Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Dawes Point puzzle ...

Sally has a post with a puzzle today: HB and sandstone and I simply cannot resist an historical treasure-hunt. So I have beavered away this evening chasing down clues ...
Here is Sally's photo on the left with the little structure in question. On the right is a photo I took going out to Cockatoo Island during the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend. Sal took her's on the Saturday and I mine on the Monday. But I digress ...

This image is captioned "HMAS Canberra sailing into Sydney Harbour in 1930" ... look down there to the left of the pylon - near the bow of that tug boat ... could it be ... So it could be that it was in situ prior to the bridge going up. But surely they would not leave it there during construction with all the mess flying around it stood a good chance of being damaged. But as I look more closely, the closest shore is the northern abutments of the bridge. HMAS Canberra is going INTO the harbour. And over there is the southern shore. Looking carefully I can just make out the smoke stack which is just to the east of the southern approaches of the Bradfield Highway. So there is a similar little structure on the northern shore in 1930. This doesn't make sense - yet!

So what was on the southern point (Dawes Point) immediately prior to them demolishing the whole lot for the southern approaches? In 1789 Lt Dawes created a rough observatory with scientific instruments lent to him by Maskelyne. Dawes named the area Point Maskelyne after the Astronomer Royal, but our forebears were not much into boot-licking either and just called it Dawes' Point. The Dawes Point Battery site was further down toward the water than Dawes' own observatory. Dawes himself had nothing to do with the Battery. More on the history of this in the next post.

The railings are interesting. There are similar railings on the other side of Sydney Cove around the Opera House Walk. However, there is a blacksmith working out in the Everleigh Carriageworks Precinct who has a massive reputation:
Guido Gouverneur's work appears all over Sydney. The New Zealand-born master blacksmith's most recent big-scale commission, which occupied him from April to December last year (2007), was the restoration of the balustrade at Dawes Point, running from Horseferry Steps to Pier 1. "It was a huge undertaking for us, restoring it properly and getting the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to recognise that it should be done properly," says Gouverneur.The balustrade had been spot-repaired over years but this was a much larger project: the posts were lifted from their sandstone base and corroded elements were replaced - in some sections, old bars from Parramatta Jail replaced damaged posts.
You can see the railing all along the walk in Sally's photo and again her that I photographed last year:

The above book should give me more information:The Fragile Forts: The Fixed Defences of Sydney Harbour 1788 - 1963 i have borrowed it from Fisher Library at the University and will use it to inform the next post.

There are steps down in this area variously known as Ives Steps and Horseferry Steps. Need to track down the derivation of Horseferry Steps. The ferry from Milson's Point (prior to the SHB) did not stop here but went directly to the Quay.

On the left here is the southern approaches to the bridge dated 1925. On the right is the tram and ferry terminal over at Milson's Point dated about 1920.


Joan Elizabeth said...

Wow, that is an interesting piece of historic research ... love the bit about the blacksmith.

Julie said...

He is the blacksmith that Sartor tried to have thrown out of the Eveleigh Precinct when he wanted to sell it to developers!!

This post is a work in progress: when I find out more I will alter the post accordingly.

Sally said...

You're achampion!

I knew it wasn't the Dawes Point Battery (that's more in the park), but I do believe you have come up trumps! I read something about the observatory now I come to think of it, but my mind must have dismissed it - probably comparing it to the size of the current observatory. But I do believe you have solved the riddle.

I will link this post of yours with mine.

Can't wait to get a chance to go down there again. It's so lovely now the walkway and fence is alll restored; I can never remember the accessibility round Dawes Pt towards the wharves being so good.

Now all we have to do is make sure they don't stuff up the "Barangaroo" area further along Hickson Rd. And crowd out this magic area with ugliness.

Sally said...

More: Julie: sorry, I misread - this is part of the crenellated tower.

Now, going back into the filing cabinet in the head....plumbing the deeps.

I remember reading about this, I think in Peter Carey's book Thirty Days In Sydney, so I'm off to fossick through it.

Sally said...

Have had a poke around today and put some more on Sydney Daily Photo Extra

Found the article about Guido Gouverneur:

Guido Gouveneur

Apparently when he came from NZ he set up a forge at Arncliffe, so a nice local connection for me (before Everleigh St).

Horseferry Steps aren't Ives Steps...because it describes his retored balustrade as "running from Horseferry Steps to Pier 1". Ives steps are at Pier 1, and the balustrade goes quite some way east of there.

Julie said...

I will poke around Campbells Cove and see if I can see where Horseferry Steps may have been. Fascinating name ...