Lumber Yard

Now I must ask readers to go back with me to Bridge street, and we shall take the other side of the street. We are standing at the intersection of Bridge street with George street, looking towards Pitt street, and if, in some previous existence, we were standing there, say in the year 1820, it was a strange sight that met our eyes on the right-hand side of Bridge Street, between George and Pitt Streets. The place was called the Lumber Yard, and in and out of the buildings that skirted the yard we would see men come dressed in a bizarre costume, half black and half yellow. For these were the convict workshops where the artisans unfortunate enough to be of that company were employed.

The trades carried on in the Lumber Yard, as given in a list of the day were those of blacksmiths, lock-smiths, nailers, iron and brass founders, bellows makers, coopers, sawyers, painters, lead casters, harness and collar makers, tailors and shoemakers, carpenters, joiners and cabinetmakers. It is no wonder that the large landholders complained bitterly that they could get no mechanics out of Macquarie as assigned servants. That canny Scotch gentleman was the Australian forerunner of the exponents of state-owned industries. Dean Cowper, in his interesting reminiscences of early Sydney, writes of the Lumber Yard: “And here let me mention, though it is painful to call it to mind, an evil which existed for many years in the heart of the town in connection with the gang system.

There was at the corner of George and Bridge streets a yard called the Lumber Yard, where the convicts in the Hyde Park Barracks were employed. It reached down to the Tank Stream. The men were employed in sawing timber, in carpentering, and making articles of furniture for the Government establishment. They were marched down to the yard in their clanging chains every morning, and back every evening.

During the flay, but more especially in the forenoon, one frequently heard the cries and moans of men suffering from the infliction of corporal punishment. It must have had a hardening and exasperating effect upon those who suffered it, and I fear that it was often very hastily administered, without a trial.”

The place of flogging of the convicts was afterwards moved to the Hyde Park Barracks, because, as an official report states, it was found at the Lumber Yard that the flogger was either brined or intimidated into sparing the rod, and (in the eyes of officialdom) spoiling the convict. The site of the Lumber Yard was cut up and sold in 1830.