The Royal New South Wales Lancers
|Lancer Barracks History|
This document was adapted from a document of similar name prepared for the Commonwealth of Australia to facilitate the preparation of a Heritage Management Plan by Rosemary Annable. Regimental historical aspects are taken from the Regimental History (Lieutenant Colonel PV Vernon OBE ED et al, The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885 - 1985, Lancers Centenary Committee (NSW Lancers Memorial Museum Inc) Parramatta 1985) It should be noted that measures used in contemporary quotations have been converted into the metric system.
Lancer Barracks "A History" Rosemary Annable 1992 Commonwealth of Australia Copyright - Reproduced with permission.
The Site Heritage Listings The Early History of Parramatta The occupation of the site before the construction of the barracks The selection of a site for a new military barracks The barracks' architect - Lieutenant John Watts The new military barracks - 1820 Alternations and additions 1820-1833 The Headquarters of a Regiment - 1833 : the Upper Military Barracks The Officers' barracks The reduction of the garrison in the 1840s Temporary usages of the barracks site - 1850s to 1862 The Police Barracks 1867-1897 The second phase of military use - 1897 to the present 1897-1914 1914-1945 1945-C1970 The Regimental Museum - Linden House C1970-1999 2020 2021
The Lancer Barracks site is bounded on the West and South-West by Smith Street and Station Street Parramatta New South Wales (NSW). It comprises Portion 396 in the Parish of St John, County of Cumberland as detailed in Crown Grant Vol 14337 Fol 144 in DP 39627 (now Computer Folio 396/39627) as can be found in the NSW records. The site is now commonly referred to as the Lancer Barracks, and would appear to have been so named for most of the 20th Century. During its first phase of use from 1820, the site was known as the New Military Barracks, to distinguish it from earlier military barracks in Parramatta. In the 1830s it was referred to as the Upper Military Barracks, again to distinguish it from other barracks in particular the former Commissariat Store. From 1862 until 1897 the site was known as the Police Barracks, the NSW Police the Barracks during that time.
Lancer Barracks is listed on the Register of the Australian National Estate, and is classified by the Australian National Trust. The Barracks and Linden House are listed in Schedule 2 (items of the Environmental Heritage) of Historic Places in the Parramatta Local environmental Plan 1989 (City Centre). Both the standing structures and archaeological remains are identified in the Parramatta archaeological zoning plan and are categorised as Group 3, that is, "standing structures and buildings erected prior to 1844 for which it is recommended that a conservation plan should be prepared for each site, and consideration given to statutory protection under the Heritage Act 1977" (Edward Higginbotham, The future of Parramatta's Past: an archaeological zoning plan 1788 to 1944, Parramatta Council 1991). It should be noted that some of the potential archaeological remains of the Barracks lie outside the present boundaries, due to the dedication of parts of the original barracks site for other purposes.
The East Coast of Australia was claimed by Lieutenant James Cook, Captain of the Bark Endeavour during his voyage of discovery in 1770, Cook called the land "New South Wales". Settlement by Europeans (this like the settlement of the Americas by the English, Spanish and Portuguese, can be likened to an invasion, the original inhabitants (Aboriginals) being displaced from their lands, ravaged by introduced diseases, killed in battle, and in some cases indiscriminately slaughtered) occurred in 1788. The initial settlement was at Sydney (named after the then British colonial secretary), with the landing taking place on 26 January. The person in charge was Arthur Phillip, a British Naval officer appointed as Governor. The British Colony was to be a penal settlement, those convicted of minor infringements being "transported" as an alternative to a long prison sentence, or state murder. In the new land, after a period of servitude to the state, convicts were usually freed as long as they did not return to England or Ireland. A large proportion of those transported were Irish. These were the first of the modern immigrants to Australia. Australians now claim heritage from every nation in the world.
Governor Phillip and a small party reached the site of Parramatta, the second oldest European settlement in Australia, on 23 April 1788. They were exploring the district beyond Sydney for suitable farming land. Their search was occasioned by an urgent need for food supplies. Land in the immediate vicinity of Sydney had proved to be largely unsuitable for European style agriculture. The area of Parramatta (a word meaning place of the eels in the local Aboriginal dialect), at the junction of the Parramatta and Duck rivers 25 kilometres West of Sydney seemed to provide the answer. In November 1788 Phillip returned to select as site for settlement. He called it Rose Hill after George Rose, Secretary to the British Treasury. By July 1789 a redoubt with barracks and store had been erected on the south bank of the river (today Parramatta Park) together with some convict huts, a barn and granaries. The first successful harvest was in 1789. In 1790 a township was formed and work began on a house for the Governor when he visited the settlement. The plan of the township was on a grand scale, laid out by Baron Augustus Alt and Lieutenant William Dawes on instructions from the Governor. The main street (High Street, later George Street) was to be 1.5 kilometres long and 62 metres wide, on an east-west axis from Government House to the public wharf. A second street parallel to the High Street and 33 metres wide was also laid out, called South Street. Wide cross streets at right angles to the main axis were laid out in front of Government House; by the church (ending at the north end in an open plaza with the size for a Town Hall as its focus); and also further to the east, as a crossing point over the river (Collingridge Rivett, Parramatta's Town Plan 1788 to 1955, 2nd Ed 1983). These streets survive today. Given the intended agricultural nature of the settlement the town allotments were larger than those in Sydney and were designed to provide gardens which could be worked by convicts and others to supplement the scarce food supplies of the colony. The generous scale of the main street was described by Watkin Tench during a visit to, the settlement in 1790 as of such breadth as will make Pall Mall and Portland Place "hide their diminished heads" and is shown as such in contemporary illustrations such as Fernando Brambila's view of Parramatta drawn in 1793 (Watkin Tench, Sydney's First Four Years, Reprinted 1961). A plan of the township drawn in 1796 shows the regularity and scale of the town plan.
For a short period Parramatta had a larger population than Sydney, but it soon lost its dominance. Sydney was the only real port for overseas trade and with the opening up of the Hawkesbury from 1794 that district became the granary of the colony. In 1793 a ferry from Sydney to Parramatta was established and in 1794 a road was built from Sydney. The river however remained for some time the more popular, and comfortable, means of transport.
A military presence in the township was a natural accompaniment of the extension of settlement into the area (soldier/policemen were considered essential to control the unruly convict/settlers). In November 1788, when the site for the township was chosen, Governor Phillip had a military escort which was housed in crude wooden huts. When troops were stationed in Parramatta on a permanent basis however, they had to be better housed. Work began in December 1790 on the first substantial military barracks. The site chosen was at the cast end of the High Street (George Street) near the wharf, a vital communication link with Sydney. The design of these barracks was of the usual horseshoe-shaped form, with the other ranks' accommodation flanked in the front by quarters for the officers. These barracks continued in use for almost thirty years until they were deemed to be so decayed as to be dangerous.
