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Made By Many Hands

The Rocks Discovery Museum
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A free, family friendly museum which tells the story of The Rocks from pre-European days to the present.

(02) 9240 8680
Kendall Lane, The Rocks (enter via Argyle Street)

You’ll love The Rocks Discovery Museum; packed with thousands of years of history!

The Rocks Discovery Museum is a free, family friendly museum which tells the story of The Rocks area of Sydney from pre-European days to the present.

Housed in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse, the museum is home to a unique collection of images and archaeological artefacts found in The Rocks – some of which you can even hold.

The exhibits are filled with interactive fun, using touch screens, audio and visual elements to bring the history of the area alive.

Four permanent exhibitions have been developed in close consultation with the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council which share the history and stories of the area and the impact of European settlement. The exhibitions cover the periods:

  • Warrane (pre-1788)
  • Colony (1788–1820)
  • Port (1820–1900)
  • Transformations (1900–present)

You can learn about the area's traditional custodians, the establishment of the English colony and the time when sailors, whalers and traders made The Rocks their home; through to the 1970s union-led protests which preserved this unique part of Sydney for future generations to explore and enjoy. So make sure you treat yourself and do just that!

10am – 5pm daily (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day)
Entry is free but bookings are essential for self-guided school groups.

Self-Guided Group Booking Form

 


The New South Wales Marine Corps and
New South Wales Corps, 1788-1809

The Royal Marines were infantry troops whoaccompanied British naval expeditions. A special force, the New South Wales Marine Corps, accompanied the First Fleet. In 1791–2, they were replaced by the landbased New South Wales Corps, who garrisoned the new colony until 1809... Read more

A Garrison Town: The Military in The Rocks

The Rocks area became a ‘garrison town’ after British settlement in 1788, with Dawes Point Battery, the Military Hospital on Observatory Hill and the Barracks at Wynyard. Holy Trinity Church in Argyle Place was to earn the name by which it is still largely known, the Garrison Church... Read more

Military in The Rocks

From the time of European settlement in 1788 until the end of World War I, the military was an important part of the life of The Rocks... Read more

Those Who Served


In 1914, The Rocks and Millers Point was a hard, working class area condemned as a slum. The State Government had taken possession of the area in 1901, planning to demolish and reconstruct the neighbourhood, but the war intervened... Read more

A Fine Officer

Major Cyril Lane (1888 – 1915) lived in the Wentworth Hotel on Grosvenor Street, The Rocks, when the war broke out. He enlisted as a Captain in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force on 18 August 1914 and was one of the first Australians in World War I to see action with the capture of German New Guinea... Read more

Nurses at The Front

The Australian Army Nursing Service was formed in 1903 as part of the Australian Army Medical Corps. Over 2,000 registered nurses served in Britain, India, France, Belgium, the Middle East and the Mediterranean during World War I. They worked wherever they were needed; in hospitals, ships, trains and even close to the frontline... Read more

Fallen at Lone Pine

Alexander ‘Al’ Thomas Johnston was a 19-year-old brass polisher in the publishing department of the Sydney Morning Herald when he enlisted on the 4th September 1914, one month after war was declared... Read more

Lost on the Front

Albert and Ellen Thompson lived at 3 Dibbs St Millers Point with their eight children, two daughters-in-law, and two grandchildren. Three of the boys enlisted in 1915; Wilmore and the married sons George and James... Read more

A Tough Bunch

The Imperial Camel Corps, formed in January 1916 was a camel mounted infantry. It operated in the Middle East and Africa, and was truly international. The ICC had soldiers from Australia, India, Canada, New Zealand and Britain; among them were six men from The Rocks... Read more

Bravery Beyond Words

John Joseph Luck was from a large local family who had lived in the area for generations. He was 22 and working as a coal lumper when he enlisted in July 1915, arriving at the Western Front in March 1916 and sent to the front line a month later... Read more

Gallantry Under Fire

Walter grew up in The Rocks and was 26, working as a coal lumper on the wharves of Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour when he enlisted on 20 September 1915. He lived at 68 Princes St, The Rocks with his wife Daisy and their young two children, Edna and Walter... Read more

Stories from the Trenches

Phillip Laurence Harris was a journalist for his family’s newspaper The Hebrew Standard, published at George Street in The Rocks and contributed to other periodicals like The Bulletin and Lone Hand. He enlisted in October 1914 and was posted to an Ammunition Park at Avonmouth in England, and then later to France. His brother Charles, a printer, enlisted the following year... Read more

A Family Goes to War

The Avery’s were part of an extended family that had lived in The Rocks since the early 1800s. A row of terrace houses in Atherden Street is named after them; they occupied all the houses in the street for many years... Read more

A Wife's Anguish

Families of men reported Missing in Action, were sent minimal information about the soldiers’ fate. If the Red Cross couldn’t help, their only recourse was to write to the Australian Imperial Forces. These letters were often tear stained, desperate, and some plain angry. The replies they received were a standardised answer containing no comfort... Read more

