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Building Jerusalem at Botany Bay: James Barnet (1827-1904) and John Grant (1857-1928)

Faire de Botany Bay une Jérusalem: James Barnet (1827-1904) et John Grant (1857-1928)
Mark Stiles

Résumés

De nombreuses figures des Lumières écossaises ont rejoint l’Australie, de Lachlan Macquarie et Alexander Macleay jusqu’à Charles Nicholson et John Dunmore Lang, pour ne citer qu’eux. À la différence de leurs homologues anglais qui n’ont longtemps pensé l’Australie que comme une colonie pénitentiaire, des émigrants écossais éminents ont entrevu la possibilité de bâtir aux antipodes une nouvelle Jérusalem. Cet article met en perspective les carrières de deux de ces hommes, l’architecte James Barnet (1827-1904) et le syndicaliste John Grant (1857-1928). Tous deux étaient issus des métiers du bâtiment et avaient accompli leur apprentissage en Grande-Bretagne mais leurs carrières ont divergé en Australie. L’un est devenu l’architecte de la Colonie pour les Nouvelles Galles du Sud, déterminé à doter la colonie alors en plein essor d’une architecture publique marquante, dont beaucoup de témoignages subsistent encore aujourd’hui. L’autre est devenu le leader de la Stonemasons’ Society et un pionnier du mouvement travailliste en Australie, tout aussi déterminé à laisser à son nouveau pays un héritage, mais d’une tout autre nature, par la fondation d’une société davantage progressiste et plus juste socialement. À eux deux ils représentent les deux pôles des aspirations de l’Australie du xixe siècle, l’individuel et le collectif, et leurs carrières offrent un contraste éclairant des voies choisies par les hommes dans le nouveau monde, et de comment ce monde pouvait être transformé à la lumière de la Raison avec une inflexion écossaise toute particulière.

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“This Greater Scotland”

  • 1 “Banquet to Earl Rosebery at the Town Hall,” Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 10 December 1883, p. 3.
  • 2 James Barnet has been written about before, and this account draws on the existing texts, especiall (...)

1In 1883 the visiting Liberal politician Earl Rosebery was entertained at a Highland Society banquet in the Sydney Town Hall. The Earl spoke of the “unfeigned joy to us Scotchmen at home” to see “this greater Scotland growing up in this greater England out here.” His two main impressions of Australia were of its boundless future, and, perhaps more importantly for this account, his impression that Australia was the nearest realization he had seen of “that noblest dream of all political philosophers, the greatest happiness of the greatest number” [especially] for “those great masses [who] have the opportunity of living a happier existence here” than elsewhere. Nowhere else in the British empire was this more true.1 In this paper I describe the work of two Scottish emigrants who also believed that Australia might achieve “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” but who advocated very different paths to get there.2

  • 3 Benjamin Wilkie, The Scots in Australia 1788-1938, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017, see chapter 2.

2Scotland provided only six per cent of the convicts sent to New South Wales but a very much larger proportion of free settlers.3 Most relied on family and friends and the Presbyterian Church for support, but there were a number of formal associations of Scots in nineteenth century Sydney that provided help and advice for newcomers to this strange land. A representative figure at the centre of these networks might be the shipowner and timber merchant Alexander Kethel (1832-1916), who arrived in Sydney a few months before James Barnet in 1854. By the time of his death Kethel, besides being an elder of the Presbyterian Church, was also a Freemason, a founder of the Highland Society, a trustee of the Public Library, and a long-term committee member of both the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts and the Sydney Technical College. Elected to parliament as an early member of the Legislative Assembly, he was subsequently appointed to the Legislative Council where he served for twenty years. The only likely public bodies this emblematic Scotsman did not join was a temperance organization or the police.

  • 4 “Testimonial to the Rev Alexander Salmon,” Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1860, p. 5. Barnet is (...)
  • 5 Although his refusal to join the Institute of Architects was more to do with Barnet’s strict notio (...)

3For his part James Barnet belonged to the Presbyterian Church, in which he was a deacon of the Chalmers Street congregation by 18604, and the Highland Society, a social and cultural organization formed to preserve Scottish literature and traditions; ex officio he was a member of the Board of Technical Education and innumerable government commissions. One thing Barnet did not join was the fledgling Institute of Architects, an association of architects in private practice in New South Wales.5 But Scotchmen also dominated two other organizations that are central to this story, and to which Barnet and Grant quickly gravitated after their arrival in Sydney, the Colonial Architect’s Department and the Operative Stonemasons’ Society.

  • 6 The Colonial Architect’s Department was renamed the Government Architect’s Branch after Barnet’s d (...)

4The Colonial Architect’s Department was the largest architectural practice in nineteenth-century Sydney, and for forty-eight of the seventy years from 1856 to 1926 its head had been a Scotsman, including Barnet’s immediate predecessor Alexander Dawson and two of his three successors, George McRae and Gorrie McLeish Blair.6 Unlike in Britain, where the architecture profession largely consisted of men in private practice, in the Australian colonies, and New South Wales in particular, public practices dominated the local building world. The Colonial Architect’s Department dated back to the earliest days of the colony and held the monopoly of all government building work, no matter how small. Although kept short staffed by a succession of parsimonious governments, the Colonial Architect was automatically given the largest and most challenging commissions, and its legacy of public building is tremendous. If incumbents had sufficient political acumen to withstand the constant pressures on such an important department they could stay in the job for a long time, and Barnet did.

  • 7 Details of Grant’s life before 1880 are sketchy, but this was the experience of his fellow stonema (...)

5As Colonial Architect Barnet moved in the overlapping circles of professional middle-class Sydney and socially prominent Scotsmen; John Grant belonged to none of the above. His world was the world of organized labour, one in which Scotsmen were also prominent, but it was a distinctly different world to Barnet’s. Scottish stonemasons had been coming to Sydney as free emigrants since 1831, and they were active in the formation of their first union, the Operative Stonemasons’ Society, in 1853. This union was a militant and socially progressive union from its beginnings, the leader of organized labour in Sydney as in Britain; it was the first trade union in the world to win the right to an eight hour working day in 1856, and it campaigned consistently to extend this right to the rest of the labour movement in the following decades. Grant joined it soon after his arrival in Sydney in 1880, emigrating in search of work after the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878 and the subsequent depression in the Glasgow building trade.7 At the time Grant joined, the union was led by two Englishmen, Francis Burdett Dixon and William Roylance, both from Leeds, but its membership roll was thick with Scottish names. It was a congenial home for the young Grant, one with strong Scottish connections and progressive ideals, and Grant went on to hold every office in the union before graduating to bigger things, first in New South Wales labour politics and then in the newly federated Australian commonwealth after 1901.

  • 8 And negotiating the bitter church politics of the time: until 1867 or so the Presbyterians of Sydn (...)
  • 9 Barnet was also an ordinary member of the Philosophical Society. See Sydney Morning Herald, 6 July (...)
  • 10 Mary Ann Grant is not mentioned in the voluminous Encyclopedia of Australian Feminism, but she des (...)

6For both Barnet and Grant, making their way in colonial Sydney involved immense individual effort but also making use of such sources of support for protection and advancement as they could find, though not the same ones. Barnet benefitted from his strong commitment to the Presbyterian Church, which among other things meant getting along with its brilliant and quarrelsome founder, the Reverend John Dunmore Lang,8 while Grant’s friends in the early Australian labour movement included Chris Watson and “Billy” Hughes, two future Prime Ministers, as well as most of the other leading figures of the day.It is important to remember that both men from the very beginning did not just look out for themselves. Grant was a tireless and unpaid labour organizer for twenty years, and was his union’s regular delegate to the Eight Hour Day Extension Committee, the Sydney Trades Hall, the Trades and Labor Council, the Intercolonial Trade Union Congresses, and many others. In addition to his onerous official duties Barnet was a board member of the Australian Museum, the Public Library, the Agricultural Society and the Zoological Society, as well as maintaining a long term involvement with the Civil Service Building Society.9 Above all both were shrewd and politically astute, and they quickly found their feet in Sydney. In their endeavours to make their new home a better place, both had the inestimable support of their wives, in Barnet’s case of his wife Amy, whom he married just before sailing for Sydney, forming a steadfast partnership of fifty years that also produced a distinguished family. Equally strong was the forty-four year partnership between Grant and his wife Mary Ann Kearney, whom he married in Sydney in 1884 and who deserves her own place in the history of the Australian labour movement.10 Mrs Grant took a very active role in her husband’s career, helping him do the union books at home after dinner, but also developing a serious political career of her own; among other things she was a long-term member of the Women’s Central Organizing Committee of the Political Labor League (pll), the forerunner of the Australian Labor Party, and by 1905 was on the pll Executive along with her husband.

