Horse Ferry Wharf
Statement of SignificanceThe substantial horse ferry wharf remains and approach are the only reminder in the Sydney CBD of the vehicular transport across the Harbour prior to the construction of the Harbour Bridge. The Horse Ferry Wharf has research significance as there are substantial remains both terrestrial and maritime which have the potential to inform about past practises and construction of docks and wharves constructed to take ferries capable of loading vehicles. These remains may also have the potential to inform about the response to the challenges faced by loading vehicles on a body of water that is tidal and affected by wash. The Horse Ferry Wharf is a rare, in fact the only, remaining wharf in the Sydney CBD where vehicles were loaded onto ferries for transport over the harbour.
Transport - Water
Builder/Maker: Sydney Harbour Trust
Construction Years: 1900 - 1932
Physical Description: Dawes Point Horse Ferry Dock / Ramp/Landing Stage - 200m east of Sydney Harbour Bridge (off Hickson Road). Concrete and sandstone with bluestone cobbling. The dock consisted of an enclosure with a wide opening which narrowed to the landward end to little more than the width of the ferry at the bow or stern. The dock had tapered timber guide ways to assist the incoming ferry across tide and wind. A timber facing was erected on the ferry sides of the pilings to ensure a smoother surface and less damage to the sides of the vessels. There was a ramp at the landward end which could be raised or lowered according to the tide. The ramp was operated by chains passing through pulleys fixed to an overhead gantry. When the deckhands had lowered the ramp a bridge on the ferry was lowered onto it to enable vehicles to embark and disembark. The side walls of the wharf were ironbark pilings set closely and secured by metal bands to ensure the rigidity of the structure. The wharves had to withstand the pressures of a large punt constantly banging into them whilst they loaded the vehicles.
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: Until the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, there were two ways of crossing the harbour with a vehicle. One was to go inland to Bedlam Point, near Gladesville where there was a punt, the other was to catch the horse ferry. There were several horse ferries operating in this vicinity, but only two wharves on the southern side of the harbour in this area. The first was built at Bennelong Point in 1883, where the Opera House now stands and it had two docks. The Dawes Point horse ferry wharf was constructed c1900 and the route operated to Blue's Point. The opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge made both wharves redundant and they were demolished soon after. The punt Princess was the first vehicular ferry in Australia, coming into operation in 1842, it left from the western side of Dawes Point at the end of Lower Fort Street, but she was plagued with problems and only lasted a matter of months on the route. The distance between the shorelines and the amount of increasing shipping that came past the point soon made cable punts unworkable. Sydney Morning Herald of 15/03/1842 reported: "To facilitate the operation of this ferry a good road has been made by the Government from the crown of Dawes Point to the water's edge, the declivity being sufficiently gentle to admit of carriages passing up and down it with ease. A still more laborious work has been performed on the opposite shore, at Blue's Point, by the Directors of the Sydney Ferry Company, the Government having lent them a gang of convicts for the purpose ...The same party of convicts are at work at Milson's, the Government having recognised that place as a public landing, and being about to declare the line of communication leading therefrom to the township of St Leonards and its vicinity to be a public road." The next vessels were steam operated paddle punts, the first was named Benelon built in 1886 (until 1932), her sister ship Barangaroo was constructed later in 1890 (until 1932), both these vessels were large enough to still be useful when large trucks and buses took over from horses and carts and operated until the opening of the SHB. Smaller vessels such as the Warrane built 1883 (until 1921) were superseded in the 1920s as they could not cope with the increasing size and weight of motorized vehicles. Steam-operated vessels gradually replaced the smaller steam-paddles, one of the most distinctive was the Kamilaroi built 1901 (until 1930) this vessel became the first propeller-driven punt. The Kooroongaba built 1921 (or 1924 until 1932) came into service to replace the Warrane and was one of the last of the four big Sydney vehicle ferries built. The most famous of the car ferries was probably the Kalang which was constructed in England in 1926 and took 90 days to steam to Sydney. She became one of the Sydney Showboats that can still be seen taking people on pleasure cruises around the harbour. According to Andrews the ferries that used Dawes Point to Blues Point run were the: Killara, Kedumba, Benelon, Barangaroo and Kamilaroi. Even with four vehicle ferries operating a peak times, the vehicles still banked up in long lines. Before the Bridge opened, the vehicle ferries carried: Almost 400,000 vehicles (actually 378 500 in 1928) 43, 800 horsemen and 5, 000, 000 people. Altogether the ferries were carrying 46 million passengers in 1928. (this is all ferries including to Manly, Parramatta etc) On the vehicle ferries rates were different for various vehicles, passengers and animals and there was also a rate to carry a "Chinaman with two baskets" The Ferry Service ceased with the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Morning Herald, reported on 1-5 -1931 "The Blue's/Dawes Point ferry service closed with the 7pm run (from both ends) on 30/04/1931"
Historical significance: The Horse Ferry Wharf has historical significance as the only remaining evidence in the Sydney CBD of the vehicular transport across the harbour prior to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Research significance: The Horse Ferry Wharf has research significance as there are substantial remains both terrestrial and maritime which have the potential to inform about past practises and construction of docks and wharves constructed to take ferries capable of loading vehicles. These remains may also have the potential to inform about the response to the challenges faced by loading vehicles on a body of water that is tidal and affected by wash.
Rare assessment: The Horse Ferry Wharf is a rare, in fact the only, remaining wharf in the Sydney CBD where vehicles were loaded onto ferries for transport over the harbour.
Intact assessment: Below ground and underwater archaeological evidence still exists
Physical condition: Above and below ground and water archaeological remains. An archaeological conservation plan is recommended, which should include maritime archaeological investigation.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|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.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Institution of Engineers (NSW) Historic Engineering Marker||16/01/1980|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7306||16/01/1989|