Buildings within the Gardens
1. Plant Sciences & Herbarium
The Robert Brown Building (Herbarium) was opened in 1982 (during the
administration of Dr L.A .S Johnson). The previous Herbarium (Maiden’s
Herbarium/Anderson Building) was opened in 1901.
2. Maiden Theatre
With the opening of the Robert Brown Building (1982) the rooms of the old
Herbarium were available for different use. The lower ground floor of
the eastern side of the old Herbarium was set aside as a large meeting
and lecture room, and called the Maiden Theatre in memory of a previous
Botanic Gardens’ Director, J.H. Maiden (Director 1896–1924).
3. Friends Office
The Friends' office, just north of the Herbarium, and accessed from Mrs
Macquaries Road, is in the southern of the Twin Cottages (Cottages 5 &
6). Strongly influenced by the Arts & Crafts style, these cottages were
built in 1899.
4. Tropical Centre
The Sydney Tropical Centre, comprising the ‘Arc’ and the Pyramid
glasshouses with a linking underground foyer, were opened in 1990. The
Pyramid Glasshouse had been opened in 1972.
5. Rose Garden Pavilion
The Rose Garden Pavilion (previously called the Palace Garden/Chess
pavilion) was built in 1897. A second, similar structure was built in
Centennial Park in 1898.
Conservatorium of Music
The Conservatorium of Music, designed by Francis Greenway as stables for a
proposed new Government House, was completed c. 1821. The stables became
a Conservatorium in 1915. Expansive renovations, with underground
soundproofed studios, were completed in 2001.
Government House, designed by Edward Blore in the Gothic revival style,
was completed in 1845.
8. The Northern Depot
A works depot that was built in 1916 at the south-western corner of the
old Government House formal garden for management of operations in the
newly acquired northern end of the Botanic Gardens. Utilitarian
buildings comprising sheds, storerooms and staff amenities, have since
been adapted, modernised and recycled for new uses.
9. Central Depot and Nursery
Formerly the site of the Governor’s Kitchen Garden. The gardener’s house
(cottage 4/Rathborne Lodge) is believed to date from 1856. It was
occupied by various amenities during the International Exhibition of
1879 and brick stables were first constructed in 1878.
10. Domain Lodge & Domain Depot
Domain Lodge (St Marys Lodge) was built as a gatehouse lodge in 1835. The
Domain Depot was built at the back of the Lodge, date(s) unknown, and
was substantially renovated in 2001. The Domain Lodge, now part of the
Depot, was one of the oldest, or possibly the oldest, continually used
residence in this part of Sydney.
11. The Sydney Fernery
The Sydney Fernery was opened in 1993, and made possible as the result of
a generous gift to the Gardens from the (Vincent) Fairfax Foundation.
Other (earlier) ferneries had stood on this site.
12. The Palm House
The Palm House (Orchid/Show House/Glasshouse 10) with its associated
boiler room, probably designed by James Barnett, Colonial Architect, was
opened in 1876.
13. Lion Gate Lodge (Cottage 2/Middle Lodge)
A house for the Head Gardener that was built in 1878. Its name was changed
to Lion Gate Lodge in 1979 (after the lion and lioness guarding the gate
in the Macquarie Wall) when it was used as a residence for the Trust and
the Friends of The Gardens.
14. Rathborne Lodge Cottage 4
Rathborne Lodge is believed to have originally been built as a cottage for
the Governor’s Gardener (Governor’s Kitchen Garden) in 1856. This
cottage was renovated many times over the years. In 2002 it was
transformed into Rathborne Lodge (to be used for Corporate events),
following a bequest from the estate of Jack and Babs Rathborne.
15. Maiden Pavilion
The Maiden Pavilion was designed by R.M.S. Wells, Government Architect.
Dedicated 1930, in memory of former Director, Joseph Henry Maiden.
16. Vista Pavilion
The Vista Pavilion is an octagonal shelter pavilion, designed by Walter
Vernon, Government Architect, and built in 1907.
17. Botanic Gardens Restaurant
The original Kiosk (Refreshment Room) designed by James Barnett, Colonial
Architect, and built in 1886 was destroyed by fire in 1976.The Gardens
Restaurant, designed by Andrew Andersons and David Churches, was built
18. Pavilion on the Park
The Pavilion on the Park was built in the 1960s and renovated in the mid
19. Palace Gate Kiosk
The Palace Gate Kiosk was built as part of the bicentennial developments
in Macquarie Street (1988).
20. Victoria Lodge (Cottage3/Eastern Lodge)
Victoria Lodge is a sandstone gatehouse, believed to be built c. 1893/5.
