Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Mysterious Sydney Harbour Column

Two more days in Sydney, so time for a couple more posts...

One of Sydney's most scenic harbour walks runs from the Taronga Ferry Wharf, round to Chowder Bay. The first stretch gives stunning views back to Sydney Harbour, while the approach to Chowder Bay itself is through native bush, interspersed with glimpses of some secluded foreshore.

Harbour view near the start of the walk.

Around the halfway mark, at Bradley's Head, this mysterious sight appears:

A Grecian style column, plonked in the water. What is it doing there?

The first Post Office in Sydney was built by Governor Lachlan Macquarie on land that, so the story goes, he acquired for a hogshead of brandy (a hogshead was a term for a volume of liquor, dating from the 15th century, roughly indicating a large cask). The new post office was a stylish, if somewhat severe, building, on George Street in mid-town.

Sydney's first post office.

But the needs of the growing colony soon overwhelmed the capacity of this building. Post was the only means of communication with the outside world in the 19th century, so a larger premises was needed to handle the increasing volume of mail. A bigger, and grander, GPO was built on Martin Place in 1862.

Sydney's second post office.

While the first Post Office was then demolished, someone had the foresight to preserve the striking Doric columns from the front of the building. In 1871, one of these was erected at Bradley's Head as a navigational aid, marking one nautical mile from the naval fortification of Fort Denison.

Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour.

Mystery solved.

Another column from the old post office was erected in Crow's Nest, in line of sight with Sydney Observatory across the harbour. This column was used as a marker to help astronomers calculate time, during lengthy observations. This column had to be moved when the Sydney harbour tunnel was built in 1988, and now stands on Mount Street, North Sydney.

The column at Mount Street Plaza.

Three other columns from the post office were sold into private ownership, and used as part of the facade of a mansion near Centennial Park. When this house was demolished these columns were moved to Vaucluse House, from where they subsequently disappeared. 

Their current location is still unknown.

1 comment:

  1. Love your Sydney posts! It's the minutiae in these old stories that most grab your attention--thanks!