Dawes Point – Part 4

Dawes Point From McMahons Point Front

Dawes Point From McMahon’s Point

As we have been learning over the past three weeks, Dawes Point is a fascinating place, with layer upon layer of history to be discovered. From the first observatory and a vital contact place for European Colonists and Aboriginal People, to a fortified defence post, Dawes Point has served Sydney in a variety of ways. Yet, perhaps one of it’s most vital roles came in the 20th century.

In 1902, the Dawes Point battery stopped being used as a defensive point. With Federation, there had been the formation of a regular Australian Army, and Dawes Point was no longer seen as necessary to defence. Following this era, the main role played by Dawes Point for the next years was as a landing place for ferry services crossing the harbour. These services date right back to Billy Blue, who began a ferry service in the early 1800s, and even ferried Governor Macquarie across the harbour! By 1900, Dawes Point was the landing place for the Horse Ferry. There were also public baths in the area of Dawes Point, and of course many buildings which were now unoccupied. In 1909 the Water Police moved into the guardhouse, and we also know that, from 1918, the Officers Quarters were used by the Department of Repatriation as a tractor training school for returned soldiers. Other areas were reserved for public use, including a promenade.

By 1925 though, all the buildings were empty and awaiting demolition to make way for a new crossing of the harbour, the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Many of the buildings, including Francis Greenways contributions, were demolished and the cannons were removed and placed at Taronga Park Zoo, where they remained until 1945. Other buidlgins, including the Officers Quarters were used as offices and accomodation for the engineers building the bridge, Dorman and Long. In 1925, Dawes Point also became home to one of two u shaped tunnels. These tunnels, one on each side of the harbour, contained massive cables which held back the bridge arches as they were being built. When the bridge was complete, the cables were no longer needed and removed, and the tunnels were filled in. Dawes Point is also the site of the Southern Pylon of the famous bridge, which soars above the heads of those visiting. During construction of the bridge, the area was of course closed to the public, but following the opening of the bridge, the area was opened as a public park, which today remains a popular area, especially for watching the Sydney Harbour fireworks on New Years Eve!

Dawes Point – Part 3

Sydney Harbour From Dawes Point 2 Front.jpg

The image above, which reveals a heavily fortified Dawes Point, is a glimpse into the history of an area which all Sydneysiders know, but often overlook when thinking about the history of Sydney. Yet Dawes Point is a place with layers of history, which have built up over the years of Aboriginal and European occupation. Today, we associate Dawes Point simply with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, yet before this time, Dawes Point played a very different role in Sydney’s history.

By 1791, the value of Dawes Point as a strategic and defensive position had been fully recognised. The earlier observatory was demolished, and the area of Dawes Point was taken over by fortifications, barracks, powder magazines and even artillery, with the earliest gun at Dawes Point actually originating on the ship Sirius. In 1801 improvements were made to the fortifications, and in 1819, famous convict architect, Francis Greenway, was tasked with completely redesigning the fortifications. Although the original plans for his fort do not survive, we know from contemporary accounts and archaeological evidence that his fort was built in the castellated Gothic style. At the time, aspects of the new fort were criticised, such as a decorative guardhouse above the fort which people felt was a target, not a defence!

Then, in the 1850s, fears of a Russian attack, associated with Britains involvement in the Crimean war, caused the fort to once again be altered. By 1856, members of the Royal Artillery had been stationed in Sydney, at Dawes Point Battery, and of course new buildings had been constructed to house them. An officers quarters and new barracks buildings were constructed at this time. It was also at this time that new guns were installed. Five cannons were added to the fort, and these can still be seen at Dawes Point today, though most are no longer in their original positions. A lower fort, of which little is known, was also built at this time, and underground powder stores have been discovered during archaeological excavations. It is believed these powder magazines also date to this period. Over the following decades, and up to the time of Federation, Dawes Point continued to play a significant role in military activity, and more buildings were added to fulfil various roles. After Federation, and the creation of the regular Australian Army, military presence at Dawes Point was discontinued, with occupation ending in 1902. Little remains visible of the fortifications, though a sentry box which is today adjacent to the Ives Steps and Wharf would have originally been used to observe the harbour and foreshore.

