Gov. Macquarie's Sydney from Bunker's Hill

Bunker's Hill

The area between Gloucester Walk and the Sydney Harbour Bridge's southern approaches was known as Bunker's Hill to the early colonials at least until the 1930's. The name recalls the early landowner Captain Ebenezer (Eber) Bunker, who was granted land here for some services to Governor King.

Eber Bunker was a master mariner and landholder credited with being the "father of Australian whaling". The Sydney Morning Herald of 2 March 1929 records, 'On his vessel being moored in Port Jackson in 1791 he had an interview with Governor Phillip and astounded that gentleman by his calculations of the possible great profits for a whaling industry for the new settlement ... Within six months he had secured 600 barrels of oil to enhance the interests of the Colony ( and no doubt himself).'

Bunker's arrival in New South Wales in 1791 was as master of the ship "William and Ann" (with 185 involuntary passengers aboard), one of the whalers chartered to bring early prisoners to Botany Bay. He then went whaling in the South Seas and he later accompanied the "Lady Nelson" in the vessel "Albion" to establish the Derwent settlement in Tasmania in 1803. Bunker brought his family to the Colony in the "Elizabeth" in August 1806. He became a landholder at Bunkers Hill, Liverpool, Bankstown on the Hawkesbury and the Hunter Valley. Bunker had built a stone house and stores atop Bunkers Hill (replacing his earlier wattle and daub c. early 1800 s structure) and from this high ground in The Rocks with views to the Heads, Kirribilli and the Parramatta River, Eber ran his global whaling empire. Eber Bunker s house stood on Gloucester Street at Bunkers Hill from 1806, later hemmed in by taller, more elegant terraces, with his house being demolished around 1912 as part of the Rocks reconstruction works (the Sirius building was built on the central part of this land in 1977-1979).

Later Bunker moved from The Rocks a property on the east side of the spring at the north of Pitts Row, located at the south-eastern corner of Pitt and Hunter streets. Governor King authorised the lease on 26 August 1803, for 14 years at two shillings and sixpence per year. The lease was reissued to Bunker in 1810 by Governor Macquarie.

The Sirius building and Gloucester Walk

Bunker achieved a level of seniority and respect within the colony. He was involved in many notable events, including the overthrow of Governor Bligh and the pursuit of escaped convicts who stole a boat and sailed off into the Pacific. He hosted Governor Macquarie and his wife at Collingwood during a trip to the area, and acted as Macquarie s representative on a trip to London in October 1814. He also made a significant contribution to the growth and development of Sydney through his business dealings and political involvement. Indeed, in such a small town, everyone seemed to be involved in something. Ultimately it was his whaling endeavours that created a viable industry within the colony and contributed to its first exports.

Captain Henry Waterhouse, a godson of Prince Henry, the younger brother of King George lll was midshipman of the Sirius when it sailed as part of the First Fleet. Some short time after his arrival in the Colony, Captain Waterhouse was granted land on which the northern apartments of the present Sirius complex now sit. Captain Waterhouse left Australia permanently in 1800 and leased his grant covering part of the Sirius site to Campbell Cove's famous wharf owner Robert Campbell. In the 1830's the town leases, grants and permissive occupancies of the past were formalised and Robert Russell produced section plans showing the owners of the land. This part of the site remained unoccupied land until the 1840's, as did much of Bunkers Hill land surrounding Bunker's house in current Gloucester Walk. In the 1820's Robert Campbell developed the prestigious landholding of Cumberland Place, designed by Francis Greenway, on his Bunkers Hill land, adjacent to his Waterhouse grant and nearby wealthy Dawes Point wharf and landowners.

The Mitchell Library's benefactor, David Mitchell, was born in 1836 in Campbell's Bunkers Hill's elegant 'cottage ornee' at Cumberland Place (since demolished) and Mitchell spent his childhood there before moving with his large library to modern accommodation in Darlinghurst. Mitchell famously collected colonial documents associated with Bunkers Hill, and all aspects of Colonial Sydney maps, art and memorabilia to found the Mitchell Library Collection.

Australia s first Prime Minister Edward Barton lived as a child in the 1850's in one of the Young's townhouses. This four storied townhouse (three stories with a basement kitchen) was one of a terrace of three houses built by Adolphus Young on land developed adjacent to Bunker's land on Gloucester Walk in the early 1840's and may have been designed by John Verge's protégé, John Bibb, (who also built the nearby Mariners Church). The imposing terrace of three homes survived until the early 1900's Rocks reconstruction project.

Most of the townhouses built on Bunkers Hill had their main entrance on Cumberland Street. By the end of the 19th century the status of Bunkers Hill and the area had declined and wealthier people had moved out to the suburbs, leaving only the working class.

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