Shelly mortar – part 2

Small pieces of shell can be seen in between the bricks at Hyde Park Barracks.

Shells in mortar at Hyde Park Barracks. Photo © HHT

In December we talked about the use of shells in producing lime for mortar and stucco for the early colony’s infant building trade. Our colleague Mikhaila Dunn mentioned the use of such mortar at the Hyde Park Barracks; so we’ve taken two close up images of it at the Barracks’ north guardhouse.

You may remember John Harris Junior’s frustration with the shell gatherers at Ultimo in 1819? Well things didn’t change in a hurry; here’s another newspaper report, from 21 years later, from further up the harbour. The shell-gatherers were a rough lot it seems, who by the 1840s were finding it very difficult to source any remaining shells around the harbour and Parramatta River:

Four boats, belonging to men who employ themselves in procuring shells for the lime-burners, were seized at Iron Cove near Bourke Town on Thursday last, by Inspector Reilly of the Water Police, under the provisions of the Seaman’s Act; which declares all boats forfeited that may be found without the name of their owner painted in some legible situation. It appears that these parties were in the habit of procuring shells, together with timber or anything else they could lay their hands on, from the estate of Mr Rodd, the attorney, of Pitt St, who when he remonstrated with them upon the impropriety of their conduct, received no other reply than a volley of abuse.
The Australian, 5 January, 1840

You can read more about shell gatherers and lime burning – and the early colonial building industry – in Barrie Dyster’s, Servant & Master: Building and Running the Grand Houses of Sydney 1788 – 1850. Glebe, Historic Houses Trust, 1989, pp136-140

Small pieces of shell can be seen in between the bricks at Hyde Park Barracks.

Shells in mortar at Hyde Park Barracks. Photo © HHT