Argyle Cut Quarry

Argyle Cut is a hand cut accessway through the peak of the ridge to the west of Sydney Cove, and was considered the major engineering feat of its day. Up until the time the cut was completed, The Rocks was a divided community, separated by a rugged and steep rocky outcrop which forms the ridge of the peninsular to the west of Sydney Cove. Building had taken place on either side of the ridge, but people wishing to travel from one side to the other had to either go the long way around Dawes Point or climb a series of rickety stairs.

In 1816, Governor Macquarie floated the idea of cutting a passage through the rock face to join the east and west sides of The Rocks community. As complaints were being voiced both in England and Sydney that Macquarie was wasting precious funds on unnecessary public utilities, Macquarie attempted to raise finance from local business. The only person who showed any interest in the project was fellow Scotsman, James Campbell, the colony's most successful merchant who operated his business from premises in The Rocks.

The program languished until 1843 when convict chain gangs began their assault on the rock face with whatever hand tool could be found. It was completed in 1864. The rubble from the cut was used to construct many of The Rocks' stone buildings of the era and in the reclamation and construction of the walls of Circular Quay. The Argyle Cut was widened to its present size around the turn of the 20th century. The rubble from the widening was used as landfill around the Darling Harbour foreshore.

Buildings made from its sandstone

Seawall and landfill around Farm Cove (1848 - 1879): As shipping increased in Sydney Harbour, it became apparent that the wharves on the western shores of Sydney Cove would soon become incapable of carrying the increased traffic they would be required to take. The harbour itself was deep enough to take the larger ships being built but the jetties and wharves were barely adequate. In 1836, a plan was mooted to reclaim the mudflats at the head of the cove and install a semi-circular seawall around the cove to allow bigger ships to enter and berth there. As the project required the reclamation of land attached to Government House, it received considerable opposition and took five years to win Government and public approval. Work commenced in 1841, first on the eastern side and later on the western and southern sides (1854) after reclamation of the mudflats had been completed. It was the last major public work to utilise convict labour. Rubble from the Argyle Cut, which at the time was still being carved out of the hillsides of the Rocks, was used as fill behind the stone retaining wall, an area of just under a hectare. The wall was cut from rock quarried on Cockatoo Island and brought to the site by boat. It remains intact today, though parts of it are covered by wharves and concrete. The section of seawall around Farm Cove became known as the 30 year wall because that is how long it took for it to be built (1848 - 1879).

Campbell's Storehouses, Circular Quay West, The Rocks (1839, 1861, 1890): Sandstone from the Argyle Cut was used for paving, outer walls and landfill around the storehouses. The storehouses, situated on the west side of Circular Quay, are a row of sandstone bond stores built by successful merchant Robert Campbell to house the tea, coffee, sugar, spirits and cloth he imported from India. Originally a one storey structure comprising of 12 bays, the upper storey was added in 1890. Eleven of the 12 bays survive and today house a number of shops, galleries and restaurants.

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