Grafton Bond Store

The Grafton Bond Building, originally constructed in 1881, is claimed to have been the largest bond store complex in Australia. It is an excellent example of urban commercial utilitarian design, by an eminent Australian architect, William Wardell and its design displays the Northern European influence. Its recent refurbishment and well contrived juxtaposition with modem glass towers is a most successful conservation project. The building stands monument-like in Hickson Road below the glass towers in Kent Street; a juxtaposition of new and old which, when seen from the west across the water, is one of the most engaging views in Sydney.

The building is long and narrow, four and five storeys high at Hickson Road, and three above the rock shelf behind. The walls are built in English bond, of cream bricks believed to have been brought from Newcastle-on-Tyne as sailing ships' ballast. The Dutch gables bear the date 1881 and a monogram formed in red bricks, presumed but without certainty, to be John Frazer's. The depressed pointed-arches and round arches over openings, and banding in the walling, are laid in red-orange bricks. The interior and exterior are in good condition. Intrusive Elements:Modern bullnose roof of access gallery cutting across loading bays.

The Hickson Road facade three bays with plain parapeted gables, one with eaves and two with stepped parapets, one of which curves gracefully around the Napoleon Street corner. The lowest storey is sandstone. The east side, which once faced Jenkins Street, has three stepped gable parapets in the northern European manner, with catheads at the top. Internally the structure is of heavy hardwood posts and girders, with joists, herringboning and timber flooring. Some of the king-post roof trusses are visible.

In 1881 the building was bought by John Frazer & Co and was greatly enlarged, so that by 1886 it had a frontage to the east side of Darling Harbour of 430 feet, and three piers `capable of receiving and shipping cargo of any character and weight'. In 1886 there were 14 warehouses, with a storage capacity of some 44 000 tonnes of cargo and facilities for pressing 1 600 bales of wool a day. It was claimed to be the largest bond warehouse in Australia. The building now known as Grafton Bond was part of this complex. In 1888 the stores became the property of Burns Philip & Co Ltd.

The Grafton Bond Building we see today is a remnant of a much larger complex. The other components of the complex that survived the dramatic changes brought about by the 1893 depression and the redevelopment by the Sydney Harbour Trust, were demolished with the formation of Hickson Road in 1925, which cut across the whole Grafton Wharf site. At that time even this last large building was altered, though it remains largely as it was designed by William Wardell, one of Australia's greatest architects. Incorporated into the new Maritime Centre in the late 1980s, the refurbished Grafton Bond has been successfully adapted for this reuse.

Location: 201 Kent Street, corner of Napolean St. and Hickson Road, Sydney. Access via Kent Street.

This image shows the workings of the busy docks on Darling Harbour in the 1890s. The area pictured is of Sussex Street and Grafton Wharf which was used by the Clarence and Richmond River Steam Navigation Company. The building in the centre was used as offices by the steamship companies. The building on the left facing what is now Hickson Road is the Grafton Bond Store . This area now forms part of the Barangaroo site.

Grafton Wharf
The earliest British settlement in Sydney was centred around Sydney Cove (later Circular Quay). However as the colony grew, it gradually expanded to include the eastern side of Cockle Bay (later Darling Harbour). An 1822 plan shows early subdivision along Darling Harbour's eastern shore adjacent to the site. Unlike Sydney Cove, the waters of Darling Harbour were quite shallow along the shoreline. In order to provide better harbour access and facilities for their commercial activities, the early land owners reclaimed land, and built wharves and jetties. By 1834, Henry Bass and Francis Girard had extended their properties into the harbour and created more formal wharfage.

Reclamation along the shoreline was undertaken by the individual land holders between the 1830s and 1850s. In general, sandstone rubble was deposited into the harbour to create a platform above the high tide level. Layers of crushed sandstone, sand and clay-rich fills with some dumps of industrial waste, were then used to consolidate and increase the ground level. At the interface with the harbour, the newly reclaimed land was retained with a variety of formal and informal sandstone seawalls. Timber wharfage and jetties were constructed as part of the reclamation process. Warehouses and stores were constructed along the wharf.

Grafton Wharf was established in about 1835, its timber jetties, wharfage, warehouses and stores were constructed to service the various businesses that had been established on the waterfront. By the 1870s, most of the site was known as the Grafton Wharf. The actual wharf by that name was used by the Clarence and Richmond River Steam Navigation Company, and named after its main port in Northern Rivers region of NSW. During the later 1870s and early 1880s the whole area underwent redevelopment, with a range of stone and brick buildings erected along the northern boundary, and the construction of new jetties and warehouses along the wharf. Following the outbreak of plague in 1900, the resumption of Darling Harbour's eastern foreshore and wharfage led to a major phase of redevelopment. By the end of the 1920s Hickson Road had been formed, new 'rat-proof' wharf and jetties had been constructed, and many of the Grafton Wharf buildings remodelled.

A substantial sandstone seawall retained the reclaimed land. It was constructed in the 1840s and was at least 45m in length. The base of the wall was constructed on rubble fills that were located at least 1m below low tide level.

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