Site of Hell Hole quarry

Hell Hole Quarry

Hell Hole - Wattle Street between Fig Street and Pyrmont Bridge Road, Pyrmont
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. "Paradise" was so named because its stone was strong enough to use as structural material but could easily be manipulated into any shape the mason wanted for intricate, decorative work. It cut easily when it was soft and grey out of the ground but hardened and turned a golden brown over time. "Hell Hole", to the south between Fig and Quarry Streets in Wattle Street, was an old family site that was difficult to quarry, hence its name.

Being a deep excavation below water level, after rain Hell Hole would become a lake. After its abandonment as a quarry, it was the scene of 'canoe races' on scaffold planks and exhibitions of high diving by local lads. Decades later, boys played soccer on the disused site. Local children who weren't allowed to play ball in Wentworth Park on Sundays went instead to the quarry and kicked a leather ball stuffed with paper. After World war II the hole was filled in to road level and the site was used as a City Council works depot.

Buildings made from its sandstone

Customs House, Alfred Street, Sydney (1887): 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 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.

Redfern Mortuary Station, Regent Street, Redfern (1868): Built in the 1860s as the receiving station for funerals heading by train to the newly created inter-denominational cemetery at Haslam's Creek (Rookwood), government architect James Barnet's design is Victorian Gothic. It remained in use until 1938 when motor hearses were introduced. The station fell into decay but was subject to extensive restoration work in 1985.

St Andrew's College Main Building, University of Sydney, Cnr Missenden Road and Carillon Avenue, Glebe (1876). The St Andrew's College Incorporation Act received Royal Assent in 1867 in the 31st year of the reign of Queen Victoria. In 1870 the College Council first met and in 1876 the students entered the grand sandstone Scottish baronial building now known as Main Building.

Court House, Police and Justice Museum, Cnr Phillip and Alfred Street, Sydney (1884-86): The Court House, located between the Water Police Court and the Police Station in Phillip Street was designed by the colonial architect James Barnet and completed in 1886. In his design Barnet copied the basic elements of the earlier Water Police Court design to complement the buildings already on the site. The building was used as a Magistrates Court and later became known as Traffic Court No. 2 (the Water Police Court being Traffic Court No. 1). In the museum the court room has been restored to its original Victorian splendour. The building is now part of the Justice and Police Museum complex.

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