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History of Woolwich Dock And Parklands

Carved from 85,000 cubic metres of excavated sandstone, and measuring 188 metres long and 27 metres wide, Woolwich Dock was once the largest dry dock in Australia.

After its completion in 1901, there was steady maritime activity in the area for 50 years. The site was later occupied by the Army, who used it as a base for their marine transport operations until 1997.

The Meeting of the Rivers

The Woolwich peninsula overlooks the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers. The local Aboriginal People referred to the area as ‘Moocooboola’ or ‘the meeting of the rivers.’

While the area is the country of the Wallumedegal People, years of industrial activity disturbed the environment, erasing a great deal of evidence relating to their habitation. However, nearby Kelly’s Bush and Clarke’s Point are lush with native vegetation, and Aboriginal artifacts have been discovered in these relatively untouched areas.

Morts Dock and Engineering Company

In the 1880s, the Atlas Engineering Company established a shipbuilding yard at the eastern end of the peninsula (now Woolwich) after acquiring land from the Clarkes, a family of cabinet makers.

After Atlas went into liquidation in 1893, the land was subdivided to create an industrial village with workers’ cottages, workshops, and a hotel. In 1898, Morts Dock and Engineering Company purchased the site and excavated 85,000 cubic metres of sandstone to construct a dry dock.

On 4 December 1901, Woolwich Dock was officially opened and used for the repair and fitting-out of large ships. At the time, Woolwich Dock was the largest in Australia, and a pump-house was shipped from England to operate it. For more than 50 years, Morts Dock and Engineering Company operated the dock. During World War I and II, the dock was filled with passenger vessels being converted to troopships, as well as damaged ships that needed repairing. This industrial activity led to new housing developments, as well as the construction of the Woolwich Pier Hotel.

Army Operations At Woolwich Dock

After World War II, Woolwich Dock lay idle until the Army purchased it in 1963 for its water-based transport operations. The Army demolished the three oldest buildings in the area and built several prefabricated buildings, as well as adding piers, wharves, a travelling crane, and concreting the area around the dock.

The dock was used for launching watercraft, and the workshops that had been built there previously were used for repairs and maintenance. Eventually, the Army units based at Woolwich moved their operations to Townsville in 1997.

Woolwich Dock And Parklands Today

Today, the Parklands surrounding Woolwich Dock are dotted with impressive Port Jackson figs, and provide expansive views of Sydney Harbour, including nearby Cockatoo Island.

The efforts of the Harbour Trust have restored the land and the historical buildings for the public use. There are several walking tracks that link back to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore walk, and well-maintained parks that can be used for picnics, weddings, barbeques, or quiet contemplation.

Visitors can watch vessels being lifted in and out of the historic dry dock, relax in parks like Goat Paddock and Horse Paddock, or enjoy a drink or meal at the Deckhouse.

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