Posts tagged Sydney sandstone historic buildings
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

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?

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!