Delivering Bad News

When the war broke out in 1914, the churches were asked if they would deliver telegrams to servicemen’s families from the Australian Imperial Forces. Church leaders readily agreed that they were the best people to bring such news; a decision many of the clergy would regret... Read more

The Lost Boys

John Alexander Ferguson was a Sudan War Veteran. After his return in 1885 he married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Condran and became the licensee of the Observer Tavern. Together they ran the pub and raised their six children; four boys (Ernest, John, George and Reginald) and two girls (Elizabeth and Marguerite) in the residence above the pub... Read more

Agnes Macready

When the Boer War in South Africa erupted in 1899 the Australasian colonies offered to send soldiers and nurses to assist Britain. Surgical nurse Agnes Macready was not only well qualified for the task, she was also a journalist with The Rocks-based newspaper The Catholic Press, and she became Australia’s first female war correspondent. Her articles, sent in from South Africa, provided readers in Sydney with an independent view of the war, with an emphasis on the suffering of the Boers... Read more

Andrew Douglas White

A convict’s son who served on the Duke of Wellington’s staff at Waterloo was Australia’s first returned soldier.

Andrew Douglas White was the illegitimate son of the First Fleet’s chief surgeon John White and his convict housekeeper Rachel Turner. The family lived in the Surgeon’s House, on the site now occupied by the Orient Hotel, on the corner of George and Argyle streets... Read more

Battery Brown

Bombadier ‘Battery’ Brown, a veteran of the 1812 war with the United States, was recruited in England for service in the colony, arriving in Sydney in 1823 aboard the Jupiter. Already married three times before his arrival, he married his fourth wife, Cecilia Halls, in 1827 at Scots Church in The Rocks. Read more


Cadwallader Draffin

On January 26 1808 William Bligh, the Governor of NSW, was overthrown by the NSW Corps in Australia’s first and only military coup, known as the ‘Rum Rebellion’. The Corps invaded Government House and placed Bligh under arrest, taking over the administration of the colony.
A key participant in the arrest was Lieutenant Cadwallader Draffin, who actually seized Governor Bligh. Lt. Draffin had been appointed as Commandant of Newcastle in March 1805, but only a month later was declared unfit to command; in the words of surgeon Charles Throsby he had become... Read more

 

Dawes Point Battery and Artillery

Dawes Point Battery (1790–1925): Australia’s First Permanent Defence Fortification
The remains of Dawes Point Battery are located under the southern approach to Sydney Harbour Bridge. Intended as a permanent fortification, the battery stood ready to defend Sydney from naval attack for almost 120 years, during which time Britain feared attack from Spain, France, Russia and even the United States.... Read more

Discipline

Disciplining of Soldiers in New South Wales
Military discipline was very harsh in the colony, and soldiers often felt that they weren’t treated as well as convicts.

INEQUALITY OF PUNISHMENT
Convicts could be sentenced to no more than 100 lashes of the cat o nine tails for misdemeanours, but soldiers could be sentenced to any number, and some were executed for crimes that were considered minor in civilians... Read more

George Barney

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... Read more

Henry Parke Airey

Lieutenant Colonel HENRY PARKE AIREY CMG, DSO (1842–1911)

Henry Parke Airey was born in England and educated there, at Marlborough College and the East India Company Military Seminary. After graduating in 1859 he went to India, serving on the northwestern frontier for six years before being promoted to lieutenant.
Airey arrived in Sydney in August 1866 after retiring from the army, but when a third battery was added to the colony’s permanent artillery he returned to military life, obtaining a lieutenancy. On 1 August 1871, ‘A’ Battery, NSW Artillery was formed, and Airey was appointed its Captain. ‘A’ Battery was garrisoned at Dawes Point... Read more


William Dawes

Lieutenant William Dawes was a pioneer and a Renaissance man. His talents included astronomy, engineering, botany, surveying, exploring and cartography, and he was also a linguist, anthropologist, abolitionist and able administrator. Having begun life as the son of a clerk he joined the Royal Marines, and eventually became the Governor of Sierra Leone.

William Dawes was appointed as a second lieutenant of the Royal Marines in 1779. He saw action in the American War of Independence at the Battle of the Chesapeake and returned home wounded in 1781... Read more

 

Mulholland and Cadets

Fort Street School: Captain Wesley Powell Mulholland (1842–1928) and the Cadet Corps

Fort Street School was opened in the former Military Hospital on Observatory Hill in 1849. It was one of the first government-run schools in Australia, pioneering educational techniques that would be adopted throughout the colony.

