Postcards from 100 years ago




Pyrmont Bridge

118 Pyrmont

118 pyrmont now

142 Pyrmont Bridge


Pyrmont’s colourful history dates back to 1799, when it was purchased by John Macarthur for a gallon of rum. Since then, the suburb has transformed from a thriving industrial area to one of the most derelict parts of Sydney, and then back to the trendy, diverse community it is now. 


Pyrmont was home to Australia’s first steam-powered mill which was built in Darling Harbour in 1815 - now the Powerhouse Museum. 


The 1870’s saw the rise of a successful wool industry in the area, with auctions being transferred from London to Sydney. By the 1890’s, wool stores, power stations and mills created employment for thousands of local residents and continued to do so until well into the 1960’s, particularly during World War II. As early as 1900, Pyrmont was the Australian centre for distribution of flour, milk, sugar and wool, and was providing Sydney with all its power for lights and trams. 


As well as its thriving wool industry, Pyrmont was the home of Sydney’s best sandstone, creating a highly profitable quarrying business. Some of Sydney’s most reputable and well-known buildings were built using Pyrmont’s yellow block sandstone, including Sydney Town Hall, the Art Gallery of NSW and the University of Sydney. 


The first Pyrmont Bridge opened in 1858, and a larger bridge with a central swingspan which opened in 1902,  to allow larger ocean craft to pass. 


There is a plaque on stone parapet wall at the south-west corner – the words of which are:-. 


"Pyrmont Bridge 

This bridge built between 1899 and 1902 was an essential link between the city and the inner western suburbs. The swing span was one of the largest in the world and the first to be powered by electricity. The approach spans represented the highest level of development of the timber truss. Designed by Percy Allan with the assistance of J J C Bradfield and Gordon Edgell, its Australian design and construction made it a source of pride to all Sydney-siders". 


In 1896, Percy Allan became Engineer-in-Chief of bridge design and with his assistant de Burgh and juniors Dare, Bradfield and Roberts, rationalised and consolidated known bridge engineering technology, and established sound practices.  Allan’s Pyrmont Bridge gave Australian bridge engineering world status. 


Fourteen spans make up the bridge, Australian Ironbark timber is used on 12 spans, while the two central swingspans are constructed from steel. 


The base weighs 6,800 tonnes, is 13 metres in diameter and 19 metres deep with 10 metres lying below the harbour floor. 


The swingspan weighs 1,000 tonnes. It is supported on a base made from concrete and yellow block sandstone that was sourced from Pyrmont. 


Driven by the original two 50Hp 600V DC General Electric type 57 electric motors, it takes approximately 60 seconds to open and opens fully to 83 degrees. Manual drum-type General Electric tramway controllers are used to drive the motors.  Power was originally drawn from Ultimo Power House (now Powerhouse Museum). 


Bridge openings are required for vessels seven to 14 metres in height. For taller ships, but only on special occasions.

293 Pyrmont

375 Pyrmont



376 Pyrmont Bridge - date stamped 1906 



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