Friday, 3 April 2015

The Rocks - Argyle Cut

Note: I made the four large images in March 2015. The smaller, historic shots are courtesy NSW State Records.

Left: The 1832 architect's plan;
Right: A sketch by S.T. Gill when the bridges were timber c. 1859-60

A steep, rocky ridge ran along the western peninsula of Sydney Cove, known then, and now, as The Rocks. Much commerce was carried on between the citizens of Sydney Cove, The Rocks, Millers Point, and Darling Harbour, and an easier method of transport was essential. In March 1832 architectural plans were drawn up for a cutting, or tunnel. On 9 August 1832 requests from interested contractors were called for via an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette (p. 4).

Left: The cutting in the 1870s
Right: The cutting in 1900

The "Argyle Street Company" could offer 15 engineers, and 30 labourers (convicts). Of course, hand-tools like picks and shovels were never going to be adequate to hew out this quantity of sandstone, and the contract lapsed until 1843, when a second attempt reduced the ridge somewhat but the "floor" was nowhere near level enough for carts to travel. Finally, in 1859, the Sydney Municipal Council progressed with the "cut" and followed with the overhead bridges for Gloucester Street in 1862, Cumberland Street in 1864 and the Princes Street in 1867-68.

Left: Demolishing the Argyle Cut arch in August 1931 to accommodate the Bradfield Hwy approaches to the Harbour Bridge;
Right: The job nearly completed. Note the watching crowd in the distance. They are standing beside the Garrison Church.

The cutting and associated bridges lasted from the late 1860s until the early years of the twentieth century when the configuration was again changed as a result of the razing of significent sections of both Millers Point AND The Rocks in a valiant attempt by the Sydney Harbour Trust to combat an outbreak of the plague.

Within 25 years, the area underwent even more substantial change when streets, houses, and gradients were all substantially altered to accommodate the behemoth that was the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Heritage and Design Team : Conservation Management Strategy for Argyle Cut And Argyle Bridge (2009)

This is an 82 page government document that contains a wealth of information about the Argyle Cut, together with a trove of historic images, and maps.


Unknown said...

It's always so interesting to see this kind of "before and after" thing. Great post.

Anonymous said...

So much History with your posts !

Julie said...

History is my passion, Anna. Does not make sense for me to do too many flowers, and cafe chairs. I use single photo grabs mostly when I am working in the background on a big history post.

Stefan Jansson said...

I always enjoy reading your historical posts Julie.

Julie said...

Thank you, Steffe.

William Kendall said...

The before and after aspects really make such a difference, Julie. The cut itself reminds me of something done here.