The release of the revised edition of A Walk In Old Sydney by Michael Tatlow couldn't have come at a better time for me. With an imminent trip to Sydney planned, I launched into this book about suggested walking tours of historic Sydney with much enthusiasm and interest.
Stories about the hardships endured by the early colonists from the First Fleet in 1788 in their make-shift camps, to points of interest in Darling Harbour, have been meticulously researched and recorded. The book presents interesting facts and tales behind the facades of some of Sydney's greatest edifices in a manner that makes you feel like you are walking alongside the author.
Almost every building is represented by either an accompanying photo, historical illustration or painting so you can comfortably enjoy the tours without leaving your armchair. But it's not all just about bricks and mortar; natural landmarks such as parks and trees of significance are pinpointed along the way as well as important Aboriginal sites and of course, the people associated with the buildings.
The lives of many historical figures are brought to life in this book and the roles each played in commissioning, designing, constructing, inhabiting or naming various buildings and landmarks. Governor Lachlan Macquarie features highly and is described as "Australia's champion at naming places after himself, his family his mates and superiors." Wealthy bachelor and collector, David Scott Mitchell, is mentioned for his eccentricities and for bequeathing much of his collection of books, pictures and maps to the Mitchell Library Wing at the State Library of NSW. Some living figures like Jack Mundey are included for their efforts in saving many significant buildings in the Rock's district from total annihilation during the 1970s.
I learned that the current Conservatorium of Music, with its fancy turrets and crenellations, was designed by convicted forger and architect, Francis Greenway to stable Governor Macquarie's horses, much to the outrage of cash-strapped Sydney citizens at the time. The author also reveals that hanging, the punishment for felons, was not Governor Arthur Phillip's first preference. Instead he suggested that murderers be set loose in New Zealand so that Maoris would eat them.
Apart from information on recommended walks, the book is punctuated with anecdotes entitled "snapshots" that highlight obscure or interesting subjects – the colourful and influential characters of the colony; uprisings against the authorities, stories of stolen buried treasure, and the impact of gold fever, to name a few.
A Walk In Old Sydney is compact in size, has glossy photos and a few maps with clearly illustrated routes, making it a must for tourists or any Australian with an interest in history or architecture. Since reading this book I have become more conscious of landmarks dotted around my hometown and am curious to read other walking tours by Tatlow such as A Walk in Old Hobart and A Tour of Old Tasmania. Mr Tatlow, Melbourne awaits you.
Looks interesting. I wonder does it cover areas that were home to aboriginal populations before we built our western city? I just learnt that until recently that the Bondi area was largely a working class area, which has changed my perception of this place.