BEST VIEWED LARGER
This is the reading room of the Parliament House of the state of New South Wales in Sydney.
The oldest part of Parliament House was first built as the north wing of the Rum Hospital. Macquarie Street was created and land in the Domain was set aside by Governor Macquarie in 1810. As there was no funding from the British government, a contract to build the hospital was arranged involving convict labour and a monopoly on rum imports. The building of three two storey colonnaded buildings was completed in 1816 and was praised as ‘elegant and Commodious’ but also criticised for both its design and construction by Francis Greenway.5 Defects resulting from short cuts taken by the builders were still being discovered in the 1980s.1
The north wing was the Chief Surgeon’s quarters, although at one point it was used as law courts. When the Legislative Council was formed in 1824, it did not have a permanent home and met in places such as the old Government House. In 1829, the Council’s membership increased from five to 15 members, and it began to meet in the downstairs northern room of the Surgeon’s quarters from 21 August. Only two rooms were left for the Chief Surgeon, with the remaining five rooms used as offices by the Clerk of the Executive and Legislative Councils and other government officials. From 1931 to 1936, the Clerk was also the curator of Australia’s first museum, a small natural history collection which became beginning of the Australian Museum collection.[