Australia in the 1810s

Public works

Upon his arrival in the colony, Governor Lachlan Macquarie found many of the public buildings of Sydney in poor condition. Believing that a 'civilised' town needed impressive buildings he launched an extensive plan to construct hospitals, churches, schools, military and convict barracks and well-laid out streets. He was sometimes referred to as 'Macquarie the builder'.

In order to improve the quality of the constructions Macquarie employed the convict architect Francis Greenway to design and supervise the buildings. Hyde Park Barracks was constructed in 1819 to house 600 convicts. It was the first purpose-built accommodation for convicts and marked a change in the living and work conditions and pattern of daily life for male convicts. Before this building was erected, male convicts found their own accommodation at night after working for the government during the day. They paid for their accommodation through the private work they were allowed to undertake after they had completed their day's work. Convicts now returned each night to the barracks, which meant the soldiers had more control over them. The barracks had a large clock on its western facade, one of the earliest public clocks or timepieces in the colony.

Other important buildings constructed by Macquarie were St James' Church, the Sydney General or 'Rum' hospital, the lighthouse on South Head, the Supreme Court in Sydney, new army barracks in both Sydney and Van Diemen's Land, the Parramatta Female Factory and St Matthew's Church in Windsor. 

Macquarie established five new towns along the Hawkesbury River, including Windsor and Richmond. These towns were to have a church, school, military establishment and a courthouse, and properly paved streets with footpaths on each side. He had to defend the construction of the Sydney to Windsor road to the Colonial Office as they were less concerned with expansion than he. Macquarie also sought approval to continue building permanent roads between inhabited towns and for the construction of streets, bridges and wharves.

In 1810 Macquarie ordered the establishment of Australia's first post office, and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney in 1810.

In 1814 William Cox, an extraordinary engineer, assembled a team of 30 convicts and eight guards to build a road across the Blue Mountains. Starting at Emu Plains, it took just four months for the team to complete the road, which covered a distance of 105 kilometres to Mount York. Within six months, Cox had crossed the Blue Mountains and built a road of 220 kilometres extending to Bathurst. It was called the Bathurst Road.

Public Works_1810

A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.


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