The second stage of the planning of Parramatta took place in 1811 when extensions to the town were laid out by Governor Macquarie, as surveyed by James Meehan. Macquarie's extension of the town plan included the formation of a number of additional streets parallel to the original High Street (George Street) and of more cross streets, together with the formation of a tighter grid of streets in the vicinity of the church. In addition to his alterations to the layout of the town, a number of new public buildings were also added to the settlement during the Macquarie period. Some were additions to, or replacements of, building stack which was by this stage very decayed. Others were new enhancements.
Although Governor Phillip's plan for the township of Parramatta had been designed on a grand scale, it was not accompanied by any reservation of land for Government use in the surrounding area, as had been made by Government Order in Sydney (M Kelly et al Sydney Takes Shape 1978). As a result a number of leases and grants, made by subsequent Governors, affected the maintenance and impinged upon the possible extension of the Phillip town plan. Amongst these were a number of leases made by Governor Hunter in 1799 to the south of the township. These were much larger than the Parramatta town allotments and appear to have been laid out with reference to topographical features, in particular to the creek to the south, rather than to the street plan of the town. There were five leases in this group, all made in 1799: to Edward Abbott; William Balmain; Captain John Piper, D'Arcy Wentworth and Jonathan Atkins. Although reasonably close to the township, the status of these grants is unclear. Four of the leases were entered in the grant register twice, with notes indicating uncertainty is to whether the leases were to be considered as grants of land or town allotments. The status of the leases was crucial as the conditions of occupancy were quite different. A condition of occupation of a land grant was that a specified proportion of the area had to be cleared and cultivated within a set period. On town allotments a house had to be erected. Of these five grants it was the area leased to William Balmain which was later to become a part of the site for the Macquarie Street military barracks. Balmain's Parramatta lease had been granted in exchange for an allotment in Sydney, at the corner of George Street and Essex Street, which Balmain had surrendered to be used as the site for the new gaol (R.J. Ryan (ed) Land Grants 1788-1809, 1981). Balmain's occupation of his Parramatta property was short. He left the colony in 1801, having left his affairs in the hands of his Parramatta neighbour D'Arcy Wentworth. He died in Britain in 1803. The property is not itemised in Balmain's will in which he mentions all of his property in general terms rather than as individual items (Mitchell Library A2022 Will of William Balmain).
The exact nature and extent of occupation of Balmain's Parramatta lease has not been researched in detail, but contemporary illustrations and documentation indicate the clearance and probable cultivation of the land. The area is shown as 'ground in cultivation in a plan of Parramatta drawn in 1811 and clearance of the land is also evidenced in views of this part of Parramatta painted by Eyre in about 1812. Documentation concerning a house on the property is provided in a letter written by D'Arcy Wentworth in about 1816. Referring to the management of Balmain's affairs, Wentworth makes reference to Balmain's house which adjoined his own house and garden at Parramatta and which could never be let. He also noted that it had been "taken by the Government" and was intended for the site of a new military barracks (Mitchell Library Wentworth Papers).
With the exception of D'Arcy Wentworth's lease, which had been renewed by Governor King in 1806 because of the house and improvements which had been made on the land 20, all of the other leases in this area expired at the end of 1813, leaving the area available for reallocation by the Government.
Overlay plans of the town, of various dates, presented by Edward Higginbotham in his archaeological zoning. plan for Parramatta, indicate that the boundaries of the new barracks site probably comprised the east, south and west boundaries of Balmain's lease, with a continuation of the east and west boundary lines north, to meet the line of Macquarie Street, incorporating two smaller allotments on the Macquarie Street frontage. The re-use of the east, south and west boundaries of Balmain's lease would explain the unusual trapezoidal shape of the barracks site which does not therefore relate directly to the Macquarie Street frontage, but rather to earlier features and usage of the site and possibly also of adjacent leases.
On his arrival in New South Wales Governor Macquarie found that much of the accommodation for the military was in a poor state of repair. Buildings which had been constructed in the 1790s, when both building materials and skills were generally of poor quality, were rapidly reaching the end of their useful life. By 1814 a site had been chosen at Parramatta for new accommodation for the troops. An area designated as the site intended for the new barracks was indicated on a sketch plan of the township enclosed with Macquarie's despatch to the British Government of 7 October 1814. The boundaries of the site were not fully delineated on the plan, but the site had a frontage to Macquarie Street, and was bounded on the west and east by proposed continuations of Smith Street and Charles Street.
In February 1816 a payment was made from the Police Fund to Rowland Hassall for fencing in one side of the Allotment of Land intended to erect Barracks on in Parramatta (Sydney Gazette 10 February 1916). This was probably on the east side of the barracks allotment, the common boundary between the site and a grant owned, at that date, by Hassall. The site was officially laid out by Governor Macquarie on Monday 3 1817 when he recorded, "I marked out the site of the new Barracks on the rising ground to the southward of Macquarie Street - and about the Centre of said street - along with Mr Meechan and Lt Watts. It rained all the afternoon of this day very heavy" (Lachlan Macquarie Memoranda and Related Papers 1808 - 1823). The decision to construct a new barracks at Parramatta was reported to Earl Bathurst the next month in the following terms, "A New Barrack for the Troops being also Necessary at Parramatta. The Old One being almost in Ruins and Consequently very dangerous to be any longer Inhabited by Soldiers, I purpose to have a New Barrack erected the. as soon as the Hospital has been Completed" (Macquarie to Lord Bathurst 12 December 1817). In March 1819 Macquarie reported to Earl Bathurst that "An excellent New Hospital has lately been completed at the latter Station (Parramatta) and a very good Military Barrack for 100 soldiers with a proportion of Officers is now in progress as the same Station, the Old Military Barrack there being in so very ruinous and decayed a State as to be hardly habitable" (Macquarie to Lord Bathurst 24 March 1919). Amounts for fencing the site were paid to Messrs Roberts and Bensley in February and June of 1819 and the barracks was reported as completed by 1820. Joseph Lycett's "South View of Parramatra N.S.W." dated 1820 shows the newly completed barracks in its contemporary context. The barracks had a frontage to the south side of Macquarie Street and was bounded by D'Arcy Wentworth's grant on the west and Rowland Hassall's grant on the east. There were no other streets, except Macquarie Street, on the barrack boundaries. A map of Parramatta dated 1823 shows the extent of the town at this date.
The architect or engineer, as he was termed, for the barracks was Lieutenant John Watts. Watts arrived in the colony in 1814 as a Lieutenant in the 46th Regiment and was soon appointed as aide-de-camp to Governor Macquarie. He was obviously a great favourite, both with the Governor and with Mrs Macquarie, and volunteered his services to assist with various of the public works which were planned by the Macquaries, in addition to his duties as aide-de-camp. With a Shortage of architects and engineers in the colony, his offer was readily accepted. In Sydney he designed the military hospital on Observatory Hill. At Parramatta he was responsible for the design of the military hospital; the towers of St John's Church; additions to Government House; the new military barracks and a tank for the supply of water to the town. The latter, which included a breast work to keep out the tide and to retain the river water by which the tank was supplied, was considered by Mrs Macquarie to be Watts greatest contribution to the town, which had previously suffered from a lack of drinking water in summer (Hazel King, Lieutenant John Watts and Macquarie's Improvements to Parramatta, RAHS Journal 1973). When he was injured while superintending works on the Paramatta road at the end of 1818, Watts requested two years' leave of absence from the colony. When officially granting this request in January 1819, the Governor expressed his indebtedness to Watts and his "best thanks" for his "architectural services and Taste" as shown in the "new Barracks and Quarters for Officers" at Parramatta (Sydney Gazette 2 January 1819). Prior to his departure in April 1819 Watts is reported to have carried forward the building of the barracks in a great hurry.
