Once a Gaol

Sydney Nimble recently had the pleasure of going on someone else’s tour. Our guide Tom took us around the National Art School, which was formerly the Darlinghurst Gaol.

The buildings in the National Art School represent one of the most formidable collections of sandstone colonial architecture in Australia.

For those of us who like colonial architecture they are right up there - well preserved and swirling with stories.

The Darlinghurst Gaol specialised in accommodating bushrangers, rapists and murderers. It operated from 1841 until 1914.

76 people were hanged in the Darlinghurst gaol, and Sydney’s most notorious 19th and early 20th century criminals were provided with either short or long term accommodation: Captain Moonlight; Jimmy Governor (aka Jimmy Blacksmith) and the Rennie boys.

Famous Australian poet, Henry Lawson, did some time for failing to pay alimony and child desertion. Henry used the time well writing a number of poems.

The tour focused on the history of the buildings when they were used as a gaol.

D Block housed women prisoners and in one corner of this building plug marks can be seen on the wall where a padded cell was kept for more difficult customers.

D Block was connected to the prison chapel by a walkway as those in charge were uncomfortable with the idea of female prisoners venturing onto the general grounds of the gaol.

Probably a good idea in view of a number of rapists residing in the vicinity.

D Block was used as a theatre and for other events from late 1950s through to the 1970s. Catherine Hepburn and Robert Helpmann visited D Block in 1955 to assist in promoting the theatre whilst it was being restored.

The prison’s chapel has a cupola, which is a small structure placed on the dome or roof of a building. Cupola’s are used to provide light and or ventilation. Two photographs below show the chapel’s cupola from inside as you look up from the floor and from the exterior.

The sandstone for the prison walls was cut and hewn by convicts working in a chain gang at nearby quarries. Each sandstone block was marked so that a tally could be kept and the first photo below shows these markings.

The sixth photo shows D Block, which was comprised of three levels when the gaol operated. If you look behind the projector the markings can be seen where the stairs used to be located.

We highly recommend Tom’s tour, which can be booked through the National Art School’s website.

The Darlinghurst Gaol was a cruel place and tormented those persons that were incarcerated here.

Nevertheless stories about the prisoners, jail conditions, executions, and the public’s reactions to the gaol are fascinating.

markings identified the prisoner who worked on the sandstone block

markings identified the prisoner who worked on the sandstone block

The chapel and cupola topped with a weather vane

The chapel and cupola topped with a weather vane

the dark side of the cupola

the dark side of the cupola

not a metaphor - a real ball and chain

not a metaphor - a real ball and chain

Tour leader and sculpture, Tom, with a display of local historic tools.

Tour leader and sculpture, Tom, with a display of local historic tools.

dreaded D Block

dreaded D Block

Ring the bell

Bells Line of Road

The majority of people visiting the Blue Mountains from Sydney will travel on the Great Western Highway. The road less travelled to the Blue Mountains is the Bells Line of Road. This name was derived from the efforts of Archibald Bell jnr, who in 1823, with the help of local Aboriginal guides marked out the route of this road.

The Bells Line of Road provides access to some great lookouts, walks and gardens.

The gardens

One of these gardens is the Royal Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah, which sits 1000 metres above sea level and features over 5000 species of cool climate plants. Cool climate vegetation from Africa, South America, Asia and Europe can be found here.

The Mt Tomah garden has one of the best collections of advanced Wollemi pines, which is not unexpected as these trees were found (1994) in the nearby Wollemi National Park.

Another much smaller garden, Windyridge Garden, is located further west in the historic village of Mt Wilson, and has many wonderful trees, shrubs, ponds, waterfalls and sculptures. Full credit to the owners, Wai and Rodger Davidson.

The amount of work maintaining a garden of this nature is not to be underestimated. The garden is not only beautiful but has a calming tranquillity. It is one of the highlights of the day.

The lookouts

There are many lookouts on the drive along Bells Line of Road. Some are marked, while some are not so well marked, or not marked at all. Walls lookout is very impressive and the walking time is around 30 minutes each way.

Scribbly Gum trees

On the way to a lookout you may come across a Scribbly Gum. Scribbly Gums are a variety of Australian Eucalyptus trees which play host to the larvae of the Scribbly Gum Moth.

Scribbly Gum Moths lay their eggs in Autumn and the larvae develop in the bark throughout winter. The scribble patterns are caused by the boring and eating process. Initially the larvae bore through the bark creating irregular loop tunnels, followed by zig zag loops.

