The image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of a place which, for many Sydneysiders and visitors alike, is very familiar – Millers Point. Yet the image above is stunningly different to the Millers Point we are familiar with today. Today, Millers Point is an historic area of Sydney with many cultural attractions and cafes, yet once it was at the heart of Sydney’s working harbour, bustling with a different type of activity entirely.
Until the 1830s, Millers Point was a reasonably deserted part of the new colony, with very few people settling in the area, despite it being close to the centre of the settlement. In the 1820s there was a military hospital and three windmills in the area (hence Millers point – named after Jack the Miller) but only half a dozen houses in the entire area. By the 1830s though, the deep water of Millers Point and its close situation to Dawes Point, were attracting more people to the area. Soon, a thriving if smelly industry focussing on whaling and sealing began to be established. By the 1840s, there were more workers cottages scattered through Millers Point and even the occasional wharf owners grand home was built.
It was in the 1850s that the maritime trade in the area really began to take off though, and by the 1860s there were even several large warehouses built on the waterfront. Yet the wharves were crowded and unsanitary, especially after the depression of the 1890s, and they made a perfect home for rats. In 1900 the bubonic plague came to Millers Point and in the wake of the disease, the area was resumed by the government and a major redevelopment began. The first, and most important part of the redevelopment was the building of new wharves and the associated docks and warehouses which were associated with a thriving maritime industry.