Two forms of documentation provide a description of the site and its buildings as originally constructed. The first is a plan of the "Military Barracks Parramatta", probably dating to 1820, amongst the material collected for Commissioner Bigge's enquiry into the state of the colony (Mitchell Library Bigge Appendix Box 36, Plan 9) and the second is a description of the site written by Macquarie in 1821 after his return to Britain.
As with other similar plans of this date, the measured drawing of the barrack buildings consists of ground plans of the individual buildings on the site showing their positions relative to one another, but does not indicate their exact location within the site boundaries. The scale given on the plans is therefore considered to be accurate within the buildings, but not in relation to their disposition on the site as a whole. The arrangement of the upper floor of the men's barracks is not drawn. Nine separate buildings are shown on the plan. Each of the three main buildings had its own kitchen and privies.
Macquarie's description of the site written in 1822 in a list of public buildings and works made at the expense of the Crown during his governorship reads:
[At Parramatta] A new Barracks, built of brick, two stories high, for the accommodation of 100 soldiers; with two wings, also built of brick, each one storey high, and with verandahs, for the accommodation of the full proportion of commissioned officers, having likewise all the necessary out-officers and men together with a guard house and storehouse; the whole of the ground consisting of about eight acres (approx 4 hectares), being inclosed by a brick wall in front and stockade on the other, three sides. (Macquarie's address to Parliament on return.)
From these sources, and from a comparison with later documentation, it appears that the buildings as originally constructed were as follows:-
Men's barracks - two-storey - approximately 21 by 8 metres with a large central barrack room having fireplaces at each end and entrances, central to the barrack room, in the north and south sides. The stairs to the upper storey of the soldiers' barrack were in the north-west corner of the main barrack room, by the chimney. On the ground floor two small rooms led off the west end of the main barrack room. At the east end of the building was a separate room which did not connect with the barrack room, but had its own entrance and internal stair connecting with the upper floor. It is not known if this floor plan was repeated on the upper floor. The large central barrack room was for the other ranks and the small rooms at the west end were probably for sergeants, who were usually provided with their own sleeping quarters but were not given the self-contained accommodation afforded commissioned officers. The room at the east end of the building, with its equivalent room on the floor above, was probably for an officer. being separate from the rest of the building. The building had no verandah as originally constructed.
Cookhouse - behind the men's barracks - approximately 8.5 by 5.7 metres with central entrances in the north and south sides and fireplaces at the east and west ends. The exact distance between the cookhouse and the soldiers' barracks is not shown, but for practical reasons one would expect them to be reasonably close together.
Privies - behind the men's barracks - four privies in a building 3.6 metres square.
Officer's quarters - west wing - single storey - approximately 19.5 by 11.5 metres with verandah on three sides. The rooms were arranged on either side of a central entrance but were not exactly symmetrical. The building appears to have been used for the accommodation of the Commanding Officer, perhaps with accommodation for a servant. A central corridor connected the front and back entrances.
Cookhouse - behind the west wing - approximately 9 by 4.5 metres with central entrances in the cast and west sides and fireplaces in the north and south ends. The feature in the south-west corner was probably a bread oven, the only one indicated in the cookhouses on the site.
Privies - behind the west wing quarters and cookhouse - two privies in a building 3.3 by 2.1 metres.
Officer's quarters, guard room, cells and store - east wing - single storey -approximately 19.5 by 11.5 metres with the same verandah plan as the west wing. Store room in centre of building with officer's quarters and bed chamber on north side. The quarters could be entered from the verandah on the north side of the building and also from the back of the building. The guard room was entered from the verandah on the south side, with a separate room (possibly a bed chamber) behind. Two cells are indicated, one of which was a black hole (ie without natural light).
Cookhouse - behind the east wing - approximately 9.5 by 4.5 metres with central entrances in the cast and west sides and fireplaces in the north and south ends.
Privies - behind the east wing quarters and cookhouse - two privies in building 3.3 by 2.1 metres.
The water source for the barracks is not indicated on the 1820 plan, but a well to the east of the men's barracks is shown on a plan of 1858. This was uncovered during drainage works on the site in 1991. It was approximately 1.5 metres in diameter and brick lined. Later references to the inadequacy of the barracks' drainage system, and its rectification, suggest that some surface drains were included in the original design. There are no references to the provision of stables on the site at this period. Stabling would have been required for officers' horses, but could have been provided elsewhere in the town.
In the middle of 1820 the barracks received Commissioner Bigge as a guest when he was travelling for the purposes of his Commission of Inquiry. Finding that residence in an inn, either at Parramatta or Windsor, was inconvenient for a number of reasons, the Commissioner requested Governor Macquarie "to give orders that the captain's quarters in the new barracks at Parramatta may be held at my disposal". Commissioner Bigge noted that he "took the opportunity of Inspecting them on my last visit to Parramatta and although I am not aware that anything further is requisite for my Accommodation than a few Tables and chairs, I will request your Excellency will have the goodness to give Directions that any little repair or addition that Mr Scott [Bigge's secretary] may suggest, may be furnished and prepared by the Govt. workmen of Parramatta, previous to my removal thither'. (Mitchell Library, Bigge to Macquarie 17 June 1820)
The only comment to be found in the evidence to the Bigge Commission concerning the buildings is that of Richard Rouse. When replying to a question about the use of unseasoned timber in the boards and flooring of the barracks, he commented on the haste in construction before the departure of Lieutenant Watts. The fact that no further criticism was expressed, when much other concerning many of Macquarie's buildings was offered both to and by Commissioner Bigge, suggests that the barracks were not considered to be in any way extravagant in its construction or design, but were strictly functional.
A comparison of the plan and description of the barracks in 1820 with a full report on the buildings written in 1833 (Governor Burke's Despatch No 104) provides evidence of some additions and minor repairs and maintenance undertaken at the barracks in the intervening period. Additions to the existing buildings between 1820 and 1833 included a covered pathway to the kitchen from the men's barracks and a verandah to three sides of the same kitchen, with an armoury adjacent under the verandah. Additions to the site included the construction of six stables for field officers' horses and the construction of a Guardhouse on the Macquarie Street frontage, with the addition of detention cells behind it in 1831. (Archives Office of NSW Colonial Secretary in-letters 1826 - 1831).
