Site of Pergatory quarry

Pergatory Quarry

Purgatory Quarry - Wattle Street (northern side) between Fig and Quarry Streets, Ultimo
Builder John Young, hired by Colonial Architect John Barnet to supervise construction of many of the projects, took out a quarrying lease on the escarpment just north of Fig Street so that he could supply the stone for Barnet's projects. Young quickly found himself out of his depth and turned to neighbouring lessee, Charles Saunders, for assistance. Saunders established a dominance that the family business was to hold over the quarrying industry for a number of decades and extended their operations from his original Wattle Street site up to Miller Street and in future decades around the peninsula to Johnston Bay.

In the 1870s Saunders' son, Robert, began introducing new technologies which led to the re-opening of many quarries which had been abandoned where all the rock to ground level had been extracted. By using steam-powered cranes and specially imported sawing machines with steam driven iron blades, Saunders was able to extract the harder stone found below ground level from the abandoned sites.

He began with his father's quarry at the foot of Miller Street which was nicknamed "Paradise" and its neighbour "Half-way" named after the degree of difficulty encountered in extracting the harder rock. "Purgatory", appropriately located between the two other quarries, was where Young had attempted to work the rock more than two decades before and produced a similarly high quality stone that was both hard and quite difficult to quarry. The Federation era Farmers and Graziers brick warehouses now occupy the site of "Purgatory" quarry.

Buildings made from its sandstone

Customs House, Alfred Street, Sydney (1887; 1897; 1900): Located on land reclaimed from the harbour in the 1850s near where Tank Stream entered Sydney Cove, Customs House in Alfred Street is of Classical Revival design. It stands on the site of the first jetty built by the pioneer colonists in 1788. The building, made of Pyrmont sandstone, is an enlarged and redesigned version of the original much smaller Customs House which features polished granite columns, a coat of arms and the face of Queen Victoria carved in the stone above the main entrance. The elaborate clock face was placed when the side wings (constructed from Pergatory sandstone) were added in 1897. The top floor was added in 1900. The Royal Coat of Arms over the portico, carved by Robert Paton, is considered one of the finest stone carvings in Australia.

General Post Office (Pitt Street Section), Cnr Pitt Street and Martin Place, Sydney (1881): The Pitt Street section of the General Post Office was added to the Martin Place/George Street section between 1881 and 1885. It was built predominantly of sandstone from the "Purgatory" quarry. The Pitt Street wing was the last section of the General Post Office building to be erected. The design included controversial relief figures carved in the stonework created by Tomaso Sani that were intended to represent a cross section of contemporary Australians. The controversy was around the figures depicted in the carvings. Traditionally, carvings on buildings were of classical designs and figures.

Burns Philp Building, 7-11 Bridge Street, Sydney (1901)Elaborate "Purgatory" sandstone and brick head office of the trading company Burns Philp. The mezzanine floor was added in 1961. The building stands on the site of a Convict Lumber Yard where convicts from Hyde Park Barracks worked sawpits and forges, making wagons and barrels. The yard was closed in 1830 when the land was subdivided and sold to shopkeepers.

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