Monday, 27 July 2009

Parliament House - The Rum Hospital

This week I'm going to show you over the seat of Government in New South Wales - Parliament House in Macquarie Street.

The colonnaded central part of Parliament House, facing Macquarie Street was completed in 1816 as part of Governor Macquarie's "Rum Hospital". Upon his arrival in the Colony of NSW at the end of 1810, Macquarie discovered that the town's hospital was an affair of tents and temporary buildings established along what is now George Street in the Rocks area when the First Fleet arrived in 1788.

Macquarie (that's him below) set aside land on the western edge of the Governor's domain for a new hospital and created a new road - Macquarie Street - to provide access to it. Plans were drawn up but the British Government refused to provide funds to build the hospital. Consequently, Macquarie entered into a contract with a consortium of businessmen to erect the new hospital. They were to receive convict labour and supplies and a monopoly on rum imports from which they expected to recoup the cost of the building and gain considerable profits. The contract allowed them to import 45,000 (later increased to 60,000) gallons of rum to sell to the thirsty colonists. In the event, the hospital did not turn out to be very profitable for the contractors.

The new hospital had a large central building, which was the main hospital, and two smaller wings which were quarters for the surgeons. The central building was replaced in 1894 by the present Macquarie Street buildings of Sydney Hospital, but the smaller wings remain. The former Mint, next to the Hyde Park Barracks, was originally the quarters for the Assistant Surgeon as well as a storage facility, and the northern wing, built for the Principal Surgeon, remains today as the colonnaded facade of Parliament House.


Julie said...

I have walked around that collection of buildings in the centre of Macquarie street but not had a tour over Parliament House. Must rectify that.

Governor Macquarie had a massive impact on the shape of our city.

J Bar said...

Great shots Ann. Looking forward to seeing more.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Dina said...

What a history! Funny about the rum.
Next visit I will have to go in there and visit. Thanks for the eye-openers.