James Barnet

  • 11 One clerk wrote to The Builder in 1852 to complain about his excessive working hours: there was “n (...)

7James Barnet was born in Arbroath, a tiny fishing village on the east coast of Scotland, on 17 October 1827 (fig. 1). His father was a successful builder and Barnet might have followed him into the local trade, but at the age of sixteen his family sent him to London to do his apprenticeship with a larger firm of builders in the metropolis. In the evenings after work Barnet made his way across London to attend classes at the Government School of Design at Somerset House, where he won prizes for drawing for three years in a row; he also met two men who helped develop his architectural thinking, William Dyce and C. J. Richardson, both important figures in the evolving world of design education. From Dyce, a well-known Scottish artist, Barnet learned to draw and paint and to understand form; Richardson instructed him in the mysteries of architecture as a profession. All of this took place after Barnet had worked a typical twelve-hour day for his master, an exhausting job whether in the office or on site, as contemporary accounts testify.11

Figure 1: James Barnet 1827-1904.

Figure 1: James Barnet 1827-1904.

Source: Drawing by Lee Whitmore.

  • 12 The young Barnet is already listed as one of the stewards for the Builders’ Benevolent Institution (...)
  • 13 John Burley Waring (1823-1875) was an architectural pupil in London at the same time as Barnet, an (...)
  • 14 “None but gentlemanly, well-behaved youths, of good family, will be taken.” See The Builder, 4 Dec (...)
  • 15 A letter from Melbourne, written by a Glasgow man in 1852, reported that “The prevailing rage is f (...)
  • 16 Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 1854; NSW State Archives and Records, Assisted Immigrants Index (...)

8After his apprenticeship, Barnet worked for other London building firms, especially the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, now more a property company with an extensive portfolio than strictly a trade association. He developed a reputation as a good reliable man, steady at his work, with a larger perspective, courtesy of Dyce and Richardson. He was also ambitious. With a long career in building in front of him,12 I think Barnet aspired to more, but opportunities for would-be architects in the competitive London scene of the 1850s were few13, and for a young Scotsman without connections even fewer. Advertisements for architectural pupils insisted on “young men of good family,”14 and that Barnet, however pious his parents, was not, at least in the accepted sense of the word. With limited prospects at home, the Australian gold discoveries of the early 1850s beckoned thousands of young men to try their luck at the Antipodes,15 Barnet among them; and James and Amy Barnet, newly married, arrived in Sydney on the Marchioness of Londonderry as assisted emigrants on 10 December 1854.16

  • 17 Godfrey Charles Mundy, Our Antipodes, D. W. A. Baker (ed.) [1rst published in 1852], Canberra: Pan (...)
  • 18 “Science and the Fine Arts in Sydney, No 2,” Empire, 30 July 1853, p. 6.
  • 19 H. E. Barff, A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 19 (...)
  • 20 Lenore Coltheart (ed.), Significant Sites: History and Public Works in New South Wales, Sydney: Ha (...)
  • 21 Government Gazette, Sydney, 21 August 1860, p. 1561.

9Sydney in 1854 was beginning to shake off its origins as a penal colony, but the town was a sea of wooden shacks, the streets unpaved, unlit and beset by roaming pigs, redeemed only by its magnificent harbour.17 Such good buildings as there were were largely Government ones, simply built out of the local sandstone; here and there attempts at something architecturally finer, like the Darlinghurst Courthouse or the grand houses of the colonial elite on Point Piper, had been built with the aid of imported pattern books. The problem for architecture, as one writer saw it the year before Barnet’s arrival, was that “the degree of ignorance which prevails on this subject, not only amongst the multitude, but amongst persons in other respects, well informed, is quite extraordinary […] The majority know nothing about it, and care less.”18 But previous Colonial Architects from Francis Greenway to Mortimer Lewis had begun to give Sydney a core of good building, augmented now by the work of men in private practice like Edmund Blacket, with whom Barnet found work soon after his arrival. Blacket, an established church architect with a good grasp of the Gothic Revival, was currently erecting the first buildings for the new University of Sydney, and Barnet became clerk of works (a role somewhere between site manager and supervising architect) for its Great Hall. This building, one of the glories of the Gothic Revival in Australia, was completed under Barnet’s direction, Barnet contributing details for the wooden carving added to its magnificent timber roof.19 By 1856 Barnet was working on his own, submitting a competition design for the proposed Sydney Town Hall and calling tenders for the Chalmers Street Presbyterian Church.20 By 1860 he had joined the Colonial Architect’s Department, and by 1862 was in charge; three years later he was officially gazetted the ninth Colonial Architect of New South Wales.21

  • 22 Did Barnet really design everything himself? It would be impossible to have done so, and he was kn (...)

10As Colonial Architect, Barnet’s term of office coincided with a period of enormous growth in the Australian colonies, as the gold discoveries brought a huge increase in population and land acts and the new railways opened up the interior. In country New South Wales over the next decades Barnet’s office built railway stations, post offices, police stations, and courthouses for a geographical area almost as large as France and Italy combined. In Sydney Barnet personally designed and supervised the construction of two of the grand sandstone buildings to house the burgeoning public service, the Colonial Secretary’s Department and the Lands Office, as well as contributing designs for two even more ambitious but unbuilt projects, the Law Courts and the State House. His greatest project was also his biggest, the General Post Office, and its design and construction overlapped with his tenure as Colonial Architect almost exactly, from 1864 to 1890.22

  • 23 “The Colonial Architect,” Australian Star, 17 September 1890, p. 2.
  • 24 They were also connected in Barnet in other ways, Parkes as a fellow director of the Agricultural (...)
  • 25 John Sutherland (1816-1889) was born near Wick, Caithness, and arrived in Sydney in 1838, eventual (...)

11The list of Barnet’s buildings is impressively long, but equally impressive is the list of administrations he served—twenty successive governments, and sixteen ministers for public works.23 The position of Colonial Architect was no sinecure, and it required a man of Barnet’s skill to manage the multiple claims upon his time and to withstand the political pressures on his department from government and opposition alike. Though his honesty, dependability, and unblemished record protected him, so did his political patrons, Sir Henry Parkes and Sir John Robertson; Parkes and Robertson were the major political figures of the day, Parkes as many times Premier of New South Wales and Robertson as Minister for Lands, and they liked and respected the hardworking Barnet.24 Barnet also had two important political friends in the Legislative Assembly, both Scottish, John Sutherland and John Macintosh. Sutherland was the Minister for Public Works in different administrations for most of Barnet’s career, and Macintosh, a prominent business leader as well as politician, frequently defended Barnet in parliament.25

John Grant

  • 26 Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1878, p. 7.

12Grant’s early life before emigrating to Australia is obscure (fig. 2). He was born in Abernathy in 1857 and became an apprentice stonemason in Glasgow. He arrived in Australia in search of work around 1880 and joined the Operative Stonemasons’ Society. A working stonemason until his political career overtook him, Grant found work on many of the buildings being erected in Sydney in the building boom that had started in the seventies.26 He became an unpaid union organizer and he is first mentioned as part of a delegation to the Colonial Treasurer in 1886 over imported Victorian stone. In 1887 he represented the union in a dispute with the contractors for the new Public Library, and in 1889 in a dispute over the additions to the Lands Office, both Barnet buildings. By 1890 he is president of the Stonemasons’ Society and represents the union in other disputes over the Railway Institute, the Redfern Public School, and the foundations for the new Central Police Courts.

Figure 2: John Grant 1857-1928.

Figure 2: John Grant 1857-1928.

Source: Drawing by Lee Whitmore.

  • 27 NSW Royal Commission on Strikes, Report, Sydney: Government Printer, 1891; John Grant’s testimony (...)

13There is a glimpse of Grant’s larger political thinking in his testimony before the Royal Commission on Strikes in 1891, formed after the bitter labour troubles of 1890. His testimony is far and away the most articulate of that of any of the labour leaders examined by the Commission.27 Compared to the chaotic jumble of many early labour platforms, Grant’s views are clear and considered: the answer to doing away with strikes was reorganizing society, he told the Commission, and that taxes, temperance, and arbitration courts were not enough. Political organization and the nationalization of land were the real ways to better the lot of workers, beginning with getting labour representatives into parliament. That required careful organization and strict party discipline, not always conspicuous in this period, as the long-running struggle over getting wayward candidates to sign the Labor Pledge shows.