Dawes Point Part 2

Sydney Dawes Point From Fort Macquarie Front

The image above, which shows Dawes Point in the early years of the 20th century. The image is a glimpse into the past history the area which today, for many Sydneysiders, is firmly associated with the 20th century and The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Yet Dawes Point is one of those extraordinary places in Sydney history which has layered history, dating right back to the earliest years of the colony, and before.

Dawes Point is so named because of its association with Lt William Dawes, who established an observatory on the point. He recorded meteorological observations and was the official time keeper for the colony, as well as observing the nighttime sky. His scientific records are incredibly significant records of early colonial history, and are even important to the international scientific community. Yet Dawes Point did not remain a scientific institution for long.

Dawes Point is able to supply excellent views up and down the harbour, and it wasn’t long before the strategic possibilities of the area were recognised. Even during the years of Dawes Observatory, there was a signal station and powder magazine located on the site. The signal station was built on the site to allow the communication of messages from The Gap at Watsons Bay, to Sydney, and from there up the Parramatta River, to the Governors residence. Even the first proper road was built from Dawes Point to Sydney’s Government House to enable quick communication between the leader of the colony and the signal station. When news came of conflict between England and Spain, the basic defences at Dawes Point were formalised. The observatory buildings, which were made of wood, were demolished in 1791 and permanent fortifications were built on the site to defend the new colony from other European powers. Dawes Point Battery, as it was known had armaments, powder magazines, guardhouses and officers quarters. Even the guns from the ship Sirius were relocated to the point to enable defence of the new colony.

The Dawes Point Battery continued to be an important part of Sydney’s defences over the next years. Come back next week to find out more.

Dawes Point As It Once Was

Sydney harbour From Dawes Point 1 Front

Sydney is an amazing city, with a stunningly beautiful harbour. It also conceals layer upon layer of history, from pre-European colonisation Aboriginal history through to the relatively modern. Sometimes, this history is even disguised, hidden under famous landmarks which dominate our minds, and hide the history of the place before their time. Dawes Point is one such place. This week, we begin the first in a series of posts uncovering these amazing layers of history.

Dawes Point is steeped in history. Today, it is firmly associated with The Sydney Harbour Bridge, whose southern Piers and Abutment Tower can be found on the point. Yet there is a wealth of history which predates the bridge. Before European colonisation, the Aboriginal people of the Eora nation called Dawes Point Tarra and the point itself was part of the land belonging to the Cadigal people. After European colonisation, Dawes Point was first associated with Lt William Dawes who in 1788 established a hut and observatory on the site. He named the point Point Maskelyn, after the Astronomer Royal, but the point soon became more commonly known as Dawes Point.

Yet it was not just Dawes work as a scientist which is significant. Dawes Point, and Dawes himself are associated with one of the earliest recorded cultural exchanges between the British colonists and the Eora people. A young Cameral woman, Patyegarang, had become friends with Dawes and the pair learned to communicate. Dawes recorded many of the Eora words and their English translations in his notebooks. This is one of the first recorded friendly interchanges between the colonists and the traditional owners of the land they had colonised.

Come back next week to discover the next layer of history to be discovered at Dawes Point

Mullet Creek Railway

Mullet Creek Hawkesbury Front

This week, The Past Present turns its attention to one of the important areas in Sydney’s transport history. Many Sydneysiders head north during their holidays, or even just for a day out and about. On reaching the Hawkesbury River, they cross the bridge, either by car or by train, little thinking of how different this trip must have been before the bridges were built! The photo above shows Mullet Creek, and important are in the train journey, both before and after the Railway Bridge over the Hawkesbury River was installed.

The Hawkesbury River is a beautiful waterway which today is a popular place for people to visit and even holiday. Yet once, this beautiful waterway was also a major barrier to travel. It was also a lucrative opportunity for George Peat, who in 1840 established Peats Ferry, a service which allowed people to cross the river by boat, between Kangaroo Point and Mooney Mooney Point. Peat even built a hotel at Peats Bight to allow people to break their trip!

