The Plinths of Sydney

Monumental public space does not exist in Sydney. This is deliberate; a city born in a colony focused on convict labour shouldn't encourage mass gatherings that may lead to public uprisings. This characteristic means its monumental statuary is, for the most part, perched awkwardly alongside buildings or hidden among trees in public parks.

The monumental statues representing historical figures are mostly related to the colonial period. They were built between the 1840s and the 2010s and all except one were cast in bronze, but their plinths are made of many different materials. In a city rich in sandstone, it is perhaps surprising to find such variety, and more surprising still to learn that, in some cases, the plinths were carved as far away as Europe.

This piece brings together some observations on the physical presence and research into the history of these elaborate chunks of stone that the monuments of the colonial past stand on.

Plinths arranged by ascending date. Measurements on the vertical axis are in centimetres and correspond to the height of the plinths.
700 600 500 400 300 200 100
1842, Sir Richard Bourke Height of plinth: 440 centimetres.
1866, Prince Albert Height of plinth: 420 centimetres.
1879, Captain Cook Height of plinth: 650 centimetres.
1883, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort Height of plinth: 350 centimetres.
1888, Queen Victoria Height of plinth: 520 centimetres.
1891, Charles Dickens Height of plinth: 130 centimetres.
1891, John Dunmore Lang Height of plinth: 330 centimetres.
1897, Sir Henry Parkes Height of plinth: 180 centimetres.
1897, William Bede Dalley Height of plinth: 305 centimetres.
1897, Sir Arthur Philip Height of plinth: 615 centimetres.
1904, Sir John Robertson Height of plinth: 355 centimetres.
1905, Robert Burns Height of plinth: 430 centimetres.
1922, King Edward VII Height of plinth: 540 centimetres.
1925, Matthew Flinders Height of plinth: 390 centimetres.
1926, William Shakespeare Height of plinth: 580 centimetres.
1931, Henry Lawson Height of plinth: 295 centimetres.
1987, Queen Victoria, QVB Height of plinth: 360 centimetres.
2013, Lachlan Macquarie Height of plinth: 150 centimetres.
Plinths arranged by ascending date. Measurements on the vertical axis are in kilometres and correspond to the distance that plinth material was sourced from relative to plinth location.
17000 16000 15000 14000 12000 11000 10000 9000 8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000

1842, Sir Richard Bourke

Scottish granite. Distance travelled: 16871km.

1866, Prince Albert

Pyrmont sandstone. Distance travelled: 10km.

1879, Captain Cook

Moruya granite. Distance travelled: 302km.

1883, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1888, Queen Victoria

Moruya granite. Distance travelled: 302km.

1891, Charles Dickens

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1891, John Dunmore Lang

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1897, Sir Henry Parkes

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1897, William Bede Dalley

Bowral trachyte. Distance travelled: 116km.

1897, Sir Arthur Philip

Carrara marble. Distance travelled: 16494km.

1904, Sir John Robertson

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1905, Robert Burns

Mount Harcourt granite. Distance travelled: 876km.

Bowral trachyte. Distance travelled: 116km.

1922, King Edward VII

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1925, Matthew Flinders

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1926, William Shakespeare

Carrara marble. Distance travelled: 16494km.

1931, Henry Lawson

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

1987, Queen Victoria, QVB

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.

2013, Lachlan Macquarie

Unknown. Distance travelled: 1km.