
12. Government House, Sydney 01070
13. First Government House Site (Museum of Sydney) 01309
14. Susannah Place 01310
Apr 24 2008
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementFinal issue of Hyde Park Barracks CMP received for stage two assessment and endorsement Jul 5 2018

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0019002 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0019002 Oct 81 1445177
National Heritage List     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Hyde Park Barracks Museum View detail
WrittenAbrahams, Hector2016'The Gates of the Sydney Mint: a long (and convoluted) history'
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Mint Building and Hyde Park Barracks Group View detail
WrittenCumberland County Council1962Historic Buildings: Central Area of Sydney, Volume II
TourismHistoric Houses Trust2007Hyde Park Barracks Museum View detail
WrittenHistoric Houses Trust2004Museums View detail
TourismHyde Park Barracks Café2007Hyde Park Barracks Café View detail
WrittenLiebermann, Sophie2016'Rum Hospital Revealed'
WrittenLynn Collins (editor)1994Hyde Park Barracks
WrittenMarsh, Glennda S., Archaeologial Conservator1982The Conservation of Artefacts from the Hyde Park Barracks & Mint Buildings - National Estate Grants Program 1980/81 Project No.14: archaeological artefact analysis
WrittenPenny Crook & Tim Murray2006An Archaeology of Institutional Refuge: The Material Culture of the Hyde park Barracks, Sydney, 1848-1886
WrittenPenny Crook & Tim Murray2003Assessment of Historical and Archaeological Resources of the Royal Mint Site, Sydney
WrittenSydney Living Museums2017Convict Sydney View detail
WrittenWatts, Peter2014(Open) Letter to Tim Duddy, Chairman, Friends of Historic Houses Trust Inc.

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045802
File number: EF10/20645; S90/1189;S96/465

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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