Then, in 1887, a single line railway track was opened between Hornsby and the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn. People could now travel and move goods by rail, but still, the river was a barrier. Passengers and goods who were travelling north had to be unloaded at the River Wharf Platform at the eastern end of Long Island. From there, they would board the double decker paddle steamer, The General Gordon. At first, they would then have a three hour trip, as the steamer transferred the passengers and goods along the waterways, out to Broken Bay, up the Brisbane Water and to Gosford, where everybody could reboard the train. Then, Woy Woy Tunnel was opened in early 1888, and the journey by steamer shortened – travellers just had to cross the river and travel the lower branches of Mullet Creek, until they reached Mullet Creek Station (about 400 metres from todays Wondabyne Railway Station). The image above shows a section of the railway along Mullet Creek, a section of the journey which even today is viewed as particularly beautiful!

The Corso, Manly

The Corso Manly 1 Front

This week, with the weather warming up, just a little, many Sydneysiders may be beginning to think longingly of warm days at the beach. Sydney has many beautiful beaches, but one of the most famous is Manly. The postcard above, which dates from circa 1906 shows just one of the features of Manly which has been popular with visitors for over a century – The Corso.

In the mid 1800s, Manly was home to Henry Gilbert Smith, a very successful businessman in Sydney. He lived at Firelight, which was built on a huge area near what is today Ocean Beach. While he was living there, he saw the possibility of creating at Manly a seaside resort, which he envisaged calling Ellensville, after his first wife. He built the facilities needed to create such a resort, including cottages, hotels, gardens, baths and, of course, The Corso itself.

The Corso, which may have followed the path of an earlier Aboriginal trackway, was planned in 1854-1855 by Smith himself. The first time it was formally recorded was in 1855, in official plans for the resort. The Corso of the time was very different to what we see today though – a boardwalk across the sand spit between the harbour pier and Ocean Beach. It was named after the Via del Corso in Rome, and was the focal point of Smiths new resort. One of the features of The Corso was a central avenue of trees, the earliest of which were Morton Bay Figs planted by Smith in the 1860s. The Manly council added the now famous Norfolk Pines in the late 1870s.

Celebrating 200 Years – Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens – Part 1

Botanical Gardens Sydney 2 Front

This week, with the Royal Botanic Gardens celebrating their bicentenary over the recent June long weekend, it seemed the perfect time to share an image of the iconic Sydney green space. Over the course of its history, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney have been a popular subject for artists ranging from colonial watercolorists to postcard makers. The image above, which shows the Botanic Gardens in circa 1907, is from a postcard and is just one of the many postcards in the collection which showcase our beautiful Botanic Gardens.

Before European colonists arrived in Australia, the area which includes what is now known as the Royal Botanic Gardens was known as Woccanmagully, and used as an initiation ground by the Cadigal people. When Europeans arrived though, a small farm growing much needed grain for the new colony was established on the site. By 1802, the old Government House (which is now the site of the Museum of Sydney) had a fine garden, which would have included land around what is now the Botanic Garden. Records show the garden contained a mix of exotic and native plants, just as the Botanic Garden does today!

In 1807 Governor Bligh attempted to reclaim the Demesne (or Domain), but it was Governor Macquarie who actually succeeded in doing this in 1810, building walls around the area and removing the remaining buildings. Bligh had also begun to build roads in the Domain area, but these were finished between 1813 and 1816 by Governor Macquarie, and today one of these loops, completed in 1816, is known as Mrs Macquaries Road. Macquarie was informed that the road was complete on June 13, 1816, and this is traditionally seen as the foundation day for our beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. At 200 years old, they are one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in the Southern Hemisphere, and in fact are older than the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, which opened to the public over 20 years later, in 1841.

Come back next week to find out more about the creation of the Royal Botanic Gardens, one of Sydney’s best beloved green spaces.

