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Guide to Tocal

Blacket barn

Blacket Barn is one of Tocal's most important buildings. It was designed by noted colonial architect Edmund Thomas Blacket (1817-1883) who is primarily known as a church architect. Tocal barn is therefore unique among the many buildings he designed, its elegant and detailed roof trusses reflecting the inspiration Blacket drew from his usual work on churches and public buildings in Sydney, Goulburn and the Hunter Valley.

It is the second Blacket barn on the site. Blacket was well known to Felix Wilson, the owner of Tocal at the time, and the plans for Tocal's first Blacket barn survive in the Mitchell library. In June 1865 tenders were called for its construction, as follows:

TO BUILDERS.- Tenders are invited for a building 93 feet by 40 feet, on Tocal Estate, Paterson River. Plans and specification to be seen on application at Tocal House; at Messrs. Penders, West Maitland; or to Mr. E.T. Blacket, Architect, Pitt street, Sydney, to which latter party tenders are to be sent on or before the 10th day of July 1865. (Maitland Mercury, 19 June 1865).

The barn was completed in mid 1866 and burnt down a year later. The Maitland Mercury reported the fire on 10 August 1867 as follows:


Yesterday (Wednesday) the splendid barn recently erected on the Tocal Estate, with all its contents, was totally destroyed by fire. On the alarm being given all hands at once hastened to the spot; a few slabs were removed in the vicinity of the fire, the flames at once burst forth, and in a few moments the whole building was enveloped in flames. The building was a large one, being about 100 feet in length and 40 feet in width, and was a very substantial building, it having been completed only about twelve months ago; it was nearly filled with hay...

It is... surmised that the fire was caused by the heating of some of the hay in the building, as it was first discovered in the centre of the part where the hay was stacked, and a considerable distance from where any person could have been to enable the building to have been accidentally set on fire. Paterson, August 8th, 1867. (Extract from the Maitland Mercury 10 August 1867).

photo of Blacket barn

We believe the current Blacket Barn was built shortly after the destruction of the first barn in 1867.

Architect Philip Cox dubbed this building the 'cathedral of barns' and with Ian McKay carried this feature through to the design of the EA Hunt hall on the College Campus. It is probably the most important old barn in Australia, because it was unusual for a barn to be designed by an architect.