  • 28 Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 1891, p. 9.
  • 29 Truth was still describing Grant as a “rabid Single Taxer” twenty years later (12 October 1913, p. (...)

14The Sydney Morning Herald in its report of the hearings denounced Grant’s “extreme views” which it alleged occasioned much mirth in his listeners.28 The thing that most provoked the Herald was Grant’s endorsement of land nationalization, which he said was “the only cure for labour troubles.” Grant was an early convert to the idea of land nationalization and especially to the single tax theories of Henry George; apart from organized labour it was the issue he believed in most strongly all his political life.29

  • 30 “Henry George,” Australian Star, Sydney, 7 March 1890, p. 8.
  • 31 “Trades and Labour Council,” Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 1890, p. 3.

15Henry George actually toured Australia at this very moment, arriving in Sydney to great public interest and a grand civic welcome in 1890.30 The unions were divided about his ideas, however, and the Trades and Labor Council decided not to take an official part in his welcome, despite Grant’s urging them to do so.31

  • 32 Unrest at Inverness (1881) and on Skye (1882) among other places eventually led to the passing of (...)
  • 33 “Land Nationalization, its Necessity and its Aims,” Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld), 24 Octo (...)
  • 34 “Legislation and the Large Estates,” Leader, 17 March 1877, p. 17; W. E. Johnson, “letter,” Evenin (...)
  • 35 “Burwood Social and Debating Club,” Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 1891, p. 8; Evening News, 19 Ap (...)
  • 36 Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 1892, p. 5. Memories of the Clearances played a similar role in (...)

16But the local debate on land nationalization had a Scottish connection, and one I argue resonated strongly with John Grant. “There is no question of more universal importance” said the Australian Star in 1887, instancing the suffering of Irish tenants and Scottish crofters under the Clearances and forced emigration. This was still going on in the 1880s,32 and reports of ongoing evictions were regularly published in the Australian press, leading to various appeals to find the crofters a home in Australia.33 Attempts at landgrabbing in the Illawarra district south of Sydney and in western Victoria were also criticized explicitly in reference to the crofters’ experiences.34 A Land Nationalization Society, prompted by Alfred Wallace’s book, in which the plight of the Scottish crofters is vividly described, was formed in Sydney in 1888. Shortly after the publication of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, in which the Clearances again appear, a Single Tax League was formed in 1889. In 1891 we find John Grant reading a paper to the Burwood Labor Electoral League on ‘The Land Question’, and in 1892 he is elected the Annandale delegate to the fourth conference of the Single Tax League.35 Later the same year he lectures in the Sydney Temperance Hall to a large audience on the ethical aspect of the Single Tax.36

  • 37 The Worker, 26 January 1901, p. 4.
  • 38 Truth, Sydney, 22 May 1904, p. 4.

17Thus, within ten years Grant had developed a reputation outside labour circles as well as in for his skill in advocacy and his progressive ideas, and especially for his evident prowess as an organizer. In 1901, running for municipal office, he was warmly recommended to electors by The Worker, the flagship newspaper of the labour movement.37Three years later he again attracted favourable comment for his handling of a meeting of the Darling Harbour Labor League, a newspaper reporting that he was a man “of grit and intelligence [who] impressed the audience by his coolness, firmness, fairness, and the expedition of his methods.”38 The failure of the big strikes in 1890-1 had turned the attention of labour strategists such as Grant to finding other ways of advancing the cause, and parliamentary representation was first on the list. His subsequent career was entirely focused on this end.

James Barnet’s vision for Australia

  • 39 Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, vol. 8, 1850, p. 114.

18James Barnet used the monopoly of public architecture he inherited to promulgate his personal vision of the public realm. It was a vision he had developed as a young man in London in the 1840s and early 1850s, the best of all possible worlds for an aspiring architect. It was the London of Charles Barry, Robert Smirke, and George Gilbert Scott, the building of the palatial clubs of Pall Mall, and the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, the making of Trafalgar Square and the British Museum, marked especially by the Great Exhibition of 1851. In terms of architectural discourse, the period saw the founding of The Builder magazine and the beginnings of a school of criticism led by Ruskin and other eminent thinkers like Fergusson, Kerr, Garbett and Cockerell.39

  • 40 Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 21-24, and see especially Pete (...)
  • 41 Barnet was not the first to bring classicism in architecture to colonial Australia, but his legacy (...)
  • 42 George Gilbert Scott, Personal and Professional Recollections, [reprint of 1879 edition], New York (...)
  • 43 John Summerson, The London Building World of the Eighteen Sixties, London: Thames & Hudson, 1973, (...)
  • 44 “The New Public Offices, Goulburn,” Sydney Mail, 28 February 1880, p. 400.

19Of these great names, according to his biographers, the most important for understanding Barnet’s achievement was Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863), the foremost nineteenth-century exponent of the classical tradition in British architecture, winner of the first RIBA Gold Medal for architecture, and for twenty years Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. Other writers have examined his connections with Barnet’s work, but in summary Cockerell’s was a classical ideal, derived from the Anglo-Palladio tradition.40 It is best described as conservative, dignified and impressive, an architecture of rules and precedent and, above all, order and decorum. Transplanted to Australia it represented the public service ideals of stability and continuity, important in the old world and essential in the new.41 In its Italianate form, inspired by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Florence and Venice, it was also regarded as modern.42 Barnet used the unique opportunity the Colonial Architect’s office provided him to spread this style over the rapidly-growing colony for twenty-five years. It was an opportunity, or monopoly, unique to New South Wales, unknown at home in Britain.43 “The most munificent patron of architecture in New South Wales is the Government,” said the Sydney Mail at the opening of Barnet’s new courthouse and public offices at Goulburn, a patron responsible for “our finest buildings [and] some of the finest in the Southern world.”44

  • 45 John Barlow, “Australia,” American Architect and Building News, 19 April 1890, p. 42.
  • 46 Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1887, p. 6.
  • 47 Freeman’s Journal, Sydney, 16 April 1887, p. 12.

20Not everyone agreed. Barnet’s critics objected to the monopoly but also to the monotony of official architecture: “a wearisome succession of large buildings,” said the Sydney architect John Barlow in 1890, “well designed as far as they go, and well constructed; but with an air of absolute inanity about them […] as irritating in its placid self-sufficiency as the vacuous smile on the face of a fool.”45 This from a friend. Barnet’s political critics were much harsher: a new Minister for Public Works attacked Barnet for initiating work without ministerial authority. “The Colonial Architect,” said W. J. Lyne in 1887, “[has been] scattering half a million of money broadcast over the country, spending it even before it had been voted.” Barnet’s conduct was extravagant, indulgent, shameful and a disgrace.46 The press continued the attack: “Public money is nothing to the Colonial Architect,” said the Freeman’s Journal, and Barnet’s spending was “surely more than a palace a year.”47

  • 48 “Carvings at the General Post Office,” NSW Legislative Council, Votes and Proceedings, 1885-86, pa (...)

21The problem was not just buildings that were too large: their decoration, inside and out, was somehow the bigger affront. This was a more serious charge. Spending anything more than the bare minimum on government building had been the norm in New South Wales from the beginning, but Barnet wanted splendid buildings, worthy of loftier ideals. “More than anyone else in New South Wales,” Barnet wrote in 1886, “I have promoted and encouraged sculpture, decorative carving and painting, often under adverse and unpleasant circumstances.”48 But “useless ornamentation” was a too-familiar expression in a utilitarian and mercantile colonial society, frequently echoed in parliamentary and journalistic commentary. One of the few exceptions was an editorial in the Australian Town and Country Journal in 1878, which defended beauty in architecture and all but mentioned Barnet by name:

  • 49 Australian Town and Country Journal, 16 March 1878, p. 488.

