LIEUTENANT COLONEL GEORGE BARNEY (1792–1862)
Lt.-Col. George Barney of the Royal Engineers was appointed New South Wales’ first Colonial Engineer. Arriving in Sydney with his family on the British Sovereign in December 1835, he lived at Dawes Point near the Battery, in a house which is still standing (although now subdivided into terraces).
One of Barney’s first responsibilities was to report on the state of Sydney’s defences; he recommended upgrading them and constructing more shore batteries. Work began on forts and batteries around the harbour and along the NSW coast, as well as the construction of Victoria Barracks in Paddington to replace the old barracks on George Street. Between 1837 and 1844 Barney worked on Sydney Cove to form Circular Quay. He was also responsible for building a breakwater at Newcastle and piers at Wollongong and elsewhere, clearing the Parramatta River of obstructions, and the repair of roads and bridges throughout the colony.
When Barney returned from a visit to England in 1847, after resigning from the army, the new Governor, Sir Charles FitzRoy, appointed him Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands and Superintendent of a new colony near what is now Darwin. Unfortunately the colony failed, however, so Barney returned to his work as an engineer in Sydney.
In 1851 Barney was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council, and after the death of Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1855 he was appointed the state’s Surveyor General. Faced with the threat of war between Britain and Russia in the Crimea, Barney commenced work to improve harbour defences at Kirribilli, Fort Macquarie, Mrs Macquaries Chair (in the Domain) and Dawes Point Battery. Fort Denison was completed to Barney's design in 1856 and named after the new Governor, Sir William Denison, who happened to also be a member of the Royal Engineers.
Barney died at his home, The Priory at St Leonards, Sydney, on 16 April 1862, and was buried in St Thomas's Cemetery. A memorial to Barney and his works stands next to Cadman’s Cottage in George Street.