Jones Bay Finger Wharf

The Port of Sydney's Berths 19-21, known also as the Jones Bay Finger Wharf, is a remarkable but often forgotten port structure, whose size and classical modular design make it a landmark for Pyrmont and Sydney Harbour. It is now a rare and intact example of early twentieth century wharf construction and is unique in the Sydney region for its very early use of reinforced concrete. It retains its fabric and configuration, evidence of its linking of rail, road and sea transportation.

Since its completion in 1919, this wharf has played an important role in significant historical events and the development of Australia s international trade and retains physical evidence of these various uses. Its early use of reinforced concrete make it a unique wharf structure in the Sydney region. This together with the use of steel lattice columns, riveted steel girders, bow-string steel trusses, and hardwood, all in combination, make it a highly innovative structure for its time. Electric lighting and handling facilities such as lifts, cranes and mobile gantries allowed efficient loading to both upper and lower levels. The wharf includes a double row of two storeyed steel and timber sheds with central roadways to both levels, carried on fill with timber piles supporting the wharf aprons. No other wharfage group displays the full range of facilities as is at the Jones Bay Finger Wharf.

Jones Bay Finger Wharf extends into Jones Bay in a north easterly direction from the Pyrmont Peninsula. It comprises a land filled central section upon which the wharf structures are built, surrounded by a concrete deck supported on concrete encased timber piles. Two rows of rail tracks run along the full length of each side deck, with an added central track for mobile gantries. A third set of tracks run along the east side, closer to the sheds. The wharf sheds comprise two rows of two-storeyed construction with steel framing to the lower floor and timber framing to the upper floor. Each shed is large scale, about 300m long and 50m wide, with a brick end wall at the south shore end, a firebrick wall immediately south of the crossover roadway, and a timber clad gabled end to the harbour. The cladding material is used in a regular and rhythmic configuration of timber infill panels on the long elevations and have clerestory lights along the roof ridges.

The roof structure comprises large open timber trusses supporting the roofing above. Between the sheds runs a bitumen paved road at the lower level and a concrete and bitumen paved road at the upper level. The upper roadway is supported on steel stanchions and beams along the centre of the lower road, with a series of white tile lined and flared openings between them, allowing light to enter the lower level. Both roadways are lowered to allow loading directly from the truck tray to the shed floor on each level. The upper roadway connects to Point Street over Jones Bay road via a substantial steel arch bridge. While similar in character to other remaining early 20th century wharves in Sydney Harbour, Berths 19-21 are different in design due to the central upper and lower roadways and the extension of the upper deck over the main wharf level.

The Jones Bay Finger Wharf has supported a variety of uses over the past 75 years, handling millions of tonnes of goods and providing employment for hundreds of stevedores. It retains significant associations with major events in Australia s history. It was one of the staging points for Australian troops leaving for combat in the Second World War and also the point of entry into Australia for many migrants after the Second World War.

Jones Bay Wharf Berths 19-21 were constructed during the period 1911-1919. Work was sporadically interrupted by material and labour shortages during World War I. The jetties were constructed between 1911 and 1917 and the wharves between 1914-1919. The constructing authority was the Sydney Harbour Trust, established in 1901, which took over all private wharf facilities and established a ten year plan for the Harbour involving complete re-development of port facilities and the construction of new wharfage. The Wharf was built to accommodate the needs of overseas ships which were becoming much larger requiring efficient handling and quick turnaround. Other berths which were built just prior to and during the construction of Pyrmont Wharf Berths 19-23 were those at Walsh Bay, Millers Point and Woolloomooloo. The Pyrmont Wharves differed significantly in the provision of rail links to Berths 19-22 as an integral part of their design. They linked to Darling Harbour and to the New South Wales extensive railway network, and were designed to carry large volumes of wool and wheat for export.

From the 1870s, Pyrmont's residential building stock increased to service its fast growing maritime, industrial and commercial ventures. The development of Jones Bay Wharf forms a part of this expansion and has a direct association with the working history of this inner city suburb, and relates to the aspirations of the Sydney Harbour Trust to provide for the city s continued growth and prosperity.

During World War II the wharves at Pyrmont were an important centre for the movement of troops and materials. They remained an effective port facility until the end of the Second World War, after which their usefulness for trade and freight lessened, due to changes to Australia s trading policies and the development of containerisation in the 1960s. In the post war years the Jones Bay Wharf was an important site for immigration, used as an overseas passenger terminal. After the construction of the new overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay, the wharves were used for limited commercial purposes and storage. In 1991 the Wharf was declared surplus to government requirements, and by the turn of the century had been redeveloped to its present condition.

The name of Jones Bay is believed to recall a pioneer white settler, John Jones, a prosperous saddler, who purchased land along what became Stanmore Road in 1835. He named the property Stanmore after his birthplace in Middlesex, a south-eastern county of England. The land had been part of an original grant to Edward Laing and was known as Laing's Clear. Jones's saddlery business was located in George Street, Sydney.

Mr Jones was married twice but had no children. He died at Stanmore in 1848, and left his estate to the Wesleyan Methodist Church, enabling Newington College to relocate from Silverwater. Newington College did not obtain title to the estate until 1873 upon the death of Jones's widow, Catherine Jones, who had continued to live in the family home known as The Cottage. When the estate was subdivided, the name of his property was applied to the subdivision.

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  • SS Strathaird, Australia's first cruise liner, docked at Jones Bay wharf.

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