Originally very small. Additions were made about 1870 and the western
and southern wings were added in 1921.
21. Administration Buildings and Reception
The Anderson Building (Maiden’s old Herbarium of 1901) is now used for
administration as is the Cunningham Building (previously the Director’s
Residence) designed by James Barnett, Colonial Architect, for Charles
Moore in 1874.
22. The Gardens Shop
In the Palm Grove Centre, a new information space, retail outlet, and
public toilet, was opened in September 2000, just prior to the Sydney
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House was designed by the Danish architect Utzon, was
opened in 1973, on Bennelong Point, on the site of the old Government
Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Art Gallery of New South Wales was designed by Horbury Hunt, and
substantially added to by Walter Vernon between 1896 and 1909. Many
extensions have been made since then.
of New South Wales
The State Library of New South Wales, with its Mitchell and Dixon
Libraries, was built between 1910 and 1942. The Mitchell Library was
built between 1904 and 1910. The greater complex was completed in 1942.
New extensions were completed in 1988.
26. Macquarie Wall
The Macquarie Wall in the Botanic Gardens, built 1810 – 1812, during
Governor Macquarie’s time, is the last of the walls of the Macquarie era
Art within the Gardens
1. Robert Burns
Bronze statue (2.9 metres high) by Frederick Pomeroy of Scottish poet
Robert Burns on stone pedestal of Melbourne granite, mostly in the
rough, with one polished course in the centre, 1905.
2. Viva Voce Installation **
Installation by Debra Phillips consisting of a red stepladder and five
marble clad 'soapboxes' arranged amongst the trees at Speakers Corner in
the Domain. Acknowledges the historical and contemporary importance of
the area as a site of public oratory, as both the ‘living voice and
democratic heart of the city’, 1999.
3. Police Memorial Wall
Memorial Wall to Police Officers who have lost their lives in the course
of their duty, 1862–1998, erected 1999.
4. Almost Once ***
Brett Whiteley sculpture of blackbutt timber and fibreglass consisting of
two large ‘redhead’ matches, one live and one burnt, on a concrete base
(conceived in 1968 and finished in 1991).
5. The Offerings of Peace and War ***
These two massive sculptures – the Offerings of Peace and The Offerings of
War – are both the work of the English sculptor, Gilbert Bayes
6. Henry Moore Reclining Figure ***
The reclining bronze is by the English sculptor, Henry Moore (1898–1986),
considered to be one of the greatest of all twentieth-century sculptors.
The original plaster was made in 1975. This cast was purchased from the
artist in 1981.
7. Sir John Robertson
Bronze statue of the politician Sir John Robertson who, as Lands Minister,
approved the opening of the Domain at night to pedestrians in 1860. The
statue, paid for by public subscription, was unveiled in 1904.
8. Lewis Wolfe Levy Fountain
Art Nouveau fountain by C.B. Birch surmounted with a bronze statue of a
young girl with a heron and reeds and frogs at the base. Commissioned by
the family of politician and businessman Lewis Wolfe Levy, 1889.
9. Henry Kendall Seat
Art Deco style seat commissioned by Mrs A. Hamilton-Grey and designed by
Wilfred Rhodes in memory of the poet Henry Kendall. The winged horses
were carved by L. Bicego, 1939.
10. I Wish Statue
Pink concrete head of a girl by Arthur Fleischman, commissioned by Leo
Buring, and mounted on a sandstone plinth (site of the first Wishing
11. Henry Lawson Statue
Bronze statue of Australian poet and short story writer Henry Lawson (plus
swagman, fence post and dog) by George Lambert, 1931.
12. Veil of Trees **
Installation by Janet Lawrence and Jisuk Han. The passage of glass panels
and new tree planting's reflects the botanical history of the Domain
whilst rejuvenating species that were once found in the area. Consists
of a meandering line of forest red gums with glass panels embedded with
seeds, ash, honey, resin, and fragments of prose and poems by Australian
writers, inspired by the landscape, 1999. Janet Laurence also created
'The Edge of Trees' in the forecourt of the Museum of Sydney.
13. Archaeology of Bathing **
Water installation by Robyn Backen tracing the outline of the former
Domain Baths for ladies and relecting upon the cultural attitudes
towards bathing in Sydney at the time. The installation also signifies
tidal movements and the naval presence across Woolloomooloo Bay.
14. Dual Nature **
Soundscape installation by Nigel Helyer, relating to the history of people
and shipping in Woolloomooloo Bay. Hybrids of marine, industrial and
natural forms cling to the shoreline, transmitting ambient sounds, 1999.
