In 1848 Hyde Park Barracks was transformed from being a convict dormitory to housing Sydney’s female Immigration Depot, which was much needed due to the increasing numbers of free immigrants arriving in the colony. The building was designed for Governor Macquarie by Francis Greenway (1777-1837), an architect who had been a convict himself, in 1819, and is considered one of Sydney’s finest buildings. For 38 years it provided temporary shelter and a safe haven for an estimated 40,000 immigrant women, some accompanied by their children. Many were Irish immigrants and workhouse girls fleeing the famine. By day the women waited to be collected by friends or family or to be employed from the hiring room on the ground floor. At night they slept on simple iron beds in dormitories, having left their homelands to seek new opportunities in Australia.
In this display, a handful of individual stories of the immigrant women were pieced together from official records, family research, oral histories, photographs and archaeological artefacts. Simple iron beds are also on display, which set the scene of the dormitories where the women once stayed, while wooden trunks contain selected personal stories and remnants of precious or mundane items the women left behind at the depot.
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