Colonial building

a pile of ‘standard’ 15 inch shingles rescued from an early colonial house in Sydney. Photo Gary Crockett

According to Ralph Hawkins, our hands-on convict historian from the Blue Gum High Forests of Sydney’s northern suburbs, split shingles were always fixed to roofs facing the same way they grew. This meant that rain water ran off the shingle in the same way it ran down the tree. Shingles were mostly 15 inches long, which was roughly the length of a convict’s arm from his elbow to his fingers. This made them easy to carry from the cutting area to the cart or onto the barge waiting to take them away. How about that eh?

Get along to Domes Day at the Hyde Park Barracks on 13 November and hear Ralph Hawkins reveal more fascinating stuff on shingles, domes and convict workmanship.

A shingling party in action around Middle Harbour, Sydney 1870s. Detail of an image in Album of Photographs PXA 969, sourced online from State Library of New South Wales.

Here’s a conundrum…the HHT has just removed the hardwearing fibreglass coverings from the roofs of its guardhouses and replaced these with frail and costly shingles that will start deteriorating as soon as the sun and rain starts belting down, which is already. We’ve reinstated a key, albeit quirky detail, giving the mighty Barracks its elegant entrance back. But unlike the sturdy brickwork of Greenway’s convict building, the guardhouse shingles will be lucky to last more than 30 years at best.

Why do you think its a good idea to rebuild the domed roofs and cover them with shingles…?

North Guardhouse, June 2009

North Guardhouse Oct 2011

Sean Johnson, Clive Lucas architects and John Wallis, builder on site at the Hyde Park Barracks today. Photo Gary Crockett

John Plaw’s ‘Hunting Box’ drawing sourced from google books here

Difficult to disagree with fellow HHT staffer Scott Hill when he points to close similarities between John Plaw’s Hunting Box and the front wall of the Barracks. Just look at those gate houses with their perky domes as well as the piers guarding the entrance. Even the way the smaller buildings sit on either side of the main building looks eerily familiar.

John Plaw’s ‘Hunting Box’ drawing sourced from google books here

We’ve already queried Greenway’s inspiration for the domed guardhouses. Here’s another example of a known architectural ‘treatment’ being reworked for a different client – in this case the layout of the Barracks compound, including the placement of a towering central block within an enclosing wall of functional perimeter buildings.

Looks familiar…?
Image of Hatch Farm, Essex, England sourced from here

According to James Kerr, in his 1984 book Design for Convicts“Greenway’s design was a simple and recognisable eighteenth century arrangement” although, overall, he’s clearly lent heavily on John Wyatt’s 1777 design for an agricultural complex on Hatch Farm, in Essex, England.

Sketch of Hyde Park Barracks 1819 (top and middle) and Hatch Farm 1777 (bottom) by James Kerr, 1984.