It is evidently considered popular for members of the Legislative Assembly to cry out about the excessive adornments of our public buildings. If some gentlemen had their way we should cover the land with an enormous number of barn-like structures, such as Governor Macquarie delighted in. No stately columns or pleasing enrichments should meet our eyes, and call to mind the unnecessary expense. The classical style of the Museum we should have thought was severe enough, but no, it has unnecessary ornament. The Town Hall is the very embodiment of evil in the eyes of these architectural puritans and economists. Surely this spirit is unworthy of a great people. What we have to do, let us do well, and let us not grudge expense to make our buildings beautiful as well as useful. Every ugly building is a permanent influence for evil on the taste of the people, and every beautiful structure is an abiding educational power.49

  • 50 Cockerell’s first aim in his Royal Academy lectures was to form the taste of the students, presuma (...)

22This passage encapsulates Barnet’s goal throughout his long tenure as Colonial Architect, to give a new country public buildings worthy of its present success and future greatness. The “educational power” here is the power to raise public taste in architecture, which in turn meant raising the ideals which an evolving democracy should believe in, rightful pride in its achievements, and noble aspirations for its future.50

John Grant’s vision for Australia

  • 51 Noel Ebbels, The Australian Labor Movement, op. cit. (note 2).
  • 52 “Compiling the Agendas Paper,” Australian Star, 2 December 1908, p. 6.
  • 53 Anthony St Ledger, Australian Socialism, London: Macmillan, 1909, p. 6.
  • 54 “Andrew Thomson,” People and the Collectivist, Sydney, 15 July 1905, p. 2-3. Thomson left the Labo (...)

23Grant’s importance here is his efforts to write a coherent and electorally successful platform for the early Australian labour movement. As Noel Ebbels has shown, the early platforms advocated by the various nascent labour bodies were combinations of utopian wish lists and bizarrely specific proposals, like plank 17 of the Labor Electoral League in 1892 which called for abolishing the use of camels as beasts of burden.51 There is an illuminating vignette of Grant in his office in 1908, now general secretary of the Political Labor League, sifting through the batches of resolutions arriving daily from the affiliated leagues for discussion at the next pll conference.52 According to contemporary accounts such proposals gradually gathered around “two conflicting and antagonistic Social ideals, the Land Nationalisation ideal of Henry George, and the Socialistic Communism of [Edward] Bellamy. One was professedly the expression of an irrefutable fact; the other of irrefutable fiction.”53 As we have seen John Grant was on the side of the “irrefutable fact” of Henry George, unlike his close friend and fellow stonemason Andrew Thomson, who went on to become one of the founders of the Australian Socialist Party.54

  • 55 Noel Ebbels, The Australian Labor Movement, op. cit. (note 2), p. 219-220; Bede Nairn, Civilising (...)
  • 56 Sydney Morning Herald, 10 June 1891, p. 8. The Labor Electoral League combined with the Australian (...)
  • 57 Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 27 January 1903, p. 3. The Fighting Platform adopted at the 1903 pll conf (...)

24If “practical socialism,” whether land nationalisation or old age pensions, or of any of the other myriad labour proposals was the goal, organization was the way. This is John Grant’s real significance, to find a middle way through this chaos of reformist ideas and to help establish the political means to achieve it.55 The early labour movement is a story well told by others but here we can instance it by following Grant through the successive bodies that eventually led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party: from his first nomination in 1891 as the candidate for the Glebe branch of the Labor Electoral League, to his election as the Stonemasons’ delegate to the Political Labor League conference in 1899.56 In 1900 Grant is elected to the executive committee of the pll, although his single tax motion is defeated; similarly in 1901 and 1902. In 1903, still a working stonemason, he is elected general secretary of the pll, a position of real power as well as a national platform.57

  • 58 R. W. Postgate, The Builders’ History, London: National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, 1 (...)
  • 59 George Jacob Holyoake, Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life, London: T. F. Unwin, 1906, vol. 1, p. 29 (...)

25According to a history of the British building trades, it was understood that “A man could not put down his tools and just walk into the job of general secretary, when the task involved enormous clerical work and was […] complicated by legal questions as well as […] administration. Once a man of strong character took over the post of general secretary nothing but his own extreme folly was likely to unseat him.”58 And a general secretary, said the British labour pioneer George Jacob Holyoake, especially one of “sagacity, energy, and resource” was the maker of a movement (fig. 3).59

Figure 3: Eight Hour Day Demonstration, Sydney 1877.

Figure 3: Eight Hour Day Demonstration, Sydney 1877.

Source: Australian Town and Country Journal, 6 October 1877, p. 24.

  • 60 There is a good note on Mary Ann Grant in The Worker, 21 January 1905, p. 7.
  • 61 Cooperator, Sydney, 7 October 1912, p. 3; Truth, 12 January 1913, p. 9.
  • 62 “Labor Campaign,” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 1914, p. 9.

26So it was with John Grant. He remained general secretary of the Political Labor League for thirteen years, the first half of them unpaid, indefatigably organizing to get labour into government. By 1905 Mary Ann Grant, a founding member of the Women’s Central Organizing Committee, had joined him on the pll executive, and there is a photograph of the Executive ten years later showing Grant in the third row and Mrs Grant in the fifth.60 In 1912, running the Senate campaign in the metropolitan area, Grant is described as “a great stickler for organized political action,” and in 1913, more colloquially, as “a fair terror on the solidarity racket.”61 In 1914 there is a double dissolution Federal election and Grant is quoted saying that effective organization alone would win the battle.62 There is a glimpse of Grant at work in a newspaper report of the time:

  • 63 “Campaign Notes,” Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 1914, p. 8.

Probably the two busiest men in Sydney today are Mr Archdale Parkhill, general secretary of the Liberal Association, and Mr John Grant, general secretary of the Political Labor League. They have their fingers on the pulse of the whole country—not New South Wales only, but the whole of Australia. The one in Yaralla Chambers, the other in MacDonnell House, these two are working day and night, attending to callers (candidates, many of them), dictating letters, giving a thousand and one instructions as to the conduct of the campaign. Mr Parkhill is young, enthusiastic, energetic; Mr Grant is old—fairly old—and experienced. And they are playing the game of political chess for all they are worth—playing to thwart each other at every move, playing to checkmate on the 5th of September.63

27Grant himself was a candidate now, adding to his many other commitments;

28the result was a convincing Labor victory, a comfortable win in the lower house and nearly a clean sweep in the upper. On 8 October 1914 Senator John Grant, late of the Glasgow building trades and the Operative Stonemasons’ Society of New South Wales, took his seat with thirty other Labor senators in the sixth Commonwealth Parliament of Australia.

The Two Paths

  • 64 Andrew Garran (ed.), Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, Sydney, 1888, vol. 1, Introduction, n.p.

29Barnet and Grant followed different paths to make Australia a better world. Barnet followed Ruskin’s advice to architects to “think for inferior men,” and as Colonial Architect he was the epitome of the director of the works, aloof and impersonal, determined to give New South Wales the public architecture he felt it deserved. If as Ruskin also said architecture was the perfect record of its time, then Barnet’s work represents the embodiment of statistical digests like the Wealth and Progress of New South Wales, first published in 1886, or the equally mighty Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, which proclaimed in 1888 “Behold, a new world appears!” and excitedly compared the growth of the Australian colonies, “magical in its celerity,” with developments elsewhere.64

  • 65 “A Colonial Discussion on Art,” The Builder, 19 September 1885, p. 381-382.
  • 66 Illustrated Sydney News, 20 June 1891, p. 17-19.
  • 67 Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1890, p. 7.

30But by this time Barnet’s political skill was no longer enough. Administrations changed, and an absurd but damaging controversy over some of the Post Office carvings was succeeded by more serious complaints of incompetence, especially regarding the fortification of Sydney Harbour.65 The Lyne inquiry into the Colonial Architect’s Department recommended its abolition in 1887; this was succeeded by Colonel de Wolski’s unfavourable report on the Bare Island defences, and it added to the growing public and political pressure on Barnet to go.66 There was political manipulation behind the scenes as well, fed by professional jealousy. By April 1890 Barnet was forced to announce his resignation, and by the end of June, after thirty years in the public service, he was gone. For good measure the Colonial Architect’s Department was to go too.67

  • 68 Australian Builder and Contractor’s News, 4 January 1890.
  • 69 “The King is Dead,” Building and Engineering Journal, 19 July 1890.
  • 70 John Barlow, “Australia,” American Architect and Building News, 20 September 1890, p. 180.

