“Is sleeping in a hammock nice, mummy?” Miss N asked me one day. You know what, I couldn’t really tell her as I have never actually slept in or even sat in a hammock. With a trip to a tropical island not on the cards anytime soon I decided to investigate a spot where we could try one out that wasn’t in a retail store. A night of trawling the internet and I found the perfect spot!
Hyde Park Barracks is situated within Queens Square on Macquarie Street, Sydney. It has a rich convict history and is one of the most important historical sites in Australia. It was built back in 1819 after being designed by England-born, Australian architect Francis Greenway and was the principal male convict barracks in NSW for many years, later becoming an Immigration Depot, female asylum and then law courts and government offices before transforming into a museum. The museum allows us to see how convicts slept in their quarters just under 200 years ago (in hammocks!!)
Hyde Park Barracks was constructed by convicts from sandstone and is three storeys high with a massive shingled roof. It is quite imposing and totally glorious in construction. If you stop and think about the time in which it was built you will understand how magnificent it truly is – they didn’t have the machinery we do now way back then.
When we went inside we explored. One of the first rooms we visited was incredible. The archeologists have removed newer parts of the building to expose what is underneath. We could see where rats have created mazes in the stone. The rats have stolen many human items over the time the barracks have been occupied and their burrows and nests are littered with artefacts. Fantastic for history!
For a few extra dollars the kids were able to participate in a number of activities including becoming archeologists themselves. Miss N loved sifting through the sand to find pottery and old coins. We learned how to segment the field into smaller parts so you can record each section you are investigating without missing anything.
We then travelled up to the top rooms which would have housed the dormitories. Row after row of hammocks were strung in the rooms. They were close to each other and not particularly long. They are recreated from the dimensions that convicts used. They were either a lot shorter than we are today, or just uncomfortable.
Can you sleep in a hammock? Quite possibly but we did learn that it is not particularly comfortable with your back and bottom quickly becoming a little sore. But it is fun for a few minutes!!
If you wish to visit the museum there is public transport abound. St James station is 5 minutes away. Buses stop right outside! There is no public parking at Hyde Park Barracks Museum. The Domain parking station offers a special discount to visitors and is a 10-minute walk from the Hyde Park Barracks Museum if you must drive. The museum is open daily 10.00 AM – 5.00 PM and costs $20.00 for a family ticket.