Centennial Park And Busby

Centennial Park 2 Front

As the weather slowly, but surely, begins to turn towards cooler days, many Sydneysiders will be looking to take advantage of the Autumn weather and spend some time outdoors. Many will enjoy a picnic or two in the beautiful parks around Sydney. One of the most famous Sydney parks, and indeed one of the most celebrated is Centennial Park.

Centennial Park, also known today as Centennial Parklands, is one of Sydney’s older parks, and plays an important role in the history of Australia’s first European colony. When the First Fleet arrived in 1788, one of their first priorities was to find fresh water. They used the Tank Stream, but by the 1820s it was polluted and could no longer supply sufficient water for the needs of the colony. Governor Darling appointed John Busby as the Government Mineral Surveyor in 1824, and one of his first job was to locate another source of fresh water. He reported that the area then known as the Lachlan Swamps would be ideal, with their natural aquifers and marshlands to filter water. Busby determined that an underground tunnel or ‘bore’ could be constructed to take the water to the city, for distribution from what is now Hyde Park. Construction of the bore, known as Busby’s Bore, began in 1827 and was completed in 1837. The bore supplied water to Sydney up until 1859, when the swamps became too polluted to use any longer.

Come back next week to find out about how the swamp lands and Busby’s Bore was transformed into one of Sydney’s most famous parklands!

Sydney Panorama

complete panorama

This week, The Past Present is doing something just a little bit different. Usually, the focus is on a specific place, but the series of postcards above (six in total), show not one place, but many. This is a series of panoramic postcards, which fit together to create a complete and uninterrupted panoramic view of Sydney. Such panoramic photos, whether sold as a series of cards, or as a single, intact panorama, have a fascinating history.

Today, panoramic photographs are quick and easy to produce. Cameras and various devices with cameras featured in them are able to take a panoramic photo with the simple click of a button. In the past though, panoramic photographs were extremely difficult to take. They involved several unique photographs being taken, and then ‘stitched’ together to create a single, seamless view. The earliest photographic panorama of an Australian scene is believed to date from 1854 and is an eight panel view of Melbourne taken by Walter Woodbury. Sydney photographers were not far behind though and the first panorama of Sydney was taken just four years later by the Freeman Brothers.

The most famous of the Sydney panoramas were taken by Bernard Otto Holtermann and his assistant Charles Bayliss (Bayliss being the photographer, and Holtermann providing funding and photographic assistance). The famous Holtermann Panorama as it is known was taken in 1875 and made up of 23 discrete photographs, taken from the top of a specially built tower. This tower, which became known as the Holtermann tower, was part of Holtermanns home in Lavender Bay, and was used for many years as a photographic tower. Some even suggest it continued to be used after Holtermann’s death. The panorama above was taken not from Holtermann’s tower but from Miller’s Point and dates from the early 1900s.

Audley in The Royal National Park

Audley

This week, the weather has been quite lovely, with the days warm but not as hot as they have been. Should the weekend continue the trend, many people will be looking to spend some time in one of our wonderful National Parks, perhaps by or even on the water. Our National Parks have long been popular destinations for holidaying, or just for spending a day amongst Australia’s beautiful bush. Audley, in the Royal National Park, has long been one such tourist destination.

The Royal National Park, established in 1879, is Australia’s oldest National Park, and is in fact very nearly the oldest National Park worldwide. Only Yellowstone in the US is older! One of the most popular destinations within the park is Audley, with its weir and boatsheds. Originally, when the National Park was established, it was managed by the National Park Trust, who were given the powers to develop the park for the people of the colony. They set about building roads, and buildings, establishing gardens with exotic trees and even introducing animals!

Most of the attention was focussed on the Audley area, where a small village of sorts was established in the style of a pleasure garden. A causeway was built to provide navigable water for boats, and a fresh water habitat for introduced fish. The area was landscaped with extensive lawns and paths, and a train line between Loftus and Audley was even installed to allow visitors to more easily access the area. By 1940, Audley was so popular that a proper dancehall was built! Today the Audley area continues to be popular with visitors, and you can still hire boats and enjoy the lawn areas of this historic spot.