31Barnet’s departure was marked by a mixture of relief and regret in the building press. The Australian Builder and Contractor’s News said that the people of New South Wales owed Barnet much for the noble character of their public buildings, which could hold their own with any in the colony and with many beyond it.68 The Building and Engineering Journal, which had grown increasingly hostile to the Colonial Architect’s monopoly of public work, conceded his long and faithful service, but said firmly that Barnet was exhausted: “the immense number and variety of works Mr Barnet has been called on to design during his long tenure involve a strain on the inventive faculties that the brain of no man could bear.”69 John Barlow, writing in the American Architect and Building News, praised Barnet’s achievement but said that his professional isolation was indirectly the cause of the abolition of his office, and his own enforced retirement.70 Barlow went on:

  • 71 Ibid.

But, nevertheless, it is somewhat saddening to think that after thirty years of hard and faithful service he should be “permitted,” in official phraseology, to go down into the obscurity of private life, without comment and without notice; beyond the briefest intimation of the fact in the public prints, and with never a word of thanks from those for whom he worked so well. For his work has undoubtedly been well done; and though many faults may be found by those that seek them, let it be said of him that of his best he has every reason to be proud, and of his worst he need not be ashamed.71

  • 72 Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 56.
  • 73 Peter Kohane, “James Barnet and the Classical Ideal,” op. cit. (note 2), p. 20.
  • 74 Barnet, resignation letter, 30 June 1890, cited in Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, o (...)

32This was the least his contemporaries could say of Barnet, whose record of public service in all fairness could not be denied. But he was more than a good and faithful servant, as later scholars have recognized. For Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, Barnet’s most assiduous biographers, Barnet’s outstanding achievement was to lay a foundation of civic character for nineteenth-century Sydney and for the many country towns in which his buildings are to be found.72 That civic character was the classicism Barnet had learned in London in the 1840s and to which he adhered all his professional life: an architecture of precedent, craftsmanship, and decorum. We should go further and agree with Peter Kohane that Barnet had imagined a classical city in the Antipodes, and had had the rare opportunity as well as the skill to build fragments of this ideal world.73 Barnet himself was characteristically modest: in his resignation letter he writes that utility, durability and economy were the “supreme requirements” in buildings for the Government. Almost as an afterthought he adds that they should be an example to the public, one in which “due attention has been paid to architectural effect.”74

  • 75 John Dunmore Lang, Reminiscences of My Life and Times, op. cit. (note 2), p. 40.
  • 76 “The Labour Creed,” Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 1908, p. 6.
  • 77 More explicitly socialist groups had now appeared on the scene, and were quick to denounce Labor a (...)

33For John Grant’s part making a nation meant starting not from the top down but from the bottom up. The rights of labour, like the rights of the Free Church of Scotland in New South Wales, would be demanded, not conceded.75 Grant’s political career covered the tumultuous beginnings of the Australian labour movement from the great strikes of 1890-1 to the formation of an organized labour movement and eventually the Australian Labor Party itself. His commitment to the cause never wavered, but after twenty years of agitation he now sought other means of advancing it. As the Sydney Morning Herald observed in 1908, “Rightly or wrongly, the worker has come to see in political action his only hope of material betterment in life.”76 One of the moderating influences was the new labour members of parliament, and this account has described Grant’s efforts to bring this about. One implication of this electoral success was moving the party away from socialism, attracting considerable hostility from more radical figures on the left,77 but Grant stuck to his guns.

  • 78 “Presentation to Senator and Mrs Grant,” The Australian Worker, 29 April 1915, p. 6.
  • 79 “John Grant,” Sunday Times, Sydney, 23 April 1916, p. 2.

34On his election to the Senate, Grant finally resigned as general secretary of the Political Labor League. To mark the occasion there was a presentation subscribed to by members of the Federal and State Labor ministries, the public, and the Grants’ many friends, a gold watch for Senator Grant and a diamond brooch for Mrs Grant. Grant thanked his wife and reminisced about early political meetings in a Redfern stable; Mary Ann Grant said that every intelligent woman should take the path she did. The president of the pll, John Fitzgerald, praised the Grants as some of the staunchest advocates the Labor movement ever had.78 The following year a newspaper report of the pll annual conference quoted Grant again: “To those who ask ‘What has the Labor Party done?’ Senator John Grant, for so long righthand man at Labor conferences, will raise his high-pitched voice half an octave and exclaim, ‘Why, man, there’s been a revolution!’,” as indeed there had.79

  • 80 The Worker, 26 January 1901, p. 4.
  • 81 “The Colonial Architect,” Australian Star, 17 August 1890, p. 2.
  • 82 John Veitch, The History and Poetry of the Scottish Border, Glasgow: James Maclehose, 1878, p. 185

35What personal qualities did Barnet and Grant share? What was said of one could equally be said of the other: Grant was early described as a “clear-headed, tenacious Scot,”80 while Barnet was considered a “shrewd, able, thoroughly practical, an exceptionally hard worker.”81 And Barnet was a Lowlander, characterized at the time as exhibiting that “individualism of character, that strength of will and capacity for patient endurance, that deep-seated instinct of self-rule and sense of political independence” that were said to be conspicuous features of Lowland Scotland.82

  • 83 Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1890, p. 11; Australasian Builder and Contractors News, 22 Febru (...)
  • 84 “Robert Steel,” in Australian Men of Mark, Sydney: Charles F. Maxwell, 1888, vol 1, p. 310.
  • 85 There is a hint of what might be found following this lead in Barnet’s design for the Sydney Inter (...)

36Barnet revealed very little about himself, and we should be mindful of the adage about judging an architect best by his work. But shortly before his fall, Barnet attended a farewell picnic for his long-serving clerk of works, William Coles, on Lady Robinson’s beach. Barnet made some brief remarks praising Coles, but surprised his listeners by quoting Tennyson’s “Northern Farmer”: on his deathbed an old farmer asks to be remembered as the man who “stubb’d Thurnaby waste.” So had Coles, said Barnet, and so, Barnet’s listeners would have thought, had he.83 That we no longer think of nineteenth century Australia as “terra nullius,” an unpopulated wilderness that had to be pulled up by the roots, does not mean we cannot recognize the once common perception that this was so. This is conjured up in a famous sermon of the time by the Presbyterian divine Robert Steel in Sydney. Steel was credited with unifying the fractious Presbyterian congregations by his ministry, and in 1867 he spoke of the epic task before them. Sin and worldliness were here in a new land, he said, and error too, but they had a great opportunity: “God has promised His Spirit to give power to our testimony. He has committed the responsibility to His professing people to give their services and their money to evangelise this land.”84 There is a strong religious undercurrent to this story, too little examined here, and more evident perhaps in James Barnet than John Grant.85 But it is there nonetheless, in the work of two exceptional Scotsmen at the other end of the world, determined each in his way to evangelise the land.

Epilogue

  • 86 James Barnet, “Architectural Works in Sydney, New South Wales, 1788-1889,” RIBA Journal, vol. 6 (3 (...)
  • 87 Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 124.

37Barnet spent his retirement quietly in Glebe, the suburb he lived in all his life, surrounded by his large family. Occasionally he would write to the papers to correct some account of his work, and he compiled his own version of his career, dryly factual apart from occasional digs at his successors.86 He was no longer invited to levees at Government House or Mayoral receptions, and a plan to commemorate his career with a statue on the Lands Department was stopped by his old enemy William Lyne.87 His death in 1904 attracted little public notice.

  • 88 Chris Johnson, “From Abroath to Braeside,” in Patrick Bingham Hall, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2 (...)
  • 89 Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 1891, p. 5.
  • 90 Strangely, the author of an article on expatriate Scots around this time does not mention Barnet, (...)

38At the time of Barnet’s resignation in 1890 there were still 1351 buildings under the management of his department. The final tally of his architectural achievement is staggering: over thirty years he had overseen the spending of six million pounds on 12,000 buildings large and small, including 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses, 155 police buildings and 20 lighthouses, as well as the major buildings discussed above.88 Now the Lands Department tower was almost finished, and extensions were being planned for the Museum in accordance with Barnet’s 1869 plan.89 His greatest project, the General Post Office, was finished except for the installation of its mighty clock.90

  • 91 “Lands Office Building,” Evening News, 6 January 1891, p. 3.
  • 92 “A Coping-Stone Oration,” Australian Star, 6 January 1891, p. 4; “The New Lands Offices,” Daily Te (...)

