Millers Point Gasworks
Part of Barangaroo's history is its role in Sydney's transition from a colony to a city of the world as the site of the first gasworks outside Europe.
Barangaroo is Sydney’s new commercial, tourist, entertainment and cultural precinct. But this is not the first time the site has played a central role in our nation. For millennia it was home of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation. Then in the 19th Century, it led one of Australia’s first forays from British colony to a city of the world, as the site of the Millers Point Gasworks.
The gasworks used coal to create gas that supplied the first street light network outside of Europe. The first gas lamp was lit in Sydney on May 24, 1841, not just providing safety and security, but heralding the dawn of a new era.
Within two years there were 165 of gas lamps in the city, almost all of them outside pubs – apparently to “deter riotous hordes of villains”.
Millers Point Gasworks operated for close to a century, providing millions of hours of light and generations of employment before the onset of the age of electricity.
The gasworks was decommissioned in 1921 and its above ground structures were removed by 1925 as part of efforts to combat the Bubonic Plague by redeveloping the area and creating Hickson Road. This included building a rat-proof wall to stop rodents moving from ships to wharves and in to Sydney’s streets.
At that time, certain underground gasworks structures were left behind: gas holders and tanks cut in the sandstone and containing coal tar.
To this day, there remains by-products of those gasworks - tanks containing coal tar and large volumes of contaminated soil - underneath Hickson Road and the as-yet undeveloped sections of the site. The NSW Environment Protection Authority has requested site remediation and Infrastructure NSW, as the landowner on behalf of the NSW Government, is managing this process.