Exhibition Centre Precinct - Archaeological Remains - Iron Wharf
Statement of SignificanceThe Iron Wharf was considered to be an engineering masterpiece at the time of its construction. Parts of the wharf still remain buried at the site and are significant archaeological remains. They have the potential to inform about early large scale iron construction. The Iron Wharf is significant as it was one of the first large scale iron constructions in the world. The construction of the wharf lead to the development of Darling Harbour as the major goods centre in Sydney.
Transport - Water
Builder/Maker: Public Works Department
Construction Years: 1869 - 1876
Physical Description: Located between the end of Liverpool St and the eastern side of the Exhibition Centre, the remains of the wharf are buried with potentially high industrial archaeological value
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: Edward Orpen Moriarty (1825-1896) was Engineer-in-Chief, and surveyor to the Pyrmont Bridge Company 1857-58, he became Engineer-in-Chief of the Roads Branch of the Public Works 1861-62 and subsequently Engineer-in-Chief of the Harbours and Rivers Branch. He recommended that the harbour should be reclaimed as little as possible so that the scouring of the tide at the entrance to Port Jackson might not be reduced. It is possibly for this reason that Darling Harbour was only reclaimed as far as Liverpool St at the time. The position of the Iron Wharf was on a curve from Liverpool St towards the west side of Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Point and follows closely Moriarty's recommendations to the 1863-64 Select Committee on the reclamation of Darling Harbour. The ironwork of the Iron Wharf was completed in early 1874, but the stone dyke, wall and infill behind the wall was not totally finished until 1876. Large tubular cast iron columns, 5 feet in diameter at the top with 5 feet 6 inches lower sections were sunk into the harbour floor and then filled with concrete. They supported iron lattice work trusses, spanning 60 feet between centrelines of the piers at the front of the wharf, transverse iron girders 29 feet 6 inches, and along the back of the wharf further iron girders, 62 feet 7 inches on the curved sections. Four bays and fives jetties were built which projected 38 feet from the front of the wharf and were 60 feet wide. Each bay consisted of four spans of lattice work girder, measuring 60 feet between piers for a total length of 240 feet for each bay. Thus the total length of the Iron Wharf as constructed measured 1,260 feet (approx 384m) and formed a smooth curve from Liverpool St in a north-westerly direction towards Pyrmont Point. The wharf was the subject of an illustrated article in the Illustrated Sydney News in 1874 at the time of its opening. At a time when iron was newly being used in engineering structures, the wharf was considered contemporary marvel of engineering, eclipsed somewhat some fifteen years later by the construction of the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and the Eiffel Tower. The superstructure of the Iron Wharf consisted of a deck of hardwood planks. The original drawings included a small number of open sheds of ornate iron work, but it appears they weren't built. The wharf was designed to last 400 years and the concrete core of the piers for an indefinite period. The construction is similar to Pier construction in England and the proposed ornate iron sheds point to structures like the Crystal Palace London for precursors in type rather than scale. The substantial dimensions of the cylinder piles forming the foundation of the Iron Wharf are however, very unusual, and out of character with the lighter construction of Piers in England, but similar in type to bridge construction in New South Wales. The goods line to Darling Harbour was completed in 1855 but most of the goods traffic was still going to Sydney station. This continued until the construction of the Iron Wharf, and subsequently Darling Harbour developed into the major goods handling area in the city. The Iron Wharf disappeared with the infilling of the head of the harbour in the 1920s. The iron sections were cut off and dropped into the harbour and subsequently buried. The configuration of the Iron Wharf had an effect on the construction of the Darling Harbour Railway siding and goods yards. The siding layout in the south eastern part of the yard was determined by the curve of the Iron Wharf, sheds and other buildings occupying this area from the 1870s onwards had to comply with this determining factor. Even the more recent fruit shed (c1957) and the goods shed (c1960) followed the original curve, even though the Iron Wharf had disappeared. During Darling Harbour works in 1985 sections of the wharf were uncovered, one section being removed and given to the Powerhouse Museum. This piece has subsequently been scrapped, the remaining sections were reburied in situ.
Historical significance: The first iron wharf built in Australia, it was considered to be an engineering marvel. It was the earliest large scale iron construction in Australia and one of the first in the world
Research significance: The archaeological remains of the wharf have the potential to inform about large scale iron engineering and construction. It was the earliest major iron construction in Australia and one of the earliest in the world. The archaeological potential of the wharf is good and it has the potential to reveal information unavailable from other sources about the early construction of large iron structures.
Intact assessment: Remains of the wharf are buried at the site.
Physical condition: The Iron Wharf was covered over and dismantled, when the head of Darling Harbour was infilled in the 1920s. There is high archaeological value, a part of the wharf was uncovered in 1985, a piece of which was given to the Powerhouse museum, subsequently scrapped, and the rest was reburied at the site.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods.|
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|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Written||Higginbotham and Kass||1984||Darling Harbour Bi-Centennial Development Project; A Brief History of its Evolution and an Assessment of the Cultural Significance of the Items of the Built Environment in the Area.|