39Six months after Barnet’s departure, the coping stone for the Lands Office tower was laid by the Minister of Lands on scaffolding 150 feet in the air. It was a very windy day and some of the press and dignitaries refused to climb the tower to watch the ceremony. The Minister made matters worse for those who did by insisting on giving a lengthy speech on free trade.91 Barnet was not there, nor his successor, Walter Liberty Vernon, but two old friends of Barnet’s were, the parliamentarian John Macintosh and the architect John Horbury Hunt. They did climb the tower, and at the banquet afterwards they both sang Barnet’s praises. Macintosh spoke of Barnet’s major buildings and proposed a toast to the erstwhile Colonial Architect’s Department. There was no country that exhibited better buildings than these, Macintosh said, and they were all the creation of James Barnet: taking into consideration the political influence which was always working against him they were indeed creditable. For his part Hunt thanked Barnet for persuading him to stay in Sydney twenty-eight years before, and said firmly that on an occasion like this there should be less politics and more architecture, though he echoed Macintosh’s praise for Barnet’s political acumen.92 Hunt, an old friend and friendly rival of Barnet’s, was right and wrong. Politics and architecture are intertwined and can only be separated with difficulty; Barnet’s achievement showed what could be done if you had the skill.

40John Grant served two terms in Federal parliament, his Senate biography describing him rather unkindly as wayward and opinionated, but still wedded to Henry George and the Single Tax. The Labor Party itself was now established as one of the two major Australian political parties, though there were still battles to fight: the party split in 1916 over conscription for overseas military service, Grant taking the side of the No vote, and defending soldiers harshly treated at courts martial. He died in office in 1928 and was given a large funeral with Presbyterian rites. Mary Ann Grant was the only family present, but there was a large crowd of political well-wishers, including representatives from the Prime Minister, the president of the Senate, the State Government, and the president and secretary of the Stonemasons’ Society. No dignitaries, as far as I know, went to James Barnet’s funeral, although there was a large family attendance.

41The last thirty years have had a mixed impact on both men’s legacies: the Labor Party platform is more like their opponents’ than ever, though White Australia and high tariffs are long gone, as is the stonemasons’ union itself. Of Barnet’s many buildings, most are still with us, but some are being sold off, the General Post Office and the Lands Department in Sydney to overseas hotel interests; the country buildings have fared better, especially the two great courthouse complexes at Bathurst and Goulburn. The Colonial Architect’s Department was renamed the Government Architect’s Branch after Barnet’s resignation, but it too has all but vanished, now an insignificant part of another department.

  • 93 The Worker began to discuss workers’ housing in 1900, and under the influence of more radical thin (...)

42Did they ever meet? I haven’t been able to put Barnet and Grant in the same room, but in the Sydney building world of the 1880s they surely knew of each other, the rising trade unionist and the remote and forbidding Colonial Architect. Grant must have worked on some of Barnet’s buildings as a stonemason but so far I have been unable to confirm this. There is one overlap I have found, however. One of Barnet’s major Sydney projects was the creation of a grand civic space outside the General Post Office, but at his departure only the first section had been established; it is poignant to read that Grant, now the president of the Stonemasons, urged the Government to extend Post Office Street along the lines Barnet had set out (fig. 4). Otherwise organized labour had only just begun to take an interest in architecture and planning in the 1890s, an interest that became more evident after 1900 following British precedents.93

Figure 4: The General Post Office, James Barnet (arch.), Sydney, Australia.

Figure 4: The General Post Office, James Barnet (arch.), Sydney, Australia.

Source: American Architect and Building News, 24 August 1889, p. 86.

  • 94 A Melbourne labour paper certainly thought so in 1899: “Beautiful Australia! Virgin land! No archi (...)
  • 95 George Bernard Shaw, The Common Sense of Municipal Trading, London: Constable, 1904, p. 112.
  • 96 John Ruskin, “The Lamp of Memory,” in The Seven Lamps of Architecture, London: Smith, Elder & Co, (...)

43The architect John Barlow lamented Australia’s “negligible” architectural heritage in 1890, which was already untrue, but the labour press was apt to celebrate it as a good thing.94 The absence of a past for Australia’s British settlers meant the freedom to construct a future, and Barnet and Grant tried to construct that future, each in their own way. Hard men in a hard world, they were distinguished from their fellow citizens by that “shrewdness and capacity for large ideas” that George Bernard Shaw prized in reformers.95 They had travelled a long way from Scotland to Australia, and their significance lies in their differing conceptions of the future that could be made here. But perhaps they had more in common than they knew. “Every human action gains in honour, in grace, in all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to come,” said Ruskin. “It is the far sight, the quiet and confident patience, that, above all other attributes, separate man from man and near him to his Maker.”96 And the far sight, not to mention quiet and confident patience, both men had to spare.

Haut de page

Notes

1 “Banquet to Earl Rosebery at the Town Hall,” Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 10 December 1883, p. 3.

2 James Barnet has been written about before, and this account draws on the existing texts, especially Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet: Colonial Architect, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1988, and Chris Johnson, Peter Kohane and Patrick Bingham Hall (eds.), James Barnet: The Universal Values of Civic Existence,Balmain: Pesaro Publishing, 2000, which also has some fine photographs of Barnet’s work. See especially the essay in this volume by Peter Kohane on Barnet’s architectural development, “James Barnet and the Classical Ideal,” (p. 10-24). The history of the Colonial Architect’s Department of New South Wales is surveyed in Chris Johnson (ed.), Shaping Sydney: Public Architecture and Civic Decorum, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1999. I have described the architectural background to this period elsewhere: see Mark Stiles, “Masters and Men: Ruskin and the Sydney Building World of the 1890s,” in Keith Hanley and Brian Maidment (eds.), Persistent Ruskin: studies in influence, assimilation, and effect, Farnham: Ashgate, 2013, p. 157-170. John Grant has not been written about before, and this paper presents the first detailed account of his career. The Stonemasons’ Society also awaits its biography; this account is a first sketch towards one. The early history of the Australian Labor Party however is a well-ploughed field, and I have made use of Bede Nairn, Civilising Capitalism, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1989 and Nairn’s vivid portraits in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. URL: http://adb.anu.edu.au/. Accessed 12 July 2019.I also consulted the invaluable anthology of documents collected in Noel Ebbels, The Australian Labor Movement 1850-1907: extracts from contemporary documents selected by R. N. Ebbels, with additions by members of the Noel Ebbels Memorial Committee, edited, with an introduction, by L. G. Churchward, and with a memoir of the late Robert Noel Ebbels, by C. M. H. Clark, Sydney: Australasian Book Society, 1960, while W. Pember Reeve, State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand, [1rst published in 1902], Melbourne: Macmillan, 1968 was good for contemporary flavour. For the general background to this period I used Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee (eds.), Constructing a Culture: A People’s History of Australia since 1788, Fitzroy: McPhee Gribble; Penguin Books, 1988 (A people’s history of Australia since 1788), which also has an excellent chapter on religion in Australia by Marc Askew (p. 170-189). For the Scottish background the basic text is Malcolm D. Prentis, The Scots in Australia, Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1983, and John Dunmore Lang, Reminiscences of My Life and Times, D. W. A. Baker (ed.), Melbourne: William Heinemann, 1972. An older title, Andrew Dewar Gibb, Scottish Empire, London: Alexander Maclehose, 1937 is still a good overview of the Scottish experience in Australia. For newspaper reports of the time I have made extensive use of the Trove search engine created by the National Library of Australia; all page numbers cited refer to this.

3 Benjamin Wilkie, The Scots in Australia 1788-1938, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017, see chapter 2.

4 “Testimonial to the Rev Alexander Salmon,” Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1860, p. 5. Barnet is one of the signatories to the testimonial as clerk of the Deacon’s Court for the Chalmers Street Free Church.

5 Although his refusal to join the Institute of Architects was more to do with Barnet’s strict notions of propriety as Colonial Architect than anything else, it was regarded as unbecoming aloofness by local architects and caused much ill-feeling later on.

6 The Colonial Architect’s Department was renamed the Government Architect’s Branch after Barnet’s departure in 1890.

7 Details of Grant’s life before 1880 are sketchy, but this was the experience of his fellow stonemasons William Ferrier (Australian Star, 7 October 1889, p. 4) and Andrew Thomson (People and the Collectivist, 15 July 1905, p. 2-3). Emigration in search of work, particularly to New York, was common for Scottish stonemasons at this time, but stonemasons had also been making the long voyage to Sydney since 1831; “emigration is better than strikes,” said John Dunmore Lang, the man who brought the first batch out to build his Australian College that year. Sydney’s colonial architecture was largely built of sandstone, which was plentiful, cheap and easily worked, encouraging its use as an ornamental material as well as a structural one. Crucially it was also a common building material in Scotland. See John Dunmore Lang, “Immigration,” Empire, Sydney, 21 January 1854, p. 3.

