PYR001S-01.jpg (82446 bytes) PYR02-05.jpg (73126 bytes) PYR03-05.jpg (66657 bytes)
01 Pyrmont Public School 02 Former John Taylor Warehouse 03 Former Way’s Terrace Workers’ Housing
PICT0353.jpg (76541 bytes)
05 Former Ordnance Stores, Pyrmont 08 Briscoe and Co. Bulk Store 09 Pyrmont Fire Station
main war memorial image pyr-powerhouse4.jpg (29775 bytes) PYR-PO-08.jpg (102594 bytes)
11 Anzac Bridge 12 Powerhouse Museum 13 Pyrmont War Memorial
View south from Western Distributor - 2005-7-30 (384418) PYR-PO-03.jpg (92826 bytes)
14 Goldsbrough Mort Woolstores 16 Pyrmont Post Office Pirrama Park, Pyrmont
The Star Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre ABC Building, Ultimo
Darling Walk Jackson's Landing  


Darling Harbour is a large recreational pedestrian precinct situated on the western edge of central Sydney, Australia. It extends northwards from Chinatown, along both sides of Cockle Bay to King Street Wharf on the east, and to the suburb of Pyrmont on the west.

The precinct and its immediate surrounds are administered independently of the Sydney City Council, by a New South Wales state government statutory authority, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and the area is home to a number of major public facilities and attractions including the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Paddy's Markets, Sydney's Chinese Gardens, Tumbalong Park, the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Australian National Maritime Museum (featuring museum ships including HMAS Vampire), Star City Casino, the Powerhouse Museum, the Sydney Aquarium, and a number of large international hotels. The Darling Harbour precinct is linked to places in the CBD by the Sydney Monorail.

Darling Harbour is named after Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. It was originally part of the commercial port of Sydney. By the mid-to-late 1980s it had become largely derelict and was redeveloped as a pedestrian and tourist precinct as an initiative of then New South Wales Minister for Public Works, Laurie Brereton.

In 1806 what the Sydney Gazette described as a ‘select party of ladies and gentlemen’ went to the peninsula for a picnic: its lush vegetation, and a ‘pure and unadulterated spring’ reminded one of the guests of the spa at Bad Pyrmont in Germany. John Macarthur, ex-officer of the NSW Corps, who had been granted land here, adopted the name. By a curious coincidence, the members of the Cadigal band who then occupied the area called it Pirrama.

Ultimo, not Instant

Ultimo House was the home of Surgeon John Harris, officer of the NSW Corps. The unusual name came from Harris’s role as a magistrate. He backed Governor Phillip Gidley King in conflicts with senior officers of the NSW Corps, and as a result of his handling of a court-martial found himself being court-martialled in
1803. The charge stated that his offence had taken place on ‘the 19th ultimo’ (last month) instead of ‘the 19th instant’ (this month); because of this error, King was able to set aside the guilty verdict. The Harrises have produced two Mayors of Sydney, John and Matthew, both great nephews of Surgeon John, while their sister Mary Ann and brother William Henry gave their names to Ultimo streets.

Industrial heartland

In the 1890s, Pyrmont and Ultimo were thriving industrial suburbs with a combined population of 19,177. Rail connected the suburbs to the port and trams took workers to their jobs. The railway yards, wharves, wool stores, power stations and mills created employment for local residents. By 1900, Pyrmont and Ultimo were providing Sydney with power for its lights and trams and were a centre for the distribution of Australian wool, flour, milk, sugar and other foodstuffs.

Photograph, 'Darling Harbour', Kerry and Co., Sydney, c1884-1917.
Photograph, Darling Harbour, from a full plate glass negative,
Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c1884-1917.
Kerry and Co images such as the one above and below, left,
are part of the Tyrrell Collection of glass plate images.

On the sheep's back
Photograph of wool shed from glass plate negative, Kerry and Co, Sydney, c1884-1917.By the 1870s the wool industry was successful and expanding rapidly. Auctions were transferred from London to Sydney, requiring city storage. Ultimo, with its deep water harbour and the Darling Harbour goods lines was ideal. The steep slopes leading to the ridge on the peninsula were perfect for handling wool bales — in at the top, examined, displayed, auctioned, and out at the bottom.

Sydney's first wool store was the Richard Goldsbrough warehouse built on the corner of Pyrmont and Fig streets in 1883. From World War II until the 1960s, wool stores on the peninsula employed thousands of men. With lanolin oil soaked into thousands of feet of wood, fires were a constant hazard. In 1935 the Goldsbrough and Mort store went up in a blaze lasting two weeks, filling the suburb with the smell of burning wool and grease.

Photograph of sugar being unloaded at the CSR wharf in 1935.Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR)
Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) refined and manufactured sugar and sugar by-products. The sweet smell of molasses and sugar is burnt into the memories of everyone who lived in Pyrmont and Ultimo. From 1875 CSR dominated the northern tip of the peninsula. The company created work, controlled housing and polluted the air and water. Horse and drays, ships and trains transported goods in and out of the peninsula.



Lithograph showing a bird's-eye view of Jones Bay, 1919.
The 1919 lithograph above shows a bird's-eye view of Jones Bay.
In the lower half of the image are the Darling Harbour goods yards and the
Navy Victuals Store on Darling Island. In the lower left is Pyrmont power station
and above Harris Street to the right is the Colonial Sugar Refinery.

The Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) first`acquired land at Pyrmont in 1878, and eventually
owned 31 acres (77 hectares). Houses and`streets – such as Jones St between Bowman St
and the Harbour – disappeared as CSR`expanded. CSR provided thousands of jobs,
some of them unpleasant, dangerous and unhealthy. Products included not only sugar,
golden syrup and molasses from the refinery but industrial alcohol and rum from the distillery,
and particle board from the caneite factory. Operations were finally wound down by the early
1990s, and much of the former CSR site is now occupied by the Jacksons Landing residential

Quarry Sites

The tough quality of Pyrmont sandstone was well known by 1855: when the entrance and steps of the Australian Museum had to be replaced, the Colonial Architect insisted that the stone must come from the
‘best bed of the Pyrmont Quarries’. Buildings using Pyrmont stone include Sydney University, the General Post Office and the Art Gallery of NSW, along with many other government buildings, insurance companies and banks. The quarries would provide many jobs, but would contribute to changing the peninsula from an attractive retreat to having a blasted, treeless appearance. ‘Paradise’ Quarry was one of several run by the Saunders family, along with ‘Purgatory’ and ‘Hell Hole’ .

Photograph of Philip O'Toole, former Ultimo resident in his home at Neutral Bay.A busy household and a strong sense of community
Joseph and Mary O'Toole raised their six boys and three girls in Pyrmont. Their son Phillip (born 1913) has vivid memories of a busy childhood — swimming in the baths, playing soccer and rugby for local teams — and a strong sense of local community. Starting off as a carrier with his own horses and carts, in 1916 Joseph O'Toole bought three motor lorries and founded the Austral Sawdust Company. Collecting sawdust from the seven timber mills at Pyrmont, he sold it to horse owners, butchers and grocers.


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Chronological History
Pre 1788
The Cadigal people, who are the original inhabitants of the area around Sydney
Cove, called Darling Harbour Tumbalong (a place where seafood is found).
White settlers call Darling Harbour Long Cove, but the name Cockle Bay comes into
everyday use.
The Pyrmont area becomes a popular picnic spot. The first wharf is built in Cockle Bay
(at the end of Market Street). It is used to ferry fresh produce from Parramatta and
the north coast, and to take timber to city markets.
Sir Ralph Darling, the ninth governor of NSW, renames the area Darling Harbour
and it gradually grows to become Australia's busiest seaport. Industries flourish
in the area and steam mills process grain in Sussex Street.
Pyrmont Bridge is built. Carriages pay 9d (pence) to cross the privately owned
wooden structure while people pay 2d. Business is booming. The harbour is
dredged to accommodate larger vessels and sawmills, and hotels and
cattleyards spring up.
Silting of the harbour means reclamation work is necessary. A railway goods yard is
built on the reclaimed land to increase efficiency.
The old Pyrmont Bridge (built 1857) is purchased by the Government for £49,600
after tolls were abolished.
The Corn Exchange is built. Designed by noted architect George McRae (who later
designed the Queen Victoria Building) it becomes a landmark building forming
part of the city portal at Pyrmont Bridge. By 1990 the population around Ultimo
and Pyrmont grows to approximately 19,000.
The new Pyrmont bridge – a steel bridge with a swing span of 54 feet, affording
two 70-foot clear fairways – opens for traffic on 28 June 1902. Powered by
electricity from the Ultimo Powerhouse, the swing bridge could be opened and
closed in 45 seconds.
Sydney’s Paddy's Markets open at the southern end of Darling Harbour and the
Darling Harbour’s prominence as a major distribution point continues to grow.
1939 - 1945
During World War II, Darling Harbour is used to load and unload war supplies. A
post-war immigration scheme formed by the Labor Government means that
Darling Harbour is the first Australian soil many of the first refugees and
immigrants set foot on. Darling Harbour's old finger wharves are demolished and
the area is updated. Botany Bay grows to become Sydney's major port and
container terminal and trade begins to pass by Darling Harbour.
Updated October 2003.
1970 - 1983
By the mid 1970s Darling Harbour is a series of empty warehouses and rarely
used train tracks , with only the odd vessel using its wharfs. Its magnificent
waterside address, adjacent to the city, is ripe for redevelopment.
The area becomes derelict and when the last goods train leaves Darling Harbour,
the NSW Transport Workers Union Band plays the funeral march. The NSW State
Government soon announces its decision to redevelop Darling Harbour and “return
it to the people of Sydney” after 150 years of industrial use.
Most of the area has been demolished and architects, designers and
consultants work towards a development strategy. Work begins on the
Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.
On 4 May 1988, during Australia's Bicentennial Celebrations, Darling
Harbour is formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II.
Darling Harbour's 10th anniversary celebrations take place. A new restaurant
and entertainment complex at Cockle Bay Wharf is constructed. The Sydney
Exhibition and Convention Centre is expanded and the Harbourside Shopping
centre is refurbished.
To prepare for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games more than $1.5 billion worth of
construction work is completed. This work is also undertaken to ensure
Darling Harbour remains a premium waterfront precinct in the new millinenium.
Darling Harbour hosts five Olympic sports - Boxing, Judo, Wrestling and
Weightlifting in the Exhibition halls, and Volleyball in the Entertainment
Centre. Final waterfront stage of King Street Wharf is completed and opened
for business.
2002 Pyrmont Bridge celebrates its 100th Anniversary.
Marine transport facilities at King Street Wharf become operational and
Darling Harbour helps celebrate the Rugby World Cup in Australia.

Click here for a gallery of old Pyrmont landscapes.