Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Domain Walk

This walk is self-guided, takes about two hours to complete. It starts at the Opera House and returns to Government House. Follow the numbers on the map.

1. Bennelong Point
2. Mrs Macquaries Chair
3. Woolloomooloo Gate
4. Art Gallery of New South Wales
5. St Mary’s Gate
6. The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks
7. State Library of New South Wales
8. The Bent Street Entrance
9. The Garden Palace
10. Old Government House Site (1788–1845)
11. The Conservatorium of Music
12. Government House

DOMAIN-WALK-MAP-thumb Click on map to view and download pdf.

The Sydney Domain was set aside in 1788 by Governor Phillip as his private reserve. It covered the area east of the Tank Stream to the head of Woolloomooloo (Walla Mulla) Bay and contains the site of the first farm in Australia. The farm had been established for growing grain, but was soon moved to Parramatta, because of the poor sandy soil. The Farm Cove (Woccanmagully) area was then leased out for private farming for the next twenty years.

Governor Bligh attempted to reclaim the Domain c. 1808, leading up to the Rum Rebellion. Governor Macquarie completed this task, extending the roads and gardens started by Bligh, and enclosing the Government Domain with stone walls and paling fences. The traditional foundation date of the Botanic Garden is taken as the date of completion of Mrs Macquaries Road, on 13 June 1816. Enlarged and reorganised Botanic Gardens were opened to the general public in 1831.

Over the years the Botanic Gardens grew as the Domain was slowly whittled away, but remained an important buffer to the Botanic Gardens. The native vegetation was cleared and the gullies of Phillip Precinct filled. During the 1830s the expansive green space of the Domain was now opened to the public, who strolled and picnicked there. The Domain west of Macquarie Street was then sold to pay for the construction of new Government House and Circular Quay.

In the 1850s the Domain was used for military, sporting, and ceremonial events, and was subsequently used for soap-box oratory and political meetings. From 1860 the Domain was opened up at night to pedestrians, allowing people to use this valuable recreational space on summer evenings. It became known as `the Park where the Gates Never Close’. Carriage traffic however remained restricted after dusk for many years.

The growing city of Sydney put great pressure on the Domain. A major encroachment was the construction of the Garden Palace for the International Exhibition of 1879. In more recent years the problems have come from the motor car, with the building of the Cahill Expressway and the Domain Parking Station. The Cahill Expressway destroyed the close spatial relationship between the Garden and Domain. It has now been proposed to reclaim the green link between the Art Gallery and Woolloomooloo Bay (as part of the revised design for the Eastern Distributor).

The Domain is administered by the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust. It is vital we preserve what remains of the Domain as a green haven in our city.

 

Discovering the Domain
>> Click here to view Discovering the Domain

Domain

tourists

Mrs Macquaries Chair

1. Bennelong Point
Originally named Cattle Point, where the stock from the First Fleet were landed. The aboriginal name was Tobegully. Later the point was named after Bennelong, a member of the Guringai tribe. A hut had been built for him there in 1791, at the request of Governor Phillip. In 1798 a small redoubt was established there, using guns from HMS Supply. From 1817 Macquarie replaced it with a stone fort, mounting fifteen guns. Called Fort Macquarie, it remained manned until 1902, when it was demolished to make way for a tramshed. This was in turn demolished in 1959, for the Sydney Opera House.

SITE-MAP Download site map - showing entry from Opera House via vehicle concourse during construction.
 

 

2. Mrs Macquaries Chair
Mrs Macquaries Chair was carved out of stone for the Governor’s lady. Elizabeth Macquarie loved to come by carriage to Yurong or Anson’s Point, to sit and look at the harbour. Yurong was the aboriginal name. John Anson, carpenter, later held the lease to the farmlet in this area, stocked with grafted fruit trees, and advertised for sale in the Sydney Gazette of 5 May 1805. Macquarie Point Battery, not to be confused with Fort Macquarie on Bennelong Point, was built there in 1856, and remained until 1870. Several bathing establishments once existed along the eastern side of Yurong Point, Robinson’s being the best known. In 1924, Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton set three world records in the Domain Baths, competing against the then world champion, Arne Borg of Sweden. Fleet Steps (on the Farm Cove side of the point) were built in 1908 to commemorate a visit by the (Great White) American Fleet.
 

3. Woolloomooloo Gate
The Main southern entrance to the Domain was used by Governors and their suites as they strolled from St James Church to the Botanic Garden in the 1840s. An elaborate sandstone gate was erected in 1873, at the junction of Fig Tree Avenue and Central Avenue in the Domain. This entrance gate was moved during the construction of the Cahill Expressway to its present position on Mrs Macquaries Road. It is now called the Woolloomooloo Gate.
 