15. Mrs Macquaries Chair
Seat carved in outcrop of solid stone at the northern most point of Mrs
Macquaries Road, 1816, where the wife of Governor Macquarie liked to sit
and watch the ships come in.
16. Fleet Steps and Queen Elizabeth II Memorial
Steps constructed in 1908 to welcome the Great White American Fleet to
Sydney. The adjacent wall commemorates the location where Queen
Elizabeth II first set foot on Australian soil (asphalt) in 1954.
17. Boy with Thorn
Damaged marble copy of ‘Boy with Thorn’ statue, imported from Italy, 1883.
18. Choragic Monument
Carved sandstone replica of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, executed
by Walter McGill for Sir James Martin, Premier of New South Wales, 1870,
for his residence in Macleay Street. Presented to the Royal Botanic
Gardens in 1943.
19. Mare and Foal
Bronze mare (La Reyna) and her foal by the French artist, Arthur J. le
Duc, purchased in 1891, and donated to the Royal Botanic Gardens in
20. Magnolia (Seed) and Palm **
Metal pair of overscaled seed-like sculptures by Bronwyn Oliver, nestled
beneath a magnolia and a palm tree in the Gardens are placed adjacent to
the site of the First Farm in Sydney Cove. The forms reflect the
‘organic flotsam washed up by the tide, blown by the wind, and laden
with the potential for transformation and new life’, 1999.
Figurative sculpture by Helen Leete, from earth and sand laid in strata,
imitating natural rock, 1993.
Bronze cast of Frank ‘Guy’ Lynch’s 1924 sculpture modelled from the
artist’s brother, whose death inspired Kenneth Slessor to write his poem
‘Five Bells’, 1977.
23. Memory is Creation without End **
Spiral of sandstone blocks by Kimio Tsuchiya, relics of demolished
buildings symbolising the circular connection of past, present, and
24. Venus ‘Italica’
Marble replica of the Venus ‘Italica’ by the Italian sculptor Antonio
25. Sensory Fountain
A spherical fountain designed to be touched, seen and heard — water begins
to flow as you approach. Designed for the Herb Garden in 1994 by
Victorian artist Tim Jones and made by Dave Mune at the Art Foundry in
Victoria. The fountain is surrounded by a bronze ring of herbs drawn by
Gardens’ illustrator Marion Westmacott. Donated by the Australian Bank
Ltd to commemorate their 10th anniversary and the 175th anniversary of
the Royal Botanic Gardens.
26. Herb Garden Sundial
A splendid armillary sphere sundail, 2.4 m tall, 1.5 m internal ring
diameter, weighing 1500 kg and made of silicon bronze, was designed
specifically for the Herb Garden by John Ward and Margaret Folkard
(Sundials Australia, Adelaide) in 1994. Features herbs modelled in clay
in high relief by Adelaide sculptor Karen Rumpf from drawings by
Gardens’ illustrator Marion Westmacott. Both sundial and herb ring were
cast by Dave Mune at the Art Foundry in Victoria. The sundial is
dedicated to the memory of the late Malcolm Arnott (1910–1991).
27. Herb Garden Birdbath
Designed and made in 1994 for the Herb Garden by sculptor Peter Mueller
and commemorating Hope Clayton (1907–1991), a friend of the Gardens.
28. Sweep Boy and Linda da Chamonix
Marble Victorian-era pair of statues of a young girl with a scarf, clogs
and musical instrument and a sweep boy from the Donizetti opera ‘Linda
da Chamonix’, written in 1842. These statues have been in the same place
in the Gardens since the 1880s.
29. The Boxers
Two-metre high marble copies of ‘The Boxers’ by Antonio Canova. This pair
of statues has also been in the Gardens since the 1880s.
30. Huntsman and Dogs
This recently restored statue by the French sculptor A. Jacquemart is
‘imitation bronze’ — an iron casting on which copper has been deposited
by electrolysis. It was cast by the Val d’Osne Company c. 1879.
Massive sculpture and fountain by the Italian sculptor Achille Simonetti,
unveiled during the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (ie. 60 years) of the
reign of Queen Victoria, 1897.
32. Morshead Fountain
Fountain in memory of Lieutenant-General Sir Lesley Morshead (knighted for
his defence of Tobruk in World War II) and the men who served with him,
33. Shakespeare Memorial
Bronze memorial to William Shakespeare, consisting of group figures (about
2.5 metres high) of some of his more famous characters, surmounted by a
2.75 metre statue of the poet and playwright, 1926.
