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Barnet, James Johnstone (1827 - 1904)

Technologist 
Born: 1827 Scotland. Died: 1904. 
James Johnstone Barnet was clerk of works at the University of Sydney 1854-1860. In 1860 Barnet joined the office of the Colonial Architect, becoming its permanent head in 1865 after acting in the position for two years. As Colonial Architect Barnet was responsible for many of Sydney's significant public buildings until his departure in 1890. 

"The greatest of all Colonial Architects" 
James Barnet was born in Scotland and studied drawing, design and architecture in London before he sailed for Sydney with his wife Amy in 1854. He lived all his Australian years in Glebe (Derwent Street in 1865) and Forest Lodge (Braeside, now demolished).

In 1860, Barnet joined the Colonial Architect's Office. In 1865, he became Colonial Architect and served in this position for 25 years. Barnet's work in Sydney signalled its maturation from a Georgian town to a Victorian city. His work contributed to a sense of stability and civic pride and includes :

The Australian Museum (1864) 
The GPO in Martin Place (1866-90) 
The Colonial Secretary's building (1878) 
The Lands Department building (1876-81, 1888-93) 
Further afield, Barnet designed 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses (including the Glebe Courthouse (1889)) and many other public buildings across the state.


Glebe Courthouse with the police station in the background. 

Barnet was 'a promoter of new technologies, used concrete and fire-resistant materials, introduced electricity into his buildings and was first to install a telephone in a government office.' Chris Johnson, the current Government Architect, states that Barnet was the Colonial Architect who most significantly affected the shaping of Sydney. 

James Barnet has left Sydney a legacy of iconic and much-loved Victorian buildings. He died at Forest Lodge aged 78 on 16 December 1904 and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery.

Sources:
Johnson, Chris, Shaping Sydney, 1999
Herman, Morton, The Architecture of Victorian Sydney, 1964
Lawrence, Joan and Warne, Catherine, Balmain to Glebe, 1995
MacDonnell, Freda, The Glebe: Portraits and Places, 1975
Smith, Bernard and Kate, The architectural character of Glebe, 1989

Special thanks to www.glebesociety.org.au 

 

www.sydneyarchitecture.com 

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