Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Tank Stream (3) - The run of clear water

The main display under and along the northern wall
Shuffle respectfully around this gutted shell and you may hear the echoes of voices past - of Arthur Phillip and Watkin Tench, of Lachlan Macquarie and Simeon Lord, of Mary Reiby and Margaret Hyde. Listen for Governor Hunter outlawing the keeping of hogs beside the stream upon threat of ‘having (your) house pulled down’. Listen to Mistress Simpson in April 1803 instructing the Sydney Gazette to place her advertisement for the laundering of linen in the stream ‘for most reasonable rates’.

Left: view of the upper echelon of the rebuild
Right: view of the lower echelon of the rebuild
Then layer on top the voices of the architect James Barnett and his team of masons and carpenters and iron mongers as they worked to create the vast halls and staircases of the GPO. The Sydney Morning Herald in 1887 declared that ‘its foundations descend thirty feet into the rock below the pavement line, with very strong arches over the sewer of the Tank Stream, as its flow could not be interfered with in any way.’

This is the culvert - use your imagination here!
Add the late 20th century layer of exclusive hotel, expensive boutiques, baristas and patisseries, and you have the archaeology of a city block. And underneath, encased in a myriad of culverts, flows the Tank Stream. The very reason for the site of the colony was now trapped beneath it own success.

Left: Lots of culvert styles are used this ovoid shape is just one of them
Right: the main Martin Place entrance showing the proximity to the Cenotaph
Be warned – you see NO water. The stream is encased, bricked up, in a big culvert. It takes a while to digest all the diagrams, to orient the flow, to tune to the voices. The ‘Plan of Drains’ for the 1887 rebuild shows that the the entire block drains into the Tank Stream – history as effluent. The Tank Stream continues its course through Martin Place below the Cenotaph just as the diagram showed yesterday. And washes all the dirty linen of this raggle-taggle city into the same cove in which the First Fleet anchored in January 1788.

I have taken this image from the NSW Water Board site.
However, click here to be taken to Daniel Boud's Tank Stream tour as shown on the Time Out Sydney website.


Joan Elizabeth said...

Julie, this story is fascinating. I've been a bit busy so haven't had time to absorb all the details.

byron said...


The Tank Stream 2&3 are awesome posts! It's amazing what we build around and leave behind when we grow as a society...

Mike said...

I like the designs.

Mary Ann said...

Isn't it interesting what you find beneath the surface. I'm sure it was a marvel of engineering ~ 120 years ago.

Mirela said...

Fantastic! The first and fourth photos made me shiver... I can fit them in an X-file episode easily or Sherlock Holmes or Jack the Ripper novels.

T. Becque said...

The first photo has nice lighting and shadows - very nice.

Jayne said...

Love the photos and thanks for taking us on the tour with you :)

March 27, 1804 the stone bridge across the Tank Stream was completed.
June 3, 1837 Busby's Bore was completed and began supplying Sydney with fresh water ;)

Ann said...

Really interesting. Can you get into the bowels of the GPO or do you need to be on a tour?

Bill said...

Interesting post, Julie. I take it you're back home?

Lachezar said...

Absolutely fascinating! Thanks for this story and images!

J Bar said...

Great series Julie. The shots inside the GPO turned out brilliantly.

Bruce Caspersonn said...

I just love all this Tank Stream stuff. If you don't get "Blogger of the Year",, there is something wrong with the system.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I've come back to take a closer read. I remember making a smart alec comment a while ago about you taking us to the sewers next ... you are getting close.

Thanks for the map of the stream and the historic context photos as well as the modern building (which I rather like).

What a shame you haven't got your chance to go on the tour. Better luck next year.

brattcat said...

You have a knack for taking the dirty linen of your raggle-taggle city and making it fresh.

Jilly said...

What a beautiful series of photographs. Especially the first. the light is beautiful. Fascinting stories here. I was interested to see the name Lachlan. I think it's the name of a Murdoch son and I wondered how he got it. Now I know.

Julie said...

Jayne, I am working on a post that tells the story of water after the Tank Stream. I have a 3 hour walking tour with a historian over Centennial Park this Saturday. The posts should start next week.

Ann, No charge, no guide necessary. Just go down the centre stairwell and head for the northern wall. Ignore the waiters and barmen dying to sell you something.

Bill, yep all back from the South Coast. Have a few posts coming up on that.

Bruce, that would scare the hell out of me and cause me to pull the plug on the entire blog, so don't wish that upon me!!

Joan, I remember that quip, but I have not finished beneath the ground as yet.

Jilly, yes Lachlan is a Murdoch son. It is a fairly popular name down here. Not sure if because of Lachlan Macquarie or not. Maybe a scottish thing.

Thank you for your kind words during this series friends. I will go onto something easier for the next few days to give me time to refill the larder. I have lots of photos, but crafting the text and researching the facts are the challenges.

Clytie said...

I also am fascinated by this series. So very interesting - so much work you have done digging up (so to speak) all this history. Well done. I look forward to more!