Lands Department Building

Public Art : Statues on the Lands Department Building

Sculptors : © Tommaso Sani, James White, Alexander Sherrif, Nelson Illingworth and W.P. MacIntosh.

Date : c.1891

Description : High on the ledges of the Lands Department building silently stands the 23 sandstone carved figures of legislators, explorers and botanists of Australia. Note that each statue has one foot placed forward.

Location : The statues are located on the exterior niches of the Land Department Building, Bridge Street, Sydney, Australia.

History of the Lands Department Building : The Lands Department building is one of the most fascinating historical buildings in Sydney's CBD. It was designed by Sydney's great public architect James Barnet in 1876.

The first stage of the Department of Lands Building was built between 1876 and 1881 and the second stage between 1888 and 1892. Strangely the foundation stone was laid on the 7th of October, 1876 but to this day no one has been able to find its location.

In March 1890 Sir Henry Parkes asked  Barnet to nominate the names of the 48 men who should be worthy enough to grace the niches with a statue. Some of the listed were rejected on the grounds that there were "more enterprising colonists than explorers".  In the end only 23 of the 48 niches had been allocated statues when work stopped in 1901 due to the Depression of the 1890s. It was also recommended that the other niches remain empty to commemorate future generations who might be worthy of a place on the building. It wasn't until 2010, a 109 years since the last statue was placed in the niche was a new one added, that of James Meehan.

Italian sculptor Tommaso Sani was commissioned to  produce the statues of Allan Cunningham, W.C. Wentworth and Sir John Robertson.

Controversy : Sculptor Tomaso Sani was commissioned by the premier of the time to carve a sandstone bust of James Barnet for the building in recognition of his achievements but the new Sectratary of Public Works sneakily swapped the name of Barnet to Sir John Robertson.

So Who Was James Barnet?: James Johnstone Barnet (1827-1904) was born in Scotland and as a young lad studied drawing, design and architecture in London. In 1854 James and his wife Amy decided to start a new life in Australia. They packed up their possessions and arrived in Sydney. A few years later Barnet joined the Colonial Architects office. Five years later in 1865 he became New South Wales Colonial Architect.

Things you may not know about James Barnet

He was the first architect to install a telephone in a government office (what a mistake that was!).

In his career Barnet designed 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses and several hundred public buildings throughout the New South Wales.

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Bridge Street Facade

Lands Department Building, Matthew Flinders, Sydney Australia

     Matthew Flinders          Hamilton Hume         Sir Joseph Banks

      Charles Sturt              Arthur Phillip                William Wills  

    George Bass              Robert O'Hara Burke        William Hovell

    John Oxley                 Dr Leichhardt         Sir Thomas Mitchell  

Bent Street Facade

Gregory Blaxman statue, public art, Department of Lands building

  Allan Cunningham      Sir John Robertson         Gregory Blaxland

Sir William Charles Wentworth   William Lawson     James Farnell

Gresham Street Facade

 Sir Henry Parkes Statue, Department of Lands Building,

    Sir Henry Parkes         Sir James Martin          Daniel H Deniehy

Sir George Grey statue, Department of Lands building, public art

    Sir George Grey

Loftus Street Facade

 James Meehan statue, Lands Department building, Sydney

James Macdouall Stuart    James Meehan

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