Sights of old Sydney 1

1842 sydney12_04 Following the “Looking for Jacob” series, of which this post is an extension, I became curious about some of the places recorded there, or others not far away. The small picture on the right, for example, is Sydney’s Hyde Park in 1842.

The map on the left is from the late 1920s. Hyde Park by then has just been dug up to accommodate the underground railway, and had earlier been split in two by Park Street. The following short history comes from Sydney City Council:

18th Century

The area we now call Hyde Park becomes a place where soldiers can be assembled quickly in case of a convict rebellion. It is probably the site of a bloody battle between Aborigines and Europeans for control of the land around Sydney.


Hyde Park gazetted as a ‘common’ by Governor Macquarie and named after Hyde Park in London.

19th Century

Hyde Park becomes the location of Sydney’s first sports centre and racecourse. Prize fights and cricket matches are held. Gradually the park becomes a place for more passive recreation and it becomes more like an English garden.


Hyde Park is virtually destroyed after being dug up to make Sydney’s underground railway line. As the underground tunnels for the railway were formed by extensive excavations from ground level, much of the vegetation is destroyed. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 May 1929, the southern end of the park, where the ANZAC Memorial now stands was a mountain of excavated soil and the southwest corner had been a railway construction site for more than twelve years.


A competition for a “comprehensive layout and beautification scheme” for the park is won by architect and landscape architect, Norman Weekes. Hyde Park as we know it largely reflects this plan.

So quite a lot has changed or been lost over the years, but it could have been worse. The Demolished Sydney- Gone but not forgotten.. page reminds us that Hyde Park Barracks itself, at the north end of Hyde Park, almost went: narrowly missed demolition in the late 1920s when a proposal to erect a new Anglican cathedral on the site fell from favour. What a loss that would have been! Today, as you will see from the link, Hyde Park Barracks is a living witness to our convict history and a fascinating place to visit.

The south side of Hyde Park is on Liverpool Street. By 1849 when Jacob and his family were most likely* still just down the hill towards Campbell Street or thereabouts, it looked like this:


Those splendid terraces lasted long enough to be photographed.


Lyons Terrace

There’s a fascinating tale behind that too!

* Of course by the 1860s they were in the Picton area, south-west of Sydney. Or some of them were – my direct ancestors certainly. “Public education in Tahmoor commenced in 1872 when local residents petitioned the Council of Education for assistance in the running of a school they had already established in two rooms of Denfield Villa, the home of Mr Ashcraft. The school was established under the name of ‘Bargo’ with an enrolment of 9 boys and eleven girls from the families of John Ashcraft, William Whitfield, Joseph Ratcliff, Angus McInnes, T W Bollard, Jonathan. Wells, Francis Dietrich and William Shoobridge. The first teacher was a Miss Ollis, daughter of the school master at Upper Picton.” — Marlane Fairfax.