The Australian Army Cadet Corps grew from the introduction of ‘drill’ into the school curriculum from the late 1850s. Cadet corps had been established at several prominent English schools, such as at Eton and Rugby in 1859, largely in response to the Crimean War... Read more

The Sudan Campaign

The greatest event in our Australian history … is the offer of theAustralian Governments to send contingents from the various colonies to take part inthe military operations inthe Soudan, and the acceptance by the Imperial Government of the offer of New South Wales …. (The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil, 11 March 1885)

In the early 1880s, a Sudanese uprising for independence from Egypt was gaining ground. The British, who supported the Egyptians, decided to allow the Sudanese self-government, and General Charles Gordon was sent to the city of Khartoum to oversee the withdrawal of the Egyptian Army. However, contrary to his orders Gordon resolved that the Sudanese had to be crushed to ensure the stability of the region. In March 1884 the Sudanese besieged Khartoum; Gordon could have escaped, but remained in the city under siege for almost a year, until it fell in late January 1885... Read more

The Handsome Convict
Artillery Commander: Lieutenant George Bridges Bellasis (1767–1825)

Lieutenant George Bridges Bellasis, formerly of the British East India Company, arrived in Sydney in January 1802 as a convict with a 14-year sentence. By that October he had become the commandant of the Governor's cavalry bodyguard, and had been given command of the artillery at Dawes Point.
Being transported turned out to be a good career move for Bellasis. Born in England and described as “the most handsome man in India”, he was the epitome of an officer and a gentleman of the British Empire. The Bellasis family was well represented amongst the British forces serving in India; George’s brother General Joseph Harvey Bellasis was killed while storming a fort in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799, and in the same year George was awarded a gold medal for gallantry at the battle of Seringapatam.... Read more

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Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority thanks the following institutions for kindly loaning artefacts to The Rocks Discovery Museum:

Australian Museum

Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

NSW State Records

Royal Australian Historical Society

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority thanks the following organisations and individuals for their assistance in the development of The Rocks Discovery Museum:

Architects/exhibition development: Peter Tonkin and Christina Carayanides at 3D Projects

Artefact photography: Russell Workman

Conservators: Anne Cummins, Sydney Artefacts Conservation, Brett Smith, Museum Exhibition Services and Sue Frost, Sue Frost Conservation

Electricians: Rojac Electrics & Security

Exhibition development (Warrane): Sarah Burke and the team at Australian Museum Business Services

Interactive development: Jason Stevenson and the team at Art of Multimedia

Lighting design: Lighting Art & Science

Exhibition content consultants:

Allen Madden and the team at the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Val Attenbrow and Phil Gordon and the team at Australian Museum Aboriginal Heritage Unit

Bruce Stewart, Shane Phillips, Neil Vincent and the team at The Tribal Warrior Association Incorporated

Margret Campbell, Aboriginal Discoveries

James Wilson-Millar, Koori Curator, Powerhouse Museum

Clarence Slockee, Botanic Gardens

Val Garner for the Byrne Family Tree

Hori Hema, Wara Heremia and Tom Tepania, Maori Kaumatua

Other thanks:

Aden Ridgeway

Rhoda Roberts

Uncle Max Eulo, Elder of Redfern community

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What are The Rocks Discovery Museum’s opening hours?
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day).

Is there an entry charge?
No, entry to the museum is free, although a gold coin donation would be most gratefully accepted.

Where is The Rocks Discovery Museum located?
The Rocks Discovery Museum is located on Kendall Lane off Argyle Street in The Rocks.

How do I get to The Rocks Discovery Museum?

By Foot

From the CBD, simply head north on George Street and this will bring you into the heart of The Rocks. Turn left onto Argyle Street and then take the first right into Kendall Lane.

For transport information, visit Getting here.

Can I access the museum with a wheelchair or stroller?
Entry to The Rocks Discovery Museum is at ground level. However the first floor is currently inaccessible to visitors using a wheelchair or  stroller.

Can I take photographs in the museum?
Yes, photography in the museum is permitted.

Are there programs for school groups incorporating The Rocks Discovery Museum?
Yes, Sydney Learning Adventures operates two programs: Ngara and Giba-Nura

Find out more about the Sydney Learning Adventures’ schools program.

Are there any school holiday programs at The Rocks Discovery Museum?
Yes, The Rocks Discovery Museum operates free, family-friendly, hands-on school holiday programs during NSW school holiday periods.

Find out more about The Rocks Discovery Museum school holiday programs.

I have visited the museum and would like to find out more information about The Rocks. Where can I look?
Come back and spend some time in The Rocks Discovery Museum Resource Centre which has a wealth of print and online reference material available.

Historical information is available on this website in our Heritage and History section.

Sydney Learning Adventures also operates programs at The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre in The Rocks for primary and secondary school students that bring the history and stories of The Rocks to life.

Find out more about Sydney Learning Adventures’ programs at The Big Dig.

Who manages The Rocks Discovery Museum?
The Rocks Discovery Museum is an initiative of Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. It is part of the Foreshore Authority's ongoing commitment to conserving and promoting the natural and cultural heritage of The Rocks.

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