05 November, 2018

Old Saint Mary's Cathedral Sydney : 2

A drawing of Hyde Park and old Saint Mary's Cathedral, mid-1840s.
Image: State Library of NSW.

This coloured drawing was sketched by John Rae and is dated 1842 *.

It depicts a vast open, treeless space which we now know as Hyde Park.  Many people are shewn enjoying some leisure that afternoon in the Park.  In the distance we see two large structures.  On the left, is a simple tower which was designed by the famous English architect AWN Pugin. It was built in the year 1843 to house a peal of eight bells, obtained from the foundry of Thomas Mears in London.  Running in front of this tower from left to right, is what is now College Street, but was then no more than a track.

In the centre of the drawing is an accurate depiction of Old Saint Mary's, which had been commenced in 1821 and was complete in most respects when this sketch was drawn.  The old Cathedral was cruciform in shape but somewhat squat in its proportions.  It was of a style which is termed "Gothick", being a somewhat less sophisticated imitation of mediaeval architecture, preceding the great Gothic Revival of the 1840s.

Having been installed in the new tower and blessed by the Archbishop, John Bede Polding OSB, these bells - being the first peal of bells in Australia - were heard for the first time on New Year's Day, 1844.

Please click on the image for an enlarged view.

* As can be seen on close examination, the annotation "J Rae 1842" was made in the lower righthand corner of the sketch. This is problematical, since the bell-tower, shewn so clearly on the left of the sketch, did not exist in 1842, being built in the year following, 1843. The drawing might date from the period after 1845.


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