The Guardhouse may have been built as early as 1823. A military guardhouse at Parramatta was listed by S. L. Harris in his report on improvements carried out by him in that year and appears in Harris' report in conjunction with general description of the new barracks and of the work on the kitchen at the same place. (Mitchell Library C226 Harris Report). The description and costing suggest the construction of a brick guardhouse (without cells) with a flagged verandah. There were however other guardhouses in Parramatta, for example in the Domain, and so the attribution of the guard house to this site at this date is uncertain. With the construction of a guardhouse at the Macquarie Street entrance and the later addition of cell block behind the guardhouse, it is probable that those parts of the east wing single storey building which had previously been used for these purposes were converted for use as officers' quarters. Such an alteration may in turn have necessitated the provision of stabling, or additional stabling for officers' horses. It is not known what provision was made for the guard at the Macquarie Street entrance. Sentry boxes may have been used. Some of the additions to the site in this period are very similar to those made to the barracks at Windsor. Here too a separate guardhouse had to be constructed in this period. (Kate Holmes, Windsor Barracks the Guardhouse, Australian Society for Historical Archaeology 1979).
Minor repairs and maintenance included repairing and painting the officers' quarters in 1827. Such works were sometimes paid for by the officers themselves as the cost had not been sanctioned by the Governor. (Archives Office of NSW Memo Parramatta - Sydney Public Works 13 July 1829) For the men, some basic essentials were lacking such as sufficient pegs for arms and accoutrements as noted in 1829. In 1830 a proposed alteration to the barracks was cancelled as an economy measure namely the order for Verandah to the Soldiers Barracks'. (Archives Office of NSW Colonial Secretary to Director of Public Works Sydney 5 July 1830) This is the only reference to any plan to erect a verandah at this time.
Various of these additions and alterations to the barracks may have been occasioned by the change in status of the military establishment in the town, for by 1833 Parramatta had become the headquarters of a regiment rather than just the location of a detachment of the Sydney garrison. This change increased the complement of men stationed in the town from less than 100 to over 200.
Change of status of the garrison at Parramatta was not a matter of military strategy but of economics. By the 1830s the town of Sydney was beginning to prosper. With the profits of the wool trade and with an expanding population of free and freed residents, domestic and business accommodation was at a premium. The military found it too expensive to be quartered in Sydney. Instead, lodgings were obtained in Parramatta which was much cheaper.
In a report written in 1833 (Despatch 104, 7 December 1833) Governor Bourke described the disposition of the troops .in the town. They were housed in three locations; in the Macquarie Street barracks (known as the Upper Military Barracks); in the barracks originally designed for convicts on the opposite side of Macquarie Street; and in the Commissariat Store (known as the Lower Military Barracks), about 800 metres distant from the first two. In total this accommodation had more that sufficient space for the rank and file, who seldom exceeded one hundred men, but accommodation was in short supply for officers for whom additional quarters had to be rented. In order to parade, the troops were marched up to the Upper Military Barracks where there was sufficient, room to form a company in line. (Public Record Office CO 201) Governor Bourke's 1833 report was accompanied by a description of the Upper Military Barracks and the state of its buildings. As this provides much information concerning the site it is quoted here in full:
The main building occupied by the troops is 21 metres and 8 metres wide, built of brick with two stories the ground floor contains one ward 13.6 by 3.2 two small rooms 3 x 3.5 each at one end for non-commissioned officers one apartment 3 metres by 7.3 at the other end used together with a similar room above stairs as the quarters for the Mounted Police. In addition to the latter the second floor consists of a ward 13.7 x 7.6 and a room for a sergeant 3.2 x 7.6.
The cook house is constructed of similar materials and is 7.3 x 4.8 with a verandah on three sides under which at one end is the armourers shop 5.4 x 2.9
The officers quarters which stand on the right and left wing in advance of the men's barracks are of brick 14 x 9.1 that in the left is occupied by the commanding officer and contains apartments with a detached kitchen and servants room 9.7 x 4.8. That on the right is of the same description and affords accommodation for the paymaster and adjutant with detached kitchens of dimensions similar to those opposite.
The stables appropriated the field officers are [?]divided into 6 stables.
The guard house at the entrance gate is 9.4 x 8.5 and attached to it are four solitary cells lined with brick.
The Barrack yard contains an area of [?] enclosed by a common paled fence 1.8 metres high.
State of repair
The whole of these buildings are constructed of brickwork of very inferior description with shingled roofs. The lower part of the walls of most of them especially the men's barracks and kitchen are much injured by dampness which is caused from their foundations being wholly of brick. To this cause may be chiefly attributed also a settlement which has taken place in the brick wall of the paymaster's kitchen to prevent as much as possible further damage to the building it will be necessary to cut out all the decayed bricks and replace them with sound ones and point the joints of the exterior walls to the height of 1.2 metres from the ground and also to lay surface drain around the main building and its kitchen. Much accidence is caused by the present land [?] drain that is meant to carry off the water and filth from the barracks, it is recommended that an angle drain be constructed from the kitchen the commencement of the present drain at the lower barrack.
Other trifling repairs are necessary to the brickwork of the fireplaces in the paymaster and adjutant's quarters, the guard bed and other cell doorframes and doors. In other respects with trifling exceptions the several buildings are in good repair ....
An estimate of costs for repairs accompanied the report, the largest item of which was the provision of 93 metres of surface drains and 220 metres of angle drains.
This description of the site and its buildings indicates that a much larger complement of officers now resided in the Upper Military Barracks. These included members of the garrison serving as Mounted Police and support staff of the regiment, such as the paymaster and adjutant, who were accommodated in part of the east wing quarters. In his recommendations accompanying the report, Bourke pointed out that the accommodation provided for the Mounted Police was inconvenient and inadequate, as they were quartered a long way from their horses. At the same time, several non-commissioned officers of the regiment were without the accommodation appropriate to their rank. A solution to this problem was suggested by providing alternative accommodation for the Mounted Police elsewhere. Bourke's major recommendation however was that all of the troops should be quartered in the Macquarie Street buildings, so that the inconvenient Commissariat Store might be vacated. This would not only be better for discipline, but would also save money. He recommended that such additions as were necessary should be made to the Upper Military Barracks and to the former convict barracks on the opposite side of Macquarie Street to achieve this. This would then provide completely for the Headquarters of Regiment and 400 non-commissioned officers and privates (including the hospital) in one location.
Between 1833 and 1844 a major change was made in the use of the site, which became a barracks for officers only. A comparison of the description of the site in 1833 and a plan drawn in 1845 shows certain significant alterations and additions in this period which may be dissociated with this change of use. No extant documentation for these changes is known, but plans for them were in existence in 1850 in the Commanding Royal Engineer's office. Buildings added to the site between 1833 and 1845 were; an extension to the kitchen behind the east wing single storey quarters and a structure to the north of the kitchen, later identified as a mess room. The most significant addition to the existing buildings was the construction of a verandah on the north side of the two storey quarters. While such an addition might seem to be purely functional in terms of comfort in the Australian climate (the building faces due north) it is probable that this addition was constructed as an integral part of the complete internal remodelling of the two storey building to provide appropriate accommodation for officers. This involved the removal of the original staircase, the relocation of the stair in the centre of the building, the division of the large barrack rooms on both floors into smaller rooms and the addition of new entrances at both ends of the building. By relocating the staircase to the centre and making new doorways at both ends of the building, the new, smaller rooms all had their own entrance. On the upper floor these were reached by way of the verandah. This form of accommodation was of a type suitable for officers. Aesthetically the verandah gave the building more of an appearance of officers' quarters and in practice would have made it more comfortable. Evidence in the fabric of the existing single storey building behind the two storey barracks, formerly the kitchen, indicates that changes may also have been made to this structure at this period.