Scar tissue forms and the tunnel is filled with highly nutritious thin walled cells. The larvae then eats its way back along the same path it created. When it leaves the bark cracks off leaving the scribble patterns underneath.

A fascinating process!

Protea perfection in Mt Tomah Botanical Garden

Protea perfection in Mt Tomah Botanical Garden

Oh great wall of sandstone

Oh great wall of sandstone

no key required for this Windyridge pond

no key required for this Windyridge pond

primary school vandals?

primary school vandals?

Would you like a lichen covered chair with your coffee?

Would you like a lichen covered chair with your coffee?

Antiquities and Lego

It is not every day that you come across a museum that has antiquities and a lego display. The Nicholson Museum at Sydney University however has just that.

The Museum came into being in 1865 when the second chancellor of Sydney University, Sir Charles Nicholson, donated his private collection of antiquities.

Hundreds of Greek, Roman, Southern Italian and Etruscan antiquities were acquired by the chancellor in the course of several trips to Europe in the late 1850s.

The museum has since grown in size and has the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere (approximately 30 000 artefacts).

It also has an ongoing exhibition of a reconstructed pre-catastrophe Pompeii, made out of Lego.

There is a dedicated room titled ‘Death Magic’ which includes the mummy of a six year old boy and two Egyptian coffins.

The museum is open on week days, and the first Saturday of the month. Entry is free!

Don’t expect to see a massive museum. It is a small museum that has an interesting collection, particularly if you like ancient history and or lego.

A visit to the Nicholson Museum complements a visit to Sydney University’s wonderful historic building, the Quadrangle. We recommend visiting both.

The Chau Chak Wing Museum is currently being constructed and is set to open in 2020. This new museum will include the contents of the Nicholson Museum along with two other museums located at Sydney University.

Sydney Nimble can visit the Nicholson Museum in our bespoke tour or we could adjust the itinerary of one of the other tours to include the museum.

not your average display title.

not your average display title.

where’s mummy

where’s mummy

Pompeii in Lego, before the big one

Pompeii in Lego, before the big one

needs some work on the teeth

needs some work on the teeth

It's all go at Symbio

Sydney Nimble visited the Symbio Wildlife Park (Symbio), with three clients yesterday. The name Symbio is a shortened version of the word symbiosis. Symbiosis is a relationship between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

Symbio is a well run wildlife park and has a good mix of native and non native animals. The native animals include: kangaroos and wallabies, dingoes, echidnas (including an albino echidna), koalas, cassowaries, emus, wombats, goannas, Tasmanian Devils, and a variety of birds and reptiles.

When we parked at Symbio’s outside car park sulphur crested cockatoos were flying overhead and screeching loudly.

At certain times during the day there are presentations where a representative of the zoo talks about a particular animal. Koalas sleep a lot so feeding the koalas at presentation time brings these marsupials out of their slumber. Zoo staff advise that they get quite active at night. Unfortunately the zoo is not open!

Our small group also enjoyed the kangaroos and wallabies, which are remarkably tame and had no trouble with our presence. These guys are very relaxed.

The red pandas are cute and the monkeys (Tamarin and Marmoset monkeys from Central and South America) were not what we expected as they are some of the smallest types found. They looked very different to your typical monkey.

We give Symbio a big thumbs up.

Symbio is an excellent addition to the Royal National Park Tour. The only problem is deciding which part of the itinerary has to be dropped off to fit in the visit to Symbio.

We recommend allocating at least 90 minutes for a visit to Symbio, but you could easily spend more time here if you wanted to see a few of the animal presentations.

you looking at me - Bush Thick-knee

you looking at me - Bush Thick-knee

I am the king

I am the king

prowling red panda

prowling red panda

I know I heard something

I know I heard something

shivered at vivid

A visit to Taronga Zoo Vivid last night was only for those who had already bought tickets and the ill advised. I’m not sure which group I fit into.

It was seriously cold with occasional drizzle. Still we braved the elements and enjoyed the show. As long as you kept moving and had warm clothing the unusually cold blast currently being experienced in Sydney wasn’t any bother.

The Vivid visual juggernaut is on until 15 June. It is amazing how much the face of a building can change when the Vivid moving animal and scenery show is projected onto the main entrance of Taronga Zoo. The first two photographs below are of the same building.

The range of colours and images are dazzling. The heritage building comes alive with flora and fauna in different coloured themes.

This year the story is about how humans are pressuring the animals on the planet.