4. Art Gallery of New South Wales
The New South Wales Academy of Art, founded in 1871, occupied a building just to the west of the main entrance to the Botanic Garden from 1879 (as part of the International Exhibition) to 1885. The current building was constructed between 1896 and 1909. The north-eastern extension was completed between 1968 and 1972. The eastern extension was opened in 1988.
 

5. St Mary’s Gate
The lodge at St Marys Gate, built in 1835, is the oldest gatekeeper’s residence to survive. By 1817 Governor Macquarie had completely enclosed the Domain and completed the road system. Massive gates existed at the various entrances to control the carriage traffic. You can still see the stone pillars on either side of the adjacent Art Gallery Road.
 

6. The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks
These two buildings from the Macquarie period are part of our colonial heritage. The Mint, originally the southern part of the Rum (Sydney) Hospital (paid for by rum which was the currency of the day) was opened in 1817. For many years it was used as the Colonial Mint, and then as law courts. It was restored in 1982. Hyde Park Barracks, designed by Francis Greenway, was originally a convict barracks. When transportation ceased it was used an immigration barracks, a lunatic asylum, and finally as law courts. It was restored in 1984 and opened as a Museum of New South Wales Social History.
 

7. State Library of New South Wales
The State Library of New South Wales, with its Mitchell and Dixson Libraries, stood partly on the site of the old Female School of Industry (established in 1826 to train domestic servants). Prior to that the site had housed the old light-horse barracks. Late in the 19th century the ground was waste, until the then Director of the Botanic Gardens, J.H. Maiden, established an Acacia plantation there. The Mitchell Library was built between 1904 and 1910. The greater complex was not completed until 1942. Following the extensions of 1988, the Library moved to the Macquarie Street frontage.
 

8. The Bent Street Entrance
The other main entrance into the Domain was at the junction of Bent and Macquarie Streets, where there were stone pillars and a gate. A road (for carriages, horse-riders, and pedestrians) led down the hill towards the entrance to the Botanic Garden, and then on over the hill to Woolloomooloo. Beside the road was an avenue of Moreton Bay figs (planted in 1847, some of which remain in a traffic island in the Cahill Expressway) and became known as Fig Tree Avenue. The statue of Governor Bourke (the first statue of its type in the colony, now adjacent to the Library) was erected in 1842, where the Shakespeare Group stands. For many years it was flanked by two cannons (now in Centennial Park), taken as trophies from the siege of Sebastopol (Crimean War, 1854-55).
 

9. The Garden Palace
The part of the Domain between Bent Street and the Governor’s stables (Conservatorium of Music) was set aside for the International Exhibition of 1879. The building was an immense structure, 244 m long with a central dome 64 m high. There was also a spill-over from the main building to a great many stalls, galleries, sheds, and pavilions in the Domain. When the exhibition was over, the sheds near Hospital Road were converted into a Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum (later the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences at Ultimo, then the Powerhouse Museum). The Department of Mines also installed a permanent geological display. The main building was used as a repository for, among other things, the returns of the 1881 census. All these were destroyed when the Palace burnt down in 1882. After the fire the grounds were gradually incorporated into the Botanic Garden to become known as the Palace Garden. The statue to Governor Phillip was erected there in 1897, during the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.
 

10. Old Government House Site (1788-1845)
Old Government House stood on the corner of Phillip and Bridge Streets. The original house was a prefabricated canvas (oilcloth) tent, set in a garden and orchard that extended down to Sydney Cove (Warrang). A two-storey Georgian building was then constructed. Its foundations are now preserved in the forecourt of the Museum of Sydney.
 

11. The Conservatorium of Music
There were three windmills in this region in the early days, on the high ground. John Boston built his mill near where the Huntsman and Dogs statue (in the Palace Garden) now stands. Nathanial Lucas built his mill a little further to the south (site of the Shakespeare Statue Group), which was then leased out to Kable and Underwood. John Palmer arrived in the Sirius in 1788. He built his bakehouse here, with an associated mill for grinding flour. Macquarie built his stables on the site of Palmer’s Mill. This building became the Conservatorium of Music in 1913.  

12. Government House
This fine example of early Victorian Gothic revival architecture was designed by Edward Blore, architect to King William IV and later to Queen Victoria. The site was chosen in 1827. Construction did not begin until 1837, and the Governor did not occupy the house until 1845. Government House and Garden are now open to the public. The Garden is open every day from 10 am-4 pm, the House is open Friday to Sunday, 10 am-3 pm unless there is an official function. It is also closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.