Lands Department Building
Public Art : Statues on the Lands Department
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
In his career Barnet designed 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses and several hundred
public buildings throughout the New South Wales.
Bridge Street Facade
Flinders Hamilton Hume Sir Joseph Banks
Phillip William Wills
Robert O'Hara Burke
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Bent Street Facade
Sir John Robertson
Sir William Charles Wentworth William Lawson James Farnell
Gresham Street Facade
Parkes Sir James
Martin Daniel H
Sir George Grey
Loftus Street Facade
James Macdouall Stuart