34. Governor Bourke Statue
Bronze statue of Governor Richard Bourke by E.H. Bailey (once near site of
Shakespeare Group), 1842.
This work in Farm Cove by Indigenous artist Brenda L. Croft in 2000
comprises terrazzo and stained concrete insets into the pathway
depicting figures from Sydney rock carvings, some of which are now lost.
Etched in red along the kerb are the names of people, places, animals,
tools and rituals from the many groups of Indigenous people in the
Sydney area. The work marks the historic and continuing importance of
Indigenous people to this area.
The local Aboriginal inhabitants, the Cadigal, used the tidal area along
Woccanmagully (Farm Cove) for an initiation ground and the 'Kangaroo and
The Sydney Domain was set aside in 1788 by Governor Phillip as his
private reserve and the First Farm established adjacent to Farm Cove
Governor Bligh attempted to reclaim the Domain, leading up to the Rum
Botanic Gardens founded on this site by Governor Macquarie
Charles Fraser appointed first Colonial Botanist
John Carne Bidwill appointed first Director of Botanic Gardens
Charles Moore appointed new Director (held position until 1896)
Sydney’s first Zoo opens in the Botanic Gardens
Garden Palace (Exhibition Pavilion) constructed in the Domain
Fire destroys Garden Palace
New Herbarium opened in the Royal Botanic Gardens
Institution granted the title Royal Botanic Gardens
Robert Brown Building opened to house the Herbarium
Opening of Mount Tomah, cool climate garden in the Blue Mountains
Opening of Mount Annan, native plant garden south-west of Sydney
Rose Garden opens in Royal Botanic Gardens
Tropical Centre opens in Royal Botanic Gardens
Fernery opens in Royal Botanic Gardens
Herb Garden opens in Royal Botanic Gardens
HSBC Oriental Garden opens in Royal Botanic Gardens
Rare and Threatened Plants Garden opens in Royal Botanic Gardens
Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters Garden opens
Royal Botanic Gardens
The first farm on the Australian continent, ‘nine acres in corn’ at Farm
Cove, was established in 1788 by Governor Phillip. Although that farm
failed, the land has been in constant cultivation since that time, as
ways were found to make the relatively infertile soils more productive.
The Botanic Gardens were founded on this site by Governor Macquarie in
1816 as part of the Governor’s Domain. Our long history of collection
and study of plants began with the appointment of the first Colonial
Botanist, Charles Fraser, in 1817. The Botanic Gardens is thus the
oldest scientific institution in Australia and, from the earliest days,
has played a major role in the acclimatisation of plants from other
After a succession of colonial botanists and superintendents, including
the brothers Richard and Allan Cunningham, both also early explorers,
John Carne Bidwill was appointed as the first Director in 1847. He was
succeeded the following year by Charles Moore, a Scotsman who had
trained in the Botanic Gardens of Trinity College, Dublin. Moore,
Director for 48 years (1848–96), did much to develop the Botanic Gardens
in their modern form. He boldly tackled the problems of poor soil,
inadequate water and shortage of funds to develop much of the Gardens in
the form we see today. The Palm Grove, in the heart of the Royal Botanic
Gardens, is a reminder of his skill and foresight, as is the reclaimed
land behind the Farm Cove seawall which added a significant area to the
Royal Botanic Gardens.
In 1862 Sydney’s first zoo was opened within the Botanic Gardens and
remained there until 1883, when most of it was transferred to Moore
Park. During these years much of the remnant natural vegetation of the
surrounding Domain was removed and planted as parkland. The Moreton Bay
Figs, one of the major elements of this planting, continue to dominate
In 1879 a substantial area of the Domain, south of the Government House
stables (now the Conservatorium of Music), was taken for the building of
the Garden Exhibition Palace. This building, ‘an outstanding example of
Victorian architectural exuberance, with towers and turrets deployed
around a giant dome 100 feet in diameter surmounted by a lantern 200
feet above the ground’, dominated Sydney’s skyline and covered over two
hectares. The International Exhibition held in the Palace attracted over
one million visitors. However, the building was destroyed by fire in
1882 and the land, now known as the Palace Garden, was added to the
Towards the end of his time as Director, Moore, together with Ernst
Betche, published the Handbook of the Flora of New South Wales, further
establishing the Botanic Gardens as a centre for the science of botany.