8 And negotiating the bitter church politics of the time: until 1867 or so the Presbyterians of Sydney were divided into hostile factions, like the Free Church of Scotland itself. See John Dunmore Lang, Reminiscences of My Life and Times, op. cit. (note 2), passim.

9 Barnet was also an ordinary member of the Philosophical Society. See Sydney Morning Herald, 6 July 1865, p. 4.

10 Mary Ann Grant is not mentioned in the voluminous Encyclopedia of Australian Feminism, but she deserves to be. Her special role was working within the labour movement to bring about change; like her friend, the formidable Kate Dwyer, her aim was to “get women into unions and men into Parliament.” Female enfranchisement was a must, but parliamentary office for women could wait. See Australian Workman, 24 August 1916, p. 5.

11 One clerk wrote to The Builder in 1852 to complain about his excessive working hours: there was “no class of clerks of whom so much is expected as those connected with building […] We are expected to […] fulfill the several duties of architect, builder, and artisan, to be thorough draughtsmen and accountants, and yet to be practically acquainted with work. We are to be thus qualified and fully up to the latest improvements in the science and art of building, and yet to be working early and late. [Nor are we] allowed sufficient time after business to attend to learned societies or unite for self-cultivation.” See “Hours of Business in Builders’ Offices,” The Builder, 9 October 1852, p. 647.

12 The young Barnet is already listed as one of the stewards for the Builders’ Benevolent Institution dinner. See The Builder, 2 October 1852, p. 633.

13 John Burley Waring (1823-1875) was an architectural pupil in London at the same time as Barnet, and later wrote that “I was brought up in a ‘competing’ office, and was well aware that without interest [connections], a competitor has but the slightest chance of success.” See J. B. Waring, A Record of My Artistic Life, London: Trubner & Co, 1873, p. 61.

14 “None but gentlemanly, well-behaved youths, of good family, will be taken.” See The Builder, 4 December 1852, p. 776.

15 A letter from Melbourne, written by a Glasgow man in 1852, reported that “The prevailing rage is for money – money! And certainly they do send it flying about like chaff. Plenty of money, and good wages here for everything.” See The Builder, 7 August 1852, p. 508. Gold fever raged through the London architectural press at the time. For instance, see Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, 16 June 1852, p. 239; The Builder, 7 August 1852, p. 506, even infecting the Art Journal (1852, p. 257). “If this be not ‘the age of gold’ of ancient prophecy […] it is something not unlike it,” declared The Builder, 21 August 1852, p. 554. But emigration had been discussed in the building press for nearly ten years; a long editorial in The Builder in 1843 said that emigration was a necessity for those who could not find work in Britain: “How important then it is, that we should take up this question of colonial building interest, so intermittently interwoven as it is with that of thousands and tens of thousands at home. God knows how many of those who are the readers of this number, or who ought to be its readers, may be the future emigrants, or if not […] themselves [are] bound up in feeling, interest, and many associations with those who are,” 21 May 1843, p. 177.

16 Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 1854; NSW State Archives and Records, Assisted Immigrants Index 1839-1896, see 1854. URL: https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/. Accessed 12 July 2019.

17 Godfrey Charles Mundy, Our Antipodes, D. W. A. Baker (ed.) [1rst published in 1852], Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2006, p. 7and see the remarks on Sydney in Henry J. Webber, Outward Bound: Being Practical Advice to Emigrants to the Australian Colonies, London: Darton & Co, 1854, reviewed in the Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, 1854, p. 114.

18 “Science and the Fine Arts in Sydney, No 2,” Empire, 30 July 1853, p. 6.

19 H. E. Barff, A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1902, p. 46.

20 Lenore Coltheart (ed.), Significant Sites: History and Public Works in New South Wales, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1989, p. 56; Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 1856, p. 2. Mrs and Mrs J Barnet head the subscription list for the church building fund. See Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 1856, p. 8.

21 Government Gazette, Sydney, 21 August 1860, p. 1561.

22 Did Barnet really design everything himself? It would be impossible to have done so, and he was known for his recruitment of first-class subordinates. See Australian Builder and Contractor’s News, 12 April 1890, p. 943. But clearly he was the original designer of major projects like the Lands Department; contemporary accounts say so, and he was at pains to claim the credit in later years. See his letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1895, p. 5: “As Colonial Architect, with my own hands I made the design for the Lands Department building in March, 1875, which can be seen with my name attached.”

23 “The Colonial Architect,” Australian Star, 17 September 1890, p. 2.

24 They were also connected in Barnet in other ways, Parkes as a fellow director of the Agricultural Society and Robertson as a fellow director of the Zoological Society and the Civil Service Building Society, to mention only a few.

25 John Sutherland (1816-1889) was born near Wick, Caithness, and arrived in Sydney in 1838, eventually becoming a prominent builder and contractor. Known as the “workingman’s MP,” he was Minister for Public Works five times between 1868 and 1889, covering most of James Barnet’s term in office. Sutherland’s obituaries said he was “one of the oldest, best known, and most respected of our public men” and there were few movements of a social or philanthropic character with which he was not connected. He was also one of the oldest Freemasons in the colony. For instance, see Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 1889, p. 4, and Evening News, 24 June 1889, p. 4, 8. John Macintosh (1820-1911) was born in Auldean, Nairn where his father was a farm manager. Orphaned at 10, he and his sister arrived in Australia as bounty immigrants in 1839. He prospered in business before going into politics, first on the Sydney municipal council and then in the Legislative Assembly and later the Legislative Council. A lifelong teetotaller and Freemason, he was associated with the founding of the Technical College and efforts to relieve the plight of the unemployed. See Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1911, p. 5.

26 Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1878, p. 7.

27 NSW Royal Commission on Strikes, Report, Sydney: Government Printer, 1891; John Grant’s testimony begins at Q.9800, p. 375.

28 Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 1891, p. 9.

29 Truth was still describing Grant as a “rabid Single Taxer” twenty years later (12 October 1913, p. 9).

30 “Henry George,” Australian Star, Sydney, 7 March 1890, p. 8.

31 “Trades and Labour Council,” Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 1890, p. 3.

32 Unrest at Inverness (1881) and on Skye (1882) among other places eventually led to the passing of the Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act in 1886 at Westminster. “The history of the Highland Clearances is a black page in the account with private ownership in land” said Joseph Chamberlain in a speech at Inverness in 1885. See Alexander Mackenzie, The Highland Clearances, [1rst published ca.1881], New Lanark: Geddes & Grosset, 2001, p. 180-181.

33 “Land Nationalization, its Necessity and its Aims,” Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld), 24 October 1883, p. 2; “Scotland’s Claim for Home Rule,” Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 5 May 1888, p. 7.

34 “Legislation and the Large Estates,” Leader, 17 March 1877, p. 17; W. E. Johnson, “letter,” Evening News, Sydney, 24 February 1891, p. 3.

35 “Burwood Social and Debating Club,” Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 1891, p. 8; Evening News, 19 April 1892, p. 3.

36 Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 1892, p. 5. Memories of the Clearances played a similar role in New Zealand, where John Mackenzie, the son of crofters evicted from their farm, became Minister for Lands in 1891 and successfully passed legislation preventing the growth of large estates. See Andrew Dewar Gibb, Scottish Empire, op. cit. (note 2), p. 304-305. Also see “The Land Systems of New Zealand,” Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 1878, p. 5, and “Scotland and New Zealand,” Barrier Miner, 25 January 1895, p. 2.

37 The Worker, 26 January 1901, p. 4.

38 Truth, Sydney, 22 May 1904, p. 4.

39 Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, vol. 8, 1850, p. 114.

40 Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 21-24, and see especially Peter Kohane, “James Barnet and the Classical Ideal,” op. cit. (note 2), p. 10-24.

41 Barnet was not the first to bring classicism in architecture to colonial Australia, but his legacy is the largest; see Peter Kohane and Mark Stiles, “The Classical Tradition in Australian Architecture,” in Nicholas Temple, Andrzej Piotrowski and Juan Manuel Heredia (eds.), Routledge Handbook on the Reception of Classical Architecture, forthcoming.

42 George Gilbert Scott, Personal and Professional Recollections, [reprint of 1879 edition], New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1977, p. 194.

