Halls of justice | State Library of New South Wales

Halls of justice

With a rapidly increasing population and the resulting increase in criminal activities as well as civil offences, purpose built public buildings were required for the administration of law throughout the colony.

One of the earliest buildings, Hyde Park Barracks, was built between 1817 and 1819 and is a fine example of the work of colonial architect Francis Greenway. As the principal male convict barracks in New South Wales it provided lodgings for convicts working in government employment around Sydney until its closure in 1848.

Darlinghurst Gaol is the oldest surviving large gaol complex in Australia. Construction commenced under the direction of Francis Greenway in 1821 (his outer walls almost seven metres high still remain). In 1835 Mortimer Lewis rejected Greenway's plans and work resumed according to a new plan of his own. It consisted of a central roundhouse from which various long cell block wings radiated, with staff quarters, morgue, Governor's residence, workshops and other buildings situated around the perimeter.

Get the latest Flash player to view this interactive content.

Get Adobe Flash player


The Police Office and Court adjoined the Sydney Markets in the block between George, York, Druitt and Market Streets. In 1861, magistrates complained that the noise of drays in York Street was so great they couldn't hear themselves pass sentence, let alone hear evidence.

The imposing Supreme Court House in Darlinghurst was designed by the Government Architect, Mortimer Lewis in the late 1830s and its severely classical form was much admired: Louisa Anne Meredith thought it the only 'architectural' building in Sydney, while James Maclehose considered it representative of the 'cottages, villas, and even mansions, partaking of a grandeur of character which could not have been contemplated in the early history of the colony [but which] are now to be seen in almost every direction...'