It is probable that these alterations and additions were made in the 1830s, perhaps in response to Bourke's 1833 report. By the 1840s the question of troop reductions was being discussed and it is unlikely that funds would have been expended on the buildings at this time. In 1839 the number of troops stationed at Parramatta was 276 men with twelve commissioned officers and a complement of four staff. (M Austin, The Army in Australia 1840 - 1850, 1979)
Notably absent from the 1845 plan are any outbuildings (kitchen and privies) behind the west wing Commanding Officer's quarters, although such structures are shown in the 1858 plan of the site. It is not known whether the original structures were demolished between 1833 and 1845 and later replaced, or whether the 1845 plan is incomplete. Surveyor Galloway's 1845 Field Book sketch of the site also omits these buildings. Certain other inaccuracies in plans of the site, such as discrepancies in plotting the buildings in relation to the site boundaries and to each other, might indicate that not all of the plans were not surveyed on site but may have been copied from other sources. This documentation therefore has to be interpreted with caution.
From the late 1830s until the mid- 1840s, the number of rank and file accommodated at Parramatta averaged about 250 with an officer complement of about twelve and a staff of four. Of the officers and stiff about eleven, including the officer commanding, could probably have been accommodated with ease in the Upper Military Barracks after the two storey building had been converted to officers' quarters.
In the 1840s the question of the size of the garrison in New South Wales came under review. Various factors which came into play during the 1840s, both internal and external, made the British Government keen to reduce the forces in New South Wales. Foremost amongst these was the need for troops in New Zealand. In addition the internal state of the colony was considered to be relatively peaceful. The number of convicts was diminishing, the suspension of transportation to New South Wales in 1840, the free population was increasing and the aboriginal population was considered unlikely to pose any real threat to security. In addition New South Wales was considered to be effectively safe from any foreign invader. (Historical Records of Australia Ser 1, Vol 45) In the light of these factors it was recommended that the force to be retained in the Colony should be 1,000 men. Under this proposed rearrangement certain of the barracks would no longer be required.
Writing to the Officers of the Ordnance Department in May 1844 the Colonial Secretary dealt with the matter of barrack accommodation in the smaller settlements:-
At Parramatta, Windsor and Liverpool barracks exist which will not under the proposed arrangement be required and it appears to His Excellency that they may be sold should the board of Ordnance desire so to dispose of them. For the following reasons however neither the Governor nor the Lieut. General would recommend the selling of the Barracks either at Parramatta or Windsor.
That in the present state of the Colony the sum they would sell for would in all probability be very far short of what would be the cost of erecting new barracks should circumstances ever require an increase in barrack accommodation and the proximity of these barracks to Sydney will in the meantime afford the means of occasionally changing the position of a proportion of the troops, or of accommodating an extra number. (AONSW 4/3802) The same message was repeated by Governor Gipps in his despatch in June 1844, noting that although the Commanding. Engineer had estimated the value of the Parramatta barracks at £8,625 (in 1966 Australia decimalised its currency, £1 became $A2), it may not raise even half of that amount if sold because of the slump in property values due to the economic depression. (Gipps to Stanley 10 June 1844) Accordingly the barracks was not disposed of.
Between 1844 and 1847 members of the regiments stationed at Parramatta were sent on tours of duty to New Zealand. Although the barracks were not permanently vacated in this period, troop movements made the military presence in the town much less stable than it had been in the past. It was reported in August 1844 that the whole of the military had left the town (Parramatta Chronicle 10 August 1844) and in January 1847 a grand ball and supper was given by the 58th Regiment to commemorate their return from New Zealand. (Parramatta Messenger 16 January 1847) In 1848 the George Street barracks was finally vacated and the Upper Military Barracks was used for the small remaining. detachment, reverting from its use as an officers' barracks to its original purpose to accommodate officers and other ranks. (Sydney Morning Herald 10 March 1848). In 1848 one officer and 58 other ranks were stationed at Parramatta, reduced in 1849 to 28 other ranks and finally in 1850 to 17. (the Army in Australia 1840 - 1850 1979) The last detachment left the town for Sydney in October 1850. (The Sydney Morning Herald 5 October 1850)
In common with other defence properties, the site was officially conveyed to the Principal Officers of Her Majesty's Ordnance on 30 January 1845 (Mitchell Library D67) and was subsequently leased back to the Colonial Government, in the person of the Colonial Architect, on 27 October 1851 for a period of 99 years. The conveyance to the Ordnance Department produced a number of surveys of the site drawn in 1844, 1845 and 1851 with a survey for railway purposes in 1858. (AONSW Map 4690) These provide the most detailed information available about the buildings on the site for this period. (Click Here to see a reproduction of the 1851 map)
From the mid-1850s several applications were made for the use of various of the barrack buildings by government departments and by charitable concerns. The buildings also appear to have been used, at least in part, for police purposes during the 1850s. There are references to the use of quarters by the Police Magistrate and to the use of two rooms on the ground floor of the two storey barracks "required for the constables" in 1855. Temporary occupation of other parts of the building was allowed for educational purposes, usually requested by religious denominations looking for temporary accommodation before regular school rooms could be funded.
The barracks was also used to accommodate a detachment of the Royal Sappers and Miners who were working on a survey of possible extensions of the railway line which had been opened from Redfern to Granville Junction 1855. The detachment, numbering about 14 men, had been dismissed at short notice from survey work in Tasmania and arrived in Sydney in February 1856. It was stationed at Parramatta and was in occupation at the barracks in 1857. (R McNicoll, The Royal Australian Engineers, 1835 -1902 1977). In 1860 a request to use the officers' Mess Room as a school was refused because it was required for the Sappers and Miners but when repeated in 1861 was granted as the premises were unoccupied suggesting that they had vacated the barracks early in 1861.
A request for renewed military use of the barracks in 1857 because of overcrowding at the Victoria Barracks in Sydney had to be refused, because arrangements for accommodation at Parramatta would take some weeks to make. The hospital too was not available because patients from Tarban Creek had only just been moved there. (AONSW 4/3805)
Various buildings are shown in the 1850s plans of the site but not in the plan drawn in 1845. These are: a stables on the west boundary (shown in 1851); buildings reminiscent of the original kitchen and privies behind the west wing quarters (shown in 1858); and a second structure, next to the privies of the south boundary (shown in 1858). It is not known if all of these were new buildings added to the site between 1845 and 1851-1858, or whether the earlier 1845 survey was incomplete. The 1858 Railway survey would appear to be more accurate that some of the others, not only in the amount of detail, but also in relation to the disposition of the buildings on the site and to the barrack boundaries.
