MACQUARIE PLACE is indeed what the above title implies.
Yes this historic little triangle of green just up from Circular Quay is all that is left, just a little part of the Gardens of the Governor of the Colony. Then, the visionary Governor (imho) Lachlan Macquarie gazetted it as public land.
Now the beauty (both literally & metaphorically speaking) is that you can enjoy all this in the space of about 15 minutes. But, even better you can enjoy a meal at either Obelisk Cafe (see my 7th Restaurant tip) or Bar Macquarie while you enjoy the cool, green of the little park then leisurely explore what I might loosely term as a few little Aussie icons, & believe me we don't have too many of these things to remember/celebrate our early history.
In this little park under the spreading branches of a couple of giant Moreton Bay figs which almost seem to be guarding these things you will find the following:
Most noticeable in the photo (please click & enlarge it) are a cannon & the anchor from HMS Sirius. See my Museum of Sydney must see for more info on this ship. The cannon was first placed ashore during 1788 & first mounted at Dawes Point. Unfortunately Sirius was shipwecked at Norfolk Island. Divers recovered her anchor in 1907. These 2 things are all we have left of this historically important vessel.
Behind these you can see the Obelisk, erected in 1818 at Macquaries instigation. It determined all distances in the still relatively fledgling Colony. It is made of convict hewn sandstone, just as many of the grand sandstone buildings you can find throughout our city were indeed done. There is a bit more, but I think it will have to go in a travelogue.
Being vestiges of the ‘First Fleet’ this anchor and small cannon, in Macquarie Place, hold an important place in the history of European Australia.
By the end of the 18th century, Britain had lost its American colonies and with them markets and resources. At the same time petty crime was on the increase as the Industrial Revolution initially put people out of work – Britain’s prison system could no longer cope.
While trade in the Pacific showed some promise it was the decision to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay that lead to what became known as the First Fleet leaving Portsmouth on 13 May 1787, Australia bound – to the “ends of the Earth.”
The fleet comprised six transport ships carrying convicts, three store ships and two British naval ships – His Majesty’s Ship Sirius and His Majesty’s Armed Tender Supply. This first fleet carried 1480 (mainly convict) men, women and children – mostly of British origin though there were also a few Jewish, African, American and French convicts on board.
HMS Sirius, captained by John Hunter, was the Fleet’s flagship and it was on her that the newly appointed Governor of New South Wales and commander of the fleet, Captain Arthur Phillip, travelled.
Just over six months after departing England, European Australia was established in a simple ceremony at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. Today, the 26th of January is celebrated throughout Australia as Australia Day, though some refer to it is Invasion Day.
Having lead the First Fleet into Sydney Cove, the Sirius and Supply, only a year later, relocated a number of Marines and convicts to Norfolk Island to avert disaster given a growing food shortage in Sydney. The Sirius didn’t return. She was wrecked in storms off Norfolk Island, on 19 March 1790, having just started out for China to secure food and supplies for the fledgling colony. The archaeological remains of the HMS Sirius are the only known remains of a First Fleet vessel.
HMS Sirius had been built in 1780-81 for the East India trade. Then called the Berwick, the ship was purchased by the British Admiralty. In 1786 she was renamed HMS Sirius and recommissioned under Captain Arthur Phillip for his epic run to Australia. The 540 tonne fleet fagship was 30 metres in length, 10 metres wide and its main mast stood 32 metres above the deck. The ship carried 160 men and had a top speed of around 10 knots. She was equipped 10 guns mounted on board though a further 10 were held in storage below deck for her trip to Australia.
While the cannon on display was landed shortly after the foundation of the colony in 1788 the anchor (one of 12 the ship carried) was not recovered from the seas around Norfolk Island for over 100 years. Both relics were put on public display in Macquarie Place in 1907 – where the Union Jack (British flag) was hoisted in 1788.
My final picture attached, a picture by George Raper (1769 – 1797) naval officer and illustrator, is courtesy of the National Gallery of Australia
My next July 2015 Sydney review: Macquarie Place – Walter Renny Drinking Fountain
In January 1788 the First Fleet arrived into Sydney from the UK. It brought with it Australia’s first European, mostly convict, settlers who came ashore here at Macquarie Place, now a little further back from the harbour than it was in 1788, due to land reclamation in the intervening years. It was from here that these early settlers set out to explore and settle Australia so it was rather fitting that distances of places from Sydney be measured from here.
