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The Burning of the Garden Palace, 1882

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3086A

Scope and Contents

A commercially produced album containing mounted photographs, measuring approximately 280 x 225 mm, and four pages of explanatory text, commemorating the fire which destroyed the exhibition hall on 22nd September 1882. The album consists of one photograph of the undamaged building and 16 of various parts of the ruins. Prints are without captions.

The origins of the building lay in the New South Wales Government's decision in 1878 to hold an International Exhibition in Sydney. In January 1879 the buildings were marked out to the design of the Colonial Architect James Barnet on a plot south of the main part of the Botanic Gardens, and considering the size of the building, were opened to the public an extraordinarily short time later, in September 1879.

The cause of the fire has never been determined, but the spectacular blaze which started at around 6am became almost immediately uncontrollable and by 9am the Hall was utterly destroyed. Almost as important as the loss of the building were the records burned in the fire: all the 1881 census information, of which no copies existed, and which charted the growth of the State since the previous census ten years before, was consumed. Water supply schemes, land deeds and railway surveys, the Geological Collection and Library of the Technological Museum, the Library of the Linnean Society and the Libraries and plans of other bodies were destroyed, although in a few cases copies existed. A large number of works from the Art Society of New South Wales were destroyed, although judging by the newspaper's report, this would seem to be a lesser tragedy.


  • Creation: 1882

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Photographer and publisher unknown, but possibly connected to 'The Sydney Morning Herald', since the four pages of text are a reproduction of that newspaper's report of the disaster the following day.


1 album(s) (17 images in 1 album)

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available on microfiche: Australasia, fiche number 28.


This collection level description was entered by KS using information from the original typescript catalogue.



Includes index.
2003-07-01 14:55:46+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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