The extension of the railway beyond Parramatta occasioned the first reduction in area of the barracks site. In 1858 a strip of land along the western boundary and cutting across the south-west corner of the site was acquired for the extension of the railway line from Parramatta to Penrith. (Lands Dept Misc 96.8871) The stables and privies on the west boundary, as shown in the 1858 survey, would have been lost in this reduction of the site area. Military use of the barracks officially ceased in 1862 when the premises were handed over to the NSW Police Department. (Letter from Colonial Secretary 22 March 1862)
The barracks was used by the Police Department from 1862, when a unified police force including both mounted and foot patrols was created under an Inspector General of Police, until 1897 when the Inspector General was requested to hand over the Police Barracks to the Commander of the Military Forces 'at the earliest possible date'. (AONSW 4/3816) Little is known of any works to the buildings during this period. Various unspecified repairs were put in train in 1862, before the barracks were handed over. The Colonial Architect's correspondence on the subject indicates some confusion as to whether the whole of the building were required for police purposes. On the understanding that they were, the Colonial Architect had proceeded with repairs to all of the buildings and these were "in an advanced stare" by June of 1862. (AONSW 2/618B) Both a small force of Mounted Police as well as constables on foot patrol were stationed at Parramatta. It seems likely that the site was used to provide stabling and forage for the Mounted Police and quarters for some of the men. It was customary for quarters to be provided for members of the force or for a lodging allowance to be made. The former was preferable to the Department as it occasioned less expenditure. A photograph of the two storey building taken in 1887 shows a horse grazing behind the building and one of the human occupants. The building had rather a neglected air. The surrounds were grassed paddock.
During the period when the barracks was occupied by the police, further reductions were made in the site boundaries and the majority of the Macquarie Street frontage was dedicated for other purposes. The next incursion on the site after that required for the railway extension in 1858, was in 1863 to provide a site for a Mechanics' Institute. This was followed by a series of allocations for school purposes in 1870, 1877, 1888 and 1891. (Dept of Lands Misc 96.8871) Although the eastern part of the Macquarie Street frontage was dedicated for school purposes in 1888 and 1891, no Buildings had been constructed on this part of the site by 1895. A wall on the east side of the Macquarie Street frontage survived at this date, but the guard house had been removed. Access to the Police Barracks was from Macquarie Street, in what would appear to be the same location as the original barracks entrance.
In 1891, George Burns established a troop of the Sydney Lancers, New South Wales Cavalry Reserves at the Parramatta Police Barracks. This must have been by arrangement with the New South Wales Police Department.
By 1895 most of the buildings behind the east wing single storey building had been removed, with only a small building remaining and the privy [?] on the east boundary. Areas around and between the buildings were fenced off, suggesting that the rest of the site may have been used as a paddock for police mounts.
The second phase of military use of the barracks began in 1897 and continues to the present day. Unlike its original function as a barracks for the regular forces of the British Army, the site has been used since 1897 to train part time soldiers of the New South Wales Military Forces, then from 1900, the Australian Army. Australian regular forces consisted of Artillery and Instructional Corps units until 1946. The rest of the army were part time Militia or "Citizen Military Forces", now known as the Australian Army Reserve. Militia units being called up full time to meet wartime needs. The New South Wales Lancers (made "Royal" in 1935) have been the principal occupants of the barracks. Defence policy concerning the raising and training of these forces has been subject to considerable variation since Federation.
In order to fulfil the needs of this arm of the defence forces, the site has been adapted for use as a training depot with administrative facilities and only a limited amount of residential accommodation.
The exact date on which the Inspector General of Police handed over the Police Barracks at Parramatta for the use of the military was 1897, but military use of the site is recorded in 1891, largely but not exclusively associated with the Lancers. In 1898 the site was listed as the Regimental Headquarters of the NSW Lancers and also as occupied by 'H' Company of the 3rd Regiment of Infantry; by No. 1 Parramatta Half Squadron of Lancers; and by the NSW Cadet Lancers. (Sands Directory for 1898) Some major alterations and additions to the site took place within the first few years of the Army's re-occupation of the site. The east wing single storey building was demolished between 1895 and 1902, as evidenced by detailed surveys of these dates. This may have been carried out after 1897, if its removal was part of the alterations to the site for military use. The removal of the building would have provided additional space for training on horseback. The outbuildings behind the west wing were also demolished at this period. The two storey building was refurbished and considerably smartened externally. The timber verandah railing was replaced with late Victorian cast iron lace and the shingle roof was replaced by, or covered with. galvanized iron. The appearance of the building as shown in a photograph taken in 1899 contrasts sharply with the neglected air of the Police Barracks photographed in 1887. It is possible that alterations to the former kitchen block behind the two storey building were also carried out at this time and that the single storey west wing was also improved. Additions to the site included a brick, single storey, staff sergeant's cottage built in 1897 and a brick, two storey, officer's house built in 1900. It is probable that the outbuildings behind the west wing were removed to make room for this new building. The weatherboard drill shed was added before 1902, with a waggon shed addition at the south end of this building in 1907. Although the area of the original barracks had been considerably reduced during the 19th century by the dedication of the northern part of the site for an expanding school establishment, there was still a reasonable area within the barracks for training and drill.
With the transfer of certain properties to the Commonwealth at Federation (Commonwealth of Australia is the full title of the Australian Federation, this old title, once used by England and Scotland during a short republican period in the 1600s, has been used since 1901) the State Valuers produced plans and lists of all properties so transferred providing a useful guide to the state of the site ,it this date. The assessors reported on the buildings on the site, their condition and value. The plan of the Lancer Barracks was based upon a survey dated 5 July 1902 and tile final report of the valuers was published in 1908. (NSW Parliamentary Papers 1908)
The detailed description given of the Parramatta site is as follows:
Parramatta Drill-Shed Quarters and Office
|Officers' quarters - new brick, two-storied building, with slate roof, enclosed by picket-fence||£945.0.0.|
|Sergeants' Quarters - brick, with tiled roof and picket fence||£399.0.0|
|Drill shed - weatherboard, tiled roof and floor, and practically new||£346.10.0.|
|Offices in the old Police Barracks and two-storied brick building with verandah and balcony, very old, damp and dilapidated condition, though partially repaired||£262.10.0.|
|Store rooms at back of - brick with corrugated iron roof||£126.0.0.|
|Stables - an old brick building, with corrugated iron roof||£52.10.0.|
|Recreation room - very old and damp. scarcely fit for use||£105.0.0.|
|Roads, fences, etc.||£157.10.0.|
(When Australia adopted decimal currency in 1966, £1(AU) equalled $2(AU).)
The valuation placed on the site itself was £2,250. Although a plan accompanies the valuation report, the function of each building is not indicated. The three newest additions to the site can be easily identified: the officer's quarters; staff sergeant's quarters; and the drill shed. Of the other three buildings shown on the plan the "offices in old Police Barracks and two-storied brick building with verandah and balcony ... partially repaired" may refer to the two-storey building and to the west wing single storey building, or may refer to the two storey building only. The "store rooms at back" of the two storey building probably refer to the former kitchen. The locations of the stables, latrines and recreation room am not identified.