One of the lanterns on display depicts a creature that is under serious pressure, the Southern Corroboree frog (last photo). Very few Australians have seen the delightful Corroboree frog in the wild as they exist only in a limited number of alpine locations and are endangered.

Vivid is currently on display at a number of locations in Sydney and the Taronga Zoo lanterns and multi-media projection lightshow is up there with the best of them.

The bilby is a shy nocturnal animal found in Australian deserts.

The bilby is a shy nocturnal animal found in Australian deserts.

see any critters?

see any critters?

damn bugs are everywhere

damn bugs are everywhere

Doesn’t have enough fur

Doesn’t have enough fur

A ribbiting lantern

A ribbiting lantern

Barangaroo Reserve

Barangaroo Reserve

Barangaroo is a 22 hectare inner city suburb of Sydney located on the north west side of Sydney’s CBD.

The suburb is named after an aboriginal woman who had a significant influence in early contact between Aboriginal people and British authorities. She has been described as a powerful woman and was a respected provider of food (fisherwoman). Her second husband was Bennelong. Unfortunately Barangaroo passed away shortly after giving birth to her daughter in 1791.

The adoption of the word Barangaroo as the name of this newly created suburb is yet another example of a distinctive indigenous word adding to the richness of Australia’s vocabulary. Many of Sydney’s place names are derived from Aboriginal words (eg , Bondi, Collaroy, Coogee, Cronulla, Curl Curl, Kirribilli, Maroubra, Narrabeen, Tamarama and Woolloomooloo).

The urban renewal of Barangaroo has been a landmark project in Sydney for well over ten years. The area was formerly docklands and known as the ‘hungry mile’. It was a tough, competitive and sometimes violent place. Workers from the 19th Century until the 1940s were known to walk from wharf to wharf searching for low paid work.

Barangaroo includes a 6 hectare headland park (Barangaroo Reserve) which was completed several years ago.

A significant part of the urban redevelopment in this new suburb has already occurred, however a six star resort and several residential buildings are still at the planning stage or under construction. A metro station is planned for Barangaroo.

The reserve is essentially an artificial hill, but it doesn’t look like one. Its contouring with the harbour, terraced plantings and dimensions generally make it fit in with its surrounds. Clever engineering and earthworks have given it the look of a hill whilst allowing a large void, known as the Cutaway, to exist underneath the parkland above.

The roof of the Cutaway required the fabrication, transportation and installation of massive concrete spans, which underpin thousands of cubic metres of rock, soil, grass and trees.

The Cutaway provides a unique area for events, exhibitions, television shoots, concerts and large gatherings. It is 120 metres long, 45 metres wide and the height of a six storey building. Natural light enters the space through a long vent on its east side.

A large scale planting of native plants, shrubs and trees (75 000 in total) has been undertaken at Barangaroo Reserve and the horticulturalists have largely chosen native flora that existed in the area prior to European settlement.

An incredible amount of sandstone has been used around the foreshore and throughout the reserve, showcasing the attractive look of this beautiful local material.

Barangaroo Reserve is a pleasant green addition to the City of Sydney which will improve over time as the trees increase in size whilst providing a unique multipurpose area that can be used by all Sydneysiders.

Sydney Nimble Tours visits Barangaroo Reserve in the Eastern Suburbs, Woolloomooloo, Barangaroo day out. Our half day Sydney Tour or the bespoke Sydney tour can include a visit to Barangaroo Reserve.

Barangaroo Reserve fits in well with the Rocks and Walsh Bay

Barangaroo Reserve fits in well with the Rocks and Walsh Bay

the three green towers that descend in height are called the International Towers

the three green towers that descend in height are called the International Towers

it came from the purple tent - opening night of Vivid at Barangaroo

it came from the purple tent - opening night of Vivid at Barangaroo

looking west from the Stargazer Lawn at Barangaroo Reserve

looking west from the Stargazer Lawn at Barangaroo Reserve

Remarkable weekend in the Southern Tablelands

This weekend Sydney Nimble went outside of its usual patch and visited the Southern Tablelands.

A group of like minded individuals bonded by their sense of humour and children stayed at a working sheep station, known as Markdale. www.markdale.com/ The patriarch of Markdale, Mark, took the group on an outstanding tour of the sheep shearing shed on the farm.

There was no marking time on this outing and Mark’s explanation of the shearing process and sheep husbandry business generally was refreshing and enlightening for a group of city slickers. There is another world outside of the Sydney bubble.

