|List||Commonwealth Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (22/06/2004)|
|Place File No||1/13/026/0008|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
Chowder Bay Barracks, dating from the early 1890s, is highly significant.
It is directly associated with the development of Sydney Harbour defences during the latter part of the nineteenth century, a period which saw great activity in this field as the colony prepared itself for potential threats.
The complex has since continued to be associated with army activities, including during both of the world wars.
Until the recent departure of defence forces, the complex was the army's primary maritime facility on Sydney Harbour. (Criterion A.4)
Established for the Submarine Mining Corps, the complex was associated with a major defence undertaking which was the most advanced form of military technology at the time. It witnessed the earliest use of electricity for military purposes. Further, the surviving laboratory is possibly the only extant mine laboratory in Australia, and the whole depot is probably the only one of its kind in NSW. (Criteria B.2 and F.1)
The complex as a whole is important for reflecting the nature of a submarine mining depot of the late nineteenth century, and the individual buildings and other structures - laboratory, workshops, magazines, quarters, drill hall, railway, blast walls, cable storage pit, water tanks, gantries and other cranes, etc - are all significant as examples of these purpose-built military structures. The original and early fabric, both internal and external, of these buildings and structures is a key element of this significance. (Criterion D.2)
A legacy of British military experts Sir William Jervois and Lt Col Peter Scratchley, the place has added significance for its association with these two very influential figures. (Criterion H.1)
The buildings form a close group which steps up the slope from the harbour via a series of terraces. There is use of timber, stone, brick and other materials, and some fine timberwork and ironwork are present. The complex has an expressed maritime character and is a distinctive visual feature on this part of the Sydney Harbour shore. (Criterion E.1)
Defence activity began in this area of Sydney Harbour as early as 1803 when a gun battery was installed on nearby Georges Head. But it was in the 1870s that major installations were constructed across the Middle Head - Georges Heights area. During 1877-83, two senior British officers and defence experts, Sir William Jervois and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley, re-organised and modernised the colony's defences. The establishment of a Submarine Mining Corps (to maintain an electrically triggered minefield within Sydney Harbour, as a defence against enemy ships) was proposed at this time and in 1878 submarine mine observing and firing stations were initiated at several points around the harbour.
At first the Submarine Mining Corps was a voluntary unit, located at Berrys Bay, which was a poor site. The significance of this new, advanced form of defence was recognised by the late 1880s and a new base was selected at Chowder Bay, with the unit becoming a permanent corps. One of the headland gun batteries (A84) was taken over for observing and firing stations by the Corps, and the barracks associated with this battery was also taken over for use by Corps troops. Then, during the early 1890s, the Chowder Bay Submarine Mining Depot was built to provide accommodation, storage, training and operational facilities for the Corps. Preliminary plans were supplied by Major Penrose, Royal Engineers (RE) to the colonial architect's office but, before the drawings were completed, responsibility for defence work was transferred, in 1889, to Lieutenant Colonel de Wolski RE. Most of the key buildings were erected 1890-93.
Through the 1890s, submarine mining was the most advanced form of military technology available and represented the earliest use of electricity for defence purposes (electricity was not then even available to Sydney residents in any widespread way).
By 1906, however, technological and strategic developments led a naval committee to recommend that minefields be abolished. But the Sydney Harbour minefield and the Corps remained active until after the end of the First World War. By that stage, the development of submarines had made these sorts of minefields redundant. The Submarine Mining Corps was disbanded in 1922.
The Chowder Bay Depot was then occupied by the Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) as a depot and barracks until 1939. Then it became the School of Military Engineering's Anti-Aircraft and Fortress Wing. By 1943 the Depot was the School's Maritime Transportation Wing. After 1944, Chowder Bay housed the RAE's Transportation Centre workshops and the 2nd Ordnance Smallcraft park. In the 1970s the RAE Transportation Centre was reorganised as the Army Maritime School. Then and since, the army has progressively withdrawn from this area of Sydney. Today Chowder Bay has become part of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. Chowder Bay represents what was the Australian Army's primary maritime facility on Sydney Harbour.
The whole complex consists of a group of buildings which sit on a series of terraces cut at various levels in the sandstone hillside and running down to the waterfront. The key elements are as follows.
The Laboratory, built 1890-93, is built of sandstone and is possibly the only extant mine laboratory in Australia; it retains some original gantries. Above it is the double storey Drill Hall and Classrooms, clad with weatherboards. The hipped roof is decorated with a centre gable and a hipped verandah porch shelters the main entrance. A fine wrought iron railing surrounds the upper terrace. Near the Drill Hall are two 2000 gallon underground water tanks.
Nearby is Building 17, a workshop which is weatherboard clad. There is a raised central monitor to the gabled roof, and curved bargeboards which are also seen on some of the other buildings in the complex. Windows have nine panes.
Buildings 13, 14 and 15 consist of two explosives magazines and a detonator testing room. The three small buildings are brick, with barrel roofs and there are sandstone blast walls in between each building. The buildings are cut into recesses in the hillside. A haulage railway, used to transport goods to/from the top of the site, terminates at this point.
Building 18 is the former Sergeant Major's and NCO's Quarters. Dating from 1891, it is Victorian Regency in style, built of brick and with a gabled roof clad with corrugated galvanised iron. There are finials to the roof. The building has verandahs whose posts feature some decoration, and there is a gabled porch. A dividing wall protrudes through the roof of the building.
Down on the waterfront stands a cast-iron pike and rail fence, on stone footings. There is a T-shaped wharf which still has its hand-operated Morris Bros crane. Another key feature is the Cable Storage Pit, which is brick-lined and was used to store the mine cables under water.
The buildings form a close group which steps up the slope from the harbour via a series of terraces. There is use of timber, stone, brick and other materials, and some fine timberwork and wrought iron work are present. The complex has an expressed maritime character and is a distinctive visual feature on this part of the Sydney Harbour shore.
|History Not Available|
|Condition and Integrity|
|Generally the group is in fair to good condition, and the integrity is similarly fair to high. Later buildings have been built at the complex. (February 2002)|
|Comprising buildings 7, 13, 14, 15, 17 and 18, cable pit (west of building 9), wharf (west of building 7) and inclined trolleyway (between and east of buildings 13 and 14), Chowder Bay Road, Georges Heights. Buildings 6 and 8-12 were removed from the Interim List on 25 March 1986.|
Godden Mackay Pty Ltd, "Georges Heights and Middle Head Defence Site Heritage Assessment", for the Department of Defence, December 1998. |
National Trust of Australia (NSW), information.
Royal Australian Corps of Transport Transportation Centre, information.
Report Produced Sat Dec 21 01:21:58 2013