Hyde Park Barracks Museum
At first glance, it’s hard to believe this handsome Georgian style building (considered to be one of the finest works of convict architect Francis Greenway) was once so a place of fear and foreboding. Yet between 1819 and 1848, some 50,000 men and boys passed through the walls of these barracks, all of them convicts shipped over from the other side of the world.
The barracks provided lodgings for more than 600 men at a time, crammed into tiny rooms and ever fearful of punishments such as solitary confinement, shackles and floggings, which were held in the yard behind the barracks’ rear wall.
Later, the barracks were repurposed as an immigration depot for Irish orphan girls fleeing the Great Famine, and later, a women’s asylum and a law court.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage listed building, considered one of the most important Colonial convict sites in the world, has been converted into a thoroughly engaging museum, telling the fascinating, and often moving stories of the men and women who lived between its walls.
The ground floor exhibits trace the history of the barracks through visual displays and artefacts, including the personal belongings of residents.
The re-created inmates’ quarters on the upper level invite you to experience a taste of convict life. Lie down on a hammock in one of the atmosphere-filled rooms or even try on a set of leg-irons. A computer database lets you follow the official records of convicts and piece together their stories, from their crimes through to the punishments they endured to their moment of freedom.