Markdale has an outstanding garden which includes a small lake with a tiny island and row boat, arched timber bridge, stone retaining walls and an assortment of trees. The garden was designed by acclaimed Australian landscape artist, Edna Walling.

The layout of the trees which include golden elms, aspens, silver birch, and eucalypts frame the garden in a way that allows the delightful heritage homestead to be seen from the surrounding countryside.

The property has significant history with the previous owners (the Ashtons) having held it for four generations.

On the drive to Markdale from Goulburn several places of interest were observed: Pejar Dam, Crookwell Windfarm, and some pretty stone cottages in Binda and beyond. The closeness of the road to the wind turbines provides many vantage points from which to appreciate the massive structure of these winged warriors.

The Crookwell area has plenty of wind and clean air. The shire is known for its fine wool, fat lambs, beef cattle and potato cultivation. The drive to Markdale takes around 3-3.5 hours and this duration excludes it from being within the day tour range of Sydney Nimble Tours.

If you would like to visit the Southern Tablelands we recommend a minimum of three nights, which allows two full days to explore this charming region.

Crookwell windfarm late in the afternoon

Crookwell windfarm late in the afternoon

There’s sheep in them thar hills.

There’s sheep in them thar hills.

they always have to touch

they always have to touch

baa

baa

The Edna Walling Garden at Markdale is one of Australia’s great country gardens.

The Edna Walling Garden at Markdale is one of Australia’s great country gardens.

Balmain and Ballast Point

At times Balmain seems to have no end of small, narrow and windy streets. These streets contain a plentiful supply of heritage architecture, ranging from tiny cottages to grand colonial sandstone homes. It is a colourful suburb that is largely overlooked by visitors to Sydney.

Balmain is located across the water from Barangaroo and can be accessed by ferry or road.

We like Balmain’s history, heritage architecture, harbour panorama and vibrant atmosphere. It’s a nice place to take a stroll.

The East Balmain Wharf at the end of Darling Street and adjacent Illoura Reserve provide spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Barangaroo.

Nearby Fenwick Store was built in the 1880s and used for storage by a local tug boat operator. A first class restoration of this stone heritage building has recently been completed and it will soon commence a new life as a café/gallery.

There are other heritage houses nearby such as Ewenton House and Clontarf House that can be seen whilst walking on the Tom Uren walking route. Have a look at the Balmain Watch House (179 Darling St) which was built from Hawkesbury sandstone in 1854.

In the 19th century Balmain was known for ship building, engineering and boiler making. For a period of time the area even had a coal mine.

Balmain was a working class area. The industrialisation of the suburb resulted in many tiny cottages being built for workers and surprisingly drinking establishments flourished in this environment! Many of these pubs (public houses) still operate in Balmain today and they are great places to visit even if only to admire the architecture.

Balmain began to move away from its working class origins in the 1960s when its industry began to wane and Sydney siders started to appreciate the suburb’s desirability. The Balmain basket weavers, as famously referred to by a former Australian prime minister, began to move into the area. Gentrification and renovations followed bringing back to life many decaying historic homes.

If you have time squeeze in a short walk around Ballast Point Park, which is only a 5 minute drive from the East Balmain Wharf. The park was created in 2009 after an oil refinery was demolished and the land decontaminated.

This urban renewal project has given the community several different recreational areas and provides a great place for a picnic or BBQ on the harbour’s foreshore.

Sydney Nimble Tours would be delighted to take your small group on a walking tour of Balmain and Ballast Point Park https://www.sydneynimbletours.com.au/inner. This activity can form part of our Inner Sydney Tour or added to one of the other days out. We visit Balmain for about two hours.

 

Fenwick Store was in a dilapidated state for many years. The recently completed restoration is a job well done.

Fenwick Store was in a dilapidated state for many years. The recently completed restoration is a job well done.

Ewenton House with exquisite oriel window

Ewenton House with exquisite oriel window

The Exchange Hotel is part of the fabric of Balmain.

The Exchange Hotel is part of the fabric of Balmain.

No this is not a tribute to an Easter Island Moai. The rustic quote at Ballast Point Park reads ‘Stone statues of ancient waves, tongue like dingoes on shore’. These words are taken from a poem (The Death of Isaac Nathan) by recently deceased Australian poet, Les Murray. The font is designed in dots to represent the rivets used on this former industrial site.