This rather ornate Greek revival style obelisk (Georgian rather than Egyptian) records, in blackened lettering (a technique commonly used on tombstones and monuments in the Georgian period) the distances of various places along the colony’s earliest roads which started from here, the geographic and symbolic centre of the colony of New South Wales and the main town square for Sydney itself.
The Macquarie Obelisk, named after Governor Macquarie like the small park, was designed by Frances Greenway, New South Wales Government Architect and a convict transported for forgery. It was built in 1818 by stonemason, Edward Cureton, assisted by convict labour.
The obelisk’s inscriptions record the extent of the road network in 1818. It is interesting to note the inclusion of Parramatta and Liverpool at 15.5 and 20 miles distance respectively. Both these are now suburbs of Sydney but in 1818 they would have been a days trip from Macquarie Place. Equally interesting is that in 1818 the colony of New South Wales appeared on maps as covering two thirds of the continent (basically everything excluding today’s Western Australia – then New Holland) though it was actually only penetrated by road to a distance of 137 miles – albeit a hundred miles further than when Macquarie became Governor in 1809.
Alas, at least for him, this simple obelisk marked the beginning of the downfall of Governor Macquarie.
His Majesty’s Government in London, aware of Macquarie's plans for a city of grand Georgian buildings, made it known that it was not amused at the Governor’s ‘extravagance’ in erecting this obelisk in what it saw as a penal colony – a mere dumping ground for petty and not so petty criminals and somewhere no-one would want to go of their own free will. Governor Macquarie indignantly defended the expense of the monument as a "little unadorned Obelisk...rendered at a trifling expense, somewhat ornamental to the Town" which in his view did not "merit any censure."
In the end this difference of opinion lead the demise of Governor Macquarie though he did have to tender his resignation three times before it was accepted by his masters in London.
In 1954 Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, recalling this place as the point from which settlers embarked on their exploration of Australia, marked Macquarie Place as the beginning of the Remembrance Driveway, a road linking Sydney and the capital, Canberra - not by an inscription of the obelisk but rather by the planting of two (now massive) plane trees in the park.
My next July 2015 Sydney review: Vestiges of the First Fleet
Set back a couple of hundred metres from Circular Quay, Macquarie Place is a delightful little oasis right in the centre of Sydney's central business district and is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Circular Quay and the Harbour, especially on a hot summer day.
Sydney’s original town square, it became Australia’s first public park established by the then Governor of New South Wales, Major-General Lachlan Macquarie in 1818. The Governor had a vested interest in setting aside this small triangular area (which was a bit larger when originally set up than it is today) as it kept lesser mortals from polluting the grounds of Government House which was adjacent to the new park. The Governor had grand visions for Sydney and Australia and ex convicts wandering around the lawns of Government House was not part of his plans.
While it no longer backs onto Government House (since moved) a sufficient number of classical Victorian sandstone buildings still surround it, such that it retains a tasteful and interesting backdrop, notwithstanding the more recent intrusion of a few commercial conglomerates with their ugly, high-rise, glass-faced edifices.
Macquarie Place is of great historic importance to the city of Sydney and the State of New South Wales and symbolises the place where Eora Aboriginal people first met with British settlers in 1788.
These settlers (mainly transported convicts from Britain) – the First Fleet – arrived into Sydney Cove (present day Circular Quay) and made ground at this point in 1788. It here that the Union Jack was raised and New South Wales proclaimed for His Majesty King George III. I should point out that the land on which the park is situated abutted the water’s edge in 1788 and land reclamation since has ‘pushed’ it back to its current location, a couple of hundred metres from the water’s edge.
Today, in addition to being a wonderful shaded escape with its large Morten Bay figs and two large plane trees, the latter planted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1954 to mark the start of the Bicentennial Drive (a road linking Sydney to Canberra), the park is akin to small outdoor museum wherein you can trace the development of Sydney since its colonial foundation.
