Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Brickfield Hill (2) - the brick fields

Hordern's Palace Emporium, fully constructed in 1924. The first store, built 1879, was burned down. There had been a Horderns of some ilk on this stretch since c. 1830.

As I mentioned in my previous post, brick-making commenced in Sydney town in about the March of 1788, when Governor Philip set James Bloodworth loose on the then outskirts of town. The centre of their universe was Sydney Cove (what we now celebrate as Circular Quay), ahd some brave and hardy souls made it through the bush and rocky ridges up the slopes to what appeared the "top", which is now the Town Hall precinct. This is where the burial-ground came to be located, "boot-hill" if you will.

I open with the iconic image of Anthony Hordens Department Store, the Palace Emporium, sited on George Street, between Liverpool and Goulburn Streets, backing onto Pitt Street. This massive city block was the guts of the brick making "industry" in the first 50 years of the penal colony. The block next to it (Pitt Strret to Castlereagh Strret between Liverpool and Campbell Streets) was also over-run by tag-a-long industries like pottery works See the references below. Pottery making had more requirements for water, hence the proximity to Cockle Creek. So, the brick fields ran up the slope, from Cockle Creek (now Belmore Park and Hay Street) to the top of the ridge which has Bathurst Street running along its spine.

1807/1878 map of the burgeoning colony.

I have used this 1807 map before, but it serves as a useful image to get the locale AND the topography firm in one's mind. Of course, this belt of industry could not last in this area. Not once the colony stood on its own two feet, and threw off the apron-strings of Mother-England. Bathurst Street was nowt but the first east-west ridge (there were numerous north-south ridges, channelling the rains and seeps down to the drowned river valley which was Sydney Cove).

The two images below serve a useful counter-point. The colour one I took standing on George Strret looking north from Rawson Place (in line with Central Station). You can see the rise on the right, Where those large office blocks are is where the brick fields were. Where I am standing, is where the swampy beds of Cockle Creek occasionally flowed. Remember, I noted in yesterday's post that the top of the brick field hill was chopped off and spread hereabouts in 1838. The B&W image is of the same set of streets, but pointing south. The water-wagon is heading straight for the stone building on Hay Street which is/was a branch of the city library. The spire of Christ Church St Laurence at Railway Square is prominent in the back ground. All this traffic, horses and wagons, uncle tom cobbley and all, are traversing reclaimed land. Reclaimed by the blood, sweat, tears, and aching backs of road gangs, and brick carters.

First image looking north up George St from Rawson Place (2015). Brick fields had been on the right, Second image, looking south down George St towards Hay Street (1900)

Below is the slope of Pitt Street as it rises to the south. The pub on the corner of Pitt and Cambell, The Chamberlain, was built in 1902, on the spot where the most extensive of the pottery works was established, that of Skinner, Moreton, and Leak, and especially Thomas Ball.

Brick-making stopped in this vicinity in 1841. But, why? Had the reserves of a specific quality of clay petered out? Or were there other agenda afoot?

Looking north up Pitt St from Campbell St. The brick fields had been on the left and the pottery kilns on the right.
Casey & Lowe, "Archealogical Investigation, 710-722 George Street", June 2011
Casey, Mary "Local Pottery and Dairying at the DMR site, Brickfields, Sydney, New South Wales", Australasian Historical Archaeology, 17, 1999
Thorpe, Wendy, "Albion Place: Historical Review", Cultural Resources Management, 1998
Maclehose, James "Picture of Sydney and Strangers Guide in NSW, 1839. Facsimile Edition. John Ferguson Pty Ltd, 1977
Marcom, Edward West (Ed.) Memoirs of Obed West: A Portrait of Early Sydney, Barcom Press, 1988
Turnbull, Lucy Sydney - Biography of a city, 1999, Random House


Bruce Caspersonn said...

While I live, I'll grow.

Joe said...

Hordens was one very impressive department store Julie.

Julie said...

Yes, Bruce. The motto of Hordern's was a spreading oak tree with the words "Where I live, I'll grow".

Julie said...

Personally, I have no memory of this store, Joe. All I know is the hole in the ground for many years where the World Square is today.

Bruce Caspersonn said...

The Oak tree was on the top of Razorback Mountain, South West, a little, from Sydney.

Rosemary said...

Mum used to shop at Anthony Horderns. We'ld come in from Mosman on the ferry and then take the tram up either Pitt St or George St. I remember it was something of a rabbit warren inside. The highlight was eating lunch there.

William Kendall said...

What remarkable changes over time!

Jim said...

I can remember when the old building was used as a car park before it was demolished. I'm still disappointed that they didn't save the facade and incorporate it in the new development.