No this is not a tribute to an Easter Island Moai. The rustic quote at Ballast Point Park reads ‘Stone statues of ancient waves, tongue like dingoes on shore’. These words are taken from a poem (The Death of Isaac Nathan) by recently deceased Australian poet, Les Murray. The font is designed in dots to represent the rivets used on this former industrial site.

The bright colours of Mort Bay as seen from Ballast Point - Barangaroo and city buildings in the background.

The bright colours of Mort Bay as seen from Ballast Point - Barangaroo and city buildings in the background.

butcher and candlestick maker?

butcher and candlestick maker?

New Inner Sydney Tour

Breaking news: Sydney Nimble Tours announces the addition of a new tour, the Inner Sydney Tour.

Listed below are places that are often missed by visitors to Sydney. They pass our highly discerning ‘great place to visit’ filter:

  • White Rabbit Gallery and neighbouring green building, Central Park

  • Brett Whiteley Studio (Friday to Sunday)

  • Sydney University

  • Short walking tour of Balmain including the wharf area, Fenwick House and the dry dock

  • State Library

  • The Grounds of Alexandria

  • Artisan distillery or microbrewery at or near the end of the day

All of these places are close to the city (within 10-30 minutes).

Why not check some or all of them out?

If you are interested let us know and we will reply with a day plan for your approval.

The minimum time is 4 hours, so pick at least three or four places. If you would like to select most or all of the above places the inner Sydney tour can be made into a longer day trip (6-8 hours). 

Personalise an existing tour

If one or two of the above inner Sydney destinations appeal to you we can include these in any one of our other existing tours (except for the Blue Mountains).

After you have advised which one or two places you would like included and the tour you would like adjusted we will send a revised day plan for your approval.

 

Sorry but Harry Potter was not filmed here - entrance to the Quadrangle at Sydney University

Sorry but Harry Potter was not filmed here - entrance to the Quadrangle at Sydney University

don’t forget your hat, Ewenton House, Balmain

don’t forget your hat, Ewenton House, Balmain

Buildings don’t get any greener than Central Park, Chippendale

Buildings don’t get any greener than Central Park, Chippendale

Sydney Town Hall

As a part of Sydney Nimble’s continuous improvement program several representatives of the company attended a tour of the Sydney Town Hall (STH).

We were fortunate today in that most of the building was accessible. Sometimes areas are off limits if meetings or other events are being held. The STH is a working building.

It is a proud and forthright building constructed from brick and local fine grained yellow sandstone. The land on which it is built was formerly the site of the Sydney Old Buriel Ground (Sydney’s first cemetary). The STH was constructed in stages and officially opened in 1889. It is a mix of architectural styles, incorporating details from different periods and countries.

It has many exquisite features including, large doors and joinery crafted from red cedar, marble tiles and mosaics, two large triptych stained-glass windows, etched glass windows, tiled daddo panels, intricate plaster work, metal pressed ceilings and a 9000 pipe grand organ.

The vestibule to the main hall is exceptional. Its ceiling comes with altitude and is decorated in High Victorian style. The elliptical dome in the centre of the ceiling contains no less than 12 panels of curved stained glass. Each panel represents an allegorical virtue (eight in total) or one of the four elements (earth, wind, air and fire). A large crystal chandelier is suspended beneath the dome.

The main hall can accommodate approximately 2000 people. It has been used for multiple activities ranging from civic and public meetings, concerts, balls, dinners, corporate events and school presentations.

Tours of the STH are conducted by passionate volunteers and are a worthwhile investment of time, particularly if you like heritage buildings and or have an interest in Australian history.

Sydney Nimble Tours can include a visit to the STH in one of our days out but if you are staying in the city it is an activity that you can easily organise on your own. Whilst there don’t miss, if you haven’t already seen it, the Queen Victoria Building across the road.

the vestibule dome is stunning

the vestibule dome is stunning

Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook

The stained glass in this image was made for the centenary of the Colony of New South Wales in 1888. The woman signifies New South Wales.

The stained glass in this image was made for the centenary of the Colony of New South Wales in 1888. The woman signifies New South Wales.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘temple of democracy’ Centennial Hall is a pleasant place to enjoy an event

Sometimes referred to as a ‘temple of democracy’ Centennial Hall is a pleasant place to enjoy an event

Coat of arms from yesteryear - it was thought appropriate at the time for the indigenous gentleman on the left to be clothed in yellow shorts!

Coat of arms from yesteryear - it was thought appropriate at the time for the indigenous gentleman on the left to be clothed in yellow shorts!