Posts in Inner Sydney Tour
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

chapel and cupola topped with a weather vane

chapel and cupola topped with a weather vane

the dark side of the cupola

the dark side of the cupola

not a metaphor - real ball and chain

not a metaphor - real ball and chain

Tom with a display of local historic tools.

Tom with a display of local historic tools.

dreaded D Block

dreaded D Block

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.

The Nicholson Museum can be inlcuded in our Sydney 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

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