Tuesday 15 March 2016

Sydney Rowing Club

Western shore of Woolloomooloo Bay in March 2016 - Source: Julie Storry
Woolloomooloo Bay has led an extremely busy, and cluttered, life. It is more peaceful now, perhaps, than it has ever been. And I attribute this to government interference, to the "nanny state" if you will, although, personally, I despise that term.

When Governor Phillip set the boundary of Sydney Town in 1792, Woolloomooloo, "the suburb", and the head of the bay, "Palmer's Cove" as it was then known, were outside the official town limits. But NOT the Domain, the "governor's demesne". Meaning that the suburb was a free-for-all for developer's and capitalists, and The Domain was tightly controlled by government.

This is the story of the boatshed that was erected along the western shore of Woolloomooloo Bay by the newly formed Sydney Rowing Club c. 1880.
See the white structure between the second and third boatmast from the left ...
The club hadn't INTENDED to base its endeavours in our (OUR) bay, but the government kept on pushing, don't they all. Around a couple of peninsulas, in Sydney Cove, they were where the action was: the main anniversary day regatta being based in Sydney Cove, the birthplace of the nation. But foot by foot (or more likely, chain by chain) the government kept finding other uses for the land, and the area became unkempt.
The dilapidated Marine Board ‘government’ boatsheds on the eastern side of Circular Quay, with Fort Macquarie in the distance c 1875 (Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW - DL PXX 73/21-36. The Sydney Rowing Club boatshed is through this mess, just a little north, backing onto the turret of Fort Macquarie - Source: Sydney Barani
So, they agreed to move. They had already set up a "branch" out at Abbottsford but ... well one's head office had to be somewhere prestigious.
The Sydney Rowers only leased their site from the government, which kept on cutting pieces from their "plot". This image shows why. The Tarpeian Quarry was supplying sandstone for many of Sydney's grand old buildings right at this time (1875-1878). Source: unknown
So, the committee negotiated the site adjacent to the Corporation Baths for Gentlemen which had been erected on the Domain shore (western shore of the bay) from 1858-1860.
Sydney Rowing Club boatshed, 1889 adjacent to the Corporation Baths for Gentlmen. Source: Rowing History
And they went full-out for glory. It looks a magnificent structure in this drawing, but even better in the photograph that follows.
Looking north as the Moravian departs Brown's Wharf, woolloomooloo, January 1900, for the Boer War. Look through the rigging to the marvellous Sydney Rowing Club boatshed way out along the western shore. Source: Powerhouse Museum's Tyrrell Collection
It had verandahs on three sides, with a stupendous view down the harbour. Ho, I bet they were ticked off when the government handed Garden Island over to the British Navy and then built all those buildings on it. AND ... when back in Australian control, built a massive graving dock that simply encouraged big war boats to desecrate the peace and beauty.

But, I get ahead of myself. In 1922, this gracious building was burnt to the ground, a la The Garden Palace over the ridge, just 40 years earlier. They were insured, but that only covers buildings and boats. Not records. Not memorabilia. It all went.
The replacement boatshed was more in keeping with the times between the wars. It was also a realistic assessment of the difficulty facing the 'head office' in increasing its membership. Source: Canada Bay Library
They rebuilt but to a massively different tune. Different times. Different requirements. Compare the two buildings. One is elegance personified, the other is a boatshed.
Cropped from a December 1945 image of Garden Island. Over on the left proudly stand The Domain pool (officially The Municipal Baths), and the soon to be removed Sydney Rowing Club boathouse. Source: Flickr stream of Horatio J. Kookaburra
As is obvious from these photographs, the original boatshed at East Circular Quay was not remoed to Woolloomooloo Bay. It was a totally new building, and new concept, which was erected there. The pain when it was burnt must have been immense. Yet, the club persevered, and rebuilt. However, by 1947, it must have been obvious that Sydney and its harbour had changed, and the rate of change was not going to lessen.
And there she stands today out at Abbottsford, which was originally the "branch". Source: Google Earth
Go west young man. Embed yourself in the inner harbour or, in this case, the part which is actually the Parramatta River. So, just after World War II, the Sydney Rowing Club took its skiffs, its oarlocks and its sculls, and moved, plank by plank. Leaving just rubble to be seen from a satellite.
All that remains are these old footings. Many other footings are trapped beneath the Andrew "Boy" Charlton pool. Source: LPI

Sydney Rowing Club

Water Water Everywhere


Woolloomooloo Insider


diane b said...

Tell us a story about the Woolloomooloo Wharves.

Julie said...

Thanks for the request, Diane. I am working on a number of stories about the 'Loo, mostly about the structures around the Bay, either wharves or swimming pools (baths). I am trying to work out what was where when, especially with the baths, They replaced each othet frequently, and changed names a lot.

But, I am just about ready to go ...