A Place for the Friendless Female - Sydney's Female Immigration Depot
Tatting shuttle, tatting (a kind of knotted lace netted with a small flat shuttle), sewing scissors, needle case, pinwheel, bodkin (a small pointed sewing tool used for piercing holes in cloth), thimble, buttons.

Photograph Jenni Carter

A Place For The Friendless Female: Sydney's Female Immigration Depot is the result of a partnership between the NSW Migration Heritage Centre and the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales with curator Bridget Berry. The Hyde Park Barracks Museum is a property of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales.

A place for the friendless female
    Irish immigrant Jane Taylor, 13 September 1855

This is how one immigrant woman described the Female Immigration Depot in a letter to the Agent for Immigration when seeking readmission to the depot.

Hyde Park Barracks is a significant heritage site for female migration to colonial New South Wales as well as for its historic association with male convicts. For 38 years, between 1848 and 1886, the barracks housed the Female Immigration Depot and received thousands of single, government-assisted working-class Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh female immigrants to the colony. For these 'unprotected' women, the depot was the first experience of a foreign land.

The Hyde Park Barracks Museum's archaeology collection contains a large number of personal treasures belonging to these women. Some items seem to have been deliberately hidden under the floorboards, while others appear to have accidentally fallen through the cracks or were dragged there by rats and remained hidden in nests beneath the floors until the building's conservation from 1979 to 1981. Many are displayed in this online exhibition. What has been left behind gives us an extraordinary view of the everyday lives of 19th century working-class women.

The Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum is a NSW Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission. www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au