Queens SquareLocation: Macquarie Street, Sydney Central Business District
Queens Square is a small section of Macquarie Street that was originall intended to be the civic square of the City of Sydney. Over the years the city has outgrown its "civic square", but the story of this little corner of colonial Sydney today encapsulates the story of Sydney itself on its journey from colonial convict outpost to a leading city of the British Commonwealth.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie's arrival in Sydney in 1810 marked a turning point for Sydney in which it began to leave behind its penal colony past and look towards its future as a world city. Macquarie had a clear vision for Sydney's future and wasted no time in making it a reality. He began by re-organising Sydney's streets , which were a maze of ill-defined paths where he arrived, but clearly defined and with a degree of order when he left. In 1788, the first year of the colony, there were just over 1,100 people living on Sydney Cove, and the first Governor, Arthur Phillip, believed one street back from the harbour-front was appropriate for the centre of town. By the time Macquarie arrived 22 years later, the population was estimated to be 11,773 and only a small number of townsfolk lived around the harbour.
Macquarie quickly realised that the town he believed Sydney would become needed a civic centre like all the great cities of Britain and Europe had. Not forgetting that Sydney had its roots on the shores of Sydney Cove, Macquarie acknowledged this by making the site of Governor Phillip's administrative headquarters (today's Macquarie Place) the point from which all distances within the colony of New South Wales - and ultimately the whole of Australia - would be measured. But being the forward thinker he was, Macquarie was not content to re-position the centre of Sydney to where it was when he arrived. He looked further south, to what then were the southern fringes of the settlement, and established it there. Today, in spite of two centuries of growth, the centre of Sydney is still considered to be where Macquarie placed it, and that is what we now call Queens Square. It never became the impressive town square he had envisaged, but it did become - and remains - the heart of the City of Sydney.
Following the British pattern of town planning, he established a town common (Hyde Park), with all the key civic elements placed around it. By the end of his tenure, his town centre was in place, though not all the elements were finished. He had laid the foundation stone for an Anglican cathedral opposite the common (the site was later used for St Mary's Cathedral); the Rum Hospital was built on Macquarie Street (part of it later became the seat of Government for New South Wales, something he would have been pleased about); the town school was finished, though the powers-that-be changed it mid-way through construction into a church; the courthouse was in the process of being built behind it, and across the road on a common axis with them both was the barracks that housed the colony's convict workforce, Hyde Park Barracks. Government House, still to be constructed, was allocated a site further along Macquarie Street that was close enough to be considered close, but not too close that it dominated the town, or robbed the Governors of his little privacy and a little aloofness.
In spite of all the elements in Macquarie's dream for a town square - orcircus as Macquarie would have called it - being in place, why does Queens Square fall well short of Macquarie's dream for it? For starters, someone built a semi circular road around the northern perimeter of Hyde Park, which detracts from the notion that the centre of its arc is the centre of town. Also, after Macquarie left, no one stuck with his vision for the place to ensure it all followed the plan and came to pass. Some, like Governor Ralph Darling, tried to undo all the good work Macquarie did by attempting to drag Sydney back into being a colonial prison, rather than an emerging city. During the post-Darling era, New South Wales experienced the heady days of the goldrush and post-goldrush eras when their was money to burn and private enterprise practically built what it wanted where it wanted, and it was at that time that Kings Square - renamed Queens Square, when Queen Victoria came to the throne - began to take on the form it takes today.
Its proximity to the Supreme Court in King Street has made the area around Queens Square the legal centre of Sydney. In years gone by Macquarie street was lined with the high class homes of Sydney's professions, predominant among them being the lawyers who worked in the law courts of King Street, and the doctors who place of employment was the Sydney Hospital in Macquarie Street. Today most barristers keep chambers in Phillip Street and around the Law Courts.
The statue of the beloved Queen Victoria that gave the square its present name was unveiled by the Governor's wife Lady Carrington on 24th January 1888. It stood right where the people of her day would have wanted it to be, right in the middle of the circle. But within six years, trams were introduced to Macquarie Street and the statue was circled by tram tracks laid for the new Darling Harbour to Edgecliff service. Later, covered waiting sheds were being built in a semi-circle around Queen Victoria for the electric trams which took over in 1905. The tram tracks (and the statue of Queen Victoria) stayed until 1960 when buses replaced trams and the tracks were pulled up. With the tram circle gone and motor traffic increasing year by year, suddenly Queen Victoria was in the way.
Queens Square, 1960
The completion of the new Law Courts in 1977 was just the excuse the authorities needed to move the statue out of the way. She and her pedestal were moved to a spot outside the new Law Courts building. Ten years later, the council dug up the pavement again and placed Queen Victoria back where she was previously. Unfortunately the road had been narrowed considerably, and where she was previously was now kerbside. The statue of her beloved consort, Prince Albert, still looks across the square towards her from the opposite corner. Sadly, Queens Square is today just another intersection in the central business district, with most who drive through it oblivious to its historical significance.
