Servant and Master

Building and Running the Grand Houses of Sydney 1788-1850

Author: Barrie Dyster


“Most history is the history of important men. Servants and Masters isn’t. It is about ordinary people who worked on and in the great mansions of Sydney. It is about the labourers and craftsmen who hammered the nails, laid the stone and plastered the walls of these marvelous homes. It is also about the women in the nurseries, those who cooked the huge meals in the boiling kitchens, and those that cleaned the stairs and the halls; it is about the men who looked after the horses and those who maintained and created the elaborate and formal gardens.

While few who dispute the pivotal role of the Macarthurs, the Wentworths and other landed gentry in Australian history, the houses they built also serve as monuments to the generally unchronicled lives of those who made it all work – the labourers the clerks, the servants, the small merchants and the like.

Dr Barrie Dyster with the help of his researchers has produced a fascinating insight into the lives and livelihoods of these ordinary people. Unique documents have been unearthed and reveal not only social and commercial relationships, aesthetic concerns, and worries about workmanship, but also more mundane information about the price of bricks or the daily rate for carpenters.

This book is a celebration of the everyday. It is an exciting and evocative journey into the past, and tells us how the forebears of the vast majority of Australians struggled and lived to establish the nucleus of what is now urban Australia.”

SOURCE: Inside front cover of the book


Dr Barrie Dyster is a senior lecturer in economic history at the School of Economics University of New South Wales. He was a contributor to Australians: 1838, and is a co-author with David Meredith of Australia in the Global Economy.

Copyright © Historic Houses Trust 1989

Published by New South Wales University Press
PO Box 1 Kensington NSW Australia 2033

ISBN 0868402753