The Mint

2008
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The Mint

The main Mint building on Macquarie Street was designed and built as the southern wing of Sydney's General Hospital. The architect is unknown, although there is some suggestion that Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth were involved in its design.

Owing to its scale, the General Hospital was never used solely for its intended purpose, and its future use was debated even before it was finished. Initially the southern wing was used to house the assistant surgeon and his family. By the mid-1820s, an overlapping array of occupants, including the storemaster, used rooms within the wing. Some rooms were used as military hospital wards. A dispensary for the treatment of paupers was housed in the southern wing from 1845, until it was removed to the central wing in 1848. The staff office for the military occupied the southern wing from 1848 to 1854.

[media]In 1851, the Legislative Council petitioned to establish a mint in Sydney, to take advantage of the gold discovered at Ophir, just outside Bathurst. The proposed branch of the Royal Mint in NSW, which would also mint gold from Victoria and Queensland, received royal assent in 1853. Captain Edward Ward, the Deputy Mint Master of London's Royal Mint, drew up plans for the Sydney branch on the corner of Bridge and Macquarie streets. However, it was decided to locate the Mint in the southern wing of the General Hospital to save time and costs.

Officially opened in 1854, the establishment of the Royal Mint branch required the extensive remodelling of the former hospital wing to house the Mint Master, as well as administrative offices and receiving and storage rooms for bullion. Industrial buildings for rolling, assaying and coining were erected around a courtyard on land behind the building. These were prefabricated and imported from England.

The Sydney Mint ceased production in 1926, when it was subsumed into the new Commonwealth Mint in Canberra. From 1927, the Department of Attorney-General and Justice and other government department offices occupied the site.

In 1975, the State Government announced it would restore the Mint and Hyde Park Barracks, with conservation and archaeological works carried out between 1977 and 1979. From 1980 to 1994, the Mint was a decorative arts museum managed by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, now the Powerhouse Museum, and became a numismatic museum from 1995. The Sydney Mint Museum was closed in 1997, and the buildings comprising it were transferred to the Historic Houses Trust two years later. Other buildings within the Mint complex continued to be used as the District Court and the Land and Environment Court until the late 1990s.

Buildings on the Mint site, including the former southern wing of the hospital and the purpose-built industrial 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.

References

Penny Crook, Laila Ellmoos and Tim Murray, Assessment of Historical and Archaeological Resources at the Mint, Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Glebe, 2003

Wendy Thorp and Australian Archaeological Services, 'Archival and Archaeological Report: former Mint industrial buildings and land and structures adjacent to the Domain', unpublished report prepared for the Department of Public Works, 1984

http://www.hht.net.au/museums/the_mint/the_mint

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