J. Heath, By water to Parramatta, with a distant view of the western mountains, taken from the Windmill-hill at Sydney


The modern landscape, society and economy of Pyrmont were shaped mainly by two industry groups: sandstone quarrying and the Colonial Sugar Refinery complex. They did not tame a wilderness. Fish, shellfish and eels nourished generations of Aboriginal people, who also managed a mosaic of trees and grasslands, so that game was always available for the…

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Saxton’s steam saw mills,  Illustrated Sydney News, 25 July 1889, p15


No sooner had the First Fleet landed, than its members needed timber. Since Aboriginal land management favoured more grass than trees, the timber-getters had to range far and wide. Across Cockle Bay, Macarthur’s Pyrmont Estate was an early target. Pickings were slim and timber had to be brought from the North Shore and the interior…

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The Brothers

Shipbuilding and Metalworking

Deep water facilitated ship-builders, as early as 1851. The biggest were Thomas Chowne’s shipyard next to Goodlet & Smith, and the Australasian Steam Navigation Company. Chowne’s yard built the first Manly ferry. ASNC engaged quarrymen to flatten Darling Island and link it to the mainland, as a foundation for a yard sophisticated enough to assemble…

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John Thompson, View from Sydney of the Haunted Mill in Cockle Bay 1832, in Sketches in New South Wales and Tasmania, 1827-1832.


Agriculture was unpromising, but related processes flourished. Macarthur’s windmill (built in 1807) was built from wood on his Pyrmont grant, but languished. Millers were not discouraged: Victoria Steam Mill on the site of Paddy’s Market (from the 1840s), then Freeman & Sons at Allen Street in the 1880s, bought out by Edwin Davey in 1901…

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View of the seat of Ultimo, near Sydney, in New South Wales

Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry was more promising. Responding to the quality of his land grant, Surgeon Harris committed much of Ultimo to a deer park – a bold display of wealth in a hungry settlement. Small-scale dairy-farming persisted into the twentieth century, but Pyrmonters kept pigs, dogs, goats, rabbits and fowls in their yards: they did so…

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H.Grant Lloyd, 1863, Slaughter houses Glebe Island

Abattoirs and Wool stores

Abattoirs opened on Glebe Island in the 1850s (once the land was flattened and linked to the mainland) and slaughtering expanded to Bank Street (known as Abattoir Road until 1905), butchering cattle driven in from Sydney’s hinterland. Deepening Pyrmont’s character as a processing precinct, in the 1880s the new railways ushered in a golden age…

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Perier, A. J., Queen Victoria Market viewed from Town Hall at the time of the Market’s opening.


Quarrying was carried out on a modest scale by the 1830s, when sailing ships could take on ballast at the tip of the peninsula, anchored in deep water and loading local stone. O’Brien quarries specialised in ballast, but other uses emerged as builders saw the unique qualities of yellowblock sandstone. It was easy to shape…

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Horse teams going up and down Jones Street 1920s


CSR and Saunders, like most other heavy industry in the nineteenth century, relied on horse-power for haulage. Quarries like Saunders used Clydesdales to pull blocks of stone to building sites: it was common – if awe-inspiring – to see jinkers haul huge loads through the streets. Soon after CSR came to Pyrmont, the C. J.…

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Tindall, CSR 1906-08


This was the dense industrial landscape entered by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, building its sugar refinery in 1875. Refining began in 1877, producing sugar, molasses and syrup. So well placed was the refinery with its deep water port facilities, and so well managed, that CSR could acquire and manage plantations in Fiji, northern New…

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Distillery vats on Jones Street 1961


It was a long tradition for sugar plantations to distil rum and other by-products of sugar. In 1900, however, CSR closed its small Fijian distillery and built a modern, large scale plant near the refinery, sharing its access to the port facilities. Over the next few decades the distillery expanded to produce increasing range of…

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Cane-Ite factory


Eventually (from the 1930s) Caneite and other building materials were processed, using bagasse, the cane from which sucrose had been extracted. More synergy developed when animal bones were burned in a char house at the smelly end of the complex, next to the abattoirs and the City’s incinerator (built at last in 1910).

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Interior of powerhouse – Pyrmont, NSW 1900


The other landmarks with which the peninsula was identified were power stations. Ultimo Power House was built in 1899, to power the city’s trams (trams began to serve Pyrmont Point in 1901) and the second Pyrmont Bridge (built in 1902). In 1904 the Sydney Electric Lighting Station at Pyrmont began generating electricity for street lights.

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