Freemasonry is
The many lives of the Sydney Mint

Many buildings around the city of Sydney owe their existence to early masons who were involved in their construction but little is known about these builders.

Half Sovereign CoinA half-sovereign coin made by the Sydney Mint in 1914.The Sydney Mint in Macquarie Street is one such building and was originally designed and built as the southern wing of Sydney Hospital. It is next door to the Hyde Park Barracks and was built between 1811 and 1816.

Research has failed to discover the name of the architect but there have been suggestions that Governor Bro Lachlan Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth were involved in its design. What is known is that Govenor Macquarie paid the building contractors with a licence for the almost exclusive right to import 270,000 litres of rum into the colony between 1810 and 1814.

The only other portion of the original hospital still standing is the north wing which became Parliament House. The southern building was first intended as quarters for assistant surgeons and a medical storeroom but by the mid-20s many occupants had taken residence including the store master.

Sydney Mint 1872 The Sydney Mint, taken in 1872There was much debate over the future of the hospital with some rooms being used as military wards, a dispen- sary was created in the southern wing in 1845 as well as a staff office for the military from 1848.

After the reported discovery of gold in 1851 by Edward Hargraves who was initiated in April 1853 in the Leinster Marine Lodge of Australia No 266 Irish Constitution, the building became an Australian branch of the Royal Mint from 1853 until 1901 when, after Federation it became the Australian Mint until 1927.

It was also planned for this proposed branch of the Royal Mint to be used for coining gold sovereigns with intentions to create a Sydney branch on the corner of Bridge and Macquarie streets but to save time and cost it was changed to the southern wing of the hospital. It was later used for government offices and a divorce court and became a museum in 1982.

The Sydney Mint was officially opened in 1854 after extensive remodelling with prefabricated materials being imported from England. However the Sydney Mint stopped producing in 1926 and became part of the new Commonwealth Mint in Canberra.

In 1975, the NSW Government decided to restore the Mint and Hyde Park Barracks with the Mint Museum closed again in 1997 and the buildings transferred to the Historic Houses Trust two years later.

Sydney Mint todayThe Sydney Mint todayBuildings on the Mint site, including the former southern wing of the hospital and the structures for the Royal Mint at the rear, were converted for use as the headquarters for the Historic Houses Trust in the early 2000s, and officially opened in 2004.

The colonnaded verandas have simple yet elegant Tuscan columns which were cut by the stonemason Bro George Lane who became a Mason in October 1820 in the Australian Social Lodge No 260 Irish Constitution.

 

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, June 2020, pages 14 and 15.

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