Here you will find the following on which I have written separate reviews:
The Macquarie Obelsik (marking the point from which distances from Sydney were measured for nearly 200 years)
The HMS Sirius anchor and cannon (The Sirius was the leading ship of the First Fleet)
A Walter Renny Drinking Fountain
Additionally in Macquarie Place you will also come across one of Sydney’s earliest (1907) underground public toilets and a fine example of Edwardian civic design; sadly now mothballed. Yes, Dear Reader, rather than demolish it, the toilet was filled in with sand such that one day it can be restored as an important historical relic or, indeed, reinstated as a toilet though, as was the fashion of the day, it was a male only facility. Do have a look at another of my Sydney reviews for a little more information on early public toilets in Sydney and details on the city’s last remaining Victorian pissoir. Riveting stuff!
The business and financial history of the area is represented by an 1887 statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (overlooking Bridge Street), an eminent businessman, horticulturist, wool baron and frozen meat entrepreneur who emigrated to Australia in 1838. This statue replaced an 1820s public drinking fountain.
Also look out for the memorial gate pillars facing Bridge Street and the Department of Lands Building which commemorates Walter Penny a former Mayor of Sydney and a small fountain and pond commemorating Australian sculptor, Lieutenant John Christie Wright, who was killed at Bullecourt (France) in 1917, during World War 1.
The park is a popular lunch spot for local business people, so why not pull yourself away from the harbour, grab yourself a sandwich and join them. There are lots of nice cafes, food outlets and a McDonalds (!) in the area, though some are closed at weekends when office workers join visitors on the harbour.
My next July 2015 Sydney review: Macquarie Obelisk
In 1857 Sydney acquired a small number of these ornate cast iron drinking fountains from Macfarlane & Co, a prominent Scottish iron foundry.
On the face of the fountain (which, as you see, lacks the water faucet), in picture 1, is the narration “Keep the Pavement Dry” – was this an admonition for sloppy drinkers? On the other side the drinker is reminded that "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (a quote from Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John – Chap 3, verses 13-14).
Another one of these fountains, again without it original water faucet, can be seen at Oxford Square, along Oxford Street. Do pardon the similarity between the two reviews.
The Sydney fountains are of the same design as those acquired around the same time, from the same foundry, by Melbourne and Adelaide. You can find out a little more about one in Port Adelaide by looking at my Port Adelaide tip Water for the Port – Formby Memorial Fountain.
My next July 2015 Sydney review: Forgotten Songs
Macquarie's Obelisk is a sandstone obelisk that stands in Macquarie Place. This stone obeslisk Obelisk, marks the oldest milestone for measuring roads. The stone has seen better days and I wish they would clean it up a bit, it looks so dingy and sad.
The inscription reads:
This Obelisk was erected in Macquarie Place A.D. 1818
To record that all thePublic Roads
Leading to the interior of the Colony are measured from it.
L. Macquarie Esq Governor
Distance from Sydneyto Bathurst } 157m
From Sydney to Windsor 35 D
to Paramatta 15 1/2
to Liverpool 20
to Macquarie Tower
at the south head } 7
To the North Head
of Botany Bay } 14
The To Sail to Stop sculpture is located by Town Hall and was featured in the Amazing Race. The sculpture was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 and was donated by the Chinese Community to the city of Sydney. The sculpture, a large anchor, represents the many people who sailed to Sydney and made the city their new home and life.
Forming the easterly boundary of the CBD, Macquarie Street connects Circular Quays/Sydney Opera House with Hyde Park. It is lined with grand public buildings - along this stretch, initiated in the early part oof the 19th century, were the first buildings constructed with any concept of permanence. Thus, early public buildings to survive redevelopment of the city include the Sydney Hospital, State Parliament, Hyde Park Barracks (now a museum), the Sydney Mint, the State Library (although the major part of the Library on Macquarie Street is a modern extension) and The Treasury (now incorporated into the InterContinental Hotel). It's a grand street and invariably will form part of any exploration of central Sydney.
Sydney's greatest concentration of early public buildings are straddled or near to famous Macquarie St. The best for both looks and visitng reasons is the elegant, two-storey Parliament House. You will also find the Sydney Hospital, the Mint Building, the exquisite Hyde Park Barracks, St James Church and the voluminous State Library. You can take tours of both the Parliament House and the Hospital, while the Barracks and Mint Buildings are both museums. Macquarie St runs from Hyde Park to Circular Quay and is on the border of the central business district.