43 John Summerson, The London Building World of the Eighteen Sixties, London: Thames & Hudson, 1973, p. 23.

44 “The New Public Offices, Goulburn,” Sydney Mail, 28 February 1880, p. 400.

45 John Barlow, “Australia,” American Architect and Building News, 19 April 1890, p. 42.

46 Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1887, p. 6.

47 Freeman’s Journal, Sydney, 16 April 1887, p. 12.

48 “Carvings at the General Post Office,” NSW Legislative Council, Votes and Proceedings, 1885-86, passim; “A Colonial Discussion on Art,” The Builder, 19 September 1885, p. 381-382.

49 Australian Town and Country Journal, 16 March 1878, p. 488.

50 Cockerell’s first aim in his Royal Academy lectures was to form the taste of the students, presumably in order that their work might then form the taste of the public. See The Builder, 17 January 1852, p. 37.

51 Noel Ebbels, The Australian Labor Movement, op. cit. (note 2).

52 “Compiling the Agendas Paper,” Australian Star, 2 December 1908, p. 6.

53 Anthony St Ledger, Australian Socialism, London: Macmillan, 1909, p. 6.

54 “Andrew Thomson,” People and the Collectivist, Sydney, 15 July 1905, p. 2-3. Thomson left the Labor Electoral League to found a “true Socialist party” in 1897.

55 Noel Ebbels, The Australian Labor Movement, op. cit. (note 2), p. 219-220; Bede Nairn, Civilising Capitalism, op. cit. (note 2), passim.

56 Sydney Morning Herald, 10 June 1891, p. 8. The Labor Electoral League combined with the Australian Labor Federation in 1895 to form the Political Labor League, the immediate predecessor to the Australian Labor Party. Grant nominated by Stonemasons, Australian Star, 29 July 1899, p. 10.

57 Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 27 January 1903, p. 3. The Fighting Platform adopted at the 1903 pll conference had seven planks: (1) Maintaining a White Australia (2) Compulsory Arbitration (3) Old Age Pensions (4) Nationalization of Monopolies (5) A Citizens’ Military Force and an Australian Navy (6) Restricted Public Borrowing (7) Reform of the Navigation Laws. See The Worker, 31 January 1903, p. 6.

58 R. W. Postgate, The Builders’ History, London: National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, 1923, p. 143.

59 George Jacob Holyoake, Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life, London: T. F. Unwin, 1906, vol. 1, p. 291.

60 There is a good note on Mary Ann Grant in The Worker, 21 January 1905, p. 7.

61 Cooperator, Sydney, 7 October 1912, p. 3; Truth, 12 January 1913, p. 9.

62 “Labor Campaign,” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 1914, p. 9.

63 “Campaign Notes,” Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 1914, p. 8.

64 Andrew Garran (ed.), Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, Sydney, 1888, vol. 1, Introduction, n.p.

65 “A Colonial Discussion on Art,” The Builder, 19 September 1885, p. 381-382.

66 Illustrated Sydney News, 20 June 1891, p. 17-19.

67 Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1890, p. 7.

68 Australian Builder and Contractor’s News, 4 January 1890.

69 “The King is Dead,” Building and Engineering Journal, 19 July 1890.

70 John Barlow, “Australia,” American Architect and Building News, 20 September 1890, p. 180.

71 Ibid.

72 Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 56.

73 Peter Kohane, “James Barnet and the Classical Ideal,” op. cit. (note 2), p. 20.

74 Barnet, resignation letter, 30 June 1890, cited in Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 131.

75 John Dunmore Lang, Reminiscences of My Life and Times, op. cit. (note 2), p. 40.

76 “The Labour Creed,” Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 1908, p. 6.

77 More explicitly socialist groups had now appeared on the scene, and were quick to denounce Labor as a middle class party; see for example “Labourites versus Socialists,” Barrier Miner, 2 December 1908, p. 7, and “The Passing Show,” International Socialist, 3 January 1914, p. 1.

78 “Presentation to Senator and Mrs Grant,” The Australian Worker, 29 April 1915, p. 6.

79 “John Grant,” Sunday Times, Sydney, 23 April 1916, p. 2.

80 The Worker, 26 January 1901, p. 4.

81 “The Colonial Architect,” Australian Star, 17 August 1890, p. 2.

82 John Veitch, The History and Poetry of the Scottish Border, Glasgow: James Maclehose, 1878, p. 185.

83 Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1890, p. 11; Australasian Builder and Contractors News, 22 February 1890, p. 774.

84 “Robert Steel,” in Australian Men of Mark, Sydney: Charles F. Maxwell, 1888, vol 1, p. 310.

85 There is a hint of what might be found following this lead in Barnet’s design for the Sydney International Exhibition Building of 1879. Around the inside of the drum that supported the main dome of this very secular building Barnet had painted a prominent quotation from Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” See Maitland Mercury, 20 September 1879, p. 11.

86 James Barnet, “Architectural Works in Sydney, New South Wales, 1788-1889,” RIBA Journal, vol. 6 (3rd series), 29 September 1899, p. 505-517. There is a glimpse of the old fire in Barnet’s reply to a letter from John Barlow in 1900, asking his opinion of a proposed Building Act: “Useless.” “Boards are admitted to be failures. What is needed is more individual power and consequent responsibility.” See Barnet to Barlow, 28 March 1900, in Sydney (Australia), State Library of NSW, Barlow Papers, MLMSS 7963, Album 1, p. 50.

87 Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 124.

88 Chris Johnson, “From Abroath to Braeside,” in Patrick Bingham Hall, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 25; there is a good summary of Barnet’s major buildings in the same text, p. 42. For a longer list see the appendix in Peter Bridges and Don McDonald, James Barnet, op. cit. (note 2), p. 129-31, which reprints Barnet’s own list. There is a very friendly and judicious overview of Barnet’s career in the Building and Engineering Journal, 23 March 1889, p. 206.

89 Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 1891, p. 5.

90 Strangely, the author of an article on expatriate Scots around this time does not mention Barnet, though he does praise the gpo as “the most imposing pile of buildings in the Southern Hemisphere” and identifies the foreman mason as John Hardie of Glasgow. See A. Muir, “Scotchmen at the Antipodes,” reprinted in the Building and Engineering Journal, 1 March 1890, p. 81.

91 “Lands Office Building,” Evening News, 6 January 1891, p. 3.

92 “A Coping-Stone Oration,” Australian Star, 6 January 1891, p. 4; “The New Lands Offices,” Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 6 January 1891, p. 4; Building and Engineering Journal, 10 January 1891, p. 12; Australian Builder and Contractor’s News, 10 January 1891, p. 14-15.

93 The Worker began to discuss workers’ housing in 1900, and under the influence of more radical thinkers began to agitate for model dwellings and public bakeries. By 1907 “municipal socialism” was in the air, and in 1908-1809 the Trades and Labour Council submission to the Royal Commission into the Improvement of Sydney recommended clearing Sydney’s slums.

94 A Melbourne labour paper certainly thought so in 1899: “Beautiful Australia! Virgin land! No architectural remains from the past remind us of the thraldom and degradation of your free-born sons. No pyramids of Cheops, or gigantic Sphinx, tells a story of the pristine slavery of your hardy and adventurous manhood.” See Tocsin, 12 October 1899, p. 2.

95 George Bernard Shaw, The Common Sense of Municipal Trading, London: Constable, 1904, p. 112.

96 John Ruskin, “The Lamp of Memory,” in The Seven Lamps of Architecture, London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1849, sec. 10.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: James Barnet 1827-1904.
Crédits Source: Drawing by Lee Whitmore.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/6344/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 94k
Titre Figure 2: John Grant 1857-1928.
Crédits Source: Drawing by Lee Whitmore.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/6344/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 79k
Titre Figure 3: Eight Hour Day Demonstration, Sydney 1877.
Crédits Source: Australian Town and Country Journal, 6 October 1877, p. 24.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/6344/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 302k
Titre Figure 4: The General Post Office, James Barnet (arch.), Sydney, Australia.
Crédits Source: American Architect and Building News, 24 August 1889, p. 86.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/6344/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 197k
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Mark Stiles, « Building Jerusalem at Botany Bay: James Barnet (1827-1904) and John Grant (1857-1928) », ABE Journal [En ligne], 14-15 | 2019, mis en ligne le 28 juillet 2019, consulté le 16 octobre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abe/6344 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.6344

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Auteur

Mark Stiles

PhD in the history of architecture, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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