The postcard above is a glimpse into the early history of Sydney, and of the Australian colony itself. It shows ‘Brickfield Hill’, which was of great importance in building the city. The area is now part of George Street and, as the name suggests, it is a small hill.
When the first fleet arrived in Sydney Cove and came ashore they pitched canvas tents which were to provide housing for convicts, soldiers and even storage, but when these tents were pitted against the Australian Summers frequent thunderstorms and heat, they proved inadequate. The colonists tried to build more permanent structures using local wood, particularly Cabbage Palm, but these dwellings had a tendency to warp and rot due to the poor quality, unseasoned nature of the wood.
Governor Phillip envisaged a town built of sturdier stuff but unfortunately, he could only find one man, James Bloodworth, skilled in brick making in the colony and at the time, no clay deposits had been discovered. Then, later in 1788, a group of convicts clearing land in the area of what is now Chinatown found deposits of workable clay along Cockle Creek. Bloodworth soon set about establishing two of the important industries of early Sydney, quarrying and brick making, but within a year the easily accessed clay deposits had run out. This forced them to move further up the hill, following the clay deposits. The area became known as Brickfield Hill and historically, the public brickworks were bounded by George, Campbell, Elizabeth and Goulburn Streets. By 1840 the public brickworks were becoming a hindrance to the expansion of the city and a hotspot for crime. In 1841 the Government ordered their closure, but the name Brickfield Hill remained in use. In fact, it was a postal address right up until the introduction of postcodes in 1967!