Officers' quarters, 1842
The complex was designed by Lieutenant-Colonel George Barney, the man who also built Fort Denison and reconstructed Circular Quay. His main barracks building was constructed in the Regency style from Hawkesbury sandstone, mined locally by convict labour. Since it was only for soldiers, I had expected that the complex would be built without much paying much attention to architectural taste. But it was lovely! Possibly because the first building completed was the Officers' Quarters 1842, the entire complex continued to be very handsomely designed.
Main barrack block 1846 and massive parade ground
Originally occupied by regiments of the British Army, the Main Barrack Block was completed in 1846 and was designed to accommodate 650 soldiers. The bungalow was built in 1847 as the Barrack Master's Residence; a garrison hospital was built in 1845 to accommodate 36 patients; and a bell and clock were added to the building in 1856.
The Paddington complex should have been even more spacious. The 99th Regiment of Foot had originally been stationed in the George's Square Barracks but when the George's Square Barracks were eventually closed, the soldiers were relocated to the new barracks in Paddington. I wish I had a photo of the room interiors; apparently the base-grade soldiers’ quarters were quite cramped.
Durty Nelly’s in Paddington, opened in 1850 for soldiers from the barracks
The establishment of the barracks changed the character of Paddington. Along with the soldiers came their wives and families and shopkeepers. The original 1840s pubs, which saw enormous business opportunities near the barracks, were appropriately called The Rifle Butts and the Cross Guns. Durty Nelly’s is another pub with a history dating back to 1850 when it catered for the Victoria Barracks crowd.
The British troops vacated the site in 1870, yet the Barracks remained the premier military training site for the New South Wales colonial forces until after Federation in 1901. Sydney Daily Photo noted that since Federation, the complex has been home to both Headquarters Land Command and Headquarters Training Command.
I cannot imagine developers trying to pull down the barracks today, but just in case someone thought of it, the entire barracks complex is on the Register of the National Estate.
Queen Victoria Gate in Oxford St
Alas the complex is only open on Sundays, which may not fit into every tourist’s programme. But the museum, which is housed in the former 25-cell prison, is easier to access.
In Brisbane, the first military barracks, guard houses and official quarters were built in 1839. But we cannot see the original barracks because they became the Treasury building. What Your Brisbane: Past and Present blog does show very well is the garrison for troops built on Petrie Terrace: the Victoria Barracks. These Brisbane barracks were built in 1864, based on the architectural plans which came from London, yet they look similar to Sydney's Victoria Barracks built in the early 1840s.
part of Victoria Barracks Brisbane, opened 1864