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The Stranger's Guide

Travel back in time to 1861 and be a stranger in your own city.

Sydney Town Hall to Customs House.

Sydney like you’ve never seen it before.

Let James Waugh be your guide as you travel back in time to 1861 and be a stranger in your own city. This walk starts at present-day Sydney Town Hall and ends at Customs House. All the landmarks along the way are from 1861, illustrated with contemporary watercolours, etchings and the occasional new-fangled photograph.


Bank of New South Wales

“This building in the Italian style of architecture, is also from the design of Mr Hilly. It is surmounted by a well-executed sculpture of the royal Arms; and occupying the corner of George and Wynyard streets, there are few buildings that are seen to such advantage” James Waugh, 1861

Image: Bank of N S Wales, c1855 by unknown artist [looking south, second on right] (Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, FL1120473)

Customs House

“Passing the Obelisk, we walk down Loftus Street along a handsome range of buildings and stores, and we now observe the Customs House. This, it will be perceived, is a plain and unpretentious building. It was built at a time when there were so many unemployed in Sydney and very much, for the sole purpose of keeping them from a state of starvation, the pecuniary condition of the colony at that time being very deplorable.” james Waugh, 1861

Image: Custom House and Circular Quay, 1845 by G. E. Peacock (Dixson Galleries, State Library of NSW, FL9482833)

Royal Botanic Gardens

“Seats are tastefully disposed at all parts; and the Military band enlivens the scene every Tuesday and Friday afternoon. As soon as the visitor has satiated himself with the gardens and their contents, we shall suppose him again at the main entrance; we shall, therefore, continue his walk ere he made this digression.” James Waugh, 1861

Image: Lower Botanic Gardens, 1856 by S T Gill (Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia nla.obj-135664183)

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