At the heart of Sydney

‘One of the most historically significant urban spaces in Sydney and Australia’.

Photo: Macquarie Place, Sydney, NSW  © A Rebel Hand

Macquarie Place, Sydney

That’s how another of Nicholas Delaney’s building projects has been described by New South Wales’s Office of Environment and Heritage.

It’s Macquarie Place.

Just over a fortnight after Nicholas and his men finished the construction of Mrs Macquarie’s Drive in the Government Domain on 13 June 1816, he was hard at work again for the Governor.

As Lachlan Macquarie records in his diary:

Monday 1. July !

This Day Nicholas Delaney’s Gang of Labourers commenced clearing and levelling that Piece of Ground in the Town of Sydney, adjoining the Government Domain called “Macquarie Place,” preparatory to its being enclosed by a Dwarf Stone Wall and Paling in the form of a Triangle!

Photo: Macquarie's diary entry about Nicholas and his gang

Macquarie’s diary entry about Nicholas and his gang (Original in State Library of NSW)

Macquarie Place is probably best known now for its obelisk, designed by the convict architect Francis Greenway, who was so important to the Governor‘s plans for Sydney. It was erected in 1818.

Greenway eventually fell out of favour with Macquarie, but his buildings stand as a memorial to two singular-minded men – and to the labourers who carried out their vision.

Inscribed at the base of the obelisk is its purpose:

To record that all the
Public Roads
Leading to the Interior
of the Colony
are Measured from it.

And here are the measurements:

Principal Roads.
Distance from Sydney
to Bathurst }                           157 Miles
From Sydney to Windsor 35 1/2 D
to Paramatta                      15 1/2  ”
to Liverpool                        20 ”
to Macquarie Tower
at the South Head }              7         ”
To the North Head
of Botany Bay }                  14         “

So all roads from Sydney began from where Nicholas made his mark on the city.

Nearly 200 years later, this green space in the centre of Sydney still remains, a little smaller and now dwarfed by buildings.

But nothing should overshadow its significance in Australia’s history. As the Office of Environment and Heritage says:

Picture: Macquarie Place: inscription on the obelisk. Photo © Patricia Owen

Macquarie Place: the obelisk © Patricia Owen & A Rebel Hand


“Although the original importance of Macquarie Place as the main town square of Sydney, the geographic and symbolic centre of the Colony, the setting to First Government House and the landmark qualities of Obelisk are now less apparent than in Colonial times due to the level of surrounding changes, the park and its monuments remain one of the few tangible links to this first Colonial town centre and thereby part of the earliest history of European settlement in Australia.”



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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10 Responses to At the heart of Sydney

  1. Pingback: Ulva, Lachlan Macquarie’s birthplace | A Rebel Hand

  2. Pingback: The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, is 200 years old! | A Rebel Hand

  3. Pingback: Delaneys return to the Royal Botanic Garden | A Rebel Hand

  4. Crissouli says:

    Also in ‘our’ book, you’re going to know all the stories before you read them again. but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.


  5. Pingback: Nicholas’s murder – the editor, the judge and the doctor (Trove Tuesday post, part 3) | A Rebel Hand

  6. Pingback: Wealth for Toil – Australia Day challenge for 2012 | A Rebel Hand

  7. Pingback: 2011 – what a year it’s been! | A Rebel Hand

  8. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” and family saga novels:
    “Back to the Homeplace” and “The Homeplace Revisited”


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