Museum visits

Scott-Free’s blog
Steve & Chris
Fri 18 Dec 2015 21:53

Friday 18th December


This week we visited five museums – Susannah Place, Justice and Police, Hyde Park Barracks, The Rocks Discovery Museum and of course the Australian Maritime Museum.  We bought Museum Passes as the four it allowed entry to all looked interesting. Some, such as the Australian Maritime Museum, and the Rocks Discovery are free.  We found them all very interesting in their own ways, and learned a lot about the history of Australia from them.


A good place to start seemed to be the Rocks Discovery Museum which is housed in a National Trust restored 1850's sandstone warehouse in Kendall Lane in the heart of The Rocks. The purpose of the museum is to tell the story of The Rocks from pre-European days to the present.  The museum traces the history of the Aboriginal inhabitants who lived along the shores of Sydney Harbour prior to the arrival of the First Fleet right through to the present day.  Much of the history is explained through the display of artefacts dug up during various developments that have been carried out over the centuries in the area. (Photos are from the museum website).


m_RDM_Warrane.jpg                m_RDM_Colony.jpg

Pre 1788 – tools used by the Gadigal people.                                                       1788-1820 – convict-made bricks, pipes and beer bottles.


m_RDM_Port.jpg                m_RDM_transformations.jpg

1820-1900                                                                                                                            1900 to present day.      


Our second museum visit was to Susannah Place Museum, which is actually a terrace of four houses built by Irish immigrants in 1844 on one of the sandstone ledges that gave The Rocks its name.  These ‘two up, two down’ tiny houses with cellars and outhouses in the backyards managed to survive the slum clearance programmes, and remain today to tell the stories of the people who lived there.  The four houses were built and owned by the Rileys, who lived in one and rented out the rest.  It’s not known how Edward Riley could afford to have them built, but there is some speculation about earnings from an illegal still.  The house on one end of the terrace had a shop in its front room.


m_IMG_7288.jpg            m_IMG_7303.jpg

The terrace of four houses was named ‘Susannah Place’ by owner and builder Edward Riley, after his daughter.


m_IMG_7289.jpg                m_IMG_7289 (2).jpg

The name and date of building are recorded on the wall in the middle of the terrace.


m_IMG_7287.jpg                m_PC170582.jpg

The back of some of the houses had wooden extensions, added later.


m_PC170583.jpg                m_PC170584.jpg

These two had brick outhouses added.                                                                  The shop at the end of the terrace.


Photography was not allowed inside the houses, but it was just like stepping back in time in England.


The Justice and Police Museum was originally the Water Police Court and Station(1856/8), and the Police Court (1886), restored to their 1890’s character.  It also had a display of weapons, mugshots of local bad guys (male and female), and a very interesting display of random photographs from the Police files, many of which they had no record of why they were taken.   These gave a really good picture of everyday life in Sydney over the years.  Another exhibit showed the introduction and growth of car use and the development of the road system, traffic control and policing over the years.  The first method of sealing the roads which had become impassable mud baths at times, was by laying hardwood blocks that had been dipped in tar.  This worked well for horseshoes, buggies and cartwheels, but soon wore out with increased use by cars and was replaced by tarmac.


m_IMG_7110.jpg                m_PC120489.jpg

Judge Steve presiding...                                                                                                                “Not guilty, yer ‘onour”.


m_PC120490.jpg                m_PC170580.jpg

Early radar speed trap.                                                                                                  A re-constructed wood block road surface on George Street.


Hyde Park Barracks Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was opened in 1819 and was the first convict barracks in the colony.  An estimated 50,000 convicts passed through its gates  between 1819 and 1848.  It then became an immigration depot, an asylum for destitute women and eventually courts and government offices.  During the convict period, the inmates would go out each day in gangs to work at various sites around Sydney, and by night they slept in dormitories lined with canvas hammocks.  It was designed to house 600 men, but there were times when as many as 1400 lived there.


m_PC200614.jpg            m_PC200616.jpg

The front entrance to the barracks...                                       ...and the side and courtyard.


m_PC200594.jpg           m_PC200595.jpg

A painting inside the museum depicting the barracks in convict days.      Bright clothing to identify persistent offenders.


m_IMG_7354.jpg                m_PC200612.jpg

Old signage to the “Master of Lunacy’s Office”.                                                 Quite comfy, but turning over would be tricky!


m_PC200615.jpg           m_PC200609.jpg                                               

The oldest continuously-working public clock in Australia.                             Its internal workings – it needs regular winding.               


Our final visit was to the Maritime Museum.  This consists of a main building housing the exhibitions, and a variety of vessels afloat in the harbour just outside.   We were pleased to find that HMB Endeavour, a replica of Cook’s ship, was in port, and made that our first visit.  HMS Endeavour, also known as HM Bark Endeavour, was a British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand, from 1769 to 1771.


m_IMG_7142.jpg           m_IMG_7144.jpg

Replica HM Bark Endeavour.                                                                                       No colours on these ropes to identify which is which!


m_IMG_7147.jpg                 m_IMG_7145.jpg

The hand-turned windlass is enormous!                                                                The “head” (toilet) sticks out over the front (or head) of the ship.


m_PC280731.jpg           m_PC280734.jpg

No autohelm at this wheel.                                                                                         Drinking water or rum rations?


Below decks it was necessary to bend almost double in some parts of the ship.  This was because the Endeavour was actually built as a collier ship, and spent the first part of its life carrying huge cargoes of coal.  When it was converted for use on Cook’s first voyage of discovery, an extra deck was added to accommodate the sixty or so extra crew, resulting in limited headroom.  People were shorter in those days, but not that short!  It must have been very uncomfortable living and moving around down there.


m_PC280723.jpg                m_PC280730.jpg

The mess hall – normal headroom here.                                                                                James Cook’s cabin.


In the Great Cabin aft, on the sternpost between the windows is a brass ring which encircles the last wooden nail, or trunnel, hammered into the ship. It was carried into space by NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour on its maiden flight in 1992.



The wooden nail that went up in the sailing ship’s namesake spaceship.


We also took tours of HMAS Onslow, an Oberon class submarine and HMAS Advance, an Attack class patrol boat, and Steve toured HMAS Vampire, a Daring class destroyer, but by this time I was all shipped out and went for a coffee at the cafe overlooking the harbour. 


m_PC280737.jpg                m_PC280717.jpg

The patrol boat, still in commission, in front of the destroyer.                      The guide explains that this gun only fires flares.


m_PC280720.jpg                m_IMG_7743.jpg

This Bofors gun on the bow used to fire more than flares.                             A 1960’s depth sounder.


The vessels done, we turned our attention to lunch, and then to the exhibits in the main museum, the best of which was one dedicated to Shackleton’s unsuccessful attempt to cross Antarctica.  Frank Hurley, the official photographer for the expedition, was from Sydney and much of his work was on show.


A very educational week!