Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Tank Stream (2) - Into the head of the Cove

Near the intersection of Bridge & Pitt Streets

During the 1860s the Tank Stream, on which Sydney was founded, disappeared beneath the streets and buildings of the burgeoning city. Today, its course is traced by sculptures on the footpaths, named laneways and an annual day of exploration for those lucky enough to have their name drawn out of the heavily subscribed ballot.

This diagram stands adjacent to the access point for the annual explorations at the base of Australia Square

Where Bridge Street stands today was the delta of the Tank Stream as it widened into Sydney Cove. Bridge Street was crossed by a makeshift log bridge which tumbled down quickly being replaced by a stone version in 1804. The stream was so polluted by sewage and dead animals by the 1820s that fresh water had to be sourced from elsewhere. Over the first century of settlement the muddy delta flats area was reclaimed and built upon and today houses much of the financial heart of the city.

Frederick Garling's 1842 watercolour in the Mitchell Library

In the above painting, the large house on the right occupied pride of place in Macquarie Place, with the fence indicating Pitt Way which today is Pitt Street. The stone bridge is hard to make out, but the fouling of the stream is quite obvious.

Tomorrow, I will take you down into the bowels of the GPO in Martin Place to see some of the stone culvert into which the Tank Stream was encased and through which it still trickles its way from the original swamp where the Pitt Street mall now stands, down into Sydney Cove at Circular Quay West.

Looking down Bridge Street to the east. The Tank Stream runs beneath the very low point (from right to left) just this side of Pitt Street at the lights, and this side of Macquarie Place

13 comments:

~Cheryl said...

This is fascinating. Quite the restoration project! You must be one of the lucky ones? I'm looking forward to seeing the "bowels"!

Clytie said...

Wow, very fascinating. And the stream still runs - under the city? I can't wait to hear more!

markwilliamjackson said...

Fantastic post Julie, thank you. I've lived in this city for nearly 28 years and didn't know about the Tank Stream.

T. Becque said...

Very interesting information. That first photo holds the attention.

Ann said...

I would love to do that Tank Stream Tour. I vaguely remember there used to be an arcade somewhere that had the Tank Stream running through it. For some reason I keep seeing it as being near/under? the Prouds store.

Ann said...

Looking forward to tomorrow - if its still running under the GPO I want to go and see it.

J Bar said...

Amazing how much the city has changed in 150 years. Can hardly imagine what it will be like in another 150 years.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Julie said...

Ann, Prouds is on the NW of the King/Pitt intersection, yes? I would be surprised if it ran near there. Its source is the mall close to the Market St end and then it runs in a curve closer to George St. You will see tomorrow that it is ENCASED through the GPO basement and must run close to beneath the Cenotaph where it slightly diverges closer to Pitt St (like around Australia Square bldg) and then down to the Quay sort of beneath that SMH statue with the animals and then across and into the curve on the western edge of the Quay.

Keep in mind, it was a stream NEITHER a creek nor a river. What runs through the culvert now is maingly storm water runoff. I will include a HHT photo in tomorrow's post.

Andrew said...

Look forward to tomorrow's photos and you must enter the ballot for a tour.

Julie said...

Andrew, I did enter but have not been contacted so figure to have missed out. The tours are next Sunday when 180 lucky-ducks get to don wellies and walk hunched over for maybe 100m.

I must acknowledge that I took my two children in the late '80s in the pre-ballot days.

I gather that the ballot occurs every 6 months. It is a joint venture by Historic Houses and the Water Board.

Davine said...

Great Posts - I love getting my Autralian History lessons from you. Thanks.

diane said...

Bad luck in missing out on the tour. I was looking forward to a virtual tour. However your posts will be very interesting I know.

Lois said...

Such an interesting history Julie!