Hyde Park Barracks

A brief overview of the Hyde Park Barracks and a list of convict-related record series

A brief overview of the Hyde Park Barracks and a list of convict-related record series.

Housing for government convicts

The Hyde Park Barracks opened on 4 June 1819 with a feast to celebrate the King's Birthday. Designed by Francis Greenway, the building was 'designed to hold all convicts working for the government in and around Sydney'. (Hirst, Convict Society, p.41).

Prior to its completion, convicts had found their own private lodgings paid for with earnings from extra work in their own time. (Hirst, Convict Society, pp.41-2).Sub sub-title (H4)

Government convicts to be locked in the barracks at night

The new barracks meant that, 'For the first time in thirty years … convicts were to be under constant surveillance, to be locked up at night and their "own time" was to be taken from them'. 'The desire to gain permission to sleep out of barracks (was) an incentive to good behaviour'. (Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, pp.81-2).

Macquarie reported that the incidence of night robberies and burglaries had declined considerably since the convicts were lodged in the barracks. In 1819 it housed 688 convicts and in 1820 the number had grown to 800.

Other barracks

A further 250 convicts were in a smaller barracks while there were also 150 at Parramatta. A building was by then being constructed at Windsor and there was another at Sydney for 150 juveniles. (Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, p.81).

Re-purposed after transportation

When convict transportation to New South Wales ended in 1840 the Barracks was re-purposed several times. After building alterations it became the Female Immigration Depot from 1848 to 1887. Further alterations converted the third floor into the Government Asylum for Infirm and Destitute Women in 1862 with the matron of the Female Immigration Depot, Lucy Hicks, also supervising the asylum. In 1886, 306 women in the asylum were transferred to Newington Asylum on the Parramatta River. Later the Barracks housed the Government Printing Office, Office of the City Coroner, Vaccine Institue and the Sydney District Court (see Dictonary of Sydney for more).

Today, Hyde Park Barracks is on the World Heritage list "recognised among the world’s most important cultural heritage places linked to forced migration, colony building and convict culture."

List of record series

NRS-906 Colonial Secretary: Police reports of prisoners tried at Hyde Park Barracks, Jan-Jul 1832

[X825], Reel 661[2/8284 pp.121-126], Reel 2756

NRS-12214 Principal Superintendent of Convicts: Monthly returns of summary trials of convicts before the Bench at Hyde Park Barracks, Aug–Dec 1832, Jan, Mar 1833, Jan, Mar 1835, Jan–Sep, Nov 1836

[X707 pp.136-345] Reel 662

The return for Apr 1833 is in he Mitchell Library ML Uncat. Mss 508.

NRS 12874 Quarter Sessions: Copies of letters sent by Magistrates, Hyde Park Barracks, 3 Jul 1830–31 Jan 1848

[2/670; 4/5721] Reels 2650, 2651

The first volume also contains the minutes of the first meeting of the Court.

NRS-13239 Sherriff's records: Index of prisoners sentenced to work in irons tried at Quarter Sessions, the Police Office, and Hyde Park Barracks1840, 1842-1848

[4/6271 part, 4/6273], Reel 708

Minute book, Hyde Park Barracks, 5-30 Sep 1833

Held at Mitchell Library

ML Mss 2481


Hirst, JB. Convict Society and its enemies, George Allen and Unwin Australia Pty Ltd, North Sydney, 1986

Shaw, ABL, Convicts and the Colonies, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1981