The work of British sculptor JEH Boehm, this statue, which is one of two of Queen Victoria in Sydney, stood in the centre of Queens Square when it was unveiled but six years later the statue ended up in the middle of a tram loop and stayed there until 1977 when the Law Courts were built. The bronze statue is mounted on a plinth of Moruya granite.
Sounding very much like a street you are likely to stumble across in London, St James Road defines the northern boundary. St James Road is named because of its proximity to St James Church, as is nearby St James railway station. The road's semi circular shape around the northern end of Hyde Park was formed long before the road itself came into existence. It is a carry-over from the days when that end of Hyde Park was Sydney's first horseracing track, one of the first things instigated by Governor Lachlan Macquarie not long after his arrival in Sydney to take up the governorship of the colony in 1810. St James Road follows the curve of the racing track, and is the only remaining evidence of Hyde Park's original use.
Forming the eastern half of the semi-circle of road at the northern end of Hyde Park, Prince Albert Road serves no particular purpose than to provide balance and contrast to St James Road. Its name seems appropriate, given that it honours Albert the Good, Consort and husband of Queen Victoria, who many believe served no particular regal purpose than to provide balance and contrast to Queen Victoria. The connection between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert accounts for the naming of Prince Albert Road, given its relationship with Queens Square. Albert the Good was the German born Prince Consort, the husband of Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria is thought to have given him his title because he was German and not English, so their would have been some concern over the Queen marrying a foreigner. The title would have been part of Royal propaganda to winning the people around with the assurance that he was real a good fellow.
Prince Albert never visited Australia and was little known in this country except for his straight-laced moral attitude, his devotion to his wife and her deep love for him. He was the mastermind of the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 which triggered a succession of imitative expositions around the British Empire including one in Sydney and another in Melbourne. He contracted typhoid fever and died shortly before Christmas 1861. Prince Albert's death devastated Queen Victoria who suffered a nervous breakdown. For the rest of her life she slept with a photo taken of him as he lay dead above her head and had his clothes laid out on the bed and the basin in his room filled with fresh water every day until her death.
A delightful building that was purpose designed for the newly created Office of Registrar. The duties of the office were originally concerned with the important job of the registration of land titles. To this was added the registration of births, marriages and deaths. This building now forms part of the Supreme Court buildings group is symmetrically designed in the Victorian Tudor style. Cnr. St. James Road (1895).
This classic Georgian style building was designed by Colonial Architect and ex-convict Francis Greenway at the request of Gov. Lachlan Macquarie. Considered to be Greenway s masterpiece, it was constructed in 1816 as a home for the 600 convicts who built it. During the day inmates would work at various places in Sydney and return at night. A clock dating from 1817 is mounted on the building s facade. Made in London, it is believed to be Australia s oldest public clock and was erected by clockmaker John Oatley, after whom the Sydney suburb of Oatley was named. In 1848 the inmates of the Barracks were relocated to Cockatoo Island. From 1848-1886, the building became the Immigration Depot and offices for immigration Department. It was restored in 1980 and converted into a heritage museum which tells the story of the building and the convicts to whom it was home. Entry fee applies.More >>
Designed by Francis Greenway, this fine Georgian style building was originally built by convict hands as a courthouse. Consecrated on 11th February, 1824 by the infamousflogging parson , Samuel Marsden, it is one of Australia s oldest churches. Over the years numerous alterations have been made, the latest being the addition of a Children's Chapel in 1930. For all its additions and modifications St. James Church is still a splendid example of its architectural style. A reason for this could well be that the church is closely linked visually to the Hyde Park Barracks opposite and the Supreme Court Building alongside it.
The three buildings were planned that way as part of Governor Macquarie s master plan for a civic centre that has today become Queen's Square. They are on the same axis, each has brick walls divided into bays by long rectangular brick columns (palisters). All use warm salmon-coloured sandstock bricks which were fired in the same kiln. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court building has undergone so many changes, that many design features which once aligned it with St James Church and Hyde Park Barracks have disappeared. More >>
This statue by English sculptor William Theed (1804-91) stands in Queens Square however, when it was first unveiled by the Governor Sir John Young in April 1866, it was located at the entrance to Hyde Park. Albert the Good was the German born Prince Consort, the husband of Queen Victoria. He never visited Australia and was little known in this country except for his straight-laced moral attitude, his devotion to his wife and her deep love for him. He was the mastermind of the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 which triggered a succession of imitative expositions around the British Empire including one in Sydney and another in Melbourne. He contracted typhoid fever and died shortly before Christmas 1861. Prince Albert's death devastated Queen Victoria who suffered a nervous breakdown. For the rest of her life she slept with a photo taken of him as he lay dead above her head and had his clothes laid out on the bed and the basin in his room filled with fresh water every day until her death.
During World War I, moves were made to have the statue removed as Prince Albert was a German, and anti-German sentiment was running high at the time. Those arguing for the statue's removal also pointed out that Prince Albert had never set foot on Australian soil and had done nothing to promote or assist in Australia's development (hardly the truth). The statue was moved to an out of the way corner of the Botanical Gardens. After the war, it was moved to its present location opposite the one of his partner, Queen Victoria, and managed to survive another demand for its removal during World War II.