Building the colony | State Library of New South Wales

Building the Colony Building the Colony

On his arrival in 1810 Macquarie found many of Sydney’s public buildings dilapidated and decaying. Within months he had ordered a new army barracks to be built to be followed by a general hospital. It was the beginning of a vigorous and far-sighted public works program which would give the colony 265 new buildings and a network of roads and bridges. He believed that fine new buildings and properly laid out streets would not only adorn the colony but also promote social order and morality.

Macquarie’s Built Legacy

Macquarie’s public works were a visible sign of the colony’s progress and growing prosperity – they transformed the architecture of New South Wales. However, their expense and magnitude attracted censure from the Colonial Office which wanted only plain, functional, inexpensive buildings fitting for a penal settlement.

‘I am sorry to inform your Lordship that I shall be under the necessity of putting the Crown to a very considerable expense in the erection of barracks and other essentially necessary Public Buildings.’
Lachlan Macquarie, 1810

Architect Francis Greenway

In carrying out his program. Macquarie appointed the talented, but irascible, convict Francis Greenway as civil architect and assistant engineer. Greenway arrived in Sydney in 1814, having been sentenced to 14 years transportation for forgery. A trained architect, he was permitted to set up his own practice. In 1815 he received a ticket-of-leave and began to advise Macquarie on his public works.

Greenway went on to design some of Australia’s finest colonial buildings. In 1817 he was granted a conditional pardon, which was made absolute two years later. Temperamental and tactless, he fell out with Macquarie in 1819. Greenway was dismissed by Governor Brisbane in 1822 but continued to work in private practice.

Lachlan Macquarie. Extract from Dispatch to Lord Liverpool, 17 November 1812 (Historical Records of Australia)

Macquarie responds to criticism of the road he has built from Sydney to Windsor.

File size: 1.37 MB | Duration: 00:02:26

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