It is probable that with the construction of new quarters at the south-west corner of the site some access was provided at the junction of Smith and Station Street (then Taylor and Allen Streets) at about this time. This is not indicated on the 1902 plan, which appears to show continuous fencing around the site perimeter, and only the narrow lane access to Macquarie Street. An entrance with double wooden gates on the Taylor Street, and Allen Street corner is however visible in a photograph taken in 1906. (Regimental History). The lane way to Macquarie Street was closed as unnecessary in 1917. At this period the barracks was used by the Lancers and by other regiments, including H Company of the 3rd Australian Infantry. (The Sun 1 October 1910).
At Federation defence became the concern of the Commonwealth government. The question of compulsory citizen training was discussed by successive Governments, aware that the small permanent military force could not possibly provide the necessary strength for the defence of the country. In 1911 "universal training" was introduced to include compulsory training for junior (11 - 14 years) and senior cadets (14-18 years) and for the citizen forces (18-20 years). The number of universal trainees in the Lancers was, however, small because of the requirement for recruits to provide their own horses. Enrolment in the ranks of the Lancers continued to be popular into the Edwardian period. A New South Wales Lancers Association flourished and helped to provide facilities for the troops. The two-storey building was used at this time as other ranks' quarters and the old single storey building as a "common room", also for other ranks. The building was named "Bob's Hall" after Lord Roberts, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in the South African War.
On the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 a number of members of the Lancer Regiment volunteered for service in the AIF, as the citizen military forces were precluded from service overseas. Many Lancers served with the 1st Australian Light Horse, raised in Sydney, and the custody of whose heritage was passed to the Lancers in 1918, when the 1ALH was disbanded. After the conclusion of hostilities in 1919 there was little funding and little enthusiasm for military matters. The militia were reformed, and compulsory universal training in time of peace was finally suspended in 1929 it was replaced with voluntary enlistment. At Parramatta, Lancer Barracks was used by the Lancers, the infantry and artillery. Few changes appear to have been made to the site as shown in a plan of 1927. Additions and alterations to the gun park and stores in the south-cast corner were made in 1934. In the early 1930s severe retrenchment because of the Depression was a feature of the Army generally and probably ensured little change at this period. A major change for the Lancers took place in 1936 when the regiment was motorised and equipped as a machine gun regiment. As a militia regiment, and in the earlier tradition of each man providing his own mount, the Regiment's vehicles were obtained privately. A new building was added to the site in 1937 when an officers' mess was built on the north side of Bob's Hall.
During the Second World War the Regiment served as a Machine Gun Regiment, a Tank Battalion and as an Armoured Regiment, the only armoured unit with a militia origin to serve overseas. Lancer Barracks was given up for war time military use. After World War II the Government decided to maintain the system of voluntary enlistment, but in 1950 compulsory military training (National Service) was restored and maintained until 1960. The Royal New South Wales Lancers were re-formed in the Parramatta district and Lancer Barracks became Regimental Headquarters. Armoured Brigade Headquarters occupied Bob's Hall and the regiment occupied the two storey building with the Army Service Corps. The use of the Merrylands Drill hall was allotted to the Regiment which now had a Regular Army cadre. In 1953 the use of the Merrylands Drill Hall was given up and the Regiment's operations were concentrated at Parramatta. In 1954 a lecture room block was constructed behind the original two-storey building and its associated single storey [kitchen] building. In 1955 the two storey married quarters was converted into two flats. (Commonwealth Department of Works card index).
In 1958 interest in the regiment's history resulted in the allocation of a room in the two storey building for the purposes of a museum. This soon outgrew the space available and in 1963 an appeal was launched for new accommodation for the museum. This was to be provided by moving a 19th century house from a site further west along Macquarie Street which its owners, the AMP Society wished to redevelop. (Daily Telegraph 7 August 1963) The re-location of this building on the barracks site was thought to be particularly appropriate, as it had once accommodated military officers stationed in the town and so had connections with the military history of Parramatta. This arrangement provided a means not only of establishing a museum within the barracks but also of saving an historic building from destruction. The external fabric of the building was dismantled and numbered and was reassembled on the Lancer Barracks site, against the northern boundary and facing the original two storey barracks. The Museum, named Linden House, was opened in 1966 although only the ground floor of the interior was completed at this stage. The upper floor was finished as funds became available. An area of land around the museum is licensed to the Royal NSW Lancers Museum Association for the purposes of the museum. (Victoria Barracks NSW, Asset Register Asset Number 2-P-9) In 1972 a single storey storeroom and workshop were built on the east side of Linden House. In 1981 the Museum was dedicated as. a Regimental War Memorial. In 1985, the centenary of the raising of the Sydney Light Horse, a memorial was unveiled in the grounds of the barracks to those members of the regiment who had died in World War II. (Regimental History)
In 1972 women became eligible to join the regiment and in 1975 the Citizens Military Force was renamed the Army Reserve. In 1976 the regiment became an armoured reconnaissance regiment. It is the Senior Unit of the Army Reserve serving as an armoured cavalry regiment and operating light tracked armoured vehicles. In 1978 a small voluntary horsed unit was formed and regularly takes part in major ceremonial occasions.
During the last 30 years a number of substantial works have been carried out on the barracks buildings and grounds. In 1979 Bob's Hall was renovated. These works included the replacement of the galvanized roofing with shingles and the removal of render from the external walls. Many of the bricks were turned and re-pointed and some other fabric was replaced. This renovation proved unfortunate, the bricks and shingles deteriorated rapidly, the walls had to be re-rendered and the roof replaced with metal within 5 years. In 1986 the 1930s officers' mess was demolished because of extensive cracking. The two storey house, built in 1900, became the Regimental Headquarters as it was no longer needed as residential quarters. The building was named "Vernon Hall" to commemorate the long association of the Vernon family with the regiment (Father, a foundation member, son and grandson were all Commanding Officers). The single storey, staff-sergeant's quarters were similarly converted to non-residential use and now functions as the Officers' Mess. In 1989 a new electricity substation was built on the southern boundary of the site and new electrical installations were run underground to replace overhead cables. This work involved the excavation of a trench from the southern boundary of the site between the drill shed and two storey building across the roadway to Bob's Hall.
During 1990 much more extensive excavation of the site took place when parts of the site were re-graded because of drainage problems and new storm water drainage installed. This work resulted in a considerable lowering of ground levels around the original barrack buildings to below the original ground level. Parts of the vehicle compound area were also remodelled at this time. During these works archaeological remains of earlier features of the site were recorded. These included the well (as shown in the 1851 plan of the site), traces of a surface drain to the east of the original two storey building and a substantial area of brick rubble and artefacts on the east side of the site. These features were recorded but no excavation was undertaken other than that required for the new works.
In 1998-99, all of the heritage buildings on site (with the exception of the Museum) were restored at government expense. The site is well worth the visit either physically or by taking our virtual tour. The museum still requires some restoration, your contributions can help us.
