In 1994, we asked the archaeologist Robert Varman to paint us a picture of how the guardhouses were furnished and fitted out, based on marks, holes and gouges in the brickwork. Robert’s drawings, shown below, are sketchy but accurate and give us some idea of how convict guards and later caretakers made use of this cramped room, by attaching shelves, cupboards and fireplace furniture to the brickwork and leaving tell-tale traces.

North guardhouse interior before 1819

North guardhouse interior after 1819

North guardhouse interior after 1848

These drawings are reproduced from Robert Varman’s Background report toward a plan of management west compound wall and structures Hyde Park Barracks / Dr Robert V J Varman for the Hyde Park Barracks 1994 (with later illustrations). Report held in HHT’s Caroline Simpson Reference Library.

Intact mid 19th century ‘torpedo’ bottle (ug269) recovered from north guardhouse in 1982, on display at the Barracks. Photo Gary Crockett

At least 25 alcohol bottles, along with 8 flower pots and 1 ‘sauce’ bottle, lurked beneath the ground in the north guardhouse, according to archaeologists working here in the early 1980s. Could this mean that the 19th century occupants were big drinkers, and pot plant enthusiasts? Its more likely that the room was used for dumping rubbish.

Among the many bottles uncovered were stoneware vessels for stout, black glass bottles for beer or porter, square base bottles for gin and even one for schnapps. The ‘torpedo’ bottle shown above was one of 2 discovered. These were used for carbonated water and designed to be lying down to keep their corks moist, swollen and air-tight. Archaeologists have dated this deposit between 1870 and 1898.

If anyone’s got a suggestion about the flower pots, we’d be keen to hear about it.