Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A Precious Resource - Busby's Bore

Paperbarks beside Busby's Pond in Centennial Park
A few weeks ago, I told you the history of the Tank Street which was the first supply of clean fresh water for the convict colony. By the early 1820s the Tank Stream was so polluted that an alternative had to be found.

The cairn marking the start of the bore, just within the Robertson Road gates of Centennial Park
John Busby, an engineer, came up with the idea of constructing a 3.6 kilometre tunnel from the Lachlan Swamps in Centennial Park to Hyde Park in the centre of Sydney Town to enable the piping of spring water which could then be sold to residents and provided to water carriers who plied their trade to the surrounding suburbs.

Left: John Busby
Right: A section of the bore, date unknown
Poor old Busby was low on 'people skills', and engineering skills as well. The convicts in his work team did not respond to coercion and were not skilled diggers. The bore was not completed for 16 years. Water eventually flowed in March 1837.

'Busby's Bore' was the water supply for the colony until 1859 when a series of water tanks was established (on the ridge atop Centennial Park at Bondi Junction; on Oxford Street at Paddington; and in Crown Street) to which water was pumped from an extended series of lakes which were consolidated further with the official establishment of Centennial Park in 1888. These lakes were linked up to the more extensive swamplands of the Botany basin for a comprehensive water supply network. The BJ and Crown Street tanks still operate today. The Paddington tank is now the Reservoir Gardens.

Within in Victoria Barracks there is a vent down to the bore
The 'pipeline' cuts through under the Showground site, under Moore Park Road, beneath Victoria Barracks, beneath Taylor Square eventually running down Oxford Street (beneath it) into and through Hyde Park.

Woolcott's 1857 drawing shows the water flowing above ground through the race-course which is now Hyde Park
Even though there is a memorial fountain opposite the St James courts in commemoration of this engineering feat, the ramp and water station ended near the corner of Park & Elizabeth Streets close to where the Child Health Centre used to be. Parts of the bore are still down there, but entire sections have collapsed and have been filled with sand to stop subsidence.

On the cairn in Centennial Park, the route of the bore is detailed

15 comments:

Lois said...

Very interesting Julie. I always enjoy your historical photographs. The first picture of the trees is so pretty! It reminds me of some of our canopy roads here.

James said...

It's amazing to think of a project like that being done without modern equipment. I really like the picture of the trees.

Clytie said...

Wow, a lot of work went into that bore. That tunnel looks a little scary, though.

I have to say I too really love the picture of the tree avenue!

Magpie said...

The first photo makes me want to take a walk down that path and lose myself in thought. Wonderful bit of history. Thanks for sharing.

biebkriebels said...

I like your sense of history, the text and the pictures, it is wonderful to see.

Jo said...

Very precious resource indeed, Julie. Beautiful photos, as always.

brattcat said...

ah, the things we take for granted.

J Bar said...

Great post Julie. I remember visiting the vent on a school excursion, many years ago now.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Joan Elizabeth said...

Another fascinating insight into the history of the city. You dig out such a wealth of interesting details. I guess I've never thought that much about how the city got water in the past ... probably thought they used water tanks.

Bruce Caspersonn said...

That is very interesting history, thanks Julie.

Woody said...

You come up with the coolest stories and this one fits right in. Fascinating.

Andrew said...

Any idea when the plaque was laid? Also, in the drawing, it looks like water leaves the race and drives a water wheel before going into another race. Wonder what the wheel would power?

Julie said...

Andrew, the plaque was attached to the existing cairn in 1988 to mark the centenary of the park. I don't think that is a water wheel in the drawing. I think it is the rear view of a tank on a dray with the horse obscured, backed up to the flow pipe. You can see another horse driven tank trotting away from the pipe just to the left of the little hut.

diane said...

That's a very interesting history lesson. Those paper bark trees look very old indeed and beautiful.

Vicki said...

I love this bit of history. Thanks.