In the first 20 years of the 21st Century Lancer Barracks was beautifully maintained. It was closed to the public for 2 years after the 11th of September incident in New York, then following a major security incident nearby it was enclosed by a 3 metre metal fence. As at 2020, the Barracks are open to the public on Sundays and other days when tours are booked. All visits are supervised by Museum volunteers.
In 2020 the Staff Sergeant's cottage was fully refurbished inside and out. In particular the cladding was removed revealing the original brickwork.
The year 2020 also saw 200 years since Lancer Barracks were first used as a Military Depot. The unit that had called the barracks home, the now 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers planned a grand celebration. This had to be scaled back due to the COVID pandemic. Everyone who got to the parade at 1000 on 21 November 2020 apart from a very few dignitaries, had a job to do.
The video below is for all that could not be there, and posterity.
A copy of the CO, Lieutenant Colonel White's address can be downloaded HERE.
A copy of the Vice President of the Lancers' Museum, Ian Hawthorn's address can be downloaded HERE.
Sadly 2021 sees Lancer Barracks, not for the first time, the subject of a land grab by greedy developers.
The pretext is to open-up the site so that it can be enjoyed by the people of Parramatta. In reality the Sydney Business Chamber (Western Sydney) is seeking to grab our heritage so it can be sold-off to greedy developers. Sadder still, our state politicians have been seduced into supporting the proposition.
The concept for the barracks can be seen in the video below (do note this video, produced by the Sydney Business Chamber (Western Sydney) has been annotated by the Lancers' Museum to show the heritage loss planned):
Security fencing is to be removed. The 1898 staff officer's house (Vernon hall), 1898 staff sergeant's cottage (officers' mess), 1936 vehicle hangar and the Museum annexe are to be demolished. The Boer War Horse statue is nowhere to be seen; an $80,000 gift by the late John Haynes AM taken to the tip by the developer.
By implication, the Regiment that has called Parramatta home for 129 years is to be banished. The Museum without a work annexe and without the security for its erstwhile dangerous collection would also have to go. The plan envisages the stars of the Lancers' Museum's vehicle fleet (including a duplicate ACE - dunno where that will come from) being immobilised and displayed in the open, not for long, where ravages of the elements would soon make short work of them.
Presumably the plan trusts the Commonwealth Department of Defence will donate the site to a development consortium to carve up. The New South Wales Lancers' Memorial Museum Incorporated that owns the relocated 1829 building and vehicle exhibits included as part of the proposal has not been approached to transfer ownership.
A comment left on YouTube where the original version of the Sydney Business Chamber (SBC) video was published left by the SBC states "With the changing needs of Australia’s defence, it's unrealistic to expect that the site will continue to operate the same way it has for the past 200 years". This contention is far from correct. Lancer Barracks has only ever been closed to the public during times of emergency or security concern. The British closed the gates against our ancestors indigenous and otherwise, however, after they departed in the 1850s, the barracks were public land until occupied by the Regiment in 1891. With minor exceptions during wartime the barracks were generally opened to the public until 11 September 2001. For the next two years the Barracks along with the volunteer run Museum that had been operating on the site since 1965 were closed to the public.
When the intensity of the security situation abated in 2003, the barracks re-opened. The gates were not closed other than in the evening, children from Parramatta Primary School took advantage of an extended playground, the Museum opened every Sunday and took booked tour groups at other times. Scout troops visited in the evening.
On 14 August 2014 to mark the centenary of when the 1st Light Horse Regiment AIF was formed to fight in Turkey (Gallipoli peninsula), Egypt and Palestine (Israel, Jordan and Syria) a grand parade was held in the streets of Parramatta. The parade left from and returned to Lancer Barracks, all citizens were invited in.
When on 2 October 2015, Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar, a 15-year-old schoolboy from Arthur Philip High School then adjacent Lancer Barracks, shot and killed Curtis Cheng, an unarmed police accountant outside NSW Police Headquarters adjacent Lancer Barracks; the Barracks were again closed to the public and a 3-metre steel fence constructed. A useful precaution, such fences now surround most school playgrounds and buildings, on 19 May 2018 Parramatta Primary School also adjacent the Barracks was torched by vandals.
The fence did not close the Barracks completely. The team of Museum volunteers continued to open the barracks and Museum to all visitors almost every Sunday and booked tour groups (including schools) at other times. Yes there is a charge, the Museum is run by volunteers, expenses are substantial and unlike edifices such as the Australian War Memorial, there is no public funding other than the occasional special purpose grant.
In 2020, the Barracks and Museum were like similar facilities closed for some months; the pandemic struck. However, due to the efforts of the volunteers in developing and implementing COVID safe measures, Lancer Barracks and Museum were on 5 July 2020 the first cultural site in Parramatta to re-open. The COVID safe measures have evolved in accord with NSW Government requirements and unlike other cultural sites the Barracks and Museum are still open. Visit now and your presence is recorded electronically, payment contactless; masking-up in the Museum building is recommended.
We the Lancers' Museum volunteers have stayed with the game to give the good citizens of Sydney an unmatched cultural experience. Lancer Barracks is the oldest military barracks on the Australian mainland still in operation as an ADF base. The Lancers are one of the Nation’s oldest units and the only one to still occupy its ancestral home. The oldest unit in the British Army can trace its origin to the New Model Army, it is only about 170 years older than Lancer Barracks. There was justification for “young” changed to “one” in the National Anthem.
The SBC proposal would remove the ability of the public to enter the Barracks, as they can right now, accompanied by a guide, to see a national heritage, an Australian WW2 battle tank, painstakingly restored to its WW2 operational condition, start its motors, and drive around. The Museum is the only military museum left in NSW or the ACT (therefore including the Australian War Memorial), committed to restoring and maintaining its heritage listed vehicles in full running order. You can travel the length and breadth of the country and rarely see such a thing, which is right on the doorstep for the schools and communities of Parramatta and Western Sydney.
Let us hope that should the migration of recent overseas differences subside as others in the past did, no more fifth column elements arise thus security concerns diminish; and the pandemic is vaccinated away; Lancer Barracks can open-up as it was pre the twin towers destruction on 11 September 2001.
The warped nature of the SBC campaign to destroy our heritage can best be expressed by a comment since removed from the YouTube post of the Lancer Barracks 200th anniversary parade video. Posted by “Rented identity” it states “What a tremendous cost to the taxpayer at no benefit of any kind whatsoever. They should retire the barracks and turn it into a museum/parkland”. What a way to thank a Regiment just concluding a year of bushfire and pandemic service, and those who served in the Regiment over the years, many of the alumni still as Museum Volunteers at Lancer Barracks. Sadly some politicians are prepared to go on TV to say they think the same way.
We can at least take some solace from the fact that the Department of Defence has to date supported the continuation of Lancer Barracks in its existing role.
In the case of the barracks bicentenary parade, yes the pandemic precluded visitors being able to be there to view it. The band of Museum volunteers, however, ensured the world was able to see what happened, publishing a video of the event next day on YouTube.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881;
Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA
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