Located on the Lower North Shore, Woolwich is one of Sydney's wealthiest suburbs, a remarkable turnaround for what for many years was at the heart of Sydney's shipbuilding industry. Located 11 kilometres north-west of the Sydney central business district, , Woolwich sits on the peninsula between the Lane Cove River and the Parramatta River, jutting out from Hunters Hill. The area was known to the Aborigines as 'Mookaboola' or 'Moocooboola', which means meeting of waters. An early settler was John Clarke, who bought land here in 1834 and is responsible for naming Clarke's Point. Samuel Onion was another early land owner with an ironmongery business and he gave the suburb its first name 'Onion Point' in 1835.

An early 18th century Hulk at Woolwich in the River Thames, London

The current name follows a tradition of naming locations on the Parramatta River after towns on the River Thames, England. Woolwich on the Thames was the mooring place of the prison hulks from which the convicts who were transported to Botany Bay came (above).

Maritime industry including shipbuilding and a dry dock grew alongside residential development around the turn of the 20th Century. The dry dock was used during World War II as a military barracks and was later used by the Main Roads Department to make the pylons of the Gladesville Bridge.

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Clarkes Point

Clarkes Point is across the Parramatta River from Balmain and directly north of Cockatoo Island, two other localities that became well known for shipbuilding. The point's name recalls John Clarke who bought the point in 1834. A cabinet maker by trade, Clarke cleared the existing vegetation and built a house.

What became known as the industrial village of Woolwich grew around the point in the early 20th Century. On the Parramatta River side of Clarkes Point the slipways of the Clarkes Point Shipbuilding Company are still visible. Many Sydney Harbour ferries were built at the slipway during the 1920s. In 1940, construction began on two large cargo vessels, the MV Boonaroo and the MV Baralga. The latter was the last ship to be built and launched from the slipways, in 1954. In the 1960s, the Main Roads Board used the facility to manufacture the pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete box units used in the new Gladesville Bridge. These concrete box units were the building blocks of the bridge. The point is today a recreational reserve.

Kellys Bush

Kellys Bush is one of few remnant pieces of natural bushland located on the foreshores of the Parramatta River. There are numerous walking paths through the park. Though Hunters Hill is today a residential suburb with no industry, it was not always that way. An early industrial undertaking in the Clarkes Point area was the Radium Hill Company s smelter which began operations in 1909 on the waterfront just below Kelly s Bush. It was a processing works for the extraction of radium from ore mined at Radium Hill in South Australia. The Company imported pitch blend (the main source of the radium) from Spain and used the Radium Hill ore (carnotite) as a flux. Luminescent paint was a by-product of the process and this was sold to a German watch making company.

The Radium Hill Company ceased its operations in 1916 but the clean-up of the radioactive waste did not take place until over a half a century later. In the same general area, a smelting works had been established in 1849. It was purchased in 1892 by the Sydney Smelting Company for a tin smelting works. Its operations began in 1895/6 and closed in 1967. Much of the local timber was cut and used as fuel for the smelting works. The Invincible Motor Construction Company and the Wallace Power Boat Company both set up near Kellys Bush around 1916-18 on leased land. The latter started reclamation works between Margaret Street and the point but went into receivership in 1923.

The Park was also the site of the first "Green Bans" of the 1970s when a group of local residents enlisted the assistance of unions to oppose development of the site. It has been preserved for everyone to enjoy.
UBD Map 5 Ref G 12

Morts Dock

In 1888, the 10 acre eastern portion of Clarkes Point was sold to Davy & Co. iron founders. In 1883 it was sold to Atlas Engineering who favoured the site for shipwright work because of its deep water frontage and close proximity to shipbuilding works on Cockatoo Island. A floating dock was imported from England, areas of foreshore land were reclaimed and slipways were created on the southern side (Clarke's Point Reserve).

The Atlas Company went into liquidation in 1893 though work at the site continued until June 1898 when it was purchased by Morts Dock and Engineering Company of Balmain who began work on a planned new dry dock. This included reclamation work and sea wall construction. The dock was cut 175 metres directly into the sandstone, some 30 metres wide. 85,000 cubic metres of sandstone was excavated to create the dock.

On 4 December 1901 the dock was officially opened and used for the repair and fitting-out of large ships. Several extensions were carried out between 1902 and 1918 which saw the dock lengthened to its present 260 metres. After the Depression of the 1930s work did not pick up until World War II. At its busiest, the dock employed 1,500 people. New work declined again after the war and in 1958 the company ceased operations and went into voluntary liquidation.

The site lay idle until the Army purchased it in 1963 for its water based transport operations. The Army erected a number of prefabricated buildings and added timber fender piers, timber wharves and a travelling crane to the dock itself. In 1997-8 the 35 Water Transport Division was relocated to Townsville. The Harbour Trust has re-developed the whole of Clarkes Point as an historic re-creation of a maritime village.

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