Brief History of The Rocks
The Rocks is the foundation place of Sydney and Australia's most important
historical site. Located on the western side of Sydney Cove, The Rocks are named after the sandstone outcrops
located on the hillside. Almost immediately following Captain Arthur Phillips arrival with the First Fleet,
convicts were sent ashore to clear land for setting up tents and huts. Many of the tents and huts were built
along this rocky sandstone outcrop.The Rocks soon became the centre of the colony's maritime and commercial
activity. The area became home to convicts, officers, whalers, sailors and street gangs as warehouses and
bond stores were built. Slums soon emerged and the area became notorious for
gangs and thugs.
The area fell into total decline after the modernisation of shipping and storage facilities and industry moved
away from Circular Quay. An outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1900 and the construction of the Harbour Bridge also
added to the area's decline. It wasn't until the 1970's when re-development of the area was undertaken by people in
the building industry and the union movement. The Sydney Cove Re-development Authority was established to oversee
the successful transition from slum to historical tourist precinct.
Things You May Not Know About The Rocks
In 1900 the bubonic plague spread thoughout The Rocks area.
Following the arrival of the First Fleet, female convicts were picked to be nurses for the makeshift hospitals
set up in The Rocks area. The area is now known as Nurse's Walk.
Cadman's Cottage is the oldest surviving house in Sydney.
The Argyle Stores are one of the earliest bond stores built in Australia.
The Hero of Waterloo hotel has secret tunnels in its basement, which were
used to smuggle rum and unsuspecting drunks back and forth to the harbour.
Henry Lawson captured the essence of the early years of the area in his poem 'Captain of the Push'. During the 1800's The Rocks was
virtually run by a gang of larrikins known as 'The Push'.
There are 13 pubs in The Rocks precinct. Prior to the 1970's all pubs had to close at 6pm sharp. Patrons would
throw down as many beers as they could before the publican stopped serving. This ritual became known as the
Hidden beneath George Street lie the original woodblock
Things Are Looking Up At The Rocks
The original buildings of The Rocks were mostly constructed from local sandstone from which the area derived its
name. The area consisted mainly of warehouses and public houses with the majority of local residents being
convicts, sailors, soldiers and prostitutes. By the 1900's many of the buildings were already in serious decay and
the area was little more than a slum. Adding further to the areas woes was the outbreak of the bubonic plague,
which forced the State Government to resume much of the areas around The Rocks and Darling Harbour. All was to be
flattened, but re-development plans were stalled when World War I broke out.
In the 1920's hundreds of buildings were demolished to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but again the area was saved, due this time to the outbreak
of World War II.
In the 1960's the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority made a grand attempt at having the whole area demolished
and replaced by high-density residential buildings. It didn't take long before a group of disgruntled locals formed
the 'Rocks Residents Group' to oppose the plans. Well, as you can imagine all hell broke out when the group imposed
a Green ban on the area. After numerous arrests, demonstrations, political powerplays and everything else which
goes with a good battle, much of the The Rocks area was saved. Through a great deal of renovations The Rocks was
transformed from slums to one of Sydney's most popular tourist precincts. Thank you Rocks Residents Group.
The most interesting architectual areas can be found on George Street , Harrington Street and Argyle Street.
There are several bond stores still standing, the Metcalfe Bond Stores,
Campbell, Argyle Stores and the ASN stores . Historical buildings of note in the area are Lilyvale ,
Cadman's Cottage and Garrison Church.