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Living Heritage

Living Heritage

‚ÄčThe Parliament of New South Wales - being Australia's first and oldest Parliament - is also a site of great heritage significance. Its complex of buildings include the oldest building surviving in the Sydney CBD.

The Rum Hospital

Sydney was founded as a convict colony by the British in 1788. Limited provision was made for infrastructure, convict labour being the main source of public building. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie (Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821) arrived in the colony, he found there were no permanent hospital facilities. With no provision of funds from the distant British government, he managed to have Sydney's first permanent hospital, completed in 1816. To fund the building, he allowed the building contractors to import and sell 60,000 gallons of rum. As a result the hospital was known as The Rum Hospital. Two of the Rum Hospital's original buildings survive today, the southern wing which was The Mint building, and the northern wing, now part of the Parliament of New South Wales. Both were essentially residences for surgeons, the Chief Surgeon occupying the building now part of Parliament House.

From a Hospital Building to a Parliamentary Precinct

The Legislature has occupied the building from 1829 and over time greatly expanded it. At various time grandiose plans for a new Parliament House were proposed, design competitions were held and even a foundation stone laid, but these all came to nothing, mainly for reasons of cost. It was not until the mid 1970s that a major rebuilding and restoration program was begun, creating the present mix of heritage and contemporary buildings which makes up the complex today. The restoration between 1974 and 1984 of the retained buildings (the former Surgeon's residence, the Legislative Chambers, Speaker's Wing, Jubilee Room and Parliamentary foyers) represented a significant change in conservation and heritage policy, practices and skills in New South Wales.

Significant Changes to the Buildings:

    • Addition of the old Legislative Council (now Legislative Assembly) Chamber in 1843
    • Addition of the current Legislative Council Chamber in 1856
    • New refreshment rooms and facilities, 1860s-90s (since demolished)
    • The Macquarie Street frontages of both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council chambers were moved closer to Macquarie street in the 1870s-1890s
    • The Jubilee Library, 1906
    • Library stack are excavated under Rum Hospital Building, 1919 (now Archives stores and PABX)
    • Florescent lighting installed in both chambers, both painted white, 1950s
    • Renovation and restoration of the original parliament buildings, demolition of back buildings and construction of new building including Fountain Court area and 12 storey accommodation and services building, 1974-84.
    • Construction of new gatehouse entry, 2009
    • Construction of a new level of offices adjacent to the Level 9 Roof Garden, 2015

Heritage and Collections

The heritage of Parliament House is both physical and cultural and both are dealt with through a careful heritage policy and practice. Parliament House also has a significant artwork collection - some of it acquired through gifts and loans, with much of it acquired in relation to the 1980s rebuild and refurbishment, and some of it purchased from time to time as budgets and opportunities permit. The Parliamentary Library (established in 1840) has an important collection of historic books and Parliamentary Archives (New South Wales is the only State parliament with an Archives Section). The works are maintained and conserved on a systematic basis and added to annually from a relatively modest budget.