1855-59 Australia: University of Sydney, Great Hall Construction


1870: Sydney University Main Building and Great Hall from City Road entrance.

In 1854, Edmund Thomas Blacket began designing the University’s Great Hall. The original colonial architect, Blacket’s design was intended to mirror the Tudor Gothic style seen in the London Guildhall, the Banqueting House at Hampton Court Palace and Westminster Hall in England.

I believe these photographs could be something interesting to look at. Top hats and all that good stuff. Some of the source-provided comments sound rather interesting, to say the least. There we go.

1. University under construction, doorway of Great Hall.
  • Open doorway south side of the Great Hall in eastern wall of building. Smith (probably) stands to left of doorway; apparently timing the exposure., 1859, Wet collodian plate.

2. University under construction, doorway of Great Hall.
  • Doorway; eastern wall of building. Three men examining pieces of cast iron; apparently to be used in construction. One source suggests the man on the right is Edmund Blacket., 1859, Wet collodian plate.

3. University under construction, stoneworker in front of the window of main building.
  • Man in top hat; (probably Smith) stands at left; apparently timing the exposure; and behind him another man; possibly a student., 1859, Wet collodian plate.

4. University under construction, carving the gargoyles.
  • Gargoyles in several stages of completion in foreground; with stonemason apparently carving figure of bird. To his right is another man in top hat and others in background., 1859, Wet collodian plate.

5. University under construction, John Smith timing exposure.
  • John Smith timing exposure while leaning against a ladder (Hudson and Son - builder), north doorway from Science Road., 1859, Stereo dry plate negative, glass.
  • That ladder has a shadow. What about John Smith?

6. University under construction, builders and observers.
  • Smith (extreme right) timing exposure; on his right Robert Hunt (?) and two builders. Blocks and gargoyles in foreground., 1859, Wet collodian plate.

7. Professors Smith, Pell and Woolley at Sydney University during construction.


I found one more photograph, which appears to be somewhat different qualitywise. It does appear that the top of the building is not quite there yet, but who knows?


John Smith


In 1852, John Smith was appointed Foundation Professor of Chemistry and Experimental Physics at the University of Sydney, the first Professor of Chemistry in Australia. Smith was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1856 and became a Fellow of Senate in 1861. The University Archives hold a splendid collection of historic photographs of the University and Sydney surrounds taken between 1855 and 1880 by Smith. He was an exceptionally talented amateur photographer, one of the first in this country, and his photographs have historical significance in the development of the visual arts in Australia.

KD: Well, there we have it. Those are the constructions photographs of the Great Hall of the University of Sydney in Australia. If you find any additional "construction" photographs, please share with the rest.