Australia in the 1820s


Colonial housing


In the 1820s many people in the colony had only basic housing. Assigned convicts slept outside on the ground, in tents, or in a shed or barn. Many settlers had a slab hut made from wattle and daub with a bark roof and a parget wooden chimney. A parget chimney was lined with lime mortar, hair and cow dung. Wattle and daub was a popular building material for making the walls of a hut. It was constructed with thin branches or slats between upright stakes that were slotted between timber framing to make an infill panel or to form the whole wall. Some wattle-and-daub huts had their kitchens outside to keep out the smells and to prevent fire.

Lighting was often by a tallow lamp using mutton fat made from boiling down sheep. In settler homes there were also oil lamps to provide light at night. The first street lamp in Sydney was lit in Macquarie Place in 1826. Lanterns were also in use in the 1820s.

Many of the large houses of the landed gentry were built by convicts from sandstone that was quarried from local sites. The houses would be surrounded by gardens with the convict quarters out of sight. Many of these houses were inspired by English Georgian or Regency styles but were less stylised and reserved. The typical Australian homestead was characterised by a hipped roof and verandah that was ideally suited to the weather and lifestyle in Australia.

Lime was used in a variety of ways including in mortars and plasters for buildings and in agriculture to mix with and lighten clay soils. Mixed with sand it produced cement. Brick walls were often rendered with lime plaster. Lime was also used in a type of paint called whitewash, which was applied to exterior walls and fences. The lime came either from Aboriginal middens (a mound of empty shells left by Aboriginal people after eating the contents of the shells), or from shells dredged from the bottom of estuaries. The shells were burnt in kilns. Those who worked at lime making were called 'lime-burners'.

Colonial housing_1820


A snapshot of 1828

  • February
    • The Cape Grim massacre took place in Van Diemen's Land.

  • May
    • Thomas Livingstone Mitchell became Surveyor-General following the death of John Oxley.

  • September
    • Australia's first bank robbery took place. The robbers broke into the vault of the Bank of Australia in Sydney.
    • The holey dollar currency was withdrawn from circulation.

  • November
    • Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur declared martial law against Aboriginal peoples in the settled districts of Van Diemen's Land.
    • The first census was held in New South Wales, showing that 24 per cent of the total population was born in the colony. Children under 12 years comprised only 16 per cent of the total European population. The Indigenous population was not included.

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