Moore was succeeded by Joseph Henry Maiden who, during his 28-year term,
added much to Moore’s maturing landscape. He organised the construction
of a new herbarium building, opened in 1901 (today part of the Anderson
Building), and made major improvements to the Domain. However, the
Botanic Gardens suffered from loss of staff positions during the First
World War and, in the depression of the 1930s, the position of Director
was lost. Both the Herbarium and the living collections languished. From
1945 Robert Anderson worked to reunify the two. In 1959 the title
‘Royal’ was granted and the Herbarium and Royal Botanic Gardens were
administratively reunified under the title Royal Botanic Gardens.
Knowles Mair (1965–70) achieved reunification and the Royal Botanic
Gardens began its return to eminence.
In 1982 the new Robert Brown Building was opened to house the Herbarium.
In 1986 Professor Carrick Chambers became Director and retired ten years
Dr John Beard (1970–72) and Dr Lawrence Johnson (1972–85) further
developed the organisation, and the Robert Brown Building was opened in
1982 to house the Herbarium. The breadth of activities increased over
these decades with the formation of the Friends of the Royal Botanic
Gardens; educational and ecological programs; the Flora of New South
Wales; the scientific journals Telopea and Cunninghamia and programs of
computerised documentation of both the living and herbarium
Other initiatives, the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden (1987), Mount Annan
Botanic Garden (1988) and the Tropical Centre (1990) glasshouses, were
opened to the public after Professor Carrick Chambers became the ninth
Director in 1986. The Royal Botanic Gardens celebrated its 175th
anniversary in 1991. During Professor Chambers’ ten years as Director,
the Rose Garden (1988), the Fernery (1993), the Herb Garden (1994), and
the Oriental Garden (1997) were opened and the Rare and Threatened
Species Garden (1998) was commenced to further enrich the experience of
visitors. The Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation was established to seek a
wider range of support for future needs.
In 2003 the business name of the organisation, comprising the three
Botanic Gardens and the Domain and administered by the Royal Botanic
Gardens & Domain Trust, was changed from the Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney to the Botanic Gardens Trust.
The present Executive Director is Dr Tim Entwisle.
The Sydney Domain was set aside in 1788 by Governor Phillip as his private
reserve. It covered the area east of the Tank Stream to the head of
Woolloomooloo (Walla Mulla) Bay and contains the site of the first farm
in Australia. The farm had been established for growing grain, but was
soon moved to Parramatta, because of the poor sandy soil. The Farm Cove
(Woccanmagully) area was then leased out for private farming for the
next twenty years.
Governor Bligh attempted to reclaim the Domain c. 1808, leading up to the
Rum Rebellion. Governor Macquarie completed this task, extending the
roads and gardens started by Bligh, and enclosing the Government Domain
with stone walls and paling fences. The traditional foundation date of
the Botanic Gardens is taken as the date of completion of Mrs Macquaries
Road, on 13 June 1816. An enlarged and reorganised Gardens were opened
to the general public in 1831.
Over the years the Gardens grew as the Domain was slowly whittled away,
but remained an important buffer to the Gardens. The native vegetation
was cleared and the gullies of Phillip Precinct filled. During the 1830s
the expansive green space of the Domain was now opened to the public,
who strolled and picnicked there. The Domain west of Macquarie Street
was then sold to pay for the construction of new Government House and
In the 1850s the Domain was used for military, sporting, and ceremonial
events, and was subsequently used for soap-box oratory and political
meetings. From 1860 the Domain was opened up at night to pedestrians,
allowing people to use this valuable recreational space on summer
evenings. It became known as `the Park where the Gates Never Close’.
Carriage traffic however remained restricted after dusk for many years.
The growing city of Sydney put great pressure on the Domain. A major
encroachment was the construction of the Garden Palace for the
International Exhibition of 1879. In more recent years the problems have
come from the motor car, with the building of the Cahill Expressway and
the Domain Parking Station. The Cahill Expressway destroyed the close
spatial relationship between the Gardens and Domain. It has now been
proposed to reclaim the green link between the Art Gallery and
Woolloomooloo Bay (as part of the revised design for the Eastern
The Domain is administered by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust.
It is vital we preserve what remains of the Domain as a green haven in
Reminding us of the early days, Mrs Macquaries Point and Chair mark one of
the sought-after photographic spots in Sydney with views across the
Harbour to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The Governor’s wife had
the chair carved out of the rock so she could sit and observe the
passing ships. Above the chair is an inscription recording the
completion of Mrs Macquaries Road on 13 June 1816.
First Fleet Steps is the point where Queen Elizabeth II first set foot on
Australian soil, and a commemorative wall plaque marks the event. The
site is often used for large marquee functions with stunning views of
the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.