Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney – see the harsh life that convicts lived

It wasn’t much fun being a convict sent to Australian shores. If you survived the journey, you’d often end up being locked up once you got there. And Hyde Park Barracks was one of the places you’d come to. Today, this former prison has been renovated and is open to the public.

The barracks used to house convicts who were working for government working crews in Sydney, and finally closed in 1848. It’s an important part of Australia’s history, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

All work, no play

Convicts living here had to follow the rules. They lived to the sound of a ringing bell. It told them when to get up, when to eat and when to go back to their hammocks at night. Every morning convicts had to assemble in the courtyard for a daily inspection before going off to work.

Unlocking heritage

Fancy experiencing life as a convict? Actually a number of Sydney schoolchildren are doing exactly that. As part of a living history project, children get to wear the convict shirts, eat the gruel and sleep in the hammocks. It’s designed to give them a real insight into what life was like here 200 years ago.

Other interesting facts about Hyde Park Barracks

  • It’s one of 4 Sydney Living History Museums – you can visit all 4 with a single pass
  • The barracks were restored and adapted in 1991, and the project won an award
  • As many as 50,000 convicts passed through its gates
  • Convicts were expected to